Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Book Review: The Isle of the Lost by Melissa de la Cruz

Received: Finished copy from publisher
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Here's the quick and dirty What to Expect:

  • Short chapters (think 4-8 pages)
  • Lots of repetition (Mal isn't living up to her mother's expectations, Cruella DeVil is mean to her son, Jay steals things, Evie's mom is obsessed with beauty, yada yada, etc, etc)
  • Pretty shallow character development, but clear character tropes and motivations
  • Scant world-building (I'm dying inside because the Disney world is SO prime for references and depth that the world-building could have easily been a reason in itself to read a book like this)
  • Tenuous connection to "canon" Disney (Maleficent, Evil Queen, Jafar, and Beast are NOTHING like their original Disney versions). They're ridiculous and, honestly, I don't like them. Not because they're evil, but because they're just such poorly drawn, over the top exaggerations of the original characters. It's almost like they're making a mockery of the originals, and not in a good way.  
  • A confusing lack of second parents (who are the non-Disney character moms and dads??). This is so minor, but I seriously could not stop wondering about this
  • A few chapters focusing on the "good" realm (hinting to the TV-movie's integration of villains and heroes/princesses)
  • A super boring, repetitive first 2/3rds of the book where nothing happens. This was total "prequel filler"
  • A fun final 1/3rd of the book that wasn't spectacular but it definitely kept me engaged. FINALLY I got to see some references to the Disney movies and some actual plot
  • Characters that grew on me despite their thin development
The Isle of the Lost is less of a book in its own right and more of a slapdash prequel novelization to promote the TV movie, which, really, is usually what happens with such books. They're rarely great books. The writing is usually adequate. The characterizations aren't very deep. But, they're supposed to drum up excitement for the TV/movie they're connected with.

So, in that regard, Isle of the Lost succeeded. I'm now a little more interested in seeing the TV movie than I was before I read the book. Will I actually see the movie? Eh, if it's put in front of me, I'd probably give it a try. I'm less enthused because Disney Original Movies are not what they used to be and the glimpses I've seen of the movie plus the way the original villains are portrayed in the book...well, I'm not really a fan.

But, this novelization did, somehow, make me care about the characters enough to want to spend more time with them. I would probably be even more inclined to pick up another book, especially if it had more of a storyline than this "set up" book.

Readers who like the Goddess Girls and Grimmtastic Girls books may enjoy The Isle of the Lost. There's a similar vibe with the focus on the different characters, their inner feelings, and their relationships (though the world-building is FAR better in the Goddess Girls and Grimmtastic Girls books).

Recommended, with the strong asterisk that this is definitely a prequel novelization.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Book Review: The Decoy Princess by Dawn Cook

Book 1 in the Princess duology
Pages: 356
Publisher: Ace
Received: Bought
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars, Special Shelf

Way back in 2012 I asked you for book recommendations based on my Special Shelf court fantasy favorites (think, Crown Duel, The False Prince, Poison Study, etc). Scarlett recommended The Decoy Princess, and she was fairly confident that I would love it, and she was absolutely right!

Seriously, this book has it all: court intrigue, a totally sleepover-worthy main character, a swoony slow burn romance with a guy who stands on his own as a worthwhile character, a swoony villain who is actually interesting in his own right, peril, fun side characters, chases, magic, horses, murder, impending war between kingdoms, ah this book has everything I love!

Even though the book ends pretty much midway through the overarching story (though not on a big cliffhanger—think The False Prince type of ending), I've been pushing off reading the sequel because I've been wanting to "save it." By this point, though, I really need to re-read the first book before starting in on the second because all the intrigue details are a little fuzzy now.

Which is totally fine because as a Special Shelf book I fully intend to re-read The Decoy Princess until my copy falls apart. It's that kind of love.

The Decoy Princess is written by "Dawn Cook" but really that's just another name used by the dark urban fantasy author Kim Harrison. I've never read anything under her Kim Harrison name, but I'm guessing the tone is very different. The writing style used in The Decoy Princess is extremely reminiscent of my other fantasy favorites Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith and The Conjurer Princess by Vivian Vande Velde. Basically, perfect for me.

Looking for another book like this? 
You might like (all the books mentioned above, and): 

Click on the covers to go to my reviews/Goodreads

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Giveaway (US): Diary of a Mad Brownie by Bruce Coville

Introducing The Enchanted Files! Told in diary entries and other “documents,” this magical, modern-day new comedy series by the master of funny fantasy, Bruce Coville is filled with laugh-out-loud humor and heart.
In the first hilarious Enchanted Files, Angus is a brownie. No, not the kind you eat! He’s a tiny magical creature that loves to do chores. Angus has just “inherited” a new human girl, Alex. To say that Alex is messy would be an understatement. She’s a total hurricane-like disaster—and she likes it that way, thankyouverymuch! Living with each other isn’t easy but Angus and Alex soon learn there is a curse that binds them. What’s worse, it threatens Alex’s family! Working together, Angus and Alex will set out to break the curse . . . without killing each other first . . . hopefully.


Info for the giveaway:
  • What you can win: A finished copy of Diary of a Mad Brownie by Bruce Coville
  • As always, you do NOT have to be a follower
  • This giveaway is US 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 31st 

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Book Reviews: Goddess Girls #9-11 by Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams

Pandora the Curious 
Goddess Girls #9
Received: Review copy from author
3 out of 5 stars

There's something about Pandora that just didn't click with me. Not just in this book, but in the other books where she makes a sidekick appearances. But that's the beauty of this series: different readers will connect with different Goddess Girls, and if you don't like one, no worries! There's plenty more to choose from.

The rest of the story follows the same formula of modernized and cutesy myths, a small crush, and lots of heart. My lack of connection with Pandora made me less invested in all of these features, but they're still solid.

Pheme the Gossip
Goddess Girls #10
Received: Library
5 out of 5 stars

The books that follow Goddess Girls outside of the core four have been somewhat hit and miss (above) with me. Pheme is definitely a hit. Her gossipy nature is shown in both a positive and negative light, allowing Pheme to learn from her mistakes while also embracing her strengths. Her interactions with the core four were entertaining and I definitely aw-ed a number of times. Pheme is total sleepover party material and hope we get more books focusing on her.

Persephone the Brave
Goddess Girls #11
Received: Library
4 out of 5 stars

I liked Persephone's first book, but she and I never made it to full on BFF mode. I still don't think we're there yet, but I connected with her a lot more this time and we would have totally had bonding moments at the lunch table (ugh, that girl, SO get your frustration with her, Persephone!). The myth twisting felt particularly good and I adore the things that happened with her relationship with Hades (no spoilers, but so sweet!). I appreciate the way the authors are handling Persephone's longer-term romance (as compared to the initial crushes) in a way that is both age-appropriate and nuanced.

Bottom line

The Goddess Girls series has stayed strong through 11 books and counting (18 books so far!) and continues to be my go to series for middle grade girls. Birthday gifts, book recommendations, you name it, if there's a middle grade girl somehow related to the conversation I'm having I guarantee I will find a way to work this series into that conversation.

Myths, creative plots, friendship, feelings, and a whole lot of heart—if it's not clear already, I cannot recommend this series strongly enough.

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