Book Review: The Books of Elsewhere #1: The Shadows by Jacqueline West (4.5/5)

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The Books of Elsewhere is absolutely amazing. I’m afraid I have to compare it to Harry Potter. It’s just as brilliant as Harry Potter, only with more of an appeal towards the middle grade audience. Jacqueline West has infused her words with wry humor, chock-full-of-personality characters (especially the talking cats), a suspenseful plot, imagination and strong underlying messages.

Here’s the premise: 11-year-old Olive is the only child of two mathematicians. Thing is, she’s not good at math at all! Instead, she has something of a wild imagination. When her family moves into an abandoned house on Linden street, she’s the only one who senses something strange and spooky. The paintings, the cats, the rumors. But Olive only finds out how strange and spooky when she discovers the secret – the paintings are portals to a place called Elsewhere. And someone in the house wants to get rid of her family….

From the first line of The Books of Elsewhere, I knew I’d love this book. West has a very original writing style that’s both down-to-earth and amusing. But that’s not all – there’s a wonderful plot and very real characters. I imagine elementary school kids, middle school kids and anyone older will greatly enjoy The Books of Elsewhere. Speaking of which, my nine-year-old brother just ran off with my copy of the book…

***copy provided by Creative Kids Magazine

Read more of my reviews here on my blog: https://rememberingwonderland.wordpress.com

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Book Review: The Scroll of Years by Chris Willrich (1.5/5)

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Summary: Persimmon Gaunt and Imago Bone are an unconventional couple and partners in crime: a poet and a slow-aging thief. As they wander to the Eastern edge of the world, they are swept onto an adventure that involves magic scrolls, gangs, the mythical dragons and their unborn child.

I really wanted to like this book. I really did. High fantasy with Eastern influence, threads of Chinese culture. A magical scroll. A poet and a thief as the main characters. The names Gaunt and Bone. It sounds like it could be something astounding, something breathtakingly fantastical.

The author’s writing style…Ahhh this tears me apart. On one hand, it’s very gorgeous, scattered with stunning figurative language and a distinct Eastern cultural influence. But, after reading a few pages, I felt like it was stilted in many places. It was not “fitting.” The author either rambled off into details/thought processes or did too much “telling.”

I could not lose myself into the world of this book; the writing style, alternative plotline and voice just weren’t for me. They kept distracting me. And…main point: the characters. I never got to know the true personalities of the characters. Their stories, especially that of Next-One-A-Girl (the name drew me in, nice touch), could have been heartbreakingly emotional. But they weren’t. They were all kind of flat.

The premise of the book seemed very intriguing. But I never got into the actually story. So much of it felt unbalanced. And it’s not because it’s for a younger age group. Apparently it’s marketed to “Mature Young Adult” on Litpick. I don’t know how other readers will find this book.

Remember, this review is just my own opinion.

***eBook provided by Litpick.com in exchange for my honest review

Book Review: Cobweb Bride: Book One By Vera Nazarian (4.5/5)

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“He came to them in the heart of winter, asking for his Cobweb Bride. He arrived everywhere, all at once. In one singular moment, he was seen, heard, felt, remembered. Some inhaled his decaying scent. Others bitterly tasted him. And everyone recognized Death in one way or another, just before the world was suspended.” ~ Cobweb Bride, Chapter 1

Isn’t that one of the most beautifully written openings ever? As soon as I read it, I was enchanted. I hoped then, that I might be in the hands of a master storyteller…

A retelling of the myth of Persephone, Cobweb Bride is set in an alternate, mildly magical Renaissance Europe — I read about some site considering it “steampunk,” but it doesn’t quite give off that steampunk vibe for me. IT feels like dark fantasy, bare to the bloodless bone. Wild and imaginative and different.

The setup is this: Death ceases to exist. Yes, people stop dying! In the deathly cold of winter, everyone and everything can no longer die (until Death receives his Cobweb Bride). Beheaded knights rise up and continue to battle. The murdered Infanta, heir to the throne  survives her assassination. And Percy’s grandmother lies on her deathbed, suspended in a torturous and painful state. Of course, there are terrible implications…What if one particular Duke desires immortality, for instance?

Middle daughter Percy, whose real name is Persephone, comes off as an immediately likable character. Sandwiched between “her mother’s two favorites,” Percy believes she can never be as good as her beautiful older sister and lively younger sister. She’s clumsy, homely and can’t seen to say or do the right things. I felt so much empathy for Percy; her character development is the main highlight of the book.

The kingdom proclaims that one daughter of marriageable age from each family must journey North to become a potential Cobweb Bride. No one is really sure what Death wants, but girls start pouring into the Northern forests. Being the least loved in her family, Percy, of course, decides it must be her.

The pros:

  • Percy’s character and development
  • the Infanta’s character (she’s truly kind, even after death…in fact, one might say she starts living after death)
  • other characters
  • it’s a retelling!
  • dark fantasy
  • beautiful, poetic writing
  • wonderful world-building
  • the mystery surrounding Death
  • romantic lines are not annoying — they’re very different, actually, since both lines involve death

Cons

  • some may think the beginning feels slow (this is for character development room)
  • balance of plot feels skewed (probably since it’s a trilogy. I’m becoming less fond of trilogies and more admiring of stand-alones)
  • some of the storylines aren’t that interesting (there are many storylines), and I felt emotionally invested in only two: Percy’s and the Infanta’s
  • the writing style, gorgeous as it is, becomes unedited and perhaps too gaudy towards the middle and end (obviously not a liberal editor there)
  • the words “perfect” and “beautiful” were used too often
  • we can’t judge till the end of the trilogy…

It’s not a perfect book, but 4.5 stars because I’m a sucker for dark fantasy and beautiful writing. I will definitely read the 2nd and 3rd books.

***eBook provided by Netgalley in exchange for my honest review

Book Review: Abandon Book 3: Awaken by Meg Cabot (1/5)

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I will begin by stating that I’m not a paranormal romance fan. I actually kind of detest it. But I made an exception for this book because 1) I had reviewed the first book, Abandon, three years ago and found it okay. I haven’t read the second book, if it’s worth mentioning. 2) The series is a retelling of the Greek myth of Persephone 3) I’ve got a soft spot for Meg Cabot, since she’s the author of the Princess Diaries (though I didn’t read the book until I was older, the movie was every 6-year-old’s dream, wasn’t it?).

Awaken continues the story of Pierce Oliveria, a rich girl with a supposedly soft heart. Our modern Persephone is passionately in love with the ruler of the Underworld – the totally dark and mysterious John Hayden. However, tragedy happens when a classmate murders her cousin Alex and the Furies bring trouble to the Underworld. Most of the plot was jumbled, messy and predictable – I felt like the stakes weren’t really set up.

Cabot desperately tries to portray Pierce as a likeable character. She writes the book in first person perspective and wants the voice of an excitable teenage girl to make the reader feel familiar and closer to the story. But instead of feeling acquainted, I just felt annoyed. Annoyed by the voice. Annoyed by the plot. Annoyed by the relationship between Pierce and John. Annoyed by the portrayal of John as the stereotypical “bad boy” tamed by the “good girl” Pierce. Yes, the whole romance is irritating.

I think I might have liked the story if it was written differently…well, if it was completely different. My main problem with the story was how fake Pierce’s personality and voice seemed to me. Pierce’s POV is supposed to be that of a 17-year-old who’s the queen of the Underworld and mature enough to be in love with a king who’s spiritually 200 years old. To me, another 17-year-old, Pierce’s narration and thoughts feel too simplistic. There’s little depth to themes, action scenes, emotions and world building (I’m so curious about the Underworld; I want to know more – the Underworld is not just the love interest, John!) It’s almost like the voice would have been appropriate for a middle grade or chapter book. But then it couldn’t be for younger kids, because the romance is annoyingly passionate and unrealistic.

Everything I’ve written in this review is purely my own honest opinion. Some teenage girls might very much enjoy the premise and voice of Awaken.  I don’t know if it would be considered a good book or not. Maybe it’s actually a very good book. But it just wasn’t the story for me. 1/5

***eBook provided by Netgalley in exchange for my honest review