Showing posts with label three birdcages. Show all posts
Showing posts with label three birdcages. Show all posts

Friday, August 11, 2017

ARC Review: The Library of Fates by Aditi Khorana

The Library of Fates
Title: The Library of Fates
Author: Aditi Khorana
Source/Format: First to Read; eARC
More Details: Young Adult; Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: Razorbill; July 18, 2017

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Synopsis from Goodreads...

A romantic coming-of-age fantasy tale steeped in Indian folklore, perfect for fans of The Star-Touched Queen and The Wrath and the Dawn...

No one is entirely certain what brings the Emperor Sikander to Shalingar. Until now, the idyllic kingdom has been immune to his many violent conquests. To keep the visit friendly, Princess Amrita has offered herself as his bride, sacrificing everything—family, her childhood love, and her freedom—to save her people. But her offer isn't enough. The unthinkable happens, and Amrita finds herself a fugitive, utterly alone but for an oracle named Thala, who was kept by Sikander as a slave and managed to escape amid the chaos of a palace under siege. With nothing and no one else to turn to, Amrita and Thala are forced to rely on each other. But while Amrita feels responsible for her kingdom and sets out to warn her people, the newly free Thala has no such ties. She encourages Amrita to go on a quest to find the fabled Library of All Things, where it is possible for each of them to reverse their fates. To go back to before Sikander took everything from them. Stripped of all that she loves, caught between her rosy past and an unknown future, will Amrita be able to restore what was lost, or does another life—and another love—await?
You guys know I loved The Star-Touched Queen (TSTQ) and its sequel, A Crown of Wishes. So, when I saw that The Library of Fates was being compared to TSTQ, I was just like “yes” and also “Where can I sign up for this one?” Low and behold, I got the chance to get an eARC of The Library of Fates and was beyond excited to start it. What makes this hard is that I do like this book, but there are some things that I was a little on-the fence about.

I’m going to start with what I liked about The Library of Fates. The beginning was very interesting. There was some world building going on and I loved all the details about the scenery, old myths, and creatures specific to the book. I also liked the initial direction of the story and was interested in seeing how the political conflicts would playout—especially concerning the main character, Amrita, her father, and the fate of their kingdom. There were a lot of scenes that I thought were interesting. They were creative and took full advantage of the previously established myths as well as the setting.

For the most part, I was a big fan of the characters. Amrita’s initial reaction to the sudden changes to her situation was great, and I enjoyed the fact that part of The Library of Fates focused on her journey. She was helped along the way, and the parts where she was forced to face her past, present, and the possibilities of her future were incredibly emotional and pretty awesome. Thala was pretty interesting. I liked her character mainly because of her strong motivation to be free of her own set of circumstances.

However, as the story progressed I began to notice some things that were kind of similar to TSTQ. Since TSTQ is one of my all-time favorite books, I remember a lot of how the story went down. I know that the synopsis for The Library of Fates makes the comparison, but there was a point when those similarities got a little uncomfortable. Mainly because I felt like I was reading parts of Maya, from TSTQ’s, story again.

That being said, there were a lot of things I still liked about this book. And overall, I basically enjoyed the story and will definitely check out more books by this author. (Actual rating is 3.5 out of 5)

This copy of the book was provided by First to Read (publisher) for this review.

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.

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.

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, December 22, 2016

Review: A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess

A Shadow Bright and Burning (Kingdom on Fire, #1)Title: A Shadow Bright and Burning
Author: Jessica Cluess
Source/Format: Blogging for Books; Hardcover
More Details: Young Adult; Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: Random House BFYR; September 20, 2016

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Synopsis from Goodreads...

I am Henrietta Howel. The first female sorcerer. The prophesied one. Or am I?

Henrietta Howel can burst into flames. When she is brought to London to train with Her Majesty's sorcerers, she meets her fellow sorcerer trainees, young men eager to test her powers and her heart. One will challenge her. One will fight for her. One will betray her. As Henrietta discovers the secrets hiding behind the glamour of sorcerer life, she begins to doubt that she's the true prophesied one. With battle looming, how much will she risk to save the city--and the one she loves?
It took me around a week to finally sit down and write this review. That’s a long time in my book, but I needed the extra time to really think about what I read and what I wanted to say about it. A Shadow Bright and Burning wasn’t that bad of a book. However, it was just an average read for me.

There was nothing particularly bad about this story. It was fantasy set in a time period where women were expected to remain in certain roles. There was magic, a prophecy, and a main character who wasn’t the chosen one. The synopsis basically told me a lot about the plot. So when I actually got to that part of the book, I just kind of shrugged at Henrietta’s reaction because I was already expecting it.

Now, I did like that Henrietta wasn’t the prophesied one—as indicated in the synopsis. I feel like I haven’t seen enough of that, so it was a nice touch. Another thing I liked was the magic. For the most part, the magic was pretty cool. Henrietta was a pretty good character, but like the rest of the cast, she was just alright for me. I didn’t mind reading from her perspective, and there were parts of her personality and actions that were interesting.

The last couple of chapters of A Shadow Bright and Burning were the best, and my favorite part of the book. The story moved a lot quicker, there was action, and sufficiently surprising twists that were A+ in my opinion.

While A Shadow Bright and Burning had some great elements to it, there were some parts that weren’t as good. Still, the end left the characters in an interesting place, and I could kind of see hints of where this series could be headed. As such, I might consider picking up the next book.
This copy of the book was provided by Blogging for Books (Publisher) for this review, thank you!
About the author...

Jessica Cluess is a writer, a graduate of Northwestern University, and an unapologetic nerd. After college, she moved to Los Angeles, where she served coffee to the rich and famous while working on her first novel. When she's not writing books, she's an instructor at Writopia Lab, helping kids and teens tell their own stories...

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Monday, October 10, 2016

ARC Review: Cloudwish by Fiona Wood

CloudwishTitle: Cloudwish
Author: Fiona Wood
Source/Format: The NOVL; Paperback ARC
More Details: Young Adult; Contemporary
Publisher/Publication Date: Poppy; October 18, 2016

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Synopsis from Goodreads...

For Vân Uoc, fantasies fall into two categories: nourishing or pointless. Daydreaming about attending her own art opening? Nourishing. Daydreaming about Billy Gardiner, star of the rowing team who doesn't even know she's alive? Pointless. So Vân Uoc tries to stick to her reality--keeping a low profile as a scholarship student at her prestigious Melbourne private school, managing her mother's PTSD from a traumatic emigration from Vietnam, and admiring Billy from afar. Until she makes a wish that inexplicably--possibly magically--comes true. Billy actually notices her. In fact, he seems to genuinely like her. But as they try to fit each other into their very different lives, Vân Uoc can't help but wonder why Billy has suddenly fallen for her. Is it the magic of first love, or is it magic from a well-timed wish that will eventually, inevitably, come to an end?
After reading the synopsis for Cloudwish by Fiona Wood, I decided to give it a fair chance. I read it, and it was an okay read. This book certainly had its strengths and weakness—elements that I liked, and others that were just sort of meh. So, yeah, I had some mixed feelings about it.

Cloudwish was about Vân Uoc and how she makes a wish for her crush to notice her. Sounds fine, right? Well, the idea itself wasn’t bad, and there were so many ways that kind of concept could have gone. And, for the most part, the plot was okay. The story wasn’t bad. The writing was fine and the pacing was good, but I did have some problems with it.

One thing I didn’t like was Billy Gardiner’s character. The way he behaved just sort of left a bad taste in my mouth, and at some points I wondered what it was about him that Vân Uoc found so appealing. He was described as being something along the lines of model-worthy handsome, an outstanding athlete, and smart. But he was also kind of a jerk. There was character growth, but in my eyes, it didn’t really redeem him much. There were also some parts that seemed a little stereotypical in terms of expectations and family/home life for Vân Uoc.

What I did like was Vân Uoc’s skepticism about Billy’s sudden attention. There was something refreshing about seeing her resist his advances—especially when they were otherwise without good reason—rather than just give in and accept her sudden unexplained stroke of luck. There wasn’t much of a magical aspect to it, but I did like the wish part. It was simple, nothing flashy about it, but still nice. Plus, Vân Uoc’s friends were interesting, and I especially enjoyed the scenes when they were present.

So, Cloudwish wasn't all bad. I haven’t read anything else by Fiona Wood so there is a possibility that I would consider giving another one of her novels a try, only if it seems like something of interest to me.
This copy of the book was provided by The Novl (Newsletter; Publisher) for this review, thank you!
About the author...

Fiona Wood is the author of young adult novels, Six Impossible Things and Wildlife. Her third book,Cloudwish, will be published in the US in October. Before writing YA fiction, Fiona worked as a television scriptwriter for twelve years, writing everything from soap, and one-hour adult drama, to children’s drama. Prior to this she dropped out of law and completed an arts degree, both at Melbourne University, worked in marketing and in arts management, did some freelance journalism, and studied screenwriting at RMIT. She has served as a judge for the AWGIE Awards (Australian Writers’ Guild) and is an ambassador for The Stella Prize Schools Program. She has two YA children, and lives in Melbourne with her husband...

Saturday, July 30, 2016

ARC Review: Riverkeep by Martin Stewart

RiverkeepTitle: Riverkeep
Author: Martin Stewart
Source/Format: First to Read; eARC
More Details: Young Adult; Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: Viking; July 26, 2016

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Synopsis from Goodreads...

The Danék is a wild, treacherous river, and the Fobisher family has tended it for generations—clearing it of ice and weed, making sure boats can get through, and fishing corpses from its bleak depths. Wulliam’s father, the current Riverkeep, is proud of this work. Wull dreads it. And in one week, when he comes of age, he will have to take over. Then the unthinkable happens. While recovering a drowned man, Wull’s father is pulled under—and when he emerges, he is no longer himself. A dark spirit possesses him, devouring him from the inside. In an instant, Wull is Riverkeep. And he must care for his father, too. When he hears that a cure for his father lurks in the belly of a great sea-dwelling beast known as the mormorach, he embarks on an epic journey down the river that his family has so long protected—but never explored. Along the way, he faces death in any number of ways, meets people and creatures touched by magic and madness and alchemy, and finds courage he never knew he possessed...
As I was reading Riverkeep by Martin Stewart, I had one thought in mind: eh, this is okay. That feeling remained until the end. It had its high and low points, but by farmthe book wasn’t a bad story. And as far as fantasy novels go, Riverkeep was pretty good, a little slow at times, but still alright.

My initial reaction to the beginning was a little mixed. It wasn’t a bad opening, but I struggled to stick with the story and I almost gave up. However, I stuck with it out of sheer curiosity, and the desire to get answers for the questions I had.

Riverkeep was more of a coming-of-age story set against a fantasy backdrop full of perilous places and even more dangerous creatures. And despite the introduction of numerous characters, and the multitude of POVs throughout Riverkeep, the focus was really on Wull—following him as he struggles against change, and discovering where he belongs while dealing with a slowly unfolding personal tragedy.

There was a lot of traveling in Riverkeep since the characters had places to be for important reasons, which made the story drag in some places. However, the dialogue and slowly developing friendships between the characters is part of what got me through those parts. I was also curious to see how the story ended since the beginning set up a relatively strong conflict.

As promised by the synopsis, Wull met a lot of different people from different backgrounds, and under different circumstances. I won’t go into too much about them since it would be kind of spoiler for parts of the story. The things I liked best about Riverkeep were some of the secondary characters. The Mormorach was a key part of Riverkeep. It was a “great sea-dwelling beast” going about its business—albeit oversized and with a destructive tendency that bordered on absurd. It served as one of the antagonists, a source of conflict amongst the many outside factors that eventually concerned Wull.

Another thing I liked was the setting. It was done really well. It was dark, cold because of the time of year, and harsh—especially the river. It gave the story an eerie atmosphere, which was pretty fitting. The overall plot wasn’t bad. I actually liked it, and the ending was pretty good too since it neatly tied up the story.

So, while my initial reaction to Riverkeep was mixed, I am glad that I stuck with it.
This copy of the book was provided by First to Read (publisher) for this review, thank you!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Review: From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess by Meg Cabot

From the Notebooks of a Middle School PrincessTitle: From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess
Author: Meg Cabot
Source/Format: Won, Paperback
More Details: Middle Grade, Contemporary
Publisher/Publication Date: Square Fish, May 19, 2015

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Synopsis from Goodreads...

Return to the world of Meg Cabot's bestselling and beloved Princess Diaries series in From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess—this time through the illustrated diary of a spunky new heroine: Princess Mia's long lost half-sister, Olivia! Olivia Grace Clarisse Mignonette Harrison is a completely average twelve-year-old: average height, average weight, average brown hair of average length, average brown skin and average hazel eyes. The only things about her that aren't average are her name (too long and princess themed), her ability to draw animals (useful for her future career as a wildlife illustrator), and the fact that she is a half-orphan who has never met her father and is forced to live with her aunt and uncle (who treat her almost like their own kids, so she doesn't want to complain). Then one completely average day, everything goes wrong: the most popular girl in school, Annabelle Jenkins, threatens to beat her up, the principal gives her a demerit, and she's knocked down at the bus stop.... Until a limo containing Princess Mia Thermopolis of Genovia pulls up to invite her to New York to finally meet her father, who promptly invites her to come live with him, Mia, Grandmère and her two fabulous poodles. Maybe Olivia Grace Clarisse Mignonette Harrison isn't so average after all!
I admit that I haven’t read the Princess Diaries series by Meg Cabot, but I have seen the movies, so I’m not completely unfamiliar with the general plot. Anyway, I was really excited to receive From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess in the mail, and I ignored everything else to go ahead and read it. To sum it up, the story was short and cute.

Told from the perspective of Olivia, the story basically follows her as she discovers the truth about her family. The discovery isn’t much of a surprise, because the title and the synopsis are more than suggestiveand I was a little disappointed by that. However, that wasn’t too much of a fault since there were other things going on that were more of a surprise. I also liked how family ties and friendships were dealt with alongside the many changes happening to Olivia at once. The writing was done in a way that captured Olivia’s voice and really showed her as a character, which was great.

Overall, From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess was pretty good. Since I have the second book, I look forward to seeing what happens next and maybe I’ll finally go back and give The Princess Diaries series a try.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Review: Dead is a State of Mind by Marlene Perez

Dead Is a State of Mind (Dead Is, #2)Title: Dead Is a State of Mind
Author: Marlene Perez
Source/Format: Purchased, Paperback
More Details: Young Adult, Paranormal
Publisher/Publication Date: HMH Books For Young Readers, April, 9, 2009
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Synopsis from Goodreads...

Welcome to Nightshade, California—a small town full of secrets. It’s home to the psychic Giordano sisters, who have a way of getting mixed up in mysteries. During their investigations, they run across everything from pom-pom- shaking vampires to shape-shifting boyfriends to a clue-spewing jukebox. With their psychic powers and some sisterly support, they can crack any case! There’s a gorgeous new guy at Nightshade High: Duke Sherrad, a fortune-teller claiming to have descended from Gypsies. Even though she’s psychic herself, Daisy is skeptical of Duke’s powers. But when a teacher who was the subject of one of his predictions ends up dead, she begins to wonder if Duke is the real deal after all. Maybe if Daisy can track down the teacher’s killer, she can find out the truth. The only trouble is, all signs point to the murderer being of the furry persuasion. Is Daisy any match for a werewolf? Maybe she is . . . in more ways than she bargained for!
Dead Is a State of Mind is the second book in the Dead Is series by Marlene Perez. I read the first one a while ago, as part of my goal to reread or read some of the older books that have just been sitting on my shelf collecting dust. So, it only made sense to read the next once, since, you know, it was also collecting dust on my shelf.

Dead Is a State of Mind follows the Giordano sisters, who all have psychic abilities, which inevitably gets them involved in the latest round of trouble in their home town of Nightshade, California.

So, did I like it?

Well, Dead is a State of Mind was a short and fun mystery. Sure, it was a little predictable at some parts, but still a pretty good read. The supernatural aspect is definitely one of my favorite parts about the book and added an interesting spin on a whodunit—utilizing the common characteristics such as amateur sleuths in a small town setting, but adding a paranormal flare to spice it up a bit. Since this is a young adult novel, part of the plot also dealt with the changing relationships between the characters. Yes, it was kind of dramatic, but also nice to see—especially the friendship between the secondary female characters and Daisy. They were supportive of each other, so, two thumbs up for that.

Overall, Dead Is a State of Mind was pretty good, and I would consider picking up another novel by Marlene Perez, if it happens to catch my interest.
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