The Other Side of the Gate

The Other Side of the Gate

The Other Side of the Gate (Into the Realms #1) by Craig Michael Curtis

Published: July 28, 2009

Fourteen year old Daniel Weaver arrives in a strange new world called the Realms one night by boat. He doesn’t know where he is or how he got there. He is not the first human to come there, nor will he be the last. He meets a local girl named Eleanor,  and together decide to travel through the sixteen Gates of the Realms on a “forward quest” in order to find out the truth about why humans have been coming to the Realms. Come explore the world of the Realms, and join Daniel and Eleanor as they begin their epic coming of age quest. Recommended for ages 14+, 4 stars. 

First I will discuss the things I didn’t like about the book. There were some obvious spelling errors and typos. The two spaces at the end of each sentence bothered me in the beginning, but I didn’t care so much about by the end of the book, probably because I got used to it. The biggest issue with the book, in my opinion, was the way the story dragged in the middle and end, and I felt like it could’ve been edited down a bit to help with that problem. 

On to the good stuff. I really liked the world-building in this book. I also liked the idea of getting a “Realm gift” from the prime-numbered Realms and a “power word,” which gives you another superhero-like power. The main character is transported to an unknown world and must survive by his wits and skills. He is good at helping people and encouraging them. Daniel meets Eleanor in a bit of an odd way, but they hit it off right away. I love both of these characters, and they really compliment each other. Their awkwardness as they start to fall for each other is adorable, the boy is a bit clueless and the girl is more forward (just like it usually goes in real life, at least in my experience). My favorite characters were the soul-bound couple, the Butterfields, because of the way they interact with each other – just like an old married couple even though they’re not. The most surprising character that I enjoyed reading about was Oka, the curmudgeon would-be wizard, who reluctantly helps Daniel and Eleanor at the end of the book. My favorite scene was probably the static electricity scene at the end of the book with the ghosts (can’t go into more or it will ruin it for everyone else). 

The end of the book especially had a Wizard of Oz theme to it, which I enjoyed as L. Frank Baum is one of my favorite authors. Think about the story summary: Two, and eventually four, teenagers go on a quest to seek knowledge and the help of a wizard. They finally find their wizard, who is actually not one (just like in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz), and is conveniently named Harry Baum. Daniel doesn’t exactly find the answers he is looking for in the Fourth Realm with his “magician” and so needs to continue all the way to the end to find his reason for being in the Realms. 

Bottom line for this book, and the series in general: Yes it is a long book but well worth a read and I personally am excited to see what he does with the next book in the five book series. 

Disclaimer: I did receive a copy of this book from the author in exchange for my honest review. 

 

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Kamisama Kiss, Vol 25

Kamisama Kiss Vol 25

Kamisama Kiss Vol 25 written and illustrated by Julietta Suzuki

To be published: Oct 3, 2017

Nanami has been studying hard the last ten months and finally got accepted into Junior College in the Dept of Early Childhood Education, so she can work with kids. But she is wary of marrying Tomoe, and still doesn’t really want to leave the shrine and stop being the human kami. Kotaro, the human love of Himemiko, the fish yokai, that Nanami helped out in the beginning of the series, is gravely ill. Kotaro seeks her help. It turns out Himemiko is pregnant with Kotaro’s child and her people are not happy that the child is human. Himemiko wanted Nanami to come to her palace and get married to Tomoe so that her subjects would relent about her wanting to marry Kotaro, and see that a yokai marrying a human is perfectly normal. So Tomoe finally proposes and she says yes! They are getting married at Mikage shrine, and invite all their friends.  Will they finally get their happily ever after? To find out, read the heartwarming conclusion to the Kamisama Kiss series! Recommended for ages 14+, 5 stars. 

I am sad that this is the last volume in the series, but I figured it was coming soon as they can only drag the Tomoe-is-still-stuck-in-the-body-of-a-fox for so long. I love Tomoe but I kind of prefer Jiro, the tengu chieftan,  for her even if he is a grumpy bastard. Hehe on that whole “you’re too tempting a sight tonight” comment. I loved it, even though the way she went about it was rather odd, when Himemiko kidnapped Nanami and dressed her in the traditional all-white wedding kimono. Nanami didn’t really want to get married probably because of what happened with her parents, but the look of pure joy when she put that wedding dress on and saw how beautiful she looked, was priceless. Not to mention the look on Tomoe’s face when he first sees her and the way he hugged her on their wedding day. I liked Ami being brave and finally talking to Kurama and told him how she felt about him. 

Disclaimer: I received this ARC, from Viz Media, in exchange for my honest review. 

 

The Demon Prince of Momochi House, Vol 10

The Demon Prince of Momochi House Volume 10

The Demon Prince of Momochi House, Vol. 10 written and illustrated by Aya Shouoto

To be published: Oct 3, 2017

Himari Momochi is still in shock after Aoi’s love confession. She goes exploring the house on her own and almost gets kidnapped by a female ayakashi (or what is left of it), only to be rescued by the Guardian of the Gate between the spiritual and human worlds, who she met a few volumes before. He wants the power in her last name now and decides at first that the best way to do that is to marry her, which she of course refuses, then decides that becoming the guardian of the Momochi House (the omamori-sama) would be the better route. Aoi also completely refuses to allow either of these things to happen, but the Guardian forces his hand by kidnapping Himari and forcing him to play a dangerous game to get her back. Aoi thankfully wins but at what cost to Himari and himself? Bonus story about Ise included at the end. Recommended for ages 14+, 4 stars. 

Mangas like this crack me up. This book is basically a reverse harem, a manga where the main character is a girl who has a bevy of hot young men that are falling over themselves to get her attention and/or protect her. The Guardian of the Gate is handsome and charming, and it seems used to getting his own way, but is defeated using his own vanity/bad habits in the end. Bit poetic if you think about it. Aoi, despite looking exactly the same, seems to have changed and become more powerful/ruthless since he revealed his true feelings for Himari. And that scene where the Guardian gets all cheeky and kisses Himari and you see Aoi literally crack and turn into the bloodthirsty Nue, is pretty bad-ass. I was honestly a little confused about what exactly happened with the new shikigami at the end of the manga, so hopefully the author/illustrator will explain it better in the next volume. 

Disclaimer: I received an ARC of this manga from Viz Media in exchange for my honest review. 

Heroine Worship

Heroine Worship

Heroine Worship (Heroine Complex #2) by Sarah Kuhn

Published July 4, 2017

Aveda Jupiter, badass superheroine extraordinaire, is bored. Ever since she and her best friend (and former personal assistant) fire-wielder Evie Tanaka stopped a demon invasion four months earlier, Ms. Jupiter (aka Annie Chang) has been frustrated with the lack of opportunities for superheroine intervention in San Francisco, but also because no one takes her seriously and everyone thinks she is just a attention-hogging diva. She wants to be an exemplary best friend to Evie, and so when Evie gets engaged and asks her to be the maid of honor, she takes her job very seriously. Things finally start happening with Scott, the mage who works with her company, and Annie has been in love with him forever. Only the damn demons seem to keep getting in the way of everything. Can Evie and Aveda set aside their difference and work together to defeat these demons? 3-1/2 stars. 

This book draggggggggged a lot, especially in the middle. I kept waiting for the plot to progress and it did eventually, but took its sweet time to get there. If I didn’t like the characters so much, I probably wouldn’t have finished it. The first book in the series, Heroine Complex, was entirely from the viewpoint of Evie and I really sympathized with her for having deal with someone who never appreciated her and what she did for her boss/friend. This book is entirely from Annie/Aveda’s viewpoint, which is completely different. We find out pretty early on that Annie is not the overly-confident diva that she originally appears but is completely vulnerable and emotional, especially after she realizes what a complete b**** she’s been to her best friend over the years. Then there’s Scott, the mage she’s known for years who she has had a crush on since she was twelve years old, and who has only recently started acting like a normal human being with her. I loved the interaction between the two of them and how shy they were as they got to know each other again, properly this time. 

Disclaimer: I received this book, from Berkley Publishing Group via Netgalley, in exchange for my honest review. 

 

The Waking Land

The Waking Land

The Waking Land  by Callie Bates

To be published: June 27, 2017

Lady Elanna Valtai (El for short) was kidnapped at age five by the King of Ereni because of her father’s political connections and designs. She is raised as the adopted daugher in King Antoine’s court but never fits in because everyone thinks her family are traitors. Fourteen years pass and El has cut all ties to her family and considers herself Ereni. That is until the King is mysteriously murdered, and she is blamed for it. She escapes with the help of a mysterious young man with magical abilities named Lord Jahan and his party of Caerisi supporters. She soon has to deal with her parents that abandoned her so long ago, and the semi-dormant nature magic she has been keeping secret for years. Magic is forbidden and is punishable by death. Will El be able to lead the rebellion that will determine her destiny and possibly her future love? Recommended for ages 14+, 4-1/2 stars. 

I adored this book! The world-building was great and the author really did manage to create a rich detailed novel. El could be a spoiled princess who cares about nobody but herself (like her adopted sister Loyce), but she is way more than that. This is especially true after she realizes all that is going on her around her – i.e. her role in the political machinations of her father and the kingdom of Ereni. Eren reminded me of late medieval/early Renaissance England, while Caeris reminded me a lot of Scotland with a splash of Ireland, and a little bit of Diana Gabaldon with the magic stones and power of the earth element of the story. I loved the El and Jahan story! Finn totally reminded me of Leith from the TV show Reign, in fact the actor is who I picture in my head whenever I read about him. He’s got that whole innocent caught in the middle vibe, especially in regard to being the next king, and I do feel a little bad for him as he’s seems to have feelings for El. That marriage to the land scene at the end of the book…wow is all I can say.

There were two things I didn’t like about this book. The first was that the story dragged a bit in the beginning and end, which dragged the story out unnecessarily, and made it hard to get into and then I was praying for it to hurry up and end. Second, there was not enough background information on one of my favorite characters besides El, Jahan Korakides. Seriously, he’s El’s love interest and all you know are some vague details about the guy and he’s the most interesting character because he’s a sorcerer who completely hides this fact and manages to live amongst royalty. 

 

30 Day Writing Challenge

30 day writing challenge

I haven’t done anything like this, so I thought it might be fun to try. 

Day 1: List Ten Things That Make You Really Happy

In no particular order:

  1. My son (he really makes my day brighter)
  2. Playing Dragon Age games (Origins, Awakening, DA2, or DA: Inquisition)
  3. Writing – blog posts, poetry, and Dragon Age fanfiction
  4. Reading during any spare minutes I have – esp if they’re ARCs (Advanced Readers Copy so I get to read and review them before anyone else)
  5. Talking to anyone who will listen about art and sharing my knowledge and appreciation of it – doubly so if I get to teach an art program like Art Explorers or the ones I used to do for Kids Cafe
  6. Having intellectual conversations with cute educated guys
  7. Nerding out/Fangirling while watching Star Wars/LOTR/Miraculous Ladybug/anything vaguely Anglophile (see my Pinterest page for more of what Nerdy/Geeky things I mean)
  8. Going to Comic-con in Phx – maybe one day I can do the big one in San Diego
  9. Traveling – last trip was to Alabama to visit my family so not sure that really counts but last trip before that was to Prescott/Sedona/Northern Arizona area which I hadn’t really explored since before I moved here to AZ so that counts. I haven’t been on a good trip since college, esp a “dropping me in the middle of a country where I don’t speak the language but still manage to have fun”, but here’s hoping for more in the future. 
  10. As corny as this sounds, doing my job at work. I got a Masters Degree in Youth Services in a Public Library and I really do love helping kids and their families, so anywhere I get to do that is awesome, i.e. during Preschool STEM storytime, during Baby Storytime, Kids Cafe, Reference Desk, Readers Advisory, or helping out with other programs. 

Winter

winter

Winter (The Lunar Chronicles #4) by Marissa Meyer

Winter isn’t completely the completely useless crazy princess all the nobility on Luna maker her out to be. She is beloved by the common people, something her stepmother Queen Levana has never been, and the Queen hates her for it. Winter, in turn, despises her stepmother for using her Lunar gift to permanently scar her face and not allowing her to be with the love of her life, Jacin, a palace guard. She allies herself with Cinder, Emperor Kaito, Cress, Thorne, Wolf and Scarlet as they plot to take down Levana and install Cinder as Queen of Luna. Will they be able to defeat Levana and each be able to find their happy endings? To find out read the exciting conclusion of The Lunar Chronicles! Recommended for ages 14+, 4-1/2 stars. 

I reviewed the other Lunar Chronicles books here and here, and although I ultimately loved this book, it was so freaking long I nearly gave up several times. It took me about a month to finish on audiobook, though that was with several interruptions. I mean c’mon, it was 19 discs. We’re almost getting into Game of Thrones territory here (it had 28 discs). I really think it should’ve been divided into two books as the story took so much buildup to get to the point, which was to take down Levana and install Cinder on the Lunar throne as queen. The theme of this book was about Winter, the stepdaughter of Queen Levana who has been mentioned in previous books but you hadn’t heard much about until this book, and was a reference to the fairy tale Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Winter was so flighty and weird that at first, I kind of hated her character, but as the book progresses the reader realizes that her odd behavior isn’t completely her fault. She has chosen to withhold the Lunar gift (mind control) and therefore has essentially driven herself crazy. 

I loved the character and relationship development between the couples: Kai and Cinder, Thorne and Cress, and Wolf and Scarlet. Kai and Cinder are so awkward when the book starts, probably because of the kidnapping but once he understands everything, they are too cute together and apart (especially when he is dealing with Levana). Wolf and Scarlet were interesting because she was tortured and he was genetically modified, but they are still so in love with each other no matter what has happened. Thorne and Cress are my favorite relationship and characters, aside from Cinder. Cress is very brave despite feeling insignificant all of the time. And Thorne is such a dashing rogue (very Han Solo in my opinion), though at the same time completely petrified at the thought of losing Cress, even though he can’t seem to voice it until the very end.

I found the part at the end, the face-off between Cinder and Levana in the audience room to be completely insane but fantastically written by the author. The way Levana keeps using Cinder’s friends against her physically and keeps thwarting all her attempts, even pretending to surrender; it honestly was kept on the edge of myself till the last minute wondering who was going to come out on top. Apparently there’s a short story about one of the characters getting married in the author’s book  Stars Above, so I am definitely going to check that out later.