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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

REVIEW: Wanted by Betsy Schow

*Thanks to Netgalley for an ARC in exchange for a fair review*

In this sequel to Schow's Spelled, Rexi, Robin Hood's daughter, must prevent the Wicked Witch from finding Excalibur. 

Known for being an outlaw, it has been a difficult transition for Rexi now that she and Princess Dorthea of Emerald are all but inseparable on account of Rexi's 'death' and that her life-force is inexorably tied to Dorothea's.

They've teamed up to fight the wickedest witch, Blanc; however, if Rexi doesn't figure out how to break the binding curse and step out on her own, she's going to become one of the Forgotten--wiped from the pages of Story!

Rexi's plan is to steal Excalibur and use it to write her own tale. Too bad things go south when Gwenevere opens a new Academy of Villains with plenty of plot twists and enemies.

Readers should expect a fun romp. The characters, especially Rexi, are fun and full of snarky spunk. There's plenty of twisted fairy tale tie ins, magic, romance and adventure plus some pretty fantastic humor and amazing shoes (look @ that cover!!!).  Aspects of the novel are still an homage to The Wizard of Oz but Schow does a nice job at incorporating nods to the legends of Robin Hood as well as King Arthur, Camelot, Excalibur and related characters.

I love the humor and organization of the chapters with humorous snippets from fairy tale resources that tend to offer a sound bit of advice. At times the narrative felt a bit disjointed but I think this is characteristic of Rexi also feeling disjointed herself since her memories are fragmented. I didn't love Wanted quite as much as Spelled but I certainly laughed a lot at this witty, fast paced adventure and look forward to the next book.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Follow the author on Twitter: @BetsySchow

#spelled #wanted #netgalley #review #yalit  #TeenRead #twistedfairytale #humor

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

REVIEW: Avenged by Lynn Carthage

Expected publication: February 28, 2017

Long ago, Eleanor Darrow was a servant girl at a great manor house in a quiet English village.  In love with Madam Arnaud’s son, Eleanor learned the woman’s cruelty up close.  Many died at her hands. Trying to kill her, Eleanor lost her own life.  In present day, Eleanor along with other ghostly friends, Phoebe and Miles, have crossed paths and believe they are connected to an ancient prophecy looming over the troubled manor where old, deep magic mixes with greed and revenge. They must work together to find answers and save Phoebe’s family and other innocents from a terrible fate.

Honestly, it was difficult to plunge into the narrative since I haven't heard of the trilogy nor obviously read any of the other books.  It took me a bit to piece most of the previous story together.  I didn't find anything wrong with the characterization, narrative or writing per se, I just wasn't connected since I hadn't been along for the ride since the beginning.

What I did find interesting was the connection to Arthurian legend but I felt that there could have been so much more to this and the connection to deep magic. This was a let down. 

Avenged is most likely to appeal to female readers who like ghost stories, Arthurian legend or want a good mystery that blurs the contemporary and historical lines. Good dialog and pacing.

Final rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Follow the author in Twitter: @LynnCarthage 

#Avenged #ArnaudLegacy #lynncarthage #ghosts #mystery #reading #YAlit #teen 

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

REVIEW: Freeks by Amanda Hocking

Thanks to Netgalley for an ARC in exchange for a fair review.

Mara is used to the extraordinary since she's spent her youth as part of Gideon Davorin’s Traveling Carnival where supernatural gifts like super strength, levity and telekinesis are common. She long for the facets of an ordinary life--a place to call home and maybe even a steady boyfriend.

Times have been tough but things are looking up as the group heads to the small town of Caudry for a well paying gig. She meets a gorgeous guy, Gabe, and they enjoy spending time together until horrible things start happening around the Carnival.

A friend goes missing...

More are viciously attacked...

Even the tigers are unsettled and terrified.  Mara and the others realize a dark presence lurks and is targeting their group.

She eventually learns that she is on a deadline to learn a power she didn't even know she had in order to change the future and help her family and new love.

I'm a general fan of Hocking's work and have always been please to see her develop as a writer from her first self published works (My Blood Approves, Hollowland) to the publications of the Trylle, Watersong, Kanin series. What I liked what the play on the theme, setting and time period. The cover art is fantastic and eye-catching. Standalones are hard to find nowadays so that in itself will appeal to the right teen reader.

Another highlight is that there are times when the book is downright creeeeepy! There is always that fear of the unknown monster coming to attack in the night. I'll admit to having a few squirmy moments.

I still enjoyed this standalone but the narrative felt too rushed. Mara is an interesting character as is her progression toward discovering she has some powers of her own. However, the big reveal to hunt down the monster was introduced and resolved too quickly.

And wait [SPOILER]...there's werewolves too?!?  This really could have had more development for a continuation of the story or potential for a sequel or two.

Another problem I had with the characters and plot was the seeming nonchalance Mara and her group pay toward Blossom's disappearance.  For most of the story they forget about her and then BAM!...oh, wait story thread resolved. If I was Mara's friend, I'd be wary that something horrible would happen and no one would care to remember or seek help.

Final rating: 3.75 out of 5 stars

Follow the author on Twitter: @amanda_hocking

#freeks #carnival #sideshow #supernatural #YAlit #teen #mystery #books #romance

Monday, January 9, 2017

REVIEW: RoseBlood by A.G. Howard

*Thanks to Netgalley & Amulet Books for an ARC in exchange for a fair review*

RoseBlood is a modern day spin on Gaston Leroux's Gothic classic Phamtom of the Opera with more than a nod to Mary Shelley's Frankentstein.

Seventeen year old Rune Germain is an operatic virtuoso, except that she has a mysterious ailment peculiarly related to her operatic talent. She's also hiding a horrifying mistake, one she hopes doesn't follow her to France.  Hoping to spurn Rune's creative direction, her mother enrolls her into an exclusive French music conservatory rumored to have ties to The Phantom of the Opera.

At the school, Rune's strange ability to read auras as well as her overwhelming compulsion to sing leads her to embark on a secret relationship with Thorn, an elusive violinist who guides her musical transformation. While these two form an otherworldly connection, it becomes apparent that Thorn's motive are not all that innocent.  The son of the famed Phantom, he must make some difficult choices: help the only father he's ever known carry out a dark plan which will lead to Rune's ruin or stand against him to unite with his soul mate.

What I liked...

  • The cover art - just breathtaking!
  • The concept of blending characters and themes from these classics into a modern story.
    • I've never read Phantom of the Opera but want to. I know the basics of the story and characters. Howard does an fantastic job of paying homage to the original in a creative way that will appeal to contemporary YA readers.  Frankenstein is one of my favorite books ever written.  I enjoyed just the smattering of influence of this piece in RoseBlood. There are times that Erik aka The Phantom reminds me so much of Victor Frankenstein in his scientific pursuits.
  • Howard's lush, vivid imagery and detailed descriptions. 
    • Readers familiar with the Splintered series should know that this is her forte. Passages throughout are really like little word-pictures transporting us as if we are really in the converted opera house in France--the creepy rooms and secret passages, the dilapidated garden, cemetery and chapel.
What I didn't love...

  • Rune...
    • Following Alyssa as a female protagonist is hard work.  Rune just didn't do it for me.  I wanted her to be a more active player in the grand scheme of things.  While she does play her part, I wanted her to be a bit more kick-butt and snarky than she is actually portrayed.  
  • The POV changes...
    • I get that moving from Rune to Thorn advances the plot but I think I would have enjoyed the narrative more if the whole story was from Rune's POV, blended with more shared dreamscapes between her and Thorn to piece together the rest of the puzzle. This is just me being picky as a reader.  The overall flow of the narrative works but as a standalone novel, I was left wanting to know more about the origins of Thorn's and Runes abilities, how it works and how Rune will go about learning and mastering her gifts.  It all go wrapped up a bit too nicely.
  • The ending...
    • As I said, I wanted more resolution to the end.  Still enjoyable but more please!
PS: A.G. can we have a couple short stories?  PRETTY PLEASE?!?!?

Overall, I recommend this typically for the female YA reader looking for a supernatural inspired, twisted tale. Again, it is nice that it is a standalone but fans will be hankering for more!

Final rating: 3.75 out of 5 stars

Follow the author on Twitter: @aghowardwrites

#RoseBlood #PhantomOfTheOpera #Frankenstein #opera #romance #YAlit #teen #mystery

Monday, January 2, 2017

REVIEW: Untamed by A.G. Howard

Untamed is a story collection meant to be wrap up Howard's Splintered series.

The Moth in the Mirror - Morpheus embarks to delve into Jeb's lost memories following Splintered.  To his dismay, he learns more about the complicated but fiercely loyal human boy who loves his Alyssa.

The Boy in the Web - Alyssa's mother reflects on her own time in Wonderland and the circumstances that led her to meet her own true love and would be husband, Thomas.

Six Impossible Things - A glimpse at Alyssa's life post Ensared as she recalls some of the most important moments of her human life spent with Jeb before her 'rebirth' as Queen of Wonderland and Morpheus' wife.  DISCLAIMER: Jeb fans are probably going to need a tissue! The best way to describe the feeling is if readers have read the end of Cassandra Clare's Infernal Devices trilogy - think Tessa & Will.....sobs!

Overall, I enjoyed the additional book to wrap up this Alice in Wonderland inspired series.  The cover art is just stunning!  Be on the look out for my review of RoseBlood, Howard's 2017 release inspired by the Phantom of the Opera.

Expected publication: January 10, 2017

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Follow the author on Twitter:

#Untamed #Splintered #aliceinwonderland #YAlit #teen #romance #magic