Tag: adventure

August 2, 2017

Review | Voyager by Diana Gabaldon

Review | Voyager by Diana GabaldonVoyager by Diana Gabaldon
Series: Outlander, #3
Publisher: Delta, December 1993
Pages: 870
Format: Paperback
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From the author of the breathtaking bestsellers Outlander and Dragonfly in Amber, the extraordinary saga continues.
Their passionate encounter happened long ago by whatever measurement Claire Randall took. Two decades before, she had traveled back in time and into the arms of a gallant eighteenth-century Scot named Jamie Fraser. Then she returned to her own century to bear his child, believing him dead in the tragic battle of Culloden. Yet his memory has never lessened its hold on her... and her body still cries out for him in her dreams.
Then Claire discovers that Jamie survived. Torn between returning to him and staying with their daughter in her own era, Claire must choose her destiny. And as time and space come full circle, she must find the courage to face the passion and pain awaiting her...the deadly intrigues raging in a divided Scotland... and the daring voyage into the dark unknown that can reunite or forever doom her timeless love.

If Outlander was about finding your true love and Dragonfly in Amber about making heartbreaking decisions, Voyager tells of consequences.

Typically, “consequences” has a negative connotation. It’s used by parents to frighten their children into behaving, by teachers motivating their students into completing the homework. But in Gabaldon’s world, consequences are more than that. They’re the results of the love of Outlander, the tough decisions made in Dragonfly, and the turmoil of Voyager.

The love of Outlander

Watching Claire try to rebuild her life after Jamie was heartbreaking. I didn’t know if I would make it through those sections. But she grew a little bit stronger, page after page, and me with her. Even though I knew they had to get back together at some point, the distance of 200 years never seemed so long.

Despite their love, Claire had to assume Jamie had died at Culloden and he only had the faint hope that she had made it back to her own century. The only solution was to move on, keep building, and keep the other’s memory alive. While I understood it, I struggled with Claire returning to Frank and Jamie’s various adventures. They were supposed to be together, damnit!

The consequences of the first two books created an entirely different relationship when they finally reunited in Voyager. I liked the dynamic, the acknowledgment that time has passed, that need to rediscover.

I was a little worried about how I would relate to the characters after so long had passed, but Gabaldon made it as easy as stepping forward into their world.

The decisions of Dragonfly

Dragonfly is full of decisions. Decisions to go to France to stop Prince Charles, to fight on the Culloden field, to return back to the 1940s. Each of these decisions played a huge role in how Voyager unfolded. I was surprised at how frustrated I got with some of the characters’ decisions. Maybe it’s hindsight, maybe it’s foreshadowing, but I found myself hoping, desperately, that a particular character wouldn’t do this, wouldn’t do that. Kind of like when you wish the heroine in the scary movie would just MOVE AWAY FROM THE DARK, SCARY DOOR instead of opening it.

Yet, if they had, what kind of story would it have been?

I loved that Voyager brought some previous characters back into play (nope, no spoilers). They were entirely unexpected, but the plot twist increased the tension in an already tense end of the book.

The consequences of Voyager

Mainly, I was hooked. I had to know what happened, how they got there, and how on earth they were going to get out of the mess this time. It’s almost addictive, this need to delve back into the world of Jamie and Claire. I have the Drums of Autumn and The Fiery Cross on my shelves now, and it takes a constant strength to not run over, pluck up the next book and see how the romance of Jamie and Claire goes on.

5 Stars

Posted August 2, 2017 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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June 5, 2017

Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton

Jurassic Park by Michael CrichtonJurassic Park by Michael Crichton
Series: Jurassic Park, #1
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf, January 1970
Pages: 400
Format: Paperback
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State-of-the-art science and suspense combine in this uniquely exciting high-tension thriller from the author of The Andromeda Strain. Bio-engineers create authentic, detail-perfect, real-life dinosaurs for a Pacific island theme park, but scientific triumph explodes into horrendous disaster as the first visitors encounter the unbelievable.

Jurassic Park is one of those iconic stories that everyone knows. Whether it’s the image of the velociraptors prancing through the stainless steel, never-before-used restaurant kitchen or the haunting outline of the T-rex as it prowls through the park, it’s as crucial to a young moviegoer’s education as Star Wars.

So, naturally, when I found a paperback copy of Michael Crichton’s bestseller, I grabbed it.

The novel and the movie are alike and not, all at once. There’s power to Crichton’s writing that doesn’t make it into the film, an enchantment that makes science and the notion of a prehistoric theme park entirely plausible. This dominant narrative is in the movie, but I feel the characters are really what sets this story apart.

On the surface level, the characters seem somewhat multi-dimensional. John Hammond, the old man who fantasizes about bringing dinosaurs to life and has the funds to do it, his susceptible grandkids who just want to find an escape contrast with the glass-half-empty lawyer and the observant, scientific-minded folks. Together, they make more drama than the island of prehistoric animals ever could (not that they don’t try).

But it’s what each of those characters represents that really makes Jurassic Park a winner. Hammond is determined to buy his happiness, convinced that his money can overcome the power of nature. His constant refrain of “my animals” and something along the lines of “wouldn’t hurt a fly” indicates a man deep in denial, convinced his money can buy anything or both.

He sets up the argument of nature versus nurture and whether humankind can (and should) mess with the process that has evolved our world. The scientific group of characters appears to be the most rational, excluding one: Hammond’s scientist. He has, for lack of a better term, drunk too much of the Kool-Aid and only starts to realize what a monster (no pun intended) he’s created.

The other scientists waver between awe and fear. They are, strangely, the only ones who seem to realize the danger lurking around every corner of the island and the inevitable spread of the dinosaurs to other parts of the world. This constant tug of war between nature and humankind’s involvement brought a new level of fascination to Jurassic Park.

That being said, it was hard not to roll my eyes when the characters did something stupid (a battle I often lost). Some of the decisions made by otherwise smart, rational people took away from the storyline and disjointing the characters. The actions of Hammond and his employees, however, were entirely in character, but sometimes still as irritating.

The major flaw of the book lay in Crichton’s tendency to infodump. In his zeal to impress the scientific importance of the discovery, the evolution, and the progress of the park, he occasionally drops off into what I can only describe as an encyclopedic tone. It’s dry and really not needed. I’m reading about dinosaurs made from frog DNA, for heaven’s sake.

All in all, a good book and a must read for die-hard fans and science fiction fanatics.

3 Stars

Posted June 5, 2017 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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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
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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
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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
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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.

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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
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October 15, 2016

Review | The Reader by Traci Chee

Review | The Reader by Traci CheeThe Reader by Traci Chee
Series: Sea of Ink and Gold, #1
Publisher: Putnam, September 2016
Pages: 442
Format: Hardcover
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Once there was, and one day there will be. This is the beginning of every story.
Sefia lives her life on the run. After her father is viciously murdered, she flees to the forest with her aunt Nin, the only person left she can trust. They survive in the wilderness together, hunting and stealing what they need, forever looking over their shoulders for new threats. But when Nin is kidnapped, Sefia is suddenly on her own, with no way to know who’s taken Nin or where she is. Her only clue is a strange rectangular object that once belonged to her father left behind, something she comes to realize is a book.
Though reading is unheard of in Sefia’s world, she slowly learns, unearthing the book’s closely guarded secrets, which may be the key to Nin’s disappearance and discovering what really happened the day her father was killed. With no time to lose, and the unexpected help of swashbuckling pirates and an enigmatic stranger, Sefia sets out on a dangerous journey to rescue her aunt, using the book as her guide. In the end, she discovers what the book had been trying to tell her all along: Nothing is as it seems, and the end of her story is only the beginning.

I wanted so badly to love The Reader. I always want to like debut novels, since I can only imagine the heart and soul that goes into each word. But Chee’s debut wasn’t for me,

Why? I was bored. The flashbacks were fun reads, but the action in the present didn’t grab me. I felt my mind wandering when Sefia’s aunt Nin was kidnapped, when she follows her trail on a rescue mission, even as she starts to learn to read. There wasn’t enough of Sefia to grab my attention.

I mentioned the flashbacks: those are the winners in the first pages. The heartbreaking narrative as Sefia discovers she’s an orphan, the numbness as she moves through the predetermined route to safety. It was stunning, but not enough to make up for the lack of character in the present Sefia.

I loved the introductory pages as Chee weaves a mythical, almost hypnotic description of a world without books, without readers. It felt engaging, fascinating. But The Reader didn’t live up to this narrative promise. It didn’t have that vibrancy, that urgency Sefia must have felt when she took off after her aunt. It didn’t leave my heart pounding, my mind frantic to find out just what the hell was going on.

The Reader isn’t bad, per se…it just isn’t all the way there. Without the urgency, the emotions, or a powerful protagonist, it fell flat. And after 50 pages, I didn’t want to go on.

 Stars

Posted October 15, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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October 3, 2016

Review | The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Review | The Raven Boys by Maggie StiefvaterThe Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
Series: The Raven Cycle, #1
Publisher: Scholastic Press, September 2012
Pages: 409
Format: Hardcover
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Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue never sees them--until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks to her.
His name is Gansey, a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.
But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can't entirely explain. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul whose emotions range from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher who notices many things but says very little.
For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She doesn't believe in true love, and never thought this would be a problem. But as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she's not so sure anymore.

Blue Sargent wants nothing to do the raven boys, the prized students of the local rich-kid academy who run through Henrietta, Virginia like it’s their playground. But when her amplifier gift (to improve the psychic gifts of those around her) brings her face-to-face with the spirit of a raven boy, Blue is hooked. Who is he? How can she save him? Despite herself, Blue is soon caught up in a world of intrigue, long-lost kings, mystical favors, and hidden magic.

The thing about Blue is she seems pretty normal for living in a house full of psychics. She may not bat an eye at the tarot card readings, the random mumblings of her mother’s best friend (who also lives there), or think to gather the names of the soon-to-be-dead weird, but at heart, she’s a typical teenage girl. One who wants to find her place, something we can all understand.

Except Blue has a secret or, rather a curse. If she kisses her true love, he’ll die, but the spirits don’t share how. To take precautions, she’s just not kissing anyone. It’s this combination of pragmatic and mysticism that makes Blue so enchanting. But don’t get me wrong – The Raven Boys isn’t about her.

The stars of the novel are, without a doubt, the four Raven Boys: Gansey, the get-along guy driven to discover the secret of Glendower; Ronan Lynch, the brawler haunted by a horrible secret; Adam Parrish, the local scholarship student trying to find a way to fit in; and Noah, the quiet, unassuming one. Their internal relationship dynamics are fascinating reading; add in Blue’s sensibility, and you’ve got quite the story.

The paranormal aspect brings The Raven Boys to a whole new level. When Blue sees Gansey’s spirit on the corpse road, she can’t stop thinking about him. And when she meets him in real life, her determination to protect him solidifies. The complexity of teenage angst and romance set against the paranormal history and the mystical quest to discover Glendower creates a world that I just didn’t want to leave.

4 Stars

Posted October 3, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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September 26, 2016

Review | The Forbidden Orchid by Sharon Biggs Waller

Review | The Forbidden Orchid by Sharon Biggs WallerThe Forbidden Orchid by Sharon Biggs Waller
Publisher: Viking, March 2016
Pages: 392
Format: Hardcover
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Staid, responsible Elodie Buchanan is the eldest of ten sisters living in a small English market town in 1861. The girls barely know their father, a plant hunter usually off adventuring through China. Then disaster strikes: Mr. Buchanan reneges on his contract to collect an extremely rare and valuable orchid. He will be thrown into debtors’ prison while his daughters are sent to the orphanage and the workhouse.
Elodie can’t stand by and see her family destroyed, so she persuades her father to return to China once more to try to hunt down the flower—only this time, despite everything she knows about her place in society, Elodie goes with him. She has never before left her village, but what starts as fear turns to wonder as she adapts to seafaring life aboard the tea clipper The Osprey, and later to the new sights, dangers, and romance of China. But now, even if she can find the orchid, how can she ever go back to being the staid, responsible Elodie that everybody needs?

It started the moment Elodie showed Deacon Wainwright the plant, the forbidden orchid blooming on top of the glass house her father built for her younger sisters. Soon, Elodie’s family is caught up in their father’s world, a place of mystique, secrets, and men that will stop at nothing to get what they want. Can Elodie save her family and her father’s reputation in the wilds of China?

I had some with this book, issues that kept the rating at three instead of four stars. While I realize the condescending attitude men showed towards the woman in The Forbidden Orchid may have been historically accurate, it was infuriating. At every turn, Elodie was told she couldn’t speak out, couldn’t ask questions, couldn’t look at an orchid because it might tempt her…Really? This effect would have been offset if there was one (ONE!) man that didn’t look down his nose at a woman, but it was rare. At first, I thought Elodie’s father, famed botanist and adventurer, would be the one but View Spoiler ». The closest was Alex, Elodie’s new husband, but even he had a few moments.

Regardless, I was hooked into The Forbidden Orchid from the first chapter. I loved the dynamics between Elodie and her nine sisters, how their mother coped as a woman essentially on her own, and their interactions with the townspeople. The level of detail with even the most minor of characters brought life to the book.

I loved Elodie and Alex’s relationship, although I may have rolled my eyes once or twice (or more) at some of Elodie’s reactions. They had the same sweet, enduring romance that caught my heart when I read Waller’s first foray into YA, A Mad, Wicked Folly. Besides bringing a little bit of light into a rather dark situation, it forced Elodie to grow up in ways she never would have had to in the family home in Kent.

Once Elodie, Alex, and her father land in China, I was hooked. Every detail came alive. I felt like I was walking in an 1800s opium den or riding a horse in the hot Chinese summer. It was vivid, memorable, and extraordinary.

While The Forbidden Orchid has some misses, its hits by far make up for them.

3 Stars

Posted September 26, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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