Friday, March 27, 2015

Review: Flunked

Title: Flunked
Author: Jen Calonita
Series: Fairy Tale Reform School #1
Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Publication Date: March 3, 2015
Source: I received a complimentary eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Would you send a villain to do a hero's job? An exciting new twisted fairy tale series from award-winning author Jen Calonita.

Full of regret, Cinderella's wicked stepmother, Flora, has founded the Fairy Tale Reform School with the mission of turning the wicked and criminally mischievous into upstanding members of Enchantasia.

Impish, sassy 12-year-old Gilly has a history of petty theft and she's not too sorry about it. When she lifts a hair clip, she gets tossed in reform school-for at least three months. But when she meets fellow students Jax and Kayla, she learns there's more to this school than its sweet mission. There's a battle brewing and she starts to wonder: can a villain really change?

Flunked was a cute, fun read that was ultimately kind of forgettable. This book follows the adventures of Gilly, a girl who has turned to stealing in order to make a bit of extra money to feel her family. Gilly doesn't live just anywhere, she actually lives in Enchantasia, a kingdom inhabited by fairy tale creatures and ruled by a committee of fairy tale princesses. In my mind, it basically looked like the kingdom of Far Far Away from Shrek.

One day, Gilly slips up and is sent to reform school, which is run by reformed fairy tale villians. There she makes some friends, unearths some schemes and learns how to put the needs of others before herself (and her family).

Thief characters are usually my favourite, but I didn't really connect much with Gilly. She was sassy and snarky and I don't think it quite rang true for me. I think one issue is that Gilly is only 12 and her immaturity shows through in the writing somehow. I think this probably wouldn't bother younger readers, but for me it wasn't great.

Flunked felt a bit immature all around, but it was still fun and entertaining and I did find myself wanting to uncover the mystery of what was going on.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Title: The Whisper
Author: Aaron Starmer
Series: The Riverman Trilogy #2
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Publication Date: March 17, 2015
Source: I received a complimentary ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Twelve-year-old Alistair Cleary has washed up on shore. But where? It seems to be Aquavania, the magical realm where children create entire worlds from their imagination. There’s something wrong, though. The creators have disappeared and the worlds are falling apart. 

All Alistair wants is to find his friend Fiona Loomis and go home. Easier said than done. Animals made of starlight, a megalomaniacal boy king, and astronauts who peddle riddles are hard enough to outwit, but they’re only the beginning. 

To find Fiona, Alistair must travel from world to world. He must confront the mistakes of his past. And he must face countless monsters, including the soul-stealing stalker that some people call the Riverman, the merciless but misunderstood servant of Aquavania who refers to himself as the Whisper.

I'm still trying to wrap my head around this book, making it a bit tricky to rate and review. Like the first book in the trilogy, I found it pretty dark for middle grade. But it is quite unlike other books in the genre, so it definitely stood out and overall I did enjoy it.

The Whisper picks up right after that crazy ending of The Riverman. I'm going to do my best to avoid any spoilers for book one, but it's pretty tricky, since the entire storyline of The Whisper stems from what happens in the last chapter of The Riverman.

This is not a cheerful children's book. We see communities decay. We see the length an obsession with revenge can take someone. We see grey areas and question our point-of-view. While the book lacks in the cheeriness department (which is not necessarily a bad thing), it definitely does not lack in imagination. The author takes us on a wild journey through many highly interesting places.

And the ending! Aaron Starmer knows how to do endings. Each book has ended with a huge "oh s**t" moment. I love cliff-hangers, so I am super excited for the final book after that ending!

Overall, The Riverman Trilogy is in a league of it's own when it comes to middle grade fiction. And what a very dark, wildly imaginative league it is.

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Friday, March 13, 2015

Review: Stone in the Sky

Title: Stone in the Sky
Author: Cecil Castellucci
Series: Tin Star #2
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Publication Date: February 24, 2015
Source: I received a complimentary ARC in exchange for an honest review.

In this thrilling follow-up to Tin Star, Tula will need to rely on more than just her wits to save her only home in the sky.

After escaping death a second time, Tula Bane is now even thirstier for revenge. She spends much of her time in the Tin Star CafĂ© on the Yertina Feray—the space station she calls home. But when it's discovered that the desolate and abandoned planet near the station has high quantities of a precious resource, the once sleepy space station becomes a major player in intergalactic politics. In the spirit of the Gold Rush, aliens from all over the galaxy race to cash in—including Tula's worst enemy.

I remember having mixed feelings after finishing the first book, Tin Star. I had really enjoyed the first 75% of the book, but then felt like the author decided to cram in an insanely rushed romance at the end. I have mixed feelings after finishing this one as well, although for different reasons.

The rushed romance at the end of book one is remedied here, replaced with something more slow and rather awkward. My issue with is that at times it focused too much of feelings and not enough on action. This might be an entirely personal gripe, since I definitely prefer action-packed stories over ones that involve a lot of personal reflection/romance/thoughts/feelings. Don't get be wrong, some exciting stuff happens, but there were a few sections where I got a bit tired of Tula worrying about how inhuman she feels or how lost and alone or how doomed her plans feel. 

A few characters from book one that were not in Tula's life at the end reappear. There is one particularly sad bit, but I wasn't emotionally invested enough for any tears.

I do want to come back to the romance in this one. I hated the romance in book one, but it does improve in this one. I'll be honest, it does get rather love-triangle-y, but it kind of worked and one side of the triangle was so awkward and weird and I loved it.

Overall, I have enjoyed this series, but it would have been even better with a bit more action or world-building or something.

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Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Review: Fairest

Title: Fairest
Author: Marissa Meyer
Series: The Lunar Chronicles #3.5Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Publication Date: January 27, 2015
Source: Purchased.

In this stunning bridge book between Cress and Winter in the bestselling Lunar Chronicles, Queen Levana’s story is finally told.

Mirror, mirror on the wall,
Who is the fairest of them all?

Fans of the Lunar Chronicles know Queen Levana as a ruler who uses her “glamour” to gain power. But long before she crossed paths with Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress, Levana lived a very different story – a story that has never been told . . . until now. 

Marissa Meyer spins yet another unforgettable tale about love and war, deceit and death. This extraordinary book includes full-color art and an excerpt from Winter, the next book in the Lunar Chronicles series.

While Fairest was a fun extra installment, it lacked some of the magic found in the other books. The biggest reason for this is because it focuses on Levana, a character readers (myself included) can't stand. While it was interesting to see her side of the story, it does not make her any less of a psychopath. Ok granted there were some hardships in her life, but the way she reacted to them shows how insane she really is.

So basically the book is Levana's backstory, starting with the death of her parents when she was a child and ending with her as queen of Luna with designs on Earth. While it was interesting to see the other side of things and get explanations for things like Levana's obsession with glamours and why she wants Earth so badly, it never really made me sympathize with her. Well, perhaps a bit in the beginning, before she starts doing things that were completely insane and honestly creepy.

Fairest also lacked some of the adventure and excitement of the other books, as it is a prequel and we already know how things end up. But the author's writing still maintains the same quality as the previous books.

Fairest certainly is Levana's story. It follows her development from lonely princess to tyrannical ruler. While not as good as the books in the main series, it's still worth reading for fans who can't wait for Winter.

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