Friday, April 29, 2011

Recap 4/23 to 4/29

In case you missed anything, here's a recap of what was posted Saturday, April 23rd through Friday, April 29th. 

(Click on the links to go to my reviews)



What's Your Status?

A meme created by Zakiya from Butterfly Feet Walking on Life where we recap our reading week. Feel free to visit her site and link up your own What's Your Status Posts. Here's how my week went:


Wake Unto Me by Lisa Cach
(Click on the link to go to Goodreads)

Meh. Not what I was hoping it would be. Review to come.

Currently Reading

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken   
Cascade by Lisa T. Bergren
Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini

(Click on the link to go to Goodreads)

Best reading week ever!

Did Not Finish

Steel by Carrie Vaughn
Page 100 of 289

Eh, I was disappointed. There wasn't anything outright bad about it, but it was lacking that spark for me. I'm not sure why, maybe the third person narration, but I had a difficult time connecting with Jill (the MC). Her fencing was interesting, but only so much. I got zero warm fuzzies when it came to her sort of but not really there (at least not when I left off) romance with one of the pirates. Honestly, that was one of the biggest reasons I wanted to read the book. The blurb said something about "salty kisses" and I was really hoping for some but, no, nothing. I didn't even care about either of the characters to care if they got together or not.

The other thing that annoyed me was that this was supposed to be a time travel book, and while she does travel back in time, none of the "time travel features" that I love so much were really there. She barely even acknowledges that she traveled back in time, she doesn't do any funny "you don't belong here" things, and I don't know, it just never really seemed to matter much.

There really wasn't much happening either. I mean, these are supposed to be pirates, right? 100 pages in and all they'd done was non-violently intimidate a ship into handing over their cargo. Whoopdedo. I'm sure the action picked up later on, but I just didn't really feel like sticking with it to find out. I didn't care what happened. So disappointing. I even WoW-ed this book. Sierra (or as I like to think of her, one of my Book Soulmates) wrote a review on her blog Yearning to Read that perfectly states everything I felt about the book...and she actually finished it.


Miss anything last week? Click here to read a Recap

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Guest Posting!

Want to know what I'm doing when I'm not reading? 

Head on over to Missy's blog  
The Unread Reader to find out!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday (20)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine where we all feature upcoming books we're eagerly anticipating.

I've altered things a little to include one book that hasn't come out yet and one that has already been published but I still haven't gotten around to reading yet.

Goodreads description of The Princess Curse (September 6, 2011):

Twelve princesses suffer from a puzzling—and downright silly—curse. Ridiculous though the curse may be, whoever breaks it will win a handsome reward.

Sharp-witted Reveka, an herbalist’s apprentice, has little use for princesses, with their snooty attitudes and impractical clothing. She does, however, have use for the reward money that could buy her a position as a master herbalist.

But curses don’t like to be broken, and Reveka’s efforts lead her to deeper mysteries. As she struggles to understand the curse, she meets a shadowy stranger (as charming as he is unsettling) and discovers a blighted land in desperate need of healing. Soon the irreverent apprentice is faced with a daunting choice—will she break the curse at the peril of her own soul?

Why I want to read it:  

This is one of those books that just hits so many of my “DO WANT” marks. Princesses, curses, a fairy tale retelling (this is another 12 Dancing Princesses retelling), a door to the Underworld!! Yup, I so want to read this book. I’m loving the cover art, too.

 Goodreads description of The Kneebone Boy (September 14, 2010):

Life in a small town can be pretty boring when everyone avoids you like the plague. But after their father unwittingly sends them to stay with an aunt who’s away on holiday, the Hardscrabble children take off on an adventure that begins in the seedy streets of London and ends in a peculiar sea village where legend has it a monstrous creature lives who is half boy and half animal. . . .

In this wickedly dark, unusual, and compelling novel, Ellen Potter masterfully tells the tale of one deliciously strange family and a secret that changes everything.

Why I want to read it: 

Oooh, I like the sound of this one. Don’t those children look just a little bit creepy on the cover? I can’t wait to see what kind of adventure they find themselves on. I’m also hugely impatient to find out all about that secret.

Have any of you read either of these books? Would you recommend them? 

I'm interrupting myself to push a book on you. Remember Paranormalcy by Kiersten White? Want to win an ARC of Supernaturally? Of course you do! Trust me, you really do. It's an awesome, awesome book. So how do you do this? Go to Kiersten White's blog and leave a comment telling her your favorite thing about Paranormalcy. Simple, easy, and SO WORTH IT!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Book Review: Firelight by Sophie Jordan

Firelight by Sophie Jordan
Release Date: September 7, 2010
Publisher: HarperTeen 

Pages: 323
Received: Library
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars 
Goodreads Page


From Goodreads:

Marked as special at an early age, Jacinda knows her every move is watched. But she longs for freedom to make her own choices. When she breaks the most sacred tenet among her kind, she nearly pays with her life. Until a beautiful stranger saves her. A stranger who was sent to hunt those like her. For Jacinda is a draki—a descendant of dragons whose greatest defense is her secret ability to shift into human form.

Forced to flee into the mortal world with her family, Jacinda struggles to adapt to her new surroundings. The only bright light is Will. Gorgeous, elusive Will who stirs her inner draki to life. Although she is irresistibly drawn to him, Jacinda knows Will's dark secret: He and his family are hunters. She should avoid him at all costs. But her inner draki is slowly slipping away—if it dies she will be left as a human forever. She'll do anything to prevent that. Even if it means getting closer to her most dangerous enemy.

Mythical powers and breathtaking romance ignite in this story of a girl who defies all expectations and whose love crosses an ancient divide.


Don’t judge a book by its cover

Who actually listens to that advice? Well, probably people who are less superficial than me. I can’t help it, and can you blame me with that gorgeous cover? I first saw the cover months before the book was released. It was insta-love. Angels sang, light shone on the cover, and the whole world disappeared. I couldn’t wait for inter-library loan to send me a copy and so I begged my fiancé to drive me forty five minutes to pick it up directly.

Unfortunately, a pretty package wasn’t enough to keep our relationship going (me and Firelight. The fiancé was cool with things).

We had a good thing

There are two things I loved about this book: the draki mythology and Cassian. Sophie Jordan created a thoroughly engrossing mythology surrounding the draki. Their history, culture, and biology are all explored in fascinating detail. I loved her world building in this regard and desperately wanted more. She really only scratches the surface in this book, though I suspect book two will delve into the draki mythology more.

Cassian was my other favorite thing about this book. Jacinda doesn’t like him very much, but I think there’s a lot more to him than she gives him credit for. He’s definitely the alpha male (both literally in their draki community and characterization-wise) and I can rarely resist an alpha male. I can’t wait to watch her swoon along with me when we (hopefully!) get to see more than a few glimpses of his romantically attentive side. If that doesn’t happen in the sequel then I’m so done with this series.

We’ve been through this before

Romance was the primary focus of this book, and I wasn’t feeling this romance at all. There was nothing wrong with Will, but he didn’t really stand out to me beyond the stock paranormal romance guy (insta-love, dangerous for her to love, sensitive, etc). Even some of the scenes, especially the scenes in school, were so reminiscent of a handful of other YA paranormal romance books that I felt like I had already read this book.

Readers who love Twilight and Edward and Bella’s romance in the first book will probably be overjoyed with this reenactment. I didn’t hate that relationship, but it kind of bored me. So take two in Firelight bored me too.

It’s not you, it’s me

I couldn’t decide if I wanted to reach into the book to smack Jacinda or if I was just too bored to bother. She spends most of the book grappling with her resentment toward her mother and her love for a draki hunter. The premise is sound, but Jacinda’s indecision was dragged on for so long that I lost all sympathy I had for the character and instead just wanted her to make a decision—any decision.

The excitement is gone

Not much actually happens in this book. Most of the time is taken up by excessive stage setting, primarily in the form of Jacinda's repetitive inner monologues. It felt like the book was unnecessarily stretched to take up enough space to justify a trilogy, even if there isn’t enough substance here to justify a complete book. The whole thing just felt very unbalanced to me.

THAT’S how you’re leaving me?!

Once I got to the final quarter, things started to get a lot better. Tension increased building steadily until the exciting climax…which is a complete cliffhanger. Right in the middle of everything THE BOOK JUST ENDS! I just slogged through all that whining and all that boredom FOR THIS?? Just as things were finally getting good and I was finally into it

Rarely has a book pissed me off so much. I’m not just annoyed or frustrated, I’m actually honest to goodness pissed. This wasn’t a Delirium cliffhanger or an Unearthly cliffhanger. Those are normal cliffhangers. They’re frustrating, but, whatever, they come at a logical point in the storytelling. This didn’t feel like a cliffhanger, it felt like a printing error.

Now I'll definitely read the next book, though I'm completely resentful at what feels like manipulation to stir interest in the next book. A sequel should be read based on the strength of the first book, not because the author left you hanging right in the middle of everything with zero resolution.

I’ll give the next book a chance through the library, but if I’m not hooked early on then I’m DNF-ing it.

Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key 

Want to see a variety of views? 
Click to go to the Review Comparison for Firelight

Looking for another paranormal romance? You might like: 
Dead Beautiful by Yvonne Woon

Monday, April 25, 2011

Discussion: Give Me That Book!

Last discussion we talked about features that throw up red flags and immediately turn me off from reading a book. To add a little balance and to avoid sounding like a big complainer, I thought I’d make a list of features that make me automatically say YES PLEASE! 


When I say “questing” I don’t just say it like a normal word. I say it with this wistful sigh of happiness. I looooove questing. I don’t care where we’re going or why we’re going there. Honestly, the destination and reason are often kind of lame. But it doesn’t matter. I just want to travel across perilous lands with a rag tag group—including, always, at least one devastatingly handsome warrior. Preferably with hottie accessory #1 (a sword!), but I’ll settle for a bow and arrows (Weiland!) or magic skills (North! My review). As soon as I see a map, I’m thinking SCORE!

Recommended reading: In addition to the two mentioned, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling, The Banned and the Banished series by James Clemens (yeah, the covers are awful, but trust me!)

Hate turned to love relationships

I am a complete romantic, but my absolute favorite type of romance to read about is the “hate turned to love” pairing. I love watching the two main characters fight like cats and dogs. Witty verbal sparring is the best. Their taunts and complaints lead to character growth. They also realize they admire one another, but they still fight it. This builds the tension for *THAT* kiss! The perfect kiss that comes at the end of the book when the two leads give in and admit that they love each other. Ah, swoon. 

Fairy tale retellings

I may despise fairies (because they’re evil!), but I love fairy tales and I never get tired of reading fairy tale retellings. The best retellings are the ones that add an original twist while still paying homage to the original tale. I like comparing the different ways authors can tell the same story while still making it seem fresh and original. It’s also a ton of fun picking out all of the little references and ways the author chooses to weave in the original. Fairy tales also tend to have romance, happy endings, and magic—all features that make me happy. 

Recommended reading: The Once Upon a Time series (hit or miss, try the books by Cameron Dokey or Debbie Viguie), Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George, Toads and Diamonds by Heather Tomlinson

Courtly intrigue 

If a book has even a whiff of courtly intrigue then I’m all over it. The mystery and tension keep me glued to the page. There’s always a question of who is doing something dastardly, but everyone has their court face on so the bad guy could be anyone. Usually the main character ferrets out a bunch of gossip and a few minor bad guys before putting all the pieces together and figuring out the identity of the Big Bad. The scandal! The mystery! The gowns! Ah, I’m in heaven. 

Time travel

I prefer to go back in time, mostly because you get historical fiction with a running modern commentary. I also love the funny situations that occur when the main character from modern times needs to pretend like they totally know what’s going on when in reality they’re eating the dinner plates and messing up all the local customs in the most comical ways. 

What about you? What features make you automatically start running through your list of bribes (first born, candy...) in order to get your hands on a copy of the book? 

Do you have any suggestions for me of books that fall into these categories? I'll love you forever!

Like this discussion post? Want more? 
Click the button:

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Book Review: Princess for Hire by Lindsey Leavitt

Princess for Hire by Lindsey Leavitt
Release Date: March 16, 2010
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Pages: 239
Received: Library
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars 
Goodreads Page


From Goodreads:

When an immaculately dressed woman steps out of an iridescent bubble and asks you if you'd like to become a substitute princess, do you

a) run

b) faint

c) say Yes!

For Desi Bascomb, who's been longing for a bit of glamour in her Idaho life, the choice is a definite C--that is, once she can stop pinching herself. In this hilarious, winning debut, one girl's dream of glamour transforms into something bigger: the desire to make a positive impact. And an impact Desi makes, one royal fiasco at a time.


The magical world of Disney

This book is a made for TV Disney movie. Not really, but it should be. The key features of a Disney movie—that light, slightly humorous feel, a touch of magic, a plot point that revolves around a dream most girls share, a hint of PG-rated romance (very minor part of the book), and a regular girl learning an endearing message—are all present here. Good for tweens and teens alike, Princess for Hire is the type of book that will satisfy if you’re craving a little Disney magic. In this case, feel free to judge the book by its cover.

But, really, the world is magical

I don’t know why (I guess I didn’t read the extended jacket blurb) but I didn’t realize this book had magical elements. I mistakenly thought it was going to be one of those “Prince and the Pauper” lookalike plots. When Desi’s brisk and bossy agent Meredith enters the book by floating into Desi’s bathroom encapsulated within a giant bubble, my inner geek let out a little fist-pump and cheer. The sparkles on the cover aren’t just regular sparkles, they’re magical sparkles! Yay!

The magical world was one of my favorite parts. There’s an entire council with back story, factions, and secrets. We’re even given an explanation of how the princess for hire service works, including the necessary paperwork, networking, and how the princess substitutes swap gossip and information about their princesses. Lindsey Leavitt did a fantastic job fleshing out this feature. I can almost believe such an organization exists (where's my bubble so I can sign up?).

Meredith rocks

Meredith totally won me over. She’s Desi’s agent and a former substitute princess herself. She’s a no-nonsense woman with a clipped, almost rude personality. She also has a secret disgrace that has left her on the outs with the council. That doesn’t make her sound that great, right? But she is. Underneath her harsh manner she’s caring, sensitive, and fiercely loyal. Meredith also knows how to get things done. I would pay to have Meredith in my corner.

A little princess

Unfortunately, Meredith isn’t the main character. Desi is, and I didn’t like her nearly as much as I loved Meredith. Desi is ok, but she annoyed me at times. I could relate to her really well and I appreciated her desire to help the princesses, but she was also a bit of a brat.

She was one of those characters who knows so much that isn’t true. Her youth and naiveté was apparent and she had an edge of attitude that bugged me. She stubbornly plowed ahead with her ideas without fully considering the situation and possible consequences of her actions. I think this would bother younger readers a lot less, but I looked at Desi and just wanted to shake her a few times and tell her to mind her elders (yikes! Mind her elders? How stuffy can I be??)

She did learn and grow, but she was also vindicated. Desi was ultimately right in many cases, but her approach was, I think, often wrong and this wasn’t addressed enough. The message was a little muddier than I would have liked. This and my inability to fully like Desi are the main reasons I gave a rating of 3.5 stars instead of four.
Once upon a time

The plot wasn’t as tight as I would have liked, but it was still a lot of fun. I don’t know about you, but the idea of spending some time masquerading as a princess sounds awesome. You get to poke around in their stuff, wear their fancy clothes, go to royal banquets, and jump on their gigantic princess bed. Pretty cool, right? Ok, ok, it would be very wrong to snoop in someone else’s things in real life, but this is fiction and Desi has to do it. It’s her job, so it’s totally justified, guilt-free snooping.

While there isn’t any time travel here, you do still have the same element of “fish out of water pretending they belong” that I love so much about time travel books. Desi is just kind of thrown into her assignments and she needs to fumble and fudge her way through them making sure none of the princesses’ friends and relatives realizes she’s not really the princess.

This led to some very funny scenes! In typical Disney fashion, however, these scenes also led to the syrupy sweet *awww* moments where various characters learn to appreciate who they are inside. Sure I know I’m walking right into a cliché, but can you really argue with a warm and fuzzy feel-good cliché? I can’t.

Happily ever after

Overall I enjoyed this reading experience very much. I was looking for a little feel-good Disney magic, and this hit the spot perfectly. This is the first book in a series with the second book coming out in May 2011 (The Royal Treatment, on Net Galley now and I am definitely reading it). I suspect the romance will increase a bit in the sequel and I hope Desi comes back a little more mature and aware. I also hope we get to see more of Meredith. Though there is a sequel, Princess for Hire works just fine as a standalone.

Note: I’ve since read the sequel and it is awesome! All of my annoyances with Desi are completely gone.

 Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key 

This book satisfies the following challenges: 

Looking for something similar? You might like: 
My Fairy Godmother by Janette Rallison

Friday, April 22, 2011

Recap 4/16 to 4/22

In case you missed anything, here's a recap of what was posted Saturday, April16th through Friday, April 22nd. 

(Click on the links to go to my reviews)



What's Your Status?

A meme created by Zakiya from Butterfly Feet Walking on Life where we recap our reading week. Feel free to visit her site and link up your own What's Your Status Posts. Here's how my week went:


The Liar Society by Lisa and Laura Roecker
Nothing But the Truth (Little Secrets #5) by Emily Blake
(Click on the link to go to Goodreads)

I liked The Liar Society but, erm, not as much as everyone else seems to have. It was ok. It's also part of a series, so the story doesn't really end here. Did anyone else know that? I didn't know that. At this point I really should just assume every book published is part of a series.

The Little Secrets series is my guilty pleasure reading.

Currently Reading

(Click on the link to go to Goodreads)

Small News

Email responses haven't gone out this week for most comments, but I HAVE replied to your comments. Sorry about the lack of notification this week!

Miss anything last week? Click here to read a Recap

Thursday, April 21, 2011

How To: Q&A Edition

How To:

The Q&A Edition

Your questions answered

In every How To post there is a link to a form where you can submit questions for future How To posts. Sometimes these questions require lengthy responses and so I have answered them in a full post, but others are shorter and don't really need a long post explanation. For these shorter questions I've decided to compile a few and answer them all in one post.

Q: How to just do plain borders around text.  Thank you :)

I'm not sure I understand the question exactly, but if you want a plain line around your text then you would use the following code:

<div style="background: none repeat scroll 0% 0% ; border:3px solid #000000; padding: 5px 8px; text-align: center;">
<div style="text-align: center;">
<span style="font-size: large;"><b>Plain borders</b></span></div>
This will give you something that looks like this:

Plain borders

For a more detailed explanation on how you can adjust the thickness and color of the borders, you can refer to the post How to Make Colored Boxes.

Q: I know this should be really obvious, but what's the best way in blogger to change font size, color, etc.? I write mostly in HTML editor. Is it better to use text editor for stuff like this?

I guess "obvious" and "better" really just depends on your preference. The HTML editor is a perfectly fine way to change these features and preferred by a lot of people. Personally, I like writing my posts in the "Compose" tab located right next to the "Edit HTML" tab. 

In Compose you'll see a bunch of pictures that resemble what you'd see in a text editing program like Microsoft Word. I find this easier because I don't need to think about code and instead I can just click on pictures to do what I want. For me, the only time I use the HTML Editor is when I need the greater flexibility when doing things like borders, certain colors, etc.

Q: Is there a way to tell when followers don't follow you anymore? I thought I saw a post where someone said they knew a person quit following them, but from what I can tell, unless you have your followers memorized, it's all about numbers. Am I wrong?

As far as I can tell, you're right. The only way I can tell if I've been unfollowed is by looking at the number.  I'm pretty sure you can see who unfollowed you on Twitter, but I don't think Blogger has a similar application. 
If anyone knows if there is a way to see who has unfollowed through GFC, then please share!

Q: I've been thinking to add buttons to my blog - like from the blogs I love!  - I usually just have them in my blog roll, but I would like to display their buttons - when available - too. 

And I've seen some blogs were they have this automatically rotating thing, sort of like a slide show, and I was wondering if there was an 'easy' way to do this. Thanks!!

Go to your dashboard and go to Design --> Page Elements --> Add a Gadget

Select the HTML/JavaScript option

Copy and paste this code: 

<div class="textwidget"><marquee direction="up" width="205" onmouseover="this.stop()" scrollamount="2" onmouseout="this.start()" height="200" align="center">
The 205 in red sets the width. You can change this number to adjust the widget to fit your sidebars. 

The up controls the direction the pictures scroll. You can change this to "left" "right" or "down"

Where it says "Paste button code here" delete that and paste in the code bloggers have on their sidebar for you to "grab" In my case it would be this code: 

<a border="0" href="" target="_blank"><img src="" /></a>

You can paste in as many button codes as you want.

Q: How do you make the GoodReads, Facebook, Twitter, etc pictures bloggers have on their sidebars?

These are essentially buttons and you would make them the same way you would make a button for your blog. You can see detailed instructions on how to do this in the post How to Make a Button.

Basically you will need to find a place to host the picture you would like to use. Then you will copy the url for the picture and paste it into this code: 

<a border="0" href="" target="_blank"><img src="" /></a>

The part in red is where you will paste the link you want the button to lead to. If you're creating a button to go to your Goodreads page, then you will paste your Goodreads link here. 

The part in blue is where you will paste the link to your picture. Here are a few pictures you can save to get you started:

 I hope that helps! Let me know if you need anything clarified. If you've submitted a question that I haven't answered yet, rest assured it will be answered in an upcoming post. I have posts scheduled for every question I've received so far.

The form is anonymous, so please don't feel shy at all!

I'm certainly not an expert, but I'll try my hardest to explain what I do know and research what I don't know.

Click here to read previous How To Posts 

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday (19)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine where we all feature upcoming books we're eagerly anticipating.

I've altered things a little to include one book that hasn't come out yet and one that has already been published but I still haven't gotten around to reading yet.

Goodreads description of Juliet Immortal (September 2011):

Juliet Capulet didn't take her own life. She was murdered by the person she trusted most, her new husband, Romeo Montague, a sacrifice made to ensure his own immortality. But what Romeo didn't anticipate was that Juliet would be granted eternity, as well, and would become an agent for the Ambassadors of Light. For 700 years, she's fought Romeo for the souls of true lovers, struggling to preserve romantic love and the lives of the innocent. Until the day she meets someone she's forbidden to love, and Romeo, oh Romeo, will do everything in his power to destroy that love.

Why I want to read it: 

I was never a fan of Romeo and Juliet, so I have no purist qualms with Stacey Jay’s revamping this classic tale. In fact, I never bought their super-duper love, and so I’m really digging the new spin of making Romeo a double crossing sleaze. And making Juliet some kick butt immortal? Ha, I love it! I want to see these two go toe to toe, and I want it to be epic.

 Goodreads description of Intrinsical (August 2010):

Sixteen-year-old Yara Silva has always known that ghosts walk alongside the living. Her grandma, like the other females in her family, is a Waker, someone who can see and communicate with ghosts. Yara grew up watching her grandmother taunted and scorned for this unusual ability and doesn't want that to be her future. She has been dreading the day when she too would see ghosts, and is relieved that the usually dominant Waker gene seems to have skipped her, letting her live a normal teenage life. 

However, all that changes for Yara on her first day at her elite boarding school when she discovers the gene was only lying dormant. She witnesses a dark mist attack Brent, a handsome fellow student, and rushes to his rescue. Her act of heroism draws the mist's attention, and the dark spirit begins stalking her. Yara finds herself entrenched in a sixty-year-old curse that haunts the school, threatening not only her life, but the lives of her closest friends as well. Yara soon realizes that the past she was trying to put behind her isn't going to go quietly.

Why I want to read it: 

I like ghosts, I like suspense and mystery, and I love decades-old curses. I haven’t read many reviews for this one, but the few I have read have all been very positive. The next book in the series (Indelible) comes out this September and, I have to admit, Indelible’s beautiful cover has given me renewed interest in Intrinsical.

Have any of you read either of these books? Would you recommend them?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Book Review: A Tale of Two Castles by Gail Carson Levine

Green Bean Teen Queen hosts a meme on Tuesdays called Tween Tuesday where great books for tweens are featured. 

More of my Tween Tuesday posts.

A Tale of Two Castles by Gail Carson Levine
Release Date: May 10, 2011
Publisher: HarperCollins

Pages: 216
Received: ARC from Net Galley
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars 
Goodreads Page


From Goodreads:

Mysteries abound, especially in Two Castles.

A handsome cat trainer, black-and-white cats, thieves on four legs and two, suspicious townsfolk, a greedy king, a giddy princess, a shape-shifting ogre, a brilliant dragon. Which is the villainous whited sepulcher?

Elodie journeys to the town of Two Castles to become a mansioner—an actress—but luck is against her. She is saved from starvation by the dragon Meenore, who sends her on a dangerous mission inside the ogre's castle. There, disguised as a kitchen maid at an ogre's feast, she finds herself cast in the role of a lifetime and pitted against a foe intent on murder.

Newbery Honor author Gail Carson Levine weaves an entrancing tale of a fearsome ogre, a dragon detective, and a remarkable heroine, who finds friendship where she least expects it, learns that there are many ways to mansion, and discovers that goodness and evil come in all shapes and sizes.


I’ve only read one other Gail Carson Levine book before (The Two Princesses of Bamarre), but I already notice a pattern to her writing. I hope this pattern holds true, because GCL appears to be an author I can go to when I want a light and sweet MG fantasy book that will hold my interest and make me feel good.

The dragon Meenore was the biggest draw for me. This character is just one of those feel good characters that acts tough but has a secret soft spot for the main character. I love these kinds of characters and the way they capture that childhood feeling of a parent that may at times say no, but they are always filled with boundless love and protection. The other secondary characters were equally vibrant and fulfilled their roles perfectly.

The only character I didn’t like was actually the main character, Elodie. She wasn’t horrible, but there was just something about her that rubbed me the wrong way and made it difficult for me to relate to her. This is why I didn’t give the book a higher rating, though she didn’t irritate me enough to significantly lower my rating. Readers with a passion for acting will probably enjoy Elodie.

Also appreciated is GCL’s unique approach to fantasy. As in The Two Princesses of Bamarre, the creatures here are largely original creations. Ogres are common creatures in fantasy, but in GCL’s hands, an ogre becomes an entirely new being capable of shape shifting. Learning about her creatures and the rules surrounding them was almost as interesting as the story.

What kept me turning the pages the most was the mystery. It was paced nicely and kept me guessing more than other MG books, though I did figure things out before the reveal. Meenore coaches Elodie on inductive and deductive reasoning, urging her to collect clues and apply these techniques. This was an entertaining way to advance the plot and keep the reader engaged, though readers not familiar with the techniques may be confused as to the differences between the two approaches.

I have already placed an order for this book for my library’s collection. It should be a hit with Gail Carson Levine fans and MG readers who enjoy fantasy with mystery elements (think The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede, though not as funny).

Note on my edition: I read an ARC from Net Galley that was 216 pages. Goodreads has this book listed at 320 pages, so I wonder if my version is missing a significant part of the book. The version I read didn’t strike me as incomplete at all, so I’m curious to see how the finished version compares.

 Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key 

This book satisfies the following challenges: 

Looking for another by Gail Carson Levine? 
You might like: 
The Two Princesses of Bamarre

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