Tuesday, April 8, 2014

DNF Explanation: Killer Frost by Jennifer Estep





Read 188 out of 354
Received: ARC via NetGalley
Goodreads 

This is a review for the final book in a series. DO NOT read this review if you haven't read the series

Haven't read the series yet? 
Check out my review for the first book Touch of Frost


What is it with me and series enders this year?

Mythos Academy is yet another series I've been following for years, another series I've enjoyed overall, and, devastatingly, another series I'm DNF-ing on the final installment.

Full disclosure? I knew the Mythos Academy series wasn't the strongest out there. The plots have always been on the weaker side (and steadily getting weaker), narrator Gwen tends to get really (really, really) repetitive, and ever since book three, Mythos Academy has had a serious case of series stretching.

But that's ok. Why? Because I'm a character girl.

Gwen was dorky and shy, Daphne was brash and totally unexpected, Vic is a bloodthirsty talking sword! Plus, all the other characters, creatures, and mythological little details MORE than made up for the series' weaknesses.

Except, bit by bit, book by book, the things I loved about the series were slowly whittled away. Daphne had less page time, Carson practically disappeared. Instead, I got to spend time with new characters, and I don't like them (I loathe Gwen's cousin. She is the Mallory of this Babysitters' Club. The flat-footed Skipper to Daphne's pink sparkly Barbie).

Worst of all is Gwen. I LOVED Gwen. BFF charms, sleepover party invites, a permanent seat at my lunch table. I was that serious. 

But no more. Gwen went from an awkward wallflower who I could totally bond with to The Chosen One, complete with sulky "no one gets it like I do!" specialness and Mary Sue Amazingness.

Which would be fine, I guess, if Gwen were actually smarter than everyone. But she's not. She spent almost all of the 188 pages I read lone-wolfing it on the dumbest kick EVER (honey, there were, like, FIFTY other options to your problem! ALL of them better than your half-baked plan!) all while grumbling about how everyone else was wrong *foot stomp*

I just cannot abide that sort of thing.

Bottom line

It was nice while it lasted and I'm happy for the time I did spend with these people in this world. I think I'll just mentally pretend books 5-6 never happened. 

________________________________

Friday, March 28, 2014

Book Review: Grimmtastic Girls 1 & 2 by Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams


Series: #1 and 2 in the Grimmtastic Girls series
Release Date: March 25, 2014
Publisher: Scholastic
Pages:192
Received: Review copy from publisher
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars


I'm a huge fan of the Goddess Girls series by authors Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams, so when I heard they were not only writing yet another series for late-elementary school readers, but it was a FAIRY TALE RETELLING series (my favorite!) I'm pretty sure the noises I made could most accurately be described as "squeals of joy."

After reading the first two installments, its official: I'm hooked. I'm also half tempted to fly back to NY just so I can see the expressions of pure elation on my little library girls' faces because they are going to LOVE this series.

I'm feeling kinda listy, so here's what you can expect from the Grimmtastic Girls:

1. Four main characters, with each book focusing on a different girl from the core group. The girls all have different personalities and lite issues (dealing with step-siblings, stage fright, etc) so most readers should find at least one character they click with. I think Rapunzel might be the Grimmtastic Girl I connect with the most (honey, I don't like heights either!).

2. Adorable secondary characters! Though they're not the main focus, just enough is disclosed about them to make the world feel like it has depth and life outside of the core characters. I hope the series grows like Goddess Girls did so we get to read about these secondary characters. I definitely want to read Mermily's story (the little mermaid!).

3. The world is fabulous and filled with "I wish that was real!" inventions. My favorite is (surprise, surprise) the library. Imagine a cross between the library in The Grimm Legacy and Hogwart's Room of Hidden Things. And in addition to all the cool fairy tale stuff, it also has sparkly ball gowns made to order! AAAhh I was in heaven!

I also loved the school book. You press a button on the cover, recite a spell, and tell it what text you want to appear inside. And then it does! So it's one book, but it can be any book you want. I know e-readers basically do the same thing, but it seems so much cooler when it's a paperbound book and there are magical incantations involved.

4. Fairy tale retellings. Obviously. There isn't as much meat to fairy tales compared to the Greek gods and goddesses (they got into all sorts of adventures), and that is definitely a limitation. One of my favorite things about the Goddess Girls series were all of the little retelling references scattered throughout each book. The Grimmtastic Girls books have a lot less of that, which is totally understandable, but also a little disappointing.

(Though probably only disappointing to ME, an adult reader. I don't think the intended audience would care at all—I know my library girls weren't even aware of half of the original stories referenced in Goddess Girls, especially if they didn't appear in Percy Jackson).

5. To make up for this, Joan Holub an Suzanne Williams packed in more original material and it is awesome. There's a villain society wrapped up in a mystery (several mysteries!) and missing treasure! So lots of sleuthing, which is always a plus in my book.

6. Did I mention princes (and non-prince crushes)? These are fairy tale retellings, so of course there are boys! And, it's adorable.

7. But, because of the sleuthing and such, unlike Goddess Girls, I highly recommend reading this series in order. The mysteries carry over from book to book with progress made along the way and new questions opening up. While each book focuses on an individual girl and while her fairy tale is mostly wrapped up in her own book, the overarching storyline definitely is not.

8. The vocabulary is surprisingly advanced. 

9. "Collect the whole set" events. There are a few recurring things that I found myself looking forward to discovering how it would play out for each character. In this world there are magical objects that are basically trying to find a Grimmtastic Girl who "fits" them. I really got into trying to figure out which magical object would bond with each girl and discovering what magical properties it would bring to the table.

10. It takes place in a boarding school. Do I need to elaborate on why that's pure win? 

Bottom line

When it comes to young middle grade girls, Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams RULE. Whether it's Goddess Girls or Grimmtastic Girls, you can count on them to deliver age-appropriate stories with inventive worlds, nifty objects, creative spins on classic stories, and characters that feel real

If you have a Goddess Girl fan in your life, buy her Grimmtastic Girls and she will love you forever. 





Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key 




Do you have any questions about Grimmtastic Girls that I haven't addressed?

Feel free to ask in the comments!

Looking for another book like this? 
You might like: 

Click on the covers to go to my reviews.




Thursday, March 27, 2014

Book Blast and Giveaway: Grimmtastic Girls

Remember my super love for Goddess Girls Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams' fabulous middle grade series? Well, meet their latest series! I'll have my review up tomorrow in all its gushing glory, but rest assured, Grimmtastic Girls will satisfy Goddess Girls fans for sure.


About the Books: The Grimmtastic Girls

Grimmtastic Girls: Cinderella Stays Late

Title: Grimmtastic Girls #1: Cinderella Stays Late | Authors: Joan Holub & Suzanne Williams | Publication Date: March 25, 2014 | Publisher: Scholastic Inc. | Pages: 192 | Recommended Ages: 8 to 12


Summary: The authors of the hit Goddess Girls series put a fun and girly twist on another super-popular theme: fairy tales!

Once upon a time, in faraway Grimmlandia...

A Grimmtastic girl named Cinderella is starting her first week at Grimm Academy on the wrong foot. Cinda's totally evil stepsisters are out to make her life miserable. The Steps tease Cinda, give her terrible advice about life at the academy, and even make her look bad in front of her new friends, Red, Snow, and Rapunzel! But when Cinda overhears the Steps plotting a villainous deed that could ruin Prince Awesome's ball, Cinda, her new friends, and a pair of magical glass slippers have to stop them--before the last stroke of midnight!
AmazonGoodreads


Red Riding Hood Gets Lost

Title: Grimmtastic Girls #2: Red Riding Hood Gets Lost | Authors: Joan Holub & Suzanne Williams | Publication Date: March 25, 2014 | Publisher: Scholastic Inc. | Pages: 192 | Recommended Ages: 8 to 12


Summary: Red Riding Hood might have a terrible sense of direction, but her grimmtastic friends are always there to help!

Once upon a time, in faraway Grimmlandia...

Red Riding Hood is thrilled to try out for the school play. Acting is her dream, and she's great at it--too bad she has stage fright! After a grimmiserable audition, Red decides to focus on helping her friends Cinda, Snow, and Rapunzel save Grimm Academy from the E.V.I.L. Society. But when Red gets lost in Neverwood forest and runs into Wolfgang, who might be part of E.V.I.L., she needs her magic basket and a grimmazingly dramatic performance to figure out what's going on!
AmazonGoodreads




About the Authors: Joan Holub & Suzanne Williams

Joan HolubJoan Holub has authored and/or illustrated more than 130 children's books, including Little Red Writing (illustrated by Caldecott Honoree Melissa Sweet) and Zero the Hero. She lives in NC and is online at www.joanholub.com

Twitter | Pinterest | Goodreads






Suzanne Williams
 Suzanne Williams is the author of nearly 50 books for children, including the award-winning picture book Library Lil (illustrated by Steven Kellogg). She lives near Seattle, WA and is online at www.suzanne-williams.com

Author Blog | Goodreads





Co-authors Joan and Suzanne have written the Goddess Girls, Heroes in Training, and Grimmtastic Girls series. Though they live in different states and hardly ever get to see each other, they spend lots of time together in Grimmlandia.

Facebook (Grimmtastic Girls) | Facebook (Goddess Girls Books)

Online Author Visits


$50 Book Blast Giveaway

Amazon $50 Gift Card

Prize: $50 Amazon Gift Card or PayPal cash (winner’s choice)

Contest ends: April 23, 11:59 pm, 2014

Open: Internationally

How to enter: Please enter using the Rafflecopter widget below.

Terms and Conditions: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. A winner will be randomly drawn through the Rafflecopter widget and will be contacted by email within 48 hours after the giveaway ends. The winner will then have 72 hours to respond. If the winner does not respond within 72 hours, a new draw will take place for a new winner. Odds of winning will vary depending on the number of eligible entries received. This contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook. This giveaway is sponsored by the authors, Joan Holub & Suzanne Williams and is hosted and managed by Renee from Mother Daughter Book Reviews. If you have any additional questions – feel free to send and email to Renee(at)MotherDaughterBookReviews(dot)com.

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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

DNF Explanation: The Shadow Throne by Jennifer A. Nielsen





Read 158 out of 336
Received: ARC via NetGalley
Goodreads 

This is a review for the third book in a series. DO NOT read this review if you haven't read the series. It won't make sense and it may even spoil things.

Haven't read the series yet? Check out my review for the first book The False Prince, which I still HIGHLY recommend. 


Ok, so I'm barfing my emotions all over this review, and, like all barf, it ain't pretty.

Ready?

It breaks my heart to DNF this book. I adored The False Prince. Sage was that perfect combination of cheeky and stealthy. The plot was brisk and always kept me on my toes wondering what Sage was really up to. Everything came together perfectly.

That is so NOT the case in The Shadow Throne. Where is the magic, wit, and cleverness? Why must I turn to words like "contrived," "silly," "predictable," and "illogical"??

Sage may have been awesome, but when he turned himself into a prince and got himself another name (Jaron?! I'm still not adjusting) he became a Mary Sue of epic proportions.

EVERYONE just loooooves Jaron. Everyone, that is, except me. See, Sage made me love him. Jaron just milks the memory of Sage without doing anything to make me like him, let alone love him. I actually found myself getting irritated with his stupid choices.

His antics are boring and juvenile. Jaron is an unreliable narrator, so of course he's going to pull some big twist out when we all least expect it! And knowing that really sucks any tension or peril right out of the story. I couldn't help my yawns and total lack of care whenever the "high stakes" were mentioned..again, and again, and again (how about a little more "show" and a little less "tell," hmmmkay?).

Plus, I mean, yeah, I get it, this is The War Book. I don't need to be reminded every other page. It's supposed to be epic and filled with awesomeness and danger, yada, yada. The war has only been dangled in front of me for the past two books, so I'm fully aware that it's Finally Here (and, yep, still ticked off by the detour that was The Runaway King).

Except it's all finally here and I could not care less. Characters I used to care about elicited not even the smallest of emotional responses. Mostly because it didn't feel like I was reading about the characters I loved but rather cardboard imposters.

It's like eating Domino's pizza when you've had proper NY pizza. It's so far from what it should be that the disappointing experience doesn't even warrant an emotional investment beyond mild disgust. It's so inherently lacking.

Plus, look, I get it, war is not pretty. Personally, I don't want to be in a war. But I DO like reading about wars. Reading about wars can be all action and battle and swords and fun stuff like that. So I really don't want to read a book about a war—a war for which, mind you, I have been wiggling in my seat in anticipation for the past two years—just to have Jaron yap on and on about how war is bad and stuff.

Sure he blew stuff up, and that was nice and all. I guess. But between all of Jaron's heel dragging combined with the totally incongruous and improbable Home Alone kiddie escapades, I just...I could not get into this.

Bottom line

The False Prince was fantastic. I could give that book to adults and make them YA converts. The Shadow Throne isn't going to win any converts.

The bar was set high with The False Prince. The Shadow Throne doesn't even come close.


________________________________

Well, I know I'm in the minority here. Does the ending justify picking it up again? 


Looking for another book like this?
You might like:

Yeah, scratch that. If you're looking for a book like The False Prince but in a series that actually improves with each installment then do yourself a favor and read Megan Whalen Turner's series:
https://www.goodreads.com/series/43514-the-queen-s-thief



Monday, March 10, 2014

Book Review: Fortune's Folly by Deva Fagan


Release Date: April 14, 2009
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Pages: 260
Received: Library
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Goodreads Page



Summary

From Goodreads:

Ever since her mother died and her father lost his shoemaking skills, Fortunata has survived by telling fake fortunes. But when she’s tricked into telling a grand fortune for a prince, she is faced with the impossible task of fulfilling her wild prophecy—or her father will be put to death.

Now Fortunata has to help Prince Leonato secure a magic sword, vanquish a wicked witch, discover a long-lost golden shoe, and rescue the princess who fits it. If only she hadn’t fallen in love with the prince herself!

Review

Before anything, we need to talk about that awful cover
 
Where the heck did they find that thing?! It looks like it was pulled out of the 1990s before YA books became cool. Gah, DON'T judge the book based on it. Don't!

I had faith! And I was rewarded

Fortune's Folly took WAY TOO LONG to get moving. I was about 100 pages in before I even got to the fake fortune described in the jacket flap. That's too long! TOO LONG!

But, ok, enough with that tantrum. Even though it took forever to get to the meat of the story, the beginning parts were still ok to read and I never felt like DNF-ing.

The very beginning was great and really set up the MC's personality and situation. Fortunata is clever with a wry sense of humor I loved. I was ready to hand her a sleepover party invitation from page one, and she never once made me regret that decision.

The plot detours off when Fortunata meets up with a traveling band of snake oil salesmen, acrobatics, and fortune telling frauds. This collection felt close enough to another one of my DO NOT WANT features: circuses.

I can't explain why, but I don't like reading about circuses, and this band of performers had a circus feel that I didn't like. But luckily that part didn't last long. I finally got to the jacket description part and it was smooth sailing from there on out.

A feel-good story

The rest of the book follows Fortunata as she assists the prince in fulfilling the fake fortune she told. I had a blast seeing Fortunata use her wits to turn her fantastical fortune of wicked witches, magical objects, stolen shoes, great steeds, and damsels in distress into reality.

All the while Fortunata's first person narrative had me cracking up with it's "Oh crap, how am I going to make that come true" undertones.

And, of course, there is a sweet romance. It slowly developed over the course of the story and satisfied me with a happily ever after in the end. I just wish the guy wasn't a stutterer. I mean, no offense to stutterers, but when I think of a sexy man, he's not stuttering.

Bottom line

Fortune's Folly was a sweet story that ends as a standalone and reminded me of a fractured fairy tale (there are allusions to a few fairy tales and legends). I guess I'd categorize it as a MG/YA crossover.

I will without a doubt be checking out more books by Deva Fagan (though probably not her latest book, which is about a circus!).
 

Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key 
 
Do you have any questions about Fortune's Folly that I haven't addressed?  Feel free to ask in the comments!

Looking for another book like this? 
You might like: 

Click on the covers to go to my reviews.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Books I Got

It's been established so clearly that I can't even lie about it: I have no self-control when it comes to books. I acquire them at a much faster rate than I can actually read and review them, but hopefully these posts will help those books get some exposure NOW instead of waiting until I actually manage to find time to, you know, read them.

This post is for some of the books I've gotten in the past LONG TIME or so.


For Review


Grimmtastic Girls:
Cinderella Says Late
by Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams


I can't even express how excited I am to see this series! Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams are the geniuses who write the Goddess Girls series and I am crossing my fingers and toes that their take on fairy tales is as pitch-perfect as their reinvention of Greek mythology.

Requested and received via NetGalley.


Thief's War
by Hilari Bell


This is the fourth and latest book in Hilari Bell's fantastic Knight and Rogue series. I haven't seen too much talk about this series, but that's a travesty because I love these books. Fans of brothers-in-arms fantasy books need to check out these books ASAP. Book 2 is my personal favorite so far.

Pitched and received from the author.

 .

Won/Traded


The False Princess
by Eilis O'Neal


I've read this book and gave it a perfectly good "middle of the road" 3.5 star rating. But as happens sometimes with my 3.5 star books...they stick in my head. And I think about them, and think about them, and then want to re-read them. Such is the case with The False Princess.

You can't go wrong in my book with a story about a girl who thought she was a princess but was then told she was only a decoy. I think I'll like this one even more now that I know what to expect (and can skip past the slower beginning and get on to the adventuring).


Star Crossed
by Elizabeth C. Bunce


I LOVE this book! Court intrigue, spies, secrets, and deadly mysterious people! The only thing missing is a romance, but that doesn't stop me from keeping this one on my Special Shelf. I am so glad I own a copy so now I can do a re-read.



Nightspell
by Leah Cypess


The companion novel Mistwood is another one of those 3.5 star books that stuck with me and keeps popping into my head. I need to do a re-read, but I'm even more excited to read Nightspell, which looks at different characters and includes fantasy ghosts!






What did you get this week? Are you interested in reading any of these books? What did you think of them if you've read them already?








.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Mini Review: Doomed Queen Anne by Carolyn Meyer


Release Date: January 1, 2002
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers 
Pages: 240
Received: Library
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars 

I'll declare my allegiance here and now, I am 100% Team Katherine. I loathe Anne (even if she does spell it with an e). I can't help but feel a sense of smug righteousness whenever it comes time for Anne to lose her head in whatever story I'm reading or watching (including this one).

Carolyn Meyer wrote Anne in a way where even my hard heart softened for her enough to feel a smidgen of pity. The girl sure did have a crappy family. Plus, I couldn't help but admire her drive to set the bar high and make it happen. But even a first person narrative (albeit a distant, cool, and not particularly exciting first person narrative) could not make me come around to Team Anne.

This account is short, (not so) sweet, and to the point. Anne talks a lot about wanting to be queen and she does sound determined, but there isn't a whole lot of meat to this tale and Carolyn Meyer really doesn't dig into the politics of the time. It's a good introduction and it's so short that Tudor fans really can't lose by adding this to their TBR.

As for the Young Royals series, this isn't a terrible addition, but it is by no means the best (check out The Bad Queen about Marie Antoinette for my personal favorite).



Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key 
________________________________

Have you read any sympathetic books about Anne? 




Looking for another book like this?
You might like:
http://smallreview.blogspot.com/2010/11/book-review-assassin-by-lady-grace.htmlhttp://smallreview.blogspot.com/2011/06/book-review-cleopatra-confesses-by.html

 Click on the pictures to go to my reviews.


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