Lately I’ve been slowly exploring middle grade fiction, something I haven’t done since I was actually a middle grade reader, trying to find more and
Lately I’ve been slowly exploring middle grade fiction, something I haven’t done since I was actually a middle grade reader, trying to find more and more titles for my daughter, who’s turning out to be quite the voracious reader. I must confess that I’m sometimes finding it difficult to see MG reads as she would see them and not judge them through adult eyes. But every once in a while there comes a book appropriate for all ages, beautiful and educational, a read that promotes all the right values and teaches all the right lessons.
The Rosemary Spell was quite a surprise for me. The second I read the words ‘literary puzzle’ in the synopsis, I knew I must read it, and read it I did, in a single breath no less. It is a wonderful story, warm and intriguing, with young but flawed characters with genuine fears and problems. It’s a tiny bit magical in a very literal sense, but the true magic is in Rosemary’s character, her sorrow for her father, her quiet anger at her mother, her feeling of abandonment caused by a friend who just started high school and the young, brilliant mind behind it all.
We are led through this adventure by a creative, smart girl, daughter of two academics, a brilliant mind, but young and vulnerable too. Rosemary discovers a secret diary under the floorboards in her room, empty pages that seem to slowly reveal words and paragraphs, only to hide them again minutes later. Rosemary and Adam are determined to discover the truth about the diary, but to do that, they have to be resourceful, creative, and very good at interpreting poetry.
In a way, this is a coming of age story, but the most prominent feeling is that of being left behind. Abandoned by her father and outgrown by one of her best friends and role models, Rosemary struggles with very real feelings while trying her best to solve the magical mystery. The setting, the characters and the very idea behind this book are lovely.
My favorite thing about this story is that it develops a love for poetry. Rosemary and Adam search for hidden meanings, interpret Shakespeare and other poets, read and explore biographies and collections. It’s an exciting story, but its educational value is enormous. I really think young readers are going to adore this one. ...more
Dreamstrider is a romantic fantasy novel with a distinctly historical feel. It is Lindsey Smith’s third published full length novel, and to her creditDreamstrider is a romantic fantasy novel with a distinctly historical feel. It is Lindsey Smith’s third published full length novel, and to her credit, it’s practically bursting with diversity and fresh ideas. It is, however, a very flawed novel that required much more work on several aspects including composition.
Dreamstrider throws us straight into a complex world with very little in the way of explanation. It’s almost entirely up to us to figure out our way around, to understand the rules and limitations that apply to Barstadt and its inhabitants. I’ve had this same problem with Smith’s previous work, Sekret. She doesn’t pay too much attention to exposition and it always costs the reader (and consequently her) dearly.
I need to be very clear on the fact that Lindsey Smith’s imagination was put to very good use in this book. While I already mentioned that I found the exposition lacking, the complexity of the world, the social structure, the religious aspect and paranormal abilities were all on a very admirable level. It took a while to truly understand the world and its many intricacies and better explanations would have made the process less daunting and much more enjoyable, but that doesn’t change the fact that Smith has really outdone herself with the worldbuilding she offered.
The romance brought another disappointment, with the exasperating lack of honesty and communication between best friends. The idea of so much background between Livia and Brandt was stupendous, but I felt that it wasn’t used to its full potential. These two had years of history between them, all that work as partners for the Ministry, and yet they behaved like strangers, unable to read each other or talk about what’s most important.
While it gets huge points for originality and detail, Dreamstrider is a novel I would hesitate to recommend. There are just too many things that were left unclear and unexplained, too many characters that required more work and development and even the ending seemed a bit too rushed and well-rounded.
The Black Blade series started out as Elemental Assassin lite, a young adult version of the series Jennifer Estep is first known for. I liked it well
The Black Blade series started out as Elemental Assassin lite, a young adult version of the series Jennifer Estep is first known for. I liked it well enough at the time, but saw it merely as a reprise of sorts, a nice way to pass the time, but a book I could have easily done without. The same does not apply to the sequel. Jennifer Estep truly stepped up her game and gave us a book that stands out.
We reunite with Lila only days after she’s become Devon Sinclair’s personal bodyguard. Their world is still as violent as ever, with threats from other magical families always looming over their heads. But even with an outright war brewing, traditions need to be upheld, and one of those traditions is the Tournament of Blades. Lila is naturally one of the contestants, and so is Devon, and they work together more closely than ever to discover the various conspiracies and traps set by other participants.
I distinctly remember feeling ambivalent about the lack of romance in the first book. I had no such problems here – the romance is understated, yes, but wonderful nevertheless. Devon’s steady, dependable presence and Lila’s reactions to him hit all the right notes for me. Even when they fight against each other, they do it as a team, which is very difficult to achieve, but so beautiful to behold.
My only true objection is aimed at the predictability of this book. I don't like feeling that much smarter than the characters and I intensely dislike feeling frustrated while waiting for them to catch up. Lila was painfully slow in this book, always failing to see what was right in front of her. To make matters worse, the villain was glaringly obvious the second he/she showed up, which made it impossible not to feel bothered by the blindness of our heroine. If you can put that aside, however, Dark Heart of Magic is an exciting, emotionally charged book that outshines its predecessor by far. I have very high hopes for Bright Blaze of Magic and I absolutely trust Jennifer Estep to deliver a fabulous read. ...more
Lucy March is a hopeless romantic, but that’s alright – I’m one as well. The third book in her Nodaway Falls series gave me exactly what I’d hoped to
Lucy March is a hopeless romantic, but that’s alright – I’m one as well. The third book in her Nodaway Falls series gave me exactly what I’d hoped to get – a small community filled with lovable characters, a delicious romance, a nuanced, interesting villain and a very interesting plot.
By now, the residents of Nodaway Falls are all very familiar and dear to my heart. I’ve been with them through hell and back, faced danger and walked bravely into the unknown, fell in love and found joy. Going back to them feels a lot like coming home, comforting and familiar in a way that very few things are.
We meet Eliot Parker at a very low point in her life. Her husband just died in a car crash while spending a weekend away with his mistress. In addition to being a heartless cheater, he left her with nothing but an old house in the middle of nowhere and his lover’s dog. Eliot has no choice but to move to Nodaway Falls, away from everything she knows and loves.
Heartache aside, something very sinister is brewing in Eliot’s new town. Her father, a mad magical scientist of sorts is on her trail after many years of hiding under a different name. Suddenly everything seems to be a product of his manipulations, including Eliot’s new life. Luckily, Liv and the old gang are all there to help, albeit cautiously and with many problems of their own. She might have lost everything, but Eliot also gained some new friends in Nodaway Falls, magical friends who understand her better than anyone else ever has.
I felt that Eliot’s conflict over her father was very well done. I love villains I can both sympathize with and hate at the same time, and he was certainly one of those. Even the hero, Eliot’s love interest Desmond Lamb, was so very well done. As the villain of the previous book, Desmond has so much to atone for, and forgiveness was very far from everyone’s minds.
You can always count on Lucy March for delicious, intriguing paranormal romances. I love small communities, towns filled with eccentric fictional people and Nodaway Falls is practically bursting with them. I have no idea what’s coming next for our group of friends, but I’ll definitely be there to find out. ...more
Among the many authors in the M/M genre, both seasoned and new, Heidi Cullinan stands out for the sheer quality of her prose, the deep understanding
Among the many authors in the M/M genre, both seasoned and new, Heidi Cullinan stands out for the sheer quality of her prose, the deep understanding of her characters and the subtle sense of humor that permeates her every page. All these defining characteristics were present in Cullinan’s earliest work, but as she matures, they become more pronounced and each of her books brings forth a new surprise.
I must confess that I adored the previous two books in this series. For me, they’re a sure sign that Christmas is coming in its full romantic shine. I love romance as much as the next person, but there’s something so special about holiday stories, and especially those that take place around Christmas. After all, we all dream about our very own Christmas miracles and we love to witness them happening to others, fictional or otherwise.
Paul Jansen and Kyle Parks make a very odd pair, but that’s usually true for Heidi’s boys. We remember Paul from the previous two books and we remember that he was not our favorite. But as we learn more about him, some of his past actions become more understandable, if not entirely justified. Paul may seem like a bear on the outside, but he is a delicate, vulnerable, soft-hearted man on the inside. In fact, both of these men crush stereotypes left and right, which is precisely the sort of thing I appreciate. Being Christmas-themed, these books are a bit lighter than Heidi’s usual work, but the overall tone, the characters and everything else can only be described as perfect for the holidays.
Winter Wonderland is a fairly quick read, but that only makes it all the more appealing. It’s easy to reread in winter months and it basically guarantees the same level of delight each time you decide to pick it up. All three books have made it to my ‘comfort reread’ list were they’re sure to stay for many years to come. ...more
In his first full length novel, Inherit the Stars, Tony Park offered us a wonderful space adventure with excellent worldbuilding, interesting societa
In his first full length novel, Inherit the Stars, Tony Park offered us a wonderful space adventure with excellent worldbuilding, interesting societal structure, gray characters and a very memorable romance.
Tony Peak is a tremendously imaginative writer. Kivita Vondir’s world is complex, very socially layered and incredibly thought-through. I loved the descriptions of technology and of Kivita’s society, but I also loved that they never overtook the narrative and became more important than the story itself. Finding balance is the single most important thing in books that rely so heavily on worldbuilding, and it is my opinion that Tony Peak succeeded splendidly.
I found Kivita to be such a difficult character to like at times, a solitary woman intent on doing nothing but salvaging. She often suffered from far too much self doubt and for the most part, I was unable to find any justification for her splendid reputation. She was known and celebrated far and wide as an amazing salvager, but she had a tendency to mess up, which confused me to some extent. On the other hand, she redeemed herself toward the end when she proved to be both compassionate and kind.
The idea of a corrupt religious leader certainly isn’t new. If I can find a fault within Inherit the Stars, it’s that Dunaar seemed a bit stereotypical as a villain. A lot more could have been achieved with his character, but as it was, he wasn’t a truly convincing or complex threat.
For those among us who appreciate a good romance above all else, there’s enough fire and heat between Kivita and Saar to burn a whole city down. Their romance isn’t at all explicit, but their chemistry is off the charts. Admittedly, the romance could have done without the third person in the mix. I really don’t appreciate love triangles and find them to be overwhelmingly tedious and emotionally exhausting, but even that can be forgiven due to some extenuating circumstances.
Unsympathetic though she might have been, Kivita was still a delight to read about. This book’s true strength isn’t admittedly in its characters, but in the worldbuilding and in many action scenes that were done so very beautifully. The next time I’m in the mood for some really good science fiction, Tony Peak’s future works will surely be at the top of my list. ...more