Showing posts with label Review. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Review. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Review: Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova

Labyrinth Lost (Brooklyn Brujas, #1)Title: Labyrinth Lost
Author: Zoraida Córdova
Source/Format: FIREreads; ibooks eBook
More Details: Young Adult; Fantasy 
Publisher/Publication Date: Sourcebooks Fire; September 6, 2016

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Synopsis from Goodreads...

Nothing says Happy Birthday like summoning the spirits of your dead relatives...

Alex is a bruja, the most powerful witch in a generation...and she hates magic. At her Deathday celebration, Alex performs a spell to rid herself of her power. But it backfires. Her whole family vanishes into thin air, leaving her alone with Nova, a brujo boy she can't trust. A boy whose intentions are as dark as the strange marks on his skin. The only way to get her family back is to travel with Nova to Los Lagos, a land in-between, as dark as Limbo and as strange as Wonderland...
Labyrinth Lost is one of those books I’ve been looking forward to reading since it came out in September of last year. I have finally read the book, and oh man, I’m glad that I did because it was an amazing story. From the magic and its ties to traditions, I loved everything about the book. Labyrinth Lost was very much a story about self-discovery and told from the perspective of Alejandra (Alex) Mortiz. Zoraida Córdova created a truly lovely story about magic, family, and the consequences of one’s actions.

From the start, Labyrinth Lost had a premise that seemed kind of awesome. I mean, come on, we’ve got Deathdays, Brujas, and Brujos. Luckily Córdova takes full advantage of the themes that influenced the core plot. There was something about the story that seemed so vibrant, and the characters came alive on the page because of it. Parts of the story had a wonderland vibe, but Córdova created a darkly enchanting atmosphere that was full of danger and magic—it made the story wholly unique.

There were lessons to be learned, and Alex learned them the hard way…

Alex was a tough character to like at the beginning of the story. She was rough around the edges, and her mindset was relatively unreasonable. She did a lot of things that were against better judgment and acted kind of bratty. However, the gradual character development she went through was noticeable because of where she started out. So, I did like the friendships/relationships between the characters. Then there was Nova. Even though I didn’t like his character that much, he had an air of mystery to him that did make his backstory interesting.

Los Lagos—oh man, it’s been a while since I read a fantasy novel that had such a cool and highly imaginative setting. The only other book that really comes to mind is Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi. Still, Las Lagos is definitely one of my favorites.

Labyrinth Lost is one of the best books I’ve read so far in 2017—right up there on the list with The Hate U Give. Now, I’m really looking forward to the sequel.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Review: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

The Hate U GiveTitle: The Hate U Give
Author: Angie Thomas
Source/Format: Borrowed from the Library; Hardcover
More Details: Young Adult; Contemporary
Publisher/Publication Date: Balzer + Bray; February 28, 2017

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Synopsis from Goodreads...

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed. Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil's name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr. But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.
I have so much to say about The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. Yet, I hesitate to say anything at all, because I really don’t want to accidently spoil this book. You have to read The Hate U Give to fully understand and grasp the story that Angie Thomas wrote, which is a much better option than if I tried to explain it in this review. The Hate U Give deals with a very contemporary and relevant topic, and that’s why I was excited to read this book.

The Hate U Give kept it real in the best way possible.

This was the kind of book I wish I’d gotten the chance to read back when I first started blogging—when I was still a teen. This book deals with its main themes—racism, prejudice, and police brutality—told from the perspective of a character who lives through that experience, a firsthand POV. There was something about the story that seemed authentic and honest. In that way, The Hate U Give more than lives up to the hype.

And I’m going to be honest, I almost never cry while reading. I can read about the demise of a favorite character—or characters—and have a case of extremely dry eyes. But, there was just something about The Hate U Give that made me tear up more than once. I can’t say that I’ve never encountered this kind of emotional depth before, but the circumstances, the characters, and Starr’s perspective is what ultimately got to me.

One of the highlights of this book was Starr Carter and her family. I’m not going to say too much about them, but just know that I absolutely loved them! I especially liked how Starr still had a life. While the above mentioned themes were the primary focus of the book, there was also time to examine the other parts of Starr’s life. And, I really liked how Thomas handled the emotional repercussions and how it directly affected Starr.

Okay, I could go on and on about how much I loved The Hate U Give, and why it was such an important read for me. However, I’m going to end the review here by saying that I’m looking forward to Angie Thomas’ next book.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Review: The Crooked Sixpence by Jennifer Bell

The Crooked Sixpence (The Uncommoners #1)Title: The Crooked Sixpence
Author: Jennifer Bell
Source/Format: Borrowed from the Library; Hardcover
More Details: Middle Grade; Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: Crown Books For Young Readers; January 31, 2017
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Synopsis from Goodreads...

Welcome to a world where nothing is quite as it seems…

When their grandmother Sylvie is rushed to the hospital, Ivy Sparrow and her annoying big brother Seb cannot imagine what adventure lies in store. Soon their house is ransacked by unknown intruders, and a very strange policeman turns up on the scene, determined to apprehend them . . . with a toilet brush. Ivy and Seb make their escape only to find themselves in a completely uncommon world, a secret underground city called Lundinor where ordinary objects have amazing powers. There are belts that enable the wearer to fly, yo-yos that turn into weapons, buttons with healing properties, and other enchanted objects capable of very unusual feats. But the forces of evil are closing in fast, and when Ivy and Seb learn that their family is connected to one of the greatest uncommon treasures of all time, they must race to unearth the treasure and get to the bottom of a family secret . . . before it’s too late...
The Crooked Sixpence by Jennifer Bell was just one of those books that I don’t really have too much to say about. There are a couple of reasons for that. There’s a lot that goes on and much of it starts in the first couple of chapters. I’m going to quickly go over what I did and didn’t like about the story.

I’m going to start with what I didn’t like about The Crooked Sixpence. Some of the situations seemed almost too convenient and easily solved. These things and situations were supposed to be dangerous, but didn't quite get there.  Also there were a couple of offhand comments made by Ivy and Seb that I disliked. Since the character isn’t mentioned in the synopsis, I won’t give a name. However, I will say that there are more imaginative ways to describe brown skin than with a food analogy,

There were some things that I liked about The Crooked Sixpence, namely the plot and the magic. The story moved along pretty quickly, and the questions introduced at the beginning set up a relatively interesting conflict. The conflict is what kept me reading more than the interactions between the characters. The magic was pretty neat and I liked the idea surrounding ordinary objects that weren’t quite what they initially seemed to be. There was something fun and whimsical about them that was almost humorous but also kind of dangerous given what some of them could actually do.

While I did have a couple of problems with this one, the end left the characters at an interesting place. As such, I would still consider checking out the next book in the series.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Review: The Wrath & The Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

The Wrath & the Dawn (The Wrath & the Dawn, #1)Title: The Wrath & the Dawn
Author: Renee Ahdieh
Source/Format: Borrowed from the Library; Hardcover
More Details: Young Adult; Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers; May 12, 2015
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Synopsis from Goodreads...

One Life to One Dawn...

In a land ruled by a murderous boy-king, each dawn brings heartache to a new family. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, is a monster. Each night he takes a new bride only to have a silk cord wrapped around her throat come morning. When sixteen-year-old Shahrzad's dearest friend falls victim to Khalid, Shahrzad vows vengeance and volunteers to be his next bride. Shahrzad is determined not only to stay alive, but to end the caliph's reign of terror once and for all. Night after night, Shahrzad beguiles Khalid, weaving stories that enchant, ensuring her survival, though she knows each dawn could be her last. But something she never expected begins to happen: Khalid is nothing like what she'd imagined him to be. This monster is a boy with a tormented heart. Incredibly, Shahrzad finds herself falling in love. How is this possible? It's an unforgivable betrayal. Still, Shahrzad has come to understand all is not as it seems in this palace of marble and stone. She resolves to uncover whatever secrets lurk and, despite her love, be ready to take Khalid's life as retribution for the many lives he's stolen. Can their love survive this world of stories and secrets?

Inspired by A Thousand and One Nights, The Wrath and the Dawn is a sumptuous and enthralling read from beginning to end...
Lately, I’ve had a string of books that I was really looking forward to, but they just ended up being okay for me. The same can be said about The Wrath & The Dawn by Renee Ahdieh. There was nothing particularly bad about the story I just didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would. 

After reading The Star-Touched Queen I was like “yes, give me more fantasy books that don’t clearly have medieval-like themes.” So, of course I was kind of excited to see what Ahdieh could do with a story like A Thousand and One Nights. I wanted to know what kinds of twists there would be, and how Shahrzad would be portrayed.

Hmm. I read this book relatively quickly, but had to take a couple of days before I decided on what rating I wanted to put up on even Goodreads. Like I stated above, The Wrath & The Dawn wasn’t a bad story. There were some things that I genuinely liked about the book, especially the stories that Shahrzad told to Khalid and Ahdieh’s writing. However, I felt like there was something missing from the whole reading experience. My main problem with this one was that as I was reading the story, I didn’t feel much. I didn’t have much of an emotional response to the story or the situations the characters happened to be in outside of a few scenes. That’s what made writing this kind of hard. Now that I’ve gone back and looked at the synopsis while setting up this blog post, I’ve kind of realized that it tells a lot about the actual story. I just wish that it didn’t do that, because as these things were actually happening in the book, I was already kind of unconsciously expecting them.

Okay, with that out of the way, I’m going to talk about some of the others things I liked. It mainly included the setting and a few of the side characters. The descriptions of the scenery were pretty close to amazing. While much of the story revolved around Shahrzad, the parts where more of the society outside of royal life was shown were some of my favorite scenes. Now, there were a handful of side characters that kind of made the story. At times, I was more interested in what they were doing instead of Shahrzad.

So, I don’t know. I might read the last book in this duology, but I don’t really know when that’ll actually happen.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Review: Ghostly Echoes by William Ritter

Ghostly Echoes (Jackaby, #3)Title: Ghostly Echoes
Author: William Ritter
Source/Format: Won; Hardcover
More Details: Young Adult; Historical; Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: Algonquin Young Readers; August 23, 2016

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Synopsis from Goodreads...

Jenny Cavanaugh, the ghostly lady of 926 Augur Lane, has enlisted the investigative services of her fellow residents to solve a decade-old murder—her own. Abigail Rook and her eccentric employer, Detective R. F. Jackaby, dive into the cold case, starting with a search for Jenny’s fiancé, who went missing the night she died. But when a new, gruesome murder closely mirrors the events of ten years prior, Abigail and Jackaby realize that Jenny’s case isn’t so cold after all, and her killer may be far more dangerous than they suspected.

Fantasy and folklore mix with mad science as Abigail’s race to unravel the mystery leads her across the cold cobblestones of nineteenth-century New England, down to the mythical underworld, and deep into her colleagues’ grim histories to battle the most deadly foe she has ever faced...
This is another one of those books that I really had to stop and think about what I’d read before trying to write out the review. Except, this time it took me a lot longer than usual to finally get back to Ghostly Echoes. I read Ghostly Echoes back in early February, and I've just now gotten around to talking about it on the blog. I don't normally start with the third book in a series. However, I already had this book on my shelf, and I wanted to see if this was a series I would be interested in continuing before getting the other books. Honestly, there were some things about the story that I have some mixed feelings about, but the mystery and paranormal elements were actually pretty interesting.

Going into this book, I didn’t know much about the series or Ghostly Echoes. But, the idea of a ghost playing a part in trying to solve her own cold case murder was enough of an incentive to get me to read this book. This sounded like the kind of mystery I would actually enjoy reading. If I think about Ghostly Echoes as a whole, it wasn’t bad at all. And that mystery I was so interested in was the focus of the story. While the mystery was one of the more important aspects of the book, there were also others scenes that illustrated the relationship dynamics between the characters. I particularly liked those more personal scenes.

Since I got such a late start in the series I didn’t know much about the history of the characters. However, there was enough dialogue and bits and pieces of experiences recounted by the characters that I didn’t have any trouble getting into the story. The characters were okay. Jackaby was fine, but I don’t have much to say about him other than the fact that he had a very interesting ability. Abigail’s role in the story was, just like Jackaby’s, fine. I didn’t mind reading from her perspective.

Now, there is one more thing I want to make mention of before I end this review, and that’s the villains. You can’t have a good mystery without good villains to be in that antagonistic role. And Ghostly Echoes had villains that were cunning, ruthless, and coldhearted—which is what made the mystery so good.

So, Ghostly Echoes was a pretty good book. Now that I’ve read it, I would be interested in eventually going back and reading the rest of the series.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Review: Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi

FurthermoreTitle: Furthermore
Author: Tahereh Mafi
Source/Format: Borrowed from the Library;Hardcover
More Details: Middle Grade; Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: Dutton Books For Young Readers; August 30, 2016
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Synopsis from Goodreads...

A captivating and colorful adventure that reads like a modern day fairy tale, from the bestselling author of the Shatter Me series...

Inspired by her childhood love of books like The Secret Garden and The Chronicles of Narnia, bestselling author Tahereh Mafi crafts a spellbinding new world where color is currency, adventure is inevitable, and friendship is found in the most unexpected places...

There are only three things that matter to twelve-year-old Alice Alexis Queensmeadow: Mother, who wouldn’t miss her; magic and color, which seem to elude her; and Father, who always loved her. The day Father disappears from Ferenwood he takes nothing but a ruler with him. But it’s been almost three years since then, and Alice is determined to find him. She loves her father even more than she loves adventure, and she’s about to embark on one to find the other. But bringing Father home is no small matter. In order to find him she’ll have to travel through the mythical, dangerous land of Furthermore, where down can be up, paper is alive, and left can be both right and very, very wrong. It will take all of Alice's wits (and every limb she's got) to find Father and return home to Ferenwood in one piece. On her quest to find Father, Alice must first find herself—and hold fast to the magic of love in the face of loss...

So, a couple of years ago I read Shatter Me and didn’t enjoy it. I didn’t think I would ever pick up another book by Tahereh Mafi after that, but obviously that has changed. I recently read Furthermore and was surprised by how much I actually enjoyed the book. It was fun, the writing was very descriptive, the setting was magical and colorful, and the story gave me some serious Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland vibes.

The synopsis states that this is a story about a girl trying to find her father, and the adventure she goes on to do just that. I can agree with that since that’s basically what happens. My only complaint was that it took a while for anything to really happen. However, I can overlook that because I thought it was nice to see what Alice’s life was like before she had her grand adventure. It also set up the ground rules of how the magic worked.

As for the characters, I did like the majority of them, and there was no one that I really considered to be an antagonist. Alice Alexis Queensmeadow was pretty interesting. Unlike the rest of her town, she had no color except for in her eyes and sometimes her cheeks. Part of why I picked up this book was that I wanted to see how her colorless condition was going to work with the rest of the story, and what her ability would be. Alice felt sorry for herself in the beginning, so, it was nice to see her grow as the book progressed. Oliver, like Alice at the beginning of the book, was just alright but his character did eventually grow on me.

Now, the setting and magic were two of the more interesting parts of the book, and there were clear differences between Furthermore and Ferenwood. Ferenwood was a place that thrived on color, because color was a sign of magic. While there were some minor inconsistencies, I thought that it was an interesting idea that turned out to be pretty cool. Furthermore was just as interesting of a place as Ferenwood. It was also kind of dangerous and ruled by something that was undeniably random, which is why it kind of reminded me of Wonderland.

Overall, I really liked Furthermore. It turned out to be an interesting story. Now that I have read this book, I’m curious about how the Shatter Me trilogy actually ended. So, it’s highly likely that sometime in the near future, I’ll go back and read those books.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Review: Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

Truthwitch (The Witchlands, #1)Title: Truthwitch
Author: Susan Dennard
Source/Format: Borrowed from the Library; Hardcover
More Details: Young Adult; Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: Tor Teen; January 5, 2016

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Synopsis from Goodreads...

In a continent on the edge of war, two witches hold its fate in their hands...


Young witches Safiya and Iseult have a habit of finding trouble. After clashing with a powerful Guildmaster and his ruthless Bloodwitch bodyguard, the friends are forced to flee their home. Safi must avoid capture at all costs as she's a rare Truthwitch, able to discern truth from lies. Many would kill for her magic, so Safi must keep it hidden - lest she be used in the struggle between empires. And Iseult's true powers are hidden even from herself. In a chance encounter at Court, Safi meets Prince Merik and makes him a reluctant ally. However, his help may not slow down the Bloodwitch now hot on the girls' heels. All Safi and Iseult want is their freedom, but danger lies ahead. With war coming, treaties breaking and a magical contagion sweeping the land, the friends will have to fight emperors and mercenaries alike. For some will stop at nothing to get their hands on a Truthwitch...
Truthwitch by Susan Dennard is another one of those books I’ve been meaning to read. I’ve heard a lot about it. I’m also aware of the hype that surrounded the book around the time of its initial release, but Truthwitch was still a book I wanted to read. Low and behold, more than a year after it came out, I have finally read Truthwitch. I haven’t read anything else by Dennard, so I don’t have any other reference to go on besides what I’ve just read, but Truthwitch, man, it was just an average read. This is the second book I’ve recently read where I’m not sure if I want to continue on with the series. Despite that feeling, this book was a quick read. I read it in less than a day, and there was nothing egregiously bad about the story.

Truthwitch had its great moments, but more often than not, I found myself kind of bored and not because  there was a lack of action. Believe me, there was a lot of action. The bulk of the book involved action of some kind—whether that was in the form of a chase scene, one of the character having to sneak around, or a fight scene of some kind.

The magic was mostly cool. I liked how threads were used to explain emotions and relationships, but I didn’t really care for Safiya’s ability. The specialness of her ability was kind of lost on me, because early on she got duped, easily. I think my problem with this one was actually the main character. The beginning didn’t give me a good impression of Safiya, and the rest of the story didn’t do much for me either. Now, the characters weren’t all bad. I did like Iseult. She was by far my favorite character from Truthwitch, and I kept reading to see where her side of the story would ultimately end.

For me, the best part of Truthwitch were the friendships and the last couple of chapters where the story got a little more interesting. However, my meh feeling toward Truthwitch remained intact by the time I was done with the book. So, just like with The Girl at Midnight, I might wait until the last book comes out before I make a decision about whether I’ll continue reading this series or not.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Review: A Dash of Magic by Kathryn Littlewood

A Dash of Magic (The Bliss Bakery, #2)Title: A Dash of Magic
Author: Kathryn Littlewood
Source/Format: Purchased; Paperback
More Details: Middle Grade; Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: Katherine Tegen Books; February 12, 2013 

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Synopsis from Goodreads...

This second helping in Kathryn Littlewood's Bliss series combines hilarious magic and daring adventure to make one delectable reading treat...


Rosemary Bliss will do anything to get back her family's magical Cookery Booke. That's why she challenges Aunt Lily to an international baking competition in Paris: If Rose wins, Lily agrees to return the cookery Booke that she stole. If Rose loses...well, the consequences are too ugly to think about. But Lily isn't playing fair--she's using a magical ingredient to cheat. The only way for Rose to compete is for her to find magical ingredients of her own. Together with her long-lost grandpa, his sarcastic talking cat, and a turncoat French mouse, Rose and her brothers race around Paris to find essential--and elusive--magical ingredients that will help her outbake--and outmagic--her conniving aunt. She has to win or the Bliss Cookery Booke will be lost to her family forever...
A Dash of Magic picks up shortly after Bliss left off. After the theft of the Cookery Booke, the Bliss family had to make some changes, and their home town seemed worse-off because of it. The contrast to what the town was before and what it was presently in A Dash of Magic, really did kind of set-up part of the characters motivation for trying so hard to get the Cookery Booke back. That was honestly great. I loved that about the story. I enjoyed the fact that the characters were so motivated to do what they thought was right and that it wouldn’t only benefit them but most everyone around them.

The sense of family was great. I liked how involved the parents and Rosemary’s siblings were. I also liked how more of the Bliss family was included. It was interesting to see how Rosemary’s “long-lost grandpa” ran his bakery. On the other hand, Lily was a manipulative character. She was also selfish and power-hungry, contradicting her earlier claims. Those were the things I was kind of expecting from her character given her antagonistic role in the story.

The cooking and the magic were fantastic and happened to be what I liked most about A Dash of Magic. I still like the idea of having the ingredients being a source of magic. Part of the process was collecting those special ingredients, and the methods that the characters employed to do just that were pretty creative. It was just a really cool idea.

Like Bliss, I had one main problem with this story. This is kind of a pet peeve of mine, but I hate it when a character has no confidence in their obvious capabilities. They constantly reiterate that they can’t do something while actually doing it. Not just doing the thing they say they can’t, but also excelling at. Really, in this one, Rosemary falls prey to this mindset. The first time she says it, I can honestly understand and relate, because she, at that moment, fully realized the magnitude of the task that she had undertaken. However, after the second time, the third, and the fourth time these doubts were brought up, it got kind of repetitive.

Other than that one issue, A Dash of Magic wasn’t a bad story. Unfortunately, I’ve reached the end of the books I currently have for this series, but I would be open to reading the next installment.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey

The Girl at Midnight (The Girl at Midnight, #1)Title: The Girl at Midnight
Author: Melissa Grey
Source/Format: Borrowed from the Library; Hardcover
More Details: Young Adult; Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: Delacorte Press; April 28, 2015

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Synopsis from Goodreads...

Magic lives in our darkest corners...

Beneath the streets of New York City live the Avicen, an ancient race of people with feathers for hair and magic running through their veins. Age-old enchantments keep them hidden from humans. All but one. Echo is a runaway pickpocket who survives by selling stolen treasures on the black market, and the Avicen are the only family she’s ever known. Echo is clever and daring, and at times she can be brash, but above all else she’s fiercely loyal. So when a centuries-old war crests on the borders of her home, she decides it’s time to act. Legend has it that there is a way to end the conflict once and for all: find the firebird, a mythical entity believed to possess power the likes of which the world has never seen. It will be no easy task, though if life as a thief has taught Echo anything, it’s how to hunt down what she wants…and how to take it. But some jobs aren’t as straightforward as they seem. And this one might just set the world on fire...
Yo, this is one of those books I’ve been hearing about for what seems like forever. At first glance, The Girl at Midnight sounded like a book I was almost guaranteed to enjoy, but it just didn’t work out that way. This story had its great moments, but overall, it was just an average read for me.

There was nothing particularly bad about The Girl at Midnight, but I wasn’t very surprised by the story. That was really the biggest problem I had with this book. There were a lot of things that I personally found predictable about how the story actually did turn out, just based off of incredibly early foreshadowing. In some ways, the story strongly reminded me of Daughter of Smoke and Bone, and the magic and characters' backstories seemed similar to things I’ve already read.

There were a lot of perspectives that showed the different sides of the story from POV's outside of Echo’s. One thing I did like about this book was the dialogue. The conversations that happened between the characters were especially great, and some of the internal monologue turned out to be relatively entertaining. So, in that regard, The Girl at Midnight nailed it.

Echo was a mystery, and by the end of the book I still didn’t know very much about her character. There were hints about her circumstances, but the book focused on her interactions with the Avicen that she considered family and the role she played in their war. The synopsis describes her as a pickpocket, brash but fiercely loyal, and that about sums up Echo in a nutshell. I did like Echo’s friend a lot, she was a great character, and I particularly enjoyed the interactions between the two. Their conversations were nice, and they just seemed like good friends. I do have a lot of thoughts about the love interests, but that would be a lot to unpack in this review. I will say that they were just alright, but I didn’t really prefer either of them.

I’m still kind of conflicted about this story. I liked it, and there were some great moments. However, I just don’t know if I want to continue on with this series. Of course, that decision has to be mine, but I need more time to really think about it. I might wait till the third book comes out and then make a decision.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Rivals in the City by Y.S. Lee

Rivals in the City (The Agency #4)Title: Rivals in the City
Author: Y.S. Lee
Source/Format: Borrowed from the Library; Hardcover
More Details: Young Adult; Historical; Mystery
Publisher/Publication Date: Candlewick Press; March 10, 2015

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Synopsis from Goodreads...

In a tale steeped in action, romance, and the gaslit intrigue of Victorian London, Mary Quinn’s detective skills are pitted against a cunning and desperate opponent...

Mary Quinn has a lot on her mind. James Easton, her longtime love interest, wants to marry her; but despite her feelings, independent-minded Mary hesitates. Meanwhile, the Agency has asked Mary to take on a dangerous case: convicted fraudster Henry Thorold is dying in prison, and Mary must watch for the return of his estranged wife, an accomplished criminal herself who has a potentially deadly grudge against James. Finally, a Chinese prizefighter has arrived in town, and Mary can’t shake a feeling that he is somehow familiar. With the stakes higher than ever, can Mary balance family secrets, conflicting loyalties, and professional expertise to bring a criminal to justice and find her own happiness?
Rivals in the City is one of those books that I’ve been meaning to read for what seems like forever. I’ve read the rest of the series, and I even had time to reread them last year to kind of refresh my memory about what happened. So, this has been a long time coming. I have finally read Rivals in the City, and it was everything I hoped it would be and more. The same things that made me love the first three books were here too—the agency, Mary, James, and the rest of the cast of characters, just to name a few.

What I liked most about this book is simple: the mystery, how Mary handled her new case, and the developing relationships between the characters. I won’t say too much about the villain of this case, but I felt they were worth mentioning. Their role cast a shadow on the lives of the characters. They were more than just something to talk about. They were ruthless and cunning and had the motivation, plan, and means to make them a convincing—and not to mention dangerous—villain.

This is one of the few historical series that I’ve actually finished reading. I liked how the setting was thoroughly explained, and it never seemed like the characters came from modern times. The way many of the characters behaved fit with what was considered to be the societal norm.

Mary’s come a long way from the orphan at the beginning of the series, she’s learned a lot, and it shows. Mary was, by far, my favorite character. Her life has undergone so many changes, yet she managed to handle it. I also loved her relationship with James. It was a slow-burn kind of romance, and it took three books to get to the point they were at in Rivals in the City.

All in all, Rivals in the City was pretty awesome. I’m glad I finally got around to reading it, and look forward to Y.S. Lee’s next book.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Review: Bliss by Kathryn Littlewood

Bliss (The Bliss Bakery, #1)Title: Bliss
Author: Kathryn Littlewood
Source/Format: Purchased; Paperback
More Details: Middle Grade; Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: The Inkhouse; February 14, 2012

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Synopsis from Goodreads...

Kathryn Littlewood’s culinary caper blends rich emotional flavor with truly magical wit, yielding one heaping portion of hilarious family adventure...

Rosemary Bliss’s family has a secret. It’s the Bliss Cookery Booke—an ancient, leather-bound volume of enchanted recipes like Stone Sleep Snickerdoodles and Singing Gingersnaps. Rose and her siblings are supposed to keep the Cookery Booke under lock and whisk-shaped key while their parents are out of town, but then a mysterious stranger shows up. “Aunt” Lily rides a motorcycle, wears purple sequins, and whips up exotic (but delicious) dishes for dinner. Soon boring, non-magical recipes feel like life before Aunt Lily—a lot less fun. So Rose and her siblings experiment with just a couple of recipes from the forbidden Cookery Booke. A few Love Muffins and a few dozen Cookies of Truth couldn’t cause too much trouble . . . could they?
Bliss by Kathryn Littlewood is one of those books I’ve been meaning to read for a very long time. I’ve known about it since it came out back in 2012 and always thought the premise of a magical backery sounded like an interesting idea. It wasn’t until recently that I finally read the book and can firmly say that while Bliss had some brilliant moments, it was more of an average read for me. 

There was nothing inherently bad about the story. My main problem, my one complaint, is that there were some scenes that I just didn’t like. Other than that, I read the book in just a couple of hours. For the most part I liked the story, characters, and magic. There were a lot of pretty neat details that led to some really...uh...interesting situations that were produced by magical baking mishaps. What I liked most about this book was how the magic worked as an ingredient for cooking. The prologue of Bliss opens with lightning being folded into batter, which I thought was pretty cool. Another thing that appealed to me was the bakery. I love to bake, and knowing that a lot of cooking gets done in Bliss is what originally drew me to this book.

Rosemary, the main character, felt like she was underappreciated, and I could agree with that. Littlewood took the time to show some of the things Rosemary was tasked with, which I appreciated because it provided a reason for why the character was feeling that way. I also liked Rosemary's siblings—Parsley, Sage, and Thyme. 

Overall, Bliss wasn't half bad. The end of the story was kind of a cliffhanger. Since I already have the second book on my shelf, I will likely read it just to see how the situation is resolved.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Review: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (Extraordinary Voyages, #6)Title: Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea
Author: Jules Verne
Source/Format: Purchased; Paperback
More Details: Science Fiction; Classics
Publisher/Publication Date: ; March 20, 1869

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Synopsis from Goodreads...

French naturalist Dr. Aronnax embarks on an expedition to hunt down a sea monster, only to discover instead the Nautilus, a remarkable submarine built by the enigmatic Captain Nemo. Together Nemo and Aronnax explore the underwater marvels, undergo a transcendent experience amongst the ruins of Atlantis, and plant a black flag at the South Pole. But Nemo's mission is one of revenge-and his methods coldly efficient...
Its official, I think I’ve gotten a pretty good start on my year. At least, I feel like I’m going in the right direction.

I have finally read 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea Jules Verne. It’s the first book I tackled this year and the first book I’ve read by Verne. There were a lot of things I enjoyed about the story, including the characters, setting, and technology.

The book was told from the perspective of Pierre Aronnax who was a relatively interesting character. His internal monologue was particularly great. It was interesting to see how the situations were viewed from his perspective and how his conflicted feelings about his new circumstances effected his thought process. The rest of the characters were just as wonderfully developed. They each had their distinctive traits and the development they underwent shed light on their histories, motivations, and personalities.

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is one of those books that involves a lot of travel, but by no means was this a boring book. It’s as much about the characters as it was the setting and how the two ultimately effect one another. There were a lot of clues cleverly placed throughout the story. So, when I actually got to those pivotal moments the pieces just fit together. In some ways, this book reminded me of The Martian. Of course, they’re two very different books and aren’t very comparable—since one is set on Mars and the other takes place on or underwater. What I mean is that they’re both heavy-handed when it came to the science and terminology, which is actually one of the things I really enjoyed about 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

The writing was very descriptive and I could envision all the cool places the characters got to visit.  I loved all the details that Verne included, and at times, the underwater setting was vivid and surreal. And as cool as the setting was, my favorite part of the story was still the Nautilus. Clearly, I’m a sucker for cool technology.

So, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was a very entertaining read. I can finally cross this one off my list.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Review: The Twistrose key by Tone Almhjell

The Twistrose KeyTitle: The Twistrose Key
Author: Tone Almhjell
Source/Format: Purchased; Paperback
More Details: Middle Grade; Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: Puffin Books; September 2, 2014

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Synopsis from Goodreads...

Something is wrong in the house Lin's family rented. The clocks tick too slowly. Frost covers the flowerbed, even in a rain storm. And when a secret key marked "Twistrose" arrives for her, Lin finds in a crack in the cellar and unlocks a gate to the world of Sylveros. This frozen realm is the home of every dead animal who ever loved a child. Lin is overjoyed to be reunited with Rufus, the pet she buried under the rosebush. But together they must find the missing Winter Prince in order to save Sylver from destruction…and they’re not the only ones hunting for the Prince...
I happened to find a copy of The Twistrose Key by Tone Almhjell by complete accident. I was just out for the day and happened to see it in the store. I wasn't looking for it, and didn't know anything about it or the author. However, once I read the synopsis my immediate reaction was "Yeah, this seems like something I want to read". I do have to admit that the synopsis can sound a bit morbid, but The Twistrose Key was a whimsical tale full of adventure, danger, and friendship.

The Twistrose Key was a fantastic story. There was a lesson, but it was conveyed subtly through prose, dialogue, and all the things Lin experienced. The primary focus of the story was on the task given to Lin and her reunion with Rufus in the world of Sylveros. The majority of this book took place in Sylveros, and it was by far one the best settings I’ve read about. I mean, it was a snow covered land literally populated by beloved pets that were deceased. The rules of Sylveros were pretty straight forward, and I liked how consistent the details were kept.

The characters were wonderful, Lin especially. By far, she wasn’t perfect. She made mistakes, got upset and frustrated. But it was nice to see such a range of emotions. I also liked the friendship between Lin and Rufus.

The story didn’t have that fast of a pace. Instead, it was a combination of slow and quick moving scenes. I honestly didn’t mind all of the details. I liked the early development that went on. The initial chapters introduced a lot of the characters, the magic, and other details that would later become the adventure aspect of the book. The Twistrose Key was simply a good story.

There appears to be another book in this series, and the synopsis also seems pretty interesting for that one too. So, I would definitely be interested in reading another book by Tone Almhjell.
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