Zoe & Zak and the Ghost Leopard by Lars Guignard is a super fun audiobook that I listened to over the course of about two weeks. It is about two kids who go to school together who happen to run into each other in India while traveling with their parents. They weren't really friends at the start of the novel, but we see the progression of their relationship. (Not THAT kind of relationship - they're eleven.) It reminds me of The 39 Clues series mixed with magical realism.
>Zoe is a very sweet character that I think a lot of girls will relate to. She's the kind of kid that doesn't get into trouble, has a great relationship with her mom, and tries to do the right thing. Zoe knows that she was adopted, but she's not quite ready to talk to her mom about that yet. Zak, on the other hand, is a little troublemaker who may or may not be acting out because of his parents' recent separation. He's not a bad kid, but he is most definitely the reason that the two of them end up in the situation that they find themselves in - at every point in the novel. Together they are like yin and yang and make a nice team. The baddie characters - namely Monkey Man and Rhino Butt (hilarious!) - are not terribly developed, but I don't think they're supposed to be too terrifying. Mukta and Amala were the other main side characters who led Zoe and Zak and gave them all of the background information they needed for their impromptu quest.
The world-building in Zoe & Zak and the Ghost Leopard was a lot of fun to read. I've never been to India, but with the descriptions that were provided in the novel, I could almost see it in my mind, and it was done in a way that wouldn't be over the heads of Guignard's intended audience. In addition to the beautiful scenery of the book, the magic and mythology used in the novel was explained well. The integration of the Indian gods was interesting, and I think kids might be interested enough by them to go seek more information. I had no trouble understanding why certain events were happening or why characters were acting in a particular way. I didn't like that Zoe's background was never elaborated on, but I think that is because Guignard is trying to lure us into reading the next book in the series. (I will.)
Bailey Carlson's narration of Zoe & Zak and the Ghost Leopard is easily one of the best parts of the novel. It was very easy to distinguish which characters were speaking, and the various accents that she used for different characters was very well done. I loved to hear her speak Amala's parts because her Indian accent was lovely.
Overall, I think Zoe & Zak and the Ghost Leopard is a great addition to the world of middle grade novels that young readers and adults alike will love. It is neither a "girl book" or "boy book", so all kids will potentially enjoy reading it. I recommend this to lovers of adventure novels and readers of The 39 Clues.
- 3.5/5 Stars -
To satisfy FTC guidelines, I am disclosing that I received a copy of the novel from the publisher or author through CBB Book Promotions in exchange for an unbiased review. It has in no way affected the outcome. All expressed opinions are awesome, honest, and courtesy of me. ...more
Being as a tend to read a lot of young adult novels, it is easy for me to forget out delicious a well-written piece of literary fiction can be. The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo is a beautiful novel that satiated my adult reading hungers. Journeying with Li Lan through the spirit world and watching her meet various spirits unfold the mysteries surrounding the Lim family and her own was mesmerizing.
Li Lan is very similar at first to many of the female characters that pop up in the young adult novels that I have been reading of late. She is book-smart and isolated from society, both due to her father. Li Lan then suddenly has the attentions of not one but two wealthy suitors, but, unfortunately, the one who is pursuing her the most ardently is a dead man. However, she is not the sort of young person to take the easy way out, and she does not at any point in The Ghost Bride. Instead of only searching for a way for her to reenter her body, she helps Er Lang on his quest to discover the corruption in the spiritual government that has become tied up with the Lim family. Although she believes herself to be falling in love with Tian Bai, she is also determined to find out if it was he who killed his cousin (and her other suitor), Lim Tian Ching. Li Lan also wins the "Awesome Heroine of Awesome" award from me because of who she chooses at the end of the book.
Oh, the world-building of The Ghost Bride was fascinating! Before reading it, I had only heard of the practice of marrying a live person to a ghost once before when I read Bearing an Hourglass by Piers Anthony. That one was not set in Asia (as far as I can remember), but the concept was not surprising to me when I started The Ghost Bride. I was drawn to the book because of this, and the symbolism of the title ended up having quite a few layers. (Saying too much about that is a little spoilery.) Adding magic, ghosts, mythology, and history to this made The Ghost Bride a true pleasure read. The spirits and superstitions were described in such a way that I felt like I was missing anything, though I am not terribly well-researched in Eastern religions or mythology. Choo could have been making everything up, as far as I know, but I did not have any gabs in my understanding of what was happening. Malaya in the 1890s and the spirit world were both intriguing places for my mind to explore with Li Lan.
The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo is one of the most gorgeously written novels that I've read this year. I had it read in no time, despite the fact that I usually try to take my time and savor literary pieces when I can get my hands on a good one. The mixture of mythology, magical realism, and historical fiction was truly a delightful spectacle for my imagination.
- 4.5/5 Stars -
To satisfy FTC guidelines, I am disclosing that I received a copy of the novel from the publisher through TLC Book Tours in exchange for an unbiased review. It has in no way affected the outcome. All expressed opinions are awesome, honest, and courtesy of me....more
I'm typing sentences, deleting them, and attempting to write more. I don't know what to really say except that Burning Girls left me speechless. I staI'm typing sentences, deleting them, and attempting to write more. I don't know what to really say except that Burning Girls left me speechless. I started reading the story without reading any reviews or the words italicized at the start. It was on Tor.Com - what else did I need to know?
What I found in Burning Girls was a striking mixture of witchcraft, Judaic mythology, fairy tale, history, and feminism. The more I read, the more I was sucked in by the writing of Veronica Schanoes. She weaved the above-mentioned elements into her world flawlessly and held me helplessly ensnared in it. By the time I reached the end, my skin crawled and was covered with chill bumps.
Veronica Schanoes' Burning Girls is a story you should put aside an hour for, and she is definitely a writer whose future works I will be impatiently waiting to read....more
I waited a long time for a book that featured some sort of Middle Eastern mythology. Alpha Goddess focuses on Hindu mythology, but there is a bit of Iranian lore that is mixed in with the story. It's not a major thing, but it was enough to make me a happy camper. Besides the wonderful mythology, there is also the typical YA love triangle, which isn't quite as exciting. However, Sera was a realistic teen who behaved like a typical kid that young readers will easily relate to.
I will happily admit that the extent of my knowledge of the mythology Howard uses in Alpha Goddess begins and ends with my recognition of the names and the regions of their origins. (That's why I want to read more from that area of the world and learn.) That being said, the world-building worked for me because the use of gods, goddesses, and the afterlife was new to me and not something I can nitpick to death, like Greek mythology. So many writers seem to choose Hades and Persephone when dealing with Hell or the underworld.
Since I was in unfamiliar waters with Alpha Goddess, it was a quick read. I kept flipping through the pages to see more and learn more. The times that the story did start to drag had nothing to do with the world-building or writing. It had more to do with the characters.
Sera was not a problem for me. I liked that instead of being a petite, wilting flower that I've seen so much of lately, she's a brunette that stands nearly six feet tall. Very rarely do I read about tall girls in this genre. Of course she rebels against her parents (hello, teenager?!), but she's not incredibly disrespectful or stupid in her disobedience. The best thing about Sera is how she interacted with her little brother, Nate. Instead of treating him like a genius of a pest, she treated him as an equal. That was so beyond awesome. However, when Kyle and Dev came around, I did drift a little at times. They weren't bad characters to read, but love triangles. *sigh*
For those of you who are looking for a book outside the box in YA, I recommend Alpha Goddess. It takes the path less taken when it comes to mythology, and Howard's writing will have you hooked. I can't wait to see what else Amalie Howard has in store for us.
To satisfy FTC guidelines, I am disclosing that I received an advance copy of the book for reviewing purposes through JKS Communications in exchange for an honest review. The book was likely provided by the publisher or author, which has in no way affected the outcome of my review. All opinions expressed are rambling, honest, and completely my own....more
Timespell is Diana Paz's debut young adult novel that follows three protagonists: Julia, Angie, and Kaitlyn. We enter the story with Julia and Angie looking for the the third Daughter of Fate, who is necessary to seal their magic, or they will lose it when Angie turns seventeen. Julia and Angie have been friends for years, and Angie was raised knowing that she had magic. She has already sealed Julia to her, and they both have been mentored in their magical powers by Indira, a mysterious woman with a great store of knowledge about the Daughters of Fate. Through her, they have learned that their job will be to keep the monsters of Mythos and the Sorceress from destroying time. There have been no Daughters joined together in centuries and much rides on them to complete that magic. When it is discovered that Kaitlyn (the reason for Angie breaking up with her boyfriend) is to be their third – and bound to them for all time – they are less than enthusiastic about joining forces with her and ready to give up their magic. However, the arrival of the mysterious Ethan pushes the girls to choose to join together. What follows is betrayal and a whole lot of drama.
Angie, Julia, and Kaitlyn are typical teenaged, high school girls and all the implications thereof. That is to say, none of them are without their faults. Angie does not want to forgive Kaitlyn, Julia’s commitment to her boyfriend is questionable, and Kaitlyn is a jealous mean girl through and through. Julia and Angie are already best friends, which does not make it easy for Kaitlyn being a part of the group. This leads to an interesting dynamic as the girls have to learn to work together in their assignments from Fate. There are catfights left and right as they make mistakes while learning to use their powers as a team. Most of the chapters are from Angie and Julia’s points of view, but there is enough from Kaitlyn to show why she is the way she is. The girls are interesting and very realistic.
The best part of Timespell is the world-building. Mythological creatures like gorgons and minotaurs, who enter the world through portals to wreck havoc, are great nemeses because the Daughters are unable to kill them with their magic. One of the last Daughters betrayed her sisters and joined forces with the Sorceress. However, the real treat is the way Diana Paz fleshes out this all out. Each scene was vivid, whether it was Venice Beach or 18th Century France. (The novel being yo-yoed between the two is genius as the beach and France are both places that most people dream about visiting.) Details for the clothing and surroundings are expertly described in each scene, past and present. When I was reading Timespell, I felt like I was there and did not want to put it down.
Timespell is a very strong debut that I think will appeal to teens and older readers alike. Even though the drama between the girls was not my thing, I enjoyed being sucked in to the rich world. I think Diana Paz is an author to watch, and I look forward to reading her work in the future.
To satisfy FTC guidelines, I am disclosing that I received a copy of the book from Xpresso Book Tours in exchange for an honest review. It has in no way affected the outcome. All opinions expressed are rambling, honest, and completely my own....more
I was quite excited to be approached by Amalia Dillin about reviewing her debut novel, Forged by Fate, because I've known her on Twitter for several years and remember her talking about writing this book. Though I generally have doubts about reading the books of people that I know and enjoy, it was not so in this case. I've been reading her blog for years, and she's done a great deal of research on Thor and other gods. Research is king with me, and I was right in my assumption that Forged by Fate would be good. Not only was it well-researched, all aspects of the novel were tied together seamlessly, and the characters were complex and well-constructed.
Forged by Fate may be mostly about Thor, Adam, and Eve, but it covers more religious mythologies than just what is found in the Prose Edda and Bible. There is tidbits of ancient Egyptian theology, the Olympians, and a smattering of Eastern religions with appearances from Celtic and African gods. It is a heavy load to juggle, but Dillin weaved them together in such a way that their interactions with one another really made sense. I think it is amazing when anyone can take mythologies that already exist and make them into something else without really compromising the structure of the original.
I also loved the characters in Forged by Fate. Thor and Eve's various reincarnations were the main characters in the novel. I loved how Thor was so conflicted between his love of Eve and his ties with the Æsir. I also enjoyed reading him interact with Ra and Athena. Eve is also interesting to read. She retains some memories from each of her past lives, and it only makes sense that she would worry about becoming insane - which she did in her life before her current one as Abby. Adam was a bit of a conundrum because I was unable to tell if he had changed his ways in his current life or if he had only become more devious. Perhaps I will see in the sequel, Fate Forgotten.
I think any fans of reimaginings or mythology will love Forged by Fate. It's rare to come across a novel this well-researched, yet relatively true to the original stories while taking its liberties. Dillin is definitely an author to watch, and I look forward to reading her future endeavors.
- 4.5/5 Stars -
To satisfy FTC guidelines, I am disclosing that I received a digital copy of this novel for reviewing purposes from the author in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are rambling, honest, and completely my own....more
I have no idea why, but one day I decided that I absolutely must read The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon. I don’t exactly recall reading the synopsis or paying much attention to the hype, but one day I couldn’t stand it anymore and preordered the audiobook. I downloaded it the morning it was available, but since I was listening to an audiobook for review, I had to wait to read it. It was brutal because all I could think about was the book that I had found myself obsessing over.
Once I FINALLY began reading, I was immediately drawn into the world in The Bone Season. I was afraid my longing would work against the book (my expectations being so high and all), but it was all that I hoped for. Paige Mahoney was an interesting and tough heroine who would not back down, and the world-building was awesome in every sense of the word, both literal and slang. I want to go ahead and let it be known that I disagree completely with many comparisons made about the book and some other popular novels because too many publishers and reviewers try to compare a writer who is capable of genius world-building with Rowling and anything gritty with The Hunger Games. I mean, maybe the scale of the series may be comparable to the others, but there really isn’t much in the way of other similarities. Samantha Shannon and The Bone Season are forces to be reckoned with on their own.
The world-building and the sheer size of this imaginative, alternate England is what made the book for me. In 1857, there was some sort of event that supposedly created clairvoyance. Paige Mahoney and the people she works with under the radar are all clairvoyants who must keep their talents hidden. To be clairvoyant – called Unnatural – is against the law in Scion London, and bad things will happen. I’m not an expert on paranormal and astrology, so I learned a lot in this novel. (I can’t tell you where what Shannon created and what is a commonly held belief regarding these things meets.) The other races and mythology are woven together very well, and I swear to Bob there will be spoilers if I gush too hard. Just exploring SciLo was a treat in itself and something I hope I get more of in the next books in the series. Sheol I and the æther were also well-done and fascinating.
As for the characters, there are a lot because The Bone Season is a fairly long book. We have the Seven Seals that the series will be supposedly featuring, but they didn’t get as much time on the pages as I expected. Paige, of course, was a badass Voyant that was stronger than everyone imagined. There are other Voyants and amaurotics (non-clairvoyant humans) with her in the penal colony, Sheol I, ran by the Rephaim, but only Liss really stood out to me. I guess it was because I came to a lot of conclusions about her, that all ended up being VERY wrong. Oh, the Rephaim! Well... I don't want to say too much about them because it was interesting to find out about them in the book. (I'm being difficult, aren't I?) Anywho, I will say that Warden is my new book boyfriend. He is such a complex character, and he's very tall. I like tall men.
Since I did listen to the audiobook, I suppose I should tell you about the best parts about. Alana Kerr, the narrator, had a beautiful voice and did a great job with the large cast of characters. I loved to hear her speak as Paige because her very slight Irish accent was so lovely. I didn't realize it until well into the book how much the audiobook helped me through all of the Victorian phrases and obscure names. I've read reviews where many people have had trouble getting past these things, and I barely noticed them. I loved listening to Kerr's performance of The Bone Season, and I hope that she will be doing the other books as well.
The Bone Season is definitely a book well worth the hype, and one that I will be rereading before the next book in the series releases. Both author Samantha Shannon and voice actress Alana Kerr are now on my auto-buy list. I recommend this to anyone who likes alternate history, the paranormal, and colossal world-building. Though this is an adult novel, I think it is fine for older young adults. Again, if you've made it this far in the review - JUST READ THE DAMN BOOK ALREADY!...more