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Mini-reviews: Imprison the Sky + The Cold is in Her Bones

pub 1/22/19 by Bloomsbury
Young Adult - Fantasy
Received from pub for review
I remember when I heard Imprison the Sky wouldn’t feature Shalia as the main heroine anymore I couldn’t help feeling slightly disappointed because of how invested I felt in her, her family and other relationships. But having reading Imprison the Sky, I now understand why A.C. Gaughen chose to do so. It completely expanded the world and exposed readers to even more of what this series has to offer while still keeping the same elements I loved from its predecessor – adventure, personal journeys, family and romance. Aspasia is the captain of her own trading ship through Cyrus’ black market but what most don’t know is that she uses her powerful Air magic to free women, children and Elementae from slavery at great risk to herself and her crew (who are of course in on it!). But her powers are a secret to anyone outside of her ship, including Cyrus, but Aspasia fears that her abilities and her mission to find her younger siblings will soon be exposed. I thought the author did a great job of balancing this new chapter of the story while connecting it to the overarching plot and characters introduced in Reign the Earth. If anything, the stakes are higher than ever and I enjoyed seeing how it all overlapped. It made me even more curious to see how she’ll continue the trend in what’s to come! (My guess is there will be two books and I certainly hope I’m right!)

Do I recommend?:  I do! I’ll admit, Reign the Earth is still my favorite because something about Shalia really struck a chord with me but I was definitely invested this one too. I can’t wait to see what book 3 will bring.


pub 1/22/19 by Margaret K.
McElderry Books
YA - Fantasy Retelling
Received from pub for review
When I found out that The Cold Is In Her Bones was inspired by the Medusa, I couldn't resist checking it out. I know of her but I don't actually know what her origin story is so I went into this book expecting something dark and twisty, which is exactly what I got and then some. Milla has been under careful and strict watch her entire life. She's not allowed to go to the village, bears the heavy criticism of her parents and her only friend is her brother Niklas. When a girl named Iris comes to stay at her family's farm, she finally has friendship but also finds out a secret that's been purposely kept from her – the village is cursed by a demon who possesses girls by a certain age and everyone lives in constant fear of who could be chosen next. When Iris becomes possessed and imprisoned, Milla ventures out to save her only to discover that she's changing too (let's just say Milla is a far braver girl than I!). From the get go, I found the story intriguing and the fear is a palpable thing on nearly every page. But I felt a disconnect from the characters and it was only the writing, which made it a fast read, that initially kept me going. However, it does hit its stride in the fourth and final part of the book. It was in those chapters that I found myself caring about Milla, Iris, her family and the dynamics between them all. The end certainly felt satisfying to me and I wish it had found that pacing and emotion earlier in the book.

Do I recommend?: I didn't like it enough to see myself recommending it however if you're interested in myths and how this Medusa tale could unfold, I think it's worth checking out and seeing for yourself.

Where To Next

Credit
A new year means a lot of different things to everyone but for me, it most definitely means new places to travel to. I usually start thinking about possible destinations for the upcoming year by November (because I'm a planner like that) and personally whenever I tell friends or family where I'm headed, it's usually followed by the question: "Why did you decide to go there?"

It got me thinking about how I make my travel plans and I'm hoping that by sharing my little tips, I might help someone else choose what their next trip could be.

1. No idea where to go but I do know my budget
I'm not going to lie––more often than not, I fall into this category. When it comes to destinations, I firmly believe that you could drop me anywhere and I'll find some way to entertain myself and discover something new. That said, I do often look to Europe for abroad destinations (something I need to fix because I desperately want to visit Asia and parts of South America as well). I generally know my budget and timing (I prefer to travel any time except between Thanksgiving and New Year), so I'm basically open to any and all ideas. Which is why I love using Skyscanner and Google Flights.


Skyscanner has the best search for flights. In the "To" field, you can select "Can't decide where? Click here to search Everywhere" and if you don't have any specific dates you can search an entire month or even cheapest month. It's how I decided to go to Dublin three years ago. A friend I were talking about our next trip and asked me if I had any ideas. I literally did a quick search on Skyscanner right after she texted, responded with three options 5 minutes later, which included Dublin and we picked that.

Google Flights is similar in that it'll let you explore destinations for flexible dates or you can search for good weekend trips or week-long ones. It doesn't let you search dates by what's cheapest though but the results will point out better than usual deals.


2. Bucket lists
If you love travel and want to make sure you set aside time each year to go somewhere, make a bucket list of destinations. I used to have a list where I just randomly added things all the time for no rhyme or reason. But a few months ago I wrote down a very specific lists of places I'd like to see and a couple years ago I even made a BFF travel bucket list with Alexa which we actually used to help us decide our next trip.


3. Think about safety
Whether you're traveling with another person, a group of friends and most especially alone, I always consider safety. It's not the funnest part of the travel planning but it's practical and shouldn't be ignored. When I decided to take my first solo trip, I looked at so many lists about the safest places for female solo travelers and even after I decided on London, I still searched for the safest areas to stay in. I also check the Travel Advisories on the US Government website and I make sure to be aware of the news. I actually ended up changing another trip I had hoped to go on last year because it didn't seem like the best time for it. So definitely take safety into consideration when choosing a destination.


4. What's popular on social media and blogs
World of Wanderlust, one of my most trusted references for travel!
It should come as no surprise that Instagram and the various travel blogs I follow are great sources of inspiration to me. There's the Bucket List Family, World of Wanderlust, Dame Traveler, Paris in Four Months, Polka Dot Passport and the Travelettes are some of my favorites to follow. I often to turn to them for recommendations after I've booked a trip as well. Honestly, all you need to do is search travel hashtags in Instagram and you will be flooded with beautiful photos that will undoubtedly give you some ideas (and some major wanderlust!).


5. Word of mouth and don't forget to ask friends
I don't know if I ever would've thought about traveling to Iceland if it hadn't been for my cousin and his wife sharing stories (and photos) with me about what an amazing experience it was. I'm also lucky to have people in my life who love traveling as much as I do, so they're yet another source of inspiration for travel and even better, it's coming from someone whose opinion I trust. Likewise, my trips have lead others to ask me for recommendations. If you know someone who enjoys traveling, ask them about it!

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So those are all my tips! And to prove that I do indeed use them myself, my next trip is to Paris with Alexa and how we decided on this was a mix of #1 and #2 on my list. It was November of last year and I mentioned to her that we should start thinking about where to go in 2019. At first we were just throwing around ideas and using Skyscanner to determine timing and what was cheapest. Then I remembered the bucket list we put together so we looked at that. Alexa pointed out Paris and I immediately checked Skyscanner, Hopper (for tracking flights) and AirBnb to get an idea of pricing which was incredibly cheap at the time and literally two hours later, we had it all booked! I cannot wait to return to that beautiful city.

Tell me, where are you thinking of traveling to next?

What I'm Watching | The Last Kingdom, Bodyguard + The Magicians

In case you needed convincing that I love BBC and/or shows about magic, look no further than this installment of What I'm Watching!

The Last Kingdom
It seemed like every time I opened up Netflix, The Last Kingdom would be featured so I decided to give it a shot. I ended up binging all three seasons in a matter of weeks! I was hooked from the start but it didn't hurt that Alexander Dreymon, who plays the lead role, is ridiculously good-looking (look up videos of him speaking French and he manages to look even hotter – not that I did that or anything). The show is based on Bernard Cornwell books, The Saxon Stories and started off on BBC first before finding its new home on Netflix for season 3. It's set during the period when the Danes were invading Anglo-Saxon lands and follows Uhtred of Bebbanburg (Dreymon) whose family is killed by the Danes while he's taken in as a slave by Earl Ragnar but later treated as a son. The big theme of the show is about how Uhtred is at war with himself over his place in the world. Is he a Dane or a Saxon or can he be both? It's this constant struggle that affects his decisions as his path crosses with friends and family, new and old, and a monarchy who'd use his battle prowess while scornfully calling him a heathen. Even though the stories often move at break-neck speed, I love that it's never boring and that it's constantly moving forward. Plus it's just such an interesting time period because the royalty I mentioned is King Alfred of Wessex, who strove for a united kingdom for all of England and a real person from history. I often found myself googling characters to find out who was real and fiction but regardless, they were all extremely well-cast (even if I didn't necessarily like who they were playing!). They just got renewed for season 4 so I started following them on Twitter and Instagram to hold me over while I wait!


Bodyguard
Keeping on track with my love of all things BBC, I started watching Bodyguard although my main motivation was Richard Madden (RIP Rob Stark) who plays the lead Sergeant David Budd. Budd is an Afghanistan war veteran, battling with PTSD, and working as a specialist protection officer for the Royalty and Special Protection Branch of London Police. Right off the bat, we see how heroic and skilled he is and he soon gets promoted to become a bodyguard for Home Secretary Julia Montague, whose politics he doesn't agree with at all. I literally can't say anymore than that because it would ruin it for anyone who decides to watch (and you really, really should). But I will say the pacing was sharp, the acting phenomenal and half the time I didn't know what to believe but in a good way. I thought having this part mystery, thrilled and drama span across 6 episodes, which may seem like too little on page, was actually perfect. They didn't waste a single moment keeping viewers on their toes and making jaws drop (mine certainly did!). Right now, it doesn't seem clear if they're going to do a second series but if they can match the quality of season one and bring back Richard Madden, I'll definitely watch.


The Magicians
I started watching The Magicians towards the end of summer but then had to wait until only a few weeks ago for season 3 to finally be available on Netflix. Now I'm all caught up and ready to tell you what I think plus start season 4 on January 23. Clearly, I'm a fan of the show! I'll admit it was a bit touch and go at times. In my own words I'd describe Harry Potter set in college but with sex, drugs and profanity. Officially, it's a fantasy series based on the books by Lev Grossman and follows Quentin Coldwater as he enrolls at Brakebills University to be trained as a magician. Not only does he find out that magic is real but he also discovers that the fantasy world described in his favorite childhood books are real too. Real should also be interpreted as dangerous in this case, which he and his eventual friends find out too. The other main character is is Quentin's best friend Julia who goes down a dangerous path when she's denied admittance to Brakebills. These two are the catalyst for the series but other characters quickly join the fold and all their stories evolved in ways I did not see coming! A couple things to be warned of: half the time you won't like some of the characters and in fact, you may intensely dislike Quentin for the first two seasons (like I did) but stick it out. The world is just so interesting and really enjoy their take on magic. By season 3, the show hits its stride and I was super impressed by the finale. Even though I have other favorite characters, I actually started to like Quentin by then too.


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What are you watching right now?