Thursday, 10 November 2016

The Girl Who Drank The Moon by Kelly Barnhill

I definitely need to read more Kelly Barnhill stories, because this is my second book by the author, and once again I've given it five stars...
Look, I don't know how to properly review this story. Part of me just wants to gush about the writing, the plot, the characters, the depth, the symbolism, the enchanting magical realism writing style.
I don't want to pick things apart, like I normally do.
This is a story about finding out who you are. A story about love and friendship, and what makes family.

 In the end this is about moving on, because the world doesn't stop changing and neither do we.
Just read it.

Author's Official Site 

I woke up dead at the Mall by Judy Sheehan

I picked this up because I wanted something more lightweight before starting reading my next book... and I sure got it. -_-
The writing is juvenile. The characters are undeveloped clichés. Nothing is properly developed, not even the cheesy teen romance.
By now some of you are probably saying, "oh, you're being too harsh just because this isn't for you."
Thing is, I would never in a million years give this book to a middle grader, or even a teen. And that is because this is one of those books, that manages to not develop a decent plot so that it can gush about a stupid, maybe toxic romance. For those who have read this, you're probably thinking, "oh, but Nick is a good guy!"
Yes, Nick is not a bad guy for a sixteen year old. But I found him manipulative, and in the end of the story, I was left with a bad taste in my mouth, because I couldn't help feeling that another women got sidetracked of all her potential because of a guy.
What a waste of an original concept.

Monday, 31 October 2016

Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones

                                      Arc Provided by St. Martin's Press through Netgalley

                                                    Release Date: February 7th, 2017

As you can probably guess from my review of Labyrinth I'm a life-long fan. I love it with all my heart, I grew up with it, and Sarah was an inspiration to me growing up.

So I was not only looking forward to this book but I also had VERY high expectations for it.
And I'm happy to say that Wintersong managed to rise to the occasion!

This is a book that any fan of Labyrinth will love - and anyone who doesn't even know about Labyrinth will love it just as well. 

Liesl spent her childhood living a life where the magical and the real were entwined - where she went home for her chores, but also played with the Goblin King in the Goblin Grove. 
But people grow up and, as Sarah in the movie, you can't live a live of make-belief and dreams alone. 
So Liesl left the Goblin King behind in her childhood memories.

The Goblin King, however, never forgot her. And he still wants her for himself. 

While there are enough elements of Labyrinth to bring a smile to any fan's face, this book has its own distinct story. It's original, and fresh, and well worth the read. 
Jae-Jones could have taken the easy way out and followed the plot of Labyrinth too closely, but she imagined a whole new story with common elements that is bound to enchant every reader.

Though this is the kind of story that lends itself to flowery descriptions and elaborate language, the language employed is simple - but surprisingly haunting and beautiful! 
It's just as fairy tales of old that didn't tarry in making themselves pretty, so they slammed straight into our hearts, awakened our fears, and were remembered as beautiful nonetheless.
And this book is beautiful enough that it should have been illustrated by Brian Froud, it certainly deserves it!

This is not YA, though. This is a book for adults, so bear that in mind.

But it's easily become a favourite book of mine, I was half way through and I stopped just so I could pre-order it!

However I do prefer the Labyrinth's Goblin King, I like my fey creatures unapologetically cruel and malicious, but the Goblin King's background in Wintersong was believable and it fit the story and time period, even if it was a bit heavy handed and, to me, detracted from the wild and savage origins of Der Erlkönig. 

Nonetheless, I highly recommend this book, and although this has not yet been published I can hardly wait for S. Jae-Jones' next book! 
Jae-Jones is an extremely talented new author, with a perfect notion of pacing, plot, dialogue, and description.
I can only hope she'll gift us with many more charming books!

Author's official site

Pre-order Wintersong
@ The Book Depository (with free worldwide delivery!)

Saturday, 29 October 2016

The White Cat and the Monk: A Retelling of the Poem “Pangur Bán” by Jo Ellen Bogart

I've loved Pangur Bán ever since I first heard of it back at uni in Medieval Literature, so I was pretty excited when I found this book!

This is a great way to introduce children to the poem, the writing is simple and the illustrations are cute.

However, I'll admit I've been spoiled by The Secret of Kells... It's hard to follow up their Pangur Bán and the artistic beauty I've come to associate with the poem.

So I guess the inevitable comparison hurt my rating of this book, somewhat.

I do really recommend this book, just as I recommend watching The Secret of Kells!

Watch this clip:

Buy The White Cat and the Monk: A Retelling of the Poem Pangur Bán
@ The Book Depository

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

A Study In Scarlet Women (Lady Sherlock #1) by Sherry Thomas

                         Arc Provided by Berkley Publishing Group through Netgalley

                                    Book Status: Already Released ( October 18th)

Here's the thing: I've never been a Sherlock Holmes fan.
 I would see some "Poirot" episodes, "Miss Marple", "Murder She Wrote", but I never had the patience for Sherlock. The serialization with Cumberbatch didn't improve matters, because I really dislike Cumberbatch's weasel... face. -_-
Tony Stark, I mean Downey Jr, was able to make me sit quietly for a couple of minutes in front of the screen, but nor enough to make me want to finish watching it...or maybe it was that Watson dude.
I do however love House and Wilson! So maybe not all is lost? ;)

But I digress. This story, well by now it must be painfully obvious that I didn't request this because of the character...
I requested this because of the author! Sherry Thomas would probably make me read a book about Hannibal Lecter!

I've read the author's historical romances. Her _until now_ only contemporary (please, give me more!). Even two of her YA trilogy, so of course I had to read this one.
A female Sherlock? Yes, please! Surely she wouldn't be as annoying as Cumberbatch's performance.
I'm afraid that after having read this, I'm no longer sure.
Reading this was very strange. And uncomfortable, because I couldn't understand her. But maybe that was to be expected?
Charlotte, future Sherlock Holmes to be, left me wondering in those first pages if she had some level of autism, because if so, that would explain some things.
But then she started talking, and I was left wondering if she was trying to impersonate Dr. House's aloofness.
But later on, the girl has the beginning of a panic attack... so I guess in the end she's more like Wilson. But we do end up having a Watson in the book, so that was a little redundant: that overflow of emotion.
By now you're probably saying that none of this makes sense... well that was what I felt at the beginning of this story, so join the club! ;)
Back and forth without actually seeing the events taking place! Hello? This had so much telling, it became absurd. This was supposed to be about the beginning of Sherlock's career, and we don't get to see it!
And what about Charlotte's decisions... are you kidding me? Where is their logic?
So, Charlotte Holmes, our main character... how can I say this?
She became a little tiresome. A little like Sheldon, but less funny...

Then there's the other characters: there's Liv, one of Charlotte's sisters. Then two other sisters. I can't remember their names. Then there's the mother (who is an abusive bastard), and the father, who is a lying bastard. Lord Ingram, who ends up being the most interesting character in the book, but he's married, and that makes him a fool. Although not as ridiculous as Charlotte, because Charlotte wins first prize.
There's a Scotland Yard Inspector to whom it is given way too much time in this book, with countless (hours and hours of my life were wasted forever) interrogations that suck the life out of us.
That means that a lot of people die during this story: don't worry, you won't care about any of them. In fact, if you're anything like me, you'll probably end up mixing the whole gang!
In the end, the thing improves a little with all those deaths being perfectly resolved and all that, but it really is impossible for me to forget the fact that for probably three quarters of the story, I was extremely bored by it.
 However, I have to give credit where it is due: even with a boring story, Sherry Thomas's writing style is still two hundred percent better than that of other writers.

Author's Official Site

The Rat Prince by Bridget Hodder

This was a cute Cinderella's retelling, with an unexpected main character: Prince Char of the Northern Realm... who happens to be a rat. A royal rat. lol
Now Char is an industrious, fast on his little feet, smart prince, who happens to have a soft spot for poor Lady Rose, who has been nicknamed Cinderella by her wicked stepmother...
Char is well aware that the well being of his kingdom depends on getting rid of Cinderella's stepmother: the women is dead serious on poisoning all of Char's people. And that, simply cannot be.
That is when Char devises a plan. He will help Cinderella get to the ball so that she can meet the prince and hopefully getting him smitten with her. With Cinderella as Queen, Char hopes to at last have some peace at his home.
Good plan, right?
Now if only Char and Cinderella would understand one another...
With the help of a recovered family heirloom, Char and Cinderella end up getting much more that what they were expecting.

Like I said this was a cute retelling. Fast paced, well written, I think younger readers will probably have a blast with this.
For me the only downside, is that I can't help wishing that the romance had taken longer to develop, and that the dialogues between the love birds hadn't relied so much on "cheese"... if you know what I mean. Sometimes, less is more. And this is oriented to a younger audience so... that part could have been a little downplayed.

Author's Official Site

Monday, 24 October 2016

Faithful by Alice Hoffman

                            Arc Provided by Simon & Schuster through Netgalley

                                              Release Date: November 1rt

Here's the thing, I am starting to realize that Alice Hoffman's writing is like a drug to me: I am addicted to it ( why? Idk. Faulty wiring in the grey cells... depression. Who knows?), but it really messes with me. And not in a good way. Because through imagery and beautiful phrasing the author embellishes ugly scenarios. The worst is that lately, her books seem to be dominated by weak people and by their socially inapt families, and the fact that through some convoluted fairy tale scenarios, most people overcome their issues.
Unless you're killed: Alice Hoffman's characters have a high mortality rate.
Mostly due to cancer,(strangely, in some parts of the world, cancer is already seen as a chronic disease, but not in A.H's novels), but there's also drugs, and finicky parrots that suddenly decide to fly (yeah, I still haven't got over that one) leading their owners to death.

The writing as always is great... although there was some repetitions that could have been avoided.
Like Ben's last name. Over and over... and over.

But that is not the main reason why this book left me mad as a wet cat.
These are:
1) Use of trigger warning situations only for the shock value of the thing
A friend who is a comma, is bad enough. Survivor's guilt, is bad enough. Attempting suicide is already too much. Did the author really had to had a rape scene in a psychiatric ward? So that Shelby got to say "I was fucked" over and over. And for me it wasn't used as a form of dissociation. If "that" was the idea, then the whole thing was poorly done. The whole thing becomes even more problematic, after she tells her mother what happened, and the mother doesn't do anything about it. That's right, for about two years Shelly does whatever she wants, falling into a deep depression.
And like I said the rape is never properly addressed, so yeah for me, that was really badly done.

2) At the beginning of this review I use the term "weak people". Let me explain: I am not trying to diminish the character's pain. Thing is, bad things happen in life. People die. Family die and we never get over it. That doesn't mean all of us are going to do drugs. That doesn't mean that we're going to enter a relationship like some sort of parasite. Especially if that person likes you. Most of the times we just go on with our lives.

3) Due to the synopsis, I thought this would be more friendship oriented than it ended being. Shelly and Helene are supposed to be best friends, but at beginning, the characterization that the author makes of the two of them felt so heavy handed,  "good girl/party girl; good student/couldn't care less about it; reserved/kind of sluty (hopefully this word will be removed from the final story), that I was left completely baffled about what I was reading.

4) The use of a physical image associated with cancer to create pity
After the accident, Shelby shaves her head. She even says that people look at her with pity because they think she has cancer. Maybe if the author hadn't said something of the type, I couldn't care less? But she did, and from that moment on, my hatred for Shelby started growing. She wanted to blend in the background? In that case, average appearance normally does the trick.

5) Alice Hoffman and romance normally don't walk hand in hand. Obsession, insta attraction and following disappointment, yes. Thing is I had imagined many roads for Shelby and Ben. For a moment I thought, "okay, the author creates the most wonderful Ben's". Read "Practical Magic".
I was happy, or at least I was hoping for a possibility of happiness. And then the author had to choose a "new adult" approach to ruin things.

6) The new adult romance vibe
You know why I mostly can't stand new adult? It is because of the way abusive/toxic relationships are dealt.
Stalkerish vibes?
Away you go.
Deciding what is best for you?
Yeah, no.
Dark, brooding, been in prison vibe?
Hell no, Give me a Ben. Even if it started out messy.

7) The cancer card
That's right! Who cares if the story line was already fucked up as it was?
The story wouldn't be complete without someone dying from cancer... in a few pages.

8) Another death, because the death tally in this book still wasn't long enough. <spoiler>YES I KNOW DOGS DIE! ESPECIALLY THOSE WHO ARE FOURTEEN YEARS OLD! MY DOG IS FOURTEEN AND A HALF AND HE IS DYING! LEAVE THE FICTITIOUS ANIMALS ALONE!</spoiler>
Really, stop with the soap opera!

9) No magical realism. There was this supposed "angel" (stupid me was thinking something along the lines of "Turtle Moon") who ended up being a Mr. Know it all, stalkerish type.
Just no.

Truth is, had this been written by any other author ( that not one of my favourites) I probably wouldn't have even finished it.
As it is, I feel as if I've read some weird as fuck soap opera. And I hate soap operas. Guess it is time for me and Alice Hoffman's writing to part ways.

Friday, 21 October 2016

When The Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore

                   Arc Provided by Thomas Dunne Books/St Martin's Press through Netgalley
                                           Book Status: Already Released ( October 4th)

All book bloggers go through it once in awhile. It's our holy grail. That elusive five star story that keeps escaping us by the turn of the pages... until it does appear, and we get all flustered and scared searching for words that will never make that story true justice.
As you can see, this is one of those cases. I don't even remember any more what it was that caught my attention when requesting this title. But I am so glad that it did.

If you're looking for an entrancing story with complex and diverse characters, then search no more. If to that, you're also a fan of magical realism and of beautiful writing, then you're in for a treat.

Sam and Miel have been friends since "forever". Forever being, since the old water tower got destroyed, a rush of rusty water delivering this strange girl, Miel to Sam's small town.  Alone and with a few bag of memories.
Sam, or Samir, is the boy with the dark skin and black hair. The boy that doesn't seem to fit in anywhere: until Miel arrives.
 Miel, the girl with the roses growing in her wrist. Literally. And with a lot of lore attached to them.
Both of them have secrets of their own. Both of them are outcasts in their own way.
 But one thing is constant between them: their friendship, and later on their love.

Their feelings for each other, and most of all, the way they respect one another is one of the most beautiful things I've ever read. How they love each other, not despite something, but because of those elements, made me fall in love with them.
A wonderful story about all the different bonds of love. A story about what makes us unique.
What makes us, us.
Is it our bodies? The way other people perceive us?

A wonderful complex story of friendship, family, love, and even witches. Witches with glass coffins and wishes that aren't theirs to hold.
A story that in the end leaves us sad because it has ended. But happy for having read it.
A definite must read!

And now I must go and read the author's first book asap.

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Spindle by Shonna Slayton

Arc Provided by Entangled Teen Through Netgalley

Release Date: October 4 th

This was certainly different from every single retelling that I've ever read... and for that I'm grateful.
I can certainly appreciate a different take on a story inspired by a fairy tale. And this one sure is original.
Time frame: end of the nineteen century.
Briar Rose is a mill girl along many others. She is a sixteen year old, in charge of her younger siblings. Her reality couldn't be more distant of one of a fairy tale.
Well written, this story took me back to the period of suffragettes, a time fraught with changes and possibilities. I liked imagining what it must have been like living back then. Not in a "oh, I wish I could time travel", because I am a woman and let's face it, we're still fighting for our rights... -_-
I liked how the author was able to interwove some magical aspects of a fairy tale in a setting such as the one of the industrial revolution. I liked "seeing" the girls reactions to bicycles for instance.
How differently the girls reacted to changes. The ones that were eager for it versus the others that kept wishing things wouldn't change.
It was all great until things started being a little repetitive. But the thing that left me somewhat disappointed was the way health and magic got a little tangled...
I understand why it happened, but I thought it was a little messy.
Besides that, I can't help wishing that Briar wouldn't have felt so "goody two shoes". That her younger brothers hadn't been portrayed as such angels, so that maternal instincts could arise on her friends, and things like those.
As for Henry I would have liked to have seen more of him. It definitely felt as if the romance was extremely downplayed, and although I don't like it when a romance takes centre stage, a middle ground could have been found.
As for the ending, it felt extremely rushed, there my 3.5 rating.
All in all, this was a positive experience and I'll be sure to give the author's other stories a try.

A Feast Of Sorrows by Angela Slatter

Arc Provided by Prime Books
Released on October 4th

This is a collection of stories that feature women as the main characters
Not one of them tries to pass them as perfect, and most of the times, in their imperfections you'll find their strongest asset.
Vengeance links them throughout time and ages, despite (most of the times) not sharing a particular DNA. The language is raw and up in your face. No pretty words here to lighten up the dark in which they take place.
Infidelity, lust, perversion, greed, abuse: you'll find all of them in this collection.
A feast of sorrows this is... and what a dark feast.
This is not my first incursion into the author's writing, although unfortunately I still haven't read "Sourdough" or "Bitterwood Bible" for which I am extremely sorry.

1) Sourdough, a tale of love of vengeance. 4 Stars

"My memory is true."
A young baker, Emmeline, falls in love with a groom to be.
Imagine if you could bake your own revenge... and make it as bitter as you'd wish.

2) Dresses, Three 2.5 Stars

“Butterfly wings,” says Aurora. “A dress of butterfly wings, Cerridwen?”

Really strong beginning, but I felt as if it needed something more.
It is a tale of wishes and its consequences.

3) The Bluebeard's Daughter   5 Stars

“My father likes being married and, despite everything, he’s apparently
catnip for women, whether for his fortune, castle, or the great virile
bushy beard, who can say."

With traces of what I've come to associate with Snow White elements, this was unexpectedly dark.
 Strong character with a strong mind. Loved it.
Rosaline is well her father's daughter ;)
That ending is a GEM.

4)The Jacaranda Wife - 4 Stars

"Sometimes, not very often, but sometimes when the winds blow right, the summer heat is kind, and the rain trickles down just-so, a woman is born of a jacaranda tree."

Men: always wanting what they can't have. -_-
Beautiful imagery in a tale as old as time: some things cannot be stopped. Or changed.

5)Light as Mist, Heavy as Hope - 3.5 Stars
A retelling of Rumpelstiltzkin.
When Alice's disgusting father announces to all the world to hear, that her daughter can spin straw into gold, the girl has to come out with a way to save her neck

6)The Coffin-Maker’s Daughter -3.5 Stars
In a world where the dead need more than a simple coffin to be put to sleep (and stay there), Hepsibah Ballantyne, is the only coffin-maker in town. That makes her extremely valuable.
Interesting story with a lesbian character, although there could have been more information about those mirrors...

7)By the Weeping Gate - 4 Stars

"She is no longer a girl who can live in the shadows, and she feels this loss."
When beauty is a curse, it will be up to the most plain of all sisters to save them...
Here is a story that I would love to know how it ends...

8) St Dymphna’s School for Poison Girls - 2 Stars
Here's a short that I've already read thanks to Tor. It started out great, but then I couldn't help feeling as if the character had changed... and not for the best.

9)By My Voice I Shall Be Known - 4 Stars

If I still had a voice, I would cry out."

Dark. Dark. So dark. And so compelling.
Unfortunately, once again, I wanted more. This ending, as others, felt rushed.

10) Sister, Sister - 3.5 Stars
And here it is, a short that would benefited from me having read Sourdough and Bitterworld Bible: or at least that is what I felt.
What after an hea comes betrayal? What then will happen to "our" princes and "princesses"?

11) The Badger Wife - 3 Stars

12) The Tallow- Wife - 4.5 Stars ( novella)
Loved this one. Can't wait to read more about Cordelia.

13) What Shines Brightest Burns Most Fiercely - 4 Stars
A follow up of the sorts of the previous novella, but with different protagonists.

14) Bearskin - 4 Stars
Also takes place in same universe of the "The Tallow Wife".
This one follows Cordelia's younger son path.

The "Tallow Wife" novella and "What Shines Brightest Burns most fiercely" are both originals to this collection.

Author's Official Site

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