March 31, 2019

The Ring and the Crown: A Rambling Review

The Ring and the Crown by Melissa de la Cruz
I actually enjoyed this one more than I was expecting to! Which is not to say that it’s without its flaws -- the pacing is uneven, with a slow build through at least three-quarters and then a rush of action and reveals and explanations (many of which were confusing and not satisfactory) at the end. I’m still left puzzling about some things that were crammed in to try to wrap things up. I liked the connection to Arthurian myth, but I think it could have been executed better; the author seemed to use the magical elements when it was convenient, but not really have them as a truly cohesive part of the story. 

That said, there was just something entertaining and easy about this read. I liked escaping to this world of shallow social climbers and court drama and people falling rapidly in (what they think is) love and plotting desperately to be together. Fluff, definitely, but it was mindless fun (which was needed given that I am sick at the moment!) I did have some trouble keeping the different narratives straight in my mind -- it hops around between five -- but the characters were not all nauseatingly shallow or selfish, and I particularly ended up rooting for Marie to get her happily ever after. 

3.5 shooting stars.

March 19, 2019

Amy Snow: A Rambling Review

Amy Snow by Tracy Rees

The mystery in this story was predictable, but I enjoyed seeing Amy Snow's character develop. The writing style had a formal, old-fashioned sort of vibe, which suited the era that the novel is set in. I also liked the set-up of the "treasure hunt", which worked well to keep the story progressing (and it was interesting to see how Amy came to quite resent the hunt at one point). 

I do wish we'd gotten to know some of the minor characters better (such as Henry). However, the book is called Amy Snow, and it certainly shows us how Amy grows into herself, becoming a more confident and sure-footed young woman by the end. 

An added bonus for me was that the section set in Bath brought back memories of my time spent in that city -- apparently I had a much more favourable impression of it than Amy did! (Seriously, Amy, how could you not like Bath? It is delightful.)

4 shooting stars.  


Strange Sweet Song: A Rambling Review

Strange Sweet Song by Adi Rule

I ended up really enjoying this read! I think it's titled very aptly -- it is both strange and sweet in measure. A bit sad, too, at times. In an interesting way, Rule manages to combine a folkloric style with a contemporary setting, and it works. Even though I am a fan of neither cats nor opera, nevertheless, I liked the story here. I did find Sing to be rather self-centered and annoying sometimes, and she made one stunningly poor decision (spoiler, highlight to read: asking her dad to get her the lead role of Angelique), but I felt like her genuine self was a good person. It was neat to get the perspective of the Felix, and I felt those chapters were very intriguing, if a bit vague and not explored as much as I might have liked. The ending did leave me with some questions (spoilers: how come the Felix was able to go back to the sky? And why did the Maestro want to keep Nathan close to him so badly? Was it because he wanted the immortality from the tear? Or did he want to keep everyone from discovering Nathan's talent, because he was jealous? The Maestro's motivations were not clearly explained...)

The feel of this story puts me in mind of Mechthild Glaser's The Forgotten Book, so if you enjoyed that one, you might like Strange Sweet Song (and vice versa).

4 shooting stars. 


Hunted: A Rambling Review

Hunted by Meagan Spooner

Utterly absorbing -- once it got going, I couldn't put it down. Spooner marries the traditional Beauty & the Beast tale with Russian fairy tales beautifully. If I had to nitpick, I'd say that I could have used a little more detail in description, and also that Spooner could have strayed a little farther from the original Beauty & the Beast tale; this one sticks quite closely to it for the first three-quarters or so of the story (admittedly, the ending is very different!). I am a little confused by the ending itself, which wrapped up quite quickly and left me with some unanswered questions (spoiler, highlight to read: did the Firebird die when Yeva shot it? Or did it just disappear?). 

I really enjoyed Yeva herself as a protagonist -- she was fierce, and determined, and yet she was not impervious to emotion. The Beast took a little longer to grow on me (unsurprisingly, of course), but grow on me he did, and during the part of the tale in which Beauty leaves the Beast, I felt quite sorry for him, and I wanted to shake Yeva and remind her that he needed her. I know some reviewers said that there wasn't enough of the romance here, but honestly I didn't really have a problem with that. No, it isn't romance-heavy, but the slow-burn of a friendship developing between them is clear to see. (I don't know that the original fairy tale was super heavy on the romance either, to be honest -- I mean, he is an actual beast, after all.)

Anyway, bottom line: loved it. I think Beauty by Robin McKinley will always be my absolute favourite BatB retelling, but this one is up there. In a way it kinda reminded me of East by Edith Pattou (no trolls here, though!) so I think if you enjoyed that one you might like this one too.

4.5 shooting stars. 


March 2, 2019

Short & Sweet: The Shadow Society and Drowning Anna

The Shadow Society by Marie Rutkoski

I found this to be an entertaining read, but not of the same caliber as Rutkoski's Winner's Trilogy (which is not too surprising, considering this book was written before that series). The plotting in the Winner's Trilogy is more clever, and there's a lot more complexity in the political maneuvring. It's also darker and more mature than this book. Nevertheless, I liked the protagonist Darcy and her hot-cold relationship with Conn, and the whole notion of these two parallel universes based off of one historical event. There are definitely some questions around worldbuilding that never get answered (where did Shades come from in the first place, for one), but that didn't bother me a whole lot.

3.5 shooting stars. 

Drowning Anna by Sue Mayfield

This book took me back to my high school days, and I really felt for Anna here. The sheer nastiness of the bullying she endured was despicable. I do feel like the book ended quite abruptly, and without resolution of the storylines (why did Hayley begin bullying Anna in the first place? Did Anna and Melanie patch up their friendship?). But certainly it was an honest look at how hurtful and destructive bullying can be, and how often it is dismissed as "teasing" or overlooked by teachers.

 3.5 shooting stars. 


All These Things I've Done: A Rambling Review

All These Things I've Done by Gabrielle Zevin

I really liked Anya's voice and personality -- she's pragmatic, extremely dedicated to and protective of her family, and bold. She also (at least at the start of the book) really doesn't want to be involved in the criminal activities of her mafia-style family. (She lies a lot, too, which I don't approve of, but I guess that kinda comes with the territory.)

I did find it rather unrealistic that a bunch of the adults treated Anya like an equal, considering she's just sixteen. I mean, I know it's YA, but still. 

The premise of chocolate being illegal is also a bit ridiculous, but I guess the author wanted to make something contraband that has never been illegal in our world. 

I particularly liked the family relationships depicted here; Anya cares so deeply for her brother and sister, and her brother himself is a complex character who plays a very important role in the story. 

While I won't be rushing out to get the next book ASAP, I'll probably try to pick it up at some point to continue.

3.5 shooting stars.


The Piper's Son: A Rambling Review

The Piper's Son by Melina Marchetta

I liked really getting to know Tom well in this book, but overall I didn't enjoy it as much as Saving Francesca. It felt darker and heavier than that first book. The story just sort of meanders, lacking momentum/drive, and though I felt like it was slowly building up to something, the actual climactic scene (if you could call it that) felt underwhelming and unsatisfying. Also, Tom takes a long time to learn anything, so it ends up feeling kinda repetitive as he has the same sorts of inner monologues over and over again as he tries to figure things out. The characterization is a strong point -- Tom is most certainly a flawed character, but sympathetic and redeemable. You have to feel for him, while at the same time wishing he made different choices. 

I do wish we had gotten to see more of what the other characters from Saving Francesca are dealing with. We get little glimpses, but because it's from Tom's and Georgie's perspectives, we don't really get to know the whole of what's going on with the others. I also didn't feel like Georgie's perspective added that much; I wasn't as interested in her storyline and partway through I began looking forward to the next Tom chapter instead. I think perhaps we didn't need quite as many characters in here either; I know that family is a very important aspect of this novel, but I had some trouble remembering who was who. 

Marchetta depicts friendships and relationships incredibly well, and that is on display here. I find it fascinating how quickly and easily Tom makes friends, even with those people he took a disliking to at first (like Ned). He rebuffs people just as easily, unfortunately, but nevertheless it's clear he keeps searching for connection with others. It's interesting, too, that Marchetta tackles the issue of repairing and rebuilding friendships that have faded; it's a subject that isn't all that front-and-centre in a lot of novels, and yet it's a subject that many people face at some point in their lives.

3 shooting stars.

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