Black Widow: Forever Red by Margaret Stohl

Black Widow

 

Goodreads Blurb

Natasha Romanoff is one of the world’s most lethal assassins. Trained from a young age in the arts of death and deception, Natasha was given the title of Black Widow by Ivan Somodorov, her brutal teacher at the Red Room, Moscow’s infamous academy for operatives.

Ava Orlova is just trying to fit in as an average Brooklyn teenager, but her life has been anything but average.The daughter of a missing Russian quantum physicist, Ava was once subjected to a series of ruthless military experiments—until she was rescued by Black Widow and placed under S.H.I.E.L.D. protection. Ava has always longed to reconnect with her mysterious savior, but Black Widow isn’t really the big sister type.

Until now.

When children all over Eastern Europe begin to go missing, and rumors of smuggled Red Room tech light up the dark net, Natasha suspects her old teacher has returned—and that Ava Orlova might be the only one who can stop him. To defeat the madman who threatens their future, Natasha and Ava must unravel their pasts. Only then will they discover the truth about the dark-eyed boy with an hourglass tattoo who haunts Ava’s dreams…

 

Review

I want to start off by saying I gave this one 3.5/5 stars and then I want to explain why.

I think this novel was geared to a younger audience than I was anticipating it was. I was expecting a full on YA book, but it read a lot more like a middle grade book. With that being said, it was very easy to read and entertaining. However, I felt like every single relationship in this book was a little too forced and moved a little too quickly. I didn’t understand any of them except for maybe Black Widow’s and Ava’s.

I thought Alexei and Ava’s relationship moved way too fast. It may have been more believable when I was about 12/13 years old but it came off cheesy in the book. Then there was Alexei and Black Widow’s relationship… totally threw me for a loop. It was like once the secret was out, Alex was so gung-ho about it that he couldn’t stop the cheesiness from oozing out of his mouth. I just wished that had been tamed a little bit more in the book.

In the beginning of the novel, Black Widow is rescuing Ava when she is a child from a crazy Russian guy preforming a science experiment on her and who has had both of the girls as captives at one point or another in their lives. So it was really easy for them to relate to each other, and Ava had no parents anymore so Black Widow was her savior. But then betrays her by not ever stopping by to check on her when she needs her. That dynamic relationship I can get behind. I understand it. The others were too forced.

Another thing that halfway confused me in this book was that Black Widow is not the main character… but the book is titled Black Widow: Forever Red and has the Marvel logo on the front. So shouldn’t the front runner in the book be Black Widow? I know it has alternating perspectives between Black Widow, Ava, and Alexei but it still felt like the main focus was on Ava the entire book. It was a little disappointing.

The ending of this book took me completely by surprise. It went from an action packed, superhero, spy story to having a sad ending. And since it felt like a middle grade throughout the first 2/3 of the book I was surprised when you were hit with something as heavy as the ending. I don’t want to say what happens in case any of you reading this haven’t read it yet.

There is another Black Widow novel out right now. I’m not sure if I will purchase it for myself but I will probably end up buying it to put in my classroom library for my middle school kiddos. I think Black Widow and Ava are both great female heroine’s in the superhero realm and you can never heave enough of those! Especially for girls in middle school. I think they will enjoy it.

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

 

Dimple

Goodreads Blurb

The rom-com that everyone’s talking about! Eleanor & Park meets Bollywood in this hilarious and heartfelt novel about two Indian-American teens whose parents conspire to arrange their marriage.

Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers…right?

Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him—wherein he’ll have to woo her—he’s totally on board. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi wants to be arranged, believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself.

The Shahs and Patels didn’t mean to start turning the wheels on this “suggested arrangement” so early in their children’s lives, but when they noticed them both gravitate toward the same summer program, they figured, Why not?

Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways.

 

Review

I’m not going to lie. I totally judged a book by it’s cover on this one. Well I judge based on the entire dust jacket. It’s STUNNING! I love the colors, Dimple on the front is adorable with her henna and her Starbucks iced coffee and the back is hilarious. I love it! And the orange really makes it POP!

I started seeing this book get lots of attention from authors like Sabaa Tahir and Roshani Chokshi and I love them both so I picked it up one day while perusing Half Price Books. When I read the inside cover I was hooked! It sounded like the perfect summer read. And it was!

Dimple is this really head strong girl who resents the fact that her parents are already looking for the I.I.H (Ideal Indian Husband) for her right out of high school. She wants to be her own person and she wants to go to Stanford in the fall and get a start on her programming career. Her idol is this computer guru, Jenny Lindt, who is helping the winner of the summer program develop an app.

Dimple is stunned when her parents agree to let her go to the summer program in San Francisco after finding out it’s $1000. But she’s not going to question them too hard because it’s a dream come true to her!

Once getting there an Indian boy walks up and makes a bad joke about her being his future wife and how he can’t wait to start their life together. This is where Dimple promptly throws her iced coffee in his face and runs away.

You find out in Rishi’s chapters that his family has already arranged the marriage of he and Dimple with her parents and they all knew they were going to the same summer program…except for Dimple. He thought she knew about the arrangement as well and would be just as excited to meet him as he is her.

After some reflection and girl talk with her new roommate and friend, Celia, Dimple comes around and realizes she’s been too harsh on Rishi. This isn’t his fault, it’s her parents for not telling her about it. At this point she feels like no one is taking her seriously.

But Rishi and Dimple get assigned as partners in the program and from there a friendship buds… along with some romantic feelings. The whole time Dimple is trying to fight her feelings because she just wants to win and wants to go to college unattached in the Fall but she falls hard. Rishi on the other hand is more traditional and still wants to woo her. He’s completely fallen for her unruly hair, her spirit, and her ambition.

What they learn in the end is that some of the unlikeliest people can bring out your best qualities. I don’t want to spoil the ending so you’ll just have to read it! 🙂

I gave this book 3.5 stars. I don’t usually read a whole lot of teen romance books. Especially ones without witches or wizards or dragons but this was a great in-between book and a refreshing summer read. I really enjoyed it. It would make the perfect beach book! Dimple and Rishi made me feel that excitement of a first love again and I really enjoyed both characters. Not to mention their parents, they were hilarious! And supportive. It’s just a really cute, happy read.

Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

 

threedarkcrowns

 

Goodreads Blurb

Every generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born: three queens, all equal heirs to the crown and each possessor of a coveted magic. Mirabella is a fierce elemental, able to spark hungry flames or vicious storms at the snap of her fingers. Katharine is a poisoner, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons without so much as a stomachache. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is said to have the ability to bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of lions.

But becoming the Queen Crowned isn’t solely a matter of royal birth. Each sister has to fight for it. And it’s not just a game of win or lose…it’s life or death. The night the sisters turn sixteen, the battle begins. The last queen standing gets the crown.

If only it was that simple. Katharine is unable to tolerate the weakest poison, and Arsinoe, no matter how hard she tries, can’t make even a weed grow. The two queens have been shamefully faking their powers, taking care to keep each other, the island, and their powerful sister Mirabella none the wiser. But with alliances being formed, betrayals taking shape, and ruthless revenge haunting the queens’ every move, one thing is certain: the last queen standing might not be the strongest…but she may be the darkest.

 

Review

This story is unlike any that I’ve ever read. It’s dark, it’s full of love, and coming of age, and power. Three sisters Mirabella, Katherine, and Arsinoe are separated as children and are raised honing 3 very different skills. Mirabella can control the elements such as wind, fire, and water, Katherine is trained as a poisoner, and Arsinoe is waiting for her gift, an animal companion.

These sisters are raised to hate each other because they are each others biggest competition. While there are 3 of them, only 1 can rule the kingdom. Each sister is pitted against each other and must try to ultimately destroy the others, for you cannot be queen with the others still alive out in the world.

One sister is starting to have memories flooding back to her about her childhood and how much she loved her sisters, one is looking in all the wrong places for the answer to her problems, and one is a weakling who must lean on the help of others to help her succeed. So who will win the throne?

This story was equal parts suspense, tragic love story, and fantasy. I loved all of it. And I found myself rooting for unlikely people in the end. I am very excited about Blake’s new book One Dark Throne coming out September 19th of this year. I met Kendare Blake at Texas Teen Book Festival last year in Austin, TX. She is one of the nicest author’s I’ve ever met. Meeting her and meeting Garth Nix have always stood out to me because they we’re the friendliest author’s I’ve ever met. They both took the time to get to know the people waiting in their signing lines and it meant a lot to me.

Kendare had never been to Texas and was telling me about the things she liked about it and asked me if I was student and then talked to me about how I’m a 7th grade Reading teacher. I just really enjoyed meeting her. It’s so funny how someone so friendly and nice writes such dark fantasy. I love that! I hope she returns to Texas sometime so I can get her to sign a copy of One Dark Throne when I get it!

If you’re looking for an interesting story, with unique world building and plot lines you should pick this one up. You won’t be disappointed! It’s unlike anything you have ever read.

The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken

the darkest minds

“We’ll just have to try to make better mistakes tomorrow.”
Alexandra Bracken, The Darkest Minds

 

Goodreads Blurb

When Ruby woke up on her tenth birthday, something about her had changed. Something frightening enough to make her parents lock her in the garage and call the police. Something that got her sent to Thurmond, a brutal government “rehabilitation camp.” She might have survived the mysterious disease that had killed most of America’s children, but she and the others emerged with something far worse: frightening abilities they could not control.

Now sixteen, Ruby is one of the dangerous ones. When the truth comes out, Ruby barely escapes Thurmond with her life. She is on the run, desperate to find the only safe haven left for kids like her—East River. She joins a group of kids who have escaped their own camp. Liam, their brave leader, is falling hard for Ruby. But no matter how much she aches for him, Ruby can’t risk getting close. Not after what happened to her parents. When they arrive at East River, nothing is as it seems, least of all its mysterious leader. But there are other forces at work, people who will stop at nothing to use Ruby in their fight against the government. Ruby will be faced with a terrible choice, one that may mean giving up her only chance at having a life worth living.

 

Review

I haven’t started a new Dystopian series in awhile.  I’ve had this book on my shelf for at least a year, maybe more. But I’ve followed Alexandra Bracken on Instagram for awhile now and the first book I read of hers was actually Passenger, and I really liked it. I thought it was a little slow in the beginning but I loved the story line and the ending.

While following Bracken on Instagram I saw her post a few stories talking about how The Darkest Minds is in production right now. I had not heard that it was going to be a movie until I saw her posting from the set one day. I think she has a cameo in the movie. IMDB says Mandy Moore and the girl who played Rue in The Hunger Games are going to be in it. I think the girl who played Rue is actually playing Ruby, the main character. Pretty cool! So naturally I had to pick up the book then and read it. I can’t have the movie coming out before I read the book! It’s pretty thick but I finished it in about 4-5 days.

The story is fast paced and I enjoyed the characters. It did seem a little cliche only because I read a billion and one Dystopia novels in the past few years because they got so popular but I would not think it was cliche if I had read it 2 years ago. I just got a little burnt out on it I guess. But not enough to deter me from reading it!

The story had elements of a Dystopian but it also kind of reminded me of X-Men. All the kids between certain ages like 8-18 or so developed these abilities. And if you didn’t develop these abilities, you contracted an illness called IAAN that killed you. And 98% of the population of kids between 8-18 have died rather than develop special abilities. Some can mess with your mind in different ways and effect your feelings, some can move things with their minds, others have crazy photographic memories and are good analytically, and then some can control electricity. Each ability is labeled with a color in the book, so if you can move things with your mind you’re a Blue and if you can control peoples thoughts or dreams you’re an Orange. And some of the abilities are more prevalent than others.

Anyway, the government doesn’t know what to do with these kids now. They are a danger to society in their eyes and instead of creating programs to help them they basically make these concentration camps and keep the kids in those. They take them from their families and make them work and live in these sad living conditions and none of the officers are nice to them. And some of the colors that pose bigger threats (such as Orange and Red) mysteriously are taken away from the camps and the other kids have no idea where they have taken them. Did the government decide to kill them? Did the government decide to try and use them as weapons? That’s something we still don’t know really.

Early on in the story, Ruby and another boy get liberated from the camp. They both had been posing as Greens even though they are Oranges. They used their abilities right when they got into the camps to stay undercover. And the officers don’t allow the kids to use their abilities so there is never a way to really check what color you actually are after you’re sorted unless you get caught using them.

They are liberated by a woman posing as a doctor but who is actually a part of the rebel group called The Children’s League. They say they just want to help all the kids, even though they’re only rescuing Oranges at the time, but you find out they want an army for themselves and not everything is black and white with them. They may be doing some good but it’s not all sunshine and rainbows in The Children’s League.

Once Ruby figures this out she runs off and finds a small group of kids surviving on their own looking for a camp of kids that supposedly have a powerful Orange that helps connect people back with their families. But just like everything else in this story, nothing is black and white. Like most Dystopia stories, the characters must grow up and realize that the world is full of grey areas. And what trading one evil for another means.

I went and bought the second novel, Never Fade, yesterday. I am very excited to continue Ruby, Liam, and Chubs story. However, I did take a little break from reading fantasy. Crazy! I know. But it’s summer and I wanted a summery read so now I am currently reading When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon. It’s a cutesy, college romance about two Indian students are pushed together in an arranged marriage by their families. The boy, Rishi is all about it because he appreciates tradition but the girl, Dimple just wants to focus on college and becoming an App designer. It’s been a quick, happy read so far. I’m a little more than halfway done with it.

What are some of your TBR summer reads? Any good recommendations?

 

Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare

 

Lady Midnight

 

Goodreads Blurb

In a kingdom by the sea…

In a secret world where half-angel warriors are sworn to fight demons, parabatai is a sacred word.

A parabatai is your partner in battle. A parabatai is your best friend. Parabatai can be everything to each other—but they can never fall in love.

Emma Carstairs is a warrior, a Shadowhunter, and the best in her generation. She lives for battle. Shoulder to shoulder with her parabatai, Julian Blackthorn, she patrols the streets of Los Angeles, where vampires party on the Sunset Strip, and faeries—the most powerful of supernatural creatures—teeter on the edge of open war with Shadowhunters. When the bodies of humans and faeries turn up murdered in the same way Emma’s parents were when she was a child, an uneasy alliance is formed. This is Emma’s chance for revenge—and Julian’s chance to get back his brother Mark, who is being held prisoner by the faerie Courts. All Emma, Mark, and Julian have to do is solve the murders within two weeks…and before the murderer targets them.

Their search takes Emma from sea caves full of sorcery to a dark lottery where death is dispensed. And each clue she unravels uncovers more secrets. What has Julian been hiding from her all these years? Why does Shadowhunter Law forbid parabatai to fall in love? Who really killed her parents—and can she bear to know the truth?

 

Review

Edgar. Allan. Poe. I love Poe. I took a college class over his stories and his theme of ratiocination at Texas State and it was one of the most interesting classes I ever took. I love his stories and I love his poems so much that I teach “Annabel Lee” and “The Raven” every year to my 7th graders during our poetry unit. So the fact that this story is parallel to “Annabel Lee” made it so much better for me. And each chapter is titled from the lines of the poem.

I really enjoyed how Clare dipped into the morbid romance of this story. It was different than her past plot lines in The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices series. She is really good about diverse plot lines. Yeah, there’s always teen romance and everyone is usually coupled up but she’s gone from Jace and Clary thinking they were siblings and dealing with those feelings, Jem, Tessa, and Will being in a tragic love triangle to Emma and Julian being stuck in a Parabatai bond and not being allowed to be romantically involved. I’ve enjoyed all of their stories.

It took about the first 80-100 pages to get into this book because I hadn’t read a Shadowhunters book in quite some time. Probably two years or maybe even longer. I devoured The Mortal Instruments late in high school and in college and was behind on the Shadowhunter game so I didn’t really have to wait on reading any in that particular series. I was more caught up with The Infernal Devices. And I picked up Lady Midnight in Austin last year when it first came out but it sat on my bookshelf forever. Mostly because it’s so ginormous. I didn’t want to read it during the school year because of the size. It’s hard to stay invested in large books when I’m working during the year so I saw the big ones like Lady Midnight and the Outlander books for summertime.

I also had recently watched the first season of The Shadowhunters series on TV and it was alright. I was wanting to watch the second season but it felt too cheesy so I think it put me off of Shadowhunters for awhile.

I will be purchasing Lord of Shadows sometime though. I’m not sure if it will be before or after the baby is born in September though. I put myself on a book buying ban in order to help save money for us to move and for baby stuff. And those books are over $20 when they come out! Sheesh! Too much.

I know many people really liked Tiberius the best out of all the characters in Lady Midnight but I think my favorite was Mark. Ty is cool, and quirky but he still seems pretty weak. I think he will grow more in the next few books. Maybe I’ll change my mind about his character then. I’ve always been a sucker for a good faerie story so I loved reading about The Hunt and how he was adjusting back to Shadowhunter life after being stuck there for so many years. I loved the Wicked Lovely books in high school. And now I love the Sarah J Maas series A Court of Thorns and Roses. The faerie genre has never been too big so I love when I find good faerie stories. I like the idea of the different courts and how there’s all different kinds of Fae with different abilities. It’s all very seductive and unique.

Anyway, I really enjoyed this book. It was nice revisiting an old favorite world. I gave it 4.5/5 stars. What did you think about it?

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

phantom-tollbooth.jpg

 

Goodreads Blurb

Hailed as “a classic. . . . humorous, full of warmth and real invention” (The New Yorker), this beloved story -first published more than fifty years ago- introduces readers to Milo and his adventures in the Lands Beyond.

For Milo, everything’s a bore. When a tollbooth mysteriously appears in his room, he drives through only because he’s got nothing better to do. But on the other side, things seem different. Milo visits the Island of Conclusions (you get there by jumping), learns about time from a ticking watchdog named Tock, and even embarks on a quest to rescue Rhyme and Reason! Somewhere along the way, Milo realizes something astonishing. Life is far from dull. In fact, it’s exciting beyond his wildest dreams. . . .

 

Review

I picked this up as a summer read because I’ve seen so many book reviews talk about how it is one of their favorite children’s book from their childhood. I had never heard of it until recently. Coincidentally, my mom and some of her friends created a book club for their kids this summer and this is the first book they are reading and discussing so I decided this was the perfect time for me to start it as well.

It’s a very quick read. There are tons of illustrations which really help you visualize the world in which it is set. It reminded me of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. It’s very out there and silly. I gave it 4/5 stars. I may have enjoyed the book more if I was reading it as a child.

I think the book teaches some great lessons to kids. You first meet the main character, a boy named Milo, he is a grumpy, ungrateful boy who complains. But once he goes through The Phantom Tollbooth, he meets different eccentric characters like Tock the dog who is part clock, and takes time very seriously and the Humbug who is a more obnoxious character who is a bug and leads them on their journey. Equipped with a tiny car and two unlikely allies, the gang must travel through Dictionopolis and Digitopolis in order to coerce two rival brother-kings to agree to bring back Princesses Rhyme and Reason the Kingdom of Wisdom to help straighten out the Kingdom.

The kings are ridiculous and make up silly rules based on words and numbers and how to speak and such. Both kingdoms are very nonsensical and Milo shows them why their world cannot function this way. Along this journey, Milo is learning the lesson mindfulness and of stopping to think. Back in his reality he had decided that he was tired of thinking and problem solving. It was just too much work! School was a bore! But here he gets see what the world would be like if everyone thought that way and he gets to be the stand in rhyme and reason until he saves the Princesses and returns them.

Once he returns them to the Kingdom of Wisdom, Milo must say good-bye to his new friends, but returns with a newfound appreciation for what he has and for the use of common sense instead of being lazy.

And not to sound like an old, cynical teacher, but I think this is a great book for 5th/6th graders to read these days with technology being so prevalent in everyday life now. I have two younger brothers in elementary school and I see how their life is driven by technology now. In some ways this is great and prepares them for the future, in other ways it’s gotten in the way of them learning proper social skills and often makes them dependent on their devices for everything. As a 7th grade Reading teacher, I have students coming into my classroom every year who still do not know how to use a Dictionary. They have no idea how it works, what alphabetize means, the difference between a Dictionary and a Thesaurus, etc.

And a big reason for this is that they can just look up everything they don’t know on the internet. They don’t have to have the skill of alphabetizing because they don’t need to know it in order to look up definitions on Dictionary.com. Which becomes a big problem when testing comes up and they still don’t fully understand how to utilize a Dictionary. It’s scary. I think this novel can help teach a lesson to these technological kids on why it’s still important to value knowledge and know how to problem solve in the real world.

A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J Maas

ACOWAR

Goodreads Blurb

Looming war threatens all Feyre holds dear in the third volume of the #1 New York Times bestselling A Court of Thorns and Roses series.

Feyre has returned to the Spring Court, determined to gather information on Tamlin’s maneuverings and the invading king threatening to bring Prythian to its knees. But to do so she must play a deadly game of deceit-and one slip may spell doom not only for Feyre, but for her world as well.

As war bears down upon them all, Feyre must decide who to trust amongst the dazzling and lethal High Lords-and hunt for allies in unexpected places.

Review

I had to wait a few days before I started the review for this one. It was an emotional roller coaster.  Maas has become one of my favorite authors since I started reading her novels last year. The first one I ever reads was Throne of Glass. I fell in love instantly. With her world building, her characters, her twists and turns, the fantasy of it. And I also love how she sticks to the New Adult genre more than YA. Most authors are usually fearful of dipping into New Adult. It can be interpreted a little more controversially.

But it never hold Maas back! Her books are daring and emotional. They’re packed with so much adventure and suspense. I would say they’re at the same level of adventure to rival that of J.R. R. Tolkien.

In this third installment of the A Court of Thorns and Roses series, Maas does not disappoint. All of out favorite characters are still there. Feyre is stuck at the Spring Court in the beginning playing the role of the helpless girl who had been kidnapped by the big, bad evil guy splendidly. However, you can tell Lucien does not fully believe her story. While in the Spring Court she is trying to dismantle Tamlin’s court inconspicuously without anyone knowing as a form of revenge. Even with Hybern sending Jurian and the twins, she pulls it off with flying colors while also exacting revenge on Ianthe for throwing her sister to the wolves.

From there is when the story begins it’s adventure. Feyre ends up having to take Lucien back to Velaris with her in order to save him which works for him since he has been mated with her sister Elain. He wants only to be near her and to help her heal. Neither of Feyre’s sisters are coping well with the adjustment of becoming Fey. Elain is now a Seer and can see premonitions of things to come and Nesta has stolen some of the Cauldrons power. *Which pisses off the king and the cauldron.* She is now a main target for Hybern so that they can restore the cauldron to what it was.

Together the Velaris fam bam must come together in order to save all of the courts and the humans across the wall from Hybern and the forces he’s acquiring. In order to do that, they must find reinforcements in the unlikeliest places, such as the Autumn Court and from afar. I don’t want to spoil too much so I don’t want to say who else they look to for help.  I enjoyed all of the new characters that are introduced in this book and I really hope they are all in the next one. And this book made me look differently at some of the older characters.

I have a feeling there will be another war brewing in the next book against the queens. And all of faeriedom.

I gave this installment 5/5 stars (just like all of her other books). I started reading the last third of the book slowly because I didn’t want it to end! I know the next Throne of Glass novel comes out in September (right?) but I hate waiting so long between books! Such bad book hangovers.

Happy Reading 🙂