Ever After High: The Storybook of Legends by Shannon Hale

18053786305 pages
Published October 8th, 2013 by Little, Brown and Company
Source: Library

Synopsis: At Ever After High, an enchanting boarding school, the children of fairytale legends prepare themselves to fulfill their destinies as the next generation of Snow Whites, Prince Charmings and Evil Queens…whether they want to or not. Each year on Legacy Day, students sign the Storybook of Legends to seal their scripted fates. For generations, the Village of Book End has whispered that refusing to sign means The End-both for a story and for a life.

As the daughter of the Evil Queen, Raven Queen’s destiny is to follow in her mother’s wicked footsteps, but evil is so not Raven’s style. She’s starting to wonder, what if she rewrote her own story? The royal Apple White, daughter of the Fairest of Them All, has a happy ever after planned for herself, but it depends upon Raven feeding her a poison apple in their future.

What if Raven doesn’t sign the Storybook of Legends? It could mean a happily never after for them both.

Review: I spied this book on my library’s e-book website and decided to take the plunge and check it out and read it. I love fairy tale adaptations and saw that Shannon Hale had written it. I haven’t read anything by her before, but I’ve always read good things about her. Little did I know that this book was actually written to tie in with a line of dolls in the spirits of Monster High dolls. Of course, they are called Ever After High dolls. I almost wished I hadn’t found out about this fact until after I had finished reading the book, because it made me feel a little sick to realize I was reading such a blatant marketing ploy, but I had to plow through and finish it anyway.

Overall, the story isn’t awful, considering it is a marketing tool. It’s one of the fluffiest books I think I’ve ever read in my life and oh yeah, very cutesy too. There are cute nicknames for everything to the point that I found it very distracting. An example is “hexciting” instead of “exciting” and “fairy” to replace “very.” Pretty over the top, but I can see that maybe appealing to the girls that would want to read this book. I am definitely not the audience for it.

I did like the general plot, Raven Queen wants to rebel and find her own path in life, and she is not the only fairy tale being that does. I think it can send a good messages to girls reading this, but at the same time, the focus on fashion, with a description of each character’s outfit is so blatant that it makes it hard to read. I noticed the clothing descriptions before I realized they were dolls and found it a little odd. The plot was a little slow, however, and nothing really seemed to be accomplished and the book ended on a cliffhanger, of course! To get people to buy the next book and not just the next book, the dolls too!

I will admit, if I was in the right age range for these dolls, I would have loved the dolls. But I would have realized that the book was a total marketing sham. It was cute and fluffy, but I think most girls will see right through it and not read the book, but play with the dolls.

Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee

17910570240 pages
Published January 28th 2014 by Knopf Books for Young Readers
Source: Library

Synopsis: Unlikely heroine Ophelia Jane Worthington-Whittard doesn’t believe in anything that can’t be proven by science. She and her sister Alice are still grieving for their dead mother when their father takes a job in a strange museum in a city where it always snows. On her very first day in the museum Ophelia discovers a boy locked away in a long forgotten room. He is a prisoner of Her Majesty the Snow Queen. And he has been waiting for Ophelia’s help.

As Ophelia embarks on an incredible journey to rescue the boy everything that she believes will be tested. Along the way she learns more and more about the boy’s own remarkable journey to reach her and save the world.

A story within a story, this a modern day fairytale is about the power of friendship, courage and love, and never ever giving up.

Review: I love any books that are based on fairy tales, so of course I was drawn to this book as it is based on the Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen. However, I am not a big fan of Andersen’s fairy tales, so I was curious what Foxlee would do with this tale, though granted, it’s not one of the worst by Andersen. I liked the modern update to a city where it always snows and a cold museum.

The book was beautifully written and that was the main draw of the book for me. I couldn’t wait to see what was going to happen next. The passages and the trials Ophelia has to endure were all beautifully written and I felt myself holding her breath many times, as I was feeling the same tension Ophelia felt. Ophelia was a smart and quirky protagonist and of course she was the most interesting. However, I also was intrigued by her father and mother, who were both revealed to be deeply complex and quirky people as well. The Marvelous Boy, who doesn’t even have a name, while not the most complex character, he is the driving force for Ophelia to conquer her fears and save the world.

It seemed to me that there was a connection between going to this cold city and museum and the death of Ophelia’s mother. Alice, Ophelia’s sister, becomes emotionally cold and her father becomes distracted while Ophelia is seemingly involved in a deep fantasy. Obviously, the Snow Queen had a part to play, but it also showed how grief has come down on this family and how each family member deals with her death. I also liked how Ophelia’s mother is a character without being alive. She “talks” to Ophelia and encourages her when Alice and her father don’t believe her story.

Again, it was a beautifully written book, and I read it quickly, so it wasn’t a slow moving book, but it felt like it dragged a little bit, with the Marvelous Boy relaying his story and Ophelia having to jump through many hoops before finding the courage and will to destroy the Snow Queen.

The Snowman by Jo Nesbø

Published May 10, 2011 by Knopf Publishing Group

Source: Library

This book is part of the Harry Hole series by Nesbø, who is a mystery writer in Norway. The series follows Harry Hole, a detective, as he solves cases. I had heard about the book before and my mind also associated it with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, another famous mystery to come out of Scandinavia. I’m not usually a mystery reader, but I was intrigued by the plot of this book, a serial killer in Norway who leaves behind a snowman at the scene, but unfortunately, I was not able to finish the book.

I found the book difficult to follow and very confusing. I couldn’t keep the characters straight, except for Hole and had to keep flipping back and forth (or in my case, doing a search on my e-reader) to figure out who the characters were and what had already happened. I also thought the writing was not good. I’m not sure if this is because it is just a badly written book or whether it’s because the book was translated from Norwegian to English and something was “lost in translation.” I had the same problem with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, where the writing left something to be desired, but I was able to finish that book. This book, despite the intriguing plot and the fact that I really, really wanted to know who the serial killer was, well, I had to tell myself to put it down, because I was not enjoying reading the book. Too bad, because although I said I’m not a big mystery reader, I do like to read mysteries every now and then.

 

 

 

Classic Double Challenge: Attempt #2

classic+double+2014

Wow, I haven’t been updating this blog in months. And I signed up for this challenge last year, but never finished it, so going to give it another try!

I was reading one of my favorite book blogs, Angieville, and I was redirected to the Classic Double Challenge hosted by One Librarian’s Book Reviews. I have decided to join in, since I really need to get jump started on my blog again.

I think I will start with “Small” which is reading one set of related books, so 2 in total. I do have a lot of free time in Austria, but don’t want to overwhelm myself!

Here is what I’m thinking:

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie paired with Ten by Gretchen McNeil

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens paired with Dodger by Terry Pratchett

Both of the newer books are available from my library as e-books. I read And Then There Were None last year for this challenge, but never read Ten. Hopefully I can read at least one pair of these books!

Review: School Spirits

Author: Rachel Hawkins
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Release Date: May 14, 2013
Pages: 304

Source: Library
Why I read it: I have read the first two books in the Hex Hall series and didn’t realize that the author had a new spin off series. Of course I had to read this!
 
Izzy is a member of the Brannick family, a family that hunts magical creatures. She, her sister, who has mysteriously disappeared, and her mom are the last of the Brannicks. They keep to themselves, and move around hunting different magical creatures. After Izzy botches what should be a simple vampire case, her and her mother move to a small town in Mississippi. The local high school has a mysterious haunting and Izzy is supposed to solve the case. Unfortunately, or fortunately, she begins to befriend people at the school, which interferes with her work and her disguise that she is a normal teenage girl.
 
I could not put this book down! I had read the first two books in the Hex Hall series and when I saw the author had a new series, I really wanted to read it. I didn’t realize the book was a spin off, as I haven’t finished the Hex Hall series.
 
The novel is fast paced and the mystery surrounding the haunting of the school is compelling. The characters are also really compelling. I loved the group of friends that Izzy meets at school through the PMS, also known as the Paranormal Management Society, especially Romy and Dex. I loved Romy’s quirks and her warmth and Dex’s quirks, like wearing old fashioned clothing and her flowery speech. I can’t wait to see where they fit in the next books. 
 
Izzy is also a great character too. She struggles with trying to fit in and is a bit snarky and jaded, which of course, a monster hunter would probably be. Romy and Dex are really good friends to Izzy, and I warmed up to them quickly. Dex is also romantically interested in Izzy and she is interested in him too, but I felt like that plot line didn’t overshadow the rest of the story. Izzy knew that her mission was the most important while struggling with her feelings for Dex and also her growing friendship with Romy. I though the conflict between the two was handled well and not too much hand wringing over Dex.
 
The ending felt a little rushed and actually I felt a little thrown off from what I expected to happen. It seemed thrown together and I wonder how the next book will start off, based on what happened at the end of this book. However, of course I will read the second book to see the new developments!

Review: Hex Hall Series

imagesdemonglHawkins_HexHallI started this series awhile ago a couple of years ago and recently realized that the third book in the series had come out. I had forgotten what had happened in the first two books, so I had to reread them before continuing on to the third. Warning: There will be spoilers!

The series centers around Sophie Mercer, who is a witch, or so she thinks until towards the end of the first book. She finds out she is a demon, one of the most powerful supernatural creatures or prodigium in existence. The series starts out with Sophie having to attend Hex Hall after she does a spell that goes wrong. Hex Hall is a school for “bad” supernatural teenagers. Throughout the series, she has to grapple with being a demon while also being a teenager. She deals with love, family, school, friends and unlike most teenagers, the possible destruction of all supernatural creatures.

I find the books a bit fluffy, but I do enjoy them. I even read the spin-off series, School Spirits. My favorite part is probably Sophie. She is pretty sarcastic and uses sarcasm to cope with all the chaos around her. I also like her relationships with Elodie, her nemesis in the first book, and Jenna, her vampire best friend. I especially love the banter between her and Jenna.

There is a love triangle in this book and while normally I am not a fan of love triangles, I thought this one worked fairly well and was realistic. Sophie, like many other witches and warlocks, is betrothed to a fellow warlock, Cal. However, Sophie falls for Archer, resident bad boy. Both boys represent a clear choice for Sophie, in regards to which direction she wants to head and I think Hawkins handled it well. I also liked her resolution with the triangle, though it did seem a bit convenient.

However, sometimes I feel like the endings were rushed in the books,  especially the last one. I felt the last one felt a little jumbled in the plotting and the ended was very rushed.

Overall, I really liked this series and as I mentioned before, I have started the spin-off series. I think this series would translate really well to a movie or TV show, as it does have fun characters and the plot is very compelling, plus there is lots of action!

Review: Penny Dreadful

Author: Laurel Synder
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Release Date: September 28, 2010
Pages: 320

Source: Library
Why I read it: I had this on my Goodreads shelf and it seemed like a book that I could read quickly.

Penelope Grey lives a very comfortable and happy life in the city. But she wants more. She wants her life to be exciting and an adventure like in the books she reads. One day, she wishes for something exciting to happen and her father comes home and tells her and her mother that he has quit his job. The family also finds out that they have inherited an old house in Tennessee. Penelope and her family are forced to move there, because of financial concerns. When they arrive in Tennessee, they find out that not only did they inherit the house, they also inherited many tenants and a huge debt. Penelope gets to know the tenants and other various people around the small town and tries to help out her family.

This is a sweet, heartwarming book about the power of friendship. I actually liked this a lot more than I expected. The characterization is great. All of the characters are very interesting, with great back stories, and a lot of them even have hidden depths. There is even a lot of diversity in the book! I couldn’t pick a favorite character, because they are all complete individuals.

My favorite part of the book is the development that Penelope, later Penny, goes through. She is a lonely girl in the city, but learns to make friends and learns how the power of friendship can help overcome adversity. Even a lot of the other characters have their own small story arcs and development. For example, her mother, who was formerly a housewife, begins to work in an unusual job. Her father finds a hidden talent that he didn’t know he has. And even Penny’s new friends have their own small developments.

Very sweet and heartwarming book. Though this book is middle grade, I feel like even adults can take something away from the story. I also loved the illustrations, but wish there had been a few more!