Blog

9 Spellbinding Things about Leigh Bardugo’s “Shadow and Bone”

“Shadow and Bone”

Grishaverse Book 1; The Shadow and Bone Trilogy Book 1

by Leigh Bardugo

NIKKI’S RATING: 9 OUT OF 10

Summary: Caught in war with no end in sight, Alina and Mal are just trying to survive as soldiers and keep their heads down. But when they enter into the Fold, things go very wrong. Alina and Mal should be dead and yet somehow they miraculously survived. Alina’s unique hidden powers saved their lives. Now the Darkling, the ruthless leader of the Second Army, wants Alina for himself and to exploit her powers for his own means.

9 Spellbinding Things about Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone

(May Contain Spoilers)

1. World Building

Leigh Bardugo is a phenomenal world builder! There are so many wonders of the Grishaverse, my favorite being the Grisha themselves. Masters of the small science, the Grisha are broken down into three orders and then into categories of those orders depending on their specialty. So there is the order of the living and the dead, the Corporalki, with their Heartrenders and Healers. The Etherealki or Summoners that consist of Squallers who can manipulate air, Inferni who can command fire, and Tidemakers who can control water. Then there are the Materialki, the order of Fabrikators, that include the Durasts and Alkemi.

2. Russian Influence

While Bardugo’s Grishaverse is entirely fictional, Bardugo did pull inspiration for her world from our own and the nation of Ravka is deeply influenced by Imperial Russia. And the inspiration doesn’t end at just the artitecture, Bardugo uses Russian construction of plurals, Ravka’s economy and national state are similar to that of Imperial Russia with it’s mostly conscripted army and huge inequality between classes, and then the use of “kvas” as a stand-in for strong spirits.

3. The Darkling

The Darkling is incredibly intriguing and seductive. While ruthless, power-hungry, and manipulative, he also wants to protect the Grisha and do what is best for Ravka. He believes the ends justify the means regardless of how many have to die and that is what is so tragic about the Darkling, he wants to do the right thing, but he goes about it in all the wrong ways and therefore, the bad guy.

4. Humor

“Shadow and Bone” is a complex book with some very dark themes and is thankfully balanced with some very well-placed humor. The banter between the characters is often hysterical and really makes them all lovable.

5. Baghra

As mother of the Darkling, I love Baghra because she is constantly trying to save her son. As she says, “I will not let him put himself beyond redemption.” And while Baghra gave the Darkling his ambition and pride, she knows the value of life. She could have easily killed Alina to keep the Darkling from using her but instead arranges for Alina to run away.

6. The Fold

The Fold, the Unsea is terrifying and one of my favorite elements of the Darkling’s story. From his own arrogance, the Darkling created a place that his own power is useless and that is a reflection of his own dark soul.

7. Mal & Alina

I tear up every time I read Mal’s confession of love to Alina, it is so beautiful:

“‘I missed you every hour. And you know what the worst part was? It caught me completely by surprise. I’d catch myself walking around to find you, not for any reason, just out of habit, because I’d seen something that I wanted to tell you about or because I wanted to hear your voice. And then I’d realize that you weren’t there anymore, and every time, every single time, it was like having the wind knocked out of me. I’ve risked my life for you. I’ve walked half the length of Ravka for you, and I’d do it again and again and again just to be with you, just to starve with you and freeze with you and hear you complain about hard cheese every day. So don’t tell me we don’t belong together’”

Bardugo 298
8. Writing

Bardugo is a wonderful writer with a creative and active imagination. Pacing throughout “Shadow and Bone” was done well, character development was amazing, and overall the book was very enjoyable.

9. Siege and Storm

Thankfully the Grishaverse continues in The Shadow and Bone Trilogy Book 2: “Siege and Storm.”

What were your favorite things about “Shadow and Bone”?


As always, thank you for reading. I would love to hear from you so feel free to contact me or comment below. If you would like to support this blog and/or my paintings please become my patron.

Be Authentic. Be Unique. Be You.

7 Horrors of Shirley Jackson’s “The Haunting of Hill House”

The Haunting of Hill House

by Shirley Jackson

Nikki’s Rating: 7 out of 10

Summary: Four strangers come together to spend a summer at Hill House. Hoping to observe paranormal occurrences, they may have gotten more than they bargained for. Rooms covered in blood, personal messages written on the walls, the house appears to have a mind of its own.

7 Horrors of Shirley Jackson’s “The Haunting of Hill House”

(May Contain Spoilers)

1. Quick Read

All in all, The Haunting of Hill House is a quick read and I’m extremely grateful for this as I do not think my anxiety could deal with a full-length horror novel.

2. Horror

The Haunting of Hill House is an effective horror story and is really quite disturbing to read; makes the reader think and question if they have ever experienced a house that might have been sentient.

3. Description

Nothing can drag a story and bore the reader than too much description. However, Jackson uses description effectively. While description could be heavy throughout The Haunting of Hill House it did not appear to be drawn out past what was necessary for the reader to know and understand the scene.

4. Characters

There are a few rather vile and hated characters in The Haunting of Hill House and Jackson writes them well! Character development is no easy feat in a short story as there is less interaction with the characters overall but Jackson does an amazing job with her unfavorable characters. Just thinking about Dudley makes me cringe.

5. Build Up

One of the reasons The Haunting of Hill House is an effective horror story is because Jackson is a masterful writer in that she builds the intensity. At first Hill House is strange, then there is some unease that eventually grows into feeling like there is an actual sinister presence which leads to all out fear.

6. Eleanor Vance

Another extremely effective piece of The Haunting of Hill House is that readers are left questioning whether Eleanor’s demise was because of an evil presence that is Hill House or her own psychological break.

7. The Beginning is the End

The book begins and ends in exactly the same way and it is quite unsettling:

“Hill House itself, not sane, stood against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, its walls continued upright, bricks met nearly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.”

(p. 3 & 235)

What were your favorite things about The Haunting of Hill House?


As always, thank you for reading. I would love to hear from you so feel free to contact me or comment below. If you would like to support this blog and/or my paintings please become my patron.

Be Authentic. Be Unique. Be You.

OwlCrate July 2018 Book Review: “My Plain Jane”

OwlCrate July 2018 Book Review:

“My Plain Jane”

The Lady Janies Book 2

by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows

NIKKI’S RATING: 8 OUT OF 10

Summary: Wanting nothing more than to become a governess, Jane Eyre leaves the miserable Lowood school to pursue her dream. But then her secret gets out, Jane Eyre can see ghosts. As she is caught up in the Royal Society for the Relocation of Wayward Spirits, Jane finds herself falling for the wrong man, while her best friend Charlotte Brontë finds inspiration for the novel she always wanted to write.

8 Playful Things about Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows’s “My Plain Jane”

(May Contain Spoilers)

1. Jane Eyre

“Jane Eyre” is a beloved novel with a Romantic love-story and “My Plain Jane” is a rather hysterical and fantastical retelling of this classic. As Hand et al. states in their dedication:

“And for England (again). We’re really sorry for what we’re about to do to your literature.”

2. Charlotte Brontë

Being the author of “Jane Eyre,” Charlotte Brontë is actually a main character in “My Plain Jane” and in the novel, it is the events that take place in “My Plain Jane” that inspire Charlotte Brontë to write “Jane Eyre.” It is a nice touch done by Hand et al. and they also include some facts of Charlotte Brontë’s real life throughout “My Plain Jane.”

3. Hysterical

Probably the best thing about “My Plain Jane” is the humor. The authors’ main goal appears to be providing the reader with a comical story and they truly deliver. One of my favorite quotes that had me laughing:

“There was only one conclusion Jane could draw from the style and design of the dress and it was this: it had to be thought up by men. Then women could in no way outrun them, and with the lack of oxygen to the brain due to a rib cage the size of a fist, they could not outthink them. And with the bright colors, they couldn’t hide. No running, no thinking, no hiding.”

(Hand et al. 373)
4. Pop Culture

Throughout “My Plain Jane” are little pop culture references to other stories such as “Harry Potter” and “The Princess Bride” which just adds to the fun!

5. Collaboration

Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows are all successful writers and it is amazing to see such talented writers come together to collaborate on one project.

6. Explanations

Thankfully the authors explain terms and customs that readers may be unfamiliar with due to the novel taking place in the 1800s.

7. Fun

Overall “My Plain Jane” is a fun novel. The novel is fast-paced, writing is good, and while the novel is inspired by Charlotte Brontë’s “Jane Eyre”, “My Plain Jane” is drastically different and offers a fresh spin on a timeless classic.

8. My Calamity Jane

The Lady Janies book 3 “My Calamity Jane” is set to be published in 2020 and it looks to be another fun read!

What were your favorite things about “My Plain Jane”?


As always, thank you for reading. I would love to hear from you so feel free to contact me or comment below. If you would like to support this blog and/or my paintings please become my patron.

Be Authentic. Be Unique. Be You.

8 Worthwhile Things about Emily Brontë’s “Wuthering Heights”

Wuthering Heights

By Emily Brontë

Nikki’s Rating: 8 out of 10

Summary: Growing up together, Heathcliff and Catherine fall deeply in love, believing that one could not survive without the other. But Heathcliff has no title, no land, no occupation and Catherine must be provided for. After losing Catherine forever, Heathcliff torments the next generation as he is haunted by Catherine and what could have been.

8 Worthwhile Things about Emily Brontë’s “Wuthering Heights”

(May Contain Spoilers)

1. Romanticism

“Wuthering Heights” like “Jane Eyre” is a prime example of Romanticism. With its Gothic themes of ghosts and elements of the Byronic hero seen in Heathcliff, “Wuthering Heights” is truly inspired by the Romantic era.

2. Perspective

The perspective of “Wuthering Heights” is not told through one of the main characters of the story but rather an outsider who is not an intimate of the family and who seems to be unreliable as well. This leaves the reader in an interesting predicament of being further removed from the actual main characters and knowing that we are not seeing the whole story.

3. Speech

Emily Brontë kept her characters authentic by writing phonetically for those of the lower class who had a very different pattern of speech.

4. Love Story

While Heathcliff’s obsession is a bit stalkerish/creepy and Catherine is truly a spoiled brat, their love is still romantic on many levels. One cannot help but wish that they had ended up together and feel how tragic it is that they didn’t.

5. Heathcliff

Healthcliff is a dynamic character. While he appears to be quite a brute with questionable morals, there is an element of softness about him. A tortured soul who only wants to be with his true love. A Bryonic hero indeed!

6. Parallels

There are many parallels in “Wuthering Heights” between the first and second generations. One such parallel is that between Heathcliff and Hareton. Being the son of his bitter enemy, Heathcliff treats Hareton accordingly. Heathcliff actually raises Hareton similar to how he was raised, treating Hareton like a servant and denying him an education. And yet we see this goodness in Heathcliff through him saving Hareton’s life as a baby and treating him better than Hareton’s real father ever does.

7. Hareton and catherine

The love that eventually develops between Catherine and Hareton is quite beautiful and provides an ending to “Wuthering Heights” that is positive and hopeful especially after the heartbreak of Heathcliff and Catherine.

8. Beautifully Written

Written eloquently with beautiful descriptives, interesting characters, and a tragic, heartbreaking love-story, “Wuthering Heights” is an enchanting novel that will remain a timeless classic for years to come.

What are your favorite things about “Wuthering Heights”?


As always, thank you for reading. I would love to hear from you so feel free to contact me or comment below. If you would like to support this blog and/or my paintings please become my patron.

Be Authentic. Be Unique. Be You.

10 Brilliant Things about Trevor Noah’s “Born a Crime”

Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood

by Trevor Noah

Nikki’s Rating: 10 out of 10

Summary: Literally born a crime, Trevor Noah explores his upbringing living in South Africa during apartheid. Being colored he never seems to fit in, Trevor is too black to be white and too white to be black. His coming of age story is touching, full of hardships and yet, unbelievably hilarious as Trevor Noah uses humor to remain resilient and portray the absurdity that humans can partake in.

10 Brilliant Things about Trevor Noah’s “Born a Crime”

(May Contain Spoilers)

1. Hilarious

“Born a Crime” was hilarious, like laugh-out-loud funny! Even though the book deals with some very heavy topics, Trevor Noah uses his humor effectively and allows the reader to really grasp the absurdity that can be life.

2. Honesty

One of the most effective things about “Born a Crime” is the brutal honesty Noah has. He doesn’t attempt to sugarcoat things or only portray his loved ones in a positive light. He is real, genuine, and straightforward no matter if it is good or bad.

3. South Africa

Learning about a different culture and place in the world is always worthwhile. Obviously with Trevor Noah being born and raised in South Africa, this is where “Born a Crime” takes place and while Noah is just a single person from this country, he does a great job of showing some of the country’s diversity and difference amongst its people.

4. Racism

Probably the most important subject in “Born a Crime” is that of racism. While one might assume that racism wouldn’t exist in a country that is majority black, colonialism has influenced all of Africa and has created huge discrepancies between races. These negative influences continue to have an impact today as Noah shows throughout his book.

5. Not Fitting In

While not many of us could claim they understand what it is like to be a colored kid growing up in apartheid South Africa, I think most people can relate to feeling like they don’t fit in. Noah paints such a powerful and heartbreaking portrayal of the hurt, confusion, and desire of wanting to belong.

6. Love

Throughout “Born a Crime” the reader can truly sense and feel the deep love and respect Trevor has for his mother and the unconditional love that his mother has for him. It is absolutely beautiful and resonates throughout the novel.

7. Shit

Intellectual and profound in many ways, Trevor is constantly reminding the reader that we are all just human, no better, no less, and the most memorable and hilarious way he reminds us of this is through his comments on shitting:

“It’s a powerful experience, shitting. There’s something magical about it, profound even. I think God made humans shit in the way we do because it brings us back down to earth and gives us humility. I don’t care who you are, we all shit the same. Beyoncé shits. The pope shits. The Queen of England shits. When we shit we forget our airs and our graces, we forget how famous or how rick we are. All of that goes away.”

8. Perseverance

Overcoming poverty, racism, and a bad childhood is never an easy endeavor. Coming back from being shot in the head seems nearly impossible and yet, these are the stories that Trevor Noah shares. The perseverance that him and his family have shown and continue to show is inspirational and leaves an overall sense of hope that is much needed in a world that is rampant with poverty, racism, abuse, violence, addiction, hatred, and ignorance.

9. Writing

Overall, “Born a Crime” was written well and a relatively quick read. Without sounding like a boring history book, Noah gave pertinent facts needed for readers to understand context and continued using humor and wit to bring light into some very dark situations.

10. Trevor Noah

Trevor Noah is a fantastic comedian and while I am unsure if he will ever write another book in the future at least we can enjoy him on “The Daily Show.”

What were your favorite things about “Born a Crime”?


As always, thank you for reading. I would love to hear from you so feel free to contact me or comment below. If you would like to support this blog and/or my paintings please become my patron.

Be Authentic. Be Unique. Be You.

5 Dashing Things about Donna Grant’s “Dark Heat”

Dark Heat

Dark World Book 8.1-8.3; Dark Kings Book 0.1-0.3

by Donna Grant

NIKKI’S RATING: 5 OUT OF 10

Summary: Sworn to defend and protect dragons at any cost, the Dragon Kings have sworn off attachments to humans. As humans once hunted and nearly drove dragons to extinction, the Kings know how dangerous it is for their kind if their secrets get out and have used magic to harden their hearts against all women. But they are in for a surprise as they find out that love is the strongest magic of all.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is darkheat.jpg

5 Dashing Things about Donna Grant’s “Dark Heat”

(May Contain Spoilers)

1. Short Stories

While short stories are not my favorite as you do not get to know individual characters as well, it is always nice when short stories are collected in one book. With “Dark Heat,” three short stories are included: Dark CravingDark World 8.1/Dark Kings 0.1; Night’s Awakening Dark World 8.2/Dark Kings 0.2; and Dawn’s Desire Dark World 8.2/Dark Kings 0.3. There is also a bonus story, Passion’s Claim included.

2. Dragons

Dragons are AWESOME! I’m so happy that Grant included dragon-shifters/dragon warriors in the Dark World series. These warriors are amazing, they can shapeshift into dragons, their original forms, and they are also responsible for protecting and caring for the dragons. Breaks my heart that they had to send the dragons to another plane of existence due to dragons being hunted by humans. Humans ruin everything!

3. Erotic

Each story heats up with erotic scenes between the featuring couples as they fall in love and can no longer deny the passion between them.

4. Characters

As always, Donna Grant writes enjoyable and likable characters. Her men are usually gentlemen who are tender, strong, and fiercely loyal to each other and their women. And most importantly, Grant doesn’t write damsels in distress but rather strong, independent women who are equals to their men.

5. Midnight’s Seduction

Donna Grants Dark World series continues in “Midnight’s Seduction,” the Dark Warriors Book 3.

What are your favorite things about “Dark Heat”?


As always, thank you for reading. I would love to hear from you so feel free to contact me or comment below. If you would like to support this blog and/or my paintings please become my patron.

Be Authentic. Be Unique. Be You.

7 Liked Things about Donna Grant’s “Midnight’s Lover”

Midnight’s Lover

Dark World Book 8; Dark Warriors Book 2

by Donna Grant

Nikki’s Rating: 7 out of 10

Summary: Thrown four centuries into the future, Ian is in bad shape. Torn apart by the death of his twin brother, Ian is now in a desperate battle against the demon god he and his brother shared. Worst of all, if he cannot control his god, he may end up hurting and possibly killing Danielle, the beautiful druid that has captured his heart.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is midnightslover.jpg

7 Liked Things about Donna Grant’s “Midnight’s Lover”

(May Contain Spoilers)

1. Twins

While it was absolutely tragic that Duncan died, I think Grant really captured the beauty of the special connection many twins can share with each other. Made total sense that they equally shared one god and could feel each other’s pain.

2. The Villains

Ugh, Deirdre and Declan. These two are just so vile, greedy, and delusional. They truly deserve each other and I’m hoping that one of them will take out the other in their grab for power.

3. Malcolm

Malcolm continues to struggle with his orders from Deirdre and I’m hoping that it will be enough for him to walk away from her soon and join up with the MacLeods et al. Always intriguing to have those characters that are more fluid in their morals and alliances because you are never really sure what they are going to do in the end.

4. Sizzling

A true romance, “Midnight’s Lover” features sizzling erotic scenes between Ian and Danielle.

5. Pacing

As always, Grant gives a good story with some twists and turns. As a whole, she writes well with likeable characters, enjoyable banter, a vivid imagination, and great pacing, keeping the story going and readers interested.

6. Happy Ending

Overall the ending was pretty positive and I’m grateful for that as things could have gone totally south. Ian and Dani survived and stay together, the infiltrator was discovered and destroyed, but most importantly, Duncan has moved on and found peace.

7. Dark Heat

The Dark World series continues in Donna Grant’s “Dark Heat,” a collection of short stories that begins her Dark Kings series.

What are your favorite things about “Midnight’s Lover”?


As always, thank you for reading. I would love to hear from you so feel free to contact me or comment below. If you would like to support this blog and/or my paintings please become my patron.

Be Authentic. Be Unique. Be You.