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Chelsea Russell's Blog

I grew up with a love of the written word. Writing is an art just like any other creative endeavor. Unlike painting with pastels, my words are my medium.

Currently reading

The Passage
Justin Cronin
The Golem and the Jinni
Helene Wecker
Embracing Obscurity: Becoming Nothing in Light of God's Everything
Made from Scratch: Discovering the Pleasures of a Handmade Life
Jenna Woginrich
The Fellowship of the Ring
J.R.R. Tolkien
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
J.K. Rowling, Mary GrandPré

Sky on Fire

Sky on Fire - Emmy Laybourne I think this book deserves 2.5 stars. A more in-depth review to follow soon.

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library (Mr. Lemoncello's Library #1) - Chris Grabenstein A fun, entertaining read. Unfortunately, some people might decide not to bother with reading this book since it seems too reminiscent of "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory." But before you make any hasty decisions, I'm glad to inform you Chris Grabenstein readily addresses the similarities and in quite an amusing manner. There were multiple references to books scattered throughout, which I found quite delightful. How could you not enjoy a book that's meant to teach children the wonderful joys and hidden treasures contained within a public library?

Technology was woven throughout this book, but it was done in such a manner that showed how it can be used for good and not bad. I guess sometimes technology is considered so much more exciting than books it makes me worry what the future may hold. I wonder if one day kids will forgo books entirely for video games. Luckily, this book gave me the hope to think otherwise. I really enjoyed seeing Kyle's interest in reading flourish. It didn't take him too long to realize books are just as good as "watching a 3-D IMAX movie in his head."

I thought some of the trivia and questions might be pretty hard for 12 year olds, especially considering most kids nowadays don't even know the slightest thing about "Hawaii Five-O" or Agatha Christie. Shoot, some of the questions were hard for me! I could be wrong though ;p.

There were a lot of good messages scattered throughout this book as well. I won't spoil them for you, but I was glad to see there were repercussions and rewards for the children's behavior. The riddles were truly enjoyable and I found myself scrambling to figure them out as well.

If you love books, then "Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library" is a definite must read!

P.S. - There's even an unsolved mystery mentioned at the end of the book! I'm working on figuring it out, but it's certainly a bit of a challenge.

The Screaming Staircase (Lockwood & Co, #1)

The Screaming Staircase (Lockwood & Co, #1) - Jonathan Stroud I thought this book was an interesting mix between Sherlock Holmes and Ghostbusters. The scenes where they encountered ghosts were definitely my favorite. There were also plenty of little side mysteries to keep you guessing. I figured out the main mystery well before the end, but I was still left guessing at certain points.

On a side note, I think the character development could have been a bit stronger. I liked Lucy, but I don't feel as though I fully connected with her. George was certainly portrayed as an annoying buffoon and it must have worked because I certainly viewed him as such. He got a little better toward the end, but he essentially wasn't portrayed in a very pleasing light. Lockwood was definitely broody and had quicksilver mood swings, which certainly fits a Sherlock Holmes type of character.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and think it's a definite must read for those interested in ghosts and things that go bump in the night. I'm definitely looking forward to reading other books in this series!

The Spymistress

The Spymistress - Jennifer Chiaverini I really tried to finish this book, but I just couldn't do it. The main character, Lizzy, was a spinster in her late 40s who seemed superficial and whiney. I had absolutely nothing in common with her, which never bodes well when you're trying to immerse yourself in a story. I may try some of Jennifer Chiaverini's other books, but I just couldn't stand to listen to any more of Lizzy's complaints.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown - Holly Black I consider Holly Black one of my favorite authors, but I was truly disappointed with “The Coldest Girl in Coldtown.” I didn’t like the in-between chapters at all. Every time I came to one I just wanted to skim through it. Some of them contained pertinent information, but I pretty much thought they were a terrible bother since they broke up the flow of the main story. The different twist on vampirism was interesting, but it didn’t make up for the rest of the story.

I really hate how Young Adult books contain so many adult topics. I’ve mentioned this before in some of my other book reviews, but obviously it’s a recurring theme since I keep on having to rant about it.

Books are typically considered a safer option for teenage recreational activities than video games, but sometimes they’re worse! For instance, drinking is portrayed as an acceptable activity for teens in this book. Tana (the main character) is only seventeen, but the book opens with describing a “sundown” party she attended where the main objective is to get raging drunk. It soon became obvious this wasn’t the first time she’s attended parties of this nature.

My next tirade is more of a personal opinion, but I figured it was worth mentioning since it upset me so much. I didn’t like how Aidan, Tana’s ex-boyfriend, was openly bisexual. He would even kiss other girls and boys in front of Tana. She’d try to act "cool" and started scoring his kisses on technique. The fact they were in a committed relationship while they were doing these things really bothered me. I understand some individuals want to have open relationships, but I honestly think this leads no where but trouble. I didn’t like having this sort of content in a book directed toward young adults. Sometimes it scares me to think of where our society is headed.

I understand some people might not agree with my thoughts, but I thought I’d at least express them. I think what bothered me so much about the presence of bisexual and transgender individuals in this story was that it all seemed very random. It added nothing of value to the story.

The Bone Season

The Bone Season - Samantha Shannon I really enjoyed this book and thought the idea behind it was quite original. It took about three chapters for me to become immersed in the storyline, but after that I was hooked. The concept of building an entire world based around clairvoyance was truly intriguing. Those who are voyant (AKA clairvoyant) are considered criminals. Amaurotics (AKA individuals who aren’t clairvoyant) view them as freaks who must be eradicated for the good of society.

I did have a couple problems with this book. First of all, I thought it was poorly edited. There were quite a few times when I just had to shake my head in wonder because the mistakes were glaringly obvious. At times I’d come across an error and would have to pause because I felt as though I’d misread something. It was all a bit annoying.

Also, I wish I had known there was a glossary because it would have made understanding the various slang terms a lot easier. It’s located at the back of the book, which might explain why I didn’t notice it until I was finished. Since the map was at the front of the book I suppose I expected the glossary to be there as well.

Overall, I really enjoyed “The Bone Season.” I thought it was an engaging read with fascinating characters. I’m definitely looking forward to the next book in the series. I just hope the publishers do a better job of copy editing the next time around.


Steelheart - Brandon Sanderson Brandon Sanderson really is an amazing writer. I have yet to read any of his epic fantasy series, but the two YA books I read by him were amazing! I can’t wait to delve into his more expansive writings. It’s crazy to think he’s already written over 13 books since he was first published in 2005. He truly is a prolific writer.

I really enjoyed “Steelheart.” The prologue was absolutely riveting. Sanderson built his newest series around the old adage, “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” When a mysterious phenomenon granted ordinary people extraordinary powers it didn’t take long for society to collapse. These gifted individuals became known as “Epics.” I won’t waste your time trying to summarize the book since you can easily find all the pertinent information in the synopsis.

If you’re a fan of the television series “Heroes,” then you’ll probably love this book. It’s crammed with fast-paced action and plenty of unexpected twists. I really enjoyed learning about the different Epics and their abilities. Overall, I thought “Steelheart” was very well-written. I’m definitely looking forward to the next book in the series!

Practical Magic

Practical Magic - Alice Hoffman I thought I knew what to expect when I started reading this book, but boy was I wrong. I’ve seen the movie featuring Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman multiple times. It’s actually one of my favorites and I always try to watch it at least once during the month of October.

I know, I know. I shouldn’t expect the movie adaptation to stay true to the book. A girl can hope though, right? Bottom line - the book is crazy different from the movie.

Surprisingly, I don’t think the movie ruined the book for me at all. Sometimes after you’ve read a book and then watch the movie adaptation, you feel cheated because it wasn’t near as good as your imagination. Luckily, this wasn’t the case. In fact, I think the movie version of “Practical Magic” is considerably better than the book.

Don’t get me wrong, I truly enjoyed the book. I just feel as though the movie had a bit more action, whereas the book was more focused on literariness. Who knew literariness could be considered dull? ;p

I adored Alice Hoffman’s writing style. She lights your imagination on fire and then leaves you scrambling for more. In this book she didn’t use chapters, which I found interesting. When I first started reading “Practical Magic” I told myself I’d take a break after the first chapter, but after reading 40 pages I flipped ahead and realized she’d broken her book up into parts. I guess I’ve just gotten used to setting stopping points by chapter and was a little surprised when I couldn’t do that with this book.

I also noticed I was more of an observer than a participant. You’re probably shaking your head and wondering, “What is she babbling on about?” Well, one of the main reasons why I enjoy reading so much is because it allows me to become someone else. I wasn’t really able to do this in “Practical Magic,” but I thought the descriptions were lovely.

I definitely intend on reading more of Hoffman’s books!


Poison - Bridget Zinn Bridget Zinn definitely accomplished her goal of writing a “book with pockets of warmth and happiness.” I thought “Poison” was charming and wholly genuine. All too often YA books are strewn with heavy topics that aren’t suitable for teenagers. It was refreshing to read about a strong young woman who wasn’t afraid to be herself.

There were a couple copy editing mistakes, but nothing too glaring. The ending contained a twist I wasn’t quite expecting, which was pleasantly surprising. Looking back, the twist almost seems as though it was thrown in to tie up loose ends because I certainly wasn’t expecting it. Some parts felt a bit forced, but overall I thought this book was an enjoyable read.

White Cat

White Cat - Holly Black I read “White Cat” fairly quickly. I thought it was an enjoyable read, hence the reason why I gave it four stars. Holly Black does a great job creating an alternative world where some people can kill, maim or steal your luck with a mere touch. These gifted individuals are known as curse workers. Some have a skill that’s somewhat useful, whereas others possess a talent that’s potentially deadly. I loved how Black was able to shape her book around the criminal underworld. She certainly did a lot of research on different criminal societies across the world.

Even though Black put a lot of thought into creating a world shaped by criminal overlords, there were still some aspects I found confusing. She explained most everything really well, but other aspects felt a bit muddled. My favorite character by far was Granddad. When I pictured him I couldn't help but imagine Dean Martin ;p.

dean martin photo: dean martin dean-martin01.jpg

All Our Yesterdays

All Our Yesterdays - Cristin Terrill It was really hard for me to decide how many stars I should give this book. On one hand, I liked how I was constantly kept on my toes. I wanted to know what would happen next, which probably explains why I read it so quickly. I personally wasn't too fond of Marina, but Em openly acknowledges her weaknesses. I thought the love triangle aspect was quite interesting. I also liked the political side. It's scary to admit, but sometimes I feel as though we're slipping more and more toward a future similar to the one portrayed in this book.

I thought the time machine concept was very well thought out. I used to be pretty keen on time travel books when I was younger, but it didn't take me too long to realize they typically don't work out too well. Time is a finicky thing. Even though you're only trying to fix things for the better, your actions typically just come back and bite you in the rear. Enjoyable book, but nothing too exciting.

Cinnamon and Gunpowder: A Novel

Cinnamon and Gunpowder: A Novel - Eli Brown I absolutely LOVED “Cinnamon and Gunpowder.” It’s one of those books you're almost reluctant to finish because then you'll have to admit it's finally over. The author did a smash up job mingling something along the lines of “Pirates of the Caribbean” with mouthwatering food. It took me a bit longer to finish than normal, but I fully think this book is one that’s meant to be savored. The few times I read more than a few chapters I felt somewhat hollow. It was as though I wasn’t able to fully absorb all of the imagery and nuances of life aboard a pirate ship.

There were quite a few terms or phrases I wasn’t familiar with, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I learned quite a bit. I thought the role Wedgwood played was interesting. I’ve never read a book that so flawlessly combined food, adventure and romance. I’ll admit some of the scenarios weren’t very likely to occur in real life, but pirate lore is built around exaggerating the truth.

I fully intend on purchasing this book for my personal library. I imagine it’s one I’ll have to reread every few years.

The Demon King

The Demon King - Cinda Williams Chima I technically didn't finish this book since I ended up skimming through to the end shortly after the halfway mark. I tried to hold out and read all the way through, but things were moving along at a snail’s pace. I don’t always need action and adventure, but when the characters become stagnant I have no desire to invest my precious time reading something that’s frankly not worth it.

The plot finally started to pick up a bit when Han and Raisa met for the first time, but unfortunately it slowed right back down. No wonder I decided to start skimming. I’m certainly glad I did considering the remainder of the book wasn’t all that great. There were a few high points, but nothing too exciting.

Ah, well. I’m probably being a bit harsh, but I hate it when something I thought I’d really enjoy turns out to be a dud. There was a ton of potential nestled within this story, but Cinda Williams Chima totally missed the mark. It’s quite sad to see a potentially epic book fall flat :/.

Gone Girl

Gone Girl - Gillian Flynn It’s a bit ironic, but I ended up reading Gillian Flynn’s older books before I was able to read her highly acclaimed “Gone Girl.” I first read “Sharp Objects,” which captured my attention from the first paragraph. It contained many dark moments, but I was left marveling at Flynn’s prowess over words long after the last page. I read “Dark Places” next and really struggled with the flamboyant overuse of profanity. Despite my distaste for the senseless cursing, the mystery aspect of this story was quite thrilling. Flynn truly does have a knack for writing compelling psychological thrillers.

Therefore, it's no wonder why I found “Gone Girl” riveting. The first part of the story was a bit slow, but it achieved its goal of making me question Lance. I can’t tell you how many times I changed my mind regarding whether he was guilty. I was completely suckered by Amy’s fictitious diary entries. The second portion immediately captured my attention, which meant I spent the rest of my Saturday eagerly poring over the well-thumbed pages of my library copy.

The relationship between Amy and Lance was quite twisted. Amy’s retaliation against those who wronged her was truly chilling. Despite her obvious lack of mercy, her methodical nature of making sure she got her revenge garnered my grudging respect. On the other hand, Lance came across as quite weak and easily manipulated. Even though the characters weren’t the most admirable, Flynn manages to make their viewpoints come alive. I found myself sympathizing with Amy in one chapter and in the next ready to throttle her for conning almost everyone so flawlessly. I'm definitely excited to see the movie :D.

Monument 14

Monument 14 - Emmy Laybourne I was a bit surprised by this book considering the mixed reviews it garnered on Goodreads. At first, I was somewhat timid about letting myself become absorbed in the story because I had already half decided it was probably going to be a downer. Yet, it didn’t take me too long to become completely embroiled in the turmoil these children were facing. I thought the introductory paragraph was a bit cheesy, so don’t judge the book by those first few sentences.

Dean, the main character, appeared to be a total wussy the first few chapters. He does improve with time (at least enough to make it worthwhile), so I can’t complain too much. It doesn’t take long for you to start picking your favorite characters. I really liked Niko and hope I’d be able to react similarly in a crisis. I’m a wannabe prepper (totally extraneous information, but true). Therefore it’s not hard to imagine why I love books addressing preparedness and how to survive in a catastrophic situation. I stormed through this book in a few days and was left wanting more. I hadn't even finished the first book when I decided to check out the sequel. I'd say that's a sure sign of a good book ;p.

Sometimes I feel as though young adult books contain content not suitable for teenagers. I’m probably going to sound like a huge prude, but most teenagers aren’t mature enough to make good decisions (insert huge cacophony of protest here). When a book intended for teens casually portrays drugs, alcohol, skanky dressing, and sex (unprotected sex as a matter of fact) as the norm it sort of bothers me. I understand kids are more mature than they were even ten years ago, but a line needs to be drawn. There is a major difference between children learning necessary life lessons and overexposing them. We’re all so quick to point out teenagers are not adults. Yet, the content of most young adult books nowadays seems to suggest just the opposite. No wonder kids seem to be so confused. They’re surrounded by mixed messages.

I think there is a more responsible way to teach children how to make informed decisions and establish good life skills. Inundating young minds with the idea it’s okay and even expected for them to engage in these shameful activities is not the answer. In the past few years there have been numerous instances when I am shocked and sometimes even appalled by the content I come across in young adult books. We’re failing miserably if this is the way we nourish young minds. I try not to let it weigh too much on my mind, but at the rate we’re going I sometimes find the future of society intensely frightening. One day we’ll look back and wonder, “What were we thinking?” And the truly sad part is I don’t think anyone will know how to answer that question.

Lips Touch: Three Times

Lips Touch: Three Times - Jim Di Bartolo, Laini Taylor I’m always somewhat impressed by Laini Taylor’s choice in character names. They’re highly unusual and, yet, she makes them work. I thought these three short stories were well written, but nothing to get too excited about. I will admit, it’s fun to see someone create their own fairy tales :). Ever since I stumbled across Christina Rossetti’s poetry a few years back I’ve been entranced by her writing style. Despite my admiration for Rossetti, I wasn’t a big fan of Taylor’s interpretation of the Goblin Market. Although I suppose she left readers with a good lesson: don’t covet because it can easily consume you. I definitely think this is a prevalent problem in modern society.

The second story was interesting, but I didn’t like the nickname for the old lady (you know what I mean if you’ve read it). I thought it was a bit crass and didn’t add any value to the story. Other than this issue, I thought the story was well-written. I enjoyed reading about the love between Annamique and James. The ending was quite pleasing as well.

The third story was quite different from the other two and contained some beautiful imagery. I thought parts of it were reminiscent of “Daughter of Smoke and Bone,” but these similarities were subtle. At times, I thought the Druj Queen had some similarities with the Snow Queen from Hans Christian Anderson’s classic fairytale. The casual cruelty of the Druj was brilliantly depicted. There were times when I was left shivering at their callous nature. Humans were nothing more than playthings to them. In a way I suppose they’re quite similar to vampires, but much more creatively imagined. I personally didn't like the fact that the Druj were able to possess babies when they were still in their mothers' womb and steal a bit of their soul. Creepy.

Overall, I thought these short stories were beautifully crafted with stunning imagery.