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A Valentine's Read on Love as an Action ⇉ Review of With Love, From Me to You by Mary Manz Simon

Tuesday, February 6, 2018
A day meant to celebrate those we love, Valentine's Day all too often becomes about the number of candies and flowers that we receive (or give). In With Love, From Me to You, Mary Manz Simon reminds us that love is, at heart, an action. Through a series of encounters by different animals, Simon portrays different ways we can show others that we love them. She ends with a reminder of the source of our love and the need to love others year round, not just on Valentine's Day.


Cute Illustrations
From front to back cover, this book is filled with full-color illustrations. The overall ambiance created is light and airy. That and the board-like pages suggest that this book is intended to be enjoyed with beginning readers.

Textured Cover
The cover is textured with the title and hearts intended and covered in red shiny material that adds to the Valentine theme of love. Young readers will enjoy feeling the texture of the title letters and hearts.

Fantastic Message
What drew me most to this book is the theme of love as an action. I love how the book reminds us that love is not all about how many candies and flowers we give or receive but about showing others through our words and actions that we care about them—and that we should do this every day of the year, not just on Valentine's Day.

Furthermore, this book reminds young readers that we love not for our own benefits or because we prefer someone over others. Rather, we love because God's love is giving, and we feel it when we love others.


Complex Ideas (for the target audience)
For a book that is only nine pages, With Love, From Me to You is very wordy. The style and format/layout of the book seems to target beginning readers, but the complexity of the language and ideas is more appropriate for an older audience (and is more at a beginning chapter book level). I wouldn't read this book with young children, but the style and layout of the book seems young for grade schoolers.

Small Print
Each stanza is squeezed onto a single page of the book. As a result, the font size is small for a picture book. The font size as well as the book itself is small for a picture book. I wish that the book were larger and that the stanzas were spread out over at least two different pages. (Even four or more to add variations.)

Zero Character Development
Though the cover features a cast of characters, the characters are silent and show no character development throughout the book. They are merely there to illustrate the ideas that are expressed in the book. While this would be fine to illustrate a point in a Sunday School lesson with older children, the lack of character interaction isn't as good with a book that seems to target a younger audience.

Rather than trying to make a theological statement, this book would have been better off portraying the lesson through a story about a cast of characters. This would help the message stick in the readers' minds. After all, we learn best through stories.


While I love the message, the book fell flat for me because of the lack of story line. Rather than a story, this felt more like a Sunday School lesson wrapped in the guise of a children's storybook. It becomes quickly apparent from the first pages, however, that there is no narrative to this book. With the theological message of the book presented clearly in the final pages of the book, this book make a clear argument for God's love as the basis for our personal responsibility to love others in turn. It did not present any challenges to my faith.

I would recommend this book to parents who want to teach their children about the theological reasons for love. Because this book tries to pack a lot of information in so few pages, however, parents should prepare supporting material to expand on the ideas presented in this book. Among these materials, I would include narrative stories that allows children to explore the act of love in the characters' stories.


With Love, From Me to You is a board book for little ones that will remind them how important it is to love and be loved. With adorable illustrations and sweet, rhyming text by bestselling author Dr. Mary Manz Simon, this book shows children how important their actions and words are in expressing God’s great love with one another. Parents will enjoy reading this book on Valentine’s Day or any day of the year to encourage their children to remember that love is more than gifts and candy; it’s about doing for others and sending love to everyone who’s near.


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What's one action you take to show others that you love them?

Publication Info
  • With Love, From Me to You by Mary Manz Simon, illustrated by Corinna Ice
  • Published by Zonderkidz
  • On December 26, 2017
  • Genres: Children's Book
  • Pages: 9 Pages
  • Format: Board Book
  • N/A
  • N/A

A Protagonist Who Reads + It's Numair from the Immortals! ⇉ Review of Tempests and Slaughter by Tamora Pierce

Tuesday, January 23, 2018
I first discovered the Tortall world in middle school. They're books that I can read over and over again without tiring. I've been waiting for the Numair Chronicles several years now and was stoked to receive this for review. So much that I made it my first read of the new year! I've been curious about Numair's origin story since Emperor Mage gave us a sneak peak into his backstory.


A Fellow Reader and Dreamer
Readers, dreamers, and seekers (aka. forever curious people) will relate to Arram. I have loved Tamora Pierce's strong heroines, who we also know to be real people with real struggles, but it is wonderful to have a protagonist who may also be found buried in books, is an idealist, and is constantly coming up with new ideas and wanting to know things (and getting told to stop asking questions). That was a really long sentence. I'll stop now, or I'll keep rambling about my delight with young Arram Draper.

(But one more thought: I did enjoy comparing young Arram with the older Numair in The Immortals series. It is such fun to make connections! Like his feelings about riding horses.)

Characters We Know and Love

What really made this book for me is the familiar world and characters. I remember the main protagonists as well as some other characters from Tamora Pierce's Immortal series, and I enjoyed the references to characters from other Tortall books. (There are even a couple references to characters, or related characters, from the Beka Cooper series!)

Complex Characters
What was especially interesting is the portrayal of Ozorne's character. I knew that he and Numair were friends during their university days, but given his role in the Immortals series, I was not expecting to like him so much. It's interesting to see how his character develops over the course of his time at the university in Tempests and Slaughter. I'm interested in seeing where and how his break with Numair occurs in the next installment of the Numair Chronicles.

Creative World Building
As always, the world of the Tortall books is fascinating. I enjoyed learning more about the world south of Tortall.


Feels More Like a Summary Than a Story
The story covers Arram's early years from his entrance into the university's Lower Academy at age 10 (when most enter a year later) to the first year of independent studies at age 14. Because it covers such a broad span of time—and because so much happens during this time—much gets summarized. If I was not already familiar with the Tortall world and invested in Arram's story, I doubt I would have enjoyed this novel as much as I did.

Furthermore, this is not even a complete summary. Different key plot elements get introduced at various times across the novel without a clear resolution.

The story ends In Media Res
My only clue that the story was coming to an end was the "percentage status" in the bottom right corner of my Kindle. The plot brewing had thickened, and hints had been dropped that all was not well despite thoughts to the contrary. Then we're left hanging in the middle of a scene that seems out of place given everything that has happened and that we know will happen. I was left with a feeling of incompleteness.

It seems that this novel is not meant to be the first installment in a series so much as the first half of a story that will be resolved in the second half, which is to be released (hopefully) next year.

What's with the Title?
The title sounds cool, but I'm still not sure how it relates to the story. (Or to which specific plot points they refer.) The problem may be that the story doesn't have a coherent plotline but seems more like a record of Arram / Numair's early years. (Which is how the series advertises itself but which causes it to fall flat as a standalone novel.)

If you figure out the meaning behind the title, I'd love to hear your thoughts :)

The Cover Art
I'm not a fan of the new artwork that they've given the series. I loved the original ones where they featured the character on the cover with illustrations. Even if they stopped featuring the characters on the covers, I would have preferred they keep the original artwork styles instead of using the new dark, intense covers that look heavily photoshopped (or whatever it is they use on computers nowadays).

A Few Other Miscellaneous Details
Some details don't make sense. For example, a character may have taken an action in between a couple paragraphs, but the action is not mentioned. While it doesn't heavily impact the overall flow of the story, it makes for a small glitch or bump in the road as I'm reading.

I also get the feeling that some things don't quite align with the Immortals series. It may be because this prequel series was written afterwards, or it may be because it's been some time since I last reread the Immortals. I do get the feeling that some details should be changed in the Immortals because of new revelations here. (In particular dealing with crocodile gods and sunbirds. But who knows. Maybe things happened outside of Daine's knowledge.) But perhaps the course of events in The Exile's Gift will change my mind.


I loved reading about Numair's early life and his misadventures. I wish I had book two in my hands now. However, while this series is called the Numair Chronicles, I didn't enjoy so much how the book essentially summarizes his early years at the university. The story lacks a coherent plot that allows it to stand alone but rather spends it entirety introducing the various plotlines that I expect will converge in The Exile's Gift (book two).

What made this story for me are the familiar characters and the opportunity to explore more of the world that Tamora Pierce has developed over the years. I would recommend reading at least the Immortals series first (because it's she first introduces the primary cast), but if you can read the other Tortall books as well, it will make this read even more priceless.


Arram. Varice. Ozorne. In the first book in the Numair Chronicles, three student mages are bound by fate . . . fated for trouble.

Arram Draper is a boy on the path to becoming one of the realm’s most powerful mages. The youngest student in his class at the Imperial University of Carthak, he has a Gift with unlimited potential for greatness–and for attracting danger. At his side are his two best friends: Varice, a clever girl with an often-overlooked talent, and Ozorne, the “leftover prince” with secret ambitions. Together, these three friends forge a bond that will one day shape kingdoms. And as Ozorne gets closer to the throne and Varice gets closer to Arram’s heart, Arram begins to realize that one day soon he will have to decide where his loyalties truly lie.

In the Numair Chronicles, readers will be rewarded with the never-before-told story of how Numair Salmalín came to Tortall. Newcomers will discover an unforgettable fantasy adventure where a kingdom’s future rests on the shoulders of a talented young man with a knack for making vicious enemies.


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If you were a mage, in what field would you like to specialize? (To name a few, animals, healing, warfare, one of the elements...)

Publication Info
  • Tempests and Slaughter by Tamora Pierce
  • Published by Random House BFYR
  • On February 6, 2018
  • Genres: Fantasy
  • Pages: 480 Pages
  • Format: Hardback
Series: The Numair Chronicles
  1. Tempests and Slaughter
  2. The Exile's Gift
  3. TBD
(highlight to see)
  • Kissing
  • Sexual activity (implied)
  • Wet dreams
  • Boner
  • Gambling
  • Drinking / alcohol
  • Language (words specific to this culture)
  • Violence & death (from murder, plague, and battle) - conditions described in detail
  • LGBTQ relationship

Animal Friendship + A Book for Growing Young Readers ⇉ Review of The Moonlight Meeting by Tracey Hecht & Rumur Dowling

Tuesday, January 9, 2018
It's been almost a year since I was first introduced to The Nocturnals. Some of favorite books growing up were books featured animals in prominent roles (e.g. Animal Ark, Hank the CowdogWarriors, Guardians of Ga'Hoole, to name a few).

What makes The Nocturnals unique is that it introduces Australian wildlife. Throughout The Nocturnals series, I've enjoyed learning more about the different wildlife that populate Australian forests. This adaptation for younger readers is my new Nocturnals favorite!


Full-Color Illustrations
The full-color illustrations bring the characters to life. I enjoyed seeing the characters' expressions and body language paired with their dialogue. They are adorable. (Especially those of Bismark. He's such a character.)

Lively Dialogue
Partly because this book targets a younger audience and partly because this book narrows down its focus to Tobin, Bismark, and Dawn's first meeting, more expression is put into the dialogue and character expressions. The pacing was rhythmic and made for an enjoyable read. I can easily imagine this book being reader aloud to entertain a younger reader (and having the younger reader read it back or join in on certain words/phrases).

A Book on Friendship
From the beginning, it's clear that this book is about making friends. I like how each of the protagonists has his or her unique personality. It shows how friends do not necessarily need to be alike in order to be friends but that friendship is about mutually intending to and taking action to be friends.

Fun Facts
At the end of the book, there is a section explaining what type of animals are Tobin, Bismark, and Dawn as well as what is a pomelo. I appreciate having this information to give me a better understanding of the protagonists. (And it's the type of information I would have geeked over as a kid, being the animal lover that I was.)


Where's Book Two?
To be honest, there wasn't anything that I disliked about this book. While I did have some issues with the original book form which this story was taken, the problems have been smoothed over for this one. The characters didn't feel superficial, and Bismark's over-the-top personality works for this shorter story.

If anything, I loved this book and want to read the next one right now!


The Moonlight Meeting is a highly enjoyable read featuring endearing characters and lively dialogue that are brought to life through rhythmic pacing and animated, full-color illustrations. Those who enjoy books with animal protagonists will especially enjoy this book for beginning readers. I highly recommend this book and look forward to reading the next Nocturnals release!

For more information and resources, such as educator and book club kits, check out the Grow and Read website here. For more about the Nocturnals, check out the Nocturnals website here.

Additional note: I was sent some swag along with this book. The swag included a bookmark, paper art to recreate the protagonists, and a fox stuffed animal wearing a snake-skin printed handkerchief with the Nocturnals logo on it. It is adorable and would make a lovely addition alongside of the book for a present. I haven't heard anything about this fox plushie/handkerchief combination being on sale, but maybe it'll happen in the future :)

Thank you to Fabled Films for sending me a copy for my honest review.


In The Moonlight Meeting, Tobin, a sweet pangolin, Bismark, a loud-mouthed sugar glider, and Dawn, a series fox, introduce The Nocturnals' nighttime world with friendship, sharing, and humor.

Bonus Content includes Fun Facts about the Nocturnals.


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What are your favorite bookish animals?

Publication Info
  • The Moonlight Meeting by Tracey Hecht & Rumur Dowling
  • Published by Fabled Films Press
  • On September 12, 2017
  • Genres: Children's Book
  • Pages: 64 Pages
  • Format: Paperback
  • The Moonlight Meeting
  • The Slithery Shakedown
  • N/A

Keepsakes for Little House Fans and Their Young Readers ⇉ Mini Reviews of A Little House Picture Book Treasury and Christmas Stories

Thursday, January 4, 2018
I loved reading the Little House books growing up. The books that I'm reviewing today are ones that I'll be saving to enjoy with young readers, especially when the next holiday season rolls around.

This hardcover, full-color treasury includes six picture book stories adapted from the classic Little House books.

The Little House series introduced generations of readers to Laura Ingalls Wilder’s life on the frontier. Now with this illustrated storybook collection, the youngest readers can share in her world as well.

Laura Ingalls lives in a snug little log cabin with her ma, her pa, her sisters, Mary and Carrie, and their dog, Jack. Almanzo Wilder lives on a farm with his family and lots of animals. These pioneer children have all sorts of adventures, including trips to town, county fairs, cozy winter days, and holidays with family.

I love how the Little House stories have been adapted to picture book format to share with beginning readers. The full-color illustrations on each page are gorgeous and bring the Little House world to life. The illustrations are reminiscent of the original artwork; they gave me nostalgia for my childhood days when I first discovered the Little House books. This treasury features six short stories that may also be purchased as separate entities.


Publication Info
  • A Little House Picture Book Treasury: Six Stories of Life on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • Published by Harper Collins
  • On September 19 2017
  • Genres: Historical
  • Pages: 208 Pages
  • Format: Hardback
    • Compilation of 6 Books from the "My First Little House Books" collection. For more, click here.
          • N/A

          For Laura Ingalls, Christmas means good things to eat, visits from friends, and special gifts to give and receive. As Laura grows up, every Christmas is better than the one before.

          Join the original pioneer girl in this Little House chapter book, adapted for younger readers from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s beloved classics. Illustrated with beautiful new black-and-white artwork, this repackaged edition includes bonus material such as games, activities, and more!

          Christmas Stories features nine Christmas stories along with some fun Christmas-themed activities and an author introduction in the back of the book. It's been a while since I've read the original Little House books, but the reading level for this book felt similar to the original books. The only difference is that this book is smaller since it only includes select stories. This makes it more accessible to younger readers who would feel daunted by a larger chapter book.

          That said, this book would make a great introduction for young readers to the Little House world. I'll be saving this one to enjoy with young readers during the Christmas holidays!


          CHAT WITH ME

          Are you a Little House reader? What is your favorite story from the series?

          Publication Info
          • Christmas Stories by Laura Ingalls Wilder
          • Published by Harper Collins
          • On September 19 2017
          • Genres: Historical
          • Pages: 112 Pages
          • Format: Paperback
          Series: Little House Chapter Book Collection
          • The Adventures of Laura & Jack
          • Pioneer Sisters
          • Animal Adventures
          • Laura & Nellie
          • Christmas Stories
          • School Days
          • N/A

          Endearing Characters + Magical World = Fantasy Adventure ⇉ Review of The Adventurer's Guild by Zach Loran Clark and Nick Eliopulos

          Tuesday, January 2, 2018
          Fantasy adventures are my first love in the book world. Though I've "grown up," in recent years, I've felt drawn back towards MG fantasies, so I was ecstatic to receive a copy of The Adventurer's Guild for review.

          WHAT I LIKED

          The World Building
          Monsters. Best friends. Mages. Elves. Dwarves . . . an Adventurer's Guild and a conspiracy in the works. Not to mention the history between the humans and the elves. The existence of the Adventurer's Guild provides the opportunity for exploring the world, and the authors deliver.

          Endearing Characters
          I love the main cast—even the potential turncoat lurking in their midst. The authors do a good job portraying their strengths and weaknesses. In the end, I believe they'll have to work together to overcome the situation that they're in, and I look forward to seeing their growth.

          A Fantasy Adventure
          I jumped in looking for a fantasy adventure, and I got a fantasy adventure. Though the plot is predictable, the story stays true to what it is. I felt immersed in Zed's experiences and enjoyed exploring the world with him. (Though I confess that I got really creeped out reading about his encounters with monsters late at night.)


          Static Characters
          The dialogue is stiff, and the character don't show much complexity. They're packaged into stereotypes. That said, there is a range of characters. Readers will find their favorite characters to cheer on.

          Predictable Plot
          The plot is formulaic. If you've read enough fantasy adventures, it's easy to predict where the story will head. However, it does mean that you don't have to think too hard reading this novel. I read this in the middle of my first semester of grad school; it provided fun, light-hearted entertainment in the midst of the busyness.


          While the characters are stereotypical and the plot is formulaic, The Adventurer's Guild is an entertaining fantasy adventure that stays true to what it is: a fantasy adventure. I enjoyed exploring the world with Zed and co. Their story provided lighthearted entertainment in the middle of a busy time of year where it's all too easy to fall prey to burnout. I look forward to continuing their journey with them in the sequel!


          Few ever asked to join the Adventurers Guild. . . . Their members often died young.

          In one of the last cities standing after the world fell to monsters, best friends Zed Kagari and Brock Dunderfel have high hopes for the future. Zed desperately wishes to join the ranks of the Mages Guild, where his status as Freestone's only half elf might finally be an asset. Brock, the roguishly handsome son of merchants, is confident he'll be welcomed into the ranks of the Merchants Guild.

          But just as it seems the boys' dreams have come true, their lives take a startling turn . . . and they find themselves members of the perilous Adventurers Guild.

          Led by the fearsome Alabasel Frond, the guild acts as the last line of defense against the Dangers-hungry, unnatural beasts from otherworldly planes. And when the boys uncover a conspiracy that threatens all of Freestone, Zed, Brock, and their new allies-Liza, a fierce noble, and Jett, a brave dwarf-must prove their worth once and for all.

          YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE...

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          CHAT WITH ME

          For whom would you put your life on the line?

          Publication Info
          • The Adventurer's Guild byZack Loran Clark and Nick Elipulos
          • Published by Disney-Hyperion
          • On October 3, 2017
          • Genres: Fantasy
          • Pages: 340 Pages
          • Format: Hardback
          Series: The Adventurer's Guild
          • The Adventurer's Guild
          • TBD
          Mature Content
          • Creepy creatures
          • Some violence

          2017 Reading Challenge Results

          Friday, December 29, 2017


          << Click title link to read full review >>

          A Newberry Award winner or Honor book

          A coming-of-age novel that traces the lives of several young people (and some older members of the community), Criss Cross is a whimsical read about growing up, exploring new possibilities, and gaining new life experiences. This novel isn't packed with action or drama, but it's an important read for its message that may not know where we're going, but the future is filled with limitless possibilities. So stop and appreciate the moment.

          A book in translation: Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak?

          Migrated to 2018 reading challenge

          A book that's more than 600 pages

          Migrated to 2018 reading challenge

          A book of poetry, a play, or an essay collection

          There are many secular reads out there that talk about sex. There are few Christian reads in comparison. Phylicia compiles some of her most popular blog posts that highlight Biblical truths on sex. She is one of my favorite Christian bloggers because her posts are relatable; she's been in our position before, and she's combines research with her personal experience to provide the Biblical perspective on on sex.

          A book of any genre that addresses current events

          A good read about different ways to listen and learn from God's revelations.

          An immigrant story:

          Migrated to 2018 reading challenge

          A book published before I was born:

          Migrated to 2018 reading challenge

          NEIL GAIMAN
          Three books by the same author: The Graveyard Book, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, and


          I read and loved Coraline as a child, and I watched Stardust. I actually have the latter on my bookshelf, though I have yet to read it. I've heard a lot about Neil Gaiman's writing. This reading challenge provided a good opportunity to finally read some of his other books.

          The Graveyard Book is a beautiful coming of age story with a well-thought-out plot and storyline that readers of all ages can enjoy. I appreciate how it focuses on Bod's life as he matures; the supernatural elements are a natural part of the setting, not the focus.

          Migrated to 2018 reading challenge: American Gods by Neil Gaiman

          A book by an #ownvoices or #diversebooks author

          It's easy to point fingers and judge others. If we took the time to get to know someone, however, what would their story reveal to us? Allegedly raises these questions even as it draws us into some of the heavy-hitting issues of contemporary society. Due to the nature of these issues, mature content is pervasive in this story. If you can get through it, however, this would be worth a read.

          What to Say Next by Julie Buxbaum
          A book with an unreliable narrator or ambiguous ending

          Read my review on the blog.

          A book nominated for an award in 2017: Newberry Medal winner

          A cute, whimsical story with a fairytale feel. It reminds me of the types of fantasy reads that I used to read as a child.

          A Pulitzer Prize or National Book Award winner: All the Pretty Horses?

          Migrated to 2018 reading challenge.


          A book I chose for the cover

          The drawing on the cover reminded me of anime art; the title suggests that the MC creates worlds. Being an anime lover and a writer (mostly in my head), I felt drawn to read this book.

          I love how the story deals with issues of learning to love yourself and what you do and how family is present (though there are missed opportunities for the MC to mature).

          A book with a reputation for being un-put-down-able

          I first heard about this memoir from the ladies in my church group. Many loved it so much that they bought additional copies as Christmas presents for friends and family. Virginia's story testifies to the power of faith and the redeeming love of Christ. Set in the last years of Nicolae Ceaușescu's communist regime, it gives us a glimpse into Romanian persecution of Christians and raises concern over the increasing persecution of Christians in other countries that, like Ceaușescu's regime, outwardly support religious freedom.

          The Fallen Star by Tracey Hecht
          A book set somewhere I've never been but would like to visit

          Tracey Hecht's The Nocturnals series takes place in Australia. I discovered this series when I received a review request in my inbox. Being a longtime animal lover, I knew I was in!

          I love this series because it provides a safe place for young readers to explore real world issues, and it teaches them to look at a situation from the other party's point of view. (The enemies always turn out to be good guys handling a situation the wrong way.)

          A book I've already read

          Migrated to 2018 reading challenge.

          The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher
          A juicy memoir

          DNFed. I read half but couldn't get into it.

          A book about books or reading

          I purchased this book for a class on Bible study. What made this stand out compared to the other book that I could have purchased is the way Yarbrough uses to open each chapter:  highly entertaining anecdotes that help readers understand concepts for Bible study. The best part? These stories come from Yarbrough's personal life.

          A book in a genre I usually avoid

          I'm not a big horror fan, but I heard that this is a novel to read if you're interested in seeing how vampires used to be before . . . well, Twilight. There's a lot of mature content with which I was uncomfortable in this novel (click on the title link above for a full list), but Anne Rice has a talent for poetic writing in prose and has built an entrancing world with compelling characters. She is a literary talent.

          Dreamland by Sarah Dessen
          A book I don't want to admit I'm dying to read

          I enjoyed this one a lot more than I was expecting! Read my full review here.

          A book in the backlist of a new favorite author

          Migrated to 2018 reading challenge.

          A book recommended by someone with great taste: recommended by Phylicia Masonheimer
          Read half of this book.

          A book I was excited to buy or borrow but haven't read yet

          I fell in love with Dessen's writing several years in The Truth About Forever and Just Listen. I bought this book along with several others soon after but never got around to reading it until now.

          While this isn't a book that I would reread, it's definitely worth the first read. Dreamland addresses relationship issues with which many women can relate and / or should educate themselves about. (Like how to say no and how to recognize when a relationship is turning abusive.)

          A book about a topic or subject I already love

          I love Asian mythology. When I received an email about the second novel of this series, I immediately requested a copy of this book for review along with the new release.

          This novel features strong family relations, gorgeous artwork, and of course, asian mythology. I especially appreciate the theme that heroes aren't born but forged through trials.

          What were some of your favorite reads in 2017? Feel free to link to your reading challenge. I'd love to take a look!