Friday, August 22, 2014

Evil Fairies Love Hair: Review, Guest Post, Giveaway (US)



Release Date: August 5, 2014
Publisher: Clarion Books
Pages: 320
Received: ARC from publisher
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Goodreads

Okay, so I accepted this book for review because it sounded like a cute middle grade book, and we all know I have a weakness for cute middle grade books. Plus, it looked funny, which I love. And then there's that cover, which makes me want to hug it and pinch its too-adorable-for-words cheeks.

So I figured it'd be solid. But, like most middle grade books, I was fully expecting it to be Good, but not blow-my-mind GREAT.

I wasn't expecting it to keep me up hours after I should have been asleep. I wasn't expecting it to make me delay dinner because I was too absorbed in reading to care about eating. I wasn't expecting to come home and immediately drop everything and go all LEAVE ME ALONE I AM READING

I did kind of expect to not be able to explain to my husband what was going on in the book and actually sound sane. I mean, look at the title. And that little bald fairy doing the "Please sir, may I have some more?" complete with puppy dog eyes. The charm and hilarity of that type of plot aren't the sort of things you can communicate coherently.

Let alone the zany things that happened, which I couldn't have possibly predicted and won't even attempt to describe. I couldn't stop laughing and just when I thought an absurdly funny scene couldn't be topped Mary G. Thompson would pull out another (or a drawing!) and I'd be rolling.

There was never a dull moment, and while part of this is because the action was steadily brisk (though not breakneck), part of it is due to the fact that I've never read a book quite like this.

First off, there's lore. You know I love lore. Especially when it's dolled out in bits and pieces and where each piece is more hilarious and absurd than the last but somehow they all fit together to form a very well developed and totally unique world.

Then there's the characters. I was surprised at how attached to them I felt and how invested I was in them (both in their dilemma and their little romance). I even liked the fairies (though they're definitely evil, as I've said ALL ALONG). 

There's also this whole wish thing that made me spend a ton of hours contemplating what I would pick and if I'd been willing to grow a flock of evil fairies in exchange (I did try to have this conversation with my husband because I love this type of mental exercise, but I think the fairy flock part might have undermined the conversation a little). 

Bottom line

I am shocked at how much I enjoyed Evil Fairies Love Hair. It's definitely making me feel the "must force everyone I know to read this book" urge. I had so much fun with this book.
     

Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key 
________________________________




Looking for another book like this?
You might like:
http://smallreview.blogspot.com/2012/09/book-review-claws-by-mike-grinti-and.htmlhttp://smallreview.blogspot.com/2012/05/book-review-giveaways-heros-guide-to.html


 Click on the pictures to go to my reviews.

Info for the giveaway:
  • What you can win: A finished copy of Evil Fairies Love Hair by Mary G. Thompson
  • As always, you do NOT have to be a follower
  • This giveaway is USA only
  • You must be 13 years of age or older
  • One entry per person
  • I will contact the winner through email and the winner will have 24 hours to reply before a new winner is chosen 
  • This giveaway closes on September 10th 




Mary G. Thompson was born and raised in Cottage Grove and Eugene, Oregon. She was a practicing attorney for more than seven years, including almost five years in the U.S. Navy, before she moved to New York City to write full time. This is her third novel. Visit her website at marygthompson.com.

My First Book With Illustrations by Mary G. Thompson

Evil Fairies Love Hair marks a huge milestone for me—my first book with illustrations! I knew the book had to have illustrations shortly into writing it, when I had the idea that the fairy directions would have images. So as I was writing, I did some drawings as part of the directions, but they were terrible! I wanted the fairies’ drawings to be a little childish, but mine weren’t even up to five-year-old level! That’s why I was so lucky that Clarion Books found Blake Henry to do the real illustrations for the book. He took the basic ideas that I put into my sketches and really made them come alive. I was so excited when I saw the final versions! Here is an example of my version versus the artist’s:


 Yeah, Blake Henry’s version is a little better than mine! I mean, Hannah and Deacon are not stick figures and have actual bodies! In every instance, the artist was able to capture exactly what I was going for. I’m okay with the fact that art isn’t my biggest strength. I’ll let the professional illustrators do the hard work. I hope readers appreciate it as much as I do!

Mon, Aug 11
Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers   

Tues, Aug 12
The Book Monsters

Wed, Aug 13   
The Children's Book Review

Thurs, Aug 14
Cracking the Cover

Fri, Aug 15
Read Now, Sleep Later

Sat, Aug 16
Beauty and the Bookshelf

Mon Aug 18
Word Spelunking 

Tues, Aug 19
Flashlight Reader  

Wed, Aug 20
The Compulsive Reader

Thurs, Aug 21
The Haunting of Orchid Forsythia

Fri, Aug 22   
Small Review

Mon, Aug 25
The Hiding Spot
   


Download the free activity and Reader’s Theatre kit at http://marygthompson.com/Mary_G._Thompson/Main.html!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Book Review: The Forbidden Queen by Anne O'Brien



Release Date: March 1, 2013
Publisher: Harlequin Mira
Pages: 491
Received: Own
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Goodreads

Well, that was disappointing.

Is it Anne O'Brien or Katherine of Valois? I'm not sure which lady is the culprit but I'm guessing both are to blame. "Blame" is probably too harsh a world though, because really this wasn't a bad book, it just wasn't what I was looking for.

What I wanted was Historical fiction, heavy on the historical details. I wanted an engaging Katherine who I could root for and who would come alive off the pages. I wanted to be thrust right in the thick of all of the politics that swirled between the reigns of Henry V (he of Agincourt fame) and Henry VI (the deposed Lancastrian king in the War of the Roses).

What I got instead was a (very) peripheral view of some events and a whole lot of romance. But not even bodice ripping romance. More like pining, longing, talking romance ("Oh I wish he would love me!" "But we cannot act upon our love!" "I'm so lonely, and look at his gleaming chest!"). Which isn't awful, but it did get pretty boring stretched out over 491 pages.

I suspect Anne O'Brien had enough historical fodder at her disposal to flesh out the politics, and I KNOW she could have included more "time and place" type details, but I also know she only had so much to work with having Katherine as her main character.

Katherine is a historical wallpaper character. She's more well known for her "wife of" or "mother of" tags than for anything she actually did (except her choice to become a scandalous "wife of").

What is known tends to paint her as somewhat dim and politically uninvolved. So, while lots of stuff was happening around Katherine, Anne O'Brien is probably pretty spot on in keeping her version largely out of the fracas. I'll buy that and even give points for historical accuracy (even as I detract points for a few choice inaccuracies that still make me cringe), but that doesn't do much for my boredom.

What I did love was Anne O'Brien's interpretation of Katherine as a person. This Katherine wasn't a lady I could admire (she's kind of a wishy washy weakling with a tendency to do dumb things), but I still totally felt for her.

I understood completely why she did the things she did. Anne O'Brien did a marvelous job crafting Katherine's characterization based on her upbringing and later interactions with others. It makes sense that Katherine would feel and think the way she does in this book, which I think is a huge achievement on the part of the author.

That said, Katherine had a sucky life. I sobbed over the situations she found herself in and raged against the way she was treated. When she finally found a man who loved her I was less swept up in the swoony romance of it all and just so, so, so very happy she finally found someone who would care for her.

And the ending? GUTTED me (even though it was historically inaccurate).

Bottom line

I wasn't blown away, but I liked it enough to read more by Anne O'Brien. I have a copy of her book about Anne Neville (wife of Edward of Lancaster and Richard III), so hopefully she focuses more on the politics when given a main character living smack in the middle of the War of the Roses.   

Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key 
________________________________

Have you read any books about Katherine?


Looking for another book like this?
You might like:
https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/352453246http://smallreview.blogspot.com/2014/05/book-review-queen-of-last-hopes-by.html

 Click on the pictures to go to my reviews.


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Giveaway: The Family Romanov by Candace Fleming (US/CA)


Here is the tumultuous, heartrending, true story of the Romanovs—at once an intimate portrait of Russia's last royal family and a gripping account of its undoing. Using captivating photos and compelling first person accounts, award-winning author Candace Fleming (Amelia Lost; The Lincolns) deftly maneuvers between the imperial family’s extravagant lives and the plight of Russia's poor masses, making this an utterly mesmerizing read as well as a perfect resource for meeting Common Core standards.-Goodreads

Info for the giveaway:
  • What you can win: A finished copy of The Family Romanov by Candace Fleming
  • As always, you do NOT have to be a follower
  • This giveaway is US/CA only
  • You must be 13 years of age or older
  • One entry per person
  • I will contact the winner through email and the winner will have 24 hours to reply before a new winner is chosen 
  • This giveaway closes on August 20th 





Friday, August 1, 2014

Mini Review: The Fire Wish by Amber Lough



Release Date: July 22, 2014
Publisher: Random House Children's 
Pages: 320
Received: ARC from publisher, via NetGalley
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Goodreads

This book was exactly what I was hoping it would be: Sweet, fun, engaging, and light. It's an easy, quick read with likable characters.

The narrative switches every other (short) chapter between Zayele and Najwa and I thought this worked really well to both advance the plot and show the story. Their personalities are distinct enough that I rarely needed the chapter headings or even context clues to tell me who was speaking.

There isn't a whole lot of pulse pounding action, but there isn't ever a dull moment either. The storyline was engaging and I kept reading because I wanted to find out what would happen, but also just because I liked spending time in these worlds (the jinni caves! the library!) and with these people. The romances and side characters are predictable, but I found that to be a comforting plus. Zayele and Najwa are very different, but both equally likable.

Goodreads shows this is book one of a series, and while I would definitely read a sequel, I also think the story wraps up well as a standalone.

Bottom line

I love these kinds of solid stories. They're my go-to type of book when I'm looking for something that will make me happy and isn't too taxing. I can see this appealing to a wide audience as it's perfect for Goddess Girls readers looking for something a little older but still engaging enough for adult readers who enjoy middle grade books.

This is author Amber Lough's debut, and I am eagerly anticipating her next book.  


Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key 
________________________________




Looking for another book like this?
You might like:
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6750586-as-you-wish?from_search=true

 Click on the pictures to go to my reviews.


Friday, July 18, 2014

DNF Explanation: Midnight Thief by Livia Blackburne




Read: 123 of 368
Received: ARC from publisher, via NetGalley
Released: July 8, 2014
Goodreads

What can I say about Midnight Thief that hasn't already been said in pretty much every review I've already read for this book?

Not much. For once, my opinion seems to align with the norm. Hooray! It's nice to be able to join the popular crowd's table once in a while.

I just wish that didn't mean I ended up disliking the book. Because, oh boy, I did NOT like this book.

So, echoing practically everyone, I loved the set up—assassins, thieves, magic, hate-turned-love—basically all the ingredients of a perfect book. And, after reading the prequel novella and loving it, I figured it was a pretty safe bet I'd love Midnight Thief to pieces.

Wrong, wrong, oh so wrong. Sure the ingredients are great, but you can't make a great cake with expired and low-grade ingredients.

(Though, I was just recently fed a sweet potato casserole that was made, unbeknownst to me until AFTER I had consumed a far-too-large portion, with milk that had expired a month ago and miraculously was not spoiled. It was actually the best sweet potato casserole I've had, so I dodged food poisoning and came out ahead, which is completely undermining my analogy here. But, anyway.)

Or, in the case of a book, you can't make a good story with mediocre world building, hollow cliches, weak writing, and (the gravest sin of all) bland, stupid characters.

The final straw for me was when orphan-helping thief (yet righteously pure, can you tell she irritated me?) Kyra joins the assassins' guild because she'll get paid a lot but then rants and gripes about how killing is wrong and all the members of the assassins' guild are evil meanies. Please, I'm picking up a book about thieves and assassins because I want them to be badass thieves and assassins. I don't want Sister Superior (irrationally and hypocritically) raining on my parade for 368 pages.

(So, no, unlike old milk, apparently, there is no hope for books with rotten ingredients.)

There's apparently a twist at around the 3/4 mark that redeems things (to a point, so I hear), but I couldn't bring myself to push through to that point. I DNF-ed a third of the way in and although I keep getting lured in by the siren song of that premise, I'm quickly reminded of all the reasons why I DNF-ed in the first place and the urge to pick it up again is squelched. WANTING this book to be something more than it is just doesn't make it so.

Bottom line

If I were (a lot) younger and hadn't had my expectations bar set super high by the awesome novella, I might have actually liked Midnight Thief. Maybe. At least, more than I did. I probably would have at least finished it.

As it is, nope. Go back to the drawing board, clean up the writing issues, flesh out the world, and develop those characters! Midnight Thief could have been so much more.  

________________________________






Looking for another book like this?
You might like:
http://smallreview.blogspot.com/2011/11/book-review-faerie-ring-by-kiki.htmlhttp://smallreview.blogspot.com/2013/04/book-review-poison-by-bridget-zinn.html


 Click on the pictures to go to my reviews.


Sunday, June 29, 2014

Book Review: Thief's War by Hilari Bell


Knight and Rogue series
Release Date: March 8, 2014
Publisher: Courtney Literary 
Pages: 254
Received: ARC from author
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars


Why isn't there more buzz about this series? 

The Knight and Rogue series is one of those hidden gem series that doesn't seem to get talked about a whole lot but I'm gobsmacked as to why (except maybe the covers. Gotta say, I'm not a fan of them).

I'm going to try writing this review a little differently because, let's be honest, who doesn't shy away at the sight of a review for a fourth book in a series you haven't read?

But I WANT you to read this review. Not for me, but for the books, so I'm going to avoid ALL spoilers. (Still worried? Fine, here's my review for the first book instead.)

Why you should read the series

Brothers in arms

Michael and Fisk start out as reluctant allies and carry that hate mixed with love thing throughout the series.  They're polar opposites, so they're always bickering over which approach to take and worrying that the other is going to get hurt because they're doing something stupid (so each believes).

The beauty is that they're both often right. Michael is the chivalric knight (in an age where knights are ancient history) driven to do the right thing, even if it burns him. Fisk is a snarky conman and thief used to looking out for himself. Michael's a glass half full kind of guy. Fisk is definitely the glass half empty type.

They both contribute a lot to their partnership and I love seeing them work together to become a team greater than its parts.What makes it even better is both characters get to narrate, so we get to see everything first hand through both of their perspectives.

Mystery

Each book has its own central mystery and Hilari Bell definitely knows how to write a good mystery. The clues are subtle enough that the resolution isn't totally obvious, but they're also not so hidden that I couldn't pick up on them. They come together at a nice pace, too, so the plot is always steadily building toward the big reveal. 

Character depth

Michael and Fisk are the type of characters who feel real. Stick them in a random situation and I know exactly what they'll say and what they'll do. I could tell you which jokes they'd laugh at and which would fall flat for them. Put them in a tavern and I could point out the lady they'd fall for.

As far as character depth and development, Hilari Bell has written Michael and Fisk a cut above your average character. Each book sees them grow and change and come more fully into themselves.

Not your typical fantasy

These books are set in a kind of fantasy 18th/19th-ish century, but they're not at all Jane Austeny. The characters aren't improper, but they're not Proper either. It feels more...American, maybe. Whatever it is, I like it.

The world building is pretty different, too. There's a whole system of magic and I like how even the characters don't know entirely how it works. Experiments, speculation, and fear surround magic and discovering how it works is another layer of mystery threaded throughout the books.

Improves with each installment

I wasn't IN LOVE with the first book, but I did like it enough to buy the sequel when it was on sale. I'm glad I did, because I liked that book even better. The second and third are a toss up for me as to which one I like better (maybe the second, but then again, there was that scene in the third...), but the fourth really raised the stakes (and that ending!) and now I am dying to read the fifth.

Bottom line

Each book is a solid, stand-alone fantasy/mystery, though they should definitely be read in order. If you're just starting out with the series, I highly recommend giving both the first and second book a shot before making any decisions. I think the story really hit its stride in book two.

For those already familiar with the series but perhaps a little wary because Thief's War isn't published by Harper Teen like the previous books, don't worry at all. The fourth book is a worthy addition and well worth the purchase.

I might even go so far as to say it's the best in the series, but then I remember that scene in book two...and that scene in book three...and that other scene in book two...


Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key 


Do you have any questions about Thief's War that I haven't addressed?
Feel free to ask in the comments!

Looking for another book like this?
You might like:

http://smallreview.blogspot.com/2013/09/mini-review-crown-tower-by-michael-j.htmlhttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/263731.The_Decoy_Princess?ac=1


 Click on the pictures to go to my reviews/Goodreads.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Giveaway: Divided by Elsie Chapman (US/CA)

Divided by Elsie Chapman
Sequel to Dualed
Goodreads

Info for the giveaway:
  • What you can win: A finished copy of Divided by Elsie Chapman
  • As always, you do NOT have to be a follower
  • This giveaway is US/CA only
  • You must be 13 years of age or older
  • One entry per person
  • I will contact the winner through email and the winner will have 24 hours to reply before a new winner is chosen 
  • This giveaway closes on June 30th 


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