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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-09-26 11:02
The Bitter Twins - Jen Williams
The Bitter Twins - Jen Williams

This is the second book in the author's Winnowing Flame series, following on from The Ninth Rain (which I absolutely loved) and it keeps the tension and action ticking over nicely even as all sorts of bombshells are dropped on our protagonists. 

 

It's really difficult to talk about what happens in this book without spoiling the first one, so I won't go into massive details about it. It pretty much carries on straight from the end of the previous book - we know now that Hestillion was effectively aiding the enemy even though she didn't realise it, and in The Bitter Twins she spends the entire time as their captive. The war-beast pod she stole has hatched and she is effectively torn between her need to keep that creature safe and the realisation that she has betrayed her people completely. 

 

Meanwhile, back in what is left of Ebora, our other protagonists are trying to find allies against their common enemy and fight its incursions with limited resources. Tor and Noon go off on what looks like being a wild goose chase, in search of information that might help the war-beasts remember their connection to their previous lives, and discover some long-held secrets about the Eborans. Theirs is the main story, with what Bern and Aldasair get up to in the meantime proving to be more of a B plot.

 

Another excellent book, can't wait to see how this series finishes off. The final book (The Poison Song) is due out May next year!

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text 2018-05-09 11:13
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review 2018-04-06 04:33
Rich portal fantasy with a dreamy pace
Blue Window - Adina Gewirtz

Disclaimer: reviewing uncorrected digital proof via NetGalley

 

I'm not too sure how to review this one. On the one hand, it's very well written, has many strong points, and is generally enjoyable. On the other, it consistently put me to sleep every night and took about 5x longer to read than my usual pace, so . . . I guess it's good fantasy, and most definitively does not follow the contemporary thriller-pacing that we're seeing more of in YA and MG books. Recommended for young readers who enjoy the classics of kid lit, rather than reluctant readers or those who prefer fast-paced stories.

 

This is a portal fantasy, in which five siblings ranging from early to late elementary age tumble through a window into another world where they discover powers. The third-person narrative lends itself to exploring the world from each character's perspective, allowing for insightful character writing and meaningful personality development, but also feels distant. The journey-of-discovery format means the pace is dreamy and meandering, although there is a clear goal that ties it all together (get home again). There is dark/violent/disturbing content, which may push the edges of younger children's comfort level, but is in line with content from many children's classics. Lots of descriptive writing creates a detailed high fantasy world with some interesting philosophical underpinnings.

 

In summary, there's lots to like here, but for me personally, it just didn't quite come together. Maybe I was just overtired. Again, I'd recommend this for young readers (and other fans) of dense, fantasy doorstoppers and classic storytelling. Rated 5 for quality, 3 for personal taste.

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text 2018-01-22 12:02
#Promotional_Post & Excerpt - The Atlantis Twins (Mermaid Curse #1) by M.S. Kaminsky
The Atlantis Twins - M.S. Kaminsky

Never trust a mermaid with a broken heart. 

 
Seventeen-year-old Marei lives on Alabaster Island, a remote tropical isle inhabited by twenty-one families. Nobody under the age of eighteen has ever left to visit the mainland. The island and its strange customs are all that Marei and her friends know.
 
For years, Marei dreaded The Binding. On that day, each teen must write his or her choice of life mate. But with childhood sweetheart drowned long ago, Marei has no boy in mind. And so she leaves her paper blank. This sets off a chain of events that ruptures the bedrock of her life and leads her to question the only home she’s ever had. 
 
She encounters a mermaid, beings thought to have gone extinct. The mermaid tells Marei to leave the island and offers to help. When a handsome teen from the mainland becomes stranded after a supply drop, Marei falls in love. Her secret plan to flee becomes an obsession. 
 
But the mermaid has a hidden agenda of her own. Now Marei must confront the shocking reality that lies beneath island life. The choices she makes threaten to upend her fate and that of her island community forever…but only if she can escape alive.
Source: archaeolibrarianologist.blogspot.de/2018/01/promotionalpost-excerpt-atlantis-twins.html
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review 2018-01-11 03:39
Orange: The Complete Collection (manga, vol. 2) by Ichigo Takano, translated by Amber Tamosaitis
orange: The Complete Collection 2 - Ichigo Takano

Warning: this manga deals with depression and suicide. You've probably already read the first volume and know that, but this volume goes into more detail and includes a lengthy section from the POV of a character up to the moment he makes his decision to commit suicide.

I enjoyed this but had some issues with it that I’m not sure I can articulate. Well, I’ll give it a shot.

Orange is only the first two thirds of this volume. The last third is an unrelated story with a completely different tone. I’ll discuss them separately in this review.

Orange:

This volume picks up right where the first one left off. Naho is still trying to save Kakeru, but now she knows she isn’t alone - literally all of her friends also received letters from their future/parallel universe selves and are also working to save him. Things have changed enough now that the letters don’t always help, although they can still provide a little bit of guidance. But will it be enough? And will Naho and her friends’ efforts really manage to save Kakeru?

One of the things that worried me about the previous volume was the possibility that Takano might be taking the story into “high school romance saves Kakeru” territory. That worry never quite went away - although Takako thought that Kakeru would be fine even if his romance with Naho didn’t work out, Suwa was so unconvinced by this that he continued to sabotage the future he knew he could have with Naho. That said, the way the ending was written indicated that it was everyone, not just Naho, who was necessary to save Kakeru. What he needed wasn’t specifically romance, but rather relationships with people who cared about him, worried about him, and thought about him enough to try to stand by him through everything, even when he actively pushed them away.

Which brings me to the thing I’ve been avoiding writing directly about: suicide. While I think Orange is very good, it feels like something that was written more for people like Naho, Suwa, Takako, Hagita, and Azu than people like Kakeru and his mother. The section from Kakeru’s POV is part of the reason why.

At one point in the volume, Takano includes a flashback to Kakeru’s POV in the original timeline -

all the things that happened to him and contributed to his depression, as well as the one horrible thing that pushed him over the edge and made him decide to commit suicide. It was a very effective bit of storytelling, setting up a sort of final countdown and showing readers the things that Naho and the others didn’t know about but would somehow have to overcome in order to save Kakeru. And as someone who grew up with a mother who was depressed and who worried about contributing to that depression, I can say that Kakeru’s POV felt painfully real.

(spoiler show)


I probably wouldn’t recommend this series to someone who was dealing with depression and/or suicidal feelings unless they had someone they could go to that they felt comfortable talking to. The ending

was intended to be a happy and hopeful one, with Naho and the others accomplishing what they set out to do and determined to keep helping Kakeru even past the point where their letters could guide them. However, all I could think was that, despite everything they knew and all their daily efforts, they still only barely managed to keep him from killing himself. There was, for me, something deeply horrifying about that. And after all that, Kakeru’s reaction to what Naho and everyone else told him felt kind of...understated?

(spoiler show)



When I first started this series, I said that it could maybe be considered science fiction. After reading this volume, I take that back: it definitely isn’t science fiction, despite its occasional passages about parallel universes. Takano’s explanation for how Naho and her friends managed to send their letters back in time and start a parallel universe where Kakeru doesn’t die was absolutely ridiculous. Rather than coming up with some kind of brilliant plan to save Kakeru, they

literally threw their letters into the ocean and those letters somehow made their way into a black hole (or something similar). The letters then somehow all ended up in just the right time and place.

(spoiler show)


Haruiro Astronaut:

Chiki and Mami are identical twins. Mami’s the cute one that guys are always asking out. Since she can never bring herself to say “no” to any of them, even if she isn’t interested in them, Chiki always ends up being the one to break up with them for Mami. And then they ask her out because they view the twins as interchangeable. Chiki wants to find someone who sees her for who she is, rather than as an acceptable substitute for Mami, and who wants to be with her.

Mami introduces Chiki to Yui, a hot new guy in her class, and Chiki falls head over heels in love. Unfortunately for her, he’s interested in Mami. As if the situation weren’t already painful enough, Mami starts to fall for him too. So where does that leave Chiki?

This one’s light and fluffy tone was a welcome change after finishing Orange. The worst thing the characters had to worry about was whether the person they liked happened to like someone else.

This story had not one, but two love triangles: the one mentioned in my summary, involving Chiki, Mami, and Yui, and one involving Chiki, Yui’s best friend, and a guy who initially says he’s interested in Mami. To my surprise, I actually kind of liked these love triangles. Although they both had aspects that were painful for the characters, neither one got to the point of truly hurting anybody and wrecking friendships. I’m still not sure how I feel about the final pairings, but the fact that everyone could still talk to each other and have fun together after everything was said and done was really refreshing.

(And I wonder, am I the only one who looked at that last page and had a sudden vision of Chiki, Tatsuaki, and Natsuki all going on a date together? Natsuki would quietly and happily soak up the atmosphere, Tatsuaki would be overly loud in a failed effort to hide his nervousness, and Chiki would blush and laugh.)

 

Rating Note:

 

If this volume had included the end of Orange and nothing else, I might have given it 3.5 stars. Something about the way Takano wrote about Kakeru and his mother's depression didn't quite sit well with me - I don't think I've figured out exactly what bothered me, but I don't know that I care to spend more time digging into it either.

 

Haruiro Astronaut really was a breath of fresh air and managed to nudge my rating up to 4 stars, which is a bit funny considering that I probably wouldn't have given it that rating if I'd read it on its own.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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