On the day she is to be married, Princess Lia makes the rash decision to flee. She leaves behind her family, her home, everything she has ever known for a new life, a life where she's free to do whatever she pleases and marry whomever she chooses. As First Daughter, she was nothing but a disappointment. All First Daughters are given the Gift, the ability to see and predict the future, but somehow this ability was passed over Lia. She grew up watching the effects it had on her own mother, another First Daughter, and realized nothing good could come from it.
Despite what the marriage would bring to her kingdom, Lia runs away, her maid in tow. They conspire to head to the maid's hometown, a quiet little village where they can hide, and along the way barter for clothes, food, and horses. Unfortunately for Lia, the Prince isn't one to handle rejection quite so easily and there's also an assassin on her trail. That quiet life Lia had hoped for? Not gonna happen.
It's a shame this book didn't live up to my expectations. I honestly wanted to like it! It's not for a lack of skill - Pearson writes beautifully. Instead it's because I was lied to; the entire novel was a lie. The Kiss of Deception is pitched as Fantasy - High Fantasy at that! - when it's actually an almost-500 page love triangle with a 'twist' that was so confusing I went back and reread earlier chapters because I had thought I misread.
I was looking forward to this princess who shares my name, particularly when other bloggers began lavishing her with praise over what a strong female she is. I'm wondering if I read a different book. Okay, sure, Lia has been practicing with a dagger, but where's the kickass woman I was promised? She puts on an ever-so-brave face to wait on tables at a bar. She carelessly throws a generations-old ceremonial robe into a river and dons filthy commoners' clothing. Clearly I missed something.
Because there's nothing else as far as actual plot goes, the love triangle dealt with the Prince and the Assassin and the minute these two walk into the bar they're all Lia can think about. One is dark-haired and brooding. The other is light and full of warmth. Gag. When Lia wasn't pining after these two she was listening to Pauline wax poetic about her own love. A medieval tavern does not a High Fantasy make, Pearson! Dishing out mugs of ale to dockworkers doesn't give you a free pass. The Kiss of Deception was a long, drawn out romance and had I known that, I would never have bothered.
Naturally there's a Big Reveal, Lia chooses one of the boys, and that's that. The entire thing could have been condensed into a novella. If you're looking for a new Fantasy series, look elsewhere. Trust me, this isn't what you're looking for. However, if you're a big fan of romance and love triangles, you might want to check it out. I've heard good things about Pearson's Jenna Fox series, but after this book, you'll be hard-pressed to convince me they're worth reading.(less)
Everyone knows the evil Captain Hook, the villain of Neverland. What Alias Hook delivers is the tale of Jamie Benjamin Hookbridge, the eleven-year-old boy obsessed with ships. James Hookbridge, the charming young man who enjoyed women and drink and was in no hurry to settle down. The curse that cast him a devil, the boy who haunts him day and night, and his only chance at a way out.
I'm a big fan of retellings. A big fan. When I first heard about a retelling that focused on Captain Hook, the story that told his side, I couldn't contain myself. This was a story for me. Unfortunately, after an extremely strong start, I quickly found myself losing focus; Alias Hook lost its steam hardly a quarter of the way into the story.
Hook's childhood was fascinating and I loved these early alternating chapters between his life in London in the late 1600s and his hellish existence in Neverland in (what turns out to be) 1950. I'm a total sucker for a good backstory and I think it's crucial to a successful retelling. Hook's time spent with his father, his passion for the sea, even his early adulthood when he was often found in a saloon with his uppercrust pals or entertaining ladies in a seedy brothel. These windows into just who this man was made the story for me. I'll take some good old-fashioned character exploration over action scenes any day of the week.
Unfortunately, once his backstory was established and there were no longer any of those lovely looks into his previous life - his mortal life - I found it was a struggle to continue. There was a woman Hook loved, though he secretly wasn't looking forward to a life at home with a wife and children. He took to the seas and never returned. A dark curse was placed upon him, sending him to a boy's fantasy world where he would forever be tormented and challenged. Two centuries later - two centuries worth of shipmates, Lost Boys, Wendys, and Pan's antics - Hook discovers something new to Neverland: a woman.
Stella Parrish was a nurse who aided wounded soldiers in the Second World War. When that world became too unbearable, she sought the refuge of her childhood dreams and soon found herself in a place she immediately recognized from her storybooks. Naturally she doesn't believe Hook is really the Captain Hook, nor does she take Pan's word as truth; he's just a silly boy, a child. What power could he possibly wield? It's not until she witnessed firsthand just how deadly Pan's games are that she comes to realize this isn't silly, this isn't a game. For centuries Pan has acted out his heroic fantasies while Hook is predestined to lose every single time. While he is never fatally harmed (despite his longing for release from this dreadful place), his men, mere mortals, die for Lost Boys grow up to become men and Pan would never allow grown-ups to plague his world.
Stella's arrival is met with confusion - if Pan's in charge and he adamantly refuses to allow adults, just how did a grown woman appear? Hook takes her aboard his ship in an attempt to protect her and possibly gain the upper hand on Pan for once (Hook reasons that Stella made her way to Neverland without Pan's knowledge and he won't pass up any advantage he could have over the boy). Over time the two become close and, yeah, I wasn't at all surprised by the romance - anyone reading this book should not be surprised. The only woman in Neverland and the first woman Hook has seen in over two hundred years? Yeah.
There's lovely homage paid to J. M. Barrie. Although he'd long since passed by Stella's arrival, Hook remembers him as Pan's Scotch Boy. Barrie was one of the Lost Boys and when he returned to our world and grew up, a part of him retained those childhood memories. In his recollections, however, Barrie viewed Peter as a great leader, as all Lost Boys do, thus making Peter Pan beloved and renowned while Hook was demonized.
While I felt the story began to drag once James became Hook, I was never not interested. I certainly wasn't nearly as invested in the story as I had been in the beginning, leading to it taking nearly two weeks to read when I typically get through a book in two or three days. By the halfway mark I found myself skimming over the longer passages, usually those scenes where Hook was lamenting Stella's absence or discussing matters with his men. A large part of the book was slow-going and as much as I love a story that takes its time, Alias Hook didn't have enough to keep me turning the pages. Many nights I only got through a chapter - two if they were short. Although I wasn't as in love with Alias Hook as I had hoped, I like the idea behind it and I loved the look into Captain Hook's life before Neverland. His quest for redemption, for death, captivated me and the ending is open to a variety of interpretations. And, really, the cover is seriously spectacular in person. The colors are astoundingly vivid!(less)
Last year's Rain of the Ghosts was a quick, fun read that kept me entertained but left me with a few questions. The sequel, Spirits of Ash and Foam was one I was really looking forward to and I couldn't wait to get back to the Ghost Keys. Unfortunately, it seems this book suffers from the dreaded Second Book Syndrome. The bad outweighed the good here.
There's a string of islands in the Bermuda Triangle known to the locals as the Ghost Keys. Rain Cacique and her family run an inn on one of the islands and she recently inherited a magical bracelet from her grandfather. The zemi is just one of nine and Rain isn't the only one who's searching for them.
With literally no time elapsed since the first book, Spirits of Ash and Foam kicks off the morning after Rain of the Ghosts ended. Rain is still coming to terms with everything: magic, her new-found ability to see ghosts, her recently-deceased Grandpa 'Bastian-turned-ghostly sidekick...and the beginning of the new school year is just around the corner. It was a joy to see Charlie and Miranda again (although Charlie's massive crush on Rain still hasn't gone anywhere) and there were some new faces too. While the other characters were beautifully crafted, Renee was little more than a Mean Girl stereotype. Miranda unknowingly sits in a seat Renee had wanted, and now Renee is out for blood. She enters their group, goes along with them on adventures...all the while intent on getting revenge. She wouldn't let it go - even AFTER they finally became friends. Did this girl really have nothing else going on in her life?
The only thing I enjoyed about Spirits of Ash and Foam was that, in the first ten pages, I had answered to the questions I had from the first book. Everything was spelled out for me and I appreciated that. Sadly, that was where the good ended.
In a novel this short - 280 pages - there's only room for so much. Whereas I had been under the impression this series was about the mysterious zemis and Rain's quest to find the rest of them, here there were numerous plots and hardly any of them went anywhere. Callahan, the Bad Guy, is back. The inn has new guests and Rain's forced to babysit the three unruly children. A murder or two. A search party. Mermaids and ancient legends. Charlie's crush. There was so much packed into these pages and I felt that there wasn't enough attention devoted to any of them. Cut out a few storylines and the book as a whole would have been far stronger.
A large chunk of this book was devoted to a strange woman/manatee the children glimpse one afternoon. Rain is told the tribal tales of the woman and how she's an evil witch that, for centuries has been luring children away from their families and they're never seen again. Centuries, remember. Many, many years. 'Bastian simply asks her to return the missing children (the guests at the Cacique's inn) to their parents and that's it. Hundreds of years of suffering could have been avoiding if the parents had simply asked nicely. Turns out this woman was never evil at all, just misunderstood and lonely. Right.
Another issue I had was with the logistics. There are a handful of ghosts in this book and, for the most part, they're free to come and go as they please. They can walk through walls and floors with ease. Yet they still need to take ferries to get from island to island. I couldn't wrap my mind around this concept.
It's such a shame when a solid first book is followed by a lackluster sequel. It wasn't until the very end that Rain discovered the second zemi. There are still seven more to find and if the rate is one per book I really don't see myself keeping up with this series. While I enjoyed Rain of the Ghosts, Spirits of Ash and Foam was such a downgrade that, unless something drastic changes in the third book, my time with this series is over.(less)
After last year's A Corner of White (read my review here), I was sold. Who wouldn't want to read about a world totally separate from ours where colors can execute deadly attacks!! Immediately after finishing I knew I needed to read The Cracks in the Kingdom - I wanted to read it so badly it was one of my most anticipated releases this year. While I didn't enjoy it nearly as much as the first, it was still a solid second novel and worthy sequel, setting up the scene for a fantastic third book!
Madeleine Tully lives with her mother in Cambridge, England. Once spoiled by a lavish lifestyle, Madeleine now resides in a cramped, leaking apartment and the building's residents take turns homeschooling the children. A few months ago she discovered something remarkable: a small crack in a parking meter leads to another world. Naturally Madeleine assumed it was a prank - there's no way another world exists, right? The more she and Elliot communicated, however, the more she came to believe what she was seeing.
Elliot Baranski lives in a small farming community called Bonfire in the Kingdom of Cello. It's a world much like ours, only with the added danger of colors. Yep. Certain colors can be wonderful things - turquoise, for instance, can give you an adrenaline rush like none you've experienced before! - while other colors can be devastating. Elliot recently lost his uncle to a Purple attack and his father still hasn't been found, although there are rumors floating around that he's been seen. When the entire royal family (save for Princess Ko) mysteriously vanishes, the entire matter is treated with the utmost secrecy; dealing with the World is extremely illegal and punishable by death. Elliot is among a small group recruited to help rescue them and now he needs Madeleine's help more than ever.
While The Cracks in the Kingdom wasn't a bad book by any means, it definitely suffered a big from Second Book Syndrome - and was very much Elliot's story. A Corner of White beautifully set up both worlds and was chock-full of character development. This time around I didn't get that at all. Madeleine's mother played a large role in the first book; she wasn't in it at all in the second. The same with her friends (and we'll get to Belle's mindboggling change of character in a moment). Instead, this book gave much of its focus to Elliot's story and Cello - understandable, since the plot revolved around finding the missing royal family.
The Cracks in the Kingdom gives a deeper look into Cello and I loved exploring this world! There's a lake where you can catch spells - and only if you're under a certain age. There are strange new sports and, of course, the color attacks. Unfortunately, I felt the lack of both worlds ultimately made the story suffer a bit. I could have dealt with that if it wasn't for the abrupt character changes. Out of nowhere Madeleine's friend Belle leaves a note (the others joke that it's a suicide note and her own mother doesn't seem worried) and runs away from home to be with a "man" she's fallen for. A grown man. These are 14-year-old children. That entire subplot not only seemed tacked on last-minute (particularly since it was at the VERY end of the book and lasted all of a few pages), but completely rubbed me the wrong way.
The end provided a few surprising reveals - I honestly didn't see a certain one coming! - and sets things up nicely for the third book. The royal family, now found, is stuck in the World, half-remembered who they really are and unable to get home. Elliot and Madeleine have finally managed to see each other (in the first book I wasn't quite sure how a potential romance could work out, but The Cracks in the Kingdom does a decent job of making it not only plausible, but a reality), and the cracks between the worlds are becoming larger. Despite my issues with this novel I still thoroughly enjoyed it and am definitely looking forward to the next book!(less)
How awesome does this sound: the Prince Charming we all know and love isn't one man, but an entire family. T...morethis review will go live on the blog10/11
How awesome does this sound: the Prince Charming we all know and love isn't one man, but an entire family. The Charming title is passed down from generation to generation - and these men aren't your everyday Prince. They're highly trained assassins, capable of taking down the toughest dragon and nastiest witch.
While pregnant, John Charming's mother was bit by a werewolf. John came into this world as the one thing his family was trained to hunt: a monster. As a child John showed no signs of being anything other than human. Perhaps it was a fluke; John might just be safe after all. Unfortunately, puberty struck. If you think it's hard on humans, well, you can imagine what it was like for John. While he doesn't sprout fur or fangs, he does have a heightened sense of smell and strong urges to kill. So far he's managed to keep a low profile, working at a bar and leading a rather ordinary life. That is until the day a vampire walked into the pub.
I wanted to be head-over-heels for Charming. This book sounds like it would be the ultimate Leah Novel; it has all the makings of a story perfectly suited for me. Sadly that wasn't the case. I'd like to think I'm fairly lenient to the start of new series. I understand there's a certain amount of world-building that needs to be done, especially for sci-fi/fantasy. That said, Charming was nothing but one massive info-dump - usually right in the middle of a big action scene.
I made it roughly halfway through this one before setting it aside. Charming was by no means a bad book - in fact I quite enjoyed it! I plan on revisiting it one day when I have more time (and patience) to devote to Charming's world.(less)
The Bone Season has received an insane amount of hype leading up to its release. Personally, I'm extremely hesitant to give in to any book labeled The Next ______ (especially when it's the next Harry Potter). While I definitely wouldn't say this series is the next HP, the hype is certainly deserved!
2050s London is far different than it is today. In the late 1800s, a seance-gone-wrong (or right, depending on how you look at it) ushered forth clairvoyants, normal humans with abnormal abilities. 200 years later, clairvoyants are still on the run from the Big Brother-esque Scion. With a father in the government, Paige Mahoney has a lot to lose if her true nature is discovered. Using a false job as a cover, she spends her time in London's seedy underworld, working for a man with questionable ethics.
Some clairvoyants can read tarot cards or palms. Paige is a dreamwalker, a person with the ability to not only enter others' minds, but - as Paige discovers - their bodies as well. A rather disastrous train ride sets Scion's sights on Paige and she quickly learns there's much more to her world than she ever thought possible.
If you're a fan of massive world-building, The Bone Season is for you. In fact, there's so much to learn it can be slightly overwhelming. Initially I was a bit confused - the first few chapters are bogged down with lots of info and terms - but as the novel progressed these ideas and phrases became second nature and by the end of the book I was fully immersed.
NOTHING makes me happier than opening a book and finding a big ol' map staring at me. I absolutely love it and this one was a complete surprise. It's not as large or as detailed as some of the other maps I've come across in books (although those typically encompass entire worlds rather than a single city), but it made me feel right at home. There's also a chart in the very beginning of the book - even before the map! - that I didn't fully understand until later in the story. It breaks down the seven orders of clairvoyance and once you understand what each ability means, this chart becomes absolutely fascinating. Probably the most helpful though was the nine-page glossary. Trust me on this one: you'll need it. Between words like mime-crime, threnody, and Amaurotic, there's a LOT to learn and you'll quickly become good friends with those nine pages.
The characters were another hit and each one was beautifully crafted (particularly Warden ♥). Whether they were minor, one-scene characters or main characters seen throughout the course of the novel, I got a feel for every single one. Yes The Bone Season is a fantasy novel, but when you get down to it, these characters are still human (some of them at least!) and they're not without flaws and strengths and fears.
I don't want to give away any spoilers, but the ending seriously left me wanting more (plus the romance I was starting to suspect wouldn't happen!). While I'm a bit unsure of how the story will play out over seven books, you can bet I'll be eagerly awaiting the sequel! Don't go into The Bone Season expecting to return to the world of Harry Potter. Honestly, apart from the same publisher and series length, the two are nothing alike. If you go into it with thoughts of Hogwarts and Quidditch you will be let down. However, if you're looking for a fun and exciting new series with an excellent world and class system, The Bone Season is for you!(less)
Mere words cannot defeat a true hero. Unless they happen to be the words to some sort of Instant Death spell. Magic is scary.
Last year, The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom took the Middle Grade world by storm (read my 5-star review here!). The sequel, The Hero's Guide to Storming the Castle was one of my most highly-anticipated 2013 releases and - spoiler! - Christopher Healy didn't let me down!
With one adventure under their belt, the four Princes Charming - Liam, Gustav, Duncan, and Frederic - are back home and starting to feel a little restless. Prince Liam is dreading his upcoming wedding day; despite being all muscle, Gustav is once again the runt of his family; Frederic is suspicious of his wife's friendship with Liam; Duncan is happy as can be and it's driving the dwarves insane.
After Liam is kidnapped (by none other than his fiancee!), a messenger is sent to round up the remaining princes: it's time for the League of Princes to join forces once more. This time they're aided by Ella and Lila, Liam's younger sister. Unfortunately, their rescue attempt doesn't quite go according to plan and suddenly they've got an even bigger mission: retrieve an ancient heirloom that gives its wielder immense power. While the sword once belonged to Liam's family, the pre-teen Bandit King Deeb Rauber now has it and he's not giving it up that easily.
"I admire your ability to insult your friends while you defend them. It's a rare talent."
Unlike other sequels, going into this one I had no worries whatsoever. I couldn't wait to jump back into this world and Storming the Castle is everything a sequel should be! All of my favorite characters are back, as well as a few new ones, and the humor is seriously top-notch. This is the perfect book to read aloud to a classroom - especially with the AMAZING ILLUSTRATIONS!
Although this is a truly funny book, it does have a more serious side. Liam's going through a pretty huge identity crisis after discovering a secret. He doesn't feel as though he's a real hero and that he's been living a lie. I loved reading his worries and fears - though there were moments when I wanted to shake him silly.
"Who brings a giant on a stealth mission?"
For a league of Princes, it's the ladies that steal this show. Ella, Lila, and Briar Rose are fantastic. Ella and Lila are totally kickass and Briar Rose is the embodiment of a spoiled brat. I also loved seeing more of the bounty hunter, Ruffian the Blue (or Mr. the Blue, as Snow White calls him). Seeing Papa Scoots Jr. and Mr. Troll once more made my heart happy. ♥
Okay, confession time: I hate writing reviews for books I love. It's SO. HARD. trying to convey my feelings (all the feelings) in any sort of coherent manner. The Hero's Guide to Storming the Castle is every bit as fantastic as the first book - if not better! It boasts a pretty decent page count - just shy of 500 pages! - but reading was a breeze. Whether you're just starting the series or are eager to revisit this world, definitely check this one out. I see HUGE things happening in the third - including new romances??? - and I can't wait!(less)
In a land where sorcerers come thick, like Gont of the Enlades, you may see a raincloud blundering slowly from side to side and place to place as one spell shunts it on to the next, till at last it is buffeted out over the sea where it can rain in peace.
A Wizard of Earthsea tells the tale of a young boy, Duny, who grew to be one of the greatest wizards alive. Duny grew up in Gont, a small island in the Archipelago. As the nephew of a witch, he learned a number of simple spells and charms. One day, however, he loosed a terrible evil and now he's the only one who can stop it.
I feel like a HORRIBLE fantasy fan for saying this, but I could not get into this book. I wanted to, I wanted to so badly; after all, it's a staple of the Fantasy genre! Unfortunately, it took me nearly a week to read a book that was less than 200 pages and more than once I wanted to set it down and walk away. In the end, however, I struggled to finish and eventually took to skimming entire pages.
I understand what Le Guin was trying to do with her writing - she wanted the phrasing and wording to sound archaic and myth-like. Sadly, this led to extremely long, boring passages full of unnecessary descriptions. Remember those camping scenes in Harry Potter? Now imagine 200 pages of it. The only difference is that Duny/Sparrowhawk/Ged/any-other-names-he-had-that-I-forgot was in a boat instead of on land. There was multiple sentences I read and reread numerous times before giving up on trying to understand their meaning.
While I loved the idea that names held enormous power and that knowing a person's/object's true name meant you held dominion over them, I found it difficult to keep track of these names. Take Ged, for example. As a boy he was Duny. Once he came of age and had his Naming he became known as Ged. His 'use-name' - the name a person goes by in public - was Sparrowhawk. Depending on who he was with, these names became interchangeable along with the names of everyone Ged came across along his journey. The idea was fantastic, but I found its execution to be a little confusing.
"It is very seldom," the young man said at last, "that dragons ask to do men favors." "But it is very common, said the dragon, "for cats to play with mice before they kill them."
As a young mage, Ged saw some words in a book and said them aloud, releasing an evil Shadow. Now this Shadow haunts him and threatens to destroy him. The only way Ged can defeat it is to face his fears and unleash his own power, something he's been hesitant to do for years. Throughout the book many people - and prophecies - hail Ged as the greatest wizard ever, yet I saw nothing to make me believe that. He worked simple weather charms and occasionally changed form. After releasing the Shadow he was scared to work magic and spend a good deal of the novel avoiding anything but the easiest of spells. I didn't believe this was supposed to be the most powerful wizard.
Throughout A Wizard of Earthsea, there are a few really great scenes - like the scene where Ged faces dragons, for example! - but those were few and far between. The majority of the book was dry and very tell-y, with only a tiny glimpse of excitement sprinkled in. The ending was the ultimate letdown for me. The entirety of the book built up a huge showdown between Ged and the Shadow and that final battle culminated in a two-page testimony from another character's perspective. The whole thing was glossed over and was utterly disappointing.
It pains me to be so harsh, and I desperately wanted to love this book, but A Tale of Earthsea wasn't for me. I have a feeling I missed the boat with this one - I know I would have absolutely LOVED it as a child. Reading it now, however, didn't work. I'm definitely in the minority with this though, and maybe - maybe - I'll pick up the second book one day to give the series another shot. (less)
"We don't run indoors. We don't disobey our elders. We don't speak too loudly. Sometimes we don't even speak at all, hmm? Sometimes children shouldn't say a word."
Victoria Wright is the best at everything she does. She wakes up at precisely the same time every single day, she expects her school uniform to be pressed just so, and all of her desk accessories are in clearly labelled boxes. Her parents brag about her to their friends - who certainly don't have children nearly as perfect as Victoria - and when her teachers assign 5-page papers she hands in 10.
Then came the day Victoria never dreamed would happen: she received a B in Music.
She had been too angry and ashamed in her less-than-perfect grade to notice the disappearance of her best friend Lawrence. Lawrence, who constantly needed reminders to comb his hair or tuck in his shirt. Lawrence, who loved his piano above all else - despite his parents' wishes to follow in their footsteps and pursue a career in dental care. Lawrence, who might be a fairly average student, but would certainly never receive a B in Music.
All her life, Victoria had never been one for tears. When people cried, it made her uncomfortable. People who cried couldn't handle their lives, and Victoria could always handle everything. Plus, crying messed up your face. It was disorderly and inconvenient.
When Victoria finally does realize Lawrence is missing, she immediately heads to his house to find out where he went. His parents casually mention a sick grandmother, but Victoria can't help but notice something is...off: their smiles are a little too wide, their eyes a little too bright. The more people Victoria runs into, the more she notices things aren't quite right. While her own mother is no stranger to skin creams and products, her neighbors are starting to look less like humans and more waxy and shiny.
Also, she can't help but notice the sudden swarm of bugs popping up all over town.
Victoria's investigation eventually leads her to the largest house in town: the Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls. Until now, Victoria never had a need to visit the orphanage and avoided it at all costs (who knows what kind of filth and germs those children would have!), but with time running out - and more missing children - Victoria will stop at nothing to bring Lawrence back.
"I must have imagined it," she told herself, slipping into her bed and shutting her eyes tight. "I imagined it, I imagined it. Houses don't move like that. Houses aren't alive."
The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls is a book that had been on my radar for a while now, but it wasn't until I received an ARC of Legrand's The Year of Shadows (out this August), that I made the decision to move Cavendish up a few spots on my list.
Spring has finally graced Pittsburgh and that means rain. Rain and gloomy, dark days. I can't think of a better atmosphere for a novel like this. I curled up on the couch with a cup of tea and a blanket and devoured this book in a sitting. Initially I had my doubts about Victoria. She was the quintessential definition of a snob, yet this was the main character! How on earth was I going to spend 300+ pages with her and her incessant quibbling over incorrectly ironed pleats?
Imagine my absolute shock when I realized I really liked Victoria! Her need for perfection would have been intolerable in anyone else, but with her, it was adorable. Her quirks came off as amusing rather than grating, and her no-nonsense attitude helped move the story along at a wonderful pace. The story doesn't really come alive until Victoria winds up in the Cavendish Home, but once she does, the book takes off beautifully.
The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls reminds me of dark, gothic stories I enjoyed enormously as a child. It's delightfully creepy and the sinister feel didn't let up once. Interspersed throughout the chapters are gorgeous full-page illustrations and every so often there are smaller illustrations of bugs. Ha, more than once I forgot they were just drawings and nearly threw the book across the room. That those drawings kept me on edge while reading only added to the overall feel of the novel and worked in its favor.
Though this is most definitely YA, there were a few moments that surprised me - unbeknownst to the children, they were partaking in cannibalism. These instances did nothing to hinder my enjoyment of the book, however.
Having one Legrand novel under my belt, I cannot wait to read The Year of Shadows! If you're in the mood for a dark tale, The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls is for you!(less)
Back in February I reviewed the first book, The Colossus Rises and instantly knew it would be a hit with the Percy Jackson crowd. I've waited (not-so-patiently I'm afraid!) eight long months, but the sequel is finally here! I couldn't wait to dive back into this fun, imaginative world - hello, ancient wonders!
Jack, Aly, Marco, and Cass are all Selects: they bear a special gene that allows their natural talents to grow and expand. Unfortunately, this gift comes at a price; no Select has ever lived past their 14th birthday. In The Colossus Rises Jack was taken from his home and send to the Karai Institute, a compound so totally remote and off the grid that even the employees working there aren't entirely sure where they're located. Under the care of Professor Bhegad (and Torquin, my favorite red-bearded Bigfoot), the kids search for a possible cure - one that's buried deep within the seven ancient wonders.
After narrowly avoiding a run-in with griffins and a band of crazy monks, the kids are now headed to Babylon's Hanging Gardens. Unlike last time, however, they're not aiming for the ruins: they're going back in time.
I'm so pleased to say Lost in Babylon doesn't suffer from the Second Book Syndrome! Believe it or not, it just might be better than the first! With the world building and explanations out of the way, Lost in Babylon is able to jump right into the action - and it does so spectacularly. In a very happy accident, Marco discovered a way to go back in time - go into the river in the present day and exit thousands of years in the past. Aided by a sweet Babylonian girl (I'd love to see more of her in future books!), the four begin their search for the next Loculus: Invisibility.
In my review of the first book I mentioned the children feeling like real kids and that holds true for this book as well. Thirteen years old, being told they're not going to live to see their next birthday, they've got no idea where they're being kept and aren't able to contact their families, that would be difficult for anyone to handle. They're scared. They're frustrated and angry. They miss their parents. As much as I love the historical aspect of this series, I really love seeing these kids react to their situation and grow.
Lost in Babylon digs deeper into the mystery surrounding the Selects and provides a bit of backstory and history - how these Loculi were formed and why. Jack also discovers that a long-lost family member might not be so lost after all. The third book, The Tomb of Shadows, doesn't come out until May - but you can bet I'll be reading it the moment is does! I've recommended this series to many people - friends, customers, family members - and will continue to do so. Anyone who enjoys a fun adventure story with a bit of history will be sure to enjoy these books!(less)
Determined to save her family from impending doom, Katherine Ann Stephenson - Kat - chops her hair, dresses as a boy, and runs away from home. Unfortunately for Kat, she makes it as far as the garden before she's discovered and hauled back inside.
Kat's oldest sister, prim and proper Elissa (who has a penchant for dramatics - mostly given her love of gothic romances), is set to wed Sir Neville, an enormously wealthy man who would not only raise the family's status but also settle a bit of gambling debt. Stepmama outdid herself with this one: she managed to arrange this marriage and she will not let anything stop it. While Elissa is determined to do her duty to the family, she can't help but worry about the rumors that surround Sir Neville. His first wife had died and he's the main suspect.
Elissa isn't the only one with troubles, though. Angeline has been going through Mama's magic books (their mother was a powerful witch) and created a love spell with disastrous results. Now the boy won't leave her alone, proclaiming his love night-and-day and proposing at every available moment.
Kat has her own share of problems too: in an attempt to try her hand at a bit of magic, she mistakenly discovers a secret Order that her mother belonged to and learns she's more powerful than any mere witch: Katherine Ann Stephenson is a Guardian.
Kat, Incorrigible was delightful. Kat is gutsy and fearless, full of nothing but love for her family - though perhaps not Stepmama. Her running commentary was hilarious and more than once I laughed out loud. Kat is the kind of girl I would have loved to be at 12 and would have loved to be friends with.
The Stephenson family had once been fairly respectable in Society's eyes. Papa was a member of the clergy and was liked by the townspeople. His marriage to Mama raised more than a few eyebrows. Although Mama came from a good family herself, she made no secret of her powers and that ultimately led to her undoing. She died shortly after Kat was born and when Stepmama moved in, she hid all of Mama's portraits and books in a cupboard never to be seen again.
That is, until Angeline decided to work some magic, which led to Kat finding an enchanted mirror, which led to discovering the Golden Hall, which led to Kat learning she was her mother's heir and Guardian, which led to... It was a never-ending spiral and I loved it. The best part though had nothing to do with magic. Kat's bond with her sisters was incredible. Though they may fight and argue and annoy each other to death, they fiercely love one another and would stop at nothing to save the others. When Kat hears about Elissa's engagement to Sir Neville, she makes up her mind then and there to save her no matter what. No matter how much trouble she'll get into nor how many lectures Stepmama will give her.
Kat, Incorrigible was a brilliant, lovely novel full of charm and fantastic characters. Each had a distinct voice and it was magnificent. Between the funny commentary (seriously, read Kat's thoughts on Elissa's obsession with becoming a gothic heroine and try not to giggle!) and the non-stop action, this book kept me entertained the entire time I was reading and I will most definitely be back for more.(less)
Thirteen-year-old Rain Cacique and her parents live on a series of islands in the Bermuda Triangle known as...morethis review will go live on the blog12/03
Thirteen-year-old Rain Cacique and her parents live on a series of islands in the Bermuda Triangle known as the Prospero Keys, the Ghost Keys to the locals. The height of tourist season is upon the Keys and the Caciques' home/inn is currently serving as a haven for some very odd guests - including the creepy Callahan. Rain's only escape is an area of the jungle dubbed the NTZ: No Tourist Zone. It is in the jungle that Rain and her friends find peace and quiet and, more importantly, no camera-snapping, flower shirt-wearing tourists.
Shortly before Rain's beloved grandfather dies, he gives her a special armband and Rain discovers it grants her the ability to see ghosts and spirits. In an attempt to put her grandfather's soul to rest, Rain aids his spirit in one final mission - but it soon becomes clear that Rain isn't the only one who knows about the armband's power.
Rain of the Ghosts is a tiny morsel of a novel, barely clocking in at 200 pages. In those pages, however, is a thoroughly engrossing and enchanting tale. The story is seen through the eyes of Opie, Rain's ever-present guardian. To be honest, I'm still not entirely sure just what Opie was - at times I thought both he and Maq (his partner and sidekick of sorts) were spirits or humans. Toward the end of the novel I got the impression they were dogs, yet there were scenes where Maq speaks with people. In the end I reached the conclusion that, in a novel like Rain of the Ghosts, it makes sense that it doesn't make sense. That said, I'm hoping the sequel will provide some answers!
While Opie is the story's narrator, he sees all and knows all, providing some wonderful insight into what the characters are feeling and thinking. It also sets up a potential romance quite nicely - or a possible heartbreak. Rain's best friend Charlie has been harboring a long-time crush while Rain is totally oblivious. Rain of the Ghosts was romance-free, and I'm looking forward to what lies in store for these two.
The magical element was superb and one I think many readers will enjoy. There was that fantasy side without being overtly paranormal and it worked. Rain is the only person able to see and communicate with these spirits, which makes things wildly entertaining in the scenes where Charlie attempts to help out. 'Bastian, Rain's grandfather, was a pilot in WWII and carried the weight of regret with him his entire life. He led his men through multiple battles only to be the only survivor of a horrific accident back home. He can't rest until he makes amends and Rain is the key.
The novel ends by opening the doors to a mystery: why is Rain's armband so special? Why are other people looking for it? Why are there eight more?Rain of the Ghosts is chock-full of genres: it's one part paranormal, one part mystery, a dash of coming-of-age and I had a wonderful time reading it. The setting was great, the characters were fantastic. The writing was a bit on the simple side - think more Middle Grade than Young Adult - but its fast pace and short chapters made Rain of the Ghosts a delightful one-sitting read. Its sequel, Spirits of Ash and Foam comes out in May and I'm eager to jump back into the Ghost Keys and find out what happens next!(less)
Julien Garnier is like any other seventeen-year-old boy: he doesn't take his studies as seriously as he should, he's mov...morelink goes live on the blog9/3
Julien Garnier is like any other seventeen-year-old boy: he doesn't take his studies as seriously as he should, he's moving on after a disastrous relationship, and he works as a tour guide at the Musée d’Orsay. What isn't typical about Julien, however, is that he has after-hours access to some of the world's most valuable paintings. His mother is the museum's curator and the art world is abuzz with excitement as the news spreads of the discovery of a lost Renoir. After authentication, the painting will find a permanent home at the museum.
One night while Julien is making the rounds in the now-empty galleries, he notices something isn't quite right with the paintings. First it was some sun damage, then a peach rolled out of a frame. Seascapes begin leaking onto the floor and Degas' dancers start, well, dancing and putting on impromptu performances for Julien.
Worst of all, the girl in the Renoir made a brief appearance and now Julien can't stop thinking about her.
Starry Nights brought me back to the art world. Last year I read and loved B.A. Shapiro's The Art Forger. Shapiro took a subject I knew practically nothing about and made it extremely accessible. Not once did I get lost in the paintings, artists, or techniques. I was eager to return to that magical world and Starry Nights didn't disappoint!
Male POVs are relatively rare in Young Adult and it was a joy to get inside Julien's head. His friends - Simon, Sophie, Bonheur, Emilie, Zola - were wonderfully written too and even the minor characters were fleshed out. That said, the real star of the show was Clio. For over a century she's been trapped inside the cursed painting and only now has been set free. Her story and magical and enchanting and when her true identity was revealed, I was caught off guard.
I'm sure those more knowledgeable than me would enjoy the talk of specific paintings without the added distraction of having to rush off and Google them. That said, the fantasy element was so incredibly well done! Who hasn't looked at a painting and wanted to explore it a bit more? To be able to speak with the subjects, sail on the rivers, or watch the dancers perform is something I'd love to do and the way Ms. Whitney went about it worked.
The ending was a bit rushed and too Happily Ever After for me, but Starry Nights was a delightfully inventive story that can easily be read in a single sitting. This is my first of Whitney's novels, but it left me itching for more!(less)
Sophie Hatter is the eldest of three girls and is, by order of birth, doomed to be a failure. Lettie, the middle girl, is breathtakingly beautiful while Martha, the youngest, is certain to find fortune and a happy life. The girls' father runs a successful hat shop and upon his death, their stepmother takes over and begins making arrangements for the girls to take up apprenticeships. Sophie will stay at home and inherit the hat shop one day, while Lettie will train under a highly skilled witch and Martha will learn all there is about cakes and pastries.
At first, Sophie was comfortable. As the months go by however, she feels a longing to do more and be more than a hatter apprentice in drab grey dresses. Unfortunately for Sophie, she crosses paths with the evil Witch of the Waste and soon discovers she has been aged 70+ years. She's now a 90-year old woman, cursed to be old - for she can't tell anyone about the spell - until the day someone comes along to release her.
Because her stepmother obviously would be a bit shocked to discover an old woman in her shop, Sophie makes the decision to leave. She leaves Market Chipping, the town she has known her entire life, and heads off in search of her own fortune. All the while the large, floating castle - home to the evil Wizard Howl - looms overhead.
"That's magic I admire, using something that exists anyway and turning it round into a curse."
It's when Sophie enters the moving castle that things really get going. She meets Michael, Howl's young apprentice, and Calcifer, a fire demon trapped in the fireplace. She quickly strikes a bargain with Calcifer: if she lifts his curse, he'll find a way to change her back. All the while Howl is nowhere to be seen.
When he finally does appear, Sophie is more than surprised. Instead of the fearsome wizard who steals girls and eats their hearts, there stands before her a young man not much older than she is (was?). Over time they become something of a very dysfunctional family: Sophie cleans the castle and cooks the food, Howl and Michael supply spells and potions for the surrounding towns and villages, and Calcifer...well. He's Calcifer.
Unbeknownst to Sophie, Howl is also cursed. The Witch of the Waste has been hunting him down and now she's finally found him.
Howl's Moving Castle is short, y'all. We're taking barely over 200 pages here (my copy is 212). Going into this book I knew about Sophie and Howl, but everything else was completely new to me and not at all what I had expected!
These are the kind of books I love. That lazy Sunday feel is super strong in this book and I love it. Apart from the big battle at the end, not a whole lot happens and I know that's where the book can lose some people. Luckily for me, I'm all about easygoing stories and gobbled this one up.
Over the course of her travels, Sophie meets an enchanted scarecrow, a teacher who might not be all she says she is, and discovers a strange new world: Wales. I was right there with Sophie, taking in every night sight, sound, and emotion.
The ending wrapped up a little too well, but I can easily look past that. It's no wonder Howl's Moving Castle is so beloved and I know it'll be a book I'll revisit time and time again.(less)
On the morning I was scheduled to die, a large barefoot man with a bushy red beard waddled past my house.
That, my friends, is how you start a book.
Jack McKinley was just like any other 13-year old boy: always woke up late for school, didn't want a babysitter while his father worked out of town, dreaded math tests. His world changed one morning when he passed out just before school. The next thing he knew he was in a hospital with the strange red-beared man claiming he was a doctor. Suddenly Jack was whisked away to a totally remote island - radar doesn't work there, it's not on any map, even the inhabitants aren't entirely sure where they are.
Along with Jack, three other 13-year olds are housed at the giant compound: the Karai Institute. There's Marco, athlete extraordinaire; Aly, a genius hacker; and Cass, able to memorize anything. Jack learns he's not like other kids. He's one of the Select, an extremely small group of kids who possess a specific gene. This gene allows their natural talents to expand and become heightened. Unfortunately, Jack also learns that no Select has lived past 14. It's at the Institute that Jack receives treatment in order to halt his impending doom - and possible discover the secrets of Atlantis in the process.
The Colossus Rises was fun! It started out a bit slow and bogged-down with all the world-building and explanation, but once the action started, I settled in and enjoyed the ride.
The Select all bear a white λ in their hair. I don't know if it'll become key in the following books, but it seemed unnecessary in this one. Especially since it doesn't really do anything - Aly dyed her hair and her λ is covered, resulting in...nothing. It makes the Select special snowflakes and nothing more.
While reading I couldn't figure out if certain characters were good guys or bad guys. Even after finishing I'm still questioning certain actions and scenes. The Professor in particular. He used these children as pawns, as a way to discover the heart of Atlantis and uncover the seven hidden powers. However, there were times when it truly felt as though he cared for them.
The children were great. Jack, Cass, Marco, Aly, they all had their own personalities and felt like real kids. They questioned authority, they were scared, they joked around, they missed their parents. Marco was loud and boisterous to the point of being annoying and overdone, but even he was great. Although I could have done without his constant Brother Jack/Sister Aly.
The thing about horror - real-life horror, not the kind you see in movies - is that it is so silent. No screaming sound track, no fancy camera angles. Just two bodies vanishing into the shadows. Gravity doing its work.
Things really got good toward the end. After a mistake on Jack's part unleashes griffins the kids uncover old riddles and codes telling them where to go to track down the seven powers. The seven wonders of the ancient world. Their first stop: the Colossus of Rhodes. Unfortunately for them, the statue has long since been destroyed and what's left is buried deep under the sea.
The Colossus Rises is a wonderful start to a new series! Although my studies dealt with other aspects of history, I've always been fascinated with ancient history - the Greeks in particular. The seven wonders of the ancient world? Sign me up! From the moment I first heard about this book I was intrigued and I wasn't disappointed. I'm hoping that, with the world-building and explanations out of the way, the next book will jump right into the action. I can easily see this series appealing to a younger crowd although I certainly enjoyed it myself!(less)
Nora was just like any other woman in her late 20s. Okay, so her dissertation was slowly snowballing into an utter disaster and her boyfriend abruptly dumped her to marry another woman - and had the nerve to send Nora an invite! - but apart from that, she led a normal, happy life. That is until a weekend trip found Nora is a much different world, one where magic ruled and faeries were not the sweet little sprites from storybooks.
Unaware she has crossed over to a new land, Nora meets to glamorous and gorgeous Ilissa. Ilissa quickly takes Nora under her wing and soon Nora is attending party after party with breathtakingly beautiful people. Over time, Nora is delighted to discover that she even looks more beautiful. After meeting the charming and devilishly handsome Raclin, Nora finds herself falling for the man. She learns he is Ilissa's son and the two are quickly engaged. There's a part of Nora that knows this is ridiculous, that wants to say no, but she's just so happy.
Nora soon finds out Ilissa, Raclin, and their friends are not who they seem. They're Faitoren - fairy folk - and have used their magic to not only lure Nora in (Prince Raclin needs an heir), but also to glamour their entire landscape. The large house, the land, even the Faitoren themselves are enchanted to look beautiful. A chance meeting with a magician leads to Nora's escape and it's at Aruendiel's estate that she begins to learn about magic and what chance she has of returning home. All the while Ilissa is eager to get her revenge.
The Thinking Woman's Guide to Magic is NOT a lazy weekend read. No, no, no. This is a big, thick book (563 pages) with a pace that's in no hurry to reach its destination. I spent two weeks with this story and by the time I finished I was shocked by how upset I was. Not because of the way the book ended, but that it did end. I came to deeply care for these characters and this world and I simply wasn't ready to leave it behind.
While the book is largely told from Nora's perspective, there is the occasional glimpse into Aruendiel's thoughts and I loved these scenes. No longer did I see him as a stiff old magician. He felt real and by the time he told his story to Nora he was one of my favorite characters. He has a past, people, and it's not at all a pleasant one.
The secondary characters - Mrs. Toristel and Hirizjahkinis especially - were all so expertly drawn that I knew them, whether they were around the entire book or just a few chapters. It also doesn't hurt that throughout the novel there were many references to Jane Austen and poetry.
This is the kind of novel where I don't want to talk about it too much (for fear of saying the wrong thing), but I simply can't stop rambling. Really, it's that good. After finishing, I realized that little details in the beginning made sense; everything came full circle.
The ending might not appeal to many readers - the open-endedness of it forces the reader to reach her own conclusion - but rest assured I'll be highly recommending this one any chance I get. Don't let the length put you off - The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic is so worth it. The story was stunning and the world-building was fantastic. Ms. Barker announced on twitter there will be a sequel and let's just say there was much rejoicing on my end. The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic exceeded all expectations and you can bet I'll be awaiting the sequel with grabby hands!(less)
Prince! what you are, you are by circumstance and by birth. What I am, I am through myself. Of Princes there have and will be thousands - of Beethovens there is only one.
- Ludwig Van Beethoven
I'll admit, going into City of Dark Magic, I was expecting a book WILDLY different than what I got. ..and, unfortunately, that's not a good thing. On the surface it sounds like a fun fantasy novel with some historical mystery and immortal dwarfs thrown in. In reality it's 300 pages of the main character sleeping with multiple guys (even statues aren't out of the question) and 150 pages of actual - and even interesting - plot.
Sarah Weston is a doctoral candidate living in Boston. Her beloved professor has left for Prague where he's helping restore a royal family's treasures, his area of specialty being Beethoven. After his suspicious death (officially ruled a suicide) Sarah receives a strange letter with a plane ticket and a handful of money along with the promise of a well-paying job for the rest of the summer.
Beethoven is something of an obsession for Sarah and she readily accepts the invitation. It was here my interest went rapidly downhill - and this was still in the first chapter! Mere minutes after meeting her fellow colleagues (each focusing on a particular area of the collection) she not only sneaks off to the bathroom to have sex with one of them - after some fooling around in the middle of dinner - only to realize the man she slept with wasn't who she had originally thought and it's not until 100 or so pages later that she discovers who it really was (while she's in the process of sleeping with him. Again.) Then there's the previously mentioned arousal regarding statues and Sarah's nose. The book mentions numerous times Sarah's sense of smell is so heightened that she makes decisions based solely on it. Decisions like who she's going to sleep with next, for example.
Don't get me wrong - I don't mind graphic scenes in books, but this completely went against Sarah's character and was so over-the-top it bordered on ridiculous.
When Sarah isn't sleeping with someone, the book attempts to weave together a few storylines including the Bad Guy (who we know is bad right from the start, so it's really no surprise once it's revealed) and an interesting mystery involving Beethoven and a mysterious drug.
Sarah sat down on the bed. She was living underground. Like a mole. Like a bottle of wine. Like a corpse. Like nuclear waste. Sarah tried to tell herself that a window was not an essential part of a bedroom. Bedrooms were for sleeping. And with Prague's history of defenestrations, she should be happy there were no windows for her to be thrown out of.
The history and landmarks were beautifully described. That aspect of the story I really enjoyed. Also, there was a secret library and you can never go wrong with a secret library.
Prince Max and Sarah decide to uncover the mysteries surrounding Beethoven's Immortal Beloved. Historians and academics believe this was a person, but Max and Sarah have other ideas. They take a 'drug' of sort (by eating Beethoven's toenails - SO. DISGUSTING. WHY WHY WHY) and are sorta kinda transported to the past. They're able to see into the past, but it's like watching a movie: they aren't able to interact with or touch those they see.
I was on board with this plot and was disappointed to see it didn't go anywhere. That seemed to be the case with the majority of storylines in this book: they simply fizzled off into nothing.
Only the passionate were immortal, it seemed. If you fought, screwed, screamed, laughed, or otherwise experienced life intensely, for better or for worse, you left a record. Those who lived a quiet, well-behaved, well-tempered life? Gone without a trace.
The most interesting character in the novel was the 400-year old dwarf Nico. He was there when the drug first came into being. However, he has no idea where it or the Golden Fleece is hidden because he was knocked out by someone. Convenient. Again, his storyline is never resolved and I didn't get to find out whether or not he found what it was he had been looking for.
It's such a shame City of Dark Magic fell flat. I had expected so much more from it and, at times, it certainly had potential. Unfortunately a jumble of plots and a completely unlikeable main character made this book a chore rather than a delight. Also, the cutesy introduction and multiple mentions of Beethoven farting tried my patience.
"Mortals. I envy you. You think you can change things. Stop the universe. Undo what was done long before you came along. You are such beautiful creatures."
There are very few things that can compel me to move a book - especially one clocking in at nearly 600 pages - to the top of my To Read list, but I'm a total sucker for Jeremy Irons. Naturally I had heard of this series and even went so far as to include it in my list of series to read in 2013. A few months ago I saw the movie trailer and thought it looked interesting and a few days ago saw it again while Matt & I saw The Hobbit. A second dose of Mr. Irons was more than I could handle and I promptly went to my library and checked out the first book.
Going into this series I knew nothing about the story. Zip. Nada. Nothing. Imagine my surprise when it relies heavily on a Civil War-era plot! (The Civil War was my area of focus in school and any book about the War - fiction or non-fiction - is a must-read for me). Add in multiple references to To Kill a Mockingbird and you've got yourself a triple whammy.
There wasn't much we wanted to know about any town but our own, and if your granddaddy or great-granddaddy couldn't tell you, chances were you didn't need to know.
Beautiful Creatures was a delight to read for the simple fact that the narrator was a boy. Ethan Ware, sixteen, one of the star players on his high school basketball team. I was overjoyed at a male perspective, although the more I read, the more I realized that the only things separating his POV from the countless female protagonists in YA were the pronouns. Once the action started and especially once the romance began developing, Ethan could have easily been any female MC. He just didn't sound like a 16-year old boy. That said, I liked him.
Ethan lives in the tiny town of Gatlin, famous for its buttermilk pie and a Civil War battle. The previous year his mother died in a car accident and since then his father has been shut inside his study, still too hurt to return to his old life. Amma, Ethan's nanny? housekeeper? practically raised him and I enjoyed her immensely.
"Harlon James's been injured, and I'm not convinced he ain't about ta pass over." She whispered the last two words like God Himself might be listening, and she was afraid to give Him any ideas. Harlon James was Aunt Prudence's Yorkshire terrier, named after her most recent late husband.
Gatlin is a town very set in its ways. It's a town where everyone knows everyone and has for generations. There is a DAR group as well as the Sisters of the Confederacy and the famed Southern hospitality is alive and well.
One day a new girl arrives to the town and immediately her name is on everyone's lips. Lena Duchannes. Macon Ravenwood's niece. Despite the Ravenwood being the founding family of Gatlin, the residents still treat Lena as a complete outsider and her taste in black clothing doesn't help matters.
Of course Ethan is inexplicably drawn to her and the two discover they can communicate telepathically, which instantly brought to mind Kami and Jared's relationship in Unspoken. What Ethan doesn't know is that Lena is a Caster - a witch - and on her sixteenth birthday she'll be forced to take part in a Claiming ceremony where her future will either be one filled with Light or Dark.
Macon Melchizedek Ravenwood was the town shut-in. Let's just say, I remembered enough of To Kill a Mockingbird to know Old Man Ravenwood made Boo Radley look like a social butterfly.
Other reviewers make mention of the abundance of Southern stereotypes, but I didn't see Beautiful Creatures that way. I was thoroughly sucked in and tore through this massive book in just a few days, which is really saying something, considering the time it usually takes me to read and factoring in the holidays. I absolutely enjoyed this book and can't believe it took me this long to read it.
I'll admit that toward the end the plot lost a bit of its steam and started throwing in plot twist after plot twist, ultimately leaving me with more questions than answers (so what really did happen to Ethan's mom?). I'm hoping these loose ends will be tied up in the following books.
As you all know by now, I'm a BIG fan of dual narratives. Ethan and Lena's story was intertwined with the story of a Confederate soldier and the Caster girl he loved and although theirs was only told through flashbacks I adored it.
I had spent so many hours in it as a kid, I'd inherited my mother's belief that a library was sort of a temple.
While Beautiful Creatures did have its flaws (hello, super-insta-love!), I wholeheartedly, absolutely, utterly loved it. It got to the point where I stayed up well past a reasonable hour just to keep reading. I'd reward myself after doing housework by reading a chapter or two.
Its enormous size could definitely have been shed a couple hundred pages and the deus ex machina ending made me roll my eyes, but I savored every moment and there's no doubt in my mind I'll be continuing the series.(less)
People jog at dawn for a reason. If they wait, their brains will wake up and convince them there are things they'd rather do. Like have oral surgery.
The first book in the series, Royal Street was something I picked up on a whim. I'm a total sucker for pretty covers and, although I'm not a big fan of the genre, paranormal/urban fantasy tends to have SUPER SHINY OH-SO-PRETTY covers.
To my complete surprise, I loved it. Much to my delight I didn't have to wait long at all for the sequel - less than a year! Guys, I'm extremely pleased to announce River Road does NOT suffer from Middle Book Syndrome. In fact, I'll go so far as to say it's even better than its predecessor!
River Road takes place three years after Hurricane Katrina laid waste to New Orleans in Royal Street. I was a bit surprised by the time lapse (I'm not used to such large gaps between books!), but from the very first page the book is off running.
If you're new to the series, Drusilla Jaco - DJ - is a Green Congress wizard, meaning that while she can do magic, her abilities are limited. Alex Warin, shape-shifter extraordinaire is her ex-enforcer partner and his cousin Jake is a recently-turned loup-garou: the biggest, baddest breed of werewolf. Add in the centuries-old undead pirate Jean Lafitte and you're set. Especially when all three men are unsure of their feelings for DJ (just as she's equally unsure of her own feelings for them).
Jean Lafitte informs DJ of an odd illness afflicting mermaid clans and upon investigating, two bodies of Green Congress wizards are discovered. It's up to DJ and crew to find out what's going on and just who is behind the attacks.
The plaque on the enormous clock claimed it has been hand-carved of mahogany in 1909, about 130 years after the birth of the undead pirate waiting for me upstairs. They were both quite handsome, but the clock was a lot safer.
Needless to say, I love this series. With the first book, I was a little worried about how the author would handle Katrina's aftermath. After reading, I realized I had nothing to worry about: Suzanne Johnson took a painful subject still fresh in mind and approached it delicately and respectfully. River Road is no different: New Orleans is still struggling to regain its footing and Johnson tells it like it is. No sugar-coating here, folks.
River Road introduces a few new species (mers, nymphs) and I loved getting to know them! That said, even though there are plenty of new characters, all the old ones get plenty of screen time, so to speak. I especially enjoyed Jean's scenes (I'm totally Team Lafitte, by the way!) and absolutely cannot wait to see him again!
Having three super-hot, though not exactly human, love interests might seem like overkill, but I loved it. Jean Lafitte, eternal flirt and gentleman, seems to genuinely care for DJ; Jake has made no secret of his feelings, though his inability to control his loup-garou form makes him hesitant; and Alex is definitely changing their "we're-much-better-as-friends" relationship. I loved seeing the interactions with each guy and I actually GASPED at that final paragraph! Oh man. Talk about an ending!
Guys, seriously. If you're looking for a fun, funny urban fantasy, look no further!(less)
Linus and Ophelia had roped poor Walter into serving hors d'oeuvres with them, believing fully in the old adage that misery loves company. In other words, if you have something you'd rather not do, you might as well bring your best friend along and let him suffer as well.
Guys, this series is growing on me. A lot. I had a few problems with the first book, Facing the Hunchback of Notre Dame, and I'm pleased to say those problems have all but vanished in this sequel. Twins Linus and Ophilia Easterday have been shipped off to live with their aunt and uncle (also twins) while their parents hunt butterflies on a remote island in the South Pacific. Their good friend Walter resides in the nearby boarding school after more than his share of picked locks back home in London.
Aunt Portia owns a bookshop and in its attic the trio discovered an enchanted circle that can bring literary characters into our world. Naturally this comes with some rules: they have sixty hours before they need to return, the circle only opens once a month, etc. In their previous adventure with the circle, they met Quasimodo. This time around they set the bar a bit higher: Moby Dick's Captain Ahab.
Meanwhile, Aunt Portia didn't care about the Moby Dick theme at all. She figured it was a water party and mermaids live in the water, so it stood to reason that she could fudge a little bit.
Every single character is great. They're funny, they're flawed, they have their own distinct personality and I love it. I'm also very pleased to say that Walter's love of exercising isn't shown to the extent it was in the previous book (during a pretty important scene in the first book, Walter randomly started doing push-ups.
Whereas Quasimodo was sweet and kind, Ahab is anything but. He's a man on a mission and is blinded by his revenge. He also doesn't take too kindly to being ordered around by three 14-year olds. That said, his fascination with modern technology (indoor plumbing, computers) is hilarious and I loved the scenes where he's wrecking havoc on message boards on a whaling website.
We also see more of Cato Grubbs, the mad scientist who previously owned the house/bookshop before suddenly disappearing. In Saving Moby Dick we discover a bit more about him and his relationship to the twins.
The only drawback to this book (and this series as a whole) is the narrator. Bartholomew Inkster works in the English Department of Kingscross University and while I enjoy him 90% of the time, his constant need to define words can be a bit grating. This series is targeted toward the 9-12 crowd. I highly doubt they need words like ingest, clear-cut, or fumble explained.
"Curse that foul tome!" he roared. "I curse the day it was ever written, this Herman Melville reaching down into my soul and displaying it for all the world to see."
Saving Moby Dick is a wonderful display of what a sequel should be. It's issues have all been ironed over and since the world-building and magical rules have already been introduced in the first book, the story can finally get down to business. Short chapters and a quick pace make this book a breeze. Also, one of the characters is a bounty-hunter-turned-hippie-priest. How could you pass that up??(less)
I'm not a particularly fast reader. I tend to average around a book a week, although if I'm really enjoying a book I can finish it in a few days.
This book? I read it in one sitting. Reading an entire book in a matter of hours is virtually unheard of for me, guys. The last time I read a book straight through was for a book tour and even then it was a struggle (and resulted in a LOT of skimming). Not so with Spark. I hung on to every word and loved every minute.
Spark picks up where Storm left off, only this time around, Becca & Chris are pretty much out of the picture. Especially Becca. (Confession: I totally didn't mind.) Instead, this book is Gabriel's story and his feeling of guilt over Nick's injuries.
While reading it became apparent to me that this is not a series where the reader can jump in at any book. Spark assumes you have already read Storm and therefore Know What's Up. Even when Gabriel is telling Layne about his fire ability it's all done off-screen. So a brief recap of the story for newbies to this series: in this world there are Elementals, people who can control certain elements. The Merrick brothers (Michael, Gabriel, Nick, and Chris) are able to control earth, fire, air, and water respectively. There are rare individuals who are able to control all of them and Becca (Storm's main character & now Chris's girlfriend) as well as Hunter (Storm's other love interest) are such individuals. A war has been raging for years with the Elementals, resulting in multiple deaths, including the Merrick brothers' parents and Hunter's father and uncle.
Even though I tore through Spark, it had the feel of a side story. In the very beginning the group meets up with Becca's father - a Guide - and they hatch out a plan to lie low for a while. After this scene, the plan is rarely brought up and the whole point of Storm isn't addressed again. Naturally this was a bit of an annoyance, but I was enjoying the book so much I let it slide.
Spark introduces a new character and right off the bat I really liked her. Layne is a super-smart girl who dresses pretty drab and keeps to herself. I was hoping this wasn't going to turn into a makeover story and I was very pleased that it wasn't (although there was a makeover scene featured..) The chemistry between Layne and Gabriel was fantastic and I adore everything about them. They're both hiding secrets and are longing for someone to simply be there. :) They were great and I'm hoping to see more of them in the next book.
The party scene felt a little too repetitive for my tastes (the same thing happened in Storm, right down to the assault) and I easily figured out who was the real culprit of the string of arson the minute the character showed up. Despite these issues, I lovedSpark! Much like I mentioned in my review of Storm, the chapters are extremely short and the pace doesn't let up for a second. Part of the reason I read the book in one go was because I couldn't find a good stopping point!
I'm so glad I put my initial reservations aside and started this series. If you haven't read these books yet, I urge you to do so. You will not be disappointed!
With that, The Runaway King jumps right back into where The False Prince left off. Jaron is crowned king of Carthya and just a few weeks later the funeral for his family is held. However, even though it's a somber affair, Jaron can't let his guard down. War is looming between his country and the neighboring Avenia and the arrival of the Avenian King Vargan leaves Jaron cautious and alert.
An assassination attempt sets the wheels in motion: the regents believe Jaron is too young and reckless to fulfill his duties and begin discussing appointing a steward to take the throne until Jaron comes of age. Naturally the regents want the power for themselves and Jaron isn't foolish. In order to stop the vote to remove him from the throne, Jaron must track down the pirates and face their king Devlin - the pirate who tried to murder him four years ago. In order to do so, Jaron once again adopts the name Sage and leaves the comfort of his castle for the harsh forests of Avenia and Tarblade Bay.
As much as it pains me to admit it, The Runaway King is a prime example of Second Book Syndrome. I gushed over The False Prince and wrote what amounted to a love letter for a review. I couldn't believe my luck when Scholastic sent me an ARC for the follow up and couldn't wait to dive right in. Unfortunately, while it was a decent book on its own, The Runaway King is no match for its predecessor.
Hurt - that was the effect I seemed to have on those closest to me. Maybe what I'd done over the past several days had been necessary for Carthya, but there was always a price for my actions. This time, it had cost me the dearest friendship I had.
Jaron (you beautiful, lovely boy) returns, but it feels as though he's a completely different person. Whereas he was rude and obnoxious and snarky in The False Prince (WITH REASON!), I just didn't get that in The Runaway King. Yes, he was rude and obnoxious, but this time he was mean for the sake of being mean and more often than not, his actions were towards characters who didn't deserve it. A father figure is introduced and how does Jaron repay him? By robbing him blind and leading a band of thieves to his manor. Poor Imogen was dismissed from the castle without so much as a goodbye or an answer to her myriad questions.
I couldn't believe that Jaron could change so much in the three weeks between the first book and this one. Jaron was right: hurt was the effect he had on people. I know I certainly was upset he was no longer the clever, witty boy I had grown to love.
The Runaway King introduces new characters and I met them with mixed feelings. Fink hovered on the brink of intolerable the entire time. Other readers see him as a precious little boy, but I wasn't having it. The pirates were enjoyable, but they were nowhere near the murdering, pillaging band of nightmares they were set up to be. Their king, Devlin, was the closest to what their reputation claims, but the ending was so ridiculous I couldn't handle it.
Amarinda plays a larger role in this novel, but I'm still feeling indifferent toward her and the sort-of-but-not-really love triangle needs to go. Jaron and Imogen have finally confessed their feelings for one another (♥ and made me all kinds of happy), but they know it can never work out between them. Jaron is already set to wed Amarinda and Imogen is little more than a servant girl.
Don't get me wrong: The Runaway King isn't a bad book. This is more a case of me setting my expectations so high and being letdown. Fans of The False Prince will be sure to read this one, but don't go into The Runaway King expecting another mind-blowingly wonderful novel. Despite my disappointment, I am without a doubt pumped for the third and I'm hoping the conclusion will be amazing.(less)
When Kira was just ten year old she saved her cousin, Prince Taejo, from a demon and since then she has been Taejo's personal bodyguard. Unfortunately, her reputation and golden eyes have not made her popular among the kingdom's citizens. It's no secret they're disgusted by and frightened of her; behind her back she's referred to as Demon Slayer.
When the King is brutally murdered in front of his family, Kira, Taejo, and a swarm of guards flee the city in search of three sacred items named in an ancient prophecy in the hopes of protecting those they love and saving the kingdom from the Demon King.
I was really looking forward to Prophecy. It sounded totally kickass and I was extremely intrigued by the Korean influence. The author definitely did her research and it shows. Also, she's definitely not afraid to kill off characters - seriously, don't become attached to anyone! Sadly, that's where my praise falters.
Let's start with the characters. 12-year old Prince Taejo and his dog Jindo were the most likeable, along with a handful of monks met along the way. Everyone else came across as your basic stock personalities: there were Bad Guys, a Mysteriously Vague Old Monk (described as - and named!! - Master Roshi), Noble Captain, I could go on and on. Those that weren't cardboard cutouts were so thinly written that I couldn't get a feel for the character (Seung, for instance).
Jaewon and Shin Bo Hyun are the Love Interests in a romance that really didn't go anywhere (I'm assuming it'll come to light in the following books). Kira is betrothed to Bo Hyun and, let's face it, he's kind of a jerk. But a jerk that truly does like her...? The author made it seem that way, along with hints of attraction on Kira's end, but again, I couldn't get a real feel for it. I did enjoy Jaewon however. He's got a decent backstory in a novel where backstories were either quickly presented or forgotten altogether. That said, his attitude towards Kira (multiple times he mentioned he'd do anything she'd ask/go anywhere she said) bordered on obsessive and was downright confusing. Why was he so willing to follow her? They had only had one conversation by the time he began saying these things. I didn't get it.
Prophecy followed your typical Fantasy Novel model perfectly, right down to it's title. There's a prophecy, sacred objects that give the possessor unimaginable power, a quest to find those objects, an evil (in this case, demon) king who wants that power for his own, etc etc. There wasn't much about Prophecy that was original, but for some strange reason I did enjoy it. The writing was very quick and easy and I noticed this was a dialogue-driven story. So much dialogue.
Despite a relatively harsh review, I had a good time reading Prophecy. Hardcore fans of the genre might want to check it out, but if you're looking for a unique story, I'd suggest looking elsewhere. Also, for a book targeted toward teens, the writing was extremely simple and could have easily been in a book written for a much younger crowd.(less)
The Menagerie is a book that caught my attention the moment I first heard of it. I recently discovered my library had a copy and immediately requested in. I was absolutely delighted that no one else had put a hold on it or had it checked out; I could get started right away!
Logan Wilde is having a pretty crummy summer. His mother left home one day and later sent a postcard stating she wouldn't be returning home to Logan and his father. Naturally the two are hurt and heartbroken and Logan's dad makes the decision to quit his job as a lawyer, pack up, and move to a tiny nowhere town in Wyoming - hoping to find some sort of clue as to where his wife went.
Now Logan is stuck in Xanadu and can't seem to make a friend out of the whopping 24 students in Seventh Grade. That all changes one day after overhearing Zoe's - the weirdest girl in school - and Blue's - the most popular boy in school - frantic worries about Zoe's missing dog. Zoe and Blue are the last two people Logan would ever imagine talking to, let alone hanging out with, and offers his aid in locating the missing pet. As if that wasn't strange enough, Logan comes home to discover a baby griffin in his bed. A baby griffin that can talk to him.
Griffins, strange conversations, and stores missing their entire stock of food? Just what on earth is happening in Xanadu?
Okay, be honest: who wouldn't want to find out griffins, yeti, and unicorns are real? & not just that, but they're all being housed in your own town! Logan's reaction to this realization is, naturally, pure shock. Ultimately his initial surprise wears off and is simply in awe of the creatures he sees. Zoe's house is in near-total seclusion on an enormous area of land. The Menagerie can be found there and it's under the protection of Zoe's family. And Blue...well, turns out he's half merman. And, yeah, about the lost 'dog.' Somehow six griffin babies escaped their pen in the middle of the night and it's up to Zoe's family (along with Blue) to find them. Having griffins run amok in town would be a cause for panic anytime, but the SNAPA - SuperNatural Animal Protection Agency - are set to drop in for an inspection and if those griffins aren't found by the end of the week, the Menagerie could be shut down. Or worse.
Giant hellhounds who are actually big, loveable, and slobbery; a mammoth named Captain Fuzzbutt; and an ADORABLE griffin named Squorp (who happens to love hamburgers) made The Menagerie an absolute joy. Add in shout-outs to Diana Wynne Jones, Men in Black, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, and SO many more. This book was a ton of fun, although I will say there was a downside: everything wrapped up a little too nicely for me. Logan just happened to be right - on the first try - anytime he guessed at a location for one of the griffins. Also, the ending was a total cliffhanger and there were multiple plots left hanging. There were a lot of questions I had that weren't answered, but I have high hopes for the sequel!(less)
They said it when they were wishing for crops not to fail and storms to pass, but she realized now she'd heard her mother say it when something happened to scare her, as if to reassure herself: The Lynburns are gone.
Kami Glass has lived in the tiny English village of Sorry-in-the-Vale her entire life and has grown up hearing tales of the Lynburns. One family loomed over the town, creating laws - and enforcing them. Though Aurimere Manor now stands silent and empty on the hill, the family's presence can still be felt and the family is just as feared.
Apart from hearing these stories since childhood, Kami has also heard a voice. A boy's voice. Jared has been her imaginary friend for as long as she can recall and she still continues to speak to him even though she's well past the age where having an imaginary friend is acceptable.
Her world turns upside-down the day the Lynburns return. Regal Lillian Lynburn is the heir to the legacy and she's brought her family with her: her husband Rob and son Ash, and her sister Rosalind and Rosalind's son Jared. Suddenly Kami isn't so sure her imaginary friend is only in her head.
Sorry-in-the-Vale's records date back to the 1400s. Six hundred years do not go by without someone doing something nefarious.
I couldn't wait to jump right in and adore Unspoken. Everyone seems to be obsessing over it and it definitely has all the makings of a book I'd love: ancient family, dark secrets, a quiet town.
I tore through the first half of this book. I loved everything about it! The premise was phenomenal, the writing is stunning, the local legends gave me chills, and the characters - with the exception of Angela - were wonderfully done. Even the backstory was done in a way that didn't feel like a massive infodump.
Jared's appearance came as no surprise, though I still have no idea what his issue was with touching. Even when he was protecting Kami he would barely touch her and his avoidance of contact was never explained. That said, save for a few minor problems, Kami & Jared's dynamic was great. It was an interesting, new take on the genre and I ate it up.
"Put the jerk in the south wing, you won't see him for weeks at a time. Or lock him in the attic. The law will not be on your side, but literary precedent will."
A lot of reviews have mentioned the humor in Unspoken and while I enjoyed it, I felt it could have been toned down a lot. Particularly Kami's father. I liked his character, but did he ever say anything that wasn't a witty one-liner? Even when he walked into Kami's bedroom one morning and found both Kami and Jared asleep in bed, the only thing he had to say was some wisecrack.
Unfortunately, around the halfway mark, Unspoken really started to lose steam. Oddly enough this was right around the time when Things Started Happening. A classmate was murdered (and was never really brought up again), and the secret of the Lynburns' is finally revealed. All of this should have kept me on the edge of me seat. Although I still plowed though, I definitely did not do so with the same fervor I had in the beginning.
The other families say, 'My way or the highway.' The Lynburns said, "I am unfamiliar with the concept of the highway, so that leaves you with only one choice.'
So much was happening by the end: the will-they-or-won't-they angle, a huge fight scene, Kami's life-altering decision, Angela's secret. Everything was happening so fast and the sudden stop at the end - and I do mean sudden (that was so NOT a cliffhanger, that was right in the middle of the scene!) - that it got to be a little jarring. There were so many questions left unanswered, particularly in regards to Kami and Jared, that I feel a little cheated. I want that sense of closure. Yes, there's another book coming out, but even in a series novels should wrap up nicely enough that reads aren't left in a state of confusion and frustration.
I hate that I'm in the minority with this one, guys. I really, really do. I loved the idea for Unspoken and the beginning was FANTASTIC. I'll be reading the next book when it comes out, but I don't think I'll be giving in to the hype next time.(less)
"Find us a king," the corpse called out. "What? Why?" "You stole his place. You are in our debt."
The Corpse-Rat King opens with a bang: Marius, a professional thief, and his assistant Gerd, are combing through a battlefield, looting whatever valuables they could find. Unfortunately, Marius comes upon the corpse of the King and quickly finds his life changed forever. Within minutes Gerd is brutally slain and Marius finds himself in the Kingdom of the Dead - mistaken for the dead king.
Needless to say, the dead are not pleased to discover Marius is, in fact, not their king. Also, he's not exactly as dead as they originally thought. They send him back to the surface with a task: find a new ruler.
Marius was not a fighting man. A thief does not enter the profession because he wants to fight. He was a slinker, a tip-toer. He lived for the time after the fight, when the victor had departed and all that remained were the easy rewards and sightless eyes.
With a fascinating plot, The Corpse-Rat King is unlike any story I've read. The lines between the living and the dead are blurred in Marius's world and I loved that. Once he returns to the surface he notices changes to his body. For starters, he doesn't have a heartbeat. His vision in the dark has also changed - for the better. At times his skin will be grey and withered, yet other times his flesh will be rosy and pink. This aspect was really neat and I enjoyed all the possibilities.
Also, the author has a way with words. The writing was absolutely beautiful. Sadly, this also led to me skimming page-length paragraphs of descriptions. Vivid, lovely descriptions, but descriptions nonetheless.
Early explorers found nothing there to recommend the place to anybody, and indeed, early maps show a simple ovoid outline with the words "Don't Bother" written inside.
Marius meets an entire cast of characters throughout his journey: dead kings, an untrustworthy captain, an island of natives. Each one was wonderfully fleshed out and their own person. Again, I cannot say enough about Battersby's penchant for writing: he is a magnificent writer (with over 70 stories to his name!).
However - and I wish there wasn't a however - once the book hit the halfway mark it felt like the story came grinding to a halt. It felt like I was reading the camping part of Deathly Hallows all over again! Marius is on this exciting, event-riddled journey. I shouldn't be skimming entire pages!
Then he remembered the autumn of his tenth year, when Nandus had ordered that the forests along the Borghan peninsula be set on fire so the squirrels wouldn't get cold, and seven thousands peasants had died in the winter snows.
Some of my favorite characters showed up only to never be heard from or thought about again. The dead King Nandus was fantastic and I could easily have read an entire book solely featuring him.
Keth, the love-interest-that-wasn't is another example of a character that seemed to play a huge role, but then simply vanished. At one point Marius has a Big Revelation and realizes that she's loved him this entire time. He turns her into a mission (find the dead a king, then get back to his home, profess his love, buy Keth a house, have a bunch of kids, and live Happily Ever After), yet not long after that moment, Keth is never thought of again. She doesn't appear again - either in person or in conversation - for the duration of the book.
Gerd, the bumbling sidekick, had the personality of the real hero while Marius could have easily been the sidekick instead. Marius put Gerd through so much - and told so many lies - that it was hard NOT to feel for Gerd.
With no external stimulation, he turned inwards. He tried singing, but there are only so many bottles of beer that can fall before the entire liquor industry goes on strike...
There were multiple lines that made me giggle, but even the humor doesn't hide the fact that there are many things missing from this book. Gaping plot holes, unsympathetic characters with no redeeming qualities, and too-long paragraphs combined to make what initially started out as a fantastic book, an ultimately disappointing and lackluster one. I finished The Corpse-Rat King with a resounding meh.
From the author notes it seems a sequel is in the works. Hopefully the issues I had will be addressed and corrected.(less)
I am a HUGE fan of retellings and, lucky for me, there's no shortage of them these days. Fairy tale retellings are a dime a dozen, but I haven't come across a Mexican retelling of the Odyssey before and couldn't wait to dive right in.
Summer of the Mariposas (butterflies in Spanish, and that's just the first of dozens of words sprinkled throughout the book) tells the tale of the five Garza girls, cinco hermanitas: Odilia is the oldest and the narrator of the story; Juanita, the second oldest and the most headstrong; Velia and Delia are the twins, connected by their own bond, yet just as close to their other sisters; and Pita, the baby of the family.
Due to their Papa running out on the family, the girls' beloved Mama has been struggling to make ends meet and, as a result, the girls are more often than not left to their own devices. One day while they're swimming in their favorite spot, they spot a body drifting along in the current. Unsure of what to do, the girls decide to bring the body back to his family. With a little help from ancient Aztec goddesses and Llorona, the five sisters leave Texas and journey into Mexico.
While Summer of the Mariposas deals with highly fantastic elements (the girls battle witches, chupacabras, and trickster demons, to name a few), this is ultimately a story about family and bonds that can never be broken.
I absolutely adored this book. Everything about it, from the sisters and magic to that GORGEOUS COVER (!!), Summer of the Mariposas was a complete homerun. The imagery was beautiful, the wording was remarkable, the characters were fleshed out so well I felt as though I knew them.
Definitely keep an eye out for this book. You won't be disappointed.(less)