February 9, 2017

Book Review | The Miserable Mill

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The Miserable Mill is the forth book in Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, the thirteen-book series documenting the lives of the Baldulaire orphans as they try to escape the clutches of the villainous Count Olaf. It is also my least favorite of the first five books. By book four the formula of the children being placed in the care of a random guardian that is not an actual relation of theirs and having to outwit the grownups was becoming a bit stale. This particular one was also a little over the top when it came to the reader’s suspension of disbelief. While Lemony Snicket’s world is supposed to be completely ridiculous, I remember always thinking it was strange that Mr. Poe was dropping off the children at a lumber mill. They had no relation to Sir or Charles. Did he just call up a lumber mill and ask if they wanted three kids? And of course there is the scene toward the end where Sunny sword fights with her unusually sharp teeth.

…okay.

The one thing that I enjoyed was the inclusion of hypnosis. Although I have read this multiple times growing up and so already knew about this story line, it is a great twist and how it was revealed I thought was handled really well.

As I said, this isn’t my favorite of the first five installments of the series, but still an enjoyable read.

Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars.

February 9, 2017

Book Review | The Reptile Room

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The Reptile Room is the second book in Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, a thirteen-book series documenting the lives of the Baudelaire orphans. After living with their evil relative Count Olaf the children are sent to live with Dr. Montgomery Montgomery (whom they call Uncle Monty), an energetic herpetologist who is a ray of sunshine in the childrens’ gloomy lives.

This was, and still is, one of my favorite books in the series. After the terrifying experience of living in the villainous Count Olaf’s house, I was relieved that Violet, Klaus and Sunny were able to find an adult who seemed to respect them and wanted what was best for them. Uncle Monty embraced the skills all three children had and was encouraging them to expand these abilities within his Reptile Room. He provided them with a loving and comfortable home and seemed willing to keep them safe from harm. I wish that he could have featured more in later books, but the Baudelaires rarely have anything pleasant like that happen to them.

The Reptile Room features the first appearance of Count Olaf in disguise. Olaf can be a sinister character, but he definitely stepped it up in this book, always being around the children and wielding a sharp knife which he threatens to use on an infant. Stephano in the movie was played up as a more silly character so I’m interested to see how he is presented in this new television show.

My favorite thing about this book was the reptiles. The Incredibly Deadly Viper and all the other creatures were so interesting to learn about. I’m not normally someone who likes snakes, but after reading this I might look into more books featuring or about herpetology.

As I said before, this one of my favorite books in the series and I am looking forward to watching this episode in the new Netflix series. I highly recommend you check this one out if you haven’t already.

What is your favorite book from A Series of Unfortunate Events? Are you going to check out the show? Let me know in the comments below!

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!

November 1, 2016

Book Review | Afterlife with Archie

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Hey there Literature Lovers! Welcome back to the blog! Today I wanted to share with you my review of Afterlife with Archie.

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I just discovered this series last night and I am already hooked! Our local comic book store was giving away free Halloween issues and I selected Betty R.I.P., which appears to be issue 7 in the series.

Afterlife with Archie gives us a darker look at the usually peppy town of Riverdale. If you have read past Archie comics you know that Riverdale is sort of like Pleasantville. It’s stuck in a 1950s limbo where everyone is sweet and charming, sharing milkshakes and burgers at Pop’s Chocklit Shop or showing their school spirit at whatever high school sporting event is happening. I have always loved these comics and goofy hijinks the gang gets into, but it was refreshing to see this new take on such an iconic town.

Afterlife with Archie kicks off with Jughead’s sheepdog, Hot Dog, being hit by a car. He is close to death when Jughead finds him and brings him to Sabrina Spellman, a.k.a. Sabrina the Teenage Witch, He begs Sabrina to help, but Hot Dog has already died and it is forbidden to use magic to revive someone who has already passed on. However Sabrina does this anyway. Hot Dog comes back to life and is not his usual self, acting untamed and erratic, at one point attacking Jughead, this starting the zombie apocalypse in Riverdale.

I’m normally not a fan of the horror genre, but I have been trying to branch out of my comfort zone. I’m so glad I gave this a shot. After reading the free comic, I immediately went on the Archie Comics app and purchased the other issues (they were all $0.99) and devoured them. I love the deep orange and red colors that dominate the artwork. It’s a striking contrast to the usually bright and colorful Riverdale and adds a feeling of tension.

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I cannot wait to read the next issues, and will possibly check out The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina as well. I would highly recommend this to anyone.

Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars.

Are you a horror fan, or maybe just an Archie fan? Have you read this comic? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Thanks for reading!

October 11, 2016

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!

September 20, 2016

Book Review | Wink Poppy Midnight

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Wink Poppy Midnight is a stand-alone novel from April Genevieve Tucholke, best known as the author of Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea. The story’s narration switches between our three main characters: Wink, Poppy, and Midnight, who each fit into your typical high school stereotypes. Poppy is the mean and pretty popular girl; Wink is the weird misfit from an eccentric family; and Midnight is a boy from a broken home who is in the middle of the love triangle. But are they really as simple as those molds?

Wink Poppy Midnight is quite honestly one of the most beautiful books I have ever seen. I was actually hesitant to buy it at first because of this. Pretty covers often mask disappointing stories. I’m afraid this was one of this situations where I should have trusted my first instinct.

As I stated above, Wink Poppy Midnight tells the story of three characters named Wink, Poppy, and Midnight. Midnight is a teenage boy who has been in love with beautiful but manipulative and popular Poppy for as long as he can remember. He starts to realize that he is more in love with the idea of Poppy after spending time with the quirky Wink, who lives across the way from him. The story switches between the characters, giving us more insight to each while posing the question: in this story who is the hero and who is the villain? Are they as simple as the roles life has given them The answer is a resounding yes.

I never felt like any of the characters grew as the story progressed. Midnight maybe, but only because he went from idolizing manic-pixie Poppy to manic-pixie Wink. Wink was just your average quirky girl who likes to sleep in a barn and hang out in the woods with her quirky family. I think the character that could have had the biggest character arc was Poppy. She mentions that she wants to be better, even if it’s only to please a guy (Wink’s older brother a.k.a. the only person has never loved her because she is shallow and mean). But instead of making a big effort of trying to be better, she very quickly keeps falling back on her typical Queen Bee mentality and teasing Wink because she is different.

I was intrigued by this book after reading the first sentence. But as the story progressed I started to care less and less about the characters. The author seemed to focus more on writing pretty phrases that would be shared across Tumblr and Instagram posts than on providing some substance to the story and characters. By the time I finished the book I had already forgotten everything I had read. Sadly, this is a 2-Star read for me.

Have you ever read a beautiful book that ended up leaving you disappointed? Let me know in the comments 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!

August 4, 2016

Book Review | Harry Potter and The Cursed Child

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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is the eight chapter in the Harry Potter series, given to us in the form of a screenplay. This story is NOT written solely by (Queen) J.K. Rowling, but is actually co-written by Jack Thorne, who has written for the television shows Skins and Shameless. I’m assuming most people already have read this or at least know the story, but if not: this play picks up at the end of the original series, with the Trio at King’s Cross dropping their kids off for school. The play follows both Harry’s middle child, Albus Severus, who is nervous about being sorted into Slytherin house and living up to the legend that is his father, and Harry himself as he is navigating adulthood and parenthood in the Wizarding World.

I didn’t hate this story, but I didn’t love it either. I think after 9 years without a new Harry Potter story, we all overhyped this story that has defined our generation to the point where we were setting ourselves up for disappointment – similar to the criticism from the latest Star Wars movie. When you are building on something that is already a huge phenomenon, it is going to be difficult to meet everyone’s expectations.

I liked seeing some of our favorite characters again, but they did not always live up to their personality. Harry was the real wild card. Even 15-year-old Harry Potter, who was dealing with hormones, being discredited by the entire Wizarding community and being sort-of possessed by Voldemort in his dreams, was not this bad. He said things completely out of character, especially toward his child and Professor McGonagall, who was essentially a mother figure toward him throughout his youth.

The play did feel a little like fan fiction at times, which isn’t always a bad thing. Just look at those totally awesome Potter musicals that StarKid released. But some of the plot points that Jack Thorne used did not make complete sense, such as how time travel worked in the Wizarding World. There was also a very stupid “plot twist” that came completely out of left field and can not possibly be canon because it makes no sense in the context of the previous books. I’m sure you will know what that is if you have already read the play. I don’t want to spoil in case anyone still would like to read it.

I feel I should add that this is the rehearsal script, not the final script. I am assuming that before this hits the West End rewrites and edits will have been made. I would like to see this play at some point if it ever comes across the pond to America. Some of the set descriptions sounded very interesting and I’m sure the final product will be a truly magical experience.

Overall, it was great to go back to Hogwarts, but next time I’ll just travel over to YouTube for the musicals.

Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars.

What were your thoughts on Cursed Child? Did you have a favorite character? And have you seen any of the Harry Potter musicals? Let me know in the comments below!

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.