Frostborn captured my attention, what’s not to like – frost giants, dragons, and a character who is obsessed with a specific board game. There’s somet...moreFrostborn captured my attention, what’s not to like – frost giants, dragons, and a character who is obsessed with a specific board game. There’s something about middle grade fiction that is so satisfying. It’s not just about the adventure and action, but there’s always deeper meanings. Thianna is a female frost giant, but she is also half human, therefore she always feels inadequate and trying to prove that she is a frost giant. She’s bullied and often gets in and out of fights, but her father knows her destiny will take her beyond her own village. It’s on a trip to trade with the humans that she meets Karn, a boy who should be learning to haggle and take over his father’s prestigious farm, but all he wants to do is play Thrones & Bones, a board game with strategy and intelligence required to win.
When his uncle sets a trap that has Karn about to fight for his life, his father steps in, and loses, throwing Karn on the run. Thianna’s mother’s past has caught up to her, 3 women on wyverns are after a special horn her mother carried with her when she crashed years ago in the frost giant’s valley. Long since passed, Thianna carries the horn and finds herself fleeing from the women for a reason she is unsure of. The pair meet up again and aide each other to hide from their pursuers and gain a close friendship. Together, they must trick a dragon, flee their pursuers all while trying to figure out how to set things right.
I love their friendship as it grows, they often tease each other and have a few fights over words said that were taken too seriously. I love that Thianna is constantly saving Karn, who is not as well trained in any weapons or strength, but is the brighter of the two. Karn uses his intelligence to save them as often as Thianna saves them physically. The plot moved along quickly as they were often in peril and on the run. It was a little easy to predict at times and I didn’t particularly like the way it ended, with a bit of foreshadowing into the next book.
The first book in a new adventure series with unique characters and strong fantasy elements. (less)
If you don’t know the name Serena Valentino, well, that’s okay. She writes a series of graphic novels that I fell in love with in high school and have...moreIf you don’t know the name Serena Valentino, well, that’s okay. She writes a series of graphic novels that I fell in love with in high school and have reread so many times, I can’t even remember. They are called GloomCookie and if you like fairy tales and graphic novels, you should check it out. The Beast Within is the second story she’s written based off of Disney’s version of a fairy tale – only from a different point of view. I own Fairest of All, which took Snow White from the wicked Queen’s point of view, good to pair with the recent blockbuster Maleficent.
The Beast Within is from the Beast’s point of view in Beauty and the Beast. Let me tell you, the Beast previous to becoming such makes even Gaston look like a good guy. I love that Valentino mixes in a bit more detail about his storied past, where he literally swears off a beautiful woman after seeing her work at a farm. Obviously it isn’t true love if she isn’t a princess or a noble, not to mention how ugly she was when not all dolled up to go out with him. Unfortunate for him, she happens to be a witch and her sisters want to exact revenge on the Beast. Thus comes in the curse, which takes a while to take hold. So, in the meantime Gaston tries to cheer Beast up with a huge ball to set him up with another woman.
So, he goes for the beautiful woman who seems to have no brains. But she sincerely is in love with him, but that’s not enough, he must actually be in love with her for the curse to lift. He blames her for not loving him after time passes and he starts to become even more beastly. Two women scorned and the curse fully sets in. I enjoyed the story and it moved along quickly, but I felt as though Beast never fully transformed. That may be because the narrative shifts from the point of view of the sisters who cursed him. They hate that he may break the curse and set out to sabotage his happiness. I’m sort of on their side and kind of wished he got his just desserts.
An intriguing take on Beauty and the Beast that follows the Disney version fairly close while giving it more background. Not perfect, but a fun read.(less)
Coming directly from having read Dualed in audiobook format, I had to realign my brain to read Divided in book format. Thinking about the first book,...moreComing directly from having read Dualed in audiobook format, I had to realign my brain to read Divided in book format. Thinking about the first book, I felt there was no a lot of background information and was hoping that Divided would fill in the gaps of the first book. I felt like there was some questions answered, but I’m not fully satisfied with the brief glimpse into the history of how the Board was formed, what the different levels mean and some of the history as well as more information on why the program of killing your clone was first brought on.
If you really loved Dualed, you will like Divided. It has the same type of premise. West goes off on her own to fulfill an assignment given to her by the Board, only she finds out the hard way that she no longer can kill, but she’s determined a back up plan after her boyfriend Chord shares with her something he found while on patrol. The promise of not having to put any of her future children through this game of killing your other self has her committed to the task, but she finds a surprise when she meets her last target.
I don’t want to reveal too much for those who haven’t read either books, so I’ll stop there. What I like about the story is that West’s relationship with Chord feels good to me as a reader. She still is dealing with some post trauma from the first book and I like that they address that by her visiting a counselor to talk about her nightmare and problems. Chord has accepted West for who she is and she knows that he will be there for her. I like the action, the hunt and the complications that this sequel has to offer.
On the flip side, I still wish there was more. I feel so confined in the story to West’s personal problems and I want to know so much more about the background of the world she lives in that I don’t feel satisfied. I cannot think of this story as dystopian because it’s not her against the government. When it’s the Board that asks her to kill, it is really to satisfy one man’s desires and wants. West is not completely going against the system and I sort of wanted her to be more of a rebel, or at least want to escape the world she lives in.
Lots of great action but lacking some dystopian elements that would have taken the book further.(less)
I started The Girl from the Well late at night, home alone and I thoroughly could not put it down. I loved the creepy, horrific vibe it gave off from...moreI started The Girl from the Well late at night, home alone and I thoroughly could not put it down. I loved the creepy, horrific vibe it gave off from page one. Some readers may be put off by Okiku’s need to count everything, but I thought it flowed into the story seamlessly and it wasn’t an unnecessary quirk, as you later find out when her legend is revealed. Another thing that you might nitpick is sometimes the story bounces a bit to other characters, which may translate a little better in the finished copy. I would sometimes have to retrace a bit, but overall I was so engaged, this factor did not really bug me at all.
Okiku is rather frightening, but is only interested in harming those who would harm children. One day she notices Tark, a boy who hides his tattoos, ones that others have thought they saw move. His mother has tried to kill him several times and is locked away in a mental institution, so Tark has just moved to a new town, closer to his cousin Callie. Callie is a teacher’s aide and looking at taking a month off to study in another country. One of her students, Sandra, comments on the woman that is attached to Tark, a dark lady with a white mask, as well as Okiku who spends time in between seeking vengeance as child-killers to follow Tark around.
Sandra easily becomes a character that I love to see more as the book goes on. At one point, she is talking to a man while she sits on a bench and asks him why there are two boys on his back. He’s just about to chloroform and make off with her when her mother comes looking for her. There are so many disturbing scenes in this book it’s hard to get into all of them. I love watching Okiku seek revenge on those who have killed, it was frightening and often times left quite the mess of a person.
A horrible situation leads all of them to Japan, to spread the ashes of Tark’s mother at a shrine that no one has heard of. Tark is sickening and his father is still trying to manage his job while trying to seek him help, the thing attached to him literally sucking his life away. Callie’s time with her learning group ends and the trio make it to the shrine, where it gets even creepier at times and we get to the root of Tark’s problem.
Overall, I could not put this book down. I read half of it before bed and when I woke up the next morning I had to finish it. The characters had depth and I loved the creepy vibe of the book. The scenes were written beautifully, describing the insane hauntings and murders that Okiku commits and should have given me bad dreams. I seem adverse to bad dreams, but it was rather hard getting up in a dark house to use the bathroom after reading this book.
A creepy story that includes quite an intriguing plot with interesting characters and legends.(less)
The Night Gardener may be pegged as middle grade, but it certainly scared me as a reader at times. The story is of two Irish siblings, Molly and Kip,...moreThe Night Gardener may be pegged as middle grade, but it certainly scared me as a reader at times. The story is of two Irish siblings, Molly and Kip, whose parents were lost at sea and they are on their way to find work in England. At least they would be, if anyone would tell them where to find the house in the woods, one that no one dares to near. On the way they meet an old woman, who tells them the way in exchange for a story, she is curious as to what happens at the house they are on their way to.
Molly is a story teller herself and you can tell from the beginning that there is a secret that she is keeping from her younger brother, who limps and has to use a crutch to get around. She pretends as though her parents are on the way to them, but it seems there is more that she knows about what happened before the orphanage and leaving for this job that she wants to reveal. Upon reaching the home, there is an eerie air to it, but a darling little girl named Penny opens the door and starts to rifle through Molly’s things, breaking the mood in only a way a silly little girl could.
The mistress of the house is one not to be trifled with and she reluctantly takes on Molly and her brother, but says that Kip must sleep outside, so not to infect the rest of the family with his crippled state. She seems cruel, but is keeping her own secret. Penny has a cruel older brother Alistair, who loves sweets and bullying anything smaller than himself. Kip interferes on a couple of occasions, when he takes to bullying his younger sister. The rest of the mystery comes from the strange tree that is a part of the house itself and a room that is not supposed to be entered.
Curiosity brings Molly to find out what is behind the door, seeing the different family members go through and come out with something of value to themselves, bags of money, sweets, books about Penny’s adventures, and a ring for the mistress. Mixed in with this is the terrifying nightmares that come while sleeping in the house, and one night Molly awakes to a wild wind throwing leaves throughout and revealing a frightening man who seems to be taking care of the large tree with a watering can. What all this has to do with the family becoming paler and sicker, Molly is not sure.
I absolutely loved The Night Gardener, the suspense, the horror and the unique characters that Auxier wraps into the book. Molly is a great character, with her own strength and courage who feels the need to figure out the mystery, while keeping her brother safe. All the elements fell into place and made for a fantastic read that will keep you up all night.(less)
Rose and the Lost Princess is the second book in the Rose series, the first of which I loved and made it onto the CYBILs shortlist for Middle Grade Sp...moreRose and the Lost Princess is the second book in the Rose series, the first of which I loved and made it onto the CYBILs shortlist for Middle Grade Speculative Fiction. I was excited to see that there was a sequel forthcoming along with several other books that were first published in another country and are slowly trickling their way to us in the United States. The aftermath of the first book comes to light right away as more and more people are becoming afraid of magic and those that use it, whether for good or for evil. When one of the princesses disappears and reappears, people suppose it's the work of another evil magician.
Rose's mentor and the chief magician to the king is trying his best to help figure out the situation, but even he is not as trusted as he once was. The King asks Rose for her help to find the princess when she disappears again, but not to be found like the first time. Rose must go undercover as the Princess herself to get to the bottom of this mystery. All while not being found out that she is not actually the princess. It's exciting to be in the palace, but Rose tries to keep her focus on the task at hand, even though she's barely begun her own magical training.
With the help of her friends, Freddie and Gus (the magical cat), she sets out on a new adventure, one that involves cold magic, an interesting snow globe and a palace setting. I love how sensible Rose is throughout this whole book. While still being a young girl and awed by life in general, she keeps herself grounded and wishes for a simple life, where things are less complicated. However, she knows that she has been given this gift and must use it to help others. I also cannot wait to find out more about where Rose came from, as her parents must have been magical and rarely are magical children abandoned like Rose was. I'm hoping this will come to light in some of the coming books.
My favorite side character in these books is Gus, who is very helpful yet pushes Rose to do some things that are against her nature. Freddie still is a bit insufferable at times, but he is growing on me considerably. I love the mix of serious, trickled with comedic relief from the character. The mystery of this book really pulled me in and kept me reading until the very end. Overall, Rose and the Lost Princess was a great follow up novel to the wonderful Rose and I'm looking forward to seeing what the next book has in store for our heroine. (less)
The Ninja Librarians is a book I had to pick up out of pure curiosity, being a librarian myself, I wanted to see what adventures it held for me as a r...moreThe Ninja Librarians is a book I had to pick up out of pure curiosity, being a librarian myself, I wanted to see what adventures it held for me as a reader. Dorrie is the main character, a girl who loves to take part in fake swordplay but finds that all this training will not help her in the real world. When a friend’s mongoose gets loose, Dorrie finds herself and her brother Marcus chasing it wildly through the library and into a new section they have never been. Before they know it, they are pulled into another world, one of Lybrarians.
What they find is Petrarch’s Library, a place where Lybrarians are trained and then sent out into their different time periods to collect important documents that may have been lost. With such figures as Socrates and Cyrano de Bergerac as characters, it makes for an engaging read. The siblings are suspected to be part of a different organization that is looking to destroy the Library’s work and turn history for their own gain, which makes their time at Petrarch’s Library a bit trying at first as no one is sure they are telling the truth about how they got there.
I love the elements of this book, the actual Petrarch’s library, the different historical characters, and especially the times when they slip into another time period. I love the idea of ninja librarians and keyhands and being able to stride into different time periods. Dorrie was a great character in that she knew she didn’t have certain skills, but strode to acquire them throughout the novel. I love how the book puts into perspective how trivial some of Dorrie’s concerns were at the beginning of the book as opposed to the end, which only furthers her development as a character.
I found The Accidental Keyhand to be a great start to the Ninja Librarians series and I cannot wait for the next volume, as this one leaves off on a bit of a cliffhanger. I’m looking forward to seeing where and when Dorrie and Marcus will have to go on their next adventure.(less)