Saturday, May 2, 2020

The Betrothed by Kiera Cass

Summary from Goodreads:
When King Jameson declares his love for Lady Hollis Brite, Hollis is shocked—and thrilled. After all, she’s grown up at Keresken Castle, vying for the king’s attention alongside other daughters of the nobility. Capturing his heart is a dream come true.

But Hollis soon realizes that falling in love with a king and being crowned queen may not be the happily ever after she thought it would be. And when she meets a commoner with the mysterious power to see right into her heart, she finds that the future she really wants is one that she never thought to imagine.
This was a mixed bag for me. First off, Kiera Cass is always so lucky with her book covers! This one is so pretty! All of her books are so pretty. I always pick them up, always. I really enjoyed the Selection series (at least the first three). And when I had the chance to pick up this ARC, I went for it –no regrets.
I read this book remarkably fast. It reads a bit like a typical royal romance novel. But, I guess that’s what I was in the mood for when I read it. It has some things in it that I really don’t like (ie: insta-love, ignorant main character, mean girls, awful parents, etc.) but I never once thought I didn’t want to keep reading. Something in this book grabbed me and allowed me to escape the craziness that is the world right now, so I just went with it. Sometimes, you just need a typical romance.
Also, sometimes I don’t mind an ignorant main character if she learns. And Hollis did learn. She accepted that there was a lot she didn’t know. And she grew. I liked that about her. She was redeemable. I never liked her best friend (aka: mean girl), but I don’t think I was supposed to. I also never liked her parents (they were really awful). And I never fully got behind the instant-love attraction she had with Silas, the guy who could compete with the King, who took up the first half of the novel.  But, again, I went a long with it. I wanted a romance novel, and I got one.
Then, right when I thought I knew how this was all resolving, BAM, major plot twist. And I actually found myself crying. I didn’t even realize I was so invested. But, yikes, what a crazy ending. So, I guess I liked being surprised. But, I almost didn’t want that. I wanted the fluffy, expected romance I was given for the first 95% of the book. So, I have seriously mixed feeling for everything. I do want to know what will happen next and see if my guess will for everything will come to light. But, I also feel a little betrayed by that twist. It was brutal.
All in all, I mostly enjoyed this. It’s not the best book. It was a nice distraction for the time (at leas until that crazy ending). It’s not as good as The Selection. I will probably continue with the series when more books come. I will definitely be attracted to the next cover. I give this one a 6/10.

Friday, May 1, 2020

A Castle in the Clouds by Kerstin Gier

Summary from Goodreads:
A Castle in the Clouds follows a girl as she navigates secrets, romance, and danger in an aging grand hotel.

Way up in the Swiss mountains, there's an old grand hotel steeped in tradition and faded splendor. Once a year, when the famous New Year's Eve Ball takes place and guests from all over the world arrive, excitement returns to the vast hallways.

Sophie, who works at the hotel as an intern, is busy making sure that everything goes according to plan. But unexpected problems keep arising, and some of the guests are not who they pretend to be. Very soon, Sophie finds herself right in the middle of a perilous adventure--and at risk of losing not only her job, but also her heart.
This book was a delight! Mix in a full cast of a quirky Stars Hollow type community, a Grand Budapest Hotel-type setting, a witty main character, a forbidden cat, a love triangle, diamonds, and mayhem, and you only partially get the magic of this book.
There was a little bit of a slow beginning to this novel, but it didn’t matter. I was so in love with the crazy setting and characters that literally nothing could happen for ages and I wouldn’t have put the book down. There’s a definite quirky Gilmore Girls vibe to this weird hotel. There are strange characters make this hotel come alive. And if you are not into weird people and their stories, this might not be the book for you
That being said, eventually the plot leads to a crazy heist/kidnapping/mystery and it left me going “how did we end up here?” but in a really good way. This book had a lot of unexpected twists and turns, both literally and figuratively. The hotel had secret passages and plenty of hiding spots….
I loved Sophie. I loved how she got along with the rest of the staff. I loved her rocky relationship with some of the other maids. I love how she made friends with animals and learned the ins and outs of the hotel. I found the whole book to be fascinating, and I was so sad when it was over.
I found the romance to be fun too. It wasn’t my favorite element, but I like that was there. I’d watch this movie. I really enjoyed other books by this author, and I’m so glad she continues to write for a YA audience. I hope she does more. I give this one a 10/10. I highly recommend it, especially if you’re looking for something light to escape into.

Friday, April 24, 2020

The Kingdom of Back by Marie Lu

Summary from Goodreads:
Two siblings. Two brilliant talents. But only one Mozart.

Born with a gift for music, Nannerl Mozart has just one wish--to be remembered forever. But even as she delights audiences with her masterful playing, she has little hope she'll ever become the acclaimed composer she longs to be. She is a young woman in 18th century Europe, and that means composing is forbidden to her. She will perform only until she reaches a marriageable age--her tyrannical father has made that much clear.

And as Nannerl's hope grows dimmer with each passing year, the talents of her beloved younger brother, Wolfgang, only seem to shine brighter. His brilliance begins to eclipse her own, until one day a mysterious stranger from a magical land appears with an irresistible offer. He has the power to make her wish come true--but his help may cost her everything.

In her first work of historical fiction, #1 New York Times bestselling author Marie Lu spins a lush, lyrically-told story of music, magic, and the unbreakable bond between a brother and sister.
This book was not what I was expecting it to be. I love Marie Lu’s suspenseful dystopias. And while I read the summary for this book before reading it, I was not expecting the beautiful language I received. I guess I thought I’d be reading a high-stakes historical thriller….I don’t know why exactly. It’s just what I’m used to. I was pleasantly surprised here. This was not that.
This book was beautiful and a lot slower. It was a lush, musical fairy tale. It read like a classic fairy tale. It sucks you in. It’s dark and magical. It first reads as a feminist historical fiction novel, the best kind of historical fiction. And just when you think you understand the rhythm of it all, bam…there’s a magical fairy world where the trees are upside down, and brother and sister must complete dark quests like deceiving underwater witches.
There’s also this crazy musical prodigy element to the story. Getting into the heads of two musical prodigies is just fascinating. Watching children make musical masterpieces is just beyond fascinating. I loved watching the brother/sister relationship develop and grow, and I super loved watching them encourage each other. I like the explanation for why people know Mozart just by the last name. I also love that the brother and sister didn’t always get along. Their relationship seemed real. They were competitive, but supportive.
I love all the interwoven historical facts with magical elements. The tidbits of fantasy made the dark realness of things like sickness at that time period easier to read (especially while reading this book during a pandemic…).

The one thing that was kind of missing from this book was romance. In fact, it almost mostly reads as a middle grade book because the main characters are children for most of the novel. There’s a slight romantic element, but it’s mostly nonexistent. However, I guess the characters are teens for the last bit of the story. And then there’s an epilogue at the end (23 years later). So age, and timing is a little strange. But, I guess it makes sense in regards to fairy tales in general. It reads more with the timing of a fairy tale.
All in all, I really enjoyed this book. It’s unlike Marie Lu’s other books. But, I still loved this. It’s more fairy tale than historical fiction. But, I loved the historical fiction elements as well. Learning about musical prodigies was really interesting. I did feel like romance was missing.  But, otherwise, this was a really interesting, magical escape. I give it a 9/10.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

A Good Week in Books (220)

I had a nice book week. I finished one historical fantasy. And I’m half way through a fun contemporary. I received 3 new books for review. Thank you, Macmillan. Never have I been happier to receive new books. I need all the happy book packages I can get right now. I hope everyone is doing well!
The new books:

Late to the Party
by Kelly Quindlen
The Silence of Bones by June Hur
Seven Endless Forests by April Genevieve Tucholke

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Lucky Caller by Emma Mills

Summary from Goodreads:
When Nina decides to take a radio broadcasting class her senior year, she expects it to be a walk in the park. Instead, it’s a complete disaster.

The members of Nina's haphazardly formed radio team have approximately nothing in common. And to maximize the awkwardness her group includes Jamie, a childhood friend she'd hoped to basically avoid for the rest of her life.

The show is a mess, internet rumors threaten to bring the wrath of two fandoms down on their heads, and to top it all off Nina's family is on the brink of some major upheaval.

Everything feels like it's spiraling out of control―but maybe control is overrated?

With the warmth, wit, intimate friendships, and heart-melting romance she brings to all her books, Emma Mills crafts a story about believing in yourself, owning your mistakes, and trusting in human connection in Lucky Caller.
As I mentioned on Goodreads, This wasn't my favorite Emma Mills book. It took me a long time to get into this, and I almost gave up on it twice because of the whole story revolving around a school project trope...which isn't my thing. However, the love story? Totally my thing. It was Jane Austen and Rainbow Rowell and Becky Abertalli at the their best kind of love story. If you're feeling iffy about the beginning of this one, keep going because the love story is worth it. And the school/radio project gets better too.
I feel like I didn’t connect as emotionally to the characters in this Emma Mills book, as I normally would. I didn’t really click with Nina, the main character. Why was she so dead-set on not hosting the show? What was she actually into? Everyone around her seemed to be interested in things, but she seemed to have almost no interests at all…She was kind of boring. Her older sister’s story was kind of boring too (I’ve read/seen it a million times), but at least she had a story, and an interest in something.
I liked all the flashbacks to the fantasy game the sisters used to play. And I liked when the older sisters and Jamie all came together for the younger sister when she needed them. Maybe at times it just felt like the author was trying to do too much? Like if the book is supposed to be all about the radio show, commit to that. Don’t then also have this parent story arc. The whole listening to her mom call into the radio and meet her dad seemed kind of forced and didn’t add to the rest of the story for me.
The part of the story that I loved was the love story. I loved Nina and Jamie’s second chance. I can totally believe something like this happening to a couple because something like this happened to me (minus the reconnecting part). I used to imagine what it would be like if I reconnected with that childhood crush that I messed it up with…I don’t really do that any more. But, I love this trope. I love that these two have this chance. And that everyone around them sees their connection. I love the story about the birthday cake. I love that Jamie dresses up for Nina’s sister. I love that he fell in the pool for the game. I love that they can just talk by looking at each other, and can play stupid hypothetical games. They’re finding each other again after years of separation reminded me a little of Persuasion, and I loved this connection. I also love romances that begin as friendships because so many of mine began that way.
All in all, the radio show/school project plot line wasn’t my favorite. I also never really loved Nina as much as I wanted to. I did love the sisterly flashbacks and the fantasy games they played. And I loved the romance. The romance made my rating for this book much higher than it otherwise would have been. I give it an 8/10.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Kairos by Ulysse Malassagne

Summary from Goodreads:
In Kairos, French graphic novelist Ulysse Malassagne turns the typical damsel-in-distress narrative on its head. With stunning art, epic battle scenes, and unexpected plot twists, Kairos forces you to question where to draw the line between hero and antihero.

Nills and Anaelle are looking forward to their first night in their rustic cabin in the woods. But the couple's idyllic vacation is suddenly thrown into turmoil when a strange flash of light bursts from the fireplace. A portal appears, and out of it spill dragon-like creatures that are armed to the teeth. They grab Anaelle and flee back through the portal, leaving a distraught Nills with a sudden decision: stay behind, or leap through after her?

He leaps. And that's when things get really weird.
This book was a surprise. I wasn’t expecting to get into as much as I did. I read it in one sitting. Most of that is because of how gorgeous the art is. The opening pages are like the opening scenes to My Neighbor Totoro –lush, green, and you know something magical is coming. Unfortunately, most of the magic that comes is nothing like a cute, fluffy forest spirit. It’s dark, violent, and comes attached to war. However, there are dragons.
The book starts off in a sort of romantic context with a couple escaping to a little cabin in the middle of nowhere for what looks like a mini vacation. However when night comes, out of the fireplace, drops a few dragon soldiers who kidnap the girl –whose actually an escaped dragon princess. The dragons come to take her home because she’s the last heir. The girl’s unsuspecting boyfriend follows, in effort to rescue her. He treks through a dragon land, where there’s a rebellion in the works and war in the background. And the longer he’s there, the more dragon-y he becomes, and the more violent/angry too.
The book becomes a bit of a time crunch. Can he find his girlfriend in time before she does something she really doesn’t want to do? (I don’t want to spoil here). It’s violent. There’s lots of fighting. There’s lots of dragons. There’s politics, hierarchies, prisons, and reunions. There’s also a surprising ending. It’s not my favorite kind of fantasy and I’m not sure I really connected with the characters, but the artwork was just so compelling.
I think over time, I could love the princess. But, I’d have to get to know her a bit more. It’s certainly not what I thought it was going to be. And I am curious to see how the series will continue. I definitely want to see more of this artwork. I give this an 8/10.

Friday, April 10, 2020

Pages & Co: Tilly and the Lost Fairy Tales by Anna James

Summary from Goodreads:
A magical adventure to delight the imagination. The curl-up-on-the-sofa snuggle of a series from a uniquely talented author.

Tilly Pages is a bookwanderer; she can travel inside books, and even talk to the characters she meets there. But Tilly’s powers are put to the test when fairytales start leaking book magic and causing havoc . . .

On a wintery visit to Paris, Tilly and her best friend Oskar bravely bookwander into the land of fairytales to find that characters are getting lost, stories are all mixed-up, and mysterious plot holes are opening without warning. Can Tilly work out who, or what, is behind the chaos so everyone gets their happily-ever-after?

The second enthralling tale in the bestselling PAGES CO series.
I wrote on Goodreads: This is even better than the first book! If you’re looking for a light, magical escape right now, look no further. These books are charming, full of book magic and loaded with adventure.
I picked this book up on my honeymoon in Paris. It’s signed. And I didn’t realize it was a sequel. I ended up traveling all the way back to the same bookstore on the same day for their last copy of book 1. I’m so glad I did. These books are adorable. I thought I hit cuteness overload with book 1. But, I liked this one even more. The first book reminded me a lot of Inkheart by Cornelia Funke. This sequel reminds me more of Into the Woods mixed with Chris Colfer’s The Land of Stories. Fairy tales are made to be broken, dissected, and twisted and Anna James does such a great job of it. Some of the humor even reminded me of Shrek.
Tilly and Oskar are developed friends now. I love their level of trust, honesty, and camaraderie. One won’t do something stupid without the other. I also like that the balance of power is more even. It becomes clear that Oscar also has a family of book wanderers. He’s meant for this life too. He doesn’t have to rely on Tilly for all of the fun, and I like that this makes things fairer. He’s not just her sidekick.
At first, I was a little overwhelmed with the politics of the adults. So much was going on at the library. I know I was supposed to feel that way. I was supposed to see things through the lens of a child. But, it made me lose too much focus and almost made me put the book down. I’m glad it didn’t. I loved the Paris adventure. I loved the fairy tale adventures. The gossiping bears, the helpful Jack, the ridiculous princes, the crack in the sky, all of it! I literally never put the book down for a second of the fairy tale parts…or the Paris parts now that I think of it.
There were some plot twists that kept me guessing with the adults too. I liked that the story didn’t really resolve as much as the first one did. This book definitely opened more things up for the rest of the series. I hope there’s more than one book to come after this one. Honestly, the whole book world that is created in these stories is just so fantastic and interesting. Mix in the politics, the limitations, the fictional characters, the magic, the travel, and everything else, and they’re just plain brilliant. I like that the characters aren’t simple either. I actually felt bad for the bad guy in this one. And there’s so many layers to each person here. I can’t wait to read more. I give this one a 10/10.