Review: No Place Like Oz by Danielle Paige and Men Who Wish to Drown by Elizabeth Fama

Title: No Place Like Oz

Author: Danielle Paige

Publishing Information: November 12th 2013 by HarperCollins

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Retelling

Series Information: Dorothy Must Die 0.5

Format: eBook 196 pages

Source: Bought for my personal library

Recommended For: Readers who are not complete Oz enthusiasts like myself.

I picked up No Place Like Oz because I am a HUGE Wizard of Oz fan. I actually collect different editions of the novels as well as anything else Oz related. Perhaps that is why I had such a hard time with this novel, I wanted to get a glimpse of the world to see what Danielle Paige was working with and I don’t know how to feel about it. On one hand there were some aspects that were reminiscent of Baum’s Oz, and those parts I really loved, the imagery could have been taken directly out of the original novels. Unfortunately, there were so many aspects of the novel that had me rolling my eyes. I didn’t like Dorothy, and not in the “she’s the villain and we aren’t supposed to like her” way, but I found her incredibly annoying. Though the idea behind this series is a really great concept, I was not enthralled while reading. Instead I found that I just wanted it to be over, and it didn’t make me excited to read the upcoming novel at all. How disappointing. Continue reading

Review: The Witch’s Boy by Kelly Barnhill

Title: The Witch’s Boy

Author: Kelly Barnhill

Publishing Information: September 16th 2014 by Algonquin Young Readers

Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy, Adventure

Series Information: Standalone

Format: Hardcover, 384 pages

Source: Obtained an ARC from the publisher via Netgalley

Recommended For: Readers looking for a middle grade novel filled with self discovery and friendship with a perfect blend of darkness and hope.

When Ned and his identical twin brother tumble from their raft into a raging, bewitched river, only Ned survives. Villagers are convinced the wrong boy lived. Sure enough, Ned grows up weak and slow, and stays as much as possible within the safe boundaries of his family’s cottage and yard. But when a Bandit King comes to steal the magic that Ned’s mother, a witch, is meant to protect, it’s Ned who safeguards the magic and summons the strength to protect his family and community.

In the meantime, in another kingdom across the forest that borders Ned’s village lives Áine, the resourceful and pragmatic daughter of the Bandit King. She is haunted by her mother’s last words to her: “The wrong boy will save your life and you will save his.” But when Áine and Ned’s paths cross, can they trust each other long enough to make their way through the treacherous woods and stop the war about to boil over?

There is so much to be said about The Witch’s Boy, right from the beginning I was hooked in the story that was reminiscent of old tales being told over a campfire. Kelly Barnhill managed to weave what felt like a very old story into the life of Ned and his (now dead) twin brother. It was a different way in which the author portrayed our main character, as he was not one, but two boys merged into one by their mother’s love and magic. Ned is described as “the wrong boy” who lived when an accident struck he and his brother. But somehow, Ned manages to grow to mirror his mother’s strength, taking control of the increasingly pushy magic that flows through him. It was a novel filled with different stories that flowed together to tell a very important tale. Overall, the novel was unique and refreshing in the way that the author portrayed the characters and their combined flaws and strengths.

The best things about The Witch’s Boy were the characters and their relationships with one another. I loved Ned for his courage and ability to move forward for the love of his family. I loved Aine for her strength, wit, and the choices that she makes when faced with adversity. Don’t even get me started on the wolf and his loyalties to this pair. Aine’s father had a great backstory that broke my heart a little, which brings me to the second thing that I loved about The Witch’s Boy, the fact that Kelly Barnhill doesn’t shy away from the hard stuff.

If you are familiar with some of my other reviews of middle grade novels, you will remember that the one thing that will make me love a novel geared toward children is the ability to not brush over those “tough” subjects. I’m talking about grief, pain, death, and so on. I have to be honest and say that I was pleasantly surprised while reading The Witch’s Boy because the author does a perfect job of serving the reader a plate of bitter heartache which is then followed up with just enough light and hope to keep one going. I am completely in the mindset that these so called “children’s” novels are often darker than young adult or adult novels because the kids can handle it. Much respect to the author for perfectly blending darkness and light, for showing the reader how to hope and move forward through all sorts of trials.

An added bonus to loving this novel was that I actually met Kelly Barnhill at the Kids Author Carnival a few months ago and she was wonderful. Honestly, one of the nicest people that I have ever had the pleasure of meeting.

Shelf Talker: The Witch’s Boy was everything that I wanted it to be. It was a beautiful and wonderful story about love in all forms. It had adventure, coming of age, a perfect blend of darkness and hope, and elements that reminded me of the fairytales I read as a kid. In truth, I loved it, and I think you all will too.

Review: The Mirk and Midnight Hour by Jane Nickerson

Title: The Mirk and Midnight Hour

Author: Jane Nickerson

Publishing Information: March 11th 2014 by Knopf Books for Young Readers

Genre: Young Adult, Retelling, Fantasy, Romance, Fairy Tales, Historical Fiction

Series Information: Standalone (though apparently the three books are companions in the “Strands” universe)

Format: Hardcover, 384 pages

Source: Obtained an ARC from the publisher via Edelweiss

Recommended For: Readers looking for a quick read with an enchanting setting and vibrant setting.

A Southern girl. A wounded soldier. A chilling force deep in the forest. All collide at night’s darkest hour.

Seventeen-year-old Violet Dancey has been left at home in Mississippi with a laudanum-addicted stepmother and love-crazed stepsister while her father fights in the war—a war that has already claimed her twin brother.

When she comes across a severely injured Union soldier lying in an abandoned lodge deep in the woods, things begin to change. Thomas is the enemy—one of the men who might have killed her own brother—and yet she’s drawn to him. But Violet isn’t Thomas’s only visitor; someone has been tending to his wounds—keeping him alive—and it becomes chillingly clear that this care hasn’t been out of compassion.

Against the dangers of war and ominous powers of voodoo, Violet must fight to protect her home and the people she loves.

From the author of Strands of Bronze and Gold comes a haunting love story and suspenseful thriller based on the ancient fairy tale of “Tam Lin.”

I was wary to pick up The Mirk and Midnight Hour because I had heard very mixed reviews about Strands of Bronze and Gold by Jane Nickerson, and by very mixed reviews, I mean that some people downright LOATHED it and they were very passionate as to why. Upon hearing that The Mirk and Midnight Hour was just a companion set in the same world, and not a sequel, I thought I would give it a go. How gorgeous is the cover, and the a retelling of Tam Lin hooked me right away.

The best compliment that I can give The Mirk and Midnight Hour is that months after reading it, I still can’t stop thinking of the haunting and vibrant setting where the story takes place. Much of the novel takes place in the woods, where Violet finds a wounded soldier, Thomas. I am a sucker for a gothic tale, and I love me some beautiful, bird filled woods. The setting and the secondary characters ended up adding some depth that the novel was missing from the beginning. I enjoyed Lainey and Michael, who work on Violet’s farm as slaves, and I absolutely adored Violet’s cousin, Seeley.

First, there is a lot going on in this novel. There is a focal point on Violet’s home life, her relationships with her stepmother and stepsister play an important role in the growth of the novel, and though at first they seemed irrelevant to the plot, I really enjoyed they way that the relationships grew as the characters did, I was surprised to find how much I liked Violet’s stepsister and mother come the end of the novel. For me, the love story was, in a word, rushed. I realize that some growth in their relationship happened “off the page,” but I still couldn’t see how they fell in love so quickly and deeply. Though I did enjoy it to an extent, it was not deeply moving in the least.

Probably the biggest flaw in The Mirk and Midnight Hour was found in the “retelling” of Tam Lin. Readers have to trudge through quite a bit of the novel before we actually meet his character and  though I can understand how certain circumstances can bring people together, the romance felt a little too easy for me. The fairies found in Tam Lin are replaced with (what is described in the blurb as being) Voodoo and I found it to be a tad out of place. Violet also has a rather nonsensical affinity with bees that somewhat plays into the novel but again, it felt out of place (and quite frankly confused me).

Shelf Talker: The Mirk and Midnight Hour was a very quick and vibrant read, if you are willing to look past some frustrations over the under developed romance and and less than stellar retelling. If you want a gothic novel, filled with a girl growing up in the south during the Civil War that focuses on the struggles of this time with hints of romance, voodoo, and a creepy atmosphere, then give this one a go.

Review: Cress and The Lunar Chronicles Novellas by Marissa Meyer

I’m back with some more mini reviews! In case you were wondering if The Lunar Chronicles are worth the hype, they absolutely are! Read on to read my thoughts on the novellas of the series and of course, the newest addition, Cress!


Title:
 Glitches

Author: Marissa Meyer

Publishing Information: December 5th 2011 by Tor

Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction

Series Information: 0.5 in The Lunar Chronicles

Format: ebook, 32 pages

Source: Free on Tor.com

For those of you who are curious about the series and wondering if you can believe all of the hype, or for readers looking for a deeper look into Cinder’s background and her relationship with Iko, definitely give this one a go. It is somewhat bittersweet as we see how hard it was for Cinder to adjust to her new life as part cyborg, but when you continue on with the series, you see that Cinder comes into her own!

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On the Same Page: Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan

10866624Title: Unspoken

Author: Sarah Rees Brennan

Publishing Information: September 11th 2012 by Random House Books for Young Readers

Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal, Mystery, Romance, Fantasy

Series Information: Book one in The Lynburn Legacy

Format: Hardcover, 370 pages

Source: Bought for my personal library

Recommended For: Those of you who are looking for a novel filled with layered and unforgettable characters, intense relationships, and intriguing mysteries.

Related Reviews: The Lynburn Legacy novellas by Sarah Reese Brennan

Right, first things first…I absolutely loved Unspoken. In fact, I loved it so much that I immediately read the rest of the series upon completing book one. Unspoken is filled with wonderful and intricate characters, fantastic relationships (of all kinds), and some dashes of mystery that kept me guessing. If you haven’t read this series yet, I suggest you do so immediately.

That being said, you know for our On the Same Page feature we usually do something a little different in lieu of a traditional review. Some of you may know that there is a big emphasis on Jared and Kami’s relationship, that is, they have been in each other’s minds for as long as they can remember, never meeting in real life. They put this off as having an “imaginary friend” since there seems to be no other logical explanation. Well, this got me thinking about imaginary friends (I had one named Elvis), and other imaginary friends from my childhood. So, with hopes that this doesn’t diminish anyone’s opinion of the novel, since the novel is so much more than “imaginary friends,” and because Rik Mayall recently passed away, I thought it would be fun to look at my favorite childhood film, Drop Dead Fred. Continue reading

Review: The Lynburn Legacy Novellas by Sarah Rees Brennan

Since the gals and I are reading Unspoken for our On the Same Page feature this month, I thought I would read and review the novellas to see what I am in for! It is safe to say that I am pretty excited for this series after what these novellas contained!

 

Title: The Spring Before I Met You

Author: Sarah Rees Brennan

Publishing Information: September 11, 2012

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance

Series Information: Novella 0.25 in The Lynburn Legacy

Format: ebook, 18 pages

Source: Available for free here

For readers who are looking for a novella that will only add mystery and pique your interest of the series more, read these novellas! This novellas gives the reader more insight into Jared’s character, and even though we haven’t met Kami yet, we are able to see her through is eyes and it is rather beautiful. We are also able to see Jared’s family dynamic, which was really rather sad but still so mysterious. Honestly after finishing this novella all I could think of was how quickly I needed to read this series. I had held off because I heard that the first two books had crazy cliffhangers, but thankfully the end is near so I can pick them up and binge read!

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Review: Sabriel by Garth Nix

Title: Sabriel

Author: Garth Nix

Publishing Information: Published September 30th 1995 by Harper Collins 

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Magic, Adventure

Series Information: Book 1 in the Abhorsen series

Format: Hardcover, 292 pages

Source: Received as a gift for my personal library

Recommended For: Readers looking for an adventure story with a likable heroine, a powerful and less than harmless feline creature, and a young man haunted by his past.

Ever since she was a tiny child, Sabriel has lived outside the walls of the Old Kingdom, away from the random power of Free Magic, and away from the Dead who won’t stay dead. But now her father, the Mage Abhorsen, is missing, and to find him Sabriel must cross back into the nine Gates and Precincts of Death. Though her journey begins alone, she soon finds companions: Mogget, whose seemingly harmless feline form hides a powerful-and perhaps malevolent-spirit, and Touchstone, a younger Charter Mage imprisoned two centuries in a wooden ship-head, still trapped by painful memories. With threats on all sides and only each other to trust, the three must travel deep into the Old Kingdom, toward a battle against vicious Hands, Mordicants, and the evil Kerrigor.

Confession time, my friends! My grandmother bought this book for me over ten years ago and you know what? I didn’t read it because the cover looked boring. SHAME ON ME! It wasn’t until I moved into my new apartment and was putting it on the shelves that I remembered that Garth Nix was writing a fourth book (and that it would be available at BEA) that I decided to maybe try it out. I was still a little put off by it for some reason and then I found out that Tim Curry narrates the audiobook! Well, I love Tim Curry in all things and I immediately started listening to Sabriel on audio. It took some time for me to fall into the story but once I decided to read the book in print and listen to it I really fell for the storyline. Continue reading

Review: Of Neptune and The Syrena Legacy novellas by Anna Banks

Back for some mini (spoiler free) reviews! I always find that novellas help me to determine whether or not I would be interested in a series so here a little taste for you guys to decide whether or not to give The Syrena Legacy a chance!

Title: The Stranger

Author: Anna Banks

Publishing Information: June 18th 2013 by Tor

Genre: Young Adult, Mermaids, Romance, Fantasy

Series Information: Novella 0.4 in the Syrena Legacy

Format: ebook, 32 pages

Source: Available for free on Tor.com

Recommended For: Readers interested in “dipping their toes” (hehe) into this series, or fans of the series who want to learn a little bit more about Galen and Rachel’s relationship!

I loved this novella! It was adorable seeing Galen when he was little and it was so endearing to see how the bond between Galen and Rachel began. Definitely give this a shot if you are unsure of the series but want to get a feel for the characters. Rachel is absolutely hilarious in her no nonsense way, I loved learning more about her. Continue reading

Review: Night of Cake & Puppets and Dreams of Gods & Monsters by Laini Taylor

Title: Night of Cake & Puppets

Author: Laini Taylor

Publishing Information: November 26th 2013 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance

Series Information: novella 2.5 in the Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy

Format: ebook, 89 pages

Source: Purchased for my personal library

Recommended For: Readers looking for a deeper look into Zuzana and Mik’s relationship as well as the closeness between Zuzana and Karou in Daughter of Smoke & Bone

Related Reviews: Daughter of Smoke & Bone (Daughter of Smoke & Bone 1), Days of Blood & Starlight (Daughter of Smoke & Bone 2)

In lieu of a traditional review, I am going to write a mini review for Night of Cake & Puppets and Dreams of Gods & Monsters because at this point I almost think it is silly to go in depth about the conclusion to a well known series. Bottom line is, if you haven’t read this series yet – get on it. Immediately.

“I want to do mysterious and improbable things alongside a fierce and beautiful girl who looks like a doll brought to life by a sorcerer.”

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Review: Cruel Beauty of Rosamund Hodge

Title: Cruel Beauty

Author: Rosamund Hodge

Publishing Information: January 28, 2014, by Balzer & Bray

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Mythology, Romance, Retellings

Series Information: Standalone

Format: Hardcover, 346 pages

Source: Obtained an ARC from the publisher via Edelweiss

Recommended For: Fans of vibrant fantasy novels with strong heroines, tall, dark and handsome male leads, and beautiful imagery

Since birth, Nyx has been betrothed to the evil ruler of her kingdom-all because of a foolish bargain struck by her father. And since birth, she has been in training to kill him. But Ignifex is not at all what Nyx expected. The strangely charming lord beguiles her, and his castle-a shifting maze of magical rooms-enthralls her.

As Nyx searches for a way to free her homeland by uncovering Ignifex’s secrets, she finds herself unwillingly drawn to him. Even if she could bring herself to love her sworn enemy, how can she refuse her duty to kill him? With time running out, Nyx must decide what is more important: the future of her kingdom, or the man she was never supposed to love.

What a synopsis, am I right?  One thing I have to add is that there really should be some mention of Mythology in the synopsis for this book. The first part of the book is so completely wrapped in Mythology that I was wracking my brain trying to figure out how all of the gods fit together in this world. Then it tapers off a little bit, not in a bad way, but enough that this really could have been a retelling of Cupid and Psyche, it even has Hades and Persephone elements, and it definitely directly circled around Pandora. That isn’t to say that there aren’t elements from fairytales, Cruel Beauty also had some strong emphasis on Beauty and the Beast and Bluebeard. This might seem like an array of randomness thrown together but I promise that it all falls together nicely. Continue reading