Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Book Reviews: Merrie Haskell

I reread The Princess Curse at the end of 2017 and I remembered how much I loved the book and how I had shunned Merrie Haskell's two follow up books because they weren't the longed-for sequels to The Princess Curse. I know, I make strange reading decisions.

I decided to suck up my disappointment that they weren't sequels and give them a shot in their own right. And now I'm sad that they don't have sequels and that I don't have anymore Merrie Haskell books to read. At this point, she's an auto-buy author for me.

Handbook for Dragon Slayers 
Pages: 336
Released: May 28, 2013
Publisher: Harper Collins
Received: Library
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Let's see...beautiful imagery, a scrappy band of friends, dragons, legends, subtle nods to The Princess Curse and touching lessons learned. Plus, magical horses. And a creepy dash of Blue Beard. There's so much packed into this slim book that it's hard to describe everything and do it justice. Merrie Haskell has a knack for referencing a zillion different stories while creating a story that is wholly her own. The result is a multi-layered treasure hunt and a story with texture and depth. Highly recommended.

The Castle Behind Thorns
Pages: 332
Released: May 27, 2014
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Received: Library
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I put this book off because I thought it would be boring. And, granted, it is a slower book. There isn't a ton of action. There's a lot of slow unraveling. The slower pace is a positive thing though and it isn't a boring kind of slow. It's a quiet, peaceful kind of slow. More like Juliet Marillier's Heart's Blood. The characters in this book needed to heal, and that is a process that takes time. The emotional healing of the characters ran parallel with the slow mending of the broken castle and made for a lovely, touching story. A book to sink into, savor, and let it work its slow-burn magic.


Wednesday, February 21, 2018

DNF Explanations: Path of Fate and Haven

Path of Fate by Diana Pharoah Francis
ARC from NetGalley

I originally added this series to my TBR because it was recommended for readers who like the Firekeeper series by Jane Lindskold. Mostly I'm guessing the link between the two is because they both have human main characters who are able to speak to animals. Maybe there's more of a connection?

What I do know is that the political system of the Firekeeper series is interesting, and the political system in Path of Fate was annoying. Firekeeper's felt like the world was created for the story. Path of Fate feels like the world and story were created for the author to send a thinly veiled message about the real world. And I don't want that. So, DNF.

Haven by Mary Lindsey
Finished copy from publisher

I feel guilty about DNF-ing this book. It came, unexpectedly, with a fancy package filled with confetti, a mug, candy, and other treats. So, in deference to materialism, of which I am always a sucker, I dropped everything and started reading Haven.

Unfortunately, Haven was written a few years too late for me. Had this been written during the Twilight craze, Haven would have been a smash hit. The characters are generally good people and it was easy to care about them. There's a heavy dose of "lost puppy, adoptive loving family" syndrome, and I'm a sucker for that. The paranormal aspects were typical, but in a good way. The teen angst was heavy, including a fairly prominent romance that would have likely had me swooning ten years ago.

Maybe I'm too old for this story. Maybe the Twilight craze is too far in the past. Whatever the reason, Haven seemed like a good book that I have generally positive feelings for and very little interest in actually reading at this point in my life. Readers who are still searching for the next Twilight should definitely check out Haven.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

DNF Explanations: YA and MG

Forever, Again by Victoria Laurie
Released: December 13, 2016
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Received: ARC from publisher
Read 62 of 360 pages

Well, I'm not sure if I'm disappointed I won't be reading more of this book or relieved that I found out now and not after more hours of reading.

I flew through the first 62 pages and I had every intention of finishing the book. I figured it would be a solid 3 or 3.5 star read: good, enjoyable, but nothing spectacular or something I'd reread. Still, I was enjoying the pacing and tension of uncovering the mystery.

And then I came across some low star Goodreads reviews with spoiler tags. And I clicked on them. And...I decided to DNF. The big reveal just seemed disappointing and not something I'd like, which makes the time spent with the book not really worthwhile. I can deal with a meh reveal if the characters and story leading up to that are still engaging and stand on their own, but after 62 pages, my impression of the characters was that they weren't going to become anything more than a vehicle for the mystery.

So, DNF.

The Adventurers Guild by Zack Loran Clark and Nick Eliopulos
Released: October 3, 2017
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Received: ARC from publisher
Read 6 of 320 pages

Chalk this one up to wrong book, wrong reader. I had high hopes: cute cover, fun premise, middle-grade adventuring...recipe for success. I didn't expect a writing style that grated on my nerves enough to make me put the book down with only a microscopic smidgen of regret. The characters and story felt stock, the writing serviceable at best, and everything had a very phoned in, paint-by-numbers kind of feel. No heart. Oh well, c'est la vie. Onto the next book!

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Book Review: Another Little Piece by Kate Karyus Quinn

Pages: 419
Released: June 11, 2013
Publisher: Harper Teen
Received: Own, won
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

I've carted this book through three moves and before moving a fourth time I figured it'd be in my back's best interest to decide if this was worth schlepping again.

So is it? Eh, yes and no. I have access to e-copies through the library, and that's enough "ownership" for me. Now that I've read my paper copy, I think I'll trade it in at the local used bookstore for something else.

But that isn't to say I didn't enjoy the book. The premise is so different and engaging. I was hooked over the entire 400+ pages. The chapters are also tiny, which always helps. 

The mystery starts out with trying to figure out what happened to Annaliese, why she disappeared for a year and where she spent that year since her memories of that time are gone. Once that mystery starts unfolding, then another more paranormal mystery takes shape. Then as that mystery starts revealing itself, the mystery of what is Annaliese going to decide to do captured my interest. Each mystery was engaging and flowed seamlessly into one another, which kept the momentum of the overall story up and my interest never flagged.

While that is a lot of stuff and makes up for a good bit of the massive 400+ pages, there's also a lot of people drama mixed in filling up a lot of those pages. The parts with Annaliese's family had me hook, line, and sinker. Probably because I'm a sucker for heart-felt family stuff that feels secure and fluffy and loving. There a fierce love that felt palpable and gut-wrenching and good.

And then there was the romance, and that paled in comparison. It felt tacked on as the Required YA Romance, and while I fully admit I'm the kind of reader who generally wants a touch of romance in everything and whines when it's not there...I could have done without it here. Also, the teenage high school drama (friendship, mean girl, ex-boyfriend, new boyfriend, yada yada) was boring.

Part of me thinks this is because I'm old and not a teenager, and therefore also not the target audience. Part of me thinks it's because those sections were more filler and slowed down and interrupted the paranormal and mystery aspects of the storyline. Part of me thinks they were kinda necessary too though. So, maybe it would have been better if they had been kept in, but trimmed a little.

Bottom line

At one point I was tempted to just give this book away without reading it (cover judged it, still don't like the cover), but I'm glad I didn't do that. I'm glad I read this book. It was different, engaging, and touching. The paranormal bits weren't the typical thing, and I was overall satisfied with them. But, now that the mysteries are over, I'm ok with letting it go.

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