August 16, 2018

Book Review | Gilded Ashes

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gilded ashesGilded Ashes is a novella from Rosamund Hodge, author of Cruel Beauty and Crimson Bond. This Cinderella retelling is set within the same universe as Cruel Beauty, where there are demons and Gentle Lords who barter with the common folk to achieve their own ends. Cinderella, known as Maia in this retelling, has been living with a haunting secret for years: her mother is a demon, and she must constantly lie about her happiness to save the people around her from this ghost.

I was surprised how quickly I fell into this story. I liked Cruel Beauty for the most part, but I found the continuous descriptions of the horrible demons monotonous at times. I think 80 pages was the perfect length for this. It definitely gave me Ella Enchanted vibes during all the scenes with Maia and Lord Anax (the prince in this version). They had an easy back and forth and felt like they were real people getting to know each other.

It was also refreshing to see the stepsisters in a different way. In every version of this story the stepsisters are mean to Cinderella simply because they can be. In this version the younger stepsister Thea was actively trying to be friends with Maia while Kore was mean to Maia because she thought that was her mother wanted her to do. All three girls were simply looking for happiness in this dark world and were trying to do whatever it took to reach that happy end.

Overall, I really enjoyed Gilded Ashes and would highly recommend picking this up for your e-reader.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars.

Have you read any of the Cruel Beauty books? Which was your favorite? Share in the comments below!

Thanks for reading!

August 14, 2018

Book Review | Rapunzel and the Vanishing Village

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vanishing villageRapunzel and the Vanishing Village is the second book in Lelia Howland’s Tangled series. These are in connection with the Tangled television series currently on Disney Channel. This story is set toward the beginning of season 2, where Rapunzel, Eugene and their friends are off to search for the source of mysterious and magical black rocks that have started to crop up around the kingdom. These rocks have some sort of connection to Rapunzel and are the reason that her hair grew long again. The show is currently focusing on this particular mystery so we are instead given this extra adventure, which includes the group visiting the village of Harmony Glen, the birthplace of the Flynn Ryder books, which has been removed from all the recent maps of the kingdom.

I enjoyed this story as much as the previous one. I am a big Tangled fan and loved having this extra story. I liked that Eugene was added to the story as a POV character, although I thought he might have a more prominent role in the story. There were also a few occasions where I felt he was a little out of character, but overall I felt Lelia definitely locked in on making each of the POV characters sound unique. Much like the other book, the ending felt a bit predictable, but as this is a book for younger readers that is to be expected. The new characters in the village were pretty interesting, and it was nice to visit a different setting outside of the kingdom of Corona. Overall, it was a fun read that I would recommend to any Tangled fans or adventure novel lovers.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars.

Have you read either of the Tangled books or watched the show? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Thanks for reading!

May 22, 2018

Book Review | Once and For All

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Once and For All is the thirteenth book by Sarah Dessen, who has always been one of my favorite authors. This book, like almost all of her previous works, is set during the summer and follows Louna, the daughter of a wedding planner. Growing up in this industry has made Louna cynical about love, or maybe it was the tragedy of her first love that made her that way. But all that changes when she meets the confident Ambrose and she wonders if there is a second chance at true love.

I have read every Sarah Dessen novel and thought I knew what I was expecting: a cute novel with realistic characters and a ethereal summer feeling. Instead we were given a flat story complete with flat characters. I finished this book so sad that I didn’t enjoy it, and now I’m left wondering if I have romanticized Sarah’s previous books or if I have simply outgrown her work.

While Sarah does focus on the day-to-day details of her character’s lives, it is usually presented in an interesting way, and there is usually some sort of conflict that is the driving force of the story and keeps you holding out for the next chapter. She is able to tacitly handle writing about more difficult topics that are unfortunately a very real part of life (Dreamland and Just Listen are the best examples). The romance she incorporates is also handle well, with a steady build-up and a cute resolution. This book fell short in all these respects.

Warning: Spoilers Ahead

Our main character, Louna, is not a great character or terrible character. She is barely a character, which is almost worse than being an annoying character. Her main story is that she still mourning her first love, Ethan. They met at a wedding and had one magical night together where, at the end, they profess their love for each other…after only a few hours of meeting (ugh Insta-Love). They then spend the next few months texting back and forth and make plans to see each other during an upcoming break. That is until there is a shooting at Ethan’s school and he is killed. I feel for Louna in this situation, as well as anyone who has ever been caused any harm by a shooter. It is a relevant topic to discuss, but while I applaud Sarah for trying to touch on this subject, I’m not sure it totally worked. Ethan’s death is heavily foreshadowed throughout the entire book, including the flashbacks where Louna reminisces about their one night. However, it sometimes felt like Ethan would be brought up randomly to further the not-really-there plot of this book. I did enjoy all of these flashback scenes. I think if those had been this book, with a bit more build-up of the romance between Ethan and Louna, I would have preferred it, because honestly, it sounds super cute. Oh, Ethan sounded way better than Ambrose.

Our love interest Ambrose was super annoying and selfish. He held up his own mother’s wedding because he was flirting with a girl in the parking lot. He steals someone’s dog (granted it was a dog from a potentially abusive owner) and receives no repercussions of this. He also tries way too hard to be funny and seems to think he is the most charming person to ever grace the planet. I have met people like this in real life and there is not a single person I know who finds this attitude attractive.

My favorite characters in this book was William, the gay godfather, and Crawford, Jilly’s younger brother who reminded me of Klaus Baudelaire. The rest of the characters left much to be desired.

I purchased the Barnes and Noble edition that included an extra scene set one year later, and I personally think it is so much better. Those thirteen pages held the familiar Sarah Dessen magic, with characters from previous books making an appearance and some cute moments between Ambrose and Louna. I really wish this had been incorporated into the main story.

Sadly, this was a disappointing read for me. I still loves Sarah’s work and am looking forward to what she brings out next. But right now all I can say is: Why do meh stories have to come with the prettiest covers?

Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars.

Do you have a favorite Sarah Dessen book, or simply a favorite summer read? Please share in the comments below!

Thanks for reading!

April 29, 2018

Book Review | Prince in Disguise

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prince in disguisePrince in Disguise by Stephanie Kate Strohm follows Dylan, a American high school student who is whisked away to Scotland during her Christmas vacation for her sister’s wedding to a nobleman. The couple had met on a Reality TV show called ‘Prince in Disguise’ and now their wedding and the planning process will be televised. Dylan does not like being in the spotlight, nor does she like being in her sister’s limelight. All she wants is to go home…until she meets the dashing Jamie and sparks begin to fly. Christmas, stolen kisses in the snow and new love with a cute boy with an accent? This is one contract away from being the next Hallmark movie.

Honestly I think this would have been a great movie. For a book though the pacing felt a little off to me. The romance in the book moved really fast. Jamie and Dylan had known each other for like a day and half before they started making out in the snow and sleeping together in a barn.  Also the main character was kind of annoyingly naive/uninformed about this country she was visiting and was about to have a brother-in-law from. I also could not relate to the disdain that Dylan felt toward her other sister, Dusty. She was very judgmental and catty toward her. I understood that she was tired of being in her sister’s spotlight (literally in this case), but that’s still your sister. Maybe it’s just because my own younger sister and I are very close, but I found myself annoyed every time Dylan talked smack about her sister.

The author definitely captured the feeling of Christmas in this book. I felt very festive, even though I was reading this in the spring. I was ready to curl up with a spicy candle and some cocoa and spend the day reading. She also really made me want to visit Scotland at Christmas (or really at any point of the year).

Overall, this was a cute book, and I might read it again, but, as I said, if this had been a movie I might have enjoyed it more.

Rating: 2.75 of 5 Stars.

What did you think of this book? Do you have a favorite rom-com story (whether it is a book or a film)? Please share in the comments below!

Thanks for reading!

March 10, 2018

Book Review | Bridget Jones’s Diary

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Bridget Jones’s Diary is one of the more widely recognized titles in the romantic-comedy genre. A modern re-imagining of Pride and Prejudice, we follow a year of Bridget’s life as a woman in her mid-thirties looking for love and a fulfilling career in London in the early 2000s.

I first saw the movie last year and thought that, while not my favorite rom-com, it certainly lived up to its reputation of being a cute and lighthearted film. After watching I was eager to read the book and get a better feel for Bridget’s character and her adventures as an adult during a time period when I was still a child. Unfortunately, I was a little let down.

Much like Legally Blonde, all the charm of the story came from the performance of the actress who portrayed the main character. Renee Zellwegger gave Bridget so much more personality than Helen Felding did. As is the case with most novels told in a diary format, we are only able to learn about the things that are happening through the limited viewpoint of the main character. That’s not always a bad thing. Obviously you are going to see things as the character sees it. However, most authors take this to mean they can make their main characters moan like children. Bridget sometimes felt like a teenager and not an independent woman in her mid-thirties. She was constantly complaining about minute details about her relationship with every person she interacted with and obsessively calculating how much she weighed.

If I had not seen the movie beforehand I would not have been able to tell this was a Pride and Prejudice retelling. The only true indication that this story is a retelling of the classic is there being a character named Mr. Darcy, who is basically non-existent during this book. He appears at the very beginning when Bridget is home for Christmas and disappears for roughly 120 pages, only to appear briefly at an event her work is hosting and resurface close to the end of the book. The fact that he likes Bridget is obvious, but she does not seem to even pay him any attention until she suddenly falls in love in the final third of the book. I really feel like the book did not have enough build-up for Mark Darcy and Bridget’s romance to have a believable payoff.

Overall, I didn’t hate this book and I can sort of appreciate what Helen Felding was trying to do, but I was expecting more. I have seen and enjoyed the other movies in this series, but as to the question on if I will continue reading the other books, I would have to say I’ll be giving them a pass for now.

Rating: 2.75 out 5 Stars.

If you have read this book or seen the movies, please share your thoughts below!

Thanks for reading!

January 29, 2018

Book Review | Eligible

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Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld is an updated take on the Jane Austen classic, Pride and Prejudice. The story follows the five Bennet sisters as they are introduced to Chip Bingley, the recent star of a ‘Bachelor’-style show called ‘Eligible.’ Chip ended up closing out his season without finding a potential bride and decides a move to Cincinnati will help clear his head. There he meets the eldest Bennet sister, Jane, while her sister Liz is introduced to Darcy, the unpleasant best friend of Bingley. The story follows the familiar tale, with Darcy and Liz’s dislike of one another gradually turning into something more.

I remembered seeing this book everywhere when it first came out and flip-flopping over wanting to read it. On the one hand, I love Pride and Prejudice and ‘The Lizzie Bennet Diaries’ web series. But I had read a few other P&P re-tellings that had fallen short and was worried this would have the same effect on me. I decided to take a chance and get the free sample on my Kindle app. Once I started reading I was immediately hooked and went back to purchase the full version.

I thought the take of having the girls be closer to middle age was great. We were given lots of backstory for each of the characters, especially for Liz and Jane who are the most important characters in each iteration. I honesty could not put this story down. The only part of the book that dragged for me was the last third of the book, specifically the Lydia storyline. I understood what the author was going for in this updated take of Lydia elopement and that not all parents are accepting of different lifestyles, but it was missing something for me. I think what bothered me was that it didn’t seem to take the family very long to find Lydia once she ran away, which is crazy given how big the country (or even the state) is. I also kept wondering how exactly Darcy’s role would play into this. In the original he forced Wickham to marry Lydia, but Wickham had nothing to do with this situation at all.

Overall, this was a good read. However, while I did find myself enjoying this , I’m more likely to recommend ‘The Lizzie Bennet Diaries.’

Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars.

Have you read Eligible? Share your thoughts below!

Thanks for reading!

January 24, 2018

Book Review | Dancing Shoes

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dancing shoesDancing Shoes is the 9th book in the Shoes series by British author Noel Streatfeild, which follows different English children as they enter the show business world. This particular installment follows Rachel and Hilary, adopted sisters who move into the home of Rachel’s aunt and uncle after losing their mother. Rachel is plain and quiet where Hilary is outgoing and charming. Before the move Hilary, who was the biological daughter of a dancer, was going to attend the Royal Ballet School. However, Rachel’s Aunt Cora runs a dance school where she trains her “Little Wonders,” troupes of girls who do gymnastics and tap, and insists that both girls join the dance school alongside her own daughter, Dulcie. The story centers mostly on Hilary’s blooming career as a dancer and Rachel learning to come out of her shell.

I first read this book in the fifth grade. It was the third Noel Streatfeild story I had read that focused on the dance community of London around World War II. Unlike Ballet Shoes and Theater Shoes, the dancing was focused less on classical training and more on the kind I used to watch my sister do at her recitals, specifically jazz and tap. I really enjoy reading books that are about classical ballet or feature ballet corps, but I loved seeing this new side of the dance world. The Little Wonders sounded really cute and the idea of a school being run inside of the house sounded both chaotic and fun.

This was one of my favorite books growing up and I am glad to say that it holds up even now. I highly recommend all of the Shoe books, but I would start with Ballet Shoes first (like Kathleen Kelly in You’ve Got Mail, “It’s my favorite.”).

Rating: 4.75 out of 5 Stars.

Have you ever read Dancing Shoes or any of the other Shoe books? Let me know in the comments below!

Thanks for reading!

August 15, 2017

Book Review | Anne of Green Gables

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Hey there, Literature Lovers! I recently watched the new Anne with an E series on Netflix and it reawakened my love for Anne of Green Gables! I first read Anne the summer before sixth grade for summer reading and really enjoyed it. I ended up continuing the series up until Anne of the Island. I don’t know if I didn’t realize there were more books or if I just forgot to look for them at the bookstore, but I didn’t continue the rest of the series after book three. Now I am wanting to finish it out and read other L.M.Montgomery works as well.

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I just finished rereading Anne of Green Gables and loved it. I actually rotated between the physical book (this gorgeous Puffin in Bloom with illustrations by Anna Bond) and the audiobook read by Rachel McAdams. Avonlea is such a dreamy place to think of. I was a big Little House fan when I was younger so while reading/listening I kept switching the scenery between the Avonlea from the AWAE series and the town from Little House.

If you are unfamiliar with this classic, we follow Anne Shirley, an orphan girl who is brought to Prince Edward Island to assist the elderly Cuthburt siblings, Matthew and Marilla. Her arrival turns out to have been a mistake, as they had wanted to adopt a boy to help Matthew with the farm work. They (especially Matthew) take a shine to Anne, who is very talkative and imaginative, and decide to adopt her. The rest of the story follows Anne as she goes to school for the first time, becomes bosom friends with a kindred spirit name Diana Berry, and all the misadventures her imagination and fiery temper get her into.

This is easily one of my favorite classic books and I am really looking forward to reading the rest of this series!

Have you read any of the Anne books or seen any of the adaptations? Let me know in the comments below!

Thanks for reading!

May 26, 2017

Book Review | Lost in a Book

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IMG_7441Lost in a Book by Jennifer Donnelly is a new Young Adult novel that ties into the world of the new live-action Disney movie, Beauty and the Beast. The story follows Belle after she has already switched places with her father and started to become friendly with the Beast. One day while cleaning and exploring the Beast’s enormous library Belle stumbles upon a magic book called Nevermore that literally pulls her into the story. There she is presented with everything her heart has ever desired: adventure and interesting new people, and she must decide if she should keep her promise to the Beast or stay in this beautiful world that seems to be created just for her.

This is already one of my favorite books of the year. The cover is beautiful, the characters matched the personalities of their on-screen counterparts, and the overall worlds of both Belle’s reality and the world within Nevermore were intriguing. This was one of those books where part of me wanted to fly through the story in an afternoon, while another part wanted to take it slowly so I could live in this story for as long as I could.

I really enjoyed the expansion on Belle and Beast’s relationship. In both the animated movie and the new live-action film we see them become friends almost automatically after the battle with the wolves and the Beast giving Belle the library. While this does happen in the book, we are given more insight into what is going on in both their minds, showing that, although he saved her and gave her a nice gift, Belle is still a little hesitant to truly like Beast, and that the Beast is trying not to lose hope in breaking the curse.

There are a few scenes where the Beast is allowed to show his gentle side. He has a meaningful conversation with Lumiere and plays with Chip in the library. I sort of wish more of that had been incorporated into the movie as well, but I’m glad to have it here.

The world of the Nevermore book itself is quite amazing. I think most book lovers out there would jump at the chance to actually be teleported into their favorite story. As the story progressed Nevermore started to remind me of Coraline by Neil Gaiman. Some of the characters, particularly the Duchess, reminded me of the Other Mother and we are slowly shown how a picturesque world can have its own set of dangers.

I give this a 4.5 out 5 stars. If you are a fan of Beauty and the Beast, Disney, or the idea of books that can teleport you to new and magical places, I highly recommend you pick up a copy of Lost in a Book.

Thanks for reading!

May 9, 2017

Book Review | Every Heart a Doorway

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Every Heart a Doorway is the first novel in the new Wayward Children series by fantasy author Seanan McGuire. The series explores what happens when children who have gone down rabbit holes or stumbled through magic wardrobes to fantastical worlds find themselves placed back in their old lives, and how they must adjust to the ‘normal’ world.

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I will admit that I am not normally a fantasy reader unless it is a fairy tale retelling, mostly because some fantasy books are so thick and occasionally feel overly descriptive, or there are so many characters that I start to get overwhelmed. I appreciate that this is a shorter fantasy book with a small cast of interesting characters, and that there was a murder mystery weaved into the mix.

Our main character is Nancy, a girl who has been to the Land of the Dead and whose experience there has left her very serious. She is our guide into the wacky setting of Eleanor West’s School for Wayward Children.

In contrast to Nancy’s seriousness we are introduced to Jack and Jill, twins who were transported to a scientific world; Suki, Nancy’s peppy and inquistive roommate who went to what I imagined as being a real life Candyland; and Kale, a bookish boy who lived in a society of all female fairies.

One aspect that I enjoyed about this books was that Nancy is asexual. The only other confirmed asexual character that I have ever read was Jughead Jones from the Archie comics, and he has only been canonically asexual in the newest run written by Chip Zdarsky. Unlike Jughead, who is usually pretty indifferent towards people, Nancy actually has an immediate crush on a fellow student. Asexuals always seem to be portrayed as being aromantic as well, so to see an ace character who also has romantic attraction is great representation.

I kept picturing the woman who runs the school, Eleanor West, as a cross between Mrs. Potts and Ms. Frizzle from the Magic School Bus. She was quirky, but had a good grasp on each of these realms the students went to and how to properly help them come to terms with the fact that they might not be able to return to those places.

Overall I found this to be a very enjoyable story! It was a unique idea to look at how all these different fantastical worlds would change these young kids and their outlook on life, and I’m looking forward to reading more about the Wayward Children!

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars.

Have you read this book? Do you have a favorite fantasy series? Please share in the comments below!

Thanks for reading!