Book Review: The Darkest Hour by Caroline Tung Richmond

Book Review: The Darkest Hour by Caroline Tung RichmondThe Darkest Hour by Caroline Tung Richmond
Published by Scholastic on July 26, 2016
Genres: Historical Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 304
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
3 Stars
Never underestimate a pretty face.

My name is Lucie Blaise.

I am sixteen years old.

I have many aliases, but I am none of the girls you see.

What I am is the newest agent of the CO-7.

And we are here to take down Hitler.

After the Nazis killed my brother on the North African front, I volunteered at the Office of Strategic Services in Washington, DC, to do my part for the war effort. Only instead of a desk job at the OSS, I was tapped to join the Clandestine Operations -- a secret espionage and sabotage organization of girls. Six months ago, I was deployed to German-occupied France to gather intelligence and eliminate Nazi targets.

My current mission: Track down and interrogate a Nazi traitor about a weapon that threatens to wipe out all of Western Europe. Then find and dismantle the weapon before Hitler detonates it. But the deeper I infiltrate, the more danger I'm in. Because the fate of the free world hangs in the balance, and trusting the wrong person could cause millions of lives to be lost. Including my own.

Book Review:

At the start of THE DARKEST HOUR, Lucie’s biggest concern is successfully completing a mission and earning her title of “agent” in Covert Ops. But before she knows it, she’s in action up to her eyeballs, debating whether or not to trust a Nazi defector who has deadly knowledge about a new superweapon.

I was originally interested in THE DARKEST HOUR because, female teenage secret agents? I gobble that kind of thing up with a big spoon. I didn’t know what else to expect from the book, because the summary’s sort of vague. I was pleasantly surprised by where the author took Lucie — there were definitely some twists I never saw coming. The action was nonstop.

There was no romance in THE DARKEST HOUR, which I was super happy about. One, ain’t nobody got time for that when you’re trying to take down a Nazi superweapon, and two, not every YA book needs a romance to be complete. I was so happy that Lucie wasn’t swooning over every boy she met, but instead thinking about the best place to stick a knife.

The last third of the book is where things took a downturn for me. I can’t really say why without spoiling everything, but I found Lucie’s recovery, and thus the ending, a bit unbelievable. I wanted to see her process what happened, rather than pick up a few months later and everything’s a-okay. I also saw through the big twist early on, which lessened the dramatic impact of the book for me.

Socialize with the author:

Caroline Tung Richmond:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Lily and Dunkin by Donna Gephart

Book Review: Lily and Dunkin by Donna GephartLily and Dunkin by Donna Gephart
Published by Delacorte Books for Young Readers on May 3, 2016
Genres: Contemporary, LGBT, Middle Grade
Pages: 352
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
3 Stars
Author Donna Gephart crafts a dual narrative about two remarkable young people: Lily, a transgender girl, and Dunkin, a boy dealing with bipolar disorder.

Sometimes our hearts see things our eyes can’t.

Lily Jo McGrother, born Timothy McGrother, is a girl. But being a girl is not so easy when you look like a boy. Especially when you’re in the eighth grade.

Dunkin Dorfman, birth name Norbert Dorfman, is dealing with bipolar disorder and has just moved from the New Jersey town he’s called home for the past thirteen years. This would be hard enough, but the fact that he is also hiding from a painful secret makes it even worse.

One summer morning, Lily Jo McGrother meets Dunkin Dorfman, and their lives forever change.

Book Review:

I wanted to read LILY AND DUNKIN because Lily is transgender, and there currently aren’t many Middle Grade books with transgender main characters. The book is told from the alternating POVs of Lily and Dunkin, a boy dealing with bipolar disorder and hiding a big secret.

Going in, I was most interested in Lily’s story. And the first twenty to thirty pages deepened my interest, because I liked Lily a lot. It takes a ton of courage to want to dress as a girl for the first day of eighth grade when she’s already been bullied, and her father clearly disapproves.

But then Dunkin took over the book for me. His character was more vivid and developed and memorable. Even though I disliked him for dissing Lily to be popular, I knew why he did it, and the doubt he had about doing so rang true. And as he stopped taking his meds, he practically vibrated off the page.

I could tell the author had firsthand experience with bipolar disorder. She wrote in the Author’s Note she promised her son (who has it), that she would one day write a book about it. In comparing Dunkin to Lily, I could see that the author didn’t have that experience with someone who is transgender.

I still did enjoy LILY AND DUNKIN. I liked that Lily and Dunkin sort of oriented around each other, rather than being friends right away. I liked that we saw Lily’s parents and Dunkin’s mom; it was especially great that Lily’s mom was so supportive.

But then there was this scene at the end of the book that, if Lily and Dunkin actually did what they did, they would be bullied into the stratosphere in the small-minded world of middle school. I wish the author had put that scene more towards the middle of the book, so she could have explored the repercussions of their show of support for each other. I wanted a bit more resolution.

Overall, while I liked LILY AND DUNKIN, I couldn’t help but want more from it. More personality for Lily. More resolution at the end. And so on.

Socialize with the author:

Donna Gephart:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Queen of Hearts by Colleen Oakes

Book Review: Queen of Hearts by Colleen OakesQueen of Hearts by Colleen Oakes
Series: Queen of Hearts Saga #1
Published by HarperTeen on May 3, 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 320
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Goodreads
3 Stars
As Princess of Wonderland Palace and the future Queen of Hearts, Dinah’s days are an endless monotony of tea, tarts, and a stream of vicious humiliations at the hands of her father, the King of Hearts. The only highlight of her days is visiting Wardley, her childhood best friend, the future Knave of Hearts — and the love of her life.

When an enchanting stranger arrives at the Palace, Dinah watches as everything she’s ever wanted threatens to crumble. As her coronation date approaches, a series of suspicious and bloody events suggests that something sinister stirs in the whimsical halls of Wonderland. It’s up to Dinah to unravel the mysteries that lurk both inside and under the Palace before she loses her own head to a clever and faceless foe.

Part epic fantasy, part twisted fairy tale, this dazzling saga will have readers shivering as Dinahs furious nature sweeps Wonderland up in the maelstrom of her wrath.

Familiar characters such as Cheshire, the White Rabbit, and the Mad Hatter make their appearance, enchanting readers with this new, dark take on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

Book Review:

QUEEN OF HEARTS is … well, a fantastical journey into Wonderland. It’s whimsical, dark, and more than a little crazy. But what else would you expect from the future Queen of Hearts?

Dinah is stubborn, feisty, and prone to fits of anger. She knows she’ll be queen of Wonderland one day, and she can’t wait for that day, to kick her father off the throne. Beheadings? She can watch them without batting an eye. But if someone’s cruel to her brother, Charles the Mad Hatter, she’ll get them back.

Some of Dinah’s attitude can be attributed to her difficult relationship with her father. Dysfunctional doesn’t begin to describe it. The King of Hearts hates his daughter — his heir. So when he introduces an illegitimate daughter to the court, and tells Dinah to accept Vittiore as her new sister, it’s just one more way of showing his dislike for Dinah.

Whatever. When Dinah’s Queen, she’ll put Vittiore and her father in their places. But will she be Queen?

QUEEN OF HEARTS is a delightfully quirky book. At first the amount of detail on Wonderland is almost overwhelming, but you get used to it quickly. And as a reader who loves to dive into new worlds, I really appreciated all the touches, little and big, that the author put into Wonderland. The snow is pink. Tarts are a favored delicacy. The palace is an architectural wonder, surrounded by an iron wall made of hearts. There’s so much creativity in this book. I will say that if you’re having trouble getting into the book, give it about 30 or 40 pages, and then it really gets going. I do wish a bit more had happened in the book though, as it’s mostly an introduction to Wonderland and Dinah.

Dinah grows quite a bit during the book; by the end, she’s not the same spoiled princess she was in the beginning. I think I liked Dinah so much was because her reactions were real to me. When presented with a new sister and told to love her, Dinah’s like, “I hate her. I’m never talking to her,” and she doesn’t. And though she’s a princess, she’s still nervous (but also kind of confident) when interacting with her crush.

Aside from Dinah, there are lots of other interesting characters, including the Mad Hatter, Cheshire, and even the King of Hearts himself. They’re sympathetic and creepy by turn. The ending sped by, and I really want to get my hands on volume two, so I can find out what happens to Dinah and another of my favorite characters, Morte the Hornhoov. I also can’t wait to see Dinah say, “Off with their heads!” and mean it.

I’m not super familiar with ALICE IN WONDERLAND, so I probably missed a couple of connections, but there’s plenty here that even the casual reader will recognize from Lewis Carroll’s classic. I love books that are about villains, and I can’t wait to see what else will happen to Dinah to turn her into the Queen of Hearts. Alice isn’t in this book, but I’d rather have Dinah. The villains are always so much more interesting!

Note: I read the original version of QUEEN OF HEARTS published by SparkPress in 2014. I compared the HarperTeen version to that one, and aside from some editing, I didn’t see any changes. I do like the new cover, so thumbs up, HarperTeen!

Socialize with the author:

Colleen Oakes:
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– leeanna

Book Review: The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

Book Review: The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani ChokshiThe Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi
Published by St. Martin's Griffin on April 26, 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Mythology, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 352
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
3 Stars
Fate and fortune. Power and passion. What does it take to be the queen of a kingdom when you're only seventeen?

Maya is cursed. With a horoscope that promises a marriage of Death and Destruction, she has earned only the scorn and fear of her father's kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her whole world is torn apart when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. Soon Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Neither roles are what she expected: As Akaran's queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar's wife, she finds something else entirely: Compassion. Protection. Desire...

But Akaran has its own secrets -- thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Soon, Maya suspects her life is in danger. Yet who, besides her husband, can she trust? With the fate of the human and Otherworldly realms hanging in the balance, Maya must unravel an ancient mystery that spans reincarnated lives to save those she loves the most. . .including herself.

A lush and vivid story that is steeped in Indian folklore and mythology. The Star-Touched Queen is a novel that no reader will soon forget.

Book Review:

THE STAR-TOUCHED QUEEN is a beautifully written book. The author has a lush, dreamy, descriptive writing style that goes hand-in-hand with her story. The whole time I was reading, I was swept into the different places Maya visits: Bharata, the Night Bazaar, and Akaran.

The book is a bit Beauty and the Beast, a bit Hades and Persephone, with Indian mythology. Maya grows up under the shadow of a deadly horoscope, which forecasts that she’ll bring death wherever she goes. When her father uses her marriage ceremony as a way to try to stop endless war, Maya doesn’t expect that he’ll tell her to kill herself. At the last second, she’s rescued by Amar, Raja of Akaran. Akaran is an empty land, but the palace is full of wonders and secrets.

While reading the book, I was caught up in it. In Maya’s time in Akaran and then her journey afterwards, her struggle to learn the truth about herself. But after I finished THE STAR-TOUCHED QUEEN, I was left feeling a bit… empty. I feel like the author focused too much on making every sentence beautiful and descriptive at the cost of describing the various Indian mythological creatures, developing Maya and Amar’s romance, and just telling me more of the story, instead of showing everything.

I needed more from THE STAR-TOUCHED QUEEN. I needed the author to tell me more about the various creatures Maya sees and interacts with. Kamala the pishacha, aka demon horse who wants to eat everyone? Kamala was awesome. One of the best parts of the book, hands down. I understand not every creature can be given that same development, but I would have liked to know a little more about various creatures that were mentioned. What’s a pey? What’s a raksha? And so on. There might be a glossary in the finished copy of the book; I read an early review copy. But still, I wanted more detail in the text. Most readers likely won’t be familiar with Indian mythology, and who wants to be pulled out of a story to Google something? And so on, with other elements.

Overall, THE STAR-TOUCHED QUEEN showed promise, and it was good while I was reading. But when I finished, I was left wanting more substance and explanation.

Socialize with the author:

Roshani Chokshi:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Kingdom of Ashes by Rhiannon Thomas

Book Review: Kingdom of Ashes by Rhiannon ThomasKingdom of Ashes by Rhiannon Thomas
Series: A Wicked Thing #2
Published by HarperTeen on February 23, 2016
Genres: Fairy Tales, Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 368
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Goodreads
3 Stars
Asleep for a hundred years, awoken by a kiss. Aurora’s life was supposed to be a fairytale.

But since discovering that loyalty to the crown and loyalty to her country are two very different things, Aurora knows she can only dream of happily ever after. Once the enchanted princess, savior of her people, she is now branded a traitor.

Aurora is determined to free her home from the king’s tyrannical rule, even if it means traveling across the sea to the kingdom of the handsome and devious Prince Finnegan—someone who seems to know far more about her magic than he should. However, Finnegan’s kingdom has perils of its own, and any help he gives Aurora will come at a price.

As Aurora and Finnegan work together to harness her power—something so fiery and dangerous that is as likely to destroy those close to Aurora as it is to save them—she begins to unravel the mysteries surrounding the curse that was placed on her over a century before…and uncover the truth about the destiny she was always meant to fulfill.

Brimming with captivating fantasy and life-threatening danger, the sequel to A Wicked Thing takes Sleeping Beauty on an adventure unlike any she’s ever had before.

Book Review:

KINGDOM OF ASHES is the second book in the A Wicked Thing duology. It picks up right after the end of A WICKED THING, with Aurora on the run from the mad king. In case you missed the first book, this series wonders what happens after Sleeping Beauty wakes up.

I wasn’t entirely sold on A WICKED THING last year; my rating was 3 stars, which is an average book for me. But I was intrigued enough to want to see what else the author had in store for Aurora.

It took me a while to figure out my rating for KINGDOM OF ASHES. I was bored for a lot of the pages, just like with the first book. There’s almost no recap of previous events, and I couldn’t remember a lot of what had happened. So I was confused and ehhhh for some of the book.I needed a reminder of why Aurora was running away from her country.

However, I really liked the ideas the author tried to explore, such as the expectations placed upon Aurora by the people of her country. How she’s supposed to save them from their unhappy lives simply because she woke up. But if she tries to take power into her hands, they’ll eventually hate her, like her country turned on their first female leader/founder.

But… KINGDOM OF ASHES just didn’t keep my interest for the majority of the story. For me, the dragons didn’t seem to fit. They kind of came out of nowhere; I was much more interested in Aurora and Celestine’s connection. I didn’t need the dragons, and I’m a reader who usually loves magical beasts. Give me more Aurora and Celestine!

Socialize with the author:

Rhiannon Thomas:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Sight Lines by Michelle DiCeglio

Book Review: Sight Lines by Michelle DiCeglioSight Lines by Michelle DiCeglio
Published by Elloras Cave Publishing Inc on November 6, 2015
Genres: LGBT, Mystery
Pages: 173
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
3 Stars
Police Detective Lacey Mills is on a mission to find a serial killer. Still reeling from the unsolved murder of her girlfriend two years earlier, Lacey has buried herself in work for too long. At least that’s what she’s told on her mandatory appointment with a shrink after being involved in a deadly shootout. It’s time to stop running away from every woman who shows interest in her.

When she meets a beautiful web designer named Ali, Lacey follows the doctor’s advice and lets herself take another chance on love. So much for cutting back on work—it turns out Ali has been hiding a big secret that might change the entire direction of Lacey’s murder investigation.

Book Review:

SIGHT LINES is a short but complete murder mystery with a side of romance. I was interested in reading it because Lacey, the main character and detective on the murder case, is gay. Her sexuality isn’t an issue — this isn’t a coming out book. I’m always on the lookout for more books with diverse characters that are characters outside of their diversity. For example, Lacey’s a detective who just happens to be gay.

Lacey’s latest case is a difficult one to crack. Several women have been killed, all by a gunshot to the head. The killer is very careful to not leave behind any forensic evidence. Lacey doesn’t want the cases to go cold, but with almost no evidence, there’s not much to go on. Her personal life isn’t going much better either; after the death of her girlfriend two years ago, Lacey’s been alone. But when web designer Ali comes along, Lacey takes a chance on starting something new.

I liked SIGHT LINES. It’s always nice to get a complete story in one go, without needing to wait years for the whole series. I also liked how Lacey wasn’t always right, and was able to admit when she made mistakes.

At the same time, SIGHT LINES was just too short, leaving me wanting more character development and development for the relationship between Lacey and Ali. I also had a few unanswered questions from the murder mystery. The author’s writing style was a bit too detailed for me in odd places — I would rather have had meaty info rather than knowing what a bit character wore or how they looked.

Socialize with the author:

Michelle DiCeglio:
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– leeanna

Book Review: The Secrets of Solace by Jaleigh Johnson

Book Review: The Secrets of Solace by Jaleigh JohnsonThe Secrets of Solace by Jaleigh Johnson
Series:
Published by Delacorte Books for Young Readers on March 8, 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Middle Grade
Pages: World of Solace #2
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
3 Stars
From Jaleigh Johnson, the acclaimed author of The Mark of the Dragonfly, comes another thrilling adventure in the magical world of Solace.

Lina Winterbock lives in the mountain strongholds of Solace. She’s an apprentice to the archivists, the wise men and women whose lives are dedicated to cataloging, studying, and preserving the objects that mysteriously fall from the sky in the scrap towns.

Lina should be spending her days with books, but the Iron War has changed everything. The strongholds are now a refuge, and the people Lina once counted on no longer have time for her, so she spends her days exploring the hidden tunnels and passages of her home. The strongholds are vast and old, with twisting paths, forgotten rooms, and collapsed chambers, some of them containing objects that have been lost and forgotten even by the archivists.

And in one of the forgotten chambers, Lina discovers a secret.
Hidden deep in a cavern is a half-buried airship like nothing she has ever seen before. She’s determined to dig it out and restore it. But Lina needs help, and she doesn’t know anyone she can trust with her secret.

Then she meets Ozben, a mysterious boy who has a secret of his own—a secret that’s so dangerous it could change the course of the Iron War and the world of Solace forever.

Book Review:

I enjoyed Jaleigh Johnson’s first book set in the word of Solace, THE MARK OF THE DRAGONFLY. THE SECRETS OF SOLACE is a standalone also set in Solace, but with two new characters: Lina and Ozben.

Lina is an apprentice archivist, studying the mysterious artifacts from the meteor fields. Ozben is a refugee boy with a huge secret. When they meet, Lina gets the first friend she’s ever had, and Ozben might have a way to go home, thanks to Lina’s own secret. The friendship between Lina and Ozben was quite nice to read; it was probably one of my favorite parts of the book.

Otherwise… I’m struggling a bit with reviewing THE SECRETS OF SOLACE. I can’t help but compare it to THE MARK OF THE DRAGONFLY, and it just doesn’t have the same magic. The first half of the book was quite slow, leaving me wanting more action and more from Lina, other than her repeating the same mistakes. I feel like the author spent too much time setting up Lina’s pre-teen angst, and then rushed to wrap up all the storylines in the last quarter of the book.

The end of the book was good, and I liked what we learned about the Merlin… I just wish there had been more of the ship in the book. I’m not going to spoil anything, but the Merlin was very cool, and I hope that if Johnson writes another Solace book, we’ll see more of that type of thing.

Socialize with the author:

Jaleigh Johnson:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Chapelwood by Cherie Priest

Book Review: Chapelwood by Cherie PriestChapelwood by Cherie Priest
Series: The Borden Dispatches #2
Published by Roc on September 1, 2015
Genres: Horror
Pages: 434
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
3 Stars
From Cherie Priest, the award-winning author of Maplecroft, comes a new tale of Lizzie Borden’s continuing war against the cosmic horrors threatening humanity…

Birmingham, Alabama is infested with malevolence. Prejudice and hatred have consumed the minds and hearts of its populace. A murderer, unimaginatively named “Harry the Hacker” by the press, has been carving up citizens with a hatchet. And from the church known as Chapelwood, an unholy gospel is being spread by a sect that worships dark gods from beyond the heavens.

This darkness calls to Lizzie Borden. It is reminiscent of an evil she had dared hoped was extinguished. The parishioners of Chapelwood plan to sacrifice a young woman to summon beings never meant to share reality with humanity. An apocalypse will follow in their wake which will scorch the earth of all life.

Unless she stops it…

Book Review:

I don’t typically read horror, but Cherie Priest has been on my watch list for a long time, and who can resist a book featuring Lizzie Borden?

CHAPELWOOD is the second book in the Borden Dispatches series. CHAPELWOOD is set 25 years after the events of the first book, MAPLECROFT. A few familiar faces from MAPLECROFT are back, namely Lizzie Borden and Inspector Simon Wolf. I quite liked seeing these two older characters (sort of) save the day — all too often, heroes are young and dashing. It was a nice change to have two older characters who used their brains and hard-won experience.

MAPLECROFT and CHAPELWOOD are the only Lovecraftian horror books I’ve read, but I think they fit the sub-genre quite well. I thought MAPLECROFT was scarier, but I liked CHAPELWOOD‘s subtle mocking of racism and rich white men in power. I also liked Ruth Stephenson, the real female power in this book. It was great to see Lizzie again, but she was more of a side character this time, called upon by Wolf for her experience. Ruth takes matters into her own hands, even when the situation is beyond hopeless.

I did find a few too many random things in CHAPELWOOD that left me wondering what the heck was going on there, such as with Nance or Storage Room Six. I mean, a storage room that eats certain papers is cool, but I just didn’t get where it fit into the story. Maybe my confusion on those things is because I’m not super familiar with the sub-genre.

Socialize with the author:

Cherie Priest:
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– leeanna

Book Review: The Shrunken Head by Lauren Oliver & H.C. Chester

Book Review: The Shrunken Head by Lauren Oliver & H.C. ChesterThe Shrunken Head by HC Chester, Lauren Oliver
Series: The Curiosity House #1
Published by HarperCollins on September 29, 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Middle Grade, Mystery
Pages: 368
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine, Edelweiss
Goodreads
3 Stars
What you will find in this book:

– A rather attractive bearded lady
– Several scandalous murders
– A deliciously disgusting Amazonian shrunken head
– Four extraordinary children with equally extraordinary abilities
– A quite loquacious talking bird

Blessed with extraordinary abilities, orphans Philippa, Sam, and Thomas have grown up happily in Dumfrey’s Dime Museum of Freaks, Oddities, and Wonders. But when a fourth child, Max, a knife-
thrower, joins the group, it sets off an unforgettable chain of events. When the museum’s Amazonian shrunken head is stolen, the four are determined to get it back. But their search leads them to a series of murders and an explosive secret about their pasts.

This sensational new series combines the unparalleled storytelling gifts of Lauren Oliver with the rich
knowledge of the notorious relics collector H.C. Chester.

What you will NOT find in this book:

– An accountant named Seymour
– A never-ending line at the post office
– Brussel sprouts (shudder)
– A lecture on finishing all your homework on time
– A sweet, gooey story for nice little girls and boy

Book Review:

Middle grade is a hit or miss age range for me, and THE SHRUNKEN HEAD was mostly a miss. Not to say I didn’t like it — I enjoyed the book while reading — but it’s not a series I’d continue. The book is average, nothing new or special, but one that would satisfy readers who liked similar books.

Pippa, Sam, Thomas, and Max live at Dumfrey’s Dime Museum of Freaks, Oddities, and Wonders. They’re freaks with special abilities; Sam is the strongest boy in the world, Pippa can read pockets, etc. Some are more okay with their special abilities than others, and one of the best things about the book is how positively being different is portrayed inside the museum.

When the museum’s newest exhibit, an Amazonian shrunken head, is stolen, the four band together to try and save Mr. Dumfrey and their home. Death seems to follow the shrunken head, but is it really a curse or just coincidence?

As I said above, I enjoyed THE SHRUNKEN HEAD while I read the book, but it’s one I won’t remember tomorrow. It’s the start to a series, but I probably wouldn’t continue the series because I just wasn’t that interested. The characters are likely enough, and the dime museum was a good setting . There are a few atmospheric illustrations. But I’m not sure who the book is aimed at. It was a tad long, and I wish it would have firmly established the time period, rather than alluding to it. I’m not sure 3-7 grade knows when Spanish flu hit or the stock market crashed. But the writing and mystery seem too simple for an older age range, so I’m not sure.

Socialize with the author:

Lauren Oliver:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Soundless by Richelle Mead

Book Review: Soundless by Richelle MeadSoundless by Richelle Mead
Published by Razorbill on November 10, 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 272
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
3 Stars
From Richelle Mead, the #1 internationally bestselling author of Vampire Academy and Bloodlines, comes a breathtaking new fantasy steeped in Chinese folklore.

For as long as Fei can remember, there has been no sound in her village, where rocky terrain and frequent avalanches prevent residents from self-sustaining. Fei and her people are at the mercy of a zipline that carries food up the treacherous cliffs from Beiguo, a mysterious faraway kingdom.

When villagers begin to lose their sight, deliveries from the zipline shrink and many go hungry. Fei’s home, the people she loves, and her entire existence is plunged into crisis, under threat of darkness and starvation.

But soon Fei is awoken in the night by a searing noise, and sound becomes her weapon.

Richelle Mead takes readers on a triumphant journey from the peak of Fei’s jagged mountain village to the valley of Beiugo, where a startling truth and an unlikely romance will change her life forever...

Book Review:

While I haven’t read any of Richelle Mead’s other books, I know a lot of readers love her Vampire Academy and Bloodlines series. I was excited to read SOUNDLESS because of the book’s premise: a fantasy with Chinese influences, featuring an entire village of deaf characters. Fei and her people have been trapped on top of a mountain for generations. Avalanches blocked them in and keep them from farmland. So to survive, they mine precious metals which are sent down the mountain by zipline. In return, the line keeper sends them food.

It’s a system that’s worked for generations, but now miners are beginning to lose their sight. Unable to send enough metal down the zipline, they are punished with restricted rations. Fei, who has a more privileged life than many as an artist’s apprentice, is terrified because her sister’s going blind. Fei joins Li Wei, her childhood friend, on an impossible quest to get down the mountain to bring awareness to her village’s plight. The quest is made possible because Fei has miraculously regained her hearing.

I really wanted to like SOUNDLESS. So many fantasy books are set in Medieval European-like countries that I’m always excited to see a book use other influences. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel like the author really developed the Asian setting and culture of SOUNDLESS. There are a few hints like foods and dress styles, but if there wasn’t an Asian girl on the cover, you could’ve plopped the book into any other generic fantasy setting. There are mentions of pixius (a mythological Chinese creature) in the book, but they needed more page time and development for me to feel them, rather than swooping in at the end.

I also didn’t like that Fei needed hearing to basically save the day. Because she can hear rocks falling, she and Li Wei are able to get down the mountain safely. Because she can hear soldiers and horses, she and Li Wei are able to escape pursuit. At first Fei’s not super happy about being able to hear, because it’s confusing and annoying to her, but as it saves her behind more and more, she admits the usefulness of it. By having Fei regain her hearing, I feel like the author was erasing a big part of Fei. That said, I do think Mead did a good job of showing how someone who has been deaf would think about suddenly having hearing — there were some good passages showing Fei’s feelings and thoughts.

In the end, SOUNDLESS was just okay. It’s a standalone, which also disappoints me a bit. Everything wraps up a bit too neatly at the end. Even though I’ve mostly pointed out negatives in this review, I would have liked to see more of Fei and her village, of what happens after the big climax. SOUNDLESS was just a bit too straightforward — a standard fantasy without anything super memorable. I think there are some great ideas here, but the execution was too simplistic.

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– leeanna