Review: Optimists Die First by Susin Nielsen

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Amazon  –  Barnes & Noble  –  Goodreads

Author’s Website

Life ahead: Proceed with caution.

Sixteen-year-old Petula De Wilde is anything but wild. A family tragedy has made her shut herself off from the world. Once a crafting fiend with a happy life, Petula now sees danger in everything, from airplanes to ground beef.

The worst part of her week is her comically lame mandatory art therapy class. She has nothing in common with this small band of teenage misfits, except that they all carry their own burden of guilt.

When Jacob joins their ranks, he seems so normal and confident. Petula wants nothing to do with him, or his prosthetic arm. But when they’re forced to collaborate on a unique school project, she slowly opens up, and he inspires her to face her fears.

Until a hidden truth threatens to derail everything.

Rating: 2 Stars

I’ve been concentrating a lot more on reading in the last couple of years, but before I really got into blogging and reading seriously with the intent of blogging about those books I also crafted. I still do (knitting is my thing) on occasion, so when I saw that there was a book that had a cover with a Fair Isle style cover and had a main character that was a big crafter. I thought this sounded like a perfect match.

There were some things that I liked about this book, but it was a serious letdown from what I expected.

I appreciated that Petula and her mother were such big bookworms. Her mother works in a book shop, regularly shares advance reader copies with her daughter, and names all of their cats and foster cats after literary characters. Petula constantly shows shock or exasperation towards Jacob when he mentions a movie or television show that was based on a book, which he inevitably hasn’t read. Apparently he’s not much of a reader and her annoyance at that felt appropriate for a bookworm like her.

Something I did not like, and I noticed other readers having the same issue, is Petula’s anxiety and it’s portrayal within the novel. I understood a lot of her mannerisms in the book, particularly her planning alternate ways home to avoid the construction site, her train of thoughts regarding situations such as plane crashes, etc. However, what I did not like nor appreciate is that her anxiety tended to disappear when Jacob was around. I noticed it really for the first time after they’d been paired up for the creative English project. That whole conversation felt wrong because, as a reader, I could tell that something was off and after reading it again, I realized that it was Petula acting in a way that was completely contrary to how she’d been set up in the preceding chapters. Anxiety is not something that is cured by the presence of a boy, much less one that’s a near complete stranger.

I was especially angry when I read about Petula’s reaction to going to Youth Art Therapy (the mandatory art therapy she attends, nicknamed YART). She was incredibly judgmental, calling those attending it “truly hopeless sad sacks”; a former friend of hers and she dubbed the program “Crafting for Crazies”. That’s dismissive, insulting, and quite rich, considering her own experience with mental illness.

A thing that bugged me was a mention in chapter one. Petula was in art therapy and someone dumped a tube of glitter on her head. Now, this is a little event and has no bearing on the rest of the story, but it bothered me because a) if Petula is going to worry about traffic patterns and construction site accidents in planning her life to be as safe as possible, wouldn’t something you can inhale and that could scratch your throat be of concern? Or that could get in your eye and blind you? and b) glitter is the devil and gets everywhere, how is it she didn’t glitter for the next week?

Another odd bit is the school project that is made to sound like such a big deal in the summary. It is literally over and done with well before the halfway point of the book and it doesn’t have a lot of influence over the rest of the book. It has a small ripple effect, but you’d think, if it’s mentioned in the summary, that it would have more importance than it did.

Conclusion: the writing wasn’t horrible and I think I might even have liked it in another application, but I found that this story wasn’t enjoyable. I found myself not interested in the characters or their backstories, of which there were plenty. There were some good points, like the ones I mentioned above as well as some mention of Internet cat videos (who doesn’t love those?), but in the end this book just wasn’t my cup of tea.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

All pictures, quotes, and videos belong to their respective owners. I use them here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

Mystery Blogger Award

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First and foremost I’d like to thank Mandy of Book Princess Reviews for nominating me for this award. It was a lovely surprise and I’m so grateful. Be sure to check out her blog, linked above.

Now, to the fun stuff (with a brief interlude for the rules):

The Rules:

  1. Put the award logo/image on your blog
  2. List the rules
  3. Thank whoever nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
  4. Mention the creator of the award and provide a link as well
  5. Tell your readers 3 things about yourself
  6. You nominate 10 – 20 people
  7. Notify your nominees by commenting on their blog
  8. Ask your nominees any 5 questions of your choice; with one weird or funny question (specify)
  9. Share a link to your best post(s)

“Mystery Blogger Award” is an award for amazing bloggers with ingenious posts. Their blog not only captivates; it inspires and motivates. They are one of the best out there, and they deserve every recognition they get. This award is also for bloggers who find fun and inspiration in blogging; and they do it with so much love and passion award was created by Okoto Enigma @ Okoto Enigma

Three Things About Me

  • I love orange juice, but dislike eating oranges. I have no idea why this is, but it also means my juice must be pulp free.
  • I prefer watching British cooking competitions over American ones because I find them so much nicer. There’s less meaness and spitefulness.
  • If there’s one book I’ve read more than any other, it’s probably A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. I usually re-read her books at least once a year, starting with that one.

Mandy’s Questions

  1. What was your least favorite book as a kid? Do you remember?

I really can’t remember there being one that I actively disliked as a child. I think I was just happy to be able to read because there was a time when my parents were a bit restrictive, so I just gobbled up what I could while I could.

2. What is the last song that made you feel something big – sad, happy, etc?

I listen to the Hamilton soundtrack in my car constantly, so the last song that made my happy was “What Did I Miss?”. It’s sung by Thomas Jefferson when he’s coming home from France and getting ready to be Secretary of State.

3. What is your favorite Disney character AND/OR Princess (*please be a Princess ;)*) and why?

My favorite Disney princess is a tie at the moment between Moana and Belle. Belle was long my favorite because of her bookish nature, but after seeing Moana and experiencing her story, I felt like she might edge Belle out a bit. As for my favorite character, Yzma is my favorite. I know she’s a villain, but she’s a hilarious villain that is often forgotten because her movie, The Emperor’s New Groove, isn’t one of the more popular Disney movies.

4. What book types are your guilty pleasure?

Light mystery novels, like the Cat Who books by Lillian Jackson Braun or the Booktown Mystery series by Lorna Barrett.

5. Would you ever run for president/prime minister/leader of your country?

Oh hell no. I live in the US and governing this place would be a mess. It’s mostly babysitting a bunch of other politicians that are too busy bickering among themselves to really care about the people they’re supposed to be representing.

My Questions for the people I TAG:

  1. What’s the one Disney song you can never get out of your head?
  2. If you could only gift one book to everyone this coming holiday season, what would it be?
  3. If you had to choose: Twitter or Facebook?
  4. What book have you read recently that surprised you by how much you liked/disliked it?
  5. If you had to choose: would you rather be able to design your favorite books covers OR cast their film adaptation?

 

Danielle @ Flyleaf Chronicles  –  Sophie @ Blame It On Chocolate  –

Tiana @ The Book Raven Blog  –  Salmah @ Salmah’s Bookshelf

 

Tag…you’re it! If you’re up for it I’d love for you guys to do this tag. I hope my questions are to your satisfaction and that you’ll have a few of your own up your sleeve for whomever you decide to tag.

Top 5 Wednesday: Books or Characters I Felt Betrayed By

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Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Sam from Thoughts on Tomes and created by Lainey from Gingerreadlainey.

Books are fantastic and they can be our best friends, but they also have the potential to stab us in the back (metaphorically and emotionally speaking). This week’s theme is all about those books and characters that are responsible for betraying me in some manner.

Because this post might deal with some of their ulterior motives further into the story and might even spoil the ending, I’ll post a big spoiler warning here just in case.

**POTENTIAL SPOILERS AHEAD **

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The Darkling, Shadow and Bone

I loved this character when we were first introduced to him on the page and for most of the book. Even after certain attributes were brought up, even after his mother said he was a horrible person, I was hoping and praying that they were all liars and none of it was true.

Imagine how I felt when the end of the book came along and he started proving all of these things true. I was crushed! I haven’t read the rest of the series yet, so I suppose there’s technically still time for things to turn around, but I sincerely doubt that’s going to happen.

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J.K. Rowling, this whole book

I trusted J.K. Rowling when she said that she was only going to kill off (I think) four main characters. When I actually read it, though, it felt like my favorite people were being killed off left and right. There was so much death in this book that I felt emotionally drained after reading it and haven’t been able to bring myself to read it since it was first published.

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Veronica Roth re: the ending

I have to be honest about this one: I haven’t actually read it yet. The ending, however, was massively spoiled for me by a BookTuber awhile ago. This has pushed Allegiant to the bottom of my TBR for the foreseeable future because of how awful that ending was. Why in the name of all that is good in this world did she have to kill Tris? I can’t see any good reason for this in what I have read of the series and hearing that revelation struck me as an utter betrayal by the author against her readers that had spent hundreds of pages becoming emotionally invested in Tris’s story.

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Mim Malone, Mosquitoland

I did not know, going into this, that Mim Malone would be as unreliable a narrator as she turned out to be. It felt like a betrayal to be reading about her story and believing her, only to get to a revelation and realize that she was either unintentionally wrong or out-and-out lying to me the whole time.

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Maven, Red Queen

I felt for this character. As the second son, and of the second queen, he felt like he was loved less than his perfect older brother Cal. I get that, I could understand how that felt. However, when his and his mother’s betrayal is revealed toward the end of the book, I felt like throwing the book at the wall. His mother I could understand, she was horrible from the beginning, but I wanted to wring his neck for being such a little ass***e.

Have you ever felt betrayed by a character or book? Did any of my choices ring a bell? Let me know in the comments below. 

 

 

 

All pictures, quotes, and videos belong to their respective owners. I use them here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

Top 10 Tuesday: Top Ten Books On My Spring TBR

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Top 10 Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. You can find the prompts here.

Welcome back to the Broke and the Bookish team from their well deserved break. Thank you for providing us with more fun topics to join in on week after week! This particular week is a bit of an odd one for me to think about. It’s about the books on my Spring TBR, which normally would be lovely to envision, but within 24 hours apparently 18-24″ of snow is threatening to fall on my town so I’m still firmly in a Winter sort of mood. Nonetheless, I would like to share with you some of the books that I will be endeavoring to read and, indeed, looking forward to to get me through this most recent spat of cold weather.

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The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

I’ve been finding a lot of Russian based stories lately, such as The Crown’s Game and The Crown’s Fate by Evelyn Skye. This one looks to be just as magical, maybe even more fantastical, as the main character Vasilisa summons the courage to confront a threat to her family in the middle of a winter-y landscape. This might seem a bit strange for a Spring time read, but oh well. lol

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These Ruthless Deeds by Tarun Shanker & Kelly Zekas

I’m very curious about this one because really, a secret society that seems perfectly benign, helping people? What could possibly be wrong or potentially sinister about that? Alert: probably a butt load, as main character Evelyn is about to discover one way or the other.

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Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde

I miss going to conventions, ever since my favorite one of many years moved locations and it became unfeasible for me to attend anymore. Getting to read about them is almost as good, so that was the first tic in the yes column for Queens of Geek. The second was the fact that there’s meant to be a well-portrayed bisexual lead in this book, according to buzz I’ve heard, which I look forward to.

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Peter Darling by Austin Chant

This one sounds really unique to me and I’m anxious to get to it. It’s been ages since I’ve read or watched a Peter Pan adaptation and never have I seen one where Pan was transgender. I have many questions as to how the story will be different from what I remember of the original; I’m sure it will be an adventure to find out.

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The Resistance: United in Love by Various Authors

I saw this recommended on someone’s blog and instantly wanted to request it for myself. It’s a collection of poems and essays by various authors, writing about their views on the current climate, events, and their hopes for the future.

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Get It Together, Delilah! by Erin Gough

(alternate title: The Flywheel)

I was curious about this book because Delilah, or Del, is a strong person that takes over her father’s cafe when he leaves the country to mend his broken heart. I like books that take place in small cafes, so point there. Adding to that the mountain of other obstacles that Del is going to have to conquer (mean girls, a love sick friend that might go to jail, a big crush on dancer Rosa across the street), I’m looking forward to seeing how she does.

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The Dining Car by Eric Peterson

Books about food and restaurants are a lot of fun, even if the stories aren’t always the happiest. I’m not sure which way this one will go, but it’s about a man who enlists as a bartender on a train that transports a snooty food critic across the country. The title and the cover reminded me of a restaurant my grandmother used to take me to that was housed in an old train car, so that’s a win for nostalgia.

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The Gauntlet by Karuna Riazi

Steampunk Jumanji with a Middle Eastern flair. When I read that description in regards to The Gauntlet by Kaurna Riazi, I was instantly hooked. The cover reminded me more of the television show Legends of the Hidden Temple, but that or Jumanji would make for an excellent middle grade adventure story. A book from the imprint Salaam Reads, I’m anxious to read not only this but many more from this imprint featuring Muslim children and their families.

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Raising Royalty by Carolyn Harris

I initially picked this one up because the summary mentions William and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and I’m fascinated by how together they seem to be. The concept of the book intrigues me because obviously parenting is going to be different between how I, a person whose family hovers around the national poverty line, raise my child versus the parents in this book. What are the differences, exactly? How did these royal families raise or interact with their children? What kind of expectations did they have? I’ll find out once I’ve read this, I’m sure.

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But Then I Came Back by Estelle Laure

After a four star read with Estelle Laure’s last book, This Raging Light, I thought I’d try out her next book.

Are any of these books on your Spring TBR as well? Or on your TBR at all? Let’s chat about them! 😀

 

 

 

All pictures, quotes, and videos belong to their respective owners. I use them here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

 

Review: The Search for Aveline: Sink or Swim #1 by Stephanie Rabig and Angie Bee

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Amazon  –  Barnes & Noble  –  Goodreads

Stephanie’s Website  –  Angie’s Website

Captain Harriet “Harry” Roberts and the daring crew of The Sappho are not for the faint of heart. A ship of strays unlike any other, they’re not afraid to face whatever the world throws at them—be it mermaids, kidnappings, sirens, plague, clashes with their mortal enemy Captain Wrath Drew of The Charon, a handsome merman, or good old-fashioned love.

Rating: 4 Stars

I went into this story with only the description to guide me. I liked it because how often have I read a book with a female pirate, much less one that is the captain of her own ship? What I found was so much more than one strong female lead in the form of Captain Harriet “Harry” Roberts. I found an entire family, brought together by chance or by choice, that embraced who they were better than any fictional representation I’ve seen thus far.

At first I thought this was a novel, so I was a bit surprised when, after the first “chapter”, it turned out that The Search for Aveline was actually a collection of interconnected stories about the characters about the Sappho. They are not told in a strictly linear fashion, but I did not find this to be a problem as the authors wrote in such a way that it was obvious quickly whom the current story was about and when in the grand scope of things it was taking place.

Each story had a purpose. It gave us backstory or motive for everyone we met, from Harry’s relationship with the titular Aveline, to the voiceless siren Echo/Silence, and the other members of the crew.

There’s also an interesting incorporation of mermaids and sirens that I’ve yet to read about elsewhere. These are not the sea dwelling creatures you’ve seen in Disney films, which I loved. They can be kindly, sure, but they can also commit terrible deeds and meddle in the affairs of others.

*Spoiler alert*

My favorite and most relatable story was that of Junia and Landon.  Junia, from what I could tell, is a character on the asexual spectrum who was cast out of her home when her fiance could not handle her coming out to him. His reaction, to tell everyone that she preferred the company of women, led to her being ostracized. Over time she came to meet Landon, a man whom she came to trust and to love, who understood her and never pressured her for something she couldn’t give.

*End Spoiler Alert*

Beyond Junia’s representation, there was great rep for many other relationships along all ranges of the sexuality spectrum, as well as diversity in ethnicity as well. This was a pleasant surprise, as most pirate stories I’ve heard before have strictly white European crews which seems kind of odd?

Since this is volume one in the Sink or Swim series, I am eagerly anticipating more books about the crew of the Sappho. There might even be two more books if we’re really lucky, according to Stephanie Rabig via Twitter!

 

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

All pictures, quotes, and videos belong to their respective owners. I use them here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

Review: Argyle Fox by Marie Letourneau

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Amazon  –  Barnes & Noble  –  Goodreads

Author’s Website

Argyle Fox, with his signature style, wants to play outside on a springtime day, but the wind is wreaking havoc with his fun and games. As soon as he builds a card tower, climbs into a giant spider web, or takes up his pirate sword, here comes the wind: Woosh!

Mama Fox tells grumpy Argyle that if he thinks long enough, he will come up with something to do. Following his mother’s suggestion and inspired by her knitting, he works all the pieces of his day together and creates the perfect solution.

The story of Argyle teaches that failure is often a path to success and celebrates perseverance, creative thinking, and an old-fashioned springtime activity.

Rating: 4 Stars

This is a cute story to share with a little one as warmth returns to us, now that spring is beginning again.

Argyle Fox is an intelligent little fox that may seem stubborn when he’s continually trying to play games that others are telling him won’t work in the strong wind, but I thought this showed strength of character. He wasn’t being rude to them, but rather learning for himself why something might not be plausible, such as building a card tower outside when it’s windy.

His inevitable turn to kite flying is nice, though I question whether knitting a tail for the kite (the inspiration from his mother’s knitting) would have worked quite as well as is pictured in the book. A lot of yarn is quite heavy and given the size of the kite,  I think it would’ve weighed Argyle Fox’s kite down rather than enabled it to soar as shown.

Regardless, this tale is a good one about perseverance and learning to work with what you have. Argyle Fox tried to play with a variety of things, such a card towers and a cardboard castle, that simply didn’t work. In the end, flying kites with your friends, especially with kites you made for them, can be just as enjoyable.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

All pictures, quotes, and videos belong to their respective owners. I use them here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

Review: You’re Welcome, Universe by Whitney Gardner

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Amazon  –  Barnes & Noble  –  Goodreads

Author’s Website

Friends are a liability.
Julia learns this the hard way when she covers up a slur about her best friend with a beautiful (albeit illegal) mural, sprayed right across the gymnasium of the Kingston School for the Deaf.

Her (supposed) best friend snitches, the principal expels her, and her mom’s set Julia up with a one-way ticket to a “mainstream” school in the suburbs, where she’s treated like an outcast as the only deaf student.

Out in the ‘burbs, Julia paints anywhere she can, eager to claim some turf of her own. A tag on a sign, a piece on an overpass. But soon Julia leans that she’s not the only vandal in town. Someone is adding to her tags, making them better, showing off – and showing Julia up in the process. She expected her art might get painted over by cops. But she never imagined getting dragged into a graffiti war.

Now Julia must risk arrest and expulsion to go toe to toe with her rival…or face losing the only piece of her identity that still makes sense.

Rating: 4 Stars

This was one of the most educational books I’ve ever read about a character who was Deaf. Whitney Gardner introduces us to Julia, an Indian-American girl who was born Deaf, and through her demonstrates a great many things that stem both from her Deafness and from her racial identity.

Julia is a teenager that loves street art and is quite the accomplished artist. After using her skills to cover up a slur against her friend at their school for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, she’s caught (because of said best friend) and forced to matriculate at a regular high school. That presents a whole range of complications, from getting along with her interpreter (hired by her moms and someone she’s antagonistic towards) to dealing with the students and teachers who don’t know how to interact with a Deaf student.

A lot of times in film or in literature, a Deaf character is portrayed as being able to lip read perfectly and communicate eloquently without any difficult between them and a hearing person. Gardner’s treatment of this situation in the novel shines a light on the reality that this isn’t always so and for good reason: People have accents, thus their lip movements aren’t the same as everyone else’s; also, American Sign Language isn’t a translation of English or any other language. It is its own language, which presents some problems when Julia tries to communicate with those around her.

The characters in the book were alright, though most of the interest I had was concentrated on Julia and YP, the new friend she makes at the school she’s sent to after her expulsion. There were many other characters introduced throughout the book that served purposes, but were ultimately forgettable as I found them to be, at best, really good set dressing: Mr. Katz (Julia’s art teacher), Casey (Julia’s interpreter), Dominic (Julia’s co-worker and the temporary love interest of the friend that got her expelled), etc. Some were there as red herrings for the identity of the rival vandal in town and each was plausible up until the reveal that they weren’t, at which point they faded and became much less important or visible in the narrative.

The art in the book was amazing. Since this was an e-galley, I wasn’t sure whether or not there would be any included, but fortunately there was! The combination of Julia’s solo pieces and then the pieces that blended her style with that of the vandal were beautiful. I peeked into a finished copy of the book and the only regret I have about the publication is that the pictures are not in color. I think that really would have added a pop.

Not having known anything about graffiti art prior to reading this book, I liked not only the art as mentioned above, but the inclusion of Julia’s mentions of actual well-known graffiti artists such as Banksy. These names weren’t familiar to me when I read them, but I got curious and saw some amazing work from around the world. Thank you, Whitney Gardner, for this introduction!

You’re Welcome, Universe is a quick read that is a gorgeous experience that has its rough moments with a main character who doesn’t take shit from anyone, won’t accept pity, and finds the art in herself to share on the city streets in a unique style that’s so in-your-face you’ll remember it for a long time to come.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

All pictures, quotes, and videos belong to their respective owners. I use them here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

Review: The Sound of the World by Heart by Giacomo Bevilacqua

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Goodreads

An experiment in social isolation turns into a journey of self-discovery as a photojournalist commits to spending sixty days in New York city without talking to a single person. More than just an exercise in observation and self-control, he’s hoping to forget a troubled past and mend a broken heart. But the city has a sneaky way of throwing the best laid plans and noble efforts to waste, revealing secrets that lie right in front of him. All he has to do is open his eyes…

A touching, vividly illustrated journey through contemporary modern New York, exploring what it takes to find yourself — and maybe your soul mate — in the middle of a crowded, bustling modern world.

Rating: 2 Stars

The lure of a social experiment in isolation, particularly in a city as bustling with life as New York City, made this book sound thought provoking and interesting. The art on the cover spoke to a certain level of depth as it was neither too cartoon-ish nor hyper realistic, finding just the right balance to tell the story.

It was here, however, that the positive aspects of the story began to wane and I fell out of love with  The Sound of the World by Heart.

The story itself suffered from trying to be, what I feel, something too philosophical. It reached too far and by doing so lost any connection with the reader that would have made the journey of the main character meaningful. I didn’t get a sense of what this experiment was actually doing for or to him, so it’s purpose was ultimately meaningless.

There were points in the storytelling that didn’t make much sense either, such as the mindreading that the main character initially thought was a painting speaking to him (which is a whole other oddity). This loose thread and others like it had me staring at the book at the end wondering, really, what had I just read?

A somewhat redeeming factor of the book was the art style. It really was very good and I hung on through the book because of it. I’d like to see the author do another graphic novel because of this kind of quality artwork, but maybe paired up with a storyteller who has a history of a more cohesive storytelling style.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

All pictures, quotes, and videos belong to their respective owners. I use them here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

Mini-Review: SNEAK PEAK: Alex & Eliza by Melissa de la Cruz

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Amazon  –  Barnes & Noble  –  Goodreads

Author’s Website

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Witches of East End and The Descendants comes the love story of young Alexander Hamilton and Eliza Schuyler.

1777. Albany, New York.

As battle cries of the American Revolution echo in the distance, servants flutter about preparing for one of New York society’s biggest events: the Schuylers’ grand ball. Descended from two of the oldest and most distinguished bloodlines in New York, the Schuylers are proud to be one of their fledgling country’s founding families, and even prouder still of their three daughters—Angelica, with her razor-sharp wit; Peggy, with her dazzling looks; and Eliza, whose beauty and charm rival that of both her sisters, though she’d rather be aiding the colonists’ cause than dressing up for some silly ball.

Still, she can barely contain her excitement when she hears of the arrival of one Alexander Hamilton, a mysterious, rakish young colonel and General George Washington’s right-hand man. Though Alex has arrived as the bearer of bad news for the Schuylers, he can’t believe his luck—as an orphan, and a bastard one at that—to be in such esteemed company. And when Alex and Eliza meet that fateful night, so begins an epic love story that would forever change the course of American history.

In the pages of Alex and Eliza, #1 New York Times bestselling author Melissa de la Cruz brings to life the romance of young Alexander Hamilton and Elizabeth Schuyler.

Rating: 2 Stars

Admittedly, what drew me to this book was the fact that I am a very big fan of the Hamilton musical. As I was reading this sample, I had the song “A Winter’s Ball” playing in my head. With that in mind, I wonder if I was perhaps looking forward to this a bit too much and had a few too many expectations for it.

The few chapters that we are treated to in this sample switch between two points of few: that of Elizabeth Schuyler and Alexander Hamilton. Elizabeth’s chapter were enjoyable because they demonstrated what kind of strength she had, even as a young woman who was still very much under the thumb of her parents. There were some interactions with the other siblings of the Schuyler family, who I didn’t know existed, that also showed her maternal instinct and alluded to the kind of character she’ll become when she has her own family, plus in the future when she founds the Orphan Asylum Society.

Alexander’s chapters, oddly enough, were very much the opposite in terms of interest. I found that his were rather dry and felt as though I were reading an old history book, whereas when I read the ones from Eliza’s perspective I felt entrenched in her times and her life. Considering his reputation as a great writer and speaker, I would have expected more care to be taken with his portrayal.

I don’t think that this is a book that I will want to purchase, as the chapters that I did read did not excite me. There was simply nothing there that persuaded me to want to preorder the book or dash out the first week to buy a copy for myself. I may borrow it from the library, but it won’t be with any haste that I pursue the conclusion of this version of Alexander and Eliza’s story.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

All pictures, quotes, and videos belong to their respective owners. I use them here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

Top 5 Wednesday: Favorite Sci-fi/Fantasy Books

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Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Sam from Thoughts on Tomes and created by Lainey from Gingerreadlainey.

Two of my all time favorite genres are science fiction and fantasy. I find all the best stories there because I find all the best elements here: magic, different species (elves, dwarves, etc.), new worlds. These books take me away from the mundane aspects of my real life, even the urban fantasy books, because they make possible the supposedly impossible.

These are five of my favorites and boy were they hard to choose because, as I said, these are two of my favorite genres so my shelves are packed with dozens of examples from this realm. So many to choose from!

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The Magicians by Lev Grossman

Like everyone else, precocious high school senior Quentin Coldwater assumes that magic isn’t real, until he finds himself admitted to a very secretive and exclusive college of magic in upstate New York. There he indulges in joys of college-friendship, love, sex, and booze- and receives a rigorous education in modern sorcery. But magic doesn’t bring the happiness and adventure Quentin thought it would. After graduation, he and his friends stumble upon a secret that sets them on a remarkable journey that may just fulfill Quentin’s yearning. But their journey turns out to be darker and more dangerous than they’d imagined.

A lot of people who have read this and seen the corresponding SyFy television adaptation have said it’s like Harry Potter for adults. While that seems like a great compliment, I’d say this trends more towards the Narnia novels for adults. Either way, it’s a fantastic trilogy about a college for magic in upstate New York. There are a wide range of beings to encounter while there and dangers that unfold from those meetings.

One thing I prefer about the television series versus the books is that the events surrounding a certain character that are relayed primarily in book two are relayed side-by-side in season one of the show so that we don’t forget this person exists like you might if you’re just reading the books.

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The Princess Bride by William Goldman

Here William Goldman’s beloved story of Buttercup, Westley, and their fellow adventurers finally receives a beautiful illustrated treatment.
A tale of true love and high adventure, pirates, princesses, giants, miracles, fencing, and a frightening assortment of wild beasts—The Princess Bride is a modern storytelling classic.
As Florin and Guilder teeter on the verge of war, the reluctant Princess Buttercup is devastated by the loss of her true love, kidnapped by a mercenary and his henchman, rescued by a pirate, forced to marry Prince Humperdinck, and rescued once again by the very crew who absconded with her in the first place. In the course of this dazzling adventure, she’ll meet Vizzini—the criminal philosopher who’ll do anything for a bag of gold; Fezzik—the gentle giant; Inigo—the Spaniard whose steel thirsts for revenge; and Count Rugen—the evil mastermind behind it all. Foiling all their plans and jumping into their stories is Westley, Princess Buttercup’s one true love and a very good friend of a very dangerous pirate.

I think this was one of the first pirate fantasies I ever read and I am so glad that it was as good as it looks. To be fair, at first I was confused by the author’s treatment of the book. It’s written by him as an “adaptation” of an original work and I didn’t know that when I first picked it up, so I looked for the original for ages. That’s the joke, of course, the whole Morgenstern plotline, the faux history of the world that Buttercup and Westley live in, etc.

This book has everything. To quote the grandfather:

…Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles…

What’s not to love?

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American Gods by Neil Gaiman

A storm is coming…

Locked behind bars for three years, Shadow did his time, quietly waiting for the magic day when he could return to Eagle Point, Indiana. A man no longer scared of what tomorrow might bring, all he wanted was to be with Laura, the wife he deeply loved, and start a new life.

But just days before his release, Laura and Shadow’s best friend are killed in an accident. With his life in pieces and nothing to keep him tethered, Shadow accepts a job from a beguiling stranger he meets on the way home, an enigmatic man who calls himself Mr. Wednesday. A trickster and rogue, Wednesday seems to know more about Shadow than Shadow does himself.

Life as Wednesday’s bodyguard, driver, and errand boy is far more interesting and dangerous than Shadow ever imagined—it is a job that takes him on a dark and strange road trip and introduces him to a host of eccentric characters whose fates are mysteriously intertwined with his own. Along the way Shadow will learn that the past never dies; that everyone, including his beloved Laura, harbors secrets; and that dreams, totems, legends, and myths are more real than we know. Ultimately, he will discover that beneath the placid surface of everyday life a storm is brewing—an epic war for the very soul of America—and that he is standing squarely in its path.

Neil Gaiman is a master of fantasy and with American Gods he runs the gamut of pantheons. There are somewhat graphic scenes that I wasn’t prepared for, but moving past them you get into some darkness, intrigue, and otherworldly secrets that threaten the world.

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A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

Kell is one of the last travelers–magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel universes connected by one magical city.

There’s Grey London, dirty and boring, without any magic, and with one mad King–George III. Red London, where life and magic are revered–and where Kell was raised alongside Rhy Maresh, the roguish heir to a flourishing empire. White London–a place where people fight to control magic and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. And once upon a time, there was Black London. But no one speaks of that now.

Officially, Kell is the Red traveler, ambassador of the Maresh empire, carrying the monthly correspondences between the royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they’ll never see. It’s a defiant hobby with dangerous consequences, which Kell is now seeing firsthand.

Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a deadly enemy, and finally forces Kell to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure.

Now perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, they’ll first need to stay alive.

I’m a little behind on this series, but the premise intrigued me and I remember loving the beginning when I picked it up. The thought of different worlds parallel to our own, each with differing relationships with magic, is fascinating and who knows, totally possible! Although, if Kell’s adventure is anything to go by, there is danger in such a possibility and as this is only book one, who knows what other dangers lie in the future?

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The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway: a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them both, this is a game in which only one can be left standing. Despite the high stakes, Celia and Marco soon tumble headfirst into love, setting off a domino effect of dangerous consequences, and leaving the lives of everyone, from the performers to the patrons, hanging in the balance.

This book is heavy on describing the environment and the wonders that go into the circus and the people within it. That makes for a wonderful, sensory overloaded experience that I loved every minute of. It’s a shame that it’s a standalone, even though it looks like the circus will go on for much longer due to…”things”. 😉

Because of the quality of writing and the ingenuity of the plot, Le Cirque des Reves has become one of those fictional places that I would most want to visit.

 

 

 

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