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Friday, December 2, 2016

Book Review: The Reptile Room (A Series of Unfortunate Events #2)

Release Date: September 30, 1999
Author: Lemony Snicket
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Length: 190 pages
Source: Purchased Book

Dear Reader,

If you have picked up this book with the hope of finding a simple and cheery tale, I'm afraid you have picked up the wrong book altogether. The story may seem cheery at first, when the Baudelaire children spend time in the company of some interesting reptiles and a giddy uncle, but don't be fooled. If you know anything at all about the unlucky Baudelaire children, you already know that even pleasant events lead down the same road to misery.

In fact, within the pages you now hold in your hands, the three siblings endure a car accident, a terrible odor, a deadly serpent, a long knife, a large brass reading lamp, and the appearance of a person they'd hoped never to see again.

I am bound to record these tragic events, but you are free to put this book back on the shelf and seek something lighter.

With all due respect,

Lemony Snicket

    

Review:

Protagonists: Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire have escaped the evil clutches of Count Olaf and his dastardly plan to steal their fortune. In the process, however, Count Olaf has escaped. Hoping that their next placement will be better, and if it is, permanent, the children are delighted when their new guardian is a kind and intelligent man who is happy to help foster their own unique talents. That is until something unfortunate happens and Uncle Monty, the children's new guardian, unwittingly hires Count Olaf as his new assistant. Now the children must once again put their collective talents together and hope for a much happier ending this time around. Now, with most Middle-Grade stories this short, there isn't a lot of character development. That's mostly due to the fact that since it's so short there isn't a lot of time to have an exciting plot and develop three main characters. That being said I still enjoy these children. They're much smarter than most kids their age, sure, and the adults that aren't trying to steal their fortune are rather dense, but given that there's a lot of nostalgia when it comes to this book that's something fairly easy to overlook. Regardless, it's exciting to watch these extraordinary children try and escape from the corner Count Olaf always seems to back them into.

World Building: After the children's terrible time with Count Olaf it was nice, for however long it lasted, to see them in a loving and happy home. I love how Snicket can very easily lure the reader into a sense of false hope, that even when you know what's going to happen, that you hope beyond all hope that you're wrong. There isn't that much overall progression of the story in this book, there's still a lot of set up. We don't find out why the Baudelaires' parents want them to live with relatives, or why these relatives are ones they've never heard of. There's still a lot of questions up in the air and even though we don't find out any answers Snicket's writing is so addicting that it's hard to put the book down. Snicket's macabre, ironic, and humorously dry writing style has become iconic and it's not hard to tell why. In most books, you're rooting for a happy ending, yet in this book, you find out, right from the start, that things are not going to end in sunshine and rainbows, that by the end the Baudelaire's lives would still be unfortunate. There's something about that concept of knowing bad things are going to happen and hoping that somehow what you've been told it wrong that makes books like these, books that are so different, yet share small common tropes, that are addicting to read.

Foreshadowing: Once again, when rereading a book it's easy to see where things are going and it's so much fun to notice things you never did before. Since I'm not reading this for the first time as an adult it's hard to tell you what is or is not predictable about this book. That being said, though, I'm not sure if that would even matter as there are a few larger twists that were flat out told to the reader by the author. However, those revelations just add to the tension of the story and it's not as though he gives away the ending. In fact, it's that tension developed by those revelations that lead the urgency felt in the final act of this story. Things begin to heat up and these kids are backed into a corner with seemingly no way out and it's really here when knowing what's going to happen and would end up being a detriment, at least on your first reading. This time it was a less tense since I already knew how thigs would eventually wind up and while I can't really remember my first time reading this book, I'd have to this time was more enjoyable. It was exciting watching everything fall into place as the Baudelaire's used their combined skills to try and survive another of Count Olaf's attacks.

Ending: Looking back over this book I'm not sure where I would place the cutoff for what would begin the end. If I were reading any other book I'd say that nearly the last half is the end, because the events that transpire within the final half of this book would, given that this was a longer and more substantial book, be the actual ending, the final climax of the story followed by the traditional cooling down period. That being said this isn't any other book and I'm not quite sure where the cutoff should be, regardless the ending to this story is really built up and what it builds to, at least if you're in the appropriate age group, is amazing. As an adult it was enjoyable, and I really did like how all the pieces came together, but the ending was a tad on the predictable side.

Rating:


So I tried to be as unbiased as I possibly could, looking at this book objectively it is a fun and macabre installment in this dark and timeless series, yet there isn't all that much that happens. Things are still being set up and there isn't any real development and honestly except for one or two things in this book you could probably skip the entire thing if you wanted.

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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Tricked (Fairy Tale Reform School #3) by Jen Calonita (WOW #20)

Waiting on Wednesday is a meme hosted by Jill at Breaking The Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that everyone’s excited about!



Things are changing at Fairy Tale Reform School.

At least, that's what Gilly's heard through the Enchantasia rumor mill. Word is, notorious trickster Rumpelstiltskin has taken over management from Headmistress Flora, and he's locked down the school tighter than the Pied Piper's pants. Not that this news concerns Gilly. She's been released from FTRS and is now suffering through attending Jack of All Trades School, where she gets to learn about different kinds of shoe leather and ways to measure feet. Truly riveting stuff.

But when Gilly's little sister Anna gets whisked off to FTRS thanks to her troublemaking new friends, Hansel and Gretel, Gilly knows she's got to get Anna out of there. There's only one thing to do; make some serious trouble and get thrown back into FTRS.

It's time to out-trick a trickster.


Tricked releases on March 7, 2017, from Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

When I first heard about the Fairy Tale Reform School series, I have to say I was a bit concerned that it would be handled in an excessively cheesy way. I expected something a little more akin to Shrek than a fleshed out fantasy world, and while this series can get a little cheesy at times, it is a very fun and adventurous series. I'm excited to find out where the characters go from here and what the dastardly villain is planning.

So, what are you waiting for this Wednesday?



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Monday, November 28, 2016

Book Review: Heartless

Release Date: November 8, 2016
Author: Marissa Meyer
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Length: 464 pages
Source: Purchased Book

Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland and a favorite of the unmarried King, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, she wants to open a shop and create delectable pastries. But for her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for a woman who could be a queen.

At a royal ball where Cath is expected to receive the King’s marriage proposal, she meets handsome and mysterious Jest. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the King and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into a secret courtship.

Cath is determined to choose her own destiny. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.

    

Review:

Protagonist
: All Catherine has ever truly wanted is the chance to sell her confections in her own bakery. Her dream has slowly started to become a reality. She has a logical partner with a head for numbers, a local storefront has recently become available, and her skills at baking are among the best in all of Hearts. Her parents, the marquis and marchioness of Rock Turtle Cove, have other plans for her, however. Cath's baking talents have caught the attention of the King of Hearts, who has decided to propose marriage to the dumbstruck Catherine. After keeping him at bay, for the time being, she hopes to find a way to open her bakery, but how long can she push away her fate to become the infamous Queen of Hearts. I really liked Cath, she's fiery, determined, and while she is nowhere near the crazed Queen of Hearts, it's not hard to see the path that may lead to her fury becoming unleashed.

Romance: Before venturing into this book I wasn't expecting there to even be a romance in this book. That being said, I'm actually very happy that there is a romance in this book, not only because of its role in the story but because it's probably one of the best-written romances I've read. At least at first. I don't think I'll ever get to the point where I could root for a couple who pronounce their love moments after meeting, it just wouldn't feel realistic to me, but if that was the route the author went here, it wasn't by the way, I could almost believe it. I don't quite know what it was but the near instant connection between Cath and Jest was extremely palpable and their chemistry, in the beginning, was undeniable. I won't say that this was a perfect romance, this is Cath's journey to become the crazed Queen of Hearts after all, but for what this romance is, and what's it's supposed to be, it's darn near as close to perfect as it can get.

World Building: Boy, is this Wonderland wondrous. In the past, I've read Wonderland retellings or adaptations that either take the wonder out of Wonderland (no talking animals, no real sense of magic, etc) or twist it into something dark. It was refreshing to see something embrace the wonderfully strange and curious elements of Wonderland, and bring them to life in such a vivid way. There are appearances from many fan favorite Wonderlandian characters, and I was pleased to see that the author wove in other classic characters from stories and nursery rhymes to the story adding to the depth of this world even more. This world just jumps right off the page. At first, at least in regards to the pacing of the story, I was a bit anxious. This book, in the beginning, feels very much like the first installment in a series, not a standalone tale. If the author wished I could have easily seen her expand this story so much more, and yet, as the story progressed, and it became obvious just how the author was going to transform Cath into her villainous alter ego, everything made sense, and given that this is not a short story by any means, there was plenty of time to explore nearly every question posed by this world.

Predictability: I've been trying to figure out a way to talk about the predictability of a book, wherein the end, we know what's going to happen to our main character. It's inevitable and yet still I found myself hoping that Cath got a different fate. Even when Cath's not so innocent or clear-headed side started to rear its ugly head, I still wished that all her dreams would come true, knowing that, in the end, she'd be saddled with a husband she doesn't love and become the crazed shrew that has become a cultural icon. Now I will say that even though the reader knows going in what the main character's fate will be, it doesn't mean that this book is incredibly predictable, there is a main plot that's sort of separate from, yet entwined with, Cath's fate. That story does have some rather unpredictable turns. There are things that start to piece themselves together and make this book, that might feel, initially, like it would have a lot of loose ends, come together into a twisted and spectacular climax.

Ending: Again, how do I discuss an ending that's fated, an ending that we as readers knew before ever diving into this story? I can talk about the plot that's separate from Cath's fate, how the author, many times before the end, made me almost believe that this story might have a happy ending. I could talk about how the final climax was something I didn't quite expect, and yet made perfect sense with this story. I can talk about how I was blown away by the events that finally lead up to Cath becoming the infamous Queen of Hearts and how even after what I consider to be the final climax, in a traditional sense, of course, there was still more story to tell. Finally, I can talk about how the ending, the final words lined up perfectly with what this story was supposed to be.

Rating:


Okay look, this rating isn't much of a surprise. I knew going into it that I would love it. What I didn't know going into it was that I would love it so much that I would feel compelled to savor it and take many more weeks to read it than I had initially planned. In fact, I had planned to binge read it within a day, and instead, it's been almost three weeks since it came out.

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Friday, November 25, 2016

Book Review: Who Could That Be at This Hour? (All the Wrong Questions #1)

Release Date: October 24, 2012
Author: Lemony Snicket
Publisher: Little Brown
Length: 258 pages
Source: Borrowed Audiobook

The adventure began in a fading town. Far from anyone he knew or trusted, a young Lemony Snicket started an apprenticeship for a secret organization shrouded in mystery and secrecy. He asked questions that shouldn't have been on his mind. Now he has written an account that should not be published that shouldn't be read. Not even by you.

Seriously, we recommend that you do NOT ask your parents for this, the first book in his new ALL THE WRONG QUESTIONS series.

Lemony Snicket, in case you don't already know, grew up to be the author of A Series of Unfortunate Events series

    

Review:

Protagonist: Lemony Snicket finds himself involved with a secret organization and under the care of a rather overbearing, quirky, and redundant chaperone. On (as far as I can tell) his first mission for this unnamed organization, Lemony is charged with retrieving a stolen statue, but not too long into the case, it becomes clear that this case isn't as open and shut as it appears. One of my biggest pet peeves and this seems to happen more in books aimed MG and younger, is the idiot adult and brilliant child trope. I understand that this is meant make a younger audience feel special and intelligent, but it doesn't make for a universally appealing book. Lemony is one such child who is unusually bright, and while I like him as a character, but when juxtaposed against comically idiotic adults it makes for a rather unpleasant and groan-inducing cast of characters.

World Building: Going into this book all I knew was that it was about a young Lemony Snicket, though I didn't comprehend just how young he'd be. My first big hiccup with this book was that it begins with the reader sort of dropped in the middle of Lemony's transition to this secret organization that he starts working for. It's a bit awkward and while it's easy enough to forget about once the main plot of the book starts, the beginning of this tale produces more questions than it answers. As this book gets started it's easy to recognize Snicket's rather unique writing style. The world he builds has the same timeless feel as the one in ASoUE, most likely because it IS the same world, but as far as I know the location featured in this book isn't one visited or even mentioned in the series about the Baudelaire orphans. That isn't to say there aren't Easter eggs that connect with that other series, in fact, I'm almost positive that by the time this series ends there will finally be answers to some long-asked questions.

Predictability: I am really happy that I'm able to review this book after the first time I've read it because this section will not only be easier to write but will be a lot more honest. I wasn't expecting this book to be the mystery that it is, nor was I expecting that the overarching story for the entire series would stifle the mystery of this book so much. That all being said, I did really enjoy this mystery and while I was never really completely caught off guard, except for one small moment toward the end, I reveled in watching this mystery unfold and reveal some of, though not all of, it's many secrets.

Ending: One of my favorite mystery tropes is the classic "Parlor Room" scene, where the main character goes through the mystery from the beginning, explaining any clues the reader, or in some cases viewer, might have missed before finally cracking the case and revealing "whodunnit." This book did have a similar type of scene, however, since rather large aspects of this mystery bleed into the larger series storyline, there are some large questions still left unanswered by the end of this book. With this author's track record of leaving seemingly very important questions unanswered I am a bit nervous but I will continue this series, not only because I enjoyed this book, but also because I hope that my burning questions will be answered.

Rating:


It was so much fun to read a new Lemony Snicket book, his writing style is so unique that it's a joy to experience a new tale by him. Unfortunately, there was only so much that nostalgia can do, and since this is a "new to me" tale, not even my nostalgia could cover up some of the tropes that I haven't been a fan of for some time. That all being said I do look forward to the next installment and I hope to find some answers I've been waiting years to discover.

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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Lord of Shadows (The Dark Artifices #2) by Cassandra Clare (WOW #19)

Waiting on Wednesday is a meme hosted by Jill at Breaking The Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that everyone’s excited about!



Sunny Los Angeles can be a dark place indeed in Cassandra Clare’s Lord of Shadows, the sequel to the #1 New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling Lady Midnight.

Emma Carstairs has finally avenged her parents. She thought she’d be at peace. But she is anything but calm. Torn between her desire for her parabatai Julian and her desire to protect him from the brutal consequences of parabatai relationships, she has begun dating his brother, Mark. But Mark has spent the past five years trapped in Faerie; can he ever truly be a Shadowhunter again?

And the faerie courts are not silent. The Unseelie King is tired of the Cold Peace, and will no longer concede to the Shadowhunters’ demands. Caught between the demands of faerie and the laws of the Clave, Emma, Julian, and Mark must find a way to come together to defend everything they hold dear—before it’s too late.

Lord of Shadows releases on May 23, 2017 from Margaret K. McElderry Books

Look at that cover! Seriously, it's kind of tripping me out here. I loved Lady Midnight so much, much more than I actually thought I would and I cannot wait to dive back into this fantastic series and see where our heroes will go next and what dangers they may face. On a less vague note, I'm particularly interested in the romantic entanglements that seem to center around Mark Blackthorn, he's fake dating Emma, but he had a thing with Cristina, and while he was trapped in Faerie had some sort of romantic relationship with the dark faerie prince Kieran. Plus, I'm interested to see how the reawakening of Lady Midnight will factor into the overall storyline since it's not mentioned here.

So, what are you waiting for this Wednesday?


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Monday, November 21, 2016

Book Review: The Hands of Time (Elementals #5)

Release Date: November 25, 2016
Author: Michelle Madow
Publisher: Dreamscape Publishing
Length: 190 pages
Source: Review Copy from the Author

Time is running out. War will be waged. Sacrifices will be made.

Months ago, Nicole Cassidy’s life was turned upside-down when she discovered that she was a witch descended from the Greek gods. She and the four other witches gifted with elemental powers fought all over the world—and in another dimension—to battle the supporters of the Titans and fight for the people they love.

Now the Elementals must stop Typhon—the most dangerous monster in the world—from rising, and seal the portal to the dangerous prison world of Kerberos. But they won’t be able to do that without facing their hardest decision yet… a sacrifice so great that it may be one they’re not willing to make.

Get ready for the stunning, action-packed conclusion to the bestselling Elementals series, with twists and turns that you’ll never see coming!

  

Review:

Protagonist: Nicole Cassidy has just braved the prison world of Kerberos to save the boy she loves from the megalomaniacal demigod, Ethan, only to find him dead and her and the only other Elementals' only chance at stopping the Titan Typhon from rising, the Head of Medusa, destroyed. Now she's given the chance to go back in time and write her wrongs. After traveling back in time with fellow Elemental, Danielle, they save Blake in a matter of minutes, but that doesn't mean their work isn't over. There are still many things to do, and sacrifices to make before the Earth can be safe. I'm not quite sure what to say about the development of Nichole, or really any of the main characters in this story. They aren't perfect, far from it actually, but that's something that makes them very human and realistic characters. There is some development that they all go through in this book, there are tough and heartbreaking decisions that have to be made that really show off how far these characters have come since the first book in this series.

Romance: I almost feel like I need to cut this part out. Romance isn't one of the main themes of this book. The love, both platonic and romantic, that these characters have for one another does drive the story, and there is a sizable section of the book that is completely driven by one character's romantic love for another character, but other than these two characters working through whatever issues are currently plaguing them and growing stronger as a couple there isn't really any progression or super exciting instances of romance in this book. Don't get me wrong, despite not being super excited about this couple at the beginning of the series, I have really started to root for them and wish them the best, but once a couple reaches a certain point in stories there isn't all that much to get excited about.

World Building: I think this section is where I had the most trouble with this story. At the beginning of this book, there was so much still left to do, and given how short this story was I wasn't sure how the author was going to fit so much in such a small space. While I enjoyed the new elements of the world that this installment introduced, because of the limited space it felt like things were not only going by too fast but that things were going just a bit too easily. That's not to say that there weren't consequences for certain actions, but rather that in the long run there was a feeling of convenience to certain things, that lasted for about half the book, then things sort of flipped. If things were easy in the first half of this story, then in the second half they were far more arduous. I'm not going to reveal what happens obviously, but there is such a contrast with two halves of this book that I'm not sure how I feel, it's uneven and yet it is technically balanced out pretty well.

Predictability: Going into this book I had a few ideas about how I thought this story was going to conclude, that being said I was totally caught off guard by how everything went down. Not only was I, at least before starting this story, unable to see how certain things would go about but given how quickly the second half escalates my vision for how I thought this series would end was just completely off the mark. I don't want to spoil anything which always makes this section the hardest to write, but I'll say this, Madow provides just enough foreshadowing so that you won't see a twist coming, but when it happens you'll understand the steps that led up to it.

Ending: The ending of a book is important, but the ending of a series is the most important. In my experience, how a series ends can affect how I feel about the entire series. That being said I was pleasantly surprised by how this series ended. As you all may know I'm not a huge fan of idyllic ending where there's no real fall out or consequence from the entire series and everyone gets to live happily ever after like it never happened, or that things were even better than before it happened. This book doesn't have an idealistic ending like that. Again, I'm not going to spoil how this story ends, but I'll say that there is an epilogue that is told from a character other than Nicole, and even when I finished the book there were still a few questions I had. I'm not sure if the author will ever write a companion or spin-off series that will answer, quite literally, the one question I have about how this story ends, but if she did you should know that I'm sure it would be amazing.

Rating:


I have to say this was a great ending to a vastly entertaining series. Other than the sort of uneven pacing and stark contrast in the two halves of this book, I loved it and am excited to see what this author will put out next!

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Friday, November 18, 2016

Book Review: The Bad Beginning (A Series of Unfortunate Events #1)

Release Date: September 30, 1999
Author: Lemony Snicket
Publisher: HarperCollinsPublishers
Length: 162 pages
Source: Purchased Book

Dear Reader,

I'm sorry to say that the book you are holding in your hands is extremely unpleasant. It tells an unhappy tale about three very unlucky children. Even though they are charming and clever, the Baudelaire siblings lead lives filled with misery and woe. From the very first page of this book when the children are at the beach and receive terrible news, continuing on through the entire story, disaster lurks at their heels. One might say they are magnets for misfortune.

In this short book alone, the three youngsters encounter a greedy and repulsive villain, itchy clothing, a disastrous fire, a plot to steal their fortune, and cold porridge for breakfast.

It is my sad duty to write down these unpleasant tales, but there is nothing stopping you from putting this book down at once and reading something happy, if you prefer that sort of thing.

With all due respect,
Lemony Snicket

    

Reviewer's Note: So, I really wanted to get my review of Heartless by Marissa Meyer out today, but I'm enjoying it so much that, and since it's a standalone novel, I feel the need to savor it just a bit longer. That being said, though, to honor the fact that Netflix has just released the first full trailer for the new A Series of Unfortunate Events series, I thought it would be fun to revisit this fantastic series and write up a review for the first book. Since the book is so short I don't know how long my review will be, and since it's a childhood favorite of mine I can't promise to be unbiased and not be swayed by nostalgia, but I'll try to do my best to give you a concise yet comprehensive review of this book. I hope you enjoy!

Review:

Protagonists: Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire are incredibly intelligent and well-behaved children. One day while playing at the beach they find out that a fire has consumed their house and their parents with it. With Violet only fourteen and too young to inherit their fortune the children are sent off to live with a distant relative, Count Olaf. Count Olaf is a menacing guardian, making the children to a laundry list of incredibly difficult chores and constantly bringing up their fortune as if it could be his own one day. Still, the children try to make the best out of a bad situation. Soon enough, though, it becomes increasingly obvious that Count Olaf will do whatever it takes to get his dirty, evil hands on their fortune. Violet, Klaus, and Sunny each have a special set of skills that their life of privilege prior to their parent's deaths has helped to foster and grow at an alarming rate. Violet is an engineering prodigy and can use her wit to MacGyver up tools and inventions to help her and her siblings survive the wrath of Olaf, Klaus is extremely intelligent having read so many books in his life and uses his vast researching skills to help them find a way out of Olaf's clutches. Sunny, still being a small baby/toddler is fascinated with biting things with her sharp teeth, so for this book at least she's not that helpful, though pretty adorable. You sort of have to suspend your disbelief when it comes to these characters, but if you do, or you've read the books when you were younger like I was, I'm sure you'll find them charming and bright kids.

World Building: Snicket's writing and world building are incredible. Right away you feel as if you've been transported to some other world. There's a very prominent and powerful old-time, 1950s, feel to the world of this story. As with the three protagonists you sort of have to look at this world through the eyes of a child, as things are exaggerated or twisted to fit with the story's narrative. One of my favorite things about Snicket's writing it that he never talks down to the reader, not really, but he completely understands that not everybody will know some of the large or complicated words he uses in his prose so he'll stop telling the story and sometimes explain what a word means, and then there are times when he'll add in anecdotes about his life to set up a situation. All of this makes for a magical story to tell and can easily keep the reader glued to their book.

Foreshadowing: Since this isn't the first time I've read this book, it's not even the second time, to be honest, I figured instead of going for the normal predictability section I would more deeply focus on the foreshadowing of this book instead of whether or not I was able to predict the twists and turns this book took. I have to say revisiting this story after so many years though still knowing a large portion of how the story would go, it wasn't too hard to see the foreshadowing, in fact, it down right slapped me in the face at times, but I have to say trying to look at it from the uninformed observer that it still wouldn't give the larger twists of this story away. I have to commend Snicket for his fascinating work at weaving foreshadowing into this story so expertly.

Ending: In the beginning of this book you are warned that this story will not have a happy end to it. As the final climax of this story approaches and then commences there are very sad and dark things that happen to the Baudelaire youngsters. The final climax of the story isn't an action scene filled with fighting but a battle of wills and cunning that is rather spectacular to read. However, while the ending isn't completely rife with misfortune the story does end on a somber note leaving the reader to hope that maybe next time things will go better.

Rating:


So, I warned you, I'm not unbiased here, that being said though for the age group this story is intended for this is a spectacular read. It's full of knowledge, intrigue, and a rather menacing villain. If you haven't read this series yet I hope that you will and be sure to read at least the first four books before January 13th when the first season of Netflix series will go live.


P.S. I am aware that Lemony Snicket is a pen name for Daniel Handler and that the Snicket character and his anecdotes are all fiction, but I thought it would be fun to write as if Snicket were real.

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Monday, November 14, 2016

Book Review: Labyrinth Lost (Brooklyn Brujas #1)

Release Date: September 6, 2016
Author: Zoraida Córdova
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Length: 336 pages
Source: eGalley from NetGalley

Nothing says Happy Birthday like summoning the spirits of your dead relatives.

I fall to my knees. Shattered glass, melted candles and the outline of scorched feathers are all that surround me. Every single person who was in my house – my entire family — is gone.

Alex is a bruja, the most powerful witch in a generation…and she hates magic. At her Deathday celebration, Alex performs a spell to rid herself of her power. But it backfires. Her whole family vanishes into thin air, leaving her alone with Nova, a brujo boy she can’t trust. A boy whose intentions are as dark as the strange markings on his skin.

The only way to get her family back is to travel with Nova to Los Lagos, a land in-between, as dark as Limbo and as strange as Wonderland…

Beautiful Creatures meets Daughter of Smoke and Bone with an infusion of Latin American tradition in this highly original fantasy adventure.

    

Review:

Protagonist: Alex fears her magic. She fears what her magic might mold her into becoming. When her Deathday party arrives, the day she receives a special blessing from her ancestors, she decides to eliminate her magic instead, but instead of losing her magic, her entire family is pulled into Los Lagos, a mysterious land in between, and it's up to Alex and a dark and possibly dangerous brujo named Nova to rescue them. Alex is a very strong character, but she's ruled by her fear. She fears her magic and what it might lead to, but as she journey's through Los Lagos and it's many terrifying and wondrous attractions she needs to learn to accept herself and flip her perspective on her powers and start looking at them as a gift instead of a curse. I felt that Alex's character development and progression was executed very realistically, and combining that with such a dynamic and passionate character it makes for one heck of a journey.

Romance: This is probably going to be the hardest portion of this review to write. I honestly wasn't a huge fan of the romance in this book. The good news is that romance doesn't play a particularly large role in the story, the bad news is that even though it doesn't represent a large portion of the story, I just wish it was developed better. There is a love triangle in this book, now I'm not opposed to love triangles in general, it's all about how they play out, but this one just felt all over the place. At first, it's made pretty clear who one of the love interests is, that would be Nova, but the second love interest isn't even hinted at being a romantic candidate, let alone confirmed as one until nearly three-quarters of the way through the book and without any prior romantic tension or chemistry I just couldn't really care, and then the love triangle just sort of sorts itself out without any real deliberation which just doesn't really work for me. I wish I could have cared more for this romance but for something that's not even a large part of the story it really started to bug me.

World Building: My absolute favorite part about this story is the world building. After the story is done there's an Author's Notes section that goes into detail about some of the things that are actually part of latinx culture and folklore and what is of the author's own creation, and I have to say I'm in awe of just how much of the lore in this tale was created by the author because it just seems to fit in so well with everything else. One of the things I enjoyed the most were the parallels to other famous mythologies such as Greek, Egyptian, and Norse. There were many parts that seemed nearly plucked out of, specifically Greek, mythology and adapted to fit in with the story and this culture. The adventure that Alex and Nova embark on in this story is so richly described, it has all the classic hallmarks of an otherworldly adventure without coming off cliche.  The world of Los Lagos comes alive and it's not hard at all to nearly see what's around these characters at any given point. I'd best equate it to wonderland or the Grecian underworld, there are many sections to it that form a whole and rarely any section is safe for outsiders.

Predictability: Another small problem with this story is how things are foreshadowed. Sometimes the author does a slam dunk job foreshadowing a big event or twist in this story, it either shocks me like it should or I called it yet was still extremely pumped about it. Then there were times that things were so constantly brought up and foreshadowed that it lost all enjoyment when the time finally came for things to happen. Worst of all though there were times when there was very little or no foreshadowing for events and twists that desperately need the reader to feel a build up for or be clued into before they're blindsided and can't recover to truly enjoy what happened. Now I'm happy to say that most of the time the story went off without a hitch and the author definitely caught me off guard in a good way a few times in this story, but some of the subpar foreshadowed moments really took me out of the story, sometimes literally, after one twist I stopped reading for a while until I could get my head on straight.

Ending: I'm trying to articulate my pure wonder and awe at how this story ended, specifically the final climax of the story and the epilogue but I can't quite figure out how to explain how epic everything was. The final climax was not only action packed but really brought the themes of this story and Alex's journey both internally and externally to the forefront as she faced down the thing that stole her family. Then there was the epilogue. Now going into this I had assumed that this series would be more a series of standalone companion novels and while I may be partially right that didn't stop the author from writing in one hell of a cliffhanger. I honestly wasn't expecting what happens to happen and if I wasn't already excited about the next book in this series I would be now!

Rating:


There is so much I love about this story, from the main character to the wondrously strange world she traverses to the mythos and tales told in this novel, there's so much to enjoy. I can't wait for the next book in this series and I'm excited to see where these characters go next.

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Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Blog Tour Promo: Stardust by Neil Gaiman




Dog Eared Publicity is pleased to bring you Neil Gaiman's AMERICAN GODS, ANANSI BOYS, STARDUST and NEVERWHERE  virtual book tour November 7 - December 2!

Inside the Book:


Title: Stardust

Author: Neil Gaiman
Release Date: September 27, 2016
Publisher: William Morrow
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Format: Ebook/Paperback/Hardcover



Now a major motion picture—this charming fairy tale by the #1 New York Times bestselling author, weaves a magical story set long ago in the tiny English village of Wall, a place where things are not quite what they seem.


Go and catch a falling star . . .


Tristran Thorn promises to bring back a fallen star for his beloved, the hauntingly beautiful Victoria Forester—and crosses the wall that divides his English country town from another, more dangerous world of lords and witches, all of them in search of the star. Rich with adventure and magic, Stardust is one of master storyteller Neil Gaiman's most beloved tales.


“Eminently readable—a charming piece of work.”
Washington Post Book World



“Beautiful, memorable . . . A book full of marvels.”
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

  


William Morrow is giving away (5) sets of American Gods, Anansi Boys, Neverwhere and Stardust!

Terms & Conditions:
  • By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
  • Five winners will be chosen via Rafflecopter to receive one set of all 4 books
  • This giveaway ends midnight December 2.
  • Winner will be contacted via email on December 3.
  • Winner has 48 hours to reply.
Good luck everyone!

ENTER TO WIN!

a Rafflecopter giveaway



Meet the Author:

neil-gaiman-apNeil Gaiman is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels Neverwhere, Stardust, American Gods, Coraline, Anansi Boys, The Graveyard Book, Good Omens (with Terry Pratchett), The Ocean at the End of the Lane, and The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains; the Sandman series of graphic novels; and the story collections Smoke and MirrorsFragile Things, and Trigger Warning. He is the winner of numerous literary honors, including the Hugo, Bram Stoker, and World Fantasy awards, and the Newbery and Carnegie Medals. Originally from England, he now lives in the United States. He is Professor in the Arts at Bard College.



Visit his website at http://www.neilgaiman.com

Twitter | Facebook |




Tour Schedule

 Monday, November 7 - American Gods reviewed at The Toibox of Words
Tuesday, November 8 - Stardust featured at Zach's YA Reviews
Wednesday, November 9 - American Gods reviewed at Bound 4 Escape
Thursday, November 10 - Neverwhere reviewed at BookStopCorner
Friday, November 11 - Neverwhere reviewed at Dreaming Big
________

 Monday, November 14 - American Gods featured at Waiting on Sunday to Drown
American Gods featured at I Smell Sheep
Stardust reviewed at Reading Reality
Neverwhere reviewed at 100 Pages a Day
Neverwhere reviewed at Svetlana Reads and Views
Tuesday, November 15 - American Gods reviewed at Hopelessly Devoted Bibiophile
Anansi Boys reviewed at Dreaming Big
Wednesday, November 16 - American Gods reviewed at Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers
Stardust reviewed at Bound 4 Escape
Neverwhere reviewed at Alexia's Books and Such
Thursday, November 17 - American Gods reviewed at Fascinating Quest
Friday, November 18 - American Gods reviewed at ABookGeek
________

 Monday, November 21 - Stardust reviewed at Laura's Interests
Stardust featured at I Smell Sheep
Anansi Boys reviewed at Chapter by Chapter
Neverwhere reviewed at Cover2Cover
Neverwhere reviewed at RhiReading
Tuesday, November 22 - American Gods reviewed at Zach's YA Reviews
Anansi Boys reviewed at Bound 4 Escape
Anansi Boys reviewed at Svetlana Reads and Views
Wednesday, November 23 - Stardust reviewed at Dreaming Big
Neverwhere reviewed at Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers
Thursday, November 24 - Stardust reviewed at Fascinating Quest
Neverwhere reviewed at Laura's Interests
Friday, November 25 - Stardust reviewed at RhiReading
________

Monday, November 28 - American Gods reviewed at Bookish Things and More
Stardust reviewed at Cover2Cover
Anansi Boys reviewed at Deal Sharing Aunt
Tuesday, November 29 - Stardust reviewed at 100 Pages a Day
Stardust reviewed at Freda's Voice
Stardust reviewed at Svetlana's Reads and Views
Neverwhere reviewed at A Room Without Books is Empty
Neverwhere reviewed at Live Love Books Blog
Neverwhere reviewed at Deal Sharing Aunt
Wednesday, November 30 - American Gods reviewed at Dreaming Big
American Gods reviewed at RhiReading
Stardust reviewed at A Room Without Books is Empty
Anansi Boys reviewed at Fascinating Quest
Neverwhere reviewed at Bound 4 Escape
Anansi Boys reviewed at Live Love Books Blog
Thursday, December 1 - American Gods reviewed at Live Love Books Blog
American Gods reviewed at A Room Without Books is Empty
Anansi Boys reviewed at Cheryl's Book Nook
Anansi Boys featured at RhiReading
Neverwhere reviewed at Worth Getting In Bed For
American Gods reviewed at Deal Sharing Aunt
Stardust reviewed at Live Love Books
Friday, December 2 - American Gods reviewed at Cover to Cover
American Gods reviewed at Svetlana's Reads and Views
Stardust featured at Romantic Reads and Such
Neverwhere reviewed at Fascinating Quest
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Monday, November 7, 2016

Book Review: The Wizard Heir (The Heir Chronicles #2)

Release Date: June 10, 2008
Author: Cinda Williams Chima
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Length: 458 pages
Source: Purchased Book

Sixteen-year-old Seph McCauley has spent the past three years getting kicked out of one exclusive private school after another. And it's not his attitude that's the problem. It's the trail of magical accidents-lately, disasters-that follow in his wake. Seph is a wizard, orphaned and untrained--and his powers are escalating out of control.

After causing a tragic fire at an after-hours party, Seph is sent to the Havens, a secluded boys' school on the coast of Maine. At first, it seems like the answer to his prayers. Gregory Leicester, the headmaster, promises to train Seph in magic and initiate him into his mysterious order of wizards. But Seph's enthusiasm dampens when he learns that training comes at a steep cost, and that Leicester plans to use his students' powers to serve his own dangerous agenda.

In this companion novel to the exciting fantasy The Warrior Heir, everyone's got a secret to keep: Jason Haley, a fellow student who's been warned to keep away from Seph; the enchanter Linda Downey, who knew his parents; the rogue wizard Leander Hastings, and the warriors Jack Swift and Ellen Stephenson. This wizard war is one that Seph may not have the strength to survive.

    

Review:

Protagonist: Seph McCauley has had trouble follow him all his life. As an untrained wizard, he can't quite control his powers which have led to him getting kicked out of quite a few boarding schools. Then after an incident where his powers get extremely out of control, he's transferred to the Havens, an elite boarding school, where the headmaster promises to train Seph in wizardry, but after learning the steep cost Seph isn't  willing to play in Leicester's political games. Leicester then resorts to less pleasant tactics to push Seph onto his side, how long can Seph hold out before he gives in? I really loved the change of pace with main characters this time around. In The Warrior Heir, we have a main character completely oblivious to the magical world, whereas here Seph at least has a remedial knowledge of the Weir. I loved seeing the comparison and contrast between both main characters as the story goes on. They're both extremely loyal to those who prove themselves worthy, but where Jack has always been a bit cautious Seph takes greater risks, usually getting himself into trouble along the way.  Overall, I really liked Seph and as with the first installment this isn't just told from his point of view, we get a great array of fantastically written characters to show off this wonderful story.

Romance: There is a bit of a romance in this book, I don't want to get too much into detail because if I say too much I will spoil something, but I do want to just talk in general about how this author handles romance, or maybe more specifically how she handles it with this series, though this is really applicable to her Seven Realms series as well. I love how this author writes romance, it's not some race to a finish line, it's realistic and complicated. This author doesn't resort to tropes to move along her romances, though there isn't necessarily anything wrong with that, I just enjoy the breath of fresh air. In this book, the romance is very light yet still a rather large presence in the plot, quite possibly even more than the first installment. Like I said before, I don't want to spoil anything so I'll just sum it up by saying that I love how this author shows this couple getting to know each other, showing how they care for one another, instead of trying to cram a bunch of milestones into one book and hoping that will convey the characters' feelings.

World-Building: With the previous installment in this series ending in a fairly tied up way I was interested in seeing how the plot could be moved forward. When this story begins not that much time has gone by since the end of the previous book, and while it takes a while to truly get there, after a while the main plot begins to form and thicken. Telling this story from the main point of view was interesting, though, with Jack's mixed situation, it was a rather smooth transition. We learn more about the wizard guild in this book, not too much mind you, but more what's happened since the spectacle at Raven's Ghyll. The wizards are in disarray as they don't know how to allocate power anymore. The really interesting part is how this story ties in with the story and the characters from Book 1, which it does. Again, I don't want to give away spoilers, but I will say that it doesn't happen right away but eventually this story begins to feel less like a companion novel and more like a sequel as things are revealed and this story comes to a head.

Predictability: I'm sure I've said it before, I've probably said it a hundred times by know, but Chima really knows what she's doing in terms of foreshadowing. Even the stuff that's incredibly obvious seems to be orchestrated that way. It feels almost like a trap so you don't see the really twisted stuff that comes up later on. As this story unfolds it becomes obvious what the major secrets are, maybe not the answers but you know what things are most likely going to be answered by the end of this book. That being said there were a few things that I instantly knew once the smallest crumb of foreshadowing was revealed, and there were things that I either didn't know or didn't think about hard enough that really caught me by surprise.

Ending: Going into the home stretch I expected things to be a bit more like the previous installment, where everything wraps up well enough, but there are still problems to face in the next adventure. That being said, while the final climax does wrap a few things up it opens up the story so much more. There are far more cliffhangers at the end of this book than I expected. I do know that originally the third book in this series was meant to be the finale so that being said I should have figured a much more intense ending to this story. the ending itself is a great way to finish off the main story going on in this installment, while at the same time showing that there is still more to come by foreshadowing some things that I'm sure will be addressed in the next, and originally final, installment.

Rating:


This wasn't necessarily a surprise to me, I expected to love this book, however I think I actually loved it more that the first one and I cannot wait to see what adventures await our heroes in The Dragon Heir.

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