Friday, December 6, 2013

Review: Hero by Alethea Kontis

Rough and tumble Saturday Woodcutter thinks she's the only one of her sisters without any magic—until the day she accidentally conjures an ocean in the backyard. With her sword in tow, Saturday sets sail on a pirate ship, only to find herself kidnapped and whisked off to the top of the world. Is Saturday powerful enough to kill the mountain witch who holds her captive and save the world from sure destruction? And, as she wonders grumpily, "Did romance have to be part of the adventure?" As in Enchanted, readers will revel in the fragments of fairy tales that embellish this action-packed story of adventure and, yes, romance.
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published October 1st 2013 by Harcourt Books

(info grabbed from GoodReads)

This book was a huge let down.  I adored ENCHANTED with its magical world chock full of fairy tales and was thrilled to read the sequel.  HOWEVER.  This sequel does not live up to any of my expectations.  Maybe the bar was set pretty high after how much I loved ENCHANTED, but HERO honestly doesn’t even come close on any level to the amount of enjoyment of its predecessor.

HERO follows Saturday Woodcutter, Sunday from the first book’s next oldest kin.  The non-magical sister gets a fantastical tale of her own: whisked away to a mountain cave inhabited by a witch, Saturday faces danger and excitement, with a touch of romance.  It sounds like this story couldn’t go wrong.

My first bone of contention?  Saturday.  Saturday Woodcutter is not nearly as fun to read as her little sister Sunday.  Whereas Sunday was whimsical and dreamy, Saturday is tomboyish and … boring.  She is a generic I-wish-I-were-a-boy character that had no original spunk.  Her lack of personality made reading her adventure tiresome, and I just couldn’t keep reading.

Next issue: the writing is pretty bad.  Alethea Kontis excels at writing interesting dialogue.  Other than that, everything gets confusing and isn’t described nearly enough -- there was never a moment where there was a beautifully painted picture of what was going on.  It seemed like guesswork whenever there was any action, where this was less of a problem in ENCHANTED.  The characters were what pulled you into the story and kept things interesting in addition to helping the reader find their way through the somewhat lacking prose.  In HERO, where I had no connection to the main character, the writing issues were all the more apparent and unforgivable.

HERO ended up being completely dissatisfying and disappointing.  I had other issues that I decided if I fully disclosed, this would turn more into a rant than review.  If you’re a fan of ENCHANTED, then you probably are going to pick up this book regardless.  Maybe with a bit of warning the reading experience will be more enjoyable for you.

Final Thought: 2 out of 5 toadstools

This review is also posted on GoodReads

Friday, November 15, 2013

Review: That Time I Joined the Circus by J J Howard

Lexi Ryan just ran away to join the circus, but not on purpose.

A music-obsessed, slightly snarky New York City girl, Lexi is on her own. After making a huge mistake--and facing a terrible tragedy--Lexi has no choice but to track down her long-absent mother. Rumor has it that Lexi's mom is somewhere in Florida with a traveling circus.

When Lexi arrives at her new, three-ring reality, her mom isn't there . . . but her destiny might be. Surrounded by tigers, elephants, and trapeze artists, Lexi finds some surprising friends and an even more surprising chance at true love. She even lucks into a spot as the circus's fortune teller, reading tarot cards and making predictions.

But then Lexi's ex-best friend from home shows up, and suddenly it's Lexi's own future that's thrown into question.

With humor, wisdom, and a dazzlingly fresh voice, this debut reminds us of the magic of circus tents, city lights, first kisses, and the importance of an excellent playlist.

Hardcover, 259 pages

Published April 1st 2013 by Point
(info pulled from GoodReads)

The thing I love about contemporary is the more direct and realistic life lessons it hands out.  Not that there isn’t a bit of wisdom to be found in science fiction or fantasy, just a different variety of it.  THAT TIME I JOINED THE CIRCUS dishes out some hard to learn lessons in particular to our hero, Lexi, such as finding that people aren’t always who you think they are and that even good people can make terrible mistakes.  People can do you wrong, and still be exactly who you need them to be.  These messages are delivered with an honest story, fun, and a touch of snark.
This book blends a great story with the excitement of the circus.  We get a glimpse into the life of a working circus, which filled that hole inside of me (and more than likely you) that always did want to run away and join the circus.  Lexi didn’t run away or join the circus for the more traditional reasons (you know, like fun), and that makes the story more relatable and believable.  She is rational and in need of a family, which the circus can provide.  I liked that the book highlights the highs and lows of circus work while tying it into a beautiful story of self discovery.

This is the paragraph that I would put negative aspects about the book in.  I don’t have anything to put here so this is a paragraph about nothing.  THAT TIME I JOINED THE CIRCUS wasn’t a perfect book that pulled at all my feels, but there isn’t anything bad to say. 

There was a sweetness to this story that I wasn’t expecting.  It has very uplifting messages about being who you are and who you want to be and was an all around feel good novel.  I was surprised many a time within this novel, reminding me that books -- and life -- usually go exactly where you don’t expect them to. 

Final Thought: 4 out of 6 toadstools

This review is also posted on GoodReads

Monday, November 11, 2013

Review: Pawn by Aimee Carter


For Kitty Doe, it seems like an easy choice. She can either spend her life as a III in misery, looked down upon by the higher ranks and forced to leave the people she loves, or she can become a VII and join the most powerful family in the country.

If she says yes, Kitty will be Masked—surgically transformed into Lila Hart, the Prime Minister's niece, who died under mysterious circumstances. As a member of the Hart family, she will be famous. She will be adored. And for the first time, she will matter.

There's only one catch. She must also stop the rebellion that Lila secretly fostered, the same one that got her killed …and one Kitty believes in. Faced with threats, conspiracies and a life that's not her own, she must decide which path to choose—and learn how to become more than a pawn in a twisted game she's only beginning to understand.

ebook, 346 pages
Expected publication: November 26th 2013 by Harlequin Teen
(info grabbed from GoodReads)

This is the second series I’ve read by Aimee Carter and was very excited before reading PAWN to see how she could do a dystopian.  The concepts for each series are so different that I was very intrigued to see how that would be handled.  I am glad to say that PAWN is very different from THE GODDESS TEST series.  Where THE GODDESS TEST was light and magical, PAWN is dark and realistic, while still having the same spark I’ve come to expect from Aimee Carter’s writing.  It’s a very different turn for this author, but I really like it. 

Dystopian usually revolves the choices a character makes that ultimately start to the dissolve the society.  PAWN is a bit different.  In this story, Kitty is very much at the whims of everyone around her.  This installment of THE BLACKCOAT REBELLION series has Kitty reacting to her predicament time and again; the story is propelled by events around the character rather than the character herself.  While this is normally a bad thing, the way the story flows in PAWN made it less exhausting to read than in other books.  I appreciated it more as something that made the novel different rather than it being a negative.  However, it will be interesting to see in the sequel how Kitty will start to make her own decisions more and how that will affect things.

The way Aimee Carter writes actually feels like it’s coming out of a teenager’s head.  I was worried that Kitty would turn into another Kate; same character with a different name.  Kitty has similarities with Kate, but is definitely a separate character.  She is more… severe.  They are both stubborn and want to do what’s right, but Kitty has more guts.  She is brave and will do whatever it takes to get her out alive.  Kitty has a strength and potential that Kate didn’t have, and her actions and thoughts made sense for a girl living in the world of PAWN. 

The world of PAWN is filled with cruelty that sometimes pushed my limits of what was believable for an entire society.  But at the same time, stranger things have happened in real life.  I love that dystopian literature reminds us not to forget what people are capable of when they have power.  Aimee Carter pushed the limits of what I had ever thought about and I loved it.  Set in a world that’s a mash of Marie Lu’s LEGEND and George Orwell’s 1984, PAWN is a fresh take on dystopian I recommend for all lovers of the genre.

Final Thought: 24 out of 28 toadstools

This review is also posted on GoodReads

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Review: The Mad Scientist's Daughter by Cassandra Rose Clarke

"Cat, this is Finn. He's going to be your tutor."

Finn looks and acts human, though he has no desire to be. He was programmed to assist his owners, and performs his duties to perfection. A billion-dollar construct, his primary task is now to tutor Cat. As she grows into a beautiful young woman, Finn is her guardian, her constant companion...and more. But when the government grants rights to the ever-increasing robot population, however, Finn struggles to find his place in the world, and in Cat's heart.

Paperback, 391 pages
Published January 29th 2013 by Angry Robot
(info grabbed from GoodReads)
A note: THE MAD SCIENTIST'S DAUGHTER is an adult read and contains adult things.  If you don't like adult things (like smoking, divorce, and sex, just to name a few) in books ever, maybe skip this one.
I wasn't sure what I was getting into when I started reading THE MAD SCIENTIST'S DAUGHTER.  The story follows Cat from her childhood where she meets Finn, an android assigned as her tutor, and onward through her life as she has experiences with him.  The story, which I think is best described as a cross between FORREST GUMP and BICENTENNIAL MAN, focuses on Cat trying to grasp her feelings for her mechanical friend and the ethical and social issues surrounding it.  It proved to be a much deeper and mature novel than I was expecting, but it was a pleasant surprise.  Cassandra Clarke guides the reader through the turmoils of Cat's life with beautiful prose and great insight.
Even though the book seems lengthy and wordy at times, I could not stop reading.  Usually, if I feel that a book is dragged out, I'm done.  I can't keep reading and I don't.  But even though I felt the prose was lengthy and over elaborate on details at times, I had to keep reading.  I had to know what happened in Cat and Finn's world -- I felt deeply involved in the well developed lives of these fictional characters.  Cat is a wonderful character in that she is flawed, but those flaws make her feel real.  So real, I'm almost expecting her to show up at my high school reunion; we'll drink, have a laugh, talk about how our lives didn't go exactly the way we thought they would after high school and call it a night.  The depth to her person is impressive and something I don't see in books very often.  And then there's Finn, who can't exist (yet?) but is as full and whole as a character as an android with emotional issues should be. 
The only character issue I would note is that all the other character's in the book were not developed.  The story goes through almost thirty years of Cat's life, so her friends change throughout the story, as does the setting.  And like that setting, they seemed like a backdrop to everything else.  Some of these characters were plot devices, others were just there.  But in the span of real life, there are characters/people who are simply plot devices that keep our lives moving and others who are just there, so it seems appropriate in the story.  And on another thought, it could just have been that the author was trying to exagerate that distanced feeling Cat felt from other people.  Intentional or not, the side characters were scattered throughout, generic and unmemorable.
Overall, THE MAD SCIENTIST'S DAUGHTER is a beautiful book.  It's the type of read that will invade your thoughts when you're not reading it, so I suggest not picking it up until you have adequate time to read.  It wasn't one I personally could put down and come back to -- I was constantly wanting to read it through my day.  I highly recommend it to anyone who likes speculative science fiction and is looking for a deeper, more emotion packed read.
FINAL THOUGHT: 3.99 out of 5 sexy robot toadstools
This review is also posted on GoodReads

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Review: Shadows on the Moon by Zoe Marriott

Trained in the magical art of shadow-weaving, sixteen-year-old Suzume is able to re-create herself in any form - a fabulous gift for a girl desperate to escape her past. But who is she really? Is she a girl of noble birth living under the tyranny of her mother's new husband, Lord Terayama? Or a lowly drudge scraping a living in the ashes of Terayama's kitchens? Or is she Yue, the most beautiful courtesan in the Moonlit Lands? Whatever her true identity, Suzume is destined to use her skills to steal the heart of a prince in a revenge plot to destroy Terayama. And nothing will stop her, not even the one true aspect of her life- her love for a fellow shadow-weaver.
Hardcover, 447 pages
Published April 24th 2012 by Candlewick Press
(info grabbed from GoodReads)

I was really expecting to like this one. 

For supposedly being a retelling of Cinderella set in an alternate version of Japan with a moon kingdom, there is surprisingly little magic.  And what magic is there has very little spark for me.  This one is really struggled to hold my attention.  I could see where the book was going at every turn and that it is a story of revenge, but I'm just not feeling any urgency with the story.  Everything feels drawn out and wordy.  Rather than flowing right along like a river, the story moves like a trickling creek that is about to run dry.  I think SHADOWS ON THE MOON is a good book, maybe a great book to some, but overall just not for me.

I was worried when reading the description that SHADOWS ON THE MOON would be similar to CINDER, in that they are both retellings of Cinderella, they have Asian inspired settings, and that they both involve a moon kingdom.  However, all of those similarities just lay on the surface of both books; at their core, they are nothing alike.  CINDER is a science-fantasy retelling whereas SHADOWS ON THE MOON is a slower paced tale of revenge that has very little in common with the traditional Cinderella tale.  And it has no robots, which makes me sad.

Speaking of things that make me sad, the pacing also felt off.  The story would stop and go as I was reading and I personally don’t like playing red-light-green-light with books.  I like a nice flow, which unfortunately, I did not get with SHADOWS ON THE MOON.  One thing that also worsened the slow pacing was the lack of urgency.  All these terrible things happen but we’re not going to do anything other than wait.  Let’s hurry up and wait.  Not digging it.

Basically this all adds up to: this book wasn’t for me.  If you’re looking for an anger fueled journey of revenge riddled with self-mutilation and a lot of reflection in a semi-magical Japan, SHADOWS ON THE MOON is for you.  If you want a story with a bit more of a kick and excitement, maybe look elsewhere.  Whatever you do, happy reading

Final Thought: 1 out of 3 moon bunny toadstools

This review is also posted on GoodReads

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Review: The Goddess Inheritance by Aimee Carter

Love or life.
Henry or their child.
The end of her family or the end of the world.
Kate must choose.

During nine months of captivity, Kate Winters has survived a jealous goddess, a vengeful Titan and a pregnancy she never asked for. Now the Queen of the Gods wants her unborn child, and Kate can't stop her--until Cronus offers a deal.

In exchange for her loyalty and devotion, the King of the Titans will spare humanity and let Kate keep her child. Yet even if Kate agrees, he'll destroy Henry, her mother and the rest of the council. And if she refuses, Cronus will tear the world apart until every last god and mortal is dead.

With the fate of everyone she loves resting on her shoulders, Kate must do the impossible: find a way to defeat the most powerful being in existence, even if it costs her everything.

Even if it costs her eternity.

(info grabbed from GoodReads

THE GODDESS INHERITANCE was a great (potentially temporary) end to THE GODDESS TEST trilogy.  It was action packed and filled with the same spark that made me love the first two books.  I also really liked how Aimee Carter left the ending open while still maintaining that complete feeling.  There is so much left in this world she created to explore; there are several characters that could have their own story and so many places that are only touched upon. 

I love how marriage is sexy in this series -- holy matrimony never looked so good.  Henry and Kate’s relationship still has a lot of spark to it, which I found especially lovely because they’re married.  Marriage isn’t terribly common in young adult (which makes sense; it’s young adult), but I love that THE GODDESS TEST series portrayed marriage in a good (and sexy) light.  In young adult, the glimpses of marriage you do get are usually through the parents of the characters.  And let’s face it, in young adult, there’s an abundance of absent and/or divorced parents.  Kate’s (somewhat incestuous) family is refreshing.  Plus, who doesn’t love a bit of win-cest?  I don’t usually, but for some reason I find myself loving how Kate’s mom is also her auntie and sister-in-law.

There’s nothing I would say is bad about the book, but there is something that was just okay.  I felt like I didn't have a strong feel for Henry's character anymore -- he's barely a main character in this book.  Actually, he is the definition of a supporting character, as he literally supports Kate.  That is his main role in the book, at least from my perspective.  Henry doesn't have the strongest personality to begin with, so with his depleted role, it was really easy to lose sight of who he is.  Henry is in the book more than he was in GODDESS INTERRUPTED, however, he just didn't have a lot of moments where his character shined.  In THE GODDESS TEST, my favorite part of the book was the chemistry between Henry and Kate, so the sequel and this one let me down a little in that way.

I love the way Aimee Carter writes; she has a relaxed way of writing that is so easy to read.  Not to say that her stories aren't dynamic or suspenseful, because they are.  The way she writes is kind of like how people normally talk: it is relaxed.  It is fluid.  It makes her books a quick, fun reads consistantly.  I would pick up another book written by her in a heart beat.  And it's nice to know I won't have to wait too long: her next book is out next month.  PAWN is the start of a dystopian series, which is a bit of a jump from THE GODDESS TEST, but I'm betting it will be just as good.

Final Thought: 23 out of 29 toadstools

This review is also posted on GoodReads

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Review: Indelible by Dawn Metcalf

Some things are permanent.


And they cannot be changed back.

Joy Malone learns this the night she sees a stranger with all-black eyes across a crowded room—right before the mystery boy tries to cut out her eye. Instead, the wound accidentally marks her as property of Indelible Ink, and this dangerous mistake thrusts Joy into an incomprehensible world—a world of monsters at the window, glowing girls on the doorstep, and a life that will never be the same.

Now, Joy must pretend to be Ink’s chosen one—his helper, his love, his something for the foreseeable future...and failure to be convincing means a painful death for them both. Swept into a world of monsters, illusion, immortal honor and revenge, Joy discovers that sometimes, there are no mistakes.

Somewhere between reality and myth lies…

Paperback, 384 pages
Published July 30th 2013 by Harlequin Teen 
(info grabbed from GoodReads)

I am going to get right to the chase: Indelible was a good book, but not a great book.  Not on the fence on being a great book either, it was just good.  It was enjoyable and I didn’t want to throw it across the room, but I didn’t ache to keep reading either.  The biggest pro is that Dawn Metcalf has a great imagination and has created a novel using new ideas -- something not seen terribly often.  She mixes faerie mythos and creatures from her own mind to create a new world for the reader.  However, fresh ideas do not necessarily make a great novel. 

The book revolves around a very original mythology of fae created by the author.  The world of Indelible is creative and great imagination food.  The issue became though, that there was very little that was original besides the backdrop of the story.  Joy is your average YA female lead; she doesn't have a particularly strong personality, she's not a dynamic character in any sense, and she's not particularly joyful.  She's not particularly anything.  Ink is your typical aloof male character, with his lack of interest at first but overall vulnerability that develops because of the female lead.  Though there were some very well done scenes between the two characters that sparked with emotion, overall it wasn’t enough for me.  The romance, which was more the focus of Indelible, was rather blah for a romance novel.

My big dilemma with the world building was the stark contrast of the original concepts in the world mixed with the bland romantic plot.  It felt to me as though the story was too original in some aspects for how unoriginal it was in others.  I got the overwhelming feeling at times that I had read this book before, but with a different backdrop.  It made it hard for me to continue reading at times as I found myself bored.

Indelible, in my opinion, is a book that readers are going to be torn about.  Some readers, those who are big fans of PNR in all forms and have a less discriminatory eye, will love this book.  Others who are craving something new will feel half starved and underwhelmed. 

Final Thought: 5 out of 10 toadstools

This review is also posted on GoodReads