Tag: two stars

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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September 30, 2016

Review | Not Quite Mine by Catherine Bybee

Review | Not Quite Mine by Catherine BybeeNot Quite Mine by Catherine Bybee
Series: Not Quite, #2
Publisher: Montlake Romance, May 2013
Pages: 302
Format: Paperback
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Gorgeous hotel heiress Katelyn “Katie” Morrison seems to have it all. But when she crosses paths with Dean Prescott—the only man she’s ever loved—at her brother’s wedding, Katie realizes there’s a gaping hole in her life. After the ceremony she gets an even bigger surprise: a baby girl left on her doorstep. Determined to keep the newborn until she learns who her mother is, Katie has her hands full and doesn’t need Dean snooping around…especially when his presence stirs feelings she thought were long gone.

Dean Prescott knows Katie is lying to him about the baby. He shouldn’t care what the woman who broke his heart is up to…and he most certainly shouldn’t still be aching for her. Yet Dean can’t ignore the need to protect Katie—or the desire to be near her every chance he gets. But when he and Katie solve the mystery surrounding the baby, their second chance for happiness could be shattered forever.

Hotel heiress Katie dreamed of a child, but when one finally arrives, it’s not the way she expects. Finding an abandoned infant on her doorstep, complete with a note giving her custody and a birth certificate naming her as the mother leaves her feeling elated and confused all at once. With her ex, Dean, hot on her trail, Katie heads to the west coast, baby in tow, to start her new life as an interior designer for the family’s hotel chain.

I wanted so badly to love this book. It has all the potential to be a cute romantic comedy, but it fails miserably.

I couldn’t get a handle on Katie. She was so many different characters – the reformed wild child, the annoying little sister, the wannabe mother, the ex that never grew up, the responsible woman – all at once that it was hard to understand what was going on. Her motives were all over the place, making me roll my eyes more than once at her antics. When she starts running around in a construction zone in high heels and a miniskirt, I was done.

Dean was just as irritating. Another reformed rich boy, he’s cranky, irritable, incredibly nosy, and still in love with Katie. While their relationship had potential, the magic wasn’t there. Instead of dreamy, Dean felt infatuated instead of love-struck.

Both characters were completely unrelatable. From Katie’s gobs of money (she never considers the cost of anything) to the View Spoiler », the Not Quite Mine thrives on the lives of the rich and famous, portraying them as far too materialistic. While I love the odd billionaire or two, Bybee didn’t give either character faults or flaws that made them relatable.

I didn’t give a hoot about Katie or Dean at the end of the book – I was thoroughly irritated with the both of them. The unnecessary drama from both of them was just too much. I was glad to turn Not Quite Mine back in.

2 Stars

Posted September 30, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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September 12, 2016

Review | Delphine by Richard Sala

Review | Delphine by Richard SalaDelphine by Richard Sala
Publisher: Fantagraphics, January 2013
Pages: 128
Format: Hardcover
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A mysterious traveler gets off the train in a small village surrounded by a thick, sinister forest. He is searching for Delphine, who vanished with only a scrawled-out address on a scrap of paper as a trace. In his newest chiller, Richard Sala takes the tale of Snow White and stands it on its head, retelling it from Prince Charming's perspective (the unnamed traveler) in a contemporary setting. This twisted tale includes all the elements of terror from the original fairy tale, with none of the insipid saccharine coating of the Disney animated adaptation. Yes, there will be blood.
Originally serialized as part of the acclaimed international series, Delphine is executed in a rich and ominous duotone that shows off Sala's virtuosity just as much as last year's full-color post-apocalyptic horror fantasy The Hidden did; punctuated with stunning full-color chapter breaks.

Delphine, a twisted take on the famous Snow White tale, tells the story from Prince Charming’s perspective as he searches to save his lost love. In the guise of a young university student, the hero traverses roads, woods, dangers and disguises to find out what happened to Delphine, his girlfriend that returns home at the end of the semester to help her struggling father. However, his journey changes him in ways that he can’t imagine.

I’m split on this book. To start, the good:

Sala does an amazing job of evoking emotions: fear, danger, sadness, and hope all pour through his pages, his images. I was surprised at his basic color palette, but as I read, it suited Delphine well. The neutral colors allowed the hero and his task to jump through the pages.

I didn’t realize Delphine was a graphic novel and, unfortunately, I’m not much of a graphic novel fan. Yet I was surprised how hooked I got in the story despite myself.

Now, let me explain the “despite myself” comment. Delphine follows in the history of the Grimm fairy tales, not Disney. In short, it’s dark, gruesome, a little violent, and a little more disturbing. It was entirely too violent for my taste, and the depiction in the images pushed me a little too far at times.

This isn’t a story to read to your kids at bedtime, or even for young teens – there’s a lot of cursing and graphic content. I expected this to be a little more like Coraline – creepy, but not violent. Delphine dives into the dirty, graphic, scary side of forests, spells, witches and fairy tales.

In the end, I’m not sold on the graphic novel or the dark side of fairy tales, and especially not together. Yet, there’s a majesty to Sala’s work that I can’t help but admire. While Delphine isn’t exactly my cup of tea, it’s a great piece of work.

2 Stars

Posted September 12, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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July 29, 2016

Review | Daughters of Ruin by K.D. Castner

Review | Daughters of Ruin by K.D. CastnerDaughters of Ruin by K.D. Castner
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books, April 2016
Pages: 320
Format: Hardcover
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Meet rumor with quiet, treason with cunning, and vicious with vicious.
Rhea, Cadis, Suki, and Iren have lived together since they were children. They are called sisters. They are not. They are called equals. They are not. They are princesses. And they are enemies.
A brutal war ravaged their kingdoms, and Rhea’s father was the victor. As a gesture of peace, King Declan brought the daughters of his rivals to live under his protection—and his ever-watchful eye.
For ten years they have trained together as diplomats and warriors, raised to accept their thrones and unite their kingdoms in peace. But there is no peace among sisters, and all plans shatter when the palace is attacked. As their intended future lies in ashes, Rhea, Cadis, Suki, and Iren must decide where their loyalties lie: to their nations, or to each other.
Alliances shift and the consequences are deadly in this stunning fantasy debut from K. D. Castner.

It was the era of the Sister Queens. A promise of peace and prosperity across all nations. Unfortunately, that’s not quite how it works out. Trained as warriors, fighting like enemies, the Daughters of Ruin are holding onto a fragile peace. But when war breaks out among the nations, the sister queens are caught in the middle of the drama – their own, and their nations.

I hate to say it, but I was really disappointed in Daughters of Ruin.

I loved the premise – four women, destroyed by war, brought together to repair the relationships between their nations and create a lasting peace. While I knew it wouldn’t quite work out that way, the vast amount of drama among the girls was so irritating.

Everyone hated Rhea, the daughter of the captor king and creator of the Sister Queens, seemingly just because she was Rhea. Everyone had the hots for the servant guy who helped them train (who was honestly just an arrogant ass). The forced arena battles only served to set the girls farther apart, but provided no other benefit to the story.

Castner rotates point-of-views between the four girls, which is okay – could potentially be fascinating.

  • Rhea’s was a typical narration.
  • Iren’s strangely simple. And brief. All her sentences were like this. Fragmented thoughts. Okay.
  • Cadis’s was strangely violent and rage-filled. But that fit her.
  • Suki’s drove me insane. You see, there were parenthensis (over parenthesis (and even (more (parenthesis (if you can believe it!!!))))). It was irritating. The disruptive narration portrayed the youngest girl as a selfish brat without redeeming qualities, only reinforced by her parenthesis. Please. No more.

The story was far-fetched and a bit ludicrous, especially as the drama ratcheted up near the end. I felt my patience dissipating as plot twist after plot twist was thrown out there. Daughters of Ruin had so much potential, but unfortunately couldn’t live up to it.


2 Stars

Posted July 29, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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July 15, 2016

Review | The Match of the Century by Cathy Maxwell

Review | The Match of the Century by Cathy MaxwellThe Match of the Century by Cathy Maxwell
Series: Marrying the Duke, #1
Publisher: Avon, November 2015
Pages: 356
Format: Paperback
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In New York Times bestselling author Cathy Maxwell's glittering new series, wedding bells are ringing… until the return of a rake throws a bride's plans—and heart—into a tailspin...
Every debutante aspires to snag a duke. Elin Morris just happens to have had one reserved since birth. But postponements of her marriage to London's most powerful peer give Elin time to wonder how she will marry Gavin Baynton when she cannot forget his brother, Benedict.
Already exasperated at being yanked from the military to meet "family obligations," now Ben must suffer watching his arrogant sibling squire the only woman he has ever loved. Joining the army saved Ben from sinking into bitterness, but seeing Elin again takes him back to the day they surrendered to their intoxicating desire.
As the wedding draws near, Elin tries to push Ben far from her thoughts. When danger brings them together, there is no denying their feelings. But can Elin choose love over duty?

Long-lost lovers Elin and Ben are finally reunited…as Elin celebrates her long-planned engagement to Gavin, Ben’s brother. But after one look at Elin, Ben knows he can’t let his brother, the duke, marry her. Elin, torn between what she should do and what her heart is telling her, faces the choice of a lifetime: follow her heart or make the match of the century?

There’s a lovely sort of magic that thrives in historical romances. It can transport you to a different time and place, one maintained by manners and, therefore, all the more fun when the rules are broken. It creates a world where the term “rake” is used as an endearment of sorts, and women spent half the time flustered or whispering behind their fans. The historical romances with this magic are stunning.

Unfortunately, The Match of the Century isn’t one of them.

There’s nothing wrong with the story – in fact, the dueling brother/romantic hero story line reminded me of this story (which I loved) quite a bit. The fault in this historical romance fell to two things: the characters, and how they were portrayed by the narration.

Elin spent half her time telling me how she felt instead of showing me (major pet peeve). When something (finally) happens to her, the character doesn’t follow her nature (as portrayed so far, anyway). She’s weirdly calm, despite how often she claims she’s upset.

Ben, well, I don’t know what goes on in Ben’s brain. It was so caveman – “Woman. Mine. Must take from brother.” – and lacked the sort of finesse that brings me to these novels in the first place.

What stunned me the most was how Gavin, Elin’s fiancee and Ben’s brother, reacts to the whole thing. At first, she’s a possession (more caveman) thenView Spoiler ». It’s not plausible and entirely too contrived to make for fun reading.

I’m not head over heels about The Match of the Century. After a promising start, the novel fell flat because the characters, so intrinsic to the historical romance, weren’t strong enough to hold it up.

2 Stars

Posted July 15, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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June 20, 2016

Review | This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen

Review | This Lullaby by Sarah DessenThis Lullaby by Sarah Dessen
Publisher: Speak, March 8th 2004
Pages: 345
Format: Hardcover
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When it comes to relationships, Remy doesn't mess around. After all, she's learned all there is to know from her mother, who's currently working on husband number five. But there's something about Dexter that seems to defy all of Remy's rules. He certainly doesn't seem like Mr. Right. For some reason, however, Remy just can't seem to shake him. Could it be that Remy's starting to understand what those love songs are all about?

Remy Starr just isn’t a romantic sort of person. After planning her mother’s fifth wedding and watching her best friend fall apart after her boyfriend dumps her, Remy’s certain that love isn’t for her. But Dexter, a boy she met at her (fifth) stepfather’s car dealership, is determined to change that.

After reading Saint Anything, I was certain I’d fall for This Lullaby. Same author, same YA contemporary romance feel. Yet Remy’s story fell flat for me.

Her level of disillusionment/bitterness/logical thinking when it came to love was a major turnoff for me. She was so matter-of-fact, it was hard to find emotion in her. When I did, it felt contrived and wrong for her character. The only time it was believable? During a emotionally difficult dinner with her brother and his girlfriend.

For a majority of This Lullaby, it felt like Remy was holding herself above everyone else, looking down on them with disdain for getting caught up in the emotion of love. There wasn’t a redeeming quality to pull me in, to get me hooked into her character, until too late.

Don’t hate me, but I found Dexter’s character to be kind of weird. He lacked the charm of Dessen’s other romantic heroes. Instead, he was a bit creepy, showing up at random places and talking about her to his buddies without knowing much about her. It moved away from cute into the danger zones.

I get the idea of it: a deeply romantic guy to shake up a stubborn girl like Remy, but the execution was off. Instead of being charmed, I felt…icked. (I know that’s not a word, but you get the idea). Without that flare of hope, that redeeming quality, Remy felt like a lost cause, one even Dexter couldn’t save. I needed to believe that everything would turn out all right in the end. Instead, This Lullaby felt forced, and honestly just made me sad.

2 Stars

Posted June 20, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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June 18, 2016

Review | A Drop of Night by Stefan Bachmann

Review | A Drop of Night by Stefan BachmannA Drop of Night by Stefan Bachmann
Publisher: Greenwillow Books, March 2016
Pages: 464
Format: Hardcover
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Seventeen-year-old Anouk has finally caught the break she’s been looking for—she's been selected out of hundreds of other candidates to fly to France and help with the excavation of a vast, underground palace buried a hundred feet below the suburbs of Paris. Built in the 1780's to hide an aristocratic family and a mad duke during the French Revolution, the palace has lain hidden and forgotten ever since. Anouk, along with several other gifted teenagers, will be the first to set foot in it in over two centuries.
Or so she thought.
But nothing is as it seems, and the teens soon find themselves embroiled in a game far more sinister, and dangerous, than they could possibly have imagined. An evil spanning centuries is waiting for them in the depths. . .
A genre-bending thriller from Stefan Bachmann for fans of The Maze Runner and Joss Whedon’s The Cabin in the Woods.
You cannot escape the palace.
You cannot guess its secrets.

Anouk is on the adventure of a lifetime. After receiving a mysterious letter in the mail and completing the vast amounts of training, she’s finally on her way to help with one of history’s most astounding discoveries yet: a forgotten palace from the French Revolution. But there’s more hidden in this historical site than meets the eye, a horror laying in wait for centuries.

I had one major problem with A Drop of Night that I just couldn’t get over, as much as I tried.

I hated Anouk.

If you’ve been with me for a while, you might notice that I rarely say I hate a character. Usually, I can find something in them, some redeeming quality. With her…no.

From the opening pages of A Drop of Night, she was bratty (scribbling her goodbye note on her parents’ fridge), childish (inner monologue is all about how jealous she is of her sister), plain bitchy (who doesn’t tell their parents they’re running off to France?), arrogant (inner monologue also details how almighty smart she is. Right.), and just rude (to the driver, the other students on the plane). How on earth am I supposed to identify with this girl?

To be honest, I didn’t. I couldn’t get over the opening introduction to her character, which seemed to deteriorate as A Drop of Night continued. Consequently, the entire premise of the story fell flat and I found myself yearning for it to be over.

The one redeeming quality that raised this from a one star to two? I loved Bachmann’s flashbacks to the French Revolution. His writing came to life in these scenes. I saw the light from the torches, heard the madness of the mob, and felt my heart race with the family as they struggled for safety.

More French Revolution, less (or no) Anouk? A winner for me. A Drop of Night? Not my cup of tea.

2 Stars

Posted June 18, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 1 Comment
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June 10, 2016

Review | Writing Jane Austen by Elizabeth Aston

Review | Writing Jane Austen by Elizabeth AstonWriting Jane Austen by Elizabeth Aston
Publisher: Touchstone, April 2010
Pages: 320
Format: Paperback
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Critically acclaimed and award-winning—but hardly bestselling—author Georgina Jackson can’t get past the first chapter of her second book. When she receives an urgent email from her agent, Georgina is certain it’s bad news. Shockingly, she’s offered a commission to complete a newly discovered manuscript by a major nineteenth-century author. Skeptical at first about her ability to complete the manuscript, Georgina is horrified to know that the author in question is Jane Austen.
Torn between pushing through or fleeing home to America, Georgina relies on the support of her banker-turned-science student roommate, Henry, and his quirky teenage sister, Maud—a serious Janeite. With a sudden financial crisis looming, the only way Georgina can get by is to sign the hugely lucrative contract and finish the book.

Georgina Jackson has a case of writer’s block. No, wait.

Georgina Jackson has a really, really bad case of writer’s block.

After her first book’s literary success, she can’t get past the first chapter of her new book. Determined to finish the novel, no matter how many first chapters it took her, she doggedly keeps putting pen to paper. As her finances dwindle and her time in England ticks away, Georgina begins to panic. When her agent offers – well, more like tells – her the chance to complete an unfinished manuscript by a famous author for a good chunk of money, Georgina jumps at the chance. That is, until she finds out who it is…Jane Austen.

Always a fan of the American-living-in-England stories, I was intrigued by the premise of Writing Jane Austen. An unfinished manuscript by one of my favorite authors? A lonely American trying eke out a living in the hallowed streets of London? Perfect, right?

There was just one problem.

Georgina was awful.

She was whiny, childish, utterly selfish, and incapable of trying new things. Instead of jumping outside of her box to earn money and take a crack at the manuscript, she whines, drags her feet, and spends a good chunk of the beginning of the novel complaining at her tough luck. Um. Okay.

I hoped the story would take off once she got that out of her system, but the narrative started to take on the theme of following Georgina around while she complained, “tried” to learn about Jane Austen, and was just generally irritating. When she went to go visit her friend in Bath for – seemingly – no other reason than to complain, I was through. I finished Writing Jane Austen on autopilot, just to get it over with.

There were highlights and chances that, had the narrative been brave enough, would have pulled the story up from the dredges of Georgina’s despair. The clash of her agent and publishers and the attempt at romance would have made this book enjoyable. But Aston didn’t take the chances, didn’t push her character, and left me wishing I never picked up the book in the first place.

2 Stars

Posted June 10, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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June 3, 2016

Review | The Other Daughter by Lauren Willig

Review | The Other Daughter by Lauren WilligThe Other Daughter by Lauren Willig
Publisher: St. Martin's Press, July 21st 2015
Pages: 304
Format: Hardcover

Raised in a poor yet genteel household, Rachel Woodley is working in France as a governess when she receives news that her mother has died, suddenly. Grief-stricken, she returns to the small town in England where she was raised to clear out the cottage...and finds a cutting from a London society magazine, with a photograph of her supposedly deceased father dated all of three month before. He's an earl, respected and influential, and he is standing with another daughter-his legitimate daughter. Which makes Rachel...not legitimate. Everything she thought she knew about herself and her past-even her very name-is a lie.
Still reeling from the death of her mother, and furious at this betrayal, Rachel sets herself up in London under a new identity. There she insinuates herself into the party-going crowd of Bright Young Things, with a steely determination to unveil her father's perfidy and bring his-and her half-sister's-charmed world crashing down. Very soon, however, Rachel faces two unexpected snags: she finds she genuinely likes her half-sister, Olivia, whose situation isn't as simple it appears; and she might just be falling for her sister's fiancé...
From Lauren Willig, author of the New York Times bestselling novel The Ashford Affair, comes The Other Daughter, a page-turner full of deceit, passion, and revenge.

Rachel Woodley’s life just turned upside down.

Her mother, her only remaining family in the world, passed away days before Rachel could make it home. She’s lost her job as a governess, and finds out shortly after she gets home that her mother’s landlord plans to repossess the house. Motherless, penniless, and essentially homeless, Rachel receives one more blow. Her father, whom she thought had passed away years ago, is actually live and well as the Earl of Ardmore. Even worse, Rachel is the other daughter.

I’ll say it before and will probably say it again: I was mad about Willig‘s debut. I had some issues with her later books (this one in particular), but Pink Carnation will always hold a soft spot in my heart. I hoped for the same vibrant narrative and personable characters in The Other Daughter, but it just wasn’t there.

Right off the bat, Willig paints a strong portrayal of the characters, which I loved. My heart broke for Rachel as she received blow after blow, but she (somehow) stood strong. Then she met Simon, a gossip columnist, who encourages her to act out her revenge fantasy against her father. That, just a few chapters into the book, is when Rachel utterly disappears.

Her character is still there, all right, but instead of acting, living, breathing for herself, she’s going through the motions at Simon’s request, essentially as his puppet. I must have missed the part where she actually voiced her desire to get revenge on her father, because it felt like she fell silent as he planned, then found herself in the midst of a Bright Young Things party, acting a fool for this man she didn’t know. The Rachel in the beginning of the book would have stood up, shouted at Simon he was ridiculous/malicious, that she didn’t know him, that this plan was cruel, and left it at that. Instead, we go on this wild train ride with a character without a backbone or a sense of decency into a story line that won’t end well for anyone.

To be honest, I could understand how Rachel agreed to this madness in her grief, but for heaven’s sake, wouldn’t some common sense wake up and knock her silly? The premise was ridiculous and cruel, and I found myself having more sympathy for Cece, the BYT whose friendship Rachel blatantly abuses, than the main character herself (more about Cece later).

Don’t be fooled by the comment in the blurb about how Rachel falls for her step sister’s fiancee. The romance in The Other Daughter is lackluster at best, and the sudden revelation of it near the end of the book was the final straw for me. The relationship with the finacee is tepid at best and creepy at worst, and the strange dependency (I’m not going to call it a romance) between Rachel and Simon was too much for me.

The redeeming quality of The Other Daughter? The women surrounding Rachel. Olivia, her step-sister, is run over by her mother so often that she wishes she could disappear into the wall, but her kindness shines through (in contrast to Rachel’s constant descriptions of how plain/boring she is). Cece, Olivia’s cousin, is vibrant and silly, characteristics built to hide a deep pain that she can’t quite let go. Both of these women have a kindness in their souls that shone through the  narrative, despite Rachel’s constant put-downs.

If The Other Daughter had taken a different track with the main character, I think it would have been brilliant. The lack of character in Rachel and the weak romance hurt the story quite a bit and put me off the book altogether.

2 Stars

Posted June 3, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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February 29, 2016

Review | Gathering Frost by Kaitlyn Davis

Review | Gathering Frost by Kaitlyn DavisGathering Frost by Kaitlyn Davis
Series: Once Upon a Curse, #1
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, February 2015
Pages: 304
Format: Ebook
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Will his kiss be enough to revive her frozen heart?
Once Upon A Time meets La Femme Nikita in GATHERING FROST, a dystopian romance from bestselling author Kaitlyn Davis that reimagines the classic fairy tale of Sleeping Beauty.

Jade was only a little girl when the earthquake struck. Before her eyes, half of New York City disappeared, replaced by a village that seemed torn out of a storybook. Horses and carriages. Cobblestone streets. A towering castle. And, above all, a queen with the magical ability to strip emotions away.

Ten years later and Jade has forgotten what it is to feel, to care...even to love. Working as a member of the queen's guard, she spends most of her time on the city wall staring at the crumbling skyscrapers of old New York. But everything changes when the queen's runaway son, Prince Asher, returns. Jade is tasked with an unusual mission--to let the Prince capture her, to make him trust her, and then to betray his secrets to the crown. In return, she'll earn her freedom. But life outside the queen's realm is more than Jade bargained for. Under Asher's relentless taunts, her blood begins to boil. Under his piercing gaze, her heart begins to flutter. And the more her icy soul begins to thaw, the more Jade comes to question everything she's ever known--and, more importantly, whose side she's really on.

In a world torn apart by magic, half of present day New York City stands abandoned next to a village straight out of a fairy tale, complete with a castle looming over the city, horses, carriages, and, of course, magic. Jade remembers the moment she ran out of her mother’s arms to see the beautiful queen. It was the last time she felt a true emotion. Now Jade stands a loyal guard to that same queen, emotionless and cold. When she’s tasked with retrieving the queen’s rebel son and bringing him back to the castle, her world will change forever.

Sounds like a pretty amazing story, right? The opening scenes of New York falling to Queen Deirdre’s magic were fascinating, entrancing, and an encouraging sign of what lay ahead in Gathering Frost. Unfortunately, when Davis created Jade the cold warrior, she made her so emotionless, it was near impossible to connect with her.

I get it – Jade’s a Blackheart, the only female member of the queen’s guard, anointed by Her Majesty herself. It’s an honor and requires cold calculation in the character. But when Jade meets Asher, the objective of her secret mission, and begins to fall in love with him, it’s doesn’t quite match – how can this woman who thinks of herself solely as a soldier fall in love with the object of her mission without a qualm?

Davis does provide a reason – View Spoiler » – but the hard soldier of the early chapters and warm woman of the later ones make it hard to connect the two.

I didn’t quite buy the sudden romance, either. There was no buildup, just wham. I waned more, a bit of a conflict, a conversation, something.

Davis’ worldbuiling, however, was fantastic. The contrast between the rebels and the queen’s realm were intriguing. Her version of magic was Gathering Frost‘s saving grace. I was fascinated by the battles, the magic that split New York, and the confusion of the characters who remembered when the world was whole, when showers were a daily luxury, and when electricity provided the light.

All in all, Gathering Frost didn’t have the connections between Jade the soldier and Jade the woman to make me fall in love with the story. The worldbuilding, while amazing, wasn’t enough.

2 Stars

Posted February 29, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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