March 21, 2017

Book Review | As Old As Time

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As Old As Time is the third book in the Twisted Tale trilogy by Liz Braswell. Although this is the third book in the series you don’t have to read the other two to read this one. Each one is its own standalone novel exploring different storylines from classic Disney movies. This particular novel focuses on Beauty and the Beast and poses the question: What if Belle’s mother cursed the Beast?

The book is sectioned off into three parts. The first part follows Belle as she is introduced to us in the original 1991 animated feature. She is living a provincial life, reading and dreaming of far off places, daring sword fights, and magic spells until she takes her father’s place as the Beast’s prisoner. She meets the enchanted objects and explores the forbidden West Wing where she touches the enchanted rose, and things go wrong. We are also given chapters in between these familiar scenes that show Belle’s father Maurice meeting and falling in love with Belle’s mother, who turns out to be an enchantress. There is discourse and violence in the kingdom against those who possess these magical abilities, and many magical beings are killed in the process. This is all because of the cold King and Queen who do nothing but sit in their castle. Eventually the plague comes, killing the King and Queen and leaving their son, who is still a young boy, to take the throne. Belle’s family has moved to a new village (the one we see Belle grow up in), but Belle’s mother wants to make sure that the young Prince is not as cold-hearted as his parents. He fails her test and is cursed. The other two parts of the novel focus on Belle trying to break the curse, spending time in the library with Beast and exploring the grounds to find a way for the Beast and the objects to escape with her, as well as Gaston plotting to lock Maurice in the asylum.

The overall tone of this book is similar to the new live action movie starring Emma Watson and Dan Stevens. It’s a little darker than the cartoon, but it expands on Belle and Beast’s friendship before they fall in love.

Also, I’m not sure how canon this book is to the Disney movie from 1991, but it did offer some answers to plot holes in the movie.

Why does no one in the village remember the royal family or the castle? Because the enchantress wiped the memories from people’s minds.

Where/Who is Chip’s dad? Mr. Potts used to work at the castle as the Stable Master and was the Prince’s favorite servant, but one day he went away and never came back.

Why does no one age except the Beast? Inanimate objects don’t age while people and animals do.

Why is the portrait of the Beast older than when he would have supposedly been cursed at age 11? It has a Dorian-Gray-type spell on it where the portrait ages with the Beast and shows him how he would look as a human if he had never been cursed: handsome but with a cold, unfeeling heart and cruel eyes (a fact that Belle notices and seems to frighten her a bit).

 

This was the best of the two Twisted Tale books that I have read. While it did feel a little slow at some spots in the middle, it felt like the author had finally hit her stride with her writing, and was clearly having a ton of fun with this prompt. I give it 3.5 stars out of 5.

Let me know in the comments below if you’ve read this book, what your thoughts were, and what is your favorite Beauty and the Beast retelling!

Thanks for reading!

February 7, 2017

Book Review | The Bad Beginning

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The Bad Beginning is the first book in Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. This book introduces us to the Baudelaire orphans, Violet, Klaus and Sunny, as they are placed in the care of the cruel and calculating Count Olaf following the demise of their parents. Using their intelligence and unique talents the orphans must find a way to keep their inheritance out of the hands of their evil guardian.

I was introduced to this series by my third grade teacher, who used to read the books to our class. I have read them multiple times throughout the years and still find them entertaining as an adult. I love all the Baudelaires. I dressed up as Violet one year for Halloween, using costume inspiration from the movie that was released in 2004. I used to try and memorize everything I read so I could be like Klaus, who was able to pull out useful facts in even the most stressful of situations. I didn’t really try to imitate Sunny since she was a baby who liked to bite things, but I was impressed with the level of understanding an infant, even a fictional one, seemed to have about these terrible situations she was in.

I had not read this book since high school, so for about five or six years, but since the Netflix show was coming out, I thought it would only right to give the first four books a reread. Despite the large gap of time, this is probably the book I remember most clearly. I think it’s because this was one of the first audiobooks I ever bought. I swear I listened to it so many times I probably could have recited the whole book. Even after all this time, Olaf and his acting troupe terrify me (especially the Hook-Handed Man), I find Mr. Poe frustratingly incompetent, and I still desperately wish that I could give the poor orphans a hug and help them get out of that terrible situation.

One of my favorite scenes in this story (maybe even in the entire series) is Violet making the grappling hook to save Sunny from the top of Count Olaf’s tower. Violet had the incredible ability to make something functional out of limited resources. She only needed three things to make her grappling hook and managed to make it work until she was caught by the Hook-Handed Man.

This is simply one of my favorite series of all time. I highly recommend reading these books, and I hope that the new Netflix series will inspire a new group of people to go out and grab themselves a copy of these books.

What are your thoughts on this series? Did you read them as a kid? And what do you think of the new Netflix series? Leave a comment below!

Thanks for reading!

September 8, 2016

Book Review | Poor Unfortunate Souls

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Hi everyone! I’m here today with a book review of Poor Unfortunate Souls by Serena Valentino.

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For a book that is supposed to be about Ursula, she isn’t in it very much.

I really enjoyed the first books in this trilogy (Fairest of Them All and The Beast Within). Both offered some interesting back stories for Snow White‘s Evil Queen and the Beast from Beauty and the Beast respectively. So when I heard that there would be one for Ursula, I automatically added it to my TBR list.

Ursula is, in my opinion, one of the top three best Disney villains, right up there with Jafar and Maleficent in terms of being the most evil and powerful. I was really excited to read her backstory and learn more about her motivations for dethroning King Triton and becoming ruler of the oceans.

Unfortunately this one was a disappointing read for me. The parts that actually touched on The Little Mermaid characters were great (mostly because they were just dialogue from the movie. Seriously, there is one chapter where it’s pretty much just the lyrics of Poor Unfortunate Souls, but you won’t hear any complaints from me there). The rest…not so much.

The main focus of the story is not on Ursula, but is in fact on the Odd Sisters, three witches who made appearances in the first two books. They interact with Ursula a handful of times, but that’s about it. The rest of the time they are arguing with each other and discussing how to find their other sister. The story also focuses on a princess named Tulip and her Nanny, and also this cat that belongs to both the Odd Sisters and Princess Tulip. It all felt very random. So yeah, this story was lacking what should have been its real main character, and instead focused on these other characters who were really hard care about.

The opening of the book does touch on Ursula’s youth and how she actually grew up living in a village with an adoptive father. She is called to the sea and seems aware that she has some type of magical abilities. However, her adoptive father dies and her real brother Triton emerges from the sea to bring her to her true home. However he convinces people that she is dangerous and she is exiled. I personally found this all very interesting and was waiting for it to be expanded on, to see more scenes of Ursula and her brother interacting, of seeing how the subjects of her kingdom felt about her, of her possibly trying to get her revenge in other ways before deciding to wait for the perfect opportunity to strike again (which would be through using Ariel). But no. It was more time spent with the other characters. When you have the license to write the backstory of one of the most well-known animated villains in the Disney universe and she is given the backseat, you know you have a problem.

Another problem here was that there was more telling than showing, and some things felt like they were being repeated over and over again, almost as if the book knew I might start glossing over things and forget what was happening while I tried to get to the next scene that actually contained elements of the Little Mermaid story-line that I know and love.

Also there was a subplot (I guess?) concerning the Dark Fairy (a.k.a. Maleficent), and the Odd Sisters kept saying, “Fire and Water don’t mix, we can’t tell her we are working with Ursula blah blah blah.” Um, no. A boss battle between Maleficent and Ursula would have been way better than having to deal with all the scenes starring Princess Tulip and her Nanny.

I do like this author’s writing in certain scenes, and I really, really enjoyed her previous books, but sadly, I could not get invested in this. I suggest checking out the other two books in this trilogy if you are a Disney fan and have any interest in re-tellings.

Thanks for reading!

April 5, 2016

Book Review | The Siren

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Hey everyone! Today I wanted to talk to you about The Siren by Kiera Cass.

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The Siren is Kiera Cass’s first novel that she previously self-published and was given the opportunity to re-draft and re-release this year.

The Siren is told from the point of view of Kahlen, a girl who nearly drowned during a cruise with her family, only to be saved by a group of sirens. She agrees to serve the Ocean for the next one hundred years in exchange for her life. We then flash-forward to present day, showing Kahlen while she still has a few decades left of her sentence. Although her siren sisters want to live as much of their life as possible, Kahlen prefers to hide in her room and make scrapbooks of all the victims of the drownings she helped cause as a way to ease her concencious. On one of the rare days she leaves she meets a boy named Akinli, who seems to like Kahlen for more than just the beauty that all the sirens have. He also manages to understand her without a voice (since if she ever spoke it would lead him to the Ocean and he would die). The story mainly focuses on Kahlen and how she isn’t sure if she wants to be a siren anymore, especially after meeting Akinli.

Normally I love Kiera Cass’s writing. With The Selection series I was hooked right away, and even though the main character America Singer was frustrating to read sometimes it still captured my attention and left me wanting more. Unfortunately this story didn’t hold my attention the same way The Selection books did. I just felt like the story lagged in some parts, but maybe that was just because I was busy when I was reading this.

I liked the scenes with Kahlen and Akinli. When they first met at the library. When they baked a cake together. But there was also too much of an Insta-Love vibe for me, especially considering Kahlen left right after their first date and obsessed quietly about him for a couple of months instead of trying to talk to him or whatever.

The relationships between Kahlen and the Ocean and Kahlen and her sisters were interesting. I especially liked how the Ocean was sort of her own person. She could communicate with the sirens as long as they were close to Her, and she was sort of a mother figure to Kahlen, which was sweet.

The last few chapters with the exception of the Epilogue were a little over the top. I’m not going to go too much into it because I want to avoid spoilers, but apparently Insta-love is the cure to any ailment.

I think the prose was great, but the execution just missed the mark for me. I do greatly enjoy Kiera’s work and will continue to support her writing, but unfortunately this one wasn’t totally for me.

3 out of 5 stars on GoodReads.

March 15, 2016

Book Review | The Chaos of Stars

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The Chaos of Stars by Kiersten White follows Isadora, who is the daughter of Egyptian gods, Isis and Osiris. When she was very young Isadora believed that she would become a god just like her parents, only to learn that eventually she would die and her parents would bury her in a tomb in the family home with her brothers and sisters who have already existed. After that day Isadora’s relationship with her parents is strained. The story then shifts to present day, where Isadora is a teenager still living with her parents in their hidden palace in Egypt. The gods learn there is a dark force at play and send Isadora away to live with her brother in California where she will be safe. Isadora spends her time in California working at a museum where relics of her family members are on display. She makes a few friends, as well as meets a cute boy named Ry, and she tries to help figure out what is going on with this darkness that is taking over her dreams and forced her away from home.

First of all, this cover = GORGEOUS! The navy and the gold are just so so so so so beautiful together!

And as for the inside of the book I enjoyed it a lot (3.5 out of 5 stars on Goodreads). So many books are focused on Greek mythology (which I do find very interesting), and it was very refreshing to have an introduction to another type of mythology that up until this point I knew nothing about, apart from the names of Isis, Osiris, and Anubis.

As for characters, I liked Tyler, Isadora’s friend from the museum. She was feisty and funny, and was always there for Isadora.

Speaking of our main character, Isadora was sort of annoying at times. She was not as frustrating a main character as some others I could think of (America Singer in The Selection immediately comes to mind), but she was very closed off and bitter and seemed to have that #FirstWorldProblems mentality when she didn’t get her way from her parents. However, for the most part I liked her. I felt like I understood her behavior toward her parents because she did love them and wanted to be with them forever, but was “cheated” out of that option.

The writing was fast-paced and I managed to read this book in one sitting. I felt like there were a few things that were revealed towards the end of the story that should have been discussed earlier in the book regarding the love interest’s family (or even adding a few more pages to the end to discuss it), but overall I enjoyed the read. If you have any interest in mythology and enjoy books that have similiarities to the Percy Jackson series (or really anything Rick Riordian has written) then I would suggest checking this one out.

March 10, 2016

Book Review | A Little in Love

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Ever since I read The Epic Adventures of Lydia Bennet I’ve been looking for more famous literary stories told from the point of view of the secondary characters. It gives you the chance to see the story from a different angle. So when I was strolling through Books-a-Million and saw an adaptation of Les Miserables¬†told from Eponine’s P.O.V., I automatically picked it up.

Anyone who has seen or read Les Mis knows who Eponine is. She is the daughter of thieves, a girl who is in love with a boy named Marius who is in love with another girl, a girl who Eponine herself grew up with.

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A Little in Love starts when Eponine was young. She talks about living with her parents in Montfermeil, the birth of her sister, and the life of thieving that she is forced into. Unlike her family, Eponine tries to be good. She never wants to steal or to kill. She only wants to do good, and it’s hard to do good when your family insists you do bad. She is teased by her family and scolded for not being as committed to their “family business” as her sister is. Eponine becomes friends with Cosette, a little girl who is brought to Montfermeil to stay until her mother can earn enough money to support the two of them. However, Cosette’s mother never returns, and she becomes the Cinderella of Eponine’s family until Jean Valjean adopts her. Later on we see Eponine meet Marius, whom she falls in love with, as well as see her reconcile with Cosette when they meet again in Paris.

I’ve never read the actual Victor Hugo novel. I, like I’m sure most of the general public, have only seen the movie that came out in 2012. It was my first introduction to the story. One of my favorite songs was “On My Own,” both because Samantha Banks has an amazing voice and because she put so much emotion into her performance. And it was her that popped into my head when I was reading this story.

From what I have heard about the actual Victor Hugo book, Eponine is not that big of a character. She’s just sort of there, but A Little in Love was her chance to shine.

I liked the way Eponine interacted with Cosette and Marius. Even though she knew Marius loved Cosette and not her, she was never spiteful. In fact she was the one who brought them together (don’t think that’s really a spoiler because they showed in the movie that Eponine knew where Cosette and Valjean were staying in Paris). She risked her life to bring Marius a note from Cosette in the barricades, and in my mind, that made her fearless. She didn’t care about the war, she cared about Marius and Cosette and their happiness. She put them before herself.

Overall I greatly enjoyed this. I would recommend this to fans of Les Mis, and really anyone that wants to see a classic story from a different perspective. Even if you know the whole story, you can still find something new from these types of re-imaginings.

Have any of you read this book before? If so, please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below!

Thanks for reading!

 

March 6, 2016

Book Review | Finding Audrey

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Hello everyone!

I’ve been reading some more Sophie Kinsella books lately, and decided to do a review on the first book of hers I read a few months ago: Finding Audrey.

Finding+Audrey+Cover+Jpeg Finding Audrey is Kinsella’s first Young Adult novel, which follows a girl named, you guessed it, Audrey. Prior to the beginning of the book Audrey suffers through an incident that causes her to now have social anxiety, for which she has to go to therapy for. Audrey is too afraid to make eye contact with anyone, including the members of her family, all except for her youngest brother Felix. Because Audrey can’t make eye contact she hides behind a pair of sunglasses, even when indoors. She mostly keeps to herself and watches her mother and her little brother Frank argue about Frank’s obsession with video games. Frank plays with a team for one particular game, and invites his friend Linus over to play with him. Audrey initially freaks out when she sees Linus because he is a new person for her to be around, but she soon develops a crush on him. The two start a romance and Linus pushes Audrey to step out of her little bubble of anxiety by doing little tasks, such as ordering a drink at Starbucks, or going up to a stranger and asking a random question.

Overall this book was cute. Light, quick, fast paced. That said, it was irritating.

What the title should have been was Audrey’s Mother Has Some Major Issues (With Video Games). Because 70% of this story was just reading how Audrey’s mother is “concerned” about her brother constantly playing Land of Conquerors (which in my head was some sort of Call of Duty game). The issues with the mother and Frank take up pretty much the entire book, with little pieces here and there of our actual main character doing some stuff with Linus, or figuring stuff out in her head.

Audrey’s anxiety was confusing to me. Maybe it’s because we never learn what actually happened to her. I don’t know. I think if Finding Audrey had been even thirty pages longer, and it included what happened to Audrey, I might have liked it a bit better. But it’s nice to read about a book addressing social anxiety.

The best character in the book to me was Felix, who is four and adorably clueless about what is going on around him. There’s one scene in the story where Linus has Felix deliver a note to Audrey and when Audrey gives her response to Felix to take it back to Linus, Felix sticks the note in his pocket, saying he wants to keep it as his “pocket paper.”

Like I said before, this book was cute. If you are a big fan of Sophie Kinsella, or are just looking for a quick read for the beach, I recommend you checking this out.

 

*Rating on Goodreads: 3 stars out of 5

 

March 2, 2016

Book Review | Hook’s Daughter

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Hook’s Daughter by Heidi Schulz is a middle grade novel that talks about, as the title suggests, Captain Hook’s daughter, Jocelyn. Jocelyn is an adventurer in a society where girls are expected to be prim and proper. Due to her wild antics, Jocelyn is sent to a finishing school, but after receiving a letter from her now deceased father, she runs away to avenge his death by the hand (or mouth, as the case may be) of the Neverland Crocodile. Along with Mr. Smee, Jocelyn gathers a crew and set sail on her ship, Hook’s Revenge, to find and kill the Crocodile.

I don’t read middle grade books very often, but this one was too good to pass up. I mean, t’s a Peter Pan retelling. I love Peter Pan so of course I wanted to read about the dear Captain’s daughter.

I thought the writing in this was great. It reminded me of Lemony Snicket’s writing style. The narrator of the story (possibly the deceased Captain Hook) will say very sarcastic things every now and again that remind me of passages from A Series of Unfortunate Events. Here’s an example from page 41:

“I have faced down some horrors in my day – ferocious animals, fangs gleaming and hungry for human flesh; fierce men with murder in their eyes; my own dear mother on wash day.”

This is the type of stuff you will find when reading this book.

As far as the characters go, Jocelyn is a great main character. Even though she is a little kid, she isn’t portrayed as being painfully immature. She is intelligent, caring, and has the makings of a phenomenal pirate captain. The secondary characters are also wonderful, especially Jocelyn’s crew on Hook’s Revenge. The crew is made up of these low-tier pirates who have fake injuries and battle stories, but she puts up with it/plays along with it.

If you look at the tagline on the cover it says that “Peter Pan has met his match.” However, Peter isn’t in the novel very much. He appears maybe twice, although his name does pop up a lot. However, other familiar characters appear in Neverland, such as the Lost Boys and Mr. Smee.

I believe this is the first in a series of middle grade books. I don’t know if I will be continuing this series right now as I have other TBR books that are more of a priority, but maybe a little ways down the line, I will continue with it as I did enjoy the characters.

If you like Peter Pan as much as I do, action and adventure, and/or writing styles similar to Lemony Snicket, I highly recommend you check this out.

Thanks for reading!

January 28, 2016

Book Review | Second Star

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**Review also posted on GoodReads

Second Star is a reimagining of Peter Pan set in California. We experience the story as Wendy Darling, who has just graduated from high school and is looking to start at Stanford University in the fall. However Wendy’s mind is more focused on the disappearance of her younger brothers, twins John and Michael, who reportedly passed away during a surfing accident nine months prior to the start of the novel. Wendy doesn’t believe they are dead, however, and vows to spend her summer finding them. At her school’s graduation bonfire on the beach she meets a surfer named Pete. She later finds him again on a beach called Kensington, where he lives with a gang of homeless teenage surfers, including his ex-girlfriend Belle. There is another group on Kensington led by a drug dealer named Jas. Wendy spends pretty much the entire novel talking to Jas, Pete, and Belle trying to find out if they know her brothers, and learning how to surf in order to feel closer to her brothers.

Overall I really liked this book. It was an interesting take on one of my favorite stories. I loved the author’s descriptions of the beach and the waves. It made me wish it was summer.

There were only two things I didn’t really like.

First, the love triangle thing. I didn’t buy it for a second. I never get fully invested in that trope, and it didn’t seem really necessary for this particular story.

Second, the ending was…I don’t know. I didn’t like it. It wasn’t bad, but for the last 20 or 30 pages I was in a constant state of confusion.

Again, I really enjoyed this. Will it be the first book I reach for when recommending things to friends? Probably not, unless they are big Peter Pan fans themselves, but I definitely think this is a book people should check out.

December 15, 2015

Skipping Christmas

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Merry almost Christmas everyone!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year and one of my favorite times of the year, but if I’m honest, I’m not one hundred percent in a festive mood. I suppose it’s because I spent the first two weeks of the month worrying about finals and presentations for my second to last semester of college, which doesn’t leave much room for festivities. Then I can home and started watching Christmas movies, listening to music, staring at our family’s Christmas tree…and I still didn’t feel the way Christmas used to feel. I felt like Cindy Lou Who in the live action Grinch movie, wondering where the feeling of Christmas had gone.

That is until I picked up Skipping Christmas by John Grisham.


I’ve read Skipping Christmas every year since the fifth grade, so about eleven years now. It’s only 177 pages long, but the story is so captivating and told so well that it doesn’t really seem that short. I also adore the movie, Christmas with Kranks, which was based off of the book.

If you don’t already know, the story is about a married couple who decide to go on a cruise instead of dealing with the stress that Christmas tends to bring while their daughter is off in Peu with the Peace Corps. The book centers around them avoiding all the hullabaloo that comes with the commercialized expectations of Christmas.

The story itself is hilarious and that’s a big part of why I read it, but I think what I love most about this book is how many memories I have of the past Christmases where I read this, and through the pages of this I was able to relive all those moments.

If you have never read this novel, I highly recommend it. It’s just the thing to get you in the holiday spirit if you, like me, have been feeling less than festive.