Books

A Beautiful Collection: A Thousand Beginnings and Endings

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A Thousand Beginnings and Endings

Edited By: Ellen Oh and Elsie Chapman

Grade: A

Ghosts, star-crossed lovers, tragedy, more ghosts, shape-shifters, dances and sisters among other things… A Thousand Beginnings and Endings is an anthology of Asian myths and legends that released at the end of June.

It’s a beautifully written and entertaining collection of stories and if you aren’t familiar with the myths or want to know more about them there’s a page or two of information by the author at the end of each story which I was so grateful to read!

Continue reading “A Beautiful Collection: A Thousand Beginnings and Endings”

Books

The Language of Thorns

The Language of Thorns

The Language of Thorns

Grade: A+

Author: Leigh Bardugo

Illustrated By: Sara Kipin

I was originally torn on whether to even pick this book up or not. It’s a book of six fairy tales set in the Grishaverse, three of which have been published previously. But in the end I’m thrilled that I did and it’s so beautifully illustrated if you’re at all interested in it I’d definitely suggest picking up the hardback version.

Continue reading “The Language of Thorns”

Books

Strange the Dreamer

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Strange the Dreamer

Author: Laini Taylor

Grade: A

Lazlo Strange, librarian and former orphan, dreams about the lost city of Weep. So lost in fact that Weep isn’t actually the name. The real name disappeared from everyone’s minds, even Lazlo’s, long ago. He believes that research and dreams are all he will ever have despite other librarians telling him to get out there and get a life.

So it’s a wonderful surprise when one day a group of traveler’s appear with a mission- to travel to and save the lost city.

Continue reading “Strange the Dreamer”

Books

Queen of Hearts

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Queen of Hearts

Author: Colleen Oakes

Genre: YA/Fantasy

Grade: A

I absolutely love the thought of adventures in Wonderland although recently it’s been hit or miss for me. (Alice in Zombieland and After Alice- they did nothing for me.) Luckily the story of  Princess Dinah was a lot more intriguing and fun.

The Princess is on the verge of her coronation and in love with her best friend when her crappy father drops a bombshell on her in front of the whole court. Not only does she have an illegitimate sister he’s making her the a legitimate Duchess. The new sister is beautiful and graceful and everything Dinah basically isn’t although this actually becomes the least of her problems in Wonderland.

Dinah finds herself trapped in a dangerous mystery and her relationship with the King goes from horrible father to abusive nightmare.

I think Oakes does a very good job with both Dinah and Wonderland. The Princess is not a completely likable character which made her very relatable to me. She’s far from perfect. She doesn’t always behave in the best of fashions (unlike her new sister) but she’s smart, brave and you do get the feeling, as the story goes, her growing empathy and compassion for people is genuine.

There’s only two real locations outside the tension filled palace but in terms of what you’d think of Wonderland both the horrible prison system and the creepy forest are on point. Very good atmosphere building which gives me definite hope for the next book. (Yep, it’s a series. It’s like I can’t stay away from series!)

It does take a bit for the mystery to really get going. Much like Dinah the reader is in the dark and doesn’t know who to trust… You don’t need to have read Alice in Wonderland to “get” this book either.

My biggest nitpick on this one (besides that it’s the start of another series) is that I’m ready for sequel.

This would also be a really fun movie Hollywood. Darken up Chloe Grace Moretz’s hair and you’ve got yourself a Princess Dinah.

Recommend: Yes. I’m crossing my fingers the sequel is just as enjoyable. 

Books

My Stages of Reading Uprooted

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Uprooted

Author: Naomi Novik

Genre: Fantasy

Grade: A

Agnieszka lives in a small village by a dark corrupted wood held back by the Dragon. But they pay a price for his help. Every ten years he takes a local girl from the village to serve him. Agnieszka (and everyone else) is sure this is going to be the beautiful Kasia. Boy, is she in for a surprise!

This book can really be broken down into stages for me.

Stage 1: Pretty cover, interesting, good reviews. I’m sold! Book waits while I finish up some others.

Stage 2: Hit a little mini-slump and then read some reviews that aren’t as good (repetitious and too-wordy). You don’t want to make a reading slump worse. Book continues to wait for me.

Finally: I’m just going to read this!

Stage 3: (First 200 pages) Oh, man! This is so good! Love the main character! The relationship with the Dragon is right up my alley! Love that they don’t lose the binds of her friendship with Kasia. A girl can have love and friendship right?

Stage 4: (Mid-book) Okay, she’s going where? I don’t know about this… I like the story of the poor Prince looking for his Wood stolen mother but still…

A little further along: Oh! Ah, brutal. We’re talking old school fairy tales here! Back on track pretty quickly no less!

End of Book: Great story. Great characters. Would love to see this on-screen and see the truth about the Wood brought to life. I should have read this sooner!

Recommend: Yes. It lags a bit in the middle for some world-building but I admit I might have thought that because I wanted more of the Dragon/Agnieszka but when it moves it flies toward the ending for me. I even wound up enjoying the stuff with the royal family. I really should have picked it up sooner!

Books

The Great Hunt

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The Great Hunt

Author: Wendy Higgins

Genre: YA/Fantasy

Grade: B

A lot of the time when reading a book like this I get the feeling the young characters are confusing lust with true love. That was strong in this one. I mean their bodies were responding pretty much from the first minute yet I just wanted to say, “You guys sleep together yes, but true love and marriage…

I just don’t know about that.”

A horrible beast is killing the men of the Kingdom of Lochlanach. Seemingly unstoppable the King decides to stage a hunt and offer the hand of his eldest child and heir Princess Aerity. Local brothers Paxton and Tiern are among the many to throw their hand into the ring though Paxton is not the least bit interested in marrying the girl.

I feel like my problems with this story are somewhat nitpicking so I’ll start with the good. The story itself has a lot of potential I liked the way the hunters and the hunt is set up. The author does a good job of giving some life to the men (and a wonderful tribe of women hunters) and does a good job of weaving in the history of the Kingdom and the other Kingdoms that are playing a big part in this. All the while keeping the action on the hunts frightening and tense.

So yes, important parts good. Potential.

So what bugged me?

Well Aerity herself never really took off for me. Nor did her family (specifically her younger sister and her grieving cousin). It really is another romance that starts off with the guy being a jerk and the girl being like, “Oh, he’s interesting. I’m so drawn to him!” That gets better as the story goes along but still. Though I did like that not all the participants were wildly in love with Aerity.

I was still going back and forth with her by the end as well. She’s really fairly careless which in some sense made her more human but then the end… I don’t want to give away spoilers but honestly so much of it felt so obvious! The poor redshirt guard who had to protect her! Plus there’s this thing with her sister if that isn’t set up for the plot in the next book I’ll almost be disappointed!

There’s a lot of interesting good characters here but I just felt like with the writing they were falling back into the read it, been there, done it category. I actually wanted better for Pax, Tiern and the other hunters.

Recommend: Wait to be completed. I won’t like unlike some I’m intrigued enough by the secondary characters and the little moments to keep reading. But this one that could go either way. Pull off a good ending and I could see all my problems with the first book disappearing and really loving the whole thing. Yet I can also see far too many ways that doesn’t happen. I’ll keep my fingers crossed.

Books

Disneylanders

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Disneylanders

Author: Kate Abbott

Genre: YA

Grade: B

Casey is about to start high school, abandoned by her best friend and dealing with parents who don’t seem to want her to grow up when they take their annual summer trip to Disneyland. While there and miserable she meets Bert and the two spend the next two days together exploring the park, their feelings, annoying people, parental issues and generally learning that growing up might just be okay.

I have this weird thing with Disneyland and Las Vegas. While I’ve lived in the OC (until recently) for years I can count the number of times I’ve been to Disneyland on my two hands. Yet every time I do go it’s like I lose my mind. I always have fun. (Well, I’m not counting the one time I only made it a half hour. FYI, if you’re trying to get past a headache and the pills actually seem to be working Space Mountain is not where you want to start the day.)  I always turn back into a kid. I don’t worry about the lines, the money or the time and the minute I have to leave I’m planning my return even though it wears off in a couple of days and I forget about it until the next time.

So I definitely get the setting. I know it well. It’s always fun to actually know where a book is taking place. Though I’ve never had all the rides break down like Casey and Bert but still…

This is a young book but not young in an annoying and I feel old way. More like nostalgic and sweet (although Casey’s whining did at times get a little annoying). Bert is a little to perfect of a human being and like I said Casey does get a little whiny and repetitious but we’ve all been there. I looked at it like a fairy tale in the happiest place on Earth. A semi-coming of age we’re all going to be okay story.

So it seems like the good Disney vibes affected me.

Recommend: Yes. Just be aware that it’s a little young and sappy. It really reminded me of the days when I was reading Sweet Valley High and the Babysitter’s Club. I enjoyed it.

This book also fulfilled the “Photograph on the Cover” for the Great Imaginations Story Sprite contest which was a little harder to find than I thought it would be.

 

 

Books

The Wild Girl

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The Wild Girl

Author: Kate Forsyth

Genre: Real People

Grade: A

I just want to give upfront trigger warnings for sexual abuse, child abuse and rape.

The Wild Girl is the story of Dortchen Wild, a young girl living with her parents and her sisters in Hesse-Cassel when Napoleon was rampaging his way through Europe. When she is only twelve she meets and pretty much immediately falls in love with her best friend’s older brother Wilhelm Grimm. He and his brother though dirt poor (like everyone) are putting together a book of old tales that as we all know will last the ages.

First off I have to say Forsyth is a wonderful writer and she really spins out this story. She does a good job with Dortchen’s sisters and related secondary characters making them spark and giving them enough importance to make you care. Also this is not a time period I know that much about. When I read she lived in Hesse-Cassel I was like, ‘Hey, that was a place! I learned about it in history class!’ That was about what I knew. Obviously I’ve read the Grimm brothers but it was interesting to see how this behind the scenes. Dortchen and her sisters and their old maid contribute a lot to the tales.

It doesn’t go into too much detail with the stories and you get little hints here and there. A lot of what you get are the darker version of the tales which when published don’t do that well and the Grimm brothers get pressed to make them more “friendly.” So that was always a thing.

This is really Dortchen’s story though. Her father is presented as a horrible person from the beginning but at a certain point the story takes a turn and it becomes painfully obvious not only is he verbally abusive toward Dortchen he’s targeting her for something worse. Forsyth really ups the feeling of dread as anyone or anything that could help Dortchen is gotten rid of one by one. Even Dortchen knows what is coming and she’s powerless to stop it.

It was really hard to read at that point not only because you so want someone to stick a knife through this guys heart before the inevitable but because after you can see Dortchen disappearing. She begins as a brave, fearless, selfless girl whose always helping people and she winds up a frightened woman afraid to touch or love and riddled with nightmares even after her monster is gone.

I found myself really moved by her story and her relationship with Wilhelm, as they grew and changed, felt very real especially under the circumstances. It really was a story that unsettled me and I thought a very good depiction of the effects of abuse. So in the author’s notes at the end when Forsyth says she settled on that as one of the main reasons so many years pass before Wild and Grimm are actually together I admit I was a little put off.

Despite that I think Forsyth did a really great job of bringing this character and this romance to life and I’ll be checking out more of her writing in the future.

Recommend: Yes. Dortchen Wild is one of my favorite characters of the year. Just take into account the issues that come up in the story

Books

Off the Page

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The best way to describe some books- they aren’t exactly bad but a chore to finish. Off the Page was that way to me. It was a chore to finish reading it. I think I only did because I don’t like giving up on books. Maybe the best thing I could say was that it wasn’t awful.

Delilah helped Oliver escape from a book in which he was Prince by substituting the (admittedly willing) son of the author. That all happened in the first book which I wondered for a moment if I should read and then I thought, “God, there’s a whole other book of this!” I don’t mind fairy tales and I like Jodi Picoult, although I admit I haven’t read her for years before this one, but this book just was irritating.

First- I didn’t really like any of the characters except the secondary fairy tale ones. Delilah talks about how she knows it’s going to be hard for Oliver to fit in and that she has to help him and then she’s pretty much always mad or irritated at him. She has a huge fit because he kisses her mortal enemy… except at the time they’re rehearsing for Romeo and Juliet so that just didn’t do it for me. I found her and Oliver to be incredibly selfish in many instances including not telling Edgar (who switched with Oliver) that his mother was sick right away.

Also I wasn’t sure I ever bought this true love thing. I mean you want to come out of the book to live a life of choices and opportunities and immediately vow everlasting love to the first girl you meet? Seems a little silly too me. Funnily enough I thought the fairy Princess they all made fun of for never having a thought in her head wound up with more depth than Delilah but that’s just me.

I also found it really annoying that in my Kindle edition the three points-of-view were distinguished not just by names on the chapter but by actually doing the whole chapter in different colors than the others. Ugh. Unnecessary and it pulled me out of the book.

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TRIGGER WARNING: There is a dog death. He gets hit by a car which is made even weirder by the fact that he does have some human characteristics including having been able to talk in the fairy tale. But don’t worry. Delilah does not let that mess things up for her at all.

Recommend: Not to bitch (to late right?) but no. This book was pretty run of the mill and didn’t do anything but annoy me. I have a better “fairy tale” book I’m finishing now.

Books

The Mermaid’s Sister

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 Clara and Maren are two sister’s (technically they aren’t sisters they were just orphaned and adopted by the same woman). When she turns sixteen Maren however begins to turn into a  mermaid which is a problem when you live on a mountain. At first Clara wants Auntie to turn Maren back into her old self but this is Maren’s normal self and slowly but surely her change is becoming complete and she needs to get back to the ocean.

 Enter Auntie’s husband and his orphaned son O’Neill (these people found orphans everywhere). O’Neill has a cart and agrees to help Clara return Maren.

 Hence, adventure and Maren’s story told through Clara’s point of view.

 Well, it’s not really much of one. After a slow start they run into some trouble and the main thrust of the book is about how they are going to get away from said trouble and save Maren.

 Is it possible to like a story (or the idea of a story) but not really the story or the book itself? Is it weird? Because I liked this story but I had some problems with the book & I’ll try not to give away spoilers but overall the story is pretty predictable so I would bet most people can guess how it’s going to go.

 1. The couple that get together at the end- eh, I wasn’t really buying it. I realize that told through one POV means you aren’t privy to what the other person is feeling or thinking but still it felt awfully convenient for me.

 2. Maren isn’t much of a character which seems a cruel thing to say about a mermaid in a jar.

 3. Not only is an animal that had been presented as rather smart killed it’s feed to the main characters and at that point I was like uh-uh blocking out anything concerning that from this point on.

 Still one thing I really liked about this was the story-telling aspect of it. At times I really felt like I was sitting around a campfire listening to some one tell this tale. I also appreciated the fact that Clara is a strong character who does, in the end, pretty much all of the saving and the lion’s share of the thinking as a matter of fact.

 Recommend: With the exception of the animal thing and some suggestive comments aimed Clara’s way it’s not a bad book for twelve or up although it may be a little too predictable in this day and age.