Showing posts with label borrowed from the library. Show all posts
Showing posts with label borrowed from the library. Show all posts

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Review: The Screaming Statue by Lauren Oliver & H.C. Chester

The Screaming Statue (The Curiosity House, #2)
Title: The Screaming Statue
Author: Lauren Oliver; H.C. Chester
Source/Format: Borrowed from the library; Hardcover
More Details: Middle Grade; Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: HarperCollins; May 3, 2016

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Synopsis from Goodreads...

In this second book in the exceptional Curiosity House series by bestselling author Lauren Oliver and shadowy recluse H. C. Chester, four extraordinary children must avenge their friend’s death, try to save their home, and unravel the secrets of their past . . . before their past unravels them. Pippa, Sam, Thomas, and Max are happy to be out of harm’s way now that the notorious villain Nicholas Rattigan is halfway across the country in Chicago. But unfortunately their home, Dumfreys’s Dime Museum of Freaks, Oddities, and Wonders, is in danger of closing its doors forever. But their troubles only get worse. The four friends are shocked when their beloved friend, famous sculptor Siegfried Eckleberger, is murdered. As they investigate, they find clues that his death may be tied to the murder of a rich and powerful New York heiress, as well as to their own pasts...
Oh man, lately I’ve just had a string of very average reads, and unfortunately The Screaming Statue by Lauren Oliver & H.C. Chester is another one of them. When I saw that The Screaming Statue was available at my local library I thought I would give it a try even though it was the second book in the series. I mainly picked this one up because it had Lauren Oliver’s name on it. Like with every average read I’ve had, there were things I liked and didn’t like about the story. Since I skipped the first book, I did kind of worry about the things I missed. However, I didn’t find that to be a problem because a lot of what happened in book one was mentioned by the main characters. The story was just alright, but despite that, The Screaming Statue was a quick read, and the setting was nice. I liked that the story mainly took place in a museum and the city surrounding it. The one thing I absolutely loved about The Screaming Statue was the characters. Sam, Pippa, Thomas, and Max were fantastic. It was clear to me why they felt the way they did, and it was easy to see the clues about how their past later affected them. I also liked how the character’s behaved around each other. While their situation and platonic and not platonic relationships weren’t perfect, it was nice to see that they still cared about one another. While The Screaming Statue was just an average read, that doesn’t deter me from reading another one of Lauren Oliver’s books. However, that being said, I don’t think I’ll specifically come back to this series.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Review: A Crown of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi

A Crown of Wishes (The Star-Touched Queen, #2)Title: A Crown of Wishes
Author: Roshani Chokshi
Source/Format: Borrowed from the Library; Hardcover
More Details: Young Adult; Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: St. Martin's Griffin; March 28, 2017

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Synopsis from Goodreads...

An ancient mystery. An unlikely union. For one young princess in a state of peril, a dangerous wish could be the only answer…

She is the princess of Bharata—captured by her kingdom’s enemies, a prisoner of war. Now that she faces a future of exile and scorn, Gauri has nothing left to lose. But should she trust Vikram, the notoriously cunning prince of a neighboring land? He promises her freedom in exchange for her battle prowess. Together they can team up and win the Tournament of Wishes, a competition held in a mythical city where the Lord of Wealth promises a wish to the victor. It seems like a foolproof plan—until Gauri and Vikram arrive at the tournament and find that danger takes on new shapes: poisonous courtesans, mischievous story birds, a feast of fears, and twisted fairy revels. New trials will test their devotion, strength, and wits. But what Gauri and Vikram will soon discover is that there’s nothing more dangerous than what they most desire...
Last year, I read The Star-Touched Queen and it was magical. I was thoroughly enamored by the story, characters, and the world that Roshani Chokshi created. Obviously, A Crown of Wishes was one of my most anticipated 2017 book releases. And you know what? The wait was worth it. A crown of Wishes was fantastic. It surpassed all of my expectations in the best way possible. It also made a clear return to places like Bharata and took another look at the politics and continued conflict that have so thoroughly influenced the lives of the characters.

Honestly, this was just a great story. There was magic, myth, danger, and wishes—all things I happen to like reading about. I can’t forget about The Tournament of Wishes since it was one of my favorite parts of A Crown of Wishes. It was kind of amazing. There was magic, but there was also danger partially in the form of the trials and fellow guests. Chokshi was successful at portraying a vivid picture of the scenery that made up the tournament grounds, the challenges, and the guest who were present. But all of that was combined with characters that were at once charming, cunning, dangerous, and determined.

There are so many characters I could choose to talk about, but I’m just going to focus on the main two: Vikram and Gauri. Vikram was interesting, but I don’t want to say too much about him. What I will say is that he was intelligent and cunning, as promised by the synopsis, but there was more to him than that. What truly got me excited for this book was the fact that one particular character from The Star-Touched Queen was going to get her own story. I remember Gauri from the first book. I always liked her character. Even though her scenes were few they were meaningful to Maya, and more importantly, memorable. Gauri was such a layered and complex character. She went from being introduced back in the first book as just a child, to someone hardened by circumstances and experiences. She was strong but haunted by her past and also vulnerable. I particularly liked her determination to do right by the people of Bharata. I have to admit though that I preferred when Gauri and Vikram were together. Their banter and interactions with one another were priceless.

Well, I could just keep gushing about A Crown of Wishes all day. There were so many things I loved about this story, but I just don’t want to spoil anything. Needless to say, I will just be over here waiting for Roshani Chokshi’s next book.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Review: The Gauntlet by Karuna Riazi

The GauntletTitle: The Gauntlet
Author: Karuna Raizi 
Source/Format: Borrowed from the Library; Hardcover
More Details: Middle Grade; Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: Salaam Reads; March 28, 2017

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Synopsis from Goodreads...

A trio of friends from New York City find themselves trapped inside a mechanical board game that they must dismantle in order to save themselves and generations of other children in this action-packed debut that’s a steampunk Jumanji with a Middle Eastern flair...

When twelve-year-old Farah and her two best friends get sucked into a mechanical board game called The Gauntlet of Blood and Sand—a puzzle game akin to a large Rubik’s cube—they know it’s up to them to defeat the game’s diabolical architect in order to save themselves and those who are trapped inside, including her baby brother Ahmed. But first they have to figure out how. Under the tutelage of a lizard guide named Henrietta Peel and an aeronaut Vijay, the Farah and her friends battle camel spiders, red scorpions, grease monkeys, and sand cats as they prepare to face off with the maniacal Lord Amari, the man behind the machine. Can they defeat Amari at his own game…or will they, like the children who came before them, become cogs in the machine?
Whenever I see a book that has a dangerous board game of some kind mentioned in the synopsis, I only approach them with just one tiny expectation: Jumanji vibes. That’s it, that’s all I’m looking for. And The Gauntlet by Karuna Riazi delivered all that in the best way possible. This book was a whole lot of fun.

Despite what happened to the characters and the challenges they faced, The Gauntlet was a quick-paced and very entertaining book. One big draw was the characters. Not much time was spent on the everyday life of the characters, but I loved all the details about Farah’s family. Since The Gauntlet takes place in a world contained inside of an unpredictable board game, it had a very Jumanji/Zathura feel to it—with the added bonus of a steampunk flare that I happened to like. All the bits of machinery mixed in with the rest of the scenery gave the story an eerie atmosphere. That brings me to another thing I liked: the scenery. The descriptions of the actual game were among my favorite paragraphs from this book. Riazi created a vivid picture of what the Gauntlet was, what it looked like, and how the rules of the game worked. The challenges were neat, and I liked how much of the story resembled an actual game.

There were just a couple of things that I felt mixed about, but talking about them here would spoil the story. But I will say that it wasn’t really a fault, more of a pet peeve of mine. Other than that, I loved everything else about the story.

The Gauntlet is one of the best books I’ve read so far this year. I’m really looking forward to what Karuna Riazi writes next. Actual rating 4.5 Birdcages.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Review: Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

Strange the Dreamer (Strange the Dreamer, #1)Title: Strange the Dreamer
Author: Laini Taylor
Source/Format: Borrowed from the Library; Hardcover
More Details: Young Adult; Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: Little Brown Books for Young Readers; March 28, 2017
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Synopsis from Goodreads...

The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around—and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old he’s been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the person of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance or lose his dream forever. What happened in Weep two hundred years ago to cut it off from the rest of the world? What exactly did the Godslayer slay that went by the name of god? And what is the mysterious problem he now seeks help in solving? The answers await in Weep, but so do more mysteries—including the blue-skinned goddess who appears in Lazlo’s dreams. How did he dream her before he knew she existed? And if all the gods are dead, why does she seem so real? Welcome to Weep...
I still haven’t finished the Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy, but I was excited for Strange the Dreamer since it wasn’t a spin off. There was a lot to like about Strange the Dreamer, but I didn’t enjoy the book as much as I thought I would. There was nothing fundamentally bad, but at times I did find myself checking out of the story. Still, the book was very readable with a sort or cliffhanger-ish ending.

The first chapter was an incredibly strong start to the story, because it set up the mystery surrounding the ultimate fate of the lost city known simply as Weep. Taylor certainly knows how to weave a layered story with rich scenery and myths brought to life by impressive prose. There was an almost lyrical and dream-like quality to the story, which is one of the things I liked about Strange the Dreamer. One of the reasons I kept reading was because I wanted to know more about the magic—what the limitations were, and how it worked. The abilities were creative and pretty cool even though some were slightly more morbid than others.

Some parts of the beginning didn’t necessarily grab me. I did like what I read. However, I kept setting the book aside because at times I did get a little bored while waiting for something to happen. A lot of time was devoted to developing Lazlo Strange’s character and the world around him. After a certain point the plot picked up, and I was able to get into the story and stay in that mindset long enough to get through the book. At times, I got a sense of déjà vu. Some of the details that turned out to be essential to the story almost felt like bits and pieces from Daughter of Smoke and Bone. It wasn’t exactly the same, but the themes were almost too similar. I can’t really specify because it didn't come up until pretty late in the story. Some of the secondary characters bugged me. They were there, but mostly their story was viewed through Lazlo's eyes. This was mainly concerning the party that was traveling with Lazlo, and by the end of Strange the Dreamer, I still felt like I didn't know much about most of them.

The end is one of the things I was conflicted about. The last part of the book was, at some points, awesome with plenty of action and twists that were surprising. However, others parts were just okay—mainly because it lacked an element of surprise. Still, the end was the start of something new for some characters. There were a lot of questions left and some new ones that were presented at the very end, which was clearly setting up the story for the next book.

So, Strange the Dreamer was good, and it’s highly likely that I’ll read the sequel once it comes out. Have you read this book? What did you think of it?

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.

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 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.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Review: The Lost Lullaby by Jason Segel & Kristen Miller, illustrated by Karl Kwasny

The Lost Lullaby (Nightmares!, #3)Title: The Lost Lullaby
Author/ Illustrator: Jason Segel & Kristen Miller; Karl Kwasny 
Source/Format: Borrowed from the Library; Hardback
More Details: Middle Grade
Publisher/Publication Date: Delacorte Books for Young Readers; September 13, 2016
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Synopsis from Goodreads...

Charlie Laird has a very bad feeling...

1. There’s a NEW GIRL at school, and Charlie and his friends have DEFINITELY seen her before.
2. He’s been hearing strange noises after dark, which is NEVER a good sign.
3. The nightmares are back, and they’re WEIRDER THAN EVER.

Not since he faced his fears has Charlie had so many bad dreams. Whenever he falls asleep, he finds himself in a Netherworld field, surrounded by a flock of CREEPY BLACK SHEEP.
They're not counting sheep. They refuse to jump. In fact, they don't do much at all. EVEN EERIER, THOUGH, is that it’s not Charlie’s nightmare. Somehow he’s trapped in someone else’s bad dream. And he’s pretty sure the twins ICK and INK are responsible.
Charlie and his friends thought they’d put the twins out of business, but it seems they didn’t quite finish the job. Now the WOOLLY NIGHTMARES are closing in, and INK has shown up at Cypress Creek Elementary! Charlie’s convinced that INK is up to NO GOOD. And if he’s right, it could be a very long time before anyone’s dreams are sweet again...
After finishing The Lost Lullaby, I can firmly say that Nightmares is just one of my favorite middle grade series. I love the ideas behind the stories and the lessons that the characters inevitably learn. Plus, the nightmares were some of the coolest things I’ve read about. I liked how they were incorporated into the story each and every time.

As for The Lost Lullaby, I’m glad I read it. After the end of the last book, I was curious to see where the story was going, and how the conflict would eventually be solved.

The Lost Lullaby picked up right after the end of The Sleepwalker Tonic with Charlie Laird and his friends immediately stuck knee-deep in another problem. INK is in town, the nightmares are back, and Charlie’s been hearing noises in the middle of the night. The Lost Lullaby is a fast paced story and there was a lot going on. The little clues and details placed throughout the story played into the plot, and I liked the end result.

One thing that I have especially enjoyed about this series is how involved Charlie’s father and stepmother are. It’s always nice to see the family so present in the story, and I liked how it was portrayed across all three books. The setting was also very nice. Of all the locations, the purple mansion that Charlie and his family called home was my favorite place. At first glance, it would be kind of spooky or even a bit mysterious, but its secrets made the house cool rather than anything else.

Another thing that this book got right was the characters—from the main cast to the secondary, and even the villains. There were a lot of moments where characters had to listen and learn and look past their own fears, assumptions, and biases. Those moments were gold. The end of The Lost Lullaby was fantastic. I loved how everything came together and it felt like a proper ending.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to wait over there (**points to the left**) until Jason Segel and Kristen Miller write another book.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Review: Gemina by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

Gemina (The Illuminae Files, #2)Title: Gemina
Author: Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff
Source/Format: Borrowed from the library; Hardcover
More Details: Young Adult; Science Fiction
Publisher/Publication Date: Knopf Books for Young Readers; October 18, 2016
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Synopsis from Goodreads...

Moving to a space station at the edge of the galaxy was always going to be the death of Hanna’s social life. Nobody said it might actually get her killed...

The sci-fi saga that began with the breakout bestseller Illuminaecontinues on board the Jump Station Heimdall, where two new characters will confront the next wave of the BeiTech assault.

Hanna is the station captain’s pampered daughter; Nik the reluctant member of a notorious crime family. But while the pair are struggling with the realities of life aboard the galaxy's most boring space station, little do they know that Kady Grant and the Hypatia are headed right toward Heimdall, carrying news of the Kerenza invasion.When an elite BeiTech strike team invades the station, Hanna and Nik are thrown together to defend their home. But alien predators are picking off the station residents one by one, and a malfunction in the station's wormhole means the space-time continuum might be ripped in two before dinner. Soon Hanna and Nik aren’t just fighting for their own survival; the fate of everyone on the Hypatia—and possibly the known universe—is in their hands. But relax. They've totally got this. They hope...
I feel like I have waited forever to read Gemina. There were parts that I really loved about the story, and others that were just sort of meh.

Listen, I loved Illuminae. I have an endless amount of praise for that book. I enjoyed the way the mixed media was used to tell the story, and honestly, it was just exciting. The beginning packed an emotional punch, and the ending was full of action and suspense. Simply put, Illuminae was exhilarating. I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough.

Don’t get me wrong, Gemina was not a bad book. The same elements that made Illuminae so great were here too; although, I felt like something was missing. Some parts were a little underwhelming for me and I had a harder time connecting with the focal characters—Nik and Hanna—but other than that, the book was great.

Despite its length, Gemina was a quick read for me. I did like the use of the mixed media—plus, the illustrations were nice. On its own, the story was pretty interesting, and there was a lot of action once the bulk of the conflict took center stage. Part of what I liked most about Gemina was the tone of the story. The villains posed a significant threat. Their motives, attitude, and means created an atmosphere of suspense.

The science fiction aspect of Illuminae and Gemina is part of what I like about this series thus far. The technology, ships, and the station were all pretty neat, and I liked how the setting was used.

As I said above, I had a slight problem with connecting with the characters. This was mainly due to the VERY beginning of the book, but once I got past that and learned more about them, I did like them a little more, especially how they were ultimately developed. It was also nice to see some of the characters from the last book, and I really enjoyed that part of the story.

Now, the end of Gemina didn’t really resolve that much—it was kind of a cliffhanger. I still have a lot of unanswered questions and want to see how things ultimately turn out, so I’m definitely going to read the next book.
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