Review: Princess Academy: The Palace of Stone

A short review on the book Princess Academy (#2): The Palace of Stone by Shannon Hale.

Advertisements

Princess Academy 2

Hi bookies (those that wish a book fairy existed)!

A long, long time ago (even longer than the last time I wrote a book review!) I read the book “Princess Academy”. It was a really good book, and I enjoyed it. But I thought that was the end, single well-written book. Well, I was happy to discover recently that I was wrong. This series is a trilogy, and I was not disappointed by it. So, let’s talk about the second book of this series.

Title: Princess Academy: The Palace of Stone
Author:  Shannon Hale
Genre: Fantasy. Young Adult. Fiction.
# of pages: 336

Let’s take a look at the blurb:

Coming down from the mountain to a new life in the city is a thrill to Miri. She and her princess academy friends have been brought to Asland to help the future princess Britta prepare for her wedding. There, Miri also has a chance to attend school at the Queen’s Castle. But as Miri befriends students who seem sophisticated and exciting she also learns that they have some frightening plans. Torn between loyalty to the princess and her new friends’ ideas, between an old love and a new crush, and between her small mountain home and the bustling city, Miri looks to find her own way in this new place.

Picking up where Princess Academy left off, and celebrating the joys of friendship, romance and the fate of fairy tale kingdoms, this new book delivers the completely delightful new story that fans have been waiting for.

Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? That’s because it is! I don’t know if you guys have ever read any books by Shannon Hale. She tends to write the middle school type of books that have a happy ending. Not the type you like to read? That’s all right. It’s not for everyone. But I definitely enjoyed it! Shannon Hale writes good, clean, enjoyable stories that teach simple but valuable lessons.

I missed the fun of Mount Eskel in this story. Part of the appeal of the first book was the fact that these simple mountain girls were rough and coarse and looked down on by others, yet they triumphed with their simple salt-of-the-earth attitude and the wisdom you gain from living life. In this book, there is less of the ‘country bumpkins vs city people’ struggle and is more about growing from an innocent girl with a simple life to a young woman who must decide who she is as a person. You get a little extra interaction with Miri’s sister, Marda, and get to know more of her thoughts and way of thinking. I really enjoyed this because I have always felt like Marda has a story to tell too.

Katar is no longer a rival in this story and depends a lot on Miri. Miri, as always, must take the lead in solving everyone’s problems. That includes everyone from Mount Eskel, Asland’s poor, the King and everyone in between. However, in the fight, will Miri lose what makes her Miri? It takes Miri from one problem to the next with no break in between. Let the poor girl catch her breath!

determined-to-finish

It is a well-written book focusing more on inner conflicts and personal development. I really like it and can’t really find many flaws in it other than some small parts that seem to lack enough going on outside of Miri’s head. That’s why I will give it a 4/5. But don’t take my word for it. Read it for yourself! Tell us, bookies, what was your favorite part of the story?

Author Interview: Eric K. Edstrom

Hi bookies (you paper/hardback, audio, and ebook lovers). There’s nothing quite like getting to speak to the person that creates a new world for you. How did they come up with it? And for those of you that hope to pen your own work someday, what tips can the experts share? Read on for our interview with Eric Edstrom.

ericedstrom_web-0140final

hardcoverlover: Hi! Thank you for allowing us to interview. I must say, recently I listened to your new audio book, “Daughter of Nothing”, and I liked it a lot. You left me hooked. You mentioned that this book is the first in a series and the ending of “Daughter of Nothing” makes that clear. How many books do you plan on making for this series?

Eric: The series is done! It’s four books long.

hardcoverlover: Wow! Done already? I guess you really don’t procrastinate! Now, I’ve always wondered something, especially when a story isn’t completely written yet. How do you decide into how many books you will divide a story?

Eric: When I was writing the series, I planned on making it a trilogy. But once I got through the beginning of book three, I knew it would be four books. It was total instinct. I don’t outline, so I just had a feel for it.

hardcoverlover: Cool! You have the natural skills for your profession. Are you a fulltime writer or do you have a day job as well?

Eric: I write fulltime.

hardcoverlover: Dream job, right there. Were your parents reading enthusiasts who gave you a push to be a reader as a kid?

Eric: My parents read a lot. My mother sparked my love of language by reading me Dr. Seuss when I was a little kid.

hardcoverlover: Who was your favorite author as a child?

Eric: Charles M. Schulz. I devoured Peanuts comics collections in these little paperbacks my grandfather had.

hardcoverlover: So the love of books is a family tradition, I see. When did you write your first book and how old were you?

Eric: I was 40 or so when I completed the book now titled Bigfoot Galaxy: Expedition. I had tried and failed to write a novel many times prior to that.

hardcoverlover: When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

Eric: Probably when I was 14 or 15, reading fantasy novels all summer.

hardcoverlover: What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?

Eric: I don’t take criticism to heart, so it isn’t tough. I think if anything I get frustrated if the criticism reveals the person hasn’t actually read the book. The best compliments are usually something about not being able to put the book down or that it kept them up reading. I love that.

hardcoverlover: I would too. How long does it take you to write a book?

Eric: I write between 1500 and 2500 words per day. But a first draft then goes through tons of revisions and editing.

hardcoverlover: Which writers inspire you?

Eric: Stephen King, Robert Jordan, Tolkien, and a zillion more.

hardcoverlover: Where do your ideas come from?

Eric: I just start typing sentences. Pretty soon I have a character in a setting. I just follow that.

hardcoverlover: Wow, that’s a pretty unorthodox method! Your creativity must run deep. Any tips on how to get through the dreaded writer’s block?

Eric: See above. But sometimes writer’s block is due to depression or anxiety. I think those mental health issues should be dealt with first. Sometimes you have to give yourself a break. I’m fortunate in that I don’t get totally blocked. I just go through periods of lower productivity. That’s why I put an emphasis on my health, diet, sleep. Everything that gives me the physical and mental energy to keep writing.

hardcoverlover: Makes sense. Speaking of getting energy, what sort of Starbuck’s coffee would your characters order? Simple coffee, complicated soy-non-fat-extra-espresso-half-caff-nightmare?

Eric: My YA dystopian heroine Jacey would order black coffee, because that’s all she’s ever had.

My fantasy heroine, Kila, would probably go for something super sweet. I suppose a mocha or something. Unfortunately, coffee doesn’t exist in her world.

hardcoverlover: I don’t really drink much coffee either. Maybe once a month? But on behalf of most people I feel I should say, “The horror! No coffee?!” Maybe this is what distinguishes your characters from others. Give us an insight into your main character. What does she does that is so special?

Eric: Jacey is a highly trained clone, though she doesn’t know it at the start. But she has an incredible ability to memorize anything she hears. This becomes in important power as she faces the forces that seek to oppress her and her friends.

hardcoverlover: Do all authors have to be grammar Nazis?

Eric: I am not a grammar Nazi, so the answer is no!

hardcoverlover: Do you proofread/edit all your own books or do you get someone to do that for you?

Eric: My books are all professionally edited and proofread. I can’t see my own mistakes after going through a manuscript over and over.

hardcoverlover: Interesting. I recently received some tips on how to review your own work. It’s not easy, though. What did you edit out of this book?

Eric: Daughter of Nothing was originally very different. The first draft was only 60k words and the main character was Vaughan. But when I started revising it, Jacey stood out as a more interesting character. I deleted everything but one chapter and started over.

hardcoverlover: Whoa! Only one chapter?! I guess our readers will get to play “Guess which chapter”. Maybe you could have kept the other version, though. Those that are really big fans of your work would probably love to read the story from a new perspective as well. Who designed your book covers?

Eric: The current cover was designed by me.

hardcoverlover: Really? Wow! I guess you are talented in all the arts. Do you have any advice for other authors on how to market their books?

Eric: The only advice I feel qualified to give on this front is to write five or six before spending much time marketing. It might even be smart not to release any books until you have a handful ready. That way every dollar and hour spent marketing has greater earning potential over more books.

hardcoverlover: Thanks. What are your thoughts on good/bad reviews?

Eric: I love all reviews as long as they are honest.

hardcoverlover: You heard him, folks. Be honest in your reviews. How can readers discover more about you and your work?

Eric: My website lists all my books. http://www.erickentedstrom.com. The best way to learn about me is to subscribe to my newsletter.

hardcoverlover: Does writing energize or exhaust you?

Eric: Both. When a scene really captures me, it pulls me along. That’s energizing. When I’m unsure about where things are going, it gets slower. Not bad, but slower. That tends to make me tired.

hardcoverlover: Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?

Eric: I have a pseudonym. Aric Shaw writes thrillers.

hardcoverlover: Ooh, nice. Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?

Eric: I don’t look at it from either point of view. I write only what I want to read.

hardcoverlover: I guess I can see that, judging from your method of writing. If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

Eric: Finish! Just keep writing and finish that first novel. Then do it again and again and again.

hardcoverlover: What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

Eric: I collect typewriters and I have written a couple novels using only manual typewriters. So I’ll say the money I’ve spent on those.

hardcoverlover: Ink&Scales is also a big fan of typewriters. I will tell her to she’s not the only one. People believe that being a published author is glamorous, is that true?

Eric: No. Anyone can be a “published author” by uploading a file and cover to Amazon. If you want glamour, focus on your Instagram and skip writing.

hardcoverlover: And here I thought you’d be wearing big sunglasses and dodging papparazzi. Do you like traveling or do you prefer staying indoors?

Eric: I don’t like the transportation part of travel at all. But I like seeing new places.

hardcoverlover: Do you need to be in a specific place or room to write, or you can just sit in the middle of a café full of people and write?

Eric: I can write pretty much anywhere. But I mostly write at home.

hardcoverlover: What is your favorite quote?

Eric: “Write. Don’t think. Relax.” —Ray Bradbury

hardcoverlover: Have you ever made a fake account to interact with fans over comments online to get some insights?

Eric: No.

hardcoverlover: Too bad. If somebody tries this, I want to hear about it. Can you tell us about your current projects?

Eric: I’m currently writing an epic fantasy series called Starside Saga. It’s about a 16 year old thief named, Kila Sigh, who awakens to a magic power she doesn’t understand and can’t control. It’s full of adventure, magic, twists and turns, and good vs evil. I love writing fantasy.

hardcoverlover: And I love reading it. Now for our fun questions:

Have you ever gone out in public with your shirt on backwards, or your slippers on, and when realizing it, just said screw it?

Eric: No. I’m not that absent-minded.

hardcoverlover: That makes one of us. E-reader or print book?

Eric: I prefer print, but I’ve read lots of ebooks.

hardcoverlover: Do you go out of your way to kill bugs? Are there any that make you screech and hide?

Eric: I only kill them if they are on me or if they are a spider in my house. I don’t screech.

hardcoverlover: Suuuure you don’t… Just kidding! Chocolate or vanilla?

Eric: Chocolate is the only right answer.

hardcoverlover: Can’t say I disagree. Light or dark chocolate?

Eric: Dark!

hardcoverlover: Favorite color?

Eric: Black.

hardcoverlover: Few are brave enough to admit that. Dogs or cats?

Eric: This is tricky. I love them all. But right now we have a dog and due to his nature, we can’t really have a cat.

hardcoverlover: Tea or coffee?

Eric: Both. Coffee in the morning, tea the rest of the day. I put unsalted butter and coconut oil in both.

hardcoverlover: What kind of sick and twisted mind do you have? Butter and cococut oil in coffee and tea? I’ve never heard of such a monstrosity! *whispers* I’ll have to try it sometime. Favorite TV show?

Eric: Favorite of all time: Friends.

hardcoverlover: Do you like manga?

Eric: I have never read any manga, so I don’t have any opinion about it.

hardcoverlover: What question would you ask your favorite author if you could?

Eric: My question for any of them: Can I co-write a novel with you?

hardcoverlover: Is there a question you’ve always wanted to be asked in an interview but never been asked?

Eric: Not really.

hardcoverlover: Okay. Is there anything else you’d like to tell our readers?

Eric: I appreciate readers so much. No readers, no career. Remember, authors thrive on feedback and reviews.

hardcoverlover: Now you’ve heard it, bookies. Leave those reviews, give feedback, and spread the word! Thank you so much for your time, Eric!

 

Now tell us, dear bookies, who would you like us to interview next? Tell us in the comments below!

Review: Daughter of Nothing

Daughter of Nothing cover

Hi bookies (you book-venturers)!

Today, I will be reviewing my very first audio book! I had never tried listening to an audio book for various reasons. But now that I have, here is my review on it. Let’s take a look at the information provided first.

Title: Daughter of Nothing
Author: Eric Kent Edstrom
Genre: YA, Sci-Fi.
Length: 9 hrs and 55 mins
 *While the powerful seek immortality, the Scions struggle for survival.*

Few people know that the Scion School exists. Tucked away on a private Caribbean island, the school hosts 36 exceptionally gifted students. They train every day to prepare themselves for an immense responsibility, to lead humankind back from the brink of extinction.

At least, that's what they've been told.

Only one student - a 17-year-old named Jacey - suspects the truth. Driven by her undying loyalty to her friends, Jacey races to untangle the truth of who the Scions are...and what the headmaster truly means when he says they are bound for a great destiny.

Daughter of Nothing is the first audiobook in an amazing new series for fans of young adult dystopian fiction.

Eric Kent Edstrom - author of Starside Saga - is back with more lovable characters, thriller pacing, and shocking twists you’ll never see coming.

This audiobook was really interesting. The author does a great job in initially disorienting the reader. You can’t tell what is really going on at first. Here’s a general description of the story without giving anything away:

This book is told from Jacey’s point of view, a 17-year old girl. She is a scion, which means she is one of the select few that are being trained in a special school for children to help restore the world after a cataclysm has destroyed much of it. Or is she? After a series of events occurs, Jacey begins questioning for the first time if the world she knows is real or a lie. Raised isolated from the rest of the world, the scion school on a remote island is all she knows. She wholeheartedly believes in their mission, but should she? What really happens upon graduation? Where do they go? And why is the director of the school showing such a special interest in Jacey’s progress? Obviously, these and other questions are answered in the book.

This was my first audiobook ever. At first, I felt that the narrator’s voice was a bit robotic. But her voice soon warmed up and adapted according to each character’s speaking parts. I think that she does a great job in making the story come alive. I didn’t want to stop listening and felt as if I were watching a movie.

I greatly enjoyed the story, but there were two things that detracted from it. First off, Jacey being so clueless was driving me crazy. It’s a good sign that the author is really able to show things from Jacey’s point of view. You see her struggle to put together all the clues, but with limited sources to draw information from and her upbringing, she takes a long while to put the pieces together. Because of this, I think the reader is able to deduce what is going on long before the main character does. This can be a source of frustration because you want to know what happens after Jacey figures everything out, but this is delayed for a while.

The second thing that detracted from the story is that I have encountered similar story lines in other books. That means that after the story reached a certain point, I knew, more or less, what was going on and what was going to happen. Of course, the smaller details are flexible, but I wish the waiting period between figuring out what was going to happen and it actually occurring was shorter. Despite this, I enjoyed the story overall and am hooked, left wanting to see what happens in the next book.

TL;DR

Pros: great story, interesting, well-written, left hooked.

Cons: familiar story line, slow progression of story line in some parts.

Rating: 4/5

To hear or not to hear… that is the question.

Hi bookies (those who go to sleep the next day because “just until I get sleepy” turns into “that was such a good book”).

shock bigger shock reading

As time goes on, we have busier and busier lives. But we always make time for a little reading. Actually, sometimes we should read less (like when we stay up late to read). But the point is that we know how hard it can be to find enough time to sit down and read a whole book. Fortunately, as time goes by and technology advances, books are not left behind. We now have ebooks in so many formats. Perfect for reading on our phones and tablets. But it doesn’t stop there. There’s also this amazing new thing called audio books! Alright, you win. Audio books have been around for a long time now. But they’re new to me!

Believe it or not, bookies, I had never listened to an audio book before.

what

Yes, I had listened to music, and the rare podcast episode. I had even tried an audio program for language learning. (It’s a work in progress.) But I had never tried listening to a book for fun. There were several reasons for this. Let me give you the reasons I had.

“It’s probably too slow.” Honestly, whenever I had heard of people listening to audio books, I was wondering if they did so because they really didn’t have the time or if they were to lazy to read it (as a lot of people say that is their reason for not reading). I figured that either they were incredibly busy or maybe the book was read to them quicker than they could read it themselves. Since I love reading, I figured I could read the book much faster than it could be read to me. Plus, I could read at my pace and according to my preferences (such as rereading). That’s what I thought. I listened to this audio book as I played computer games and did some light reading and was surprised to see that it played at a good pace and was easy to control (rewind, skip forward, etc.). I guess I hadn’t given it a fair shot. But, just so you know, I could probably finish the book in 4 hours or less rather than the nine it mentions it takes.

“It will probably sound strange hearing it from someone else’s voice rather than any voice I want to assign the character.” Well, it does take some getting used to. It probably took me a good 10-15 minutes. But after that, I came to appreciate the narrator’s reading. There were certain small parts later on where the character’s voice just seemed to come out differently from how I expected. Overall, not bad.

“I prefer to read it myself.” Okay, this one is still valid. No matter what changes go on, technology advancements for books just aren’t as good as the original stuff. No, I’m not talking about scrolls! I’m talking about the good ole hardcover or paperback book with the smell of old paper that we bookies love and the traces of ink. There’s the soft reassuring touch of the paper and slight rustle as we flip the page. Ahhhh… there’s nothing quite like it. Sure, I can see the appeal of the modern as it tries to improve on what’s already good. There’s the easy portability factor. No need to carry so many heavy books or run out of luggage room for the sake of your hobby. You can read even at night! No more hiding under the covers with a flashlight! But even with those different advantages, I can’t help but love the actual printed book. If you give me the option to choose between them, I will choose the printed book whenever possible. Practicality may drive me to use ebooks sometimes, but my heart will say, “Hand me the book, will you?”

no greater insult than book thrown in faceThis is how I imagine you would hand it to me though…

So those are my thoughts and preferences. Now it’s your turn. Are there any other advantages about ebooks and audio books I missed? What’s your favorite format and why? Let us know in the comments section.

I’m back!

Hi bookies (you world-exploring mind adventurers)!

I’m glad to say that I have finally gotten a better handle on my schedule. I’m sure many of you shed tears while I was away, right? I can imagine the tears, the fear that I wouldn’t return, the countless days waiting up for my next post…

cryingI miss her posts so much!!!

Okay, okay, I know. The more accurate description would be more like:

slow-blink You think I’m heartbroken? Yeah, sure. Whatever.

You robots! So heartless. Just kidding. But I am back. I’ve got a huge TBR list, from which many reviews will spout. And Ink&Scales aka Aramia will soon be posting her much-expected review on “The Magician’s Nephew”. yells over shoulder: You hear that Aramia? The fans call for you!

So, besides this little update, look forward to my upcoming author interview and a new book review! Okay bookies, let me run over to my TBR pile so that I can prepare more for you! Be expecting me.

Return of the Absent-Minded One

Heya Book-Kooks!

You may not remember me, it being ages since I posted, but it’s me, Aramia. Apparently,  I’m not dead.

extreme shock n sad

Yeah, I know, it’s amazing!

You see, I suffer this serious problem  in which I disappear of the face of the Earth and have to be badgered into returning once more to real life or, in this case, blogger life. So please thank Hardcoverlover, for without her I would still be visiting Underhill, Beneath, and a variety of different worlds and dimensions. Due to her constant poking, I’m here. Really, several times I’d wilt in shame when she’d ask me if I had posted. “Yeah, about that…umm, no.” And then the silence would be suffocating.

So, yes, I have been reading many books in my absence (this year I’m averaging about 21 books per month, proof that I need a life), I just haven’t brought myself to write any reviews.

I know, that’s quite selfish of me.

tumblr_inline_mwbs58MMuW1s2m7xu

Also, I must give an apology to all of the Book-Kooks. On my last post, I promised to start posting weekly reviews on the Chronicles of Narnia, but I never did. It’s not that I don’t like the CoN, because I really do, it just was that the urge to review was like a week old soup noodle, soggy and super-limp. And for that, I apologize. A thousand pardons.

images-3

I will post in a few day, but it won’t be on the CoN. Sorry. I do that one later on. It’ll be over one of the books I’ve recently read. I’m still not sure which one it’ll be, so think of it as a surprise!

So see ya soon-ish!

Review: Problem Child: The View From the Principal’s Office

Problem Child.PNG

Hi bookies (you literary nuts)!

A book review is long overdue, so I’m happy to present this one to you. It’s a bit short, as is this book. Without further ado, here is the book’s details followed by the blurb:

Title: Problem Child: The View From the Principal’s Office
Author:  Robb Lightfoot
Genre: Autobiography. Short Stories.
# of pages: 176.
I am asked if these stories are true, and I tell my friends that they are not a memoir but rather a sorta-was.

Many of these stories happened more-or-less as written, but no doubt others would offer a different account. Some are outright whoppers that I told to amuse or redirect my parents’ attention. This was often the best way to avoid other stories of shenanigans that I didn’t want to share. Others here are a blend of several incidents, or a “take off” on something that happened but has, as my family will tell you, grown to mythic proportions in the retelling.

In almost every case, I was the architect of my own misfortune, and I received pretty fair treatment at the hands of my parents, school authorities, and friends.

In most cases I’ve changed the names of my classmates to protect their secrets. In one or two cases I’ve retained the actual names. I did this when I thought the stories saluted their intelligence or loyalty.

So, if you are reading this, were in my class, and come off well... then I was writing about you. But if you think the kids described here were stinkers, then, clearly, I’m talking about somebody else.

For everyone else, if you want to know which stories are “real,” then email me. All of them attempt to capture the spirit of what it’s like to be that kid who just can’t keep still or pipe down.

The happy ending to all these tales is that most of us active kids grow up and find our place in the world. We just need some kindness, a little help, and a bit of patience.

OK. So we need a lot of patience.

But we’re worth it … aren’t we?

This was a very interesting book. I don’t think it can really be described as anything amazing, but I really enjoyed it as a comfortably slow-paced book, the kind you can just cuddle up and relax with.

It is self-described as a sort of memoir. I think that’s an apt description since each chapter in this book is an individual story, but they are all experiences of the same person. I think this book is basically like when all your relatives get together once a  year and say: “Remember that one time when…” That’s basically what the author does here. He doesn’t say, “This is me now.” It’s more like a series of funny and/or surprising stories of what he did or used to be like as a kid. He explains it from retrospect, but retaining the thought process he had as a child. That way, you live the story and yet still understand why he did what he did.

If the author wanted to create a book of stories to pass down to his kids, he succeeded. I can just imagine him with a grandkid on his knee. That grandkid saying “Tell me a story grandpa, of when you were my age”. I can imagine the author saying, “Here, just read this book”. If you’ve got interesting stories, I think this would work as a good outline.

I’m usually not one for autobiographies, but this book seemed interesting enough. The short stories are interesting, funny, and refreshing. I would have liked to learn more about his parents, particularly his mother, but then this book might have been more serious, factual, and not just a autobiography.

So, in short, this book was worth the read. I think most readers will get some laughs out of it and it is short enough to finish in a single evening, if you so desire. I give it a 4/5. Not amazing or awesome, but definitely enjoyable and the type of thing you’d like to read on a simple evening dedicated to kicking back and relaxing.