Format: Hardcover

August 5, 2017

Review | Unhooked by Lisa Maxwell

Review | Unhooked by Lisa MaxwellUnhooked by Lisa Maxwell
Publisher: Simon Pulse, February 2016
Pages: 342
Format: Hardcover
Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

For as long as she can remember, Gwendolyn Allister has never had a place to call home—all because her mother believes that monsters are hunting them. Now these delusions have brought them to London, far from the life Gwen had finally started to build for herself. The only saving grace is her best friend, Olivia, who’s coming with them for the summer.

But when Gwen and Olivia are kidnapped by shadowy creatures and taken to a world of flesh-eating sea hags and dangerous Fey, Gwen realizes her mom might have been sane all along.

The world Gwen finds herself in is called Neverland, yet it’s nothing like the stories. Here, good and evil lose their meaning and memories slip like water through her fingers. As Gwen struggles to remember where she came from and find a way home, she must choose between trusting the charming fairy-tale hero who says all the right things and the roguish young pirate who promises to keep her safe.

With time running out and her enemies closing in, Gwen is forced to face the truths she’s been hiding from all along. But will she be able to save Neverland without losing herself?

Unhooked is not the Neverland you know. In an age of fairy tales reimaginings, Maxwell’s twist on the classic Peter Pan is unsettling and addictive. Peter is no longer the slight boy who whisks Wendy and her family out of their bedroom window; instead, Gwen and her friend Olivia kidnapped and taken into another world: that Neverland that leaves you slightly unsettled and on the edge of your seat.

Not your typical fairy tale.

Many fairy tale retellings merely repeat their namesake stories and add a few twists here and there. Don’t get me wrong – those have a place in my heart. Maxwell’s Unhooked on the other hand throws an entire tornado into the classic tale’s plotline and turns the world upside down.

It was these powerful plot twists that kept me reading through Unhooked. I had expected something along the lines of the Disney movie I watched every night growing up but quickly realized that Maxwell wasn’t one for adapting to others’ ideas. Instead, she tore apart the characters, from Hook to Peter to Wendy, and recreated them from the ground up. It was fascinating.

This is not the Neverland you are looking for.

The plot and characters weren’t the only ones that underwent a significant shift to the dark side. Neverland itself was built into this beautiful, mystical world with virtually a mind of its own. More dangerous than expected (by Gwen or me), it quickly evolved into its own character and occasionally took the story by storm.

But the timing…

While I loved the character twists and plot – let’s be honest here, those aren’t twists – hurricanes, it felt like the narration occasionally got distracted or ran away with too many details. I wanted to know what was happening with the characters, not how the – admittedly fascinating – atmosphere was setting the scene.

Regardless, the unexpected re-visioning of this well-loved story unexpectedly drew me in. It was fun, twisted, and just a touch too dark. Perfect for those who loved Drown and other darker fairy tale retellings.

3 Stars

Posted August 5, 2017 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
Tags:


July 26, 2017

Review | The Book Jumper by Mechthild Glaser

Review | The Book Jumper by Mechthild GlaserThe Book Jumper by Mechthild Gläser
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends, January 2017
Pages: 371
Format: Hardcover
Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Amy Lennox doesn't know quite what to expect when she and her mother pick up and leave Germany for Scotland, heading to her mother's childhood home of Lennox House on the island of Stormsay.Amy's grandmother, Lady Mairead, insists that Amy must read while she resides at Lennox House—but not in the usual way. Amy learns that she is a book jumper, able to leap into a story and interact with the world inside. As thrilling as Amy's new power is, it also brings danger: someone is stealing from the books she visits, and that person may be after her life. Teaming up with fellow book jumper Will, Amy vows to get to the bottom of the thefts—at whatever the cost.

It’s safe to say all book lovers have imagined jumping into a story. Maybe to search for the Sorcerer’s Stone with Harry Potter, to help save the day in Outlander, or to swoon over the dignified Mr. Darcy. Whatever your particular reading preferences, you know the feeling.

That was the big pull to Mechthild Glaser’s The Book Jumper. Amy Lennox isn’t an ordinary reader like the rest of us: she’s a book jumper. The ability to leap between the pages of a novel, any novel, runs in her family, so when she and her mother head to the family seat in Scotland, her grandmother naturally wants her to carry on the family tradition. But learning to jump into a book soon becomes the least of Amy’s worries.

I loved the premise and idea of The Book Jumper. The thought of meeting and interacting with characters I’ve long known and loved struck a chord in my bookish heart. I couldn’t resist. Unfortunately, Glaser’s novel wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.

Amy is a teenager, but she’s a painfully annoying one. She is young, selfish, and uncaring about anyone or anything else but herself. Granted, she’s gone through some tough times in her life, but her blinders soon created a character that I couldn’t imagine loving, let alone like.

The relationship between Amy and her mother reminded me a lot of the Gilmore Girls: a young mother, close in age to her daughter, has a more friend than parent relationship. The similarity continued when we met the grandmother, an overbearing, stubborn matriarch that rang closely of Emily Gilmore. But Glaser didn’t have time to develop the intricate ties that keep pulling us back to Star’s Hollow. Instead, her family dynamics were stretched too thin and awkwardly uncomfortable.

Even the romance was weird. With Amy as our narrator, the intense focus on herself painted her fellow student in a stilted light, forcing his character development to crumple as her overpowering ME ME ME controlled The Book Jumper.

In the end, Glaser’s fairy tale spin-off had great potential, but without a stronger (or kinder) main character/narrator, the book fell apart. Amy’s painful personality shut down the story before it had the chance to take off.

2 Stars

Posted July 26, 2017 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
Tags: , , ,


July 25, 2017

Review | Echoes in Death by J.D. Robb

Review | Echoes in Death by J.D. RobbEchoes in Death by J.D. Robb
Series: In Death, #44
Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks, February 2017
Pages: 400
Format: Hardcover
Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Lieutenant Eve Dallas encounters her toughest case yet when New York's wealthiest couples are the targets of a calculated killer in Echoes in Death, a crime thriller from #1 New York Times bestselling author J.D. Robb.
When the young woman--dazed, naked, and bloody--wanders in front of their car, Roarke slams on the brakes just in time, and Eve--still in glittering gown and heels--springs into action. It's been a long night for the tired homicide cop, and it's far from over.
Daphne Strazza is rushed to the ER, but it's too late for Dr. Anthony Strazza. A brilliant orthopedic surgeon, he now lies dead amid the wreckage of his obsessively organized town house, his three safes opened and emptied. Daphne would be a valuable witness, but in her terror and shock, the only description of the perp she can offer is repeatedly calling him "the devil."
While it emerges that Dr. Strazza was cold, controlling, and widely disliked--and that he treated Daphne like a trophy wife--this is one case where the evidence doesn't point to the spouse as the first suspect. So Eve and her team must get started on the legwork, interviewing everyone from dinner-party guests to professional colleagues to caterers, in a desperate race to answer some crucial questions:
What does the devil look like? And where will he show up next?

Home is a safe place. It’s where we go to relax, to unwind, to feel safe after dealing with whatever we’ve faced that day. But in J.D. Robb’s latest novel, Echoes in Death, that safety is violated when a killer destroys that santicty. Even worse? He’s dressed as our deepest fears.

There’s always a psychological element in Robb’s work, but Echoes in Death brings it to the forefront. She delves not only the psychology of the criminal, but into their many victims, their lives, and in turn, our own. It took me on a more personal thrill ride through my own fears (you can bet your doughnuts I got up to check the doors and windows were locked after finishing this book) that was pleasantly unexpected.

Each victim represents something we recognize in ourselves or in our lives. The first victim is struggling with an overpowering husband and an unhappy marriage. The second victims (a couple) feel more like the pinnacle relationship we all wish for. On and on, each brings something new to the table, something that will strike a chord in each individual reader. I loved it.

Eve, as always, kicks ass as the main protagonist. Her personality shines through even more while she’s helping the victims of the Echoes in Death criminal, creating the image of an avenging angel…that is, if angels wore magic leather coats and had short shaggy hair. In this installment, she reminded me most of Murphy, that sometimes love-interest/foil to Jim Butcher’s Dresden. Both have a great resemblance to the avenging angel stereotype, take absolutely no shit, and have no problem going after what they want. They are the type of female characters that I love to read.

From the theatrical, terrifying nature of this criminal to the dark psychological underbelly of society that they reveal, Echoes in Death is a winner for J.D. Robb’s fans and mystery lovers alike.

5 Stars

Posted July 25, 2017 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
Tags: , , , , ,


July 2, 2017

Review | Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Review | Caraval by Stephanie GarberCaraval by Stephanie Garber
Series: Caraval #1
Publisher: Flatiron Books, January 2017
Pages: 407
Format: Hardcover
Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Remember, it’s only a game…
Scarlett Dragna has never left the tiny island where she and her sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval—the faraway, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show—are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt-of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. Nevertheless she becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic. And whether Caraval is real or not, Scarlett must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over or a dangerous domino effect of consequences will be set off, and her beloved sister will disappear forever.

Welcome, welcome to Caraval…beware of getting swept too far away.

I didn’t expect to love Caraval, but it quickly became one of those books I couldn’t put down. Why?

The focus on color.

Color was everywhere in Caraval. It described the unique beauty of the seas, the setting sun, the lights settling over the game. The turquoises, pinks, greens painted Garber’s world in vibrancy, and I loved it.

The atmosphere.

From The Night Circus to Outlander, the atmosphere makes any story. In Caraval, it stole the show. While I loved everything about this story, it was the setting that made the characters and created their path. It reflected Scarlett’s mood, her worries, her joys. Combined with the sense of magic that hung over the game, it created an unforgettable read.

The family dynamics.

Honestly, the family dynamics were nutty, with a side of crazy. I liked the sisters’ relationship, but I felt like the father’s actions were just extreme. One of his many horrible actions would have been enough, but combined drowned out his character and made him borderline ludicrous. He wasn’t real; he was this giant, bumbling, angry clown. While Scarlett needed a villain, her father was just a little too much.

The romance.

Scarlett and Julian wasn’t the romance I expected, but little about Caraval was. I loved it’s slow-burning nature, the evolution from acquaintances to friends to more. Most of all, I loved that there wasn’t a love triangle….yet anyway. It was a sweet, twisty YA romance that I can’t help but love.

5 Stars

Posted July 2, 2017 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
Tags: , , , ,


June 17, 2017

Review | The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson

Review | The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. PearsonThe Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson
Series: The Remnant Chronicles #1
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co., July 2014
Pages: 486
Format: Hardcover
Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

A princess must find her place in a reborn world.

She flees on her wedding day.

She steals ancient documents from the Chancellor's secret collection.

She is pursued by bounty hunters sent by her own father.

She is Princess Lia, seventeen, First Daughter of the House of Morrighan.

The Kingdom of Morrighan is steeped in tradition and the stories of a bygone world, but some traditions Lia can't abide. Like having to marry someone she's never met to secure a political alliance.

Fed up and ready for a new life, Lia flees to a distant village on the morning of her wedding. She settles in among the common folk, intrigued when two mysterious and handsome strangers arrive—and unaware that one is the jilted prince and the other an assassin sent to kill her. Deceptions swirl and Lia finds herself on the brink of unlocking perilous secrets—secrets that may unravel her world—even as she feels herself falling in love.

All too often, fantasy books fall into a cookie cutter plot: girl runs away, boy chases her, magic happens, they save the day. The Kiss of Deception isn’t one of those books.

To start, the girl’s motive for running away is a good one. Princess Lia is moments away from an arranged marriage to a prince she’s never met and would rather not, thankyouverymuch. Her decision to run when the opportunity presents itself instead of dithering about whether or not she should (something I would do), won me over. She’s quick, decisive, but yet ultimately, a sheltered princess.

She’s quick, decisive, but yet, in the end, a sheltered princess. Her intent is good, but her experience outside the palace walls is limited. I liked that Pearson didn’t try to shield that side of her protagonist. Instead of expecting everyone to jump at her whim, Lia rolls up her sleeves and pitches in. A working, warrior princess is my kind of gal.

I’ve mentioned it before, and I will likely say it again, but I’m no fan of love triangles. However, in The Kiss of Deception, it worked. I would have been just fine without it, mind you, but Pearson’s treatment of the plot device fit it well into the story, instead of throwing it in to make a little more drama. It hooked me in and even now, I can’t wait for The Heart of Betrayal to arrive at the library SO I CAN FIND OUT WHAT HAPPENED.

For me, that right there is why The Kiss of Deception is a winner. Sure, it had ups and downs. Sure, the narrative dragged a bit. But it’s that driving urge, that need to know what happened to these characters that I can’t help but cheer for, that will keep me hooked on this series long after I’ve finished.

4 Stars

Posted June 17, 2017 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
Tags: , , , , , ,


June 15, 2017

Review | Heartless by Marissa Meyer

Review | Heartless by Marissa MeyerHeartless by Marissa Meyer
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends, November 2016
Pages: 453
Format: Hardcover
Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland and a favorite of the unmarried King, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, she wants to open a shop and create delectable pastries. But for her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for a woman who could be a queen.

At a royal ball where Cath is expected to receive the King’s marriage proposal, she meets handsome and mysterious Jest. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the King and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into a secret courtship.

Cath is determined to choose her own destiny. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.

The Queen of Hearts is one of those mythical figures in literature, a character so intense in their present state that we forget they were once more (or less) than they are now. From Voldemort to the Joker so many villains get to tell their side of the story in today’s novels. It’s time, don’t you think, for the Queen of Hearts to share hers?

I was thrilled when I saw Marissa Meyer was writing a take on Alice in Wonderland. After The Lunar Chronicles had ended, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on her next book and immediately pre-ordered it. Unfortunately, it wasn’t all I hoped.

In all fairness, I probably cracked this up in my head more than it should be. Cath (our pre-Queen of Hearts) is a sweet girl, devoted to her baking and desperately wants to leave the court to open her own bakery with her friend. Yet without her parents’ permission and financial support, Cath’s in a bind. Her parents would rather she marry a nice (preferably rich) man who would take care of their eccentric daughter. Lo and behold, the King of Hearts soon reveals he has his eye on her, but too late; Cath is entranced by the court joker.

The courtship of Jest (the Joker) and Cath is sweet, edged with just a hint of danger. Both know nothing can come of it, and with the king’s eye on Cath, she’s all but queen. But her little rebellion livens up what is otherwise a slow narrative in Heartless.

Without the fast pace of The Lunar Chronicles, Cath’s story fell flat. Instead, Meyer pumps up each supporting character’s primary characteristic: the king gets more ludicrous, the Cat more mysterious, the Hatter more…well, mad. With a great narration, the characters’ eccentricities wouldn’t have been as noticeable, but instead, they are left to carry the weight of the story.

Cath herself started to border on whiny, making it hard to stick with her through the slow portions of Heartless (and as much as I hate to say it, there were quite a few). I stopped caring about her; really, by the end, View Spoiler »

The transformation from Cath to the Queen at the end of the book stole the show. I might reread that section just to revel in the change. As for the rest of the story? Not for me.

3 Stars

Posted June 15, 2017 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
Tags: , , , ,


April 27, 2017

Review | Broken Harbor by Tana French

Review | Broken Harbor by Tana FrenchBroken Harbor by Tana French
Series: Dublin Murder Squad, #4
Publisher: Viking, July 2012
Pages: 450
Format: Hardcover
Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

The mesmerizing fourth novel of the Dublin murder squad by New York Times bestselling author Tana French
Mick "Scorcher" Kennedy, the brash cop from Tana French’s bestselling Faithful Place, plays by the book and plays hard. That’s what’s made him the Murder squad’s top detective—and that’s what puts the biggest case of the year into his hands.

On one of the half-built, half-abandoned "luxury" developments that litter Ireland, Patrick Spain and his two young children are dead. His wife, Jenny, is in intensive care.

At first, Scorcher and his rookie partner, Richie, think it’s going to be an easy solve. But too many small things can’t be explained. The half dozen baby monitors, their cameras pointing at holes smashed in the Spains’ walls. The files erased from the Spains’ computer. The story Jenny told her sister about a shadowy intruder who was slipping past all the locks.

And Broken Harbor holds memories for Scorcher. Seeing the case on the news sends his sister Dina off the rails again, and she’s resurrecting something that Scorcher thought he had tightly under control: what happened to their family one summer at Broken Harbor, back when they were children.

With her signature blend of police procedural and psychological thriller, French’s new novel goes full throttle with a heinous crime, creating her most complicated detective character and her best book yet.

A home invasion in a small seaside town in Britain leaves a family destroyed. For any other murder detective, this case might be too much to handle, but for murder detective Mick “Scorcher” Kennedy, it’s his job. But when the case starts to bring back painful personal memories, Mick wonders if it’s time to throw in the towel…or work harder than ever to catch the killer.

Heading to the wanna-be luxury complex of Broken Harbor to investigate a brutal murder isn’t easy for any detective, but for Scorcher, it’s especially painful. That’s what makes him a winner in French’s fourth Dublin Murder Squad installment: he’s a naturally complex character. By-the-book on the job, caught in a family conflict, and unsure of where his life is headed next, Scorcher isn’t just any old cop. It’s this complex perspective that makes Broken Harbor so compelling to read.

I loved the interactions between Scorcher, his rookie partner, the ME, and the rest of the crew. Each has such memorable personalities that complement Mick and the plot itself perfectly. French weaves each character interaction, step and motivation so deliberately that you don’t realize the masterfulness of her work until the back cover closes.

To say Broken Harbor kept me on my toes is an understatement. There was never a dull moment from the first moment Scorcher and Richie step into the blood-splattered house to the final page. It was the constant conflicts that come with everyday life –  problems with coworkers, family fights, broken hearts – combined with the powerful of mystery of just who did it that brought this police procedural to life like few books I’ve read before.

For me, Broken Harbor is a definitely a winner, and one I can’t wait to read again. Have you read any of French’s Dublin Murder Squad? Which one should I read next?

4 Stars

Posted April 27, 2017 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
Tags: , , ,


March 23, 2017

Review | First Star I See Tonight by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Review | First Star I See Tonight by Susan Elizabeth PhillipsFirst Star I See Tonight by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Series: Chicago Stars, #8
Publisher: William Morrow, August 2016
Pages: 384
Format: Hardcover
Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Piper Dove is a woman with a dream—to become the best detective in the city of Chicago. First job? Trail former Chicago Stars quarterback, Cooper Graham. Problem? Graham’s spotted her, and he’s not happy.
Which is why a good detective needs to think on her feet. “The fact is...I’m your stalker. Not full-out barmy. Just...mildly unhinged.”

Piper soon finds herself working for Graham himself, although not as the bodyguard he refuses to admit he so desperately needs. Instead, he’s hired her to keep an eye on the employees at his exclusive new nightclub. But Coop’s life might be in danger, and Piper’s determined to protect him, whether he wants it or not. (Hint: Not!) If only she weren’t also dealing with a bevy of Middle Eastern princesses, a Pakistani servant girl yearning for freedom, a teenager who just wants to fit in, and an elderly neighbor demanding Piper find her very dead husband.

And then there’s Cooper Graham himself, a legendary sports hero who always gets what he wants—even if what he wants is a feisty detective hell bent on proving she’s as tough as he is.

From the bustling streets of Chicago to a windswept lighthouse on Lake Superior to the glistening waters of Biscayne Bay, two people who can’t stand to lose will test themselves and each other to discover what matters most.

Don’t judge this book by it’s cover…or rather, it’s title. I’ll be the first to admit that I was a little put off by the nursery rhyme title (even M raised his eyebrows at me when he saw the cover), but First Star is one of SEP’s best.

Why? Her characters.

Like each of her novels, First Star is entirely character-driven. I loved Piper Dove, struggling private investigator with a soft heart but stubborn nature. Cooper Graham, retired star quarterback who is trying to break into the nightclub business, appears to be her exact opposite, but they are essentially two peas in a pod: soft on the inside, hard on the outside. And believe me, that made for some intense tension.

Image result for fanning gif

But Phillips didn’t rely on that tension to carry the novel. It’s the wacky characters, from Piper to her elderly neighbor Berni, to Cooper and Jada, the teenage “assassain” who befriends Piper when she moves in. There’s an element of reality in the wackiness, one that both brings the characters and story alive.

I loved how both Piper and Coop go through separate heroic journeys, yet use each other as support. Piper’s initial friendship with Coop allows her to slowly let down her defenses she’s held up for so long, and Piper’s instinct to protect him lets Coop realize it’s okay to rely on someone else (well, someone who’s not in football pads).

The cameos from other characters in the Chicago Stars series cracked me up, especially Heath‘s role in Piper and Coop’s relationship. It created a kind of closure in the series, and since I think SEP originally intended this to be the final Chicago Stars novel, it fit.

Whether you are kinda into contemporary romance or a major fan (*raises hand*) First Star is simply a must read. From the hilariously relatable characters and original plotlines to the breathtaking romance, SEP’s latest is a must.

5 Stars

Posted March 23, 2017 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
Tags: , , ,


January 9, 2017

Review | The Fate of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

Review | The Fate of the Tearling by Erika JohansenThe Fate of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
Series: The Queen of the Tearling, #3
Publisher: Harper, November 2016
Pages: 478
Format: Hardcover
Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

In less than a year, Kelsea Glynn has grown from an awkward teenager into a powerful monarch and a visionary leader.
And as she has come into her own as the Queen of the Tearling, she has transformed her realm. But in her quest to end corruption and restore justice, she has made many enemies - chief among them the evil and feared Red Queen, who ordered the armies of Mortmesne to march against the Tear and crush them.
To protect her people from such a devastating invasion, Kelsea did the unthinkable - naming the Mace, the trusted head of her personal guards, Regent in her place, she surrendered herself and her magical sapphires to her enemy. But the Mace will not rest until he and his men rescue their sovereign from her prison in Mortmesne.
So, the endgame has begun and the fate of Queen Kelsea - and the Tearling itself - will be revealed...
With The Fate of the Tearling, Erika Johansen draws her unforgettable story full of magic and adventure to a thrilling close.

I have extremely mixed feeling about The Fate of the Tearling. One one hand, I loved it. On the other, well, let me explain.

In the first two books of the Tearling trilogy, Kelsea discovers that she is not just an ordinary girl – she’s the queen. As she grows into both herself and her reign, the Tearling faces an impending threat from Mortmesne, the terrifying country ruled by the Red Queen. Together with her second in command, the Mace, and her loyal guards, Kelsea takes the reins as she prepares her peaceful, utopian country for the fight of its life.

Kelsea herself goes through a tremendous transformation throughout the trilogy. She’s always a little rough, a little blunt, but she evolves from an uncertain girl into a strong young woman. That’s not to say she doesn’t have her insecurities; those moments of uncertainties are what reminds us of her humanity in Fate. It’s the moments she’s presented with an obvious choice in Fate that made me fall in love with her character even more.

Yet Johansen makes sure that Kelsea isn’t the end-all of the series. The side plots and more minor characters are powerful enough to carry the divided narrative of Fate, even occasionally making me wish they had more page time. Johansen made it clear that Fate isn’t just Kelsea’s story – it’s the Tearling’s.

I loved that Johansen makes room to tell the Tearling’s history, but as continued, I felt a little confused. Instead of the high fantasy I expected, Fate verged more into an alternate reality. There was talk of Boston, modern medicine, and other things common in today’s society, but unexpected in a world of swords, medieval battles and magic. The alternative timeline threw me, and I couldn’t quite get back on track.

That same disjointedness continued throughout the end of Fate. Instead of the ending I expected (even hoped for), Johansen threw us for a loop and closed out Kelsea’s story in an entirely unexpected way. Personally, I wasn’t a fan: it left me with more questions than answers, and I felt lost without certain plot closures. This unusual ending dropped my review from what could have been four or five stars to three.

What do you think of the ending? Did it fit the storyline? Or were you expecting the more traditional ending?

3 Stars

Posted January 9, 2017 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
Tags: , , , ,


January 5, 2017

Review | Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee

Review | Under a Painted Sky by Stacey LeeUnder a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers, March 2015
Pages: 384
Format: Hardcover
Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Missouri, 1849: Samantha dreams of moving back to New York to be a professional musician—not an easy thing if you’re a girl, and harder still if you’re Chinese. But a tragic accident dashes any hopes of fulfilling her dream, and instead, leaves her fearing for her life. With the help of a runaway slave named Annamae, Samantha flees town for the unknown frontier. But life on the Oregon Trail is unsafe for two girls, so they disguise themselves as Sammy and Andy, two boys headed for the California gold rush. Sammy and Andy forge a powerful bond as they each search for a link to their past, and struggle to avoid any unwanted attention. But when they cross paths with a band of cowboys, the light-hearted troupe turn out to be unexpected allies. With the law closing in on them and new setbacks coming each day, the girls quickly learn that there are not many places to hide on the open trail.   This beautifully written debut is an exciting adventure and heart-wrenching survival tale. But above all else, it’s a story about perseverance and trust that will restore your faith in the power of friendship.

Under a Painted Sky is the tale of two girls, wronged and misjudged by society, hitting the open trail to leave their past behind. It’s a story full of friendship, brimming with buoyancy, and made of morals. I should have loved it.

I didn’t.

Initially, I was hooked. The drama of the hard last words Samantha said to her father, the danger she suddenly finds herself in, and the unlikely ally in Annamae was exactly what I wanted to read. It was engaging, fascinating, and so chockful of potential that I settled in for the long haul.

And then, rather abruptly, the bottom fell out from the story.

Image result for stunned gif

All of that lovely potential disappeared. Samantha and Annamae, so ALIVE in the first pages of Under a Painted Sky deflated like someone let out their air. The narrative felt flat, rehearsed. I had the abject feeling of reading the dialogue instead of seeing the characters play out the scene in my mind.

Yet all this isn’t to say Under a Painted Sky is a bad book. It’s not. The descriptions of the Oregon Trail brought back memories of playing the game on bulky PCs in elementary school. The morals of the power of friendship, perseverance, and destiny are great, especially for the YA reader (this book’s target audience).

But after it failed to live up to the first few heart-pounding, emotionally wrenching pages, I was disappointed when it didn’t continue. I couldn’t get excited about the law, hot on Samantha and Annamae’s heels, or feel their concern when they worried their boyish disguises were slipping. I lost that connection with them and, without it, Under a Painted Sky couldn’t pull me back in.

2 Stars

Posted January 5, 2017 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
Tags: , , ,