Review: The Unready Queen by William Ritter

Monday, June 22, 2020

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The UnreadyQueen by William Ritter


Publisher & Release Date: Algonquin Young Readers
Type: Middle Grade Fantasy, 320 pages
Series: TheOddmire Book Two

Summary: Human and goblin brothers Cole and Tinn are finding their way back to normal after their journey to the heart of the Oddmire. Normal, unfortunately, wants nothing to do with them. Fable, the daughter of the Queen of the Deep Dark, has her first true friends in the brothers. The Queen allows Fable to visit Tinn and Cole as long as she promises to stay quiet and out of sight—concealing herself and her magic from the townspeople of Endsborough.

But when the trio discovers that humans are destroying the Wild Wood and the lives of its creatures for their own dark purposes, Fable cannot stay quiet. As the unspoken truce between the people of Endsborough and the inhabitants of the Wild Wood crumbles, violence escalates, threatening war and bringing Fable’s mother closer to the fulfillment of a deadly prophecy that could leave Fable a most Unready Queen.







My Review: 
I was invited to join the Blog Tour for this second book in the Oddmire series! I was given an advanced ebook for free in exchange for an honest review, just like last year for book one!

I was thrilled to be back in the Oddmire Forest with Cole, Tinn, and Fable! I fell in love with these characters in Changeling and couldn't wait to catch up on their latest adventures! I was particularly interested in seeing how Tinn was doing after the events of the first book and I wasn't disappointed.

But while book one focused on the twins this book really focused on Fable, the someday Queen of the Forest. I absolutely loved seeing how her character grows into herself throughout the course of this novel! She is incredibly well written and I just love her to bits.

The Oddmire Forest is once again the setting of this book but we see more of the town as well. Seeing how the townspeople respond to having a forest full of magic is incredibly interesting and I think it was handled quite well. There is also a lot more conflict in this book which honestly makes the world seem even realer.

Once again this book has such a charming wit about it that just sucks me in! I would gladly read as many books as William Ritter writes about these characters in this world! I highly recommend this series for kids who like magical stories! And if you've read Jackaby you won't want to miss out on this!

~Laura!

The "End" of the First Riders

Monday, February 17, 2020

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I thoroughly enjoyed Nicki Pau Preto's debut novel Crown of Feathers, so much so that I begged to be on the street team so that I could help promote it! In the last several months I have helped an amazing team of readers spread the word about CoF and its sequel, Heart of Flames. Now that the book is actually a real thing in my hands I am incredibly proud of it. I don't even know if that makes sense, because I had nothing to do with the writing of it, but Heart of Flames will always have a special place in my heart because of my work on the First Riders Street Team. We got to see so much of the behind the scenes process on how this book came to be including so many amazing sneak peeks at covers, commissioned art, and exclusive editions! This has been an incredible journey and I can't believe that this stage of it is over! I just wanted to thank Nicki for honoring me with a place on her team! Because of you I have crossed the Falls, made new friends, bought amazing art work (hey Franzi @snoillustrations), and I will always be a little sad that I can't have a real phoenix of my own to ride in real life. Being one of your street team has been an amazing ride!

~Laura!

Book Launch with Nicki Pau Preto and Joanna Hathaway!

Sunday, February 16, 2020

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Nicki and Joanna!

 Yesterday I had the great pleasure of going up to Niagara on the Lake Public Library to the Launch Event for Nicki Pau Preto's Heart of Flames and Joanna Hathaway's Storm from the East! The journey to go the 40 miles from my house to the Library was a trek (because nothing is ever simple for me). I look a local bus downtown, caught a special bus up to Niagara Falls, walked across the Canadian Border via the Rainbow Bridge, and took my first ever Uber ride! It took 3 hours and I was frozen (I don't know how I forgot that it is always 20 degrees colder near the falls. Almost like I haven't lived here for 27 years...), but it was 100% worth the adventure!


The launch was held in an intimate meeting room, decorated with tons of paintings by local artists, several of which I would have bought in a heartbeat if I had money. I was the first to arrive and was able to grab a seat off to the side in the front row! The authors got lovely personalized book mugs from the library and the head of the teen programming facilitated the event! Fellow First Rider Raven also asked questions from Bookstagram through a livestream!

Nicki and Joanna talked about their publishing journeys. I was surprised to find out that Nicki's first agent actually dropped her because they claimed that “YA Fantasy is dead.” HA! As if! It is still one of the most popular genres around today! Nicki had always had the dream of publishing whereas it was never a true goal of Joanna's, who originally wrote for the fun of it! She was pushed by her writing group to enter a contest. A contest that she won and gained an agent through!

Both authors also addressed their worst and best parts of the journey. For Nicki, it was being dropped
by the first agent, but Joanna apparently had a truly terrible cover for her debut Dark of the West. The best thing about her publishing journey was that they got rid of that cover! (I'm intensely curious about this cover now! Joanna if you're reading this please send it to my IG!! I promise I will keep it a secret!) Nicki's dream goal of having the subscription box Owlcrate choose her book and in February 2019 that was realized and it still startles her that she got that lucky. Both Nicki and Joanna agreed that their favorite parts had just been extreme good luck!

A big part of writing fantasy is reigning in the detail when worldbuilding. Joanna Hathaway is a huge history nerd and kept trying to add more history to her books, which are fantasy based on the world wars. At one point she was told off by her editior for having a long paragraph on the differences between a Spitfire plane and a Seafire plane! “It's a fantasy world, Joanna! The Spitfire can do what the Seafire does if you need it to!!” oops! She would also become fixated with making sure the speeds of the planes were accurate, like how much sea would they cover, going at what pace, until she got so fed up she threw up her hands and declared that her imaginary spitseafire planes could just
Nicki Pau Preto and I!
move faster!!

Nicki Pau Preto also felt this type of pressure while writing Heart of Flames. She laughed, “My map doesn't match what's in my head and what I wrote in the first book before I got a map, so I'm really confused generally when trying to figure out distances now. I was googling eagle flights and doing the math. Finally I gave up and just did whatever worked with the plot.” Nicki invented things and then had to cut it. Joanna was drawing on history whereas Nicki was just doing all this to herself! She became committed to the depth of the novels and their dense history of her made up world after her editor kept saying “MORE MORE,” so basically she blames Sarah Macabe at Simon Pulse! (Joanna was clearly jealous and she would love to run wild with details!!)

A startling revelation came when asked what inspired the authors to write about their topics. It turns out that Nicki originally wanted to write about dragons, but felt with the popularity of Game of Thrones that the market would be overrun so she chose Phoenixes despite being afraid of birds! She isn't afraid of her phoenixes though, it is almost therapeutic to write about them now! It was also quite interesting to learn that Joanna chose to write about wars due to her love of history (something we have in common)!

Both authors write from multiple perspectives in their novels. Nicki has 5 POVs in Heart of Flames and said that “keeping [them] in order was challenging. It was like writing five different books, since all of the characters have to have a story and intercut!” She laughed a laugh of someone incredibly stressed out about her life choices and sighed, “I don't recommend it!”

I was fascinated to learn that one of the original two agents that offered to take up Dark of the West told Joanna that the book would be better if it didn't have the pilot, but just the princess. Since the book is told equally through Athan the pilot's and Aurelia's points of view it is alarming to think of what the books could have been. I can't speak for all readers, but I for one am so glad Joanna kept the story true to her history nerd loving self and kept Athan in. The pilot aspect is what makes her books stand out so wonderfully from the crowd!
Joanna Hathaway and I!

One of the most lovely lessons I think the authors stressed at this event was that you have to be true to the story you want to tell even when you have to sacrifice some things when you are published. Be true to what you want the story to be and trust what you're doing because it always first and foremost still has to be good to you, otherwise why are you working so hard! This especially came up when Nicki and Joanna were discussing how different it was to write one's first book vs the rest of a trilogy after the first novel is out and being consumed by the public. They agreed that writing the first book in isolation was a great help to figuring out what the story needed to be, even if you have to “write it wrong first” as Nicki said. But when it came to writing the second book they agreed there is more pressure when knowing there is an audience out there. Joanna said that she has to be careful not to be influenced by her readers even though it now “feels like a partnership. I don't want to do something so out of left field that it won't be satisfying any long because [reader and writer] are in this together now!” Nicki mentioned that as she writes the third and final book in the Crown of Feathers trilogy she is getting real time reaction from readers as they devour Heart of Flames, the second novel that was just released. At one point she found herself assuring a reader that the next books would indeed have more of the romance that readers were eager for only to realize later that she had actually cut a lot of it out! Joanna was also startled by how some readers were gunning for the long desired relationship in her books to pan out further and was worried because her characters actually won't see each other again for a large chunk of book two! The point of all of this was to reiterate that books as they are being written belong to the authors that created them. If their vision isn't fulfilled the book is kind of a moot point. I truly loved this message from them because it isn't often expressed or understood by demanding readers.

At the end of the event I asked the question that had most been on my mind while reading the Crown of Feather books and that is about Nicki's process of writing the historical documents that are scattered throughout the books and the epigraphs at the beginning of each chapter. It turns out that while working on her first book, her editor suggested adding in the documents as a way of cutting out some of the larger world building paragraphs. Now since they are expected as part of the format of
Joanna and Nicki with their readers!
her books Nicki jots down ideas for them, things she finds interesting or little tidbits that she wrote down already for herself to keep the world straight and writes them all up at the very end! She is always making up more history and always adding more to her boos to flesh them out as much as she can. She knew each chapter would begin each chapter from the very beginning, but she cannot actually write them until she knows around how many chapters the book will actually have so she is always thinking about them but not quite writing them until halfway through or so.

All of this was absolutely amazing to hear live from the authors directly! It is such a fun and lucky thing to be able to spend an afternoon and actually talk to the people who brought worlds to life on the page. After the event, the authors held a signing of their books. I hung back so that almost everyone else who attended had gone ahead so that I could spend more time with Nicki and Joanna (because I am selfish like that). It was well worth the wait! It was a pleasure meeting them both! (I actually gushed to both of them on Instagram when I posted these photos on my account @bookwormextraordinaire). I felt like I already knew Nicki through the internet so it was particularly awesome to meet her and be able to talk about the First Riders in person! And oh my gosh, Joanna was an a sweetheart! She even had me message her when I got home to make sure I arrived safely. These two ladies are as lovely as they are talented and it was truly worth the trek I made to meet them!


~Laura!
PS here is a photo of a very frozen Laura posing on the Rainbow Bridge near Niagara Falls with my books!


Review: Heart of Flames by Nicki Pau Preto

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Heart of Flames by Nicki Pau Preto


Publisher & Release Date: Simon Pulse, February 2020
Type: YA Fantasy
Series: Crown of Feathers Book #2

Summary: Veronyka, Tristan, and Sev must stop the advancing empire from destroying the Phoenix Riders in this fiery sequel to Crown of Feathers, which #1 New York Times bestselling author Kendare Blake calls “absolutely unforgettable!”
The world is balanced on the edge of a knife, and war is almost certain between the empire and the Phoenix Riders.
Veronyka finally got her wish to join the Riders, but while she’s supposed to be in training, all she really wants to do is fly out to defend the villages of Pyra from the advancing empire. Tristan has been promoted to Master Rider, but he has very different ideas about the best way to protect their people than his father, the commander. Sev has been sent to spy on the empire, but maintaining his cover may force him to fight on the wrong side of the war. And Veronyka’s sister, Val, is determined to regain the empire she lost—even if it means inciting the war herself.
As tensions reach a boiling point, the characters all find themselves drawn together into a fight that will shape the course of the empire—and determine the future of the Phoenix Riders. Each must decide how far they’re willing to go—and what they’re willing to lose in the process.





My Review: 

Holy Phoenix Fire! This book. THIS BOOOOOK!!!!

I thoroughly enjoyed Nicki Pau Preto's debut novel Crown of Feathers, so much so that I begged to be on the street team so that I could help promote it! In the last several months I have helped an amazing team of readers spread the word about CoF and its sequel, Heart of Flames.

A little part of me was afraid that I had possibly worked HoF up in my head though because of my involvement on the street team,but no. It deserves all the hype and more!! This book is a spectacular example of High Fantasy at its best. Nicki Pau Preto knows exactly how to keep readers engaged and on the edge of their seats, this reader included! This is quite the feat seeing as HoF is over 600 pages long. But while reading it didn't feel like it was a long book (except when I fell asleep reading and it fell on my face). The story moved at a good pace, with the exact right amount of action and romance and background detail. I will be the first to admit that the first book was a tad dense at times with history, but it was absolutely needed then to get readers fully immersed in this world. The build up from the first book was so helpful going into this one because I understood this place Nicki had created in such a way that I was eager to learn more. Now the history became utterly fascinating and I couldn't help but see how relevant it was and how it all tied the plot together.

One of the coolest things about Heart of Flames is that it is almost like you're reading several books at once and yet they all fit perfectly. Nicki has weaved these intricate tales in such a way that it is mindboggling that she hasn't lost track of them nor has she let the reader lose them, which is incredible. This book has five different character perspectives in the regular chapters. Then there are the documents scattered throughout that are also telling us a unique tale that will be (I'm hoping) important to the third book. I love these because it makes the whole thing feel real. Like these are real people, not just characters. They have birth certificates, and wrote letters to family, and have family trees! It is astounding the amount of relevant details that were added (shout out to Nicki's editor who just kept saying “give me more!” Bless you for letting Nicki do what she wanted!) And then there are the epigraphs at the beginning of each chapter that is in itself another story. I don't think I could ever get tired of reading these books because of the high level of world building. If I had my say these books would be studied in writing classes as a prime example of the craft!

I mentioned the five different POVs! Oh gosh, these characters are almost like friends to me at this point. I bleed when they do, I laugh along, I feel their heartbreaks and triumphs. I get incredibly stressed when reading the plot because of how it is written in the different POVs so sometimes the reader knows more than the characters do and I wish I could WARN them. Twists and turns and betrayals riddle this book and I care SO MUCH. It is rare for me to be invested in plot but these stakes are high. Nothing feels out of place or forced. It all just flows so nicely along. Nicki is a master planner.

My all time favorite thing about Heart of Flames though, and what drew me to the books originally is the Phoenixes. I work with birds so to read a book that focuses on animals makes my rehabber heart very happy. Throughout this book the plot allowed for more time with the phoenxies and I loved it. I love how they are written with such big personalities. I love that they love their riders so much. I love that they play and interact with each other. I love that they have ATTITUDES. Xephyra and Rex are my favorite characters and I am jealous that I don't get to have my own giant flaming bird with a beak the size of my head!

Have I convinced you yet to go out and read these? I hope so because Nicki is writing book three now and she has left a lot of readers just begging for more.

~Laura!

On Sequels!

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

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I wanted to do a new kind of post today because today is an amazing day for sequels! Today 3 of my favorite debut novels are all getting sequels and I love that they get to share such a big day!

First up we have Heart of Flames by Nicki Pau Preto which is near and dear to my heart since I'm on the street team. I'm actually 200 pages into it and having a hard time putting this 600+ page tome down!
Here's a snippet of the review I posted last year, "If it isn't obvious, I can't get enough of this book. Nicki is an incredible writer and I can't wait to see where she goes next!" Well, I finally got this hot little (okay HUGE) book in my hands and LET ME TELL YOU IT IS GREAT. I got the owlcrate special edition (WHICH IS STILL FOR SALE) and it is simply stunning! Oh and be sure to watch my Instagram this week because I'm going to be giving away 2 coasters with original art by my fellow patrol member, Franzi (aka @snoillustrations on IG)!

Second we have Storm from the East by Joanna Hathaway. This is the follow up novel to Dark of the West, which I actually just finished yesterday! I was in love. This plot feels real and these characters stayed with me long after I set the book down! I am on the edge of my seat waiting to know how Ali and Athan end up! I'm also really excited because I'm meeting both Joanna and Nicki on Saturday at the Niagara on the Lake Library! More to come next week!

And last but certainly not least we have Sensational by Jodie Lynn Zdrok. Her debut Spectacle was one of my all time favorite books last year. A historical, murder mystery that left me completely enthralled! I've never wanted to visit a morgue more than while reading about the Paris one of old! This sequel promises so much more fun and murder that I am impatiently waiting for my library hold to come in! And the amazingly lovely author actually has a preorder campaign going on that includes requesting the book at your local library instead of just including those who can afford the book. If I didn't already adore Jodie this would have made me a fan!

Did I convince you? Are you going to pick any of these titles up? I hope so! Let me know in the comments or on IG @bookwormextraordinaire!

~Laura!

HEART OF FLAMES IS HERE!

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After almost a year of being one of the lucky First Riders, I am so happy to say that Heart of Flames is here!

Today the sequel to Nicki Pau Preto's hit fantasy novel, Crown of Feathers was released!

I have had such an amazing time helping this amazing team of almost a hundred fellow fans spread the word about Nicki's work! I think that the street team may be coming to an end technically, but the friendships I have made will live on!

If you have the chance please go out and buy Nicki's books. If you don't have the cash, please go request them at your local library, you won't be sorry in the least!

~Laura!

Series Spotlight: The Witchlands by Susan Dennard

Thursday, October 10, 2019

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The Witchlands by Susan Dennard


I am so excited to tell you that I was invited to be a part of the blog tour celebrating the new fancy schmancy boxset of the wonderful Witchland series! It came out on Tuesday and you really should check it out! It includes the first 3 core books of the series with new covers and an amazingly detailed map of the Witchlands!

Every Tuesday for the last couple months on Instagram I've been posting photos about how much I love this series! I thought I would do a round up for you folks who aren't hanging out over there yet!

But before we go into that I should probably tell you what it is about! The series is set in a world that has three empires ruling it. Everyone there is born with some kind of magical skill that is called a Witchery, hence the world being called the Witchlands! For the last two decades the three empires have held a sort of peace that was brought about by the "Twenty Year Truce." But that truce is about to come to an end, bringing back the centuries-long war! The books mostly follow 2 badass women, Safiya and Iseult! One can tell if you're lying and the other can see the threads of emotions. Together they can stop the war, so what happens when they are torn apart? (Have I hooked you yet? Honestly I was hooked the moment I read "WITCHLANDS! so if you got any farther than that I'm surprised!)

So, back to the round up! Through these posts I have found out that I am definitely a waterwitch and that if I were to have a patronus from the Witchlands it would be a Sea Fox. But what does that mean? Well, in the Witchlands everyone has a witchery. There are so many kinds but they all fall under one of six elements. Four of them are the physical elements like Earth, Water, Air, and Fire, and then two are more abstract, Void (death) and Aether (life). To find out I was a waterwitch I took THIS quiz that Susan Dennard the author of the series made. I was surprised by this because I was sure that with my work with animals I would be an earthwitch! Then the coolest thing happened. I voiced this surprise and Sooz Dennard actually commented! She said that, "maybe my waterwitchery let's me connect with animals because I'm naturally in sync with the ebb and flow of the world!" The more I think about this the more I believe that she may be a genius! That fits me perfectly! The more I learn about the world of #theWitchlands the more I fall in love with the series! And as for my Witchlands Patronus? Well it goes spectacularly with my waterwitchery! I got the Sea Fox! I took the quiz HERE and it said, "Fickle as the tides, their tempers might turn on a dime--but their hearts never will. Silky, beautiful, and awe-inspiring, no magical creature in the Witchlands is quite so alluring--or quite so clever--as the Sea Fox!"

Honestly, as cool as finding out how I would fit into the Witchlands, the witchery isn't my favorite part of the world that Susan Dennard has made for us. What I love the most is her characters. Safi and Iz are two of the strongest leads I've ever read and they are surrounded by even more badass, strong allies! I wish I lived in a world where they were in charge! I wholeheartedly recommend that you read this series! Come for the magic but stay for the connections! 

The Witchlands Boxset can be found at most major retailers, irl and online! Let me know if you check them out!

~Laura!

Review: Changeling by William Ritter

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

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Changeling by William Ritter 

Publisher & Release Date: Algonquin Young Readers, July 2019 
Type: Middle Grade, Fantasy (272 pages) 
Series: Book One of The Oddmire 

Summary: Magic is fading from the Wild Wood. To renew it, goblins must perform an ancient ritual involving the rarest of their kind—a newborn changeling. But when the fateful night arrives to trade a human baby for a goblin one, something goes terribly wrong. After laying the changeling in a human infant’s crib, the goblin Kull is briefly distracted from his task. By the time he turns back, the changeling has already perfectly mimicked the human child. Too perfectly: Kull cannot tell them apart. Not knowing which to bring back, he leaves both babies behind.
Tinn and Cole are raised as human twins, neither knowing what secrets may be buried deep inside one of them. Then when they are twelve years old, a mysterious message arrives, calling the brothers to be heroes and protectors of magic. The boys must leave behind their sleepy town of Endsborough and risk their lives in the Wild Wood, crossing the perilous Oddmire swamp and journeying through the Deep Dark to reach the goblin horde and discover who they truly are.

My Review:

Earlier this year I was asked to review the first book in William Ritter's new series, The Oddmire called Changeling and I jumped on the opportunity. I have never agreed to a blog tour so fast! I absolutely love Ritter's writing. His first book, Jackaby remains one of my all time favorites. He has a way of adding charm and wit into every aspect of his work!

Changeling is an enchanting fairy tale set in the same world as Jackaby. That was all I needed to know before I dove headfirst into the mysterious Oddmire Forest. Once I started reading I couldn't put it down! It is perfect for all ages, but I can see little kids particularly falling into the world Ritter has created in The Oddmire and never wanting to leave. This book is easily on the level of storytelling that is set up in the Spiderwick Chronicles!

The idea of the changeling is one of the oldest folk tales of Europe, a fairy child that is swapped out with a human child. Changelings have fascinated people for centuries and are prevalent even in today's pop culture, having recently been featured in shows such as Supernatural and Outlander and even an episode of the podcast Lore. I, myself, have always been interested in the idea of them.

So, with a myth so beloved by many it is hard to believe that there can be an original take on it, and yet Ritter does just that! What if the switch in interrupted? What if the babies, human and fairy alike grow up together? Changeling answers just those questions!

My favorite part of this book is the mix of beautiful, eerie setting in the Oddmire that I would love to explore and the amazingly rich and detailed, full of life and motive characters that inhabit it! Hinkypunks, Goblins, Shapeshifters, and fantastic Humans all come together to solve the mystery of the changeling!

As soon as I finished it I wanted to read it again. It was heartwarming and funny, but also just as dark as a true fairy tale should be! I enjoyed Changeling and am eagerly awaiting the next book in what is sure to become a beloved series for young readers for many years to come!


(Thank you to Algonquin Young Readers for sending me the advanced egalley in exchange for this honest review!)

~Laura!!

Cover Reveal: Heart of Flames by Nicki Pau Preto!

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

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It's here! It's here! The cover reveal for the much anticipated sequel to Nicki Pau Preto's amazing debut Crown of Feathers is here!! 

Yesterday Paste Magazine had the honor to reveal the Heart of Flames cover and shared with us an exclusive excerpt from the novel! Click here to read the amazing teaser!

As one of the First Riders Street Team I also have the privilege of revealing this absolutely gorgeous cover with all you fellow bookworms! 


Isn't it stunning? I absolutely cannot get over the level of detail Artist Kekai Kotaki put into this cover! I don't know about you but this cover and that excerpt is making me itch for 2020!!

Be sure to add both Crown of Feathers and Heart of Flames (and the final book in the trilogy) to your Goodreads by following this link
You can also read my review of it here
And be sure to keep an eye out of my First Riders Tag to keep up to date on all the Phoenix News!

~Laura!

First Riders Trilogy Announcement!

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

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Have you all seen the amazing news from this past weekend?!?

Nicki Pau Preto, with the help of her street team, has announced that her book Crown of Feathers is not only getting a 700+ page sequel that comes out next year called Heart of Flames, but that the duology is now a trilogy!

That's right!! In 2021, there will be a third book in the Crown of Feathers TRILOGY!

My fellow patrol members and I are beyond excited about this! We hope you are too!!

Make sure to add the series to your Goodreads shelves!!

~Laura!

On the Buffalo Reading Invasion!

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

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You are probably wondering what a Reading Invasion even is, right? WELL LET ME ENLIGHTEN YOU! Reading Invasions are basically a flashmob of readers. Every summer here in Buffalo since 2012 local readers invade a park for an hour and we READ. It is really that simple, but it is a whole lot of fun! Last night was the first of the 2019 season! An hour of blissful reading with a crazy number of other book nerds!

I think my first Reading Invasion was in June of 2013 (at least according to the bookmark pictured above). I remember it vividly (besides the date). It took place at Bidwell Park, where the first Invasion of the year is always at. I remember looking around about a half hour in and seeing all these people absorbed in their books! It was a wonderful feeling! These were my kind of people.

I also noticed at my first invasion that passerbys giving us curious looks. Never before had they seen such a sight! What were we doing? Why were we all just sitting there? WERE WE ALL JUST READING? WHAT WAS GOING ON? It was lovely to see that confusion and find out later on that most of those people actually showed up and read themselves at the next Invasion! Spreading the love of books for the WIN! Last night I looked up again and saw no passerbys giving us looks because it has become such a Buffalo Summer thing that it is widely known, accepted, and cherished! How lucky are we to live in such a place?! I like that I see familiar faces from Invasions past and that every year it gets bigger and bigger!

One of my favorite aspect of the Buffalo Reading Invasion (other than the reading itself) is that besides the first one of the season, they are held in a different park every month! If I’m not mistaken the invasion very rarely goes to the same park twice and I can see why! Buffalo has something like 180 parks or something crazy number like that! Going to an Invasion brings you to a park of the City you may not have discovered before! I love that the first Invasion of the year is always at Bidwell though. There is a independent bookshop practically in Bidwell Park and every year when the Invasion is there I go in, look around, and always buy a new book. One year it was a Doctor Who book, last year it was the 3rd book in the Three Dark Crowns series! This year I bought A Curse So Dark and Lonely and ran into a coworker!

Here is a panoramic view of the Invasion last night! Look at all those readers!


The Buffalo Reading Invasions remains one of my all time favorite things to go to in the summer! 
If you'd like to learn more or find out when and where the next Invasion will be check out the website here or like the official Facebook page here
I hope to see you and your book next month!
~Laura!

Meet the Newest Member of the First Riders Street Team!

Sunday, June 9, 2019

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I am so excited to announce that I have been chosen to be a member of the First Riders Street Team!

What is that, you ask? WELL. It is a group of awesome people that are going to spread the word about the fantastic book that is Crown of Feathers by Nicki Pau Preto and its upcoming sequel Heart of Flames
I am honored to have been chosen and I can't wait to start my Ride!! 

You can read my review of Crown of Feathers here! And be sure to check back here for more exciting developments!!
~Laura!

Review: Crown of Feathers by Nicki Pau Preto

Thursday, May 30, 2019

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Crown of Feathers by Nicki Pau Preto


Publisher & Release Date: Ink Road (Owlcrate Exclusive Edition), Feb. 2019
Type: YA Fantasy (486 pages)
Series: Book One of Crown of Feathers

Summary: I had a sister, once…
In a world ruled by fierce warrior queens, a grand empire was built upon the backs of Phoenix Riders—legendary heroes who soared through the sky on wings of fire—until a war between two sisters ripped it all apart.
I promised her the throne would not come between us.
Sixteen years later, Veronyka is a war orphan who dreams of becoming a Phoenix Rider from the stories of old. After a shocking betrayal from her controlling sister, Veronyka strikes out alone to find the Riders—even if that means disguising herself as a boy to join their ranks.
But it is a fact of life that one must kill or be killed. Rule or be ruled.
Just as Veronyka finally feels like she belongs, her sister turns up and reveals a tangled web of lies between them that will change everything. And meanwhile, the new empire has learned of the Riders’ return and intends to destroy them once and for all.
Sometimes the title of queen is given. Sometimes it must be taken.




My Review:

Crown of Feathers is an absolutely wonderful fantasy debut that I am becoming rapidly obsessed with. I will be recommending this book for years to come! I really enjoyed it!

I'm not gonna lie it had a slow start. There was some action early on and then a lot of history and exposition. The history of the world is weaved in along with Veronyka's back story as she gets to where she needs to be. At first it seemed to bog down the action because even early on I was invested with the action that was occurring, but rest assured it is all necessary and fascinating! I promise that it does pick up and once it does you won't be putting this tome down!

One of the things I love most about Crown of Feathers is that it has multiple, third person point of view chapters from a few different characters. It was a great choice on Pau Preto's part to write the novel like this because it allows the reader to know more than any of the characters at any given time. The reader becomes so incredibly invested in Veronyka, Tristan, and Sev as we try to guess how and when they will interact if ever. Each of these characters are rich with detail and I want to know them all in real life! Especially Veronyka, who has so much to offer readers by teaching subtly about inner strength and being yourself.

And of course I can't forget about the true selling point of this novel, the phoenixes that are rode into battle! I got this book through Owlcrate. The only thing I knew about this book was these phoenixes which is why I ordered my first subscription box! If you're a long time follower of my blog you know that I love animals and work closely with wildlife. This book is close to my heart because of the idea of animages, people who can communicate with not just phoenixes, but all animals. I want this gift so badly it stings. It touches on so many important ethics surrounding animals that are completely relevant today!

If it isn't obvious, I can't get enough of this book. I cannot wait to dive into the sequel. Nicki Pau Preto is an incredible writer and I can't wait to see where she goes next!


~Laura!

Review: Hamilton in Buffalo!

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

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To honor Austin Scott's last week playing Alexander Hamilton on the Angelica National Tour I thought that I would post my review of the production of Hamilton that I saw him in Buffalo at the beginning of December!

I, like seemingly the rest of world, have been a fan of Hamilton for a while. I think I first heard it in 2016 but I really have no idea. It was in the very top of it's hype, about 6 months or so before the Original cast retired. When Shea's announced that it was hosting Hamilton here in Buffalo it was kind of pandemonium. There was a run on the box office when tickets went on sale. I had signed up for the verified fan ticket process and I got through, but the tickets were just too overpriced. I passed and decided to try my luck at the lottery. Well, I lost. Twenty times. So I bought myself an overpriced ticket anyway the day before the last Friday performance. I don't at all regret it.

This isn't so much going to be a review of the play Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote but the performance itself that I was finally privy to see! This will solely be based on a hearing versus seeing it live comparison. I'll be writing about the experience itself (but there will be spoilers, of course)!

Since there are multiple tours going nationwide right now they are all named. I saw the Angelica Cast. Austin Scott was my Hamilton, Josh Tower was my Burr, and Hannah Cruz was my Eliza to give context. This cast was phenomenal! So many of them sounded so much like the original cast I was astounded! I was incredibly impressed with everyone, although some were still getting into the groove of the fast paced world they were inhabiting and no one can fault them for that!

Forgive me for this, but being in the 'Room Where it Happened' was worth every penny. I think if you love the soundtrack for what it is then actually seeing the action on stage is an odd, wonderful thing. Seeing what the actors are doing on stage as they sing the now famed songs was like nothing I could have imagined. For everything that goes on in the packed play I thought that the movement on stage would be at least as busy but it was minimal in comparison. The main company used their actions sparingly for maximum impact. The ensemble though, never seemed to cease. Their movements were so fluid and seamless that it was impossible not to admire them. The stage was minimal and used wonderfully as were the lights! The lighting of Hamilton was what surprised me most of all as it was a character in itself! I sat relatively high up so I was looking down upon the stage and I'm so glad that I was for I was able to see that during Hurricane the lights put Hamilton in the eye of the storm! Ugh, everything about this production of Hamilton was truly awe inspiring!
Me and A. Ham himself
(Austin Scott)

I am so glad that I went to see it. If it comes to your town and you are able, please go see it. I assure you all that hype really is worth it. I went by myself and I was sitting between two amazing older couples. On my right was a married couple who were fans of musicals and excited to see the play that got their grandkids into plays. They were prepared for how fast it was going to be and kept up well. On my left were a couple of friends. These women had no idea what they walked into and kindly asked if I'd give them a crash course on the history which I gladly supplied. All four of them afterward were so enthralled with what they had just seen! Hamilton can be enjoyed by all because it written to include everyone.

~Laura!
(Apparently, this is also my 300th post 
and I couldn't have chosen a better subject to have this honor!)

TEN YEARS!!!

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

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Ten years ago today, 16 year old me started this blog for a purely selfish reason. The idea of reviewing books came to me when I won a contest for an Advanced Review Copy of one of Meg Cabot's books. On the back cover it said that it was an ARC and I had never heard of such a thing. When I realized that I could get books for free, before they were released I did everything in my 16 year old power to make that a reality. This blog was the place I would record the reviews I wrote in exchange for those advanced copies.

As I graduated High School and moved into College I had less time to devote to my reviews. I was reading less Young Adult novels, which was primarily all I had read and reviewed. As I evolved throughout College so did my blog. I started to review less ARCs and more library books of all genres. I've never been consistent with what I had read so why should my reviews be limited to the advanced copies? As I moved away from those, less got sent to me which was a relief as it had gotten out of hand.

I could never consistently post blogs either because life is busy! I never stopped reading, but I didn't always want to review the books I had read so I started writing more blogs that had nothing to do with books. I expanded my posts to what had become a minor obsession for me after I had graduated college and that was traveling. I became what I like to call a literary tourist. A lot of my trips involved places I had read about in books. I write about what caused me to go somewhere and what I saw when I got there.

If I had to pick a favorite type of post I love the ones like this, when I just write whatever it is I am thinking. Ten years ago a post like this never would have happened. This blog has always surprised me. I've had friends tell me about this local blog they had found, only to realize that it was mine (when I started this I used an assumed name as I had been a minor). I have also had some backlash over what I have written, both in reviews and about my adventures. This blog is almost a digital version of my life and it would be unrealistic if I didn't have problems here too.

Bookworm Extraordinaire is no longer strictly a book blog like it was when I started it 10 years ago. I originally envisioned that my reviews would one day become my profession. Now it is just a hobby, something for me to see how I have grown. People tell me they are impressed with my writing that they have seen sampled here, but like anyone I will always have doubts. Some consider me a writer because of what they've read here, but I don't think I will ever see myself that way. I'm not quite sure what will make me change my mind but rest assured if I figure it out I will probably write about it here!

I'm not sure what the future has to hold for me or for this blog, but looking back I can't believe how far this has taken me. I have had over 300 readers and when I reached that milestone I did a giant giveaway! My love of reading has sent me to two Book Cons in New York City, several wonderful Teen Book Festivals, and so many book signings! I have met so many other bloggers and readers at those events that no matter what I'm reading someone I know is reading it too so I always have someone to gush with! My travel bug sent me to two trips overseas including a 6 week solo backpacking trip. But most importantly it has allowed me to go on countless adventures, both real and read! Here's to the next ten years, bookworms and fellow adventurers! Thank you all so much for sticking with me!


~Laura!

Thoughts from Backpacking: Prague, Czech Republic

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

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This post is all about the amazing time I had in Prague back in May and June 2016

Oh Prague, how I loved thee so much more than Rome! Prague fit me very well. I loved my time spent there and I would go back in a heartbeat!

Out of all the places I went to in Europe during this trip Prague is the one place that I didn't actually know too much about and the one with the language I wasn't even going to try to attempt, but I wasn't worried. My heritage is Czechoslovakian (although when they split my family was on the Slovakian side by only a few miles) so I felt comfortable there and at least there I looked like all the locals. I found that out when tourists kept asking me for directions which helped no one at all because it was always when I was a bit lost too!
Charles Bridge from the Bank

My time in Prague was relaxed. I did not want to repeat of my time in Rome, where I seemed to be constantly walking but miserable. I chose to go to Prague because of Laini Taylor's book Daughter of Smoke and Bone which is set there. Taylor's words made Prague seem magical and it turned out to be true. It is a unique place that is hard to describe, but she managed it far better than I could ever hope to here.

Most of my time in Prague was spent wandering around with no real place in mind or sitting somewhere filled with history, people watching and just soaking up the atmosphere. I loved Charles Bridge and the Old Town Square the most. 

Charles Bridge is a large part of Taylor's novel and I spent hours there. It is more than just a bridge, it is a gathering place for the Artistic of Prague. The people on the Bridge were selling everything from CDs of their music to paintings, and weird musical instruments to handmade jewelery. I walked up and down two or three times. I stopped at every booth, at every peddler, at everything. I wanted to just remember what it felt like to be on that bridge. The coolest part of the Charles Bridge isn't actually all those people though. It isn't like any bridge I have ever seen. It is foot traffic only and to get onto it you pass under this magnificent arch. And the bridge is lined on its balustrade with 30 statues of Saints and other Christian Religious Figures. They loom over the crowd and despite having all those people there the Charles Bridge always feels a little creepy. At one point I looked down at one of the river banks and saw a group of people painting en plein aire the bridge so I made my way down there, too. I sat near them on the bank and sketched for a while. It is my favorite place in Prague.

The other place I spent a lot of time at was in Old Town Square where the Astronomical Clock is. The clock was pretty cool, but the square itself was better. I sat there for hours. When I was there there was some kind of music festival going on and people had flocked to it. There were children, tourists, the homeless, peddlers, dogs, couples, some odd individuals, a couple of teens giving out free hugs, and people like me taking everyone else in. In this square I started a photo project of taking candid shots of people enjoying themselves. I cherish those photos because they aren't of anything really touristy. They just feel like the Prague as I knew it.

Me with my finished Marionette!
The biggest, coolest, most amazing, and strange thing I did in Prague was making my own marionette at a Truhlář Marionety workshop! While researching in one of my travel books I saw this shop mentioned and I made it my mission to do it. Marionettes are a huge part of Daughter of Smoke and Bone and I wanted nothing more than to make a puppet of one of the characters while in Prague. Zdenka and Pavel helped me achieve just that. They welcomed me graciously into their studio and helped me make Zuzana, a character in the book who makes a giant marionette that is controlled when she pretends to be the puppet herself. The whole experience from painting her face, to choosing her clothes, and actually putting her together was one that will forever be one of the best things I have ever done. I actually told the Author when I met her what I had done and gave her the photo and she hopes to one day do the same!

On my last day in Prague I trekked to see the Petrin Tower, which is loosely based on the Eiffel Tower and has one of the best views of the city. Originally I was going to try to see the castle as well but after walking up hill for an hour and still not finding it I realized I didn't want to go IN the castle I just wanted to see it, which I could from the tower. It is in a park and the whole walk was beautiful. On my quest to find Petrin, I started another photo project. Prague has some seriously unique door knobs. I actually got yelled at by the US Embassy for taking a photo but when I showed the angry woman the photo of their door knob she was too confused to make me delete it and I scurried away!

I also went to see the National Marionette Theatre's production of Don Giovanni! I was stunned. It was in Italian so I didn't understand what they were saying but I followed to plot. However, the plot didn't even matter! The mastery of the crew had over the puppets was incredible! Never have I seen such skill! I spent the whole time watching the hands above do the work. The mannerism and body language of the puppets were surreal!
The view of the Castle through some haze from Petrin Tower

I loved Prague and I completely plan of going back one day. It fit my speed more than Rome did. It just had a different feeling to it. Probably because while it is a tourist destination it is not THE tourist destination. There still aren't too many people who go there and I think that made all the difference. I wish I had spent even more time there though. It was a lovely place and I still have so much more to see!


~Laura!

Thoughts From Backpacking: Vatican City

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

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This is the account of my day in the Vatican City in May 2016!

Are you saying you wouldn't have been curious as
to what he was looking at?
The very first thing I did when I got off the metro to the Vatican was to follow the crowd in the hopes that they lead me to the Vatican Museum. They did, of course, but before I got there I made a spontaneous pit stop. I was walking down a street I saw a statue of a Knight that was holding flyers, one of the flyers said Harry Potter. I stopped dead, scaring the people behind me, and didn't even think about it. I just went through the doors and down a passage that led me to a statue of a wizard announcing the Storia e Magia. Honesty, it is probably dangerous how I will just follow things randomly if they relate to Harry Potter. The store was great and dark and magical. It was expensive though because of how almost everything was from the Noble Collection! There was so much cool things, including HP and LOTR and fairies and journals! It was amazing! I want to go back one day!

I left before I could spend my entire budget and followed the crowd. At one point I did ask for directions and was informed that the line into the Museum was just stupidly long. Oh gosh it was at this point as I was walking that I was corralled by SEVERAL pushy Italian men trying to get me to go with them to “Skip the Line.” But then I found an actual shop that sold passes to skip the line and I googled up and down and realized it was in fact legit so I payed the 17 Euro, I skipped the line and it was so worth it.

My long lasting general impression of the Musei Vaticani is that it was a never ending rush of humanity following signs that promised that the Chappella Sistina was that way, but seemingly never actually getting to the promised Chapel. I was there for weeks following the people and the signs. I traveled an entire country trying to find that Chapel and while it was incredibly worth it, it was also slightly ridiculous to be lied to by signs for that long and still follow them.

Laocoön and His Sons!
The musei itself was huge and imposing, filled with so many people that you went with the crowd or you got trampled. But I managed to break away several times and found treasures when I did like a Van Gogh in a little chamber no one else was in and a room of animal statues and a mosaic floor! It was here that I found out that a lot of sarcophagus look like ancient tubs (for instance Priscus's was totally a tub, you can't tell me other wise)! Oh and somehow in my research I forgot that one of my favorite sculptures was in these museums, Laocoön and His Sons which was a delight to see in person! But mostly the Museums had a lot of statues and a lot of stunning ceiling paintings and after a while they all blend into one giant thing that makes my head spin.

The Sistine was, of course, stunning but a little disorienting as you have to crane your neck to look at Michelangelo’s ceiling, which looked a little 3D and that freaked me out because HOW!? From there I once again became just a small part of a sea of humanity following signs that said “Uscita” trying to for the love of goodness get the heck outta there.

I was exhausted and wanted nothing more than to go back to Rome and back to my hostel but I couldn't very well leave the Vatican City without seeing St. Peter's Basilica! So I made my way over to the famous Church! Originally, my plan was to go to a Papal Audience that morning but I had trouble with faxing the invite request so that didn't end up happening. The Square was still set up from the Audience that morning but luckily the line into the Basilica was short as it was later in the day.

You thought I was joking about those skulls didn't you?
My first impression when I walked into St. Peter's Basilica was entirely inappropriate. Yes, upon walking into one of the most holiest place in the Christian World, I said aloud, “HOLY HELL!” Because I clearly have no class when startled. Luckily the Nuns behind me were very kind, and after laughing at me one whispered, “I thought the same thing the first time I walked in!” I quickly ran away to a basin of Holy Water and vaguely crossed myself because it seemed like the least I could do to make up for my mouth. I am completely uncomfortable in any type of Church and this was no exception. Mostly I was just confused and alarmed. Alarmed that there were actual dead Popes in caskets, confused by the strange lighting, alarmed at the random, graphic skulls and ugly baby angels, and once again confused by the sheer amount of different styles in Architecture. Seeing the Basilica was a bit of a roller coaster and there was so much to see that in my tired, near delirious from hunger state that it is mostly just a blur.

Overall, it is possible to do the entire country of the Vatican in one day, but I don't recommend it because it makes you weird by the end of the day. The Vatican Museums were extraordinary though! And the Basilica is everything I thought it was going to be and maybe even a bit more. I ended my day by hanging out it the Square, on the phone with my dad, watching little kids chase gulls that were almost as big as they were. It was there that I realized while I was very far from home some things, like kids chasing birds were universal.

~Laura!