Book Review: Listen, Slowly by Thanhha Lai

Book Review: Listen, Slowly by Thanhha LaiListen, Slowly by Thanhha Lai
Published by HarperCollins on February 17, 2015
Genres: Diversity, Middle Grade
Pages: 272
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine, Edelweiss
Goodreads
4 Stars
This remarkable novel from Thanhha Lại, New York Times bestselling author of the National Book Award-winning and Newbery Honor Book Inside Out & Back Again, follows a young girl as she learns the true meaning of family.

A California girl born and raised, Mai can't wait to spend her vacation at the beach. Instead, though, she has to travel to Vietnam with her grandmother, who is going back to find out what really happened to her husband during the Vietnam War. Mai's parents think this trip will be a great opportunity for their out-of-touch daughter to learn more about her culture. But to Mai, those are their roots, not her own. Vietnam is hot, smelly, and the last place she wants to be. Besides barely speaking the language, she doesn't know the geography, the local customs, or even her distant relatives. To survive her trip, Mai must find a balance between her two completely different worlds.

Perfect for fans of Rita Williams-Garcia and Linda Sue Park, Listen, Slowly is an irresistibly charming and emotionally poignant tale about a girl who discovers that home and culture, family and friends, can all mean different things.

Book Review:

The summer she turns twelve, Mia’s sent to the last place she wants to go. Instead of spending the summer on the beach with her best friend, she’s stuck in Vietnam with her grandmother. Bà’s on a quest to find news of her husband, Ông, who vanished during THE WAR more than thirty-five years ago. Mia wants nothing to do with hot and smelly Vietnam, a place where the only Internet she can find is dial up and she can’t speak the language. But Mia also wants her grandmother to have peace… as long as Bà hurries up.

I think Mia’s character is a great look at a first-generation kid. Her parents raised her to be American, but also with Vietnamese values. Yes, Mia’s selfish at times for her wish to go back home to her friends, but she also recognizes how important it is that Bà have closure. Over the course of LISTEN, SLOWLY, Mia respects her grandmother and her Vietnamese culture more and more. I really liked that theme of the book — I wish more kids and teens (and even adults!) these days respected their elders.

LISTEN, SLOWLY isn’t an action-packed book; it does unfold somewhat slowly. I do wonder if the recommended age, 8-12, would stick with it. But I don’t think it’s a book restricted to that age — teen and adult readers looking for diversity and a heartwarming story should pick this up. I liked Mia’s sometimes sarcastic observations about her culture, from the language to the food to how people are so polite all the time. I liked how she told her story, and hope it’s one lots of people read. Alongside Mia’s journey to learning about family, I teared up a bit for Bà and Ông.

Socialize with the author:

Thanhha Lai:
Website

– leeanna

Book Review: The Turnip Princess by Franz Xaver von Schönwerth

Book Review: The Turnip Princess by Franz Xaver von SchönwerthThe Turnip Princess by Franz Xaver von Schonwerth
Published by Penguin Classics on February 24, 2015
Genres: Fairy Tales
Pages: 288
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
4 Stars
With this volume, the holy trinity of fairy tales--the Brothers Grimm, Charles Perrault, and Hans Christian Andersen--becomes a quartet. In the 1850s, Franz Xaver von Schönwerth traversed the forests, lowlands, and mountains of northern Bavaria to record fairy tales, gaining the admiration of even the Brothers Grimm. Most of Schönwerth's work was lost--until a few years ago, when thirty boxes of manuscripts were uncovered in a German municipal archive.

Now, for the first time, Schönwerth's lost fairy tales are available in English. Violent, dark, and full of action, and upending the relationship between damsels in distress and their dragon-slaying heroes, these more than seventy stories bring us closer than ever to the unadorned oral tradition in which fairy tales are rooted, revolutionizing our understanding of a hallowed genre.

Book Review:

In the 1850s, Franz Xaver von Schönwerth tried to collect folk tales and legends of his native Bavaria. In 2009, scholar Erika Eichenseer rediscovered a treasure trove of 500 of Schönwerth’s tales. THE TURNIP PRINCESS contains over 70 of those tales. There’s also a foreward by Eichenseer, as well as an introduction and commentary by translator Maria Tatar.

The book is organized into six sections:
*Tales of Magic and Romance
*Enchanted Animals
*Otherworldly Creatures
*Legends
*Tall Tales and Anecdotes
*Legends

I appreciated how the tales were grouped. I felt like I was journeying through time reading them, as in the latter stories, there’s some religious influence. But as a result of the grouping, some of the tales did feel repetitive. The stories range from 1-3 pages, so I’d recommend reading a handful here and there, rather than reading the book in one go. I’d also recommend reading the commentary for each tale after you finish it (I didn’t know there was commentary until the end), since I think it adds to the tales.

As for the tales themselves, I enjoyed them. They’re earthy, unsanitized, unvarnished. In “Ashfeathers,” which is similar to Cinderella, stepsisters cut off a toe and heel. It’s mentioned and the tale moves on. In many tales, evil queens trick their sons, sending away their grandchildren. In the end, they’re burnt at the stake without fanfare. In several, guys were the ones in trouble, and needed rescuing by women. In “Follow Me, Jodel!” the not-so-bright Jodel is helped by a beautiful woman cursed to be a frog.

Overall, I liked reading the fairy tales in THE TURNIP PRINCESS. I’d recommend this book for readers who enjoy fairy tales, and want to see some new tales. I quite like the fact that not every girl was a damsel in distress. Many were strong and capable of saving themselves and their men.

– leeanna

Book Review: The Diabolical Miss Hyde (Electric Empire #1) by Viola Carr

Book Review: The Diabolical Miss Hyde (Electric Empire #1) by Viola CarrThe Diabolical Miss Hyde by Viola Carr
Series: Electric Empire #1
Published by Harper Voyager on February 10, 2015
Genres: Alternate Universe, Fantasy, Mystery, Steampunk
Pages: 464
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Goodreads
4 Stars
Magic, mystery, and romance mix in this edgy retelling of the classic The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde–in which Dr. Eliza Jekyll is the daughter of the infamous Henry.

In an electric-powered Victorian London, Dr. Eliza Jekyll is a crime scene investigator, hunting killers with inventive new technological gadgets. Now, a new killer is splattering London with blood, drugging beautiful women and slicing off their limbs. Catching "the Chopper" could make Eliza's career—or get her burned. Because Eliza has a dark secret. A seductive second self, set free by her father's forbidden magical elixir: wild, impulsive Lizzie Hyde.

When the Royal Society sends their enforcer, the mercurial Captain Lafayette, to prove she's a sorceress, Eliza must resist the elixir with all her power. But as the Chopper case draws her into London's luminous, magical underworld, Eliza will need all the help she can get. Even if it means getting close to Lafayette, who harbors an evil curse of his own.

Even if it means risking everything and setting vengeful Lizzie free . . .

Book Review:

THE DIABOLICAL MISS HYDE originally caught my attention because it looked like it had steampunk elements, fantasy, evil curses, magical forensics, and a dark twin. This is one of those books that’s difficult to describe, but in a good way. Happily, the book had all it promised and more — I’m already looking forward to the next book in the Electric Empire series.

THE DIABOLICAL MISS HYDE is narrated in turn by Dr. Eliza Jekyll and Lizzie Hyde. Both are the same person, but with very different personalities and abilities. Those last names should sound familiar — remember the classic Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde? The author goes off that a bit, but makes it all her own.

Viola Carr wrote Eliza and Lizzie so differently that I never had any trouble telling them apart. Although they share a body, they felt like two distinct characters, and their dual narration/personalities was probably my favorite part of the book. It can bug the heck out of me when an author switches perspective mid-chapter or even mid-scene, but it really worked here. I loved the way one would take over from another. At first, Eliza tries to keep Lizzie subdued with alchemy, and when Lizzie does get out, Eliza’s relieved she can’t remember anything Lizzie does. But over the course of THE DIABOLICAL MISS HYDE, Eliza begins to trust and rely on Lizzie, and vice versa.

Dr. Eliza Jekyll is something of a forensic scientist, using her knowledge, experience, and gadgets to help the police solve crimes. Given the time period of an alternate London, many on the force aren’t willing to work with her, but Eliza trudges onwards in the search for justice. The case in THE DIABOLICAL MISS HYDE is a gruesome one: a serial killer takes body parts from each victim with surgical precision. Why? The appearance of a Royal Society watchdog hampers the investigation. Does the Society suspect Eliza of using unorthodox science?

The murder mystery was pretty twisty for me. The last quarter of THE DIABOLICAL MISS HYDE really surprised me, which is always something I enjoy.

I would have liked more worldbuilding, because the glimpses I got to see were fascinating. There’s an underworld of fae creatures, but other than a few scenes, we don’t learn much about them. Sadface. I also wanted to know more about Eliza’s London, where the crown decides what is allowed science and what is witchcraft. Sometimes, THE DIABOLICAL MISS HYDE felt like setup for the rest of the series, moving characters here and there, giving out this bit of vital information or that. Also, Eliza has a fascination with a killer she put away before the book started; I felt like I was missing some important background on the Todd/Eliza equation.

Aside from a bit of nitpicking, I really enjoyed THE DIABOLICAL MISS HYDE. It has an alchemical je ne sais quoi to it. Bring on more of the Electric Empire!

Socialize with the author:

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– leeanna

Book Review: Henge (Le Fay #1) by Realm Lovejoy

Book Review: Henge (Le Fay #1) by Realm LovejoyHenge by Realm Lovejoy
Series: Le Fay #1
Published by Self-Published on November 11, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Format: eARC
Source: Blog Tour
Goodreads
4 Stars
Modern-day Camelot. Where knights no longer carry swords. Magic is dangerous. And those who seek control are not to be trusted.

Sixteen-year-old Morgan le Fay is a fire user. An ordinary girl with an extraordinary skill, she has the ability to create and command fire at will. Her dream is to become the Maven—the right hand of the future King Arthur. In the chance of a lifetime, Morgan is selected to join Arthur’s Round, an elite group of young magic users from which the new Maven will be chosen.

Along with the other fire, water, and wind users in Arthur’s Round, Morgan is rigorously trained and tested. The handsome Merlin, a brilliant water user, takes a particular interest in her. Is his friendship to be trusted, or is Merlin simply trying to win the position of Maven for himself? Among the many rivals Morgan faces is the current Maven, Mordred, who seems determined to see her fail.

But Morgan has a secret—years ago, her mother was executed for using fire magic, and Morgan’s desire for justice makes her more than ready to take on the challenge before her. Can she prevail in Camelot’s tests of survival and magic? Only time—and Morgan’s powerful fire—will tell.

--

"Camelot meets Hogwarts meets Panem in this intriguing, well-written beginning to a planned YA series."--Kirkus Reviews

henge blog tour

Welcome to my stop on the tour for HENGE by Realm Lovejoy. The tour is hosted by CBB Book Promotions and you can visit the full schedule here. After my review, there’s a tour-wide giveaway.

Book Review:

HENGE kicks off a new series featuring Morgan le Fay, set in modern-day Camelot. Morgana le Fay is my favorite in Arthurian legends, so I’m always interested in seeing different takes on her character.

In Realm Lovejoy’s version of Camelot, cellphones and magic exist side-by-side. The ability to use magic isn’t guaranteed, and even if you can manipulate air, water, or fire, chances are you won’t be anything more than a performer. Unless, that is, you are chosen to become one of the upcoming king’s Rounds. The best Round will be selected as the king’s magic advisor, and the rest will be employed by Camelot as Knights or Relic Keepers. Political acumen is just as important as good magic skills.

Morgan’s dream is to become the king’s Maven. She wants magic users to have more rights, not less. And she’ll do anything to pursue that dream, including sneaking out from under her father’s watchful eye, or diving headfirst into the dangers of Camelot.

HENGE is quite interesting. I really liked the world the author created, the intriguing mix of magic and modern technology, old legends and new political tangles. There’s a lot of familiar names, including Merlin, Mordred, Guinevere, and Lancelot, but they’re not all straight from the old legends — they all have their own personalities. I wanted to learn more about each of them, as well as Morgan’s mother, Morgause.

Morgan herself was the most interesting character for me, since I was curious to see how the author would develop and grow her. Morgan’s a bit impulsive and tends to jump to conclusions, but she also wants to get rid of the injustices magic users face. I believed her reactions to everything that happened, and the last line of HENGE? I’m not going to spoil it, but yeah. I can’t wait to read more about Morgan!

Giveaway:

signed paperback of Henge + swag (US)
4 paperbacks of Henge (US)
6 ebooks (INT)
1 ebook + $20 Gift Card (INT)
Giveaway Ends November 28th

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*giveaway is tour-wide

About the author:

author realm lovejoyRealm Lovejoy is an American writer and an artist. She grew up in both Washington State and the Japanese Alps of Nagano, Japan. Currently, she lives in Seattle and works as an artist in the video game industry. CLAN is her first book. You can find out more about her and her book at www.realmlovejoy.com.
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Buy link: Amazon

– leeanna

Book Review: The Jewel (The Lone City #1) by Amy Ewing

Book Review: The Jewel (The Lone City #1) by Amy EwingThe Jewel by Amy Ewing
Series: The Lone City #1
Published by HarperTeen on September 2, 2014
Genres: Dystopian, Fantasy, Post-Apocalyptic, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 358
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine, Edelweiss
Goodreads
4 Stars
The Jewel means wealth. The Jewel means beauty. The Jewel means royalty. But for girls like Violet, the Jewel means servitude. Not just any kind of servitude. Violet, born and raised in the Marsh, has been trained as a surrogate for the royalty—because in the Jewel the only thing more important than opulence is offspring.

Purchased at the surrogacy auction by the Duchess of the Lake and greeted with a slap to the face, Violet (now known only as #197) quickly learns of the brutal truths that lie beneath the Jewel’s glittering facade: the cruelty, backstabbing, and hidden violence that have become the royal way of life.

Violet must accept the ugly realities of her existence... and try to stay alive. But then a forbidden romance erupts between Violet and a handsome gentleman hired as a companion to the Duchess’s petulant niece. Though his presence makes life in the Jewel a bit brighter, the consequences of their illicit relationship will cost them both more than they bargained for.

Book Review:

THE JEWEL is a difficult book for me to rate. I loved parts of it and other parts made me want to tear my hair out. I wavered between 3 and 4 stars, but went with 4 in the end because I was entertained by the story.

To start off, THE JEWEL has a really cool idea. Poor girls used as surrogates for the ultra wealthy? Bought and sold like property, treated like pets, and expected to make designer babies? Usually I don’t like stories that have even a whiff of pregnancy, but I dove head first into this one and enjoyed most of the ride.

THE JEWEL is a fast read. I kept flipping the pages because I wanted to know what would happen next to Violet. I normally read quickly, but I was consumed by this book. I couldn’t get enough of the opulent world of the Jewel, of the powerful and moralless women who rule it. The author painted a vivid picture of life within the Jewel, of the money thrown around carelessly while the poor starve and live in mud-brick houses.

There were some holes in the worldbuilding: we never find out what led to the creation of the Lone City. The city is arranged in five circles, each with an industry — as a farmer, I can’t quite believe in all the food being grown in one specific circle, especially land right next to a circle full of factories. I’m also not sure why only the girls of the Marsh (the poorest circle) are able to access the Auguries, although I imagine that will be explained in future books.

THE JEWEL does start a little slowly, with Violet saying goodbye to her old life, but once she’s bought at auction, the book takes off. I was fascinated by the Duchess of the Lake, Violet’s owner. She’s ruthless, and I liked how she treated Violet. (Yeah, I know that makes me twisted.)

But then we come to the part of THE JEWEL that frustrated me. The insta-love. Violet falls superfast for the companion of the Duchess’s niece. He falls superfast for her. Insta-love is a big peeve of mine, and while Violet and Ash do have music to bond over, I wish they wouldn’t have progressed to the “I love yous” so quickly. I wanted to roll my eyes whenever they were together. Violet/Ash drew me out of the spell of the book because I couldn’t believe in their relationship.

Overall, though, THE JEWEL was a blast to read, and I’m eager for the next book in the series.

Socialize with the author:

Amy Ewing:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Memory of Water by Emmi Itäranta

Book Review: Memory of Water by Emmi ItärantaMemory of Water by Emmi Itäranta
Published by Harper Voyager on June 10, 2014
Genres: Post-Apocalyptic, Science Fantasy, Science Fiction, Speculative Fiction
Pages: 272
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
4 Stars
Global warming has changed the world's geography and its politics. Wars are waged over water, and China rules Europe, including the Scandinavian Union, which is occupied by the power state of New Qian. In this far north place, seventeen-year-old Noria Kaitio is learning to become a tea master like her father, a position that holds great responsibility and great secrets. Tea masters alone know the location of hidden water sources, including the natural spring that Noria's father tends, which once provided water for her whole village.

But secrets do not stay hidden forever, and after her father's death the army starts watching their town-and Noria. And as water becomes even scarcer, Noria must choose between safety and striking out, between knowledge and kinship.

Imaginative and engaging, lyrical and poignant, Memory of Water is an indelible novel that portrays a future that is all too possible.

Book Review:

“But I knew that was what the best stories were like: you could believe in them, even if you knew they were just imagination (p. 65).”

For me, the above quote perfectly sums up MEMORY OF WATER. This book feels like it could come true. Sometime in the future, we could live in a world where there’s very little fresh water. In a world where the army controls all sources of water, there’s water rationing, and water crimes result in death.

The progress of MEMORY OF WATER is a lot like water. The book moves along slowly but surely, sometimes circling obstacles, but always coming back to the main story. I will warn you that this book doesn’t have a neat ending or resolution, which is usually something that bugs the heck out of me, because I like concrete endings, but it didn’t bother me here.

I did have some trouble getting into the book when I started it. But once I read a few chapters and got used to Noria’s narration, the author’s writing style, and the world, I didn’t want to put the book down. I finished it in one day, and a week later, I’m still thinking about MEMORY OF WATER.

Noria is a tea master, perhaps an odd profession in a world where water is so scarce. But tea masters preserve traditions, and Noria’s family also guards a secret spring, one of the last free springs. The secret spring lets the author explore lots of questions: Can water be controlled by the army? Should free water be kept a secret when families are suffering, even dying because they don’t have enough water? Should one take the easy way out, or stand up for what one believes in?

There’s not a lot of action in MEMORY OF WATER, which is a-okay. The book doesn’t need it. I’m just pointing that out because this book is different (in a good way) from a lot of the popular dystopian/post-apocalyptic YA fiction out there. MEMORY OF WATER is a book to make you think, a book that laps at the edges of your brain as you read. And the writing is just gorgeous, descriptive and evocative without falling into the usual cliches.

There is one thing about MEMORY OF WATER I didn’t like, which made it a 4 star book instead of a 5 star book. In order to explain what that one thing is, I have to do some plot spoiling, so don’t keep reading if you don’t want to know what happens. I will say it relates to worldbuilding, and while the author paints an excellent portrait of the world now, daily life and politics included, she doesn’t go into too much detail of how it became that way.

Otherwise, an amazing debut. Simple in some ways, but so complex in others. A real thought provoking book, putting the speculative in speculative fiction. I will definitely be on the lookout for more from Emmi Itäranta.

 

 

 

Last spoiler warning!

 

 

 

Okay. One of my big peeves is when authors withhold information from the reader. Noria and her best friend discover the truth about how the world changed, but the author does not tell the reader. That information stays a secret between Noria and Sanja, which is a shame, because I really wanted to know what happened. If they hadn’t found out the truth, I wouldn’t have been as disappointed, but they did, and so I was irked over that.

Socialize with the author:

Emmi Itäranta:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Prisoner of the Queen (Tales From the Tudor Court #2) by E. Knight

Book Review: Prisoner of the Queen (Tales From the Tudor Court #2) by E. KnightPrisoner of the Queen by E. Knight
Series: Tales From the Tudor Court #2
Published by Knight Media on July 30, 2014
Genres: Historical Fiction, Romance
Pages: 342
Format: eARC
Source: Blog Tour
Goodreads
4 Stars
I have served three queens in my life. One was my sister, one was my savior, and one my bitterest enemy.

Knowing she was seen as a threat to the Queen she served, Lady Katherine Grey, legitimate heir to the throne, longs only for the comfort of a loving marriage and a quiet life far from the intrigue of the Tudor court. After seeing her sister become the pawn of their parents and others seeking royal power and then lose their lives for it, she is determined to avoid the vicious struggles over power and religion that dominate Queen Elizabeth’s court. Until she finds love—then Kat is willing to risk it all, even life in prison.

prisoner of the queen by e. knight blog tour

I’m on a historical fiction kick lately, so it’s appropriate that I have a tour stop for PRISONER OF THE QUEEN by E. Knight. The book is the second in her Tales From the Tudor Court series, but you don’t need to read the books in order. The tour is hosted by Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours, and you can visit all the stops here.

Book Review:

Most people know the tale of Lady Jane Grey, the Nine Days Queen. I’ve read several books about her, fiction and nonfiction, but PRISONER OF THE QUEEN is the first book I’ve read that tells the story of her sister, Katherine. That’s what attracted me to the book in the first place, and I think E. Knight does a fantastic effort reimagining Katherine’s story.

Katherine’s story is not a happy one: for daring to marry the man she loved behind Queen Elizabeth’s back, she spent the rest of her life imprisoned. But even before her marriage to Edward Seymour, Katherine wasn’t in control of her life. Both Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth felt threatened by her presence, for she also had a claim to the throne, although she wanted nothing to do with it.

Katherine is an easy character to root for. She doesn’t want to be a pawn, used for the gains of men. She just wants to be happy, to enjoy life, to have a husband and children. But that isn’t in her stars, because of her royal blood and the political complications of the time. I liked how the author mentioned how pamphlets written by rebellious men impacted Katherine’s life — they were only thinking about their own gain, and never considered that Elizabeth would punish Katherine even more harshly. I didn’t quite agree with the author’s characterization of Elizabeth at first — jealous and fearful of losing power — but as the book went on, I believed it. For once, it was good to see Elizabeth from the view of someone wronged by the queen.

PRISONER OF THE QUEEN is a great book for fans of Tudor historical fiction. I really enjoyed Katherine’s story, and the ending made me tear up a bit. That doesn’t usually happen! I’m not always a fan of romance, but I got behind Katherine and Ned’s relationship, and wanted them to have a happy ending even though I knew they didn’t. The author included letters the two actually wrote to each other, and quotes from a poem written about their star crossed relationship kick off each chapter. PRISONER OF THE QUEEN is a different look into Tudor court life, from the eyes of one who doesn’t really want to be there.

About the author:

author e. knightE. Knight is a member of the Historical Novel Society, Romance Writers of America and several RWA affiliate writing chapters: Hearts Through History, Celtic Hearts, Maryland Romance Writers and Washington Romance Writers. Growing up playing in castle ruins and traipsing the halls of Versailles when visiting her grandparents during the summer, instilled in a love of history and royals at an early age. Feeding her love of history, she created the popular historical blog, History Undressed (www.historyundressed.com). Under the pseudonym Eliza Knight, she is a bestselling, award-winning, multi-published author of historical and erotic romance.
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– leeanna

Book Review: Thorn Jack (Night and Nothing #1) by Katherine Harbour

Book Review: Thorn Jack (Night and Nothing #1) by Katherine HarbourThorn Jack by Katherine Harbour
Series: Night and Nothing #1
Published by Harper Voyager on June 24, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, New Adult, Paranormal, Retelling, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 352
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
4 Stars
They call us things with teeth.

These words from Lily Rose Sullivan the night of her death haunts her seventeen-year-old sister, Finn, who has moved with her widowed father to his hometown of Fair Hollow, New York. After befriending a boy named Christie Hart and his best friend, Sylvie Whitethorn, Finn is invited to a lakeside party where she encounters the alluring Jack Fata, a member of the town's mysterious Fata family. Despite Jack's air of danger and his clever words, Finn learns they have things in common.

One day, while unpacking, Finn finds her sister's journal, scrawled with descriptions of creatures that bear a sinister resemblance to Jack's family. Finn dismisses these stories as fiction, but Jack's family has a secret—the Fatas are the children of nothing and night, nomadic beings who have been preying on humanity for centuries—and Jack fears that his friendship with Finn has drawn the attention of the most dangerous members of his family—Reiko Fata and vicious Caliban, otherwise known as the white snake and the crooked dog.

Plagued with nightmares about her sister, Finn attempts to discover what happened to Lily Rose and begins to suspect that the Fatas are somehow tied to Lily Rose's untimely death. Drawn to Jack, determined to solve the mystery of her sister's suicide, Finn must navigate a dangerous world where nothing is as it seems.

Book Review:

Before I start my review of THORN JACK, I should say I wasn’t super familiar with the tale it’s based on, Tam Lin. THORN JACK is a modern retelling, but I don’t think you need to know Tam Lin in order to enjoy this book.

THORN JACK is a lush, detailed, atmospheric dive into the supernatural. It’s a book I want to reread so I can enjoy all the little details and descriptions the author wove into the story. I was sad when I finished THORN JACK, because I knew I’d miss the creepy, dark atmosphere and the dangerous faeries. I am really looking forward to the next two Night and Nothing books so I can spend more time in this world.

When the book starts, Finn is almost … bland. It’s like she’s sleepwalking through life until she meets the mysterious Jack. I admit, I did think of TWILIGHT, but I didn’t get that vibe for long. Finn’s detachedness makes sense, because she’s mourning her older sister. Lily Rose killed herself, but Finn doesn’t know why. Only as she settles into her new town, finds new friends, and learns more about Jack, does Finn start to “wake up.” She also starts to wonder about Lily Rose, and what really happened.

But she’s not sure what’s real and what’s not, and neither is the reader. There are concerts in the woods and parties in abandoned hotels attended by boys with antlers, ghosts, and mythical creatures. There are a lot of characters in THORN JACK, maybe too many, but I thought they added to the lush feeling of the book. Reiko Fata was one of my favorite characters, but then, I tend to like evil, dark women, and she’s that and more. I enjoyed all the bits of Reiko’s backstory, and honestly, I could have read a book just about her. I also liked Finn’s friends, Christie and Sylvie. They bond very quickly, which I found a bit unrealistic, but I liked how they were there for each other, willing to help Finn even when she was doing something dangerous or stupid.

Reading THORN JACK was mostly an experience for me. Looking back, there are some things I question and criticize, but overall, I really enjoyed the book while I was reading it. I kept wanting to skip ahead to see what would happen next, and I found myself turning the pages way too quickly. This would be a great book to read around Hallowe’en, both because Hallowe’en plays an important role in the story and because of the general feeling of the season.

Formatting wise, I wish the glossary of “Fata Terms” had been at the beginning of the book, because I didn’t even know there was a glossary. The words (look like Gaelic?) aren’t used that often, but it would have been helpful to know what they meant.

Socialize with the author:

Katherine Harbour:
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– leeanna

Book Review: 84 Ribbons by Paddy Eger

Book Review: 84 Ribbons by Paddy Eger84 Ribbons by Paddy Eger
Published by Tendril Press on March 15, 2014
Genres: Contemporary, Historical Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 346
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
4 Stars
Seventeen year old Marta Selbryth realizes her dream of becoming a professional dancer when the Intermountain Ballet Company in Billings, Montana invites her to join their 1957 season. As Marta's new life unfolds, she must learn to face not only the successes of dancing in the corps de ballet, but the challenges and setbacks that might crush the dream she's had for so long.

After a couple of mishaps, Marta settles into life in a boarding house located near the ballet company. Her landlady, Mrs. B., is friendly, reduces her rent when Marta's offers to bake for the boarder and later allows her to use the basement as a practice studio. The two male boarders are supportive; Carol, a fellow boarder, ignores her.

Marta spends her free time practicing when she's not spending time with her new friends Lynne and Bartley,her fellow corps dancers. Their time together becomes an important lifeline through their first year.

Madame Cosper, the artistic director, is a demanding woman. Marta begins their association poorly when she makes a disastrous choice. Expecting expulsion, Marta receives a second chance in the form of dancing the unpopular character roles during the fall and winter performances.Marta determines to dance every role with confidence in hopes of proving to Madame that she's up for every challenge.

Steve, a young college man and a reporter, spots Marta when he's assigned to write an article about ballet for the local paper. He's attracted to her and begins his pursuit.Over the months ahead, he becomes her tour guide of the area and attempts to convince Marta to be his girl. But her steadfast focus is ballet and some of her adventures with him lead to problems withMadame Cosper.

Shortly after Christmas, everything changes for Marta, Bartley andSteve. Significant events permanently influence their lives. Each must deal with exhilaration and heartbreak as well as frustration and changes that test their ability to cope.

Book Review:

In 84 RIBBONS, Marta’s dream of becoming a professional ballerina comes true. But realizing her dream comes with a number of challenges, from living on her own to struggling with weight and injuries. The book, set in the late 1950s, follows Marta’s journey, and manages to be both nostalgic and relatable.

I generally like books set in the ballet world, so 84 RIBBONS was a good book for me. But it’s more than just a ballet book. Yes, Marta’s dream is to dance professionally and she does, but this book is also a coming of age story. Issues that were ignored at the time, such as depression and eating disorders, are worked into the book. Marta deals with a lot in her first year of independence, and I think a lot of readers will find something to relate to even if they have no interest in ballet.

If you do have an interest in ballet, then I think you’d really enjoy 84 RIBBONS. It’s a realistic look into the struggle of making it dancing professionally, including the pain, blood, sweat, and tears required, as well as the devotion to perfection. Marta doesn’t have an easy ride at the Intermountain Ballet Company, but she’s determined to prove herself and succeed.

At first I didn’t realize the book was set in the 1950s, but as I read more, I liked the time period. A few of Marta’s problems come from not having the type of communication we do today, and it was a nice throwback to remember how people used to have to do things. Life’s a lot different when you don’t have a smartphone to find out information or get you out of an emergency.

The 1950s time period also allowed for a slow-burn romance between Marta and Steve, a journalism major. Steve tried to kiss Marta their first time out, and she pushed him away because it wasn’t a date in her mind, and because she wasn’t ready for that. I liked how Marta stood up for herself with Steve, because let me tell you, that boy pushes a bit, and she doesn’t give in when she doesn’t want to. Their relationship is far from perfect, but I found it way more believable than a lot of the relationships in YA fiction.

I’m not going to spoil the ending, but boy did it leave me wanting more of Marta’s story.

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Paddy Eger:
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– leeanna

Book Review: The Last Wild by Piers Torday

Book Review: The Last Wild by Piers TordayThe Last Wild by Piers Torday
Series: The Last Wild #1
Published by Viking Juvenile on March 18, 2014
Genres: Adventure, Fantasy, Middle Grade
Pages: 336
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
4 Stars
In a world where animals no longer exist, twelve-year-old Kester Jaynes sometimes feels like he hardly exists either. Locked away in a home for troubled children, he's told there's something wrong with him. So when he meets a flock of talking pigeons and a bossy cockroach, Kester thinks he's finally gone crazy. But the animals have something to say. And they need him. The pigeons fly Kester to a wild place where the last creatures in the land have survived. A wise stag needs Kester's help, and together they must embark on a great journey, joined along the way by an overenthusiastic wolf cub, a military-trained cockroach, a mouse with a ritual for everything, and a stubborn girl named Polly. The animals saved Kester Jaynes. But can Kester save the animals?

Book Review:

THE LAST WILD is a whimsical tale, the story of a boy discovering his voice. It reminded me a little of THE LITTLE PRINCE,, maybe because of the cover and chapter heading illustrations, and because like that book, THE LAST WILD can be read on different levels. It’s one for both kids and adults.

Twelve-year-old Kester lives in a world where there are no animals. They were killed by the mysterious red-eye virus, all except cockroaches and the like. Kester hasn’t talked for six years, and he’s surprised as anyone when he hears a voice in his room one night. Only … the voice is in his head, and it’s coming from a cockroach.

Thus starts Kester’s journey to rescue the last animals left alive. Kester has a gift: the ability to talk and listen to animals. Carried by pigeons to The Last Wild, he reluctantly agrees to help the last remaining animals find a cure for red-eye. Along the way, he learns a lot about himself, friendship, humans, and animals.

THE LAST WILD is a magical book. The different animals accompanying Kester, from the stag to the wolf-cub to the pigeons to the cockroach all had their own personalities and stories. There’s lots of humor, but also lots of sadness. The author brought all of them to life for me. When I turned the last page of the book, I wished I could get my hands on the next one, because I have got to find out what happens next to Kester and everyone. The ending isn’t quite a cliffhanger, because much of the story is wrapped up, but there’s still some problems to face.

Socialize with the author:

Piers Torday:
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– leeanna