Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Review: Adultolescence by Gabbie Hanna

About the Book

Adultolescence by Gabbie Hanna
Published by Atria/Keywords Press on September 19, 2017

Neither the author nor the publisher requested this review.

GoodReads Description

Comedian Gabbie Hanna brings levity to the twists and turns of modern adulthood in this exhilarating debut collection of illustrated poetry.

In poems ranging from the singsong rhythms of children’s verses to a sophisticated confessional style, Gabbie explores what it means to feel like a kid and an adult all at once, revealing her own longings, obsessions, and insecurities along the way. Adultolescence announces the arrival of a brilliant new voice with a magical ability to connect through alienation, cut to the profound with internet slang, and detonate wickedly funny jokes between moments of existential dread. You’ll turn to the last page because you get her, and you’ll return to the first because she gets you.

My Thoughts

So far, Adultolescence claims the travelling trophy for "Hardest Book to Review in 2018."  There were parts that made me laugh and cry.  There were parts that hit so close to home it was unreal.  And then there was the grammar...ouch.

Now, don't get me wrong.  I understand that this is a book of poetry and that poetry doesn't have to be formatted the same way as prose.  HOWEVER I had a really hard time with all of the use of text speech.  "rn" and "bc" really annoyed me after a while.  The most frustrating part, though, was that the personal pronoun "I" was never capitalized.  I understand that overall her abhorrent use of grammar and her lack of capitalization was an artistic choice.  What I don't understand is how she can pen so many poems that talk about individuality and the importance of being yourself, but SHE DOESN'T FREAKING CAPITALIZE THE I.  When I teach this concept to my students, I tell them that we capitalize it because they matter.  I specifically make them say "I capitalize I because I matter."  I want them to develop positive self-thoughts and to develop as independent individuals.  How can someone who claims to do so ignore the capitalization here?  Alternatively, how am I that anal?  (I'm curious, tell me in the comments...)

This book is chock full of comical moments.  The illustrations are delightful and truly do a terrific job of sending home Hanna's messages.  There are a variety of overarching themes, and I believe that all of them would be beneficial to high school students.  I am not sure that I would choose to buy it for my classroom library, mainly because curse words are common and there is talk of getting drunk and hangovers.  In my school, these are not community standard.

Overall, I enjoyed this book.  I think Hanna intended it more for college students, but I most definitely believe that high school students will be able to relate to parts of it as well.

My Rating

Monday, March 19, 2018

Promo Post! Galatine's Curse by T.J. Green

Galatine’s Curse
T.J. Green
(Tom’s Arthurian Legacy, #3)
Publication date: March 20th 2018
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
An ancient sword. A dark secret. A new enemy.
In the third book in the series, Tom has established a new life in the Otherworld, a life he loves. He lives with Arthur in New Camelot, and Arthur is hosting a tournament. Eager to test his sword-fighting skills, Tom’s competing. But while the games are being played, his friends are attacked and everything he loves is threatened. Tom has to find the intruder before anyone else gets hurt.
Tom’s sword, Galatine, seems to be the focus of these attacks. Their investigations uncover Galatine’s dark history and a terrible betrayal that a family has kept secret for generations. But this secret now puts others at risk, including Tom, and he realises that he could lose everything unless he can solve the mystery of his sword’s past.
Galatine’s Curse is the third book in the YA Arthurian fantasy series, Tom’s Arthurian Legacy. If you enjoy magic and mystery, a strong group of characters and Arthurian fantasy, then you’ll love this action-filled adventure.
Buy Galatine’s Curse for your thrilling new fantasy adventure today!
They shuffled towards the light, and Tom gasped. The passage had opened out, and they were on a narrow shelf, looking out across a large cave that twinkled with a faint blue glow. Far below them was a lake lit from beneath, reminding Tom of Ceridwen’s Cauldron.
“Where’s the light coming from?” Tom asked, as he craned round to look at the cave. It was almost circular, and although the lake was a long way down, the roof seemed far above them too.
“Great Goddess!” Nimue murmured. “It must be coming from daystar sapphires.” She pointed. “There are hundreds set into the cavern walls.”
“What are those? I’ve never heard of them,” Brenna said.
“Very rare stones with strong magical properties,” Nimue replied. “Only those who practise magic use them, and they’re very hard to get.” She gazed around with wonder.
“And yet Raghnall seems to have had his own enormous supply,” Arthur said.
“I wonder,” Merlin said, “could they have been used in Filtiarn’s spell?”
A narrow walkway ran off to their right before petering out, and Merlin felt his way along, heading towards where a smattering of stones came within reach.
“Maybe,” Nimue murmured, deep in thought. “They have the ability to enhance any spell, but the power actually makes them dangerous. I have never used them, even when I had some. If they’re used incorrectly, they can cause what I can only describe as a magical explosion.”
“That’s a long way down,” Bloodmoon said, peering over the edge. He picked up a stone and dropped it. It was several seconds before they heard a faint splash. “I think there’s something down there.”
“Like what?” Tom said, alarmed.
Beansprout dropped to her knees, better to look over the edge. “Can you see that black shape against the blue? It looks like it’s circling around.”
“It’s getting bigger,” Woodsmoke said. “Is that because it’s getting closer?” He looked at Bloodmoon, annoyed. “Have you woken something?”
“I only dropped a stone in!” he said, indignant. “Whatever it is, it’s a long way down. You worry too much, Woodsmoke!”
Before anyone else could comment there was an enormous splash and the black shape emerged from the water, silhouetted against the blue. The shape kept coming, and then a spurt of fire emerged from the blackness, followed by the familiar roar of a dragon.
“It’s a bloody great dragon,” Arthur yelled, pulling Excalibur free with a hiss. “Run!”
But Merlin was still at the end of the ledge, examining the stones.
“Merlin, get a bloody move on!” Arthur yelled, preparing to fight as they stood mesmerised by the dragon’s approach.
And suddenly Tom was aware of Galatine, trembling, its hilt warm to the touch. “How can it live in water?” he shouted as he pulled Galatine free, its opals now swirling furiously.
“Water dragon,” Nimue yelled above the roar, “very vicious, and territorial.”
A blinding white light emitted from her hands, held palms forward, forming a wall in front of them just as the dragon drew level and released another stream of fire.
They instinctively ducked, but the shield held, turning into a wall of flame as the fire hit it. Beyond, the dragon flapped its enormous wings and fixed them with a vicious stare before flying round to circle back, its huge wing span creating a rush of air.
“Wow!” Tom said, rising to his feet and looking with new appreciation at Nimue.
Merlin stumbled, and Arthur ran to him, helping him to his feet. Woodsmoke and Bloodmoon had already drawn their arrows in case the shield failed.
“Get a move on, Merlin,” Nimue commanded icily. She turned to Beansprout. “Join your hand to mine, and hold your other hand out, like me.”
Without hesitating, Beansprout did as she asked, and Tom saw her stiffen as a wave of power travelled through her, strengthening the shield.
Tom watched the dragon turn back towards them, dripping with phosphorescent water, like a sheen of blue fire racing along its wings and dripping down its jaw. It was magnificent and terrifying all at the same time.

Author Bio:
T J Green was born in England, but moved to New Zealand 10 years ago. She currently lives near Wellington with her partner and her cats Sacha and Leia. When not writing she does lots of reading, gardening and yoga.
In a previous life she's been a singer in a band, and has done some acting with a theatre company - both of which were lots of fun. On occasions she and a few friends make short films, which begs the question, where are the book trailers? Thinking on it ...
Tom's Inheritance is TJ Green's first book in the series Tom’s Arthurian Legacy, the sequel Twice Born was released in February 2017. Galatine’s Curse, book 3, will be released in March 2018. She is also working on a few short stories which further expand the world of Tom in the Other.
Her new project is an urban fantasy series about witches.


Friday, March 16, 2018

What Inspires Natasha Lane? An Author Interview

Welcome to my stop on Natasha Lane's tour!  I haven't had the opportunity to read this book quite yet, but I'm definitely planning to!  It sounds so amazing and I'm so excited to share it with you!

About the Book

When Sarah was four, she promised her mother she would be a good girl -- a proper young lady in their small country town -- and that she would ignore the creatures who appeared to her and whispered in her ear of things unknown. But like all creatures of myth and legend, they won’t be ignored forever.

Now thirteen, Sarah is attacked by a wolf with poisonous black fur and strange, human-looking eyes. With the help of a few unexpected friends, she manages to survive the attack but soon discovers the creatures have returned. They want Sarah to find a powerful gemstone and bring it to them in Lyrica, their magical homeworld.

Her new friends urge caution, however. There may be more monsters like the black wolf. And the creatures themselves are frightening. Can Sarah trust them? Stuck between reality and imagination, her mother’s wishes and her own desires, Sarah faces an impossible choice – break her promise or do nothing to save a world in peril.

A Chat with Natasha Lane

Ms. J: What motivated you to start writing?

Natasha Lane: I don’t think there was really any one thing that motivated me. I always enjoyed reading and I think that love of reading just transitioned into a love of writing, as well. I know that when I was in my teens and even today, actually, writing acted as an outlet for me. I could freely express myself, all of me, in writing which is probably one of the reasons I kept so many diaries. So, I guess reading was a way for me to escape, while writing was - is- a way for me to express myself and fight back against anything that tried to suppress me.

Name the first book that made you cry.

The first book? Okay, that’s a hard one because I’ve read so many books over the years. But, if I had to pick, I’d say She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb. It may not be the first book that made me cry but it is one of the books that did. I was older than thirteen when I read the book but once a chubby kid, always a chubby kid. I still had those self-esteem issues and I still recognized my own struggles with self-love and weight. So, when I was reading about Dolores, it was like I was reading about myself.

Describe your favorite book from your childhood.

If we’re talking about young childhood, I’d have to pick The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister. I had the special cover where the fish was raised up, so you could smooth your hands over its scales and it was just covered in glitter. Basically, candy for a crazy, artistic kid like me. I also liked that the Rainbow Fish was selfless and cared more about making her friends happy.

What are some of the themes you often include in your stories?

Like most people, I’m a sucker for a good underdog story. I enjoy taking characters that aren’t exactly extraordinary or they may even be a little messed up and putting them in situations where they get to shine. I try to emphasize the importance of founded families, friendship, kindness, willpower, self-love and courage. To name a few.

Do you view writing as a kind of spiritual practice?

I think for some people it is. It’s spiritual for me but only to a certain extent, depending on how you define spiritual. I think, for me, writing is more of a therapeutic practice. It helps me clear things up that I can’t really make sense of otherwise. Sometimes when I go back and read my writing rants, everything just comes in clearer.

Name a book that has had a significant impact on your writing.

1984 by George Orwell. I didn’t like every book that was required reading in high school but 1984 is an exception. The book was one of my first sci-fi, dystopian reads but what really got me about it (besides the the basic concept and world building) was the ending. Up until then, I had never read a book where there wasn’t a happy ending. 1984 reminded me that stories don’t have to have happy endings to be good.

Do you believe in writer’s block?

Yes! It is so real. I don’t get it often but when I do it hits me hard. Usually, if I’ve stretched myself too far, like there are too many tasks on my to-do lists, my brain shuts down. I think it’s my body’s way of telling me “No more writing until you relax!”

What does literary success look like to you? 

Obviously, being able to live off my writing, at least in part, would be great. However, what matters most to me is that I spark something in readers like the books I read sparked feelings in me. Hopefully, all those feelings are positive but just to cause a reaction in readers, to get them to think, to question and to rile them up, would be success to me.

About the Author

Natasha D. Lane is a friend of most things caffeinated, a lover of books, and a writing warrior to her core. As a big believer in the idea that “the pen is mightier than the sword,” she graduated from Juniata College in 2015 with hopes of becoming a journalist. While she still holds on to that dream, after spending some time in the corporate world and then completing a year of service, she decided it was time to return to publishing. Her first fantasy novel “The Pariah Child & the Ever-Giving Stone” is one of several works she plans on completing. If there were a single piece of advice Natasha could give to young writers, it’d be this: Write your way through life. 


Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Queen of Corona
Publication date: December 15th 2017
Genres: Contemporary, New Adult
Roza is a mixed-up kid. Eighteen years old and on the threshold of adulthood, she feels powerless in the face of a world that hasn’t adequately prepared her for adult life. She is riddled with anxiety about the world’s problems, the problems of her classmates at an inner-city high school in Corona, Queens. As an American of multicultural heritage (Polish-Jewish on her mother’s side, Venezuelan on her father’s) she struggles to find her place in society where the odds are stacked against people like her.

At the outset, she is on an airplane heading to Warsaw – the city of her ancestors, a city she’d never been to before. The city her mother had fled from in the 1980s because of an article she’d written that had offended the authorities. Roza’s voyage is a kind of reverse immigration – she’s escaping from America back to Poland because of a student protest that ended in tragedy. She alludes to the protest and its bloody end throughout the novel, with flashbacks tormenting her traumatized mind to the very end. When she arrives in Warsaw, she struggles to come to terms with what happened and what part she played in the tragedy. She grapples with the concept of guilt and blame – were the students to blame for what happened or was it the fault of overzealous police? She weighs how fear quells courage in an oppressive society. She confronts the grey reality of post-war Warsaw and realizes that there’s very little of it that she can identify with. She retraces history’s steps through the Polish capital and the former ghetto of WW2. 
Her longing for home is visceral, reflected in the flashbacks of school and relationships that are woven through her daily existence. Flashbacks that reflect the absurdity of the inner-city high school experience, where kids are meant to learn an inimical thread of history that has little to do with their own reality, that places many of them in the position of the conquered and exploited. 
Queen of Corona is a look into the inner life of the inner city. A foray into the mind and heart of a young woman on the cusp of adulthood, torn from her destiny because she dared to stand up and speak up for those who don’t have a voice. A glimpse inside the hopeless hallways of New York City’s failing public schools. It is a coming-of-age novel in a tumultuous time. It is a lesson on how fear is the most dangerous aspect of our Trumped-up existence.

My Thoughts

I received an eARC of this novel from the author in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.

Reader beware: This book will make you uncomfortable.  This book will make you question what you think you know.  How do I know this?  Because that's what it did for me. I'll admit it, I'm Minnesota Nice.  I believe that all people, especially women, should have the utmost respect for themselves.  It was absolutely heartbreaking for me to read a novel where the protagonist sees anything but herself as worthwhile.  What hit even closer to home, however, is that I do teach at a low income school.  That I do work with students that I am positive see themselves and the educational system the same way that Roza does.  Personally, I try to make school relevant to my kids.  But, I know that's not all of us.  I know that it's hard to think of tomorrow when you aren't sure where tonight's meal will come from.  This book definitely points out what's going wrong.  It's not all sunshine and roses.  But I think it's what we, as a country, need to see. 

As for character development, I loved Roza as much as I wanted to scream at her.  She is a headstrong and determined young lady who I admire for standing for her beliefs.  However, I wish she demanded more respect for herself.  Too often, I found her putting herself into compromising situations only to be surprised by the way things ended.  Honestly, I want to grab her, shake her and scream "What were you thinking!?!?!?!" So, kudos to Esterhazy for writing such a believable and antagonizing protagonist.  

Overall, I hated the writing style of this novel.  I liked that Esterhazy took the time to write as Roza would think, but it was difficult to follow the timeline which took a lot of the joy of reading this piece away from me.  I like to know when in the timeline I am, even if I'm in a flashback.  Maybe add some dates or a small mark to let the audience know that they're headed into, or out of, yet another flashback.

The ending made me so angry, I actually screamed at my Ol' Man when I was done.  I can't say much without spoiling it, but I wanted to cry.  It's possible that what upset me the most was how fucking realistic it was.  It hits ya right in the feels because you know it's real.

My Rating

Author Bio:
Esterhazy is a journalist, writer and translator. A native New Yorker, she holds degrees in Comparative Literature from New York University and American Studies from the University of Warsaw. Queen of Corona is her debut novel.


Monday, March 5, 2018

Book Review: The Muse by Arjay Lewis

About the Book

Published by Arjay Entertainment, Inc. on August 10, 2017

I received a copy of this novel from the author in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.

GoodReads Description

WINNER in the Horror Category at both the 2017 Beverly Hills Book Awards and the 2017 NYC Big Book Awards. 5 Star rating at Horror Novel Reviews.

Famed novelist Jack Court has a secret: the wealthy writer is a serial killer. He has another hidden treasure, a small antediluvian creature that dwells within his body and gives him youth, strength and a superhuman ability to avoid capture. On his trail is Sheriff Neil Trajan, who is certain Court murdered his wife three years earlier.

When the author is hit by a careless driver, the creature leaves him and through a series of events, ends up with lowly writer, Harold Godwine. Godwine begins to write faster and better, but is troubled by dreams of blood.

However, Jack is healing and devolving into something not quite human. As Court seeks the young author, he leaves a trail of destruction, pursued by Trajan and his FBI associate, Bill Morris.

Will Jack Court do anything to retrieve the companion that inspires his dark desires?

My Thoughts

I love horror films.  I love horror novels.  The Muse is phenomenal!  

Allow me to begin by telling you just how freaking amazing these characters are.  They are so stinking believable and so incredibly human.  I've been trying to write this review for two days now and I still can't pick a favorite character.  I love just how real Trajan's pain is and how fully he loves and devotes himself to avenging his wife.  I admire Godwine's perseverance and his dedication to his family.  Court is the bad guy we all hate to admit that we love. At the end of the day, we all have something that we would be motivated to murder by. (If you touch my coffee, you'll see that motivation first hand.)

Lewis is blessed with a terrific storytelling ability. His adjectives and strong, active verbs bring the story to life.  I usually notice small things that don't make logical sense when I read.  Lewis made that search absolutely impossible.  Any little thing that I questioned was immediately responded to in his writing.  I love that he easily discovered and answered any questions his audience would have.  What a wonderful talent!

I try to think of at least one piece of constructive criticism for every novel that I review.  I only have one teeny tiny complaint. Personally, I didn't think it was scary enough.  I enjoyed every twist and turn and never wanted to put this book down.  It was so exciting!  So jam-packed with adventure! I can definitely see where others would think it was scary, it just didn't push my fear button.  Granted, this may be because I have been watching horror films and reading Stephen King since before my eighth birthday.  Maybe that's just something wrong with me...

I definitely recommend this novel to any fans of the horror or adventure genres, particularly Stephen King's fans.  

My Rating

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Cover Reveal and Giveaway! Slippers and Thieves by Christina Bauer

Slippers And Thieves
Christina Bauer
(Fairy Tales of the Magicorum #3)
Published by: Monster House Books
Publication date: TBA
Genres: Paranormal, Young Adult
Years ago, Elle—never call her Cinderella—escaped her evil step family in order to build a new life for herself in Manhattan. Today, Elle’s awful past is a distant memory. In fact, Elle even attends West Lake Prep, an exclusive high school where regular humans mix with members of the Magicorum, such as fairies, shifters and witches. Although she still must live in hiding from her evil stepfamily, Elle has always found ways to get whatever her heart desires.
That is, until Alec Le Charme.
Alec is the heir to the Le Charme dynasty of high-end jewelers. He’s also kind, charismatic, has a knee-melting smile. Elle has fallen for him, hard. Unfortunately, thanks to Elle’s evil step family, Alec is absolutely off limits. In fact, if Elle and Alec so much as kiss, it will start a magical chain reaction that would end in powerful factions of witches and wizards going to war. As a result, Elle and Alec vow to stay friends, no matter what. Then West Lake Prep holds a masquerade ball. Identities get mixed up and forbidden kisses are finally shared.
Time for the Magicorum to go to war, and for Elle to confront her hidden past in ways she never thought possible.
Previous books in the series:

Author Bio:
Christina Bauer knows how to tell stories about kick-ass women. In her best selling Angelbound series, the heroine is a part-demon girl who loves to fight in Purgatory’s Arena and falls in love with a part-angel prince. This young adult best seller has driven more than 500,000 ebook downloads and 9,000 reviews on Goodreads and retailers.
Bauer has also told the story of the Women’s March on Washington by leading PR efforts for the Massachusetts Chapter. Her pre-event press release—the only one sent out on a major wire service—resulted in more than 19,000 global impressions and redistribution by over 350 different media entities including the Associated Press.
Christina graduated from Syracuse University’s Newhouse School with BA’s in English along with Television, Radio, and Film Production. She lives in Newton, MA with her husband, son, and semi-insane golden retriever, Ruby.

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Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Review: Cinderella (As Retold by Mike Klaassen)

About the Book

Published by BookBaby on February 15, 2018

I received an eARC of this novella in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.

GoodReads Description

An Orphaned Domestic Slave Discovers the Magic Within Herself.

On Cinderella's eighteenth birthday, the king announces a series of three grand balls in which Prince Willem will select a bride. Cinderella attends the first ball but flees when she realizes that she is a witch. Accused by her stepmother of being a dreaded temptress, Cinderella flees the second ball.

Determined to gain Willem's love, Cinderella attends the third ball only to flee again when she foresees imminent invasion by barbarians. Is the kingdom doomed, or can Cinderella use her newfound powers to save the day?

Cinderella is part of the Klaassen's Classic Tales collection of ancient stories first published in the early 1800s, now enhanced for the 21st century.

If you liked Hansel and Gretel and The Frog Prince, you'll love this novella. Rediscover the enchantment of Cinderella today!

My Thoughts

Although I enjoy reading retold fairy tales, they are often difficult for me to review.  After all, the plot and characters that I'm enjoying are not creations of the author's imagination.  The challenge, then, becomes to judge how well an author is able to make the story their own.  In this case, Klaassen met the challenge.

Klaassen's retelling of Cinderella is chock full of vivid descriptions.  He makes sure to provide every detail of Ella's surroundings as she goes throughout her home as well as to and from each of the balls.  He masterfully describes the scenery, the other characters' attitudes, and even the animals' behavior.  Of these descriptions, I believe the most beautiful is Klaassen's description of Ella getting ready for the first ball.  I won't spoil it here, but it is a definite treat!

Unfortunately, not all of Klaassen's descriptions were as beautiful as his descriptions of scenery, animals, and attitudes.  In each novel/novella that I read, I look for the connections and relationships between characters.  I understood why Ella and her stepmother were at odds, but the relationship between Ella and her stepsisters needed to be better defined.  The reader should want to hate them as much as the stepmother, if not more!  Klaassen was also wary about truly setting the scene for his retelling.  Laws and beliefs of the time period it is set in are brought up, but never explained.  Therefore, there are sections that should frighten the reader that just fall flat. Even worse, however, are the sections that Klaassen wanted the audience to feel Ella's pain and apprehension, but the audience does not have the information to do so.  

Overall, I enjoyed this story.  I definitely recommend it to fairy tale fans!

My Rating

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Review: The Apostate Prince

About the Book

Published by Art of the Arcane on October 1, 2017

GoodReads Description

Eighteen years have passed since Justin’s mother broke the God of Light’s curse, freeing humans from the bonds of slavery. Justin is heir to the throne of the Dark Empire his mother built from the ashes, but he is a Red Wizard, an order opposed to the war between the religions of darkness and light - an apostate.

But when a beautiful red-haired knight comes for vengeance, prophesying return of the storm dragons and wielding a sword of light, the fuse of war is lit. To stop it, Justin can no longer sit on the sidelines. Torn between family and love, he will have to make a choice, and put his faith in someone or something other than his magic.

My Thoughts

After reviewing Dark Communion, I was ecstatic when Perry asked me to review The Apostate Prince.  Now, I'm excited to share my review with you.

Just like in Dark Communion, Perry spends a lot of time creating fantastic characters.  I loved that he was able to build not only shape shifting characters, but characters who struggled so much with their identity.  Justin became more realistic as the story progressed.  My favorite character, however, was Celia.  I admire her dedication to her father after his death and appreciated her bravery.  I absolutely died at the end of the book because of her actions.

Perry outdid himself when he described each of the battle scenes.  I felt like I was part of the action and found myself waiting for the characters to burst out of my Kindle.  Way to go, Perry!

Unfortunately, there were a few places where I thought Perry could have done a better job.  Even though I had read Dark Communion, it was difficult to remember enough to make sense of this story in certain places.  Too often, Perry made references to the first book without giving a reader enough information to truly recall the event.  Therefore, this is not a standalone novel and should be read immediately after finishing the first installment.

Additionally, Perry waited far too long to get into the meat of the action.  I know that there was a lot of information he wanted to share with the audience, but I felt that this could be done alongside the action.  In my opinion, he waited because he wanted the audience to really get to know Justin before the information started.  I just wish he had found a different way to do so.

Overall, I truly enjoyed this book.  I'm not sure if there are plans for a third book, but I hope there are and I hope it gets here soon!

My Thoughts

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Review: Happyland: A Fairy Tale in Two Parts

About the Book

Happyland: A Fairy Tale in Two Parts by Tes Mekonnen illustrated by Anthony Resto

GoodReads Description

Would you like to court me to Happyland?" Prince Gobbledygook asks Lily Marshmallow and himself. Therein the journey begins to find Happyland. Follow him as he tries to define happiness with a little help from his friends, Big Wig Sophisticated Pig, Brutus Beaujolais and Cornelius Wordbook, an English gentleman with a book-for-a-head. Prince Gobbledygook duels, loses his ladylove, regains his original name and gains a friendship that will last for fourforevers. Will they make it to Happyland?

My Thoughts

Before I really get into the meaty part of this review, can we please just stare in awe at that cover?!?!?  I am absolutely in love with it and with all of the art in this book!  Resto can start designing tattoos for me whenever he wants! It's gorgeous!

Although the illustrations could tell the story by themselves, Mekonnen did a wonderful job writing a story to give Resto something to draw.  The diction put me off from the story at the very beginning, but the more that I read, the more I understood. I felt like I was reading a different version of Slaughterhouse Five because of the way the word choice affected my understanding.  It definitely takes some willingness to be imaginative and childlike to read this book.

The novel is filled with a plethora of witty word plays.  These kept me giggling the entire way through.  I won't spoil any of them now, but I do want to congratulate Mekonnen on the ability to be so funny in such an already goofy tale.  If Mekonnen is nervous about adding flair to his writing, he did not show it in this piece!

My favorite part of this novel, and the reason this book will most likely find its way into my classroom library, is because of the wonderful morals that are presented at the end of every chapter.  Mekonnen takes the time to give not only an example, he spells out the moral for the audience.  I admire his ability to find the moral in the fun.

By far, my favorite character was Prince Gobbledygook!  He was an absolute gentleman who wanted nothing more than happiness for himself and his love.  Such a sweet guy!  Despite his positive qualities, he had a few obvious flaws.  These definitely brought his character from the page to real life.

With every favorite character comes a least favorite-Prince Hobo.  Jiminy Christmas!  What an annoying pain in the neck!  I spent a lot of time hoping that he would just shut his trap and go away.  Although that happens, it's a bit too close to the last page of the novel for my taste.

Mekonnen did a wonderful job spelling out most of the lessons he hopes to teach by this novel but there is one thing that I cannot figure out.  Throughout the novel, Lily is the only female present.  She is portrayed as a weak, aloof, and unintelligent woman who needs a man to be happy.  She is not seen as a person by the two princes, but rather as an item or a piece of property to be won.  I am not sure what Mekonnen was trying to do here.  Is this Mekonnen's way of stating that is his belief of women?  Is it simply an artistic choice to make Lily seem like the protagonist when all along Prince Gobbledygook is the important one?  Is Lily simply there to illustrate the growth that Prince Gobbledygook goes through as he seeks happiness?  I like to think that it's the latter.

Overall, I enjoyed this book!  I definitely recommend it to fans of Kurt Vonnegut Jr. and Lewis Carroll.

My Rating

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Review: The Merciless

About the Book

Published by Razorbill on June 9, 2015

GoodReads Description

Brooklyn Stevens sits in a pool of her own blood, tied up and gagged. No one outside of these dank basement walls knows she’s here. No one can hear her scream.

Sofia Flores knows she shouldn’t have gotten involved. When she befriended Riley, Grace, and Alexis on her first day at school, she admired them, with their perfect hair and their good-girl ways. They said they wanted to save Brooklyn. They wanted to help her. Sofia didn’t realize they believed Brooklyn was possessed.

Now, Riley and the girls are performing an exorcism on Brooklyn—but their idea of an exorcism is closer to torture than salvation. All Sofia wants is to get out of this house. But there is no way out. Sofia can’t go against the other girls...unless she wants to be next.

By the shockingly twisted end, readers will be faced with the most haunting question of all: Is there evil in all of us?

My Thoughts

The Merciless is definitely a difficult book to review.  After all, it was everything I expected it to be. Each of the reviews that I read likened it to Mean Girls and those reviewers were most definitely not exaggerating.

Let's start with the positives.  Vega definitely pays attention to detail!  She wants her audience to feel the mental pain and physical anguish the characters go through, and she does not spare any effort, verb, or adjective in this endeavor.  I was truly impressed with her writing style in this area.

However, I did not enjoy this book very much overall.  Many of the characters felt rushed and underdeveloped and even though I just finished this book a week ago, I remember very little of the plot.  I remember enough to know that I would not purchase this series for my classroom library as many of the parents would be upset by the graphic violence and religious themes.

Many of the reviewers who spoke about this book mentioned the surprise ending.  I'd like to take a moment to do exactly that.  The ending is the part of this book that I remember the best.  The insane character development and added suspense delighted me.  Despite these positive portions, I cannot ignore the fact that the ending seemed too drawn out and felt too easily pulled together.  It was as if Vega was so exhausted by her efforts to create imagery that she was unable to create a terrific denouement.

In fact, the ending of this book encouraged me to give the second book in the series a chance.  I made it through 109 pages before I chose to DNF.  This was largely because I felt that, again, the characters and plot were underdeveloped and flat.

I would recommend this book to fans of Mean Girls and to individuals who are seeking short term, thoughtless entertainment.  

My Rating