River Secrets

Title: River Secrets
Author: Shannon Hale
Series: The Books of Bayern, 3/4
Genre: Fantasy, YA
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Release Date: January 1st, 2006

Note: This post reviews the third book of The Books of Bayern series. You may like to read the first two books in the series, The Goose Girl and Enna Burningbefore reading this review.

The kingdoms of Bayern and Tira are far from peaceful. The war between them a year ago left both kingdoms hating the other. In an attempt toward peace, the kingdoms each send ambassadors to the other kingdom, along with trusted members from court. Razo, friend to his king and queen, cannot for the life of him understand why he has been chosen to be among those sent to Tira. Never having been strong, or tall, or particularly useful in battle, he goes reluctantly, feeling like anyone would have been a better choice than he.

When he arrives in Tira, only to learn that mysterious murders are underway, he realizes that he might just have a part to play for Bayern after all. Using his own skill set as a rather resourceful spy, Razo is determined to uncover the mystery behind the murders. But will the beautiful Dasha, liason of Tira, who has caught his eye, help or hinder his mission?

Click on the links below to get your copy of this book and the others in its series:

Enna Burning

Title: Enna Burning
Author: Shannon Hale
Series: The Books of Bayern, 2/4
Genre: Fairytale, Fantasy, YA
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Release Date: September 1st 2006

Note: This post reviews the second book of The Books of Bayern series. You may like to read the first book in the series, The Goose Girlbefore reading this review.

When Enna first realizes that her brother can channel and control fire, she is certain that it is a power that can only lead to destruction. That is, until she learns that she, too, has the same ability to wield fire. As the kingdom of Bayern lies on the edge of defeat, her newly discovered abilities may have the power to save her kingdom and everyone she loves from the attack of Tira. But Enna must find a way to control her gift before it consumes her completely.

Though Enna Burning is the second book of this series, they can be read as stand-alone stories. However, since the characters in this book are first introduced in The Goose Girl, I recommend starting there. Shannon Hale is a favorite of mine in this genre, but this story didn’t grab me as much as some of her other books have. Having said that, it was still a fun read, and I look forward to reading the next two books in this series!

Click on the links below to get your copy of this book and the others in its series:

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

Title: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up
Author: Marie Kondo
Genre: Nonfiction, Lifestyle, Minimalism, Self Help
Publisher: Ten Speed Press
Release Date: January 15th, 2011

For those of you who regularly keep up with this book review blog (thank you, by the way!), you will notice right away that this week’s review is a step away from my usual reads. This is due to the fact that life is officially getting insane with the holidays, NaNoWriMo (anyone else writing 50,000 this month? I salute you.), and Nutcracker craziness at my dance studio. I needed a quick break to reset before the holiday madness. Anyone else?

The need for a reset, not just in my home but in my life as well, prompted me to pick up this book for yet another read. I first read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing last year around this time. Recognizing the stress that builds up around this time of year, I decided to pick it up again for a thorough read-through, highlighting all the way. Even though The KonMari Method is supposed to be a one-time decluttering experience, I admit that I didn’t do it thoroughly the first time I read it. But this is the year that I will team up with my hubby and set our home in order!

The KonMari Method boils down to deciding the things in your home that you really love, the things that “spark joy,” and respectfully discarding the rest. (The exception to this statement are the things we need for our jobs, our health, etc.) I love the idea of being surrounded by the things I really love, not by things I thought I needed but actually don’t. When we rid our homes of all the excess, we realize how much we truly need in order to live a happy life. When we let go of things we have needlessly held on to, we are able to process our past in a healthy way and live for the here and now. This can also help empower us to go after the future we want for ourselves. And by giving your house a detox, you give your life one as well.

This book is the book for you if you are looking to get down to the basics of your life, and free yourself of anything that might be holding you back. There is a reason tiny house living is so appealing to me: living a simple, uncluttered life. This is achievable for all living spaces, no matter the size. I read through this book in one sitting quite easily both times. It’s the perfect read for a weekend afternoon, but make sure you leave yourself time to jump off the couch and begin setting your home in order, because that is exactly what you will want to do!

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Princess Academy: The Forgotten Sisters

Title: Princess Academy: The Forgotten Sisters
Author: Shannon Hale
Series: Princess Academy, 3/3
Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade, YA
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Release Date: March 3rd, 2015

Note: This post reviews the third book of the Princess Academy series. You may like to read the first two books in the series, Princess Academy and Princess Academy: Palace of Stonebefore reading this review.

After a year of life in the lowlands, Miri is more than ready to return with her friends to her home on Mount Eskel. But just as she is about to leave the palace, the king sends her on an assignment that will take her far from her home, and far from Asland. Her assignment: to start a princess academy of her own in a swamp land. The student has become the teacher.

Miri is intimidated enough at the prospect of running her very own princess academy, but she is no where near prepared for what awaits her in the swamp. Her students, three cousins of the royal family, are not what she expected and a far cry from princesses-in-training. Miri must use all her knowledge from the princess academy and the Queen’s Castle if these girls – Astrid, Felissa, and Sus – are to successfully complete their training. But this training is only the beginning of a long and dangerous journey. The security of more than one kingdom rests on the shoulders of these three, underestimated sisters.

Click on the links below to get your copy of this book and the others in its series:

Princess Academy: Palace of Stone

Title: Princess Academy: Palace of Stone
Author: Shannon Hale
Series: Princess Academy, 2/3
Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade, YA
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Release Date: August 21, 2012

Note: This post reviews the second book of the Princess Academy series. You may like to read the first book in the series, Princess Academybefore reading this review.

Miri and her friends are eager to journey down the mountain and help the princess prepare for the upcoming wedding. As Britta’s ladies-in-waiting, Miri and her friends get to live at the palace in Asland – a far cry from the humble life they know in Mount Eskel. On top of that, Miri gets to study as a scholar, and is introduced to a world she never knew existed.

But there is trouble happening in Asland – and Miri finds herself right in the middle of it. During the rising revolution, Miri realizes that she supports the oppressed of Danland, but also her friend who is marrying into the royal family. To make matters more complicated, Miri is drawn to both Timon – a revolutionary enthusiast – and Peder – her childhood friend, and sweetheart. Will she be able to choose between two opposing sides, two loves, and also two homes?

I enjoyed this sequel to Princess Academy, but there are a couple reasons I gave it only 4 roses. 1: I’m really not a fan of love triangles, and this story had a pretty pointed one. 2: This book’s overall feel was so different from Hale’s first book, it almost didn’t feel like the same series. (To be fair, the settings play a huge part in this. The first takes place on an isolated mountain – which I loved – and the second takes place in a crowded city in the middle of a revolution.) But still, a very enjoyable read from Shannon Hale!

Click on the links below to get your copy of this book and the others in its series:

Stolen Magic

Title: Stolen Magic
Author: Gail Carson Levine
Series: A Tale of Two Castles, 2/2
Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade, YA
Publisher: Harper
Release Date: April 21, 2015

Note: This post reviews the second book of the A Tale of Two Castles series. You may like to read the first book in the series, A Tale of Two Castles, before reading this review.

Elodie travels back to her homeland with her master, the dragon Meenore, and her friend, the ogre Count Jonty Um. But they arrive in Lahnt to hear terrible news: the replica of their volcano – which keeps the real volcano from erupting – is missing. The only way to save the mountain is to find out who stole the replica, and return it before time runs out. Elodie, with the help of Meenore and Count Jonty Um, works tirelessly to unravel the mystery that surrounds the missing replica, risking their lives to save the people of Lahnt.

This book has a similar feel to the book before it. At times, it felt slow and was a little difficult to get through – probably because I don’t really gravitate towards mysteries. I still enjoyed it, because it’s almost impossible for me not to enjoy a book by Gail Carson Levine, but I still prefer her other fairytale stories!

Click on the links below to get your copy of this book and the other in its series:

A Tale of Two Castles

 

Title: A Tale of Two Castles
Author: Gail Carson Levine
Series: A Tale of Two Castles, 1/2
Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade, YA
Publisher: Harper
Release Date: May 10th, 2011

Elodie travels to Two Castles with the intent of becoming an apprentice. Her dream is to become a mansioner – an actress – but when the master of the troupe turns her away, she must find work elsewhere. It seems that Meenore, a brilliant dragon and detective, is the only one who will take her as an apprentice. Elodie learns much from Meenore, particularly the art of induction and deduction.

These skills will help Elodie on her assigned case as she goes to the ogre’s castle as an undercover scullery maid. Elodie doesn’t know who she can trust at the castle – the shape-shifting ogre, the air-headed Princess who is to wed him, her greedy father the king? No one is dismissed from Elodie’s suspicions, and no one will be safe until she finds the suspect behind the mysteries at the castle.

This was a fun read. The mystery that carried this book made it different from Gail Carson Levine’s other stories. I was hoping for a bit of romance, because Levine is so good at them, but that was not the purpose of this book. I enjoyed seeing Elodie and Meenore – an unlikely pair – work together to solve the case. And, as the masterful storyteller that she is, Levine hides the villain in plain sight!

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