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WinterRose

WinterRose

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The School for Good and Evil
Soman Chainani
The Ghost in the Glass House - Carey Wallace I saw this book in the store and was immediately drawn to the cover. A read over of the plot summary pulled me in, so I downloaded it for my Nook when I got home. Unfortunately it did not live up to my expectations.

The basic premise is that 12 year old Clare and her widowed mother have come to live in a seaside summer house after having traveled many years. Clare is weary and wishes to return home and find some stability in her life. In the midst of this sojourn, Clare discovers a ghost boy who resides in the glass house on the property of the summer home. She tries to keep him a secret from her friends and family while attempting to discover his identity.

On a technical level, the book is not poorly written, per se. However, the transitions are very disjointed (particularly the chapter transitions) and the author has a habit of going off into tangental expositions which causes a loss of focus and confusion in numerous places. The biggest problem was that the story's pace is very slow and overall, it is utterly bland. We have a few tender moments, but I had to force myself to keep reading as there were several times I found myself so bored I wanted to put it aside. Hoping for a payoff, I continued on. There was no payoff.

For me, it felt like the book contained two totally different stories which were not seamlessly blended together. (*SPOLIER ALERT*) I get that the author attempted to wrap the ending up to show a paralell between the ghost,"Jack", not being able to let go and move on and Clare's mother also not being able to do the same and how both, in the end, decide to finally let go and "go home". A satisfying and sentimental ending, sure. However, the journey to that end was not memorable or gripping in any way. (*SPOILER ALERT END*)

The other thing that bothered me was the maturity issues contained within. I found the book shelved in the YA section and yet our main character is only twelve. At first I assumed that it was misshelved but during the course of reading, I found myself feeling that Clare acts and behaves far too maturely for her age. Granted, I understand that there are children with "old souls" out there who have been put in situations where they have had to grow up fast and have matured quicker than there peers. That would have been fine, but the level of detail Clare invokes during her introspective analysis does not ring true or believable for a kid her age. Furthermore, I felt some of the scenes were described far too sensually for a middle grade audience. It is fine for a Young Adult audience, but not Middle Grade. It's too mature and slow for middle grade and the protagonist is too young and unappealing to a YA audience, so I am truly confused about who the target audience for this book is.

Overall, the concept and basic message was good but I don't think the story managed to deliver it in a compelling way. Had the ages of the characters been raised to 15 or 16, more dynamic action occured and the transitions cleared up... it might have been a good YA read. But seeing as that is not the case, I cannot reccomend this story.
The Golden Dream of Carlo Chuchio - Lloyd Alexander As a huge fan of Lloyd Alexander, I must admit my feelings toward this book are incredibly sentimentally tied with the knowledge that it was his last. To the point that I honestly wept when I was finished.

That said, it still is a genuinely good read. It is a bit more violent and graphic than his previous stories, so I would place this one more in the "young adult" to "upper middle grade" category. There is veiled allusions to rape mentioned, violent actions and some graphic imagery. Not too intense, mind you, but enough to the point where I don't think it is appropriate for his standard "middle grade" audience. I would say this is an age 13 or 14+ read, depending on the maturity level of the reader.

Most fans of Alexander know that he has his frequently used tropes and character archetypes and it is no different here, but I find them very comforting and familar, so I happen to love that about his writing. Much like his other stories, this is another quest/hero's journey full of rich settings and lavish images. It is a classic tale so don't expect any surprises - but again, that's what draws me to Alexander's works. I love that sense of timelessness in them. So if you enjoy fantasy adventures and/or enjoy other titles by Alexander, you are sure to like this one as well.
Interview with the Vampire: Claudia's Story - Anne Rice, Ashley Marie Witter I read Anne Rice's "Interview with the Vampire" many years ago as a young teen and since then it has been my favorite vampire story. Claudia was always a very intriguing character to me, so when I saw this book at a shop, my curiosity was piqued.

My feelings about this graphic novel are pretty much consistent to the majority of the other reviewes I've read - the artwork is gorgeous however the story itself did not do much to really give us anything new from Claudia's POV. I had really hoped to get a bit more inside Claudia's head - get a new perspective and new voice, but to be honest, it doesn't add anything new to the story which is unfortunate. One one hand, that might be good since it is Anne Rice's character and it's safe not to take too many liberties, but at the same time, I was expecting a little more.

That said, if you are a fan of the original story, I highly reccomend it regardless purely for the beautiful sepia-tone illustrations. It was a nice quick read and a nice way to revisit the original story without trudging through Rice's excessive exposition.
The First Two Lives of Lukas-Kasha (Puffin Novel) - Lloyd Alexander As an eternal fan of Lloyd Alexander, I was overjoyed when a friend of mine handed me her copy of this book - a story of Mr. Alexander's I was completely unfamilar with.

Like most of Alexander's works, this story continues the tradition of being a very classical middle grade adventure. Lukas-Kasha and his companions are delightfully compelling and colorful characters.

It is a simple and fun adventure that is a breath of fresh air in a time when the children's literature industry insists on churning out rubbish.

This is a highly reccomeded read for Alexander fans, middle grade students and anyone who enjoys delightful adventure stories.

Faerie After (Bones of Faerie Book, #3)

Faerie After (Bones of Faerie Book, #3) - Janni Lee Simner This is the final part of Janni Lee Simner's Faerie Trilogy. I've been reading this series since Book 1 first came out and fell in love with Simner's world, characters and beautiful writing. It's a bitter sweet parting to come to the end, but here we are.

In this last installment, we find Liza, Matthew, Allie and the others facing a strange phenomenom facing their world - there is a strange grey crumbling destroying nature on Earth. Soon they learn it reaches deeper than that - into the heart of Faerie itself and threatens both humans and faerie alike with the end of days unless Liza and her friends can find a way to stop it from spreading.

This is a very loose and simplified summary of an otherwise nuanced and complex story. At its depth, the real themes shine through. These themes include loss, the price of war and the bonds between loved ones. These ideas and complexities are translated to page by Simner's beautiful language and skilled word smithing. However, I did find myself having trouble grasping the very esoteric concepts she presented on occasion because of the very cerebral oriented descriptions, which left me struggling to full visualize the scene. It's for this reason that I marked the last book down to 4 stars rather than the two that came before, both which earned a solid 5 stars in my book. This was still a fantastic read and I felt satisfied with the ending, but I just felt that the focus on the esoteric descriptions didn't fully pull me in the way the other two books did. Other than this though, I was very pleased with it especially since I often find myself unhappy with most series ends which tend to give flat, rushed and/or disappointing conclusions.

I reccomend this series to anyone who enjoys faeries and dystopian storys. It's a perfect blend of both and a throughly original setting, in my humble opinion.
Voyage of the "Bassett" - James C. Christensen;etc.;Renwick St James;Alan Dean Forster I read this book a long time ago and I remember loving it. It has such beautiful illustrations and a rich fantasy setting. Perfect for any dreamer who wants to escape into their imagination for a little while. It's enchanting and adorable.
The Good Fairies of New York - Martin Millar, Neil Gaiman It's not terrible - it's just not that interesting to me. Also not the best written work I've ever read. It didn't capture my interest enough to keep reading so I've put it down for now. Maybe I will get back to it eventually.
The Wishing Spell - Chris Colfer, Brandon Dorman Maybe I will get back to this at some point, but it's just so bady written, predictable and unoriginal that I had to put it down.
Princess of the Wild Swans - Diane Zahler, Yvonne Gilbert Like the rest of Zahler's work that I've read, "Princess of the Wild Swans" proves to be just as sweet and simple as her previous fairy tale retellings, "The Thirteenth Princess" and "A True Princess".

"Princess of the Wild Swans" is a retelling of the fairy tale "The Wild Swans". Princess Meriel is our lead protangonist. She must find a way to save her five brothers who have been enchanted into the form of swans by their wicked stepmother, Lady Orianna.

Much like her other works I've read, Zahler is consistent with her sacchrine simiplicity. One one hand, I find this quality to be a relief from the trend of dark, edgy fiction that is saturating children's literature these days. So having gentle, classic fairy tales available to young readers (and myself) is a breath of fresh air. But at the same time, I feel Zahler doesn't put much depth or complexity into her characters beyond very surface stereotypes.

Additionally, in this particular story, that added characters of Davina and Ennis at the end felt very tacked on. Also, after the climax of the story, the ending drags a bit.

Overall, I think this story is a very sweet read and reccomended to young readers who enjoy fairy tales and princess stories. It is not terribly sophicated or impressive, but it is certainly a nice little daydream to escape to.
Doll Bones - Holly Black I try to be sparing with what books I give 5 stars, because I like to reserve them for works that go above and beyond just loving them. For me, that extra star is earned by possessing some spark of brillance that speaks to something within me. Holly Black's "Doll Bones" is one such masterpiece.

As you can read from the blurb, the story tells about three friends who go on an impromtu little adventure to bury a doll which they believe is haunted by the ghost of a dead girl. But it is much more than that. It is simultaneously creepy and sentimental, haunting and tender. At it's heart, this is a coming-of-age story laced with gentle brushes of paranormal horror. It is eerie, it is touching, it is brillant.

The only downside I could find was with the first chapter which, for me, intially seemed to be a bit unfocused in POV. But after that, I felt it fell into a very cohesive piece and I was swept away.

The thing I think I find the most impacting about this book is how utterly sincere and genuine it comes across. The characters felt real. The story is believable. You can sense the truth in Black's words as if she were giving her reader a peak into her own childhood. I know I certainly connected to it - espeically to the character of Poppy, whose fears of growing up mirrored my own at her age. I see so much of myself in that character. But all the characters, Poppy, Zach and Alice are so complex that they don't feel like the frequent card board cut-outs of middle school heros we often read. These are real kids that we've known or we've been. For some of us, kids we still are.

Magic Under Stone

Magic Under Stone - Jaclyn Dolamore I adored the first book, "Magic Under Glass", but this sequel really fell short for me. In this follow up, Nimira continues to search for a way to break Erris's curse. Along the way she has the help from old friends and new.

While I appreciate the level of realism the author captures in the characters emotions and relationships, I grew tired of Nimira's whining and Erris' childish behavior. I definitely felt the characters were all quite complex and believable, but the majority of the book felt like Nimira complaining rather than doing anything and I eventually found myself growing rather annoyed with her, Erris and Violet very quickly. For me, it really dragged the book down and slowed the pace because so much emphasis was placed on this aspect of the story rather than propelling it forward.

Additionally, I felt that this became more Ifra's story than anyone else's. Which might not be a bad thing considering I felt he was the most interesting and compelling character in the book. It was odd how much focus he had, but I found his chapters a much needed relief to Nimira's constant moaning over her relationship with Erris.

The other thing that bothered me was how rushed the ending felt. So much happens in such a short amount of time that I feel as if alot of reactions were brushed under the rug and glazed over. It was bizarre.

It wasn't all bad though. Again, I love the world the author sets up (though I wish she had made more of a distinction between the faeries and humans than just "faeries like nature, humans like techonology" thing. I wanted more substantial and intristinc differences between them, personally). The characters are interesting, complex and believable. And I love that she doesn't go about being totally predictable about how things happen.

In my opinion, there was alot of good stuff here and the story had potential but it didn't come together as a coherent piece for me.
Magic Under Glass - Jaclyn Dolamore Sometimes a book just comes along which is just the right thing you needed to read at that moment in your life, and for me - "Magic Under Glass" was the perfect book at the exact right time.

Set in an original fantasy world (which is very reminiscient of Victorian England... but if fairies, unicorns and magic existed), "Magic Under Glass" tells the tale about a young foreign girl named Nimira who works in a vaudevillian act, singing and dancing as a "trouser girl". A young magician hires her to accompany his musical automaton so he can show off in high society events. However, Nimira soon learns that the automaton is actually a fairy prince who has been cursed. Cue copious amounts of magic, romance and mystery.

I loved the aesthetics, the characters, the story, the setting and the fast paced nature of how the book flows. That said, I do wish there was a little more content. The book is rather short and the pace is quite quick and I really wish that the author had spent a little more time building up the relationship between Nimira and Erris. The same goes for the action itself. It really doesn't waste any time dealing with non-essential elements. And while I can see that some might be criticial of that, I actually enjoyed it. It didn't weigh the reader down with any excess - it got straight to the story. I was just sad with how quickly it ended for me because I wanted more. Luckily, I there is a sequel which I've just started.

Highly reccomended for anyone who enjoyed "Howl's Moving Castle" or other such type of stories.
Book of a Thousand Days - Shannon Hale In "Book of a Thousand Days", author Shannon Hale presents us with an interesting story about Dashti the lady's maid through her diary. Based off of the obscure fairy tale, "Maid Maleen", the tale follows Dashti and her lady, Saren as they are imprisoned for three years in a tower and later how they escape and seek to start over.

It is a very interesting premise and the main character of Dashti is incredibly compelling, which is important if the story is in a diary format. However, I felt that the pacing was quite slow and it takes a long time for any action to actually occur. That said, it is nice to read something different and I appreciate that Hale tried something new. For me personally, however, I appreciate a bit more intensity and action so I knocked off a star because I wasn't completely taken in due to the slow pace. That said, I still think it is a decent read and worth checking out espeically because the intimacy you gain with the diary format makes the reader bond close to the main character. I could see plenty of people loving this story to a five star rating.
Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow - Jessica Day George It's no great secret that I adore Jessica Day-George's writing. I find her to be a wonderful craftsman of fairytale and folklore retellings - she does a great job at keeping the heart of the story while enriching it with in-depth characters and flavoring it with her own details. In other words, she helps readers fall in love with classic tales all over again, not by rehashing them, but by making them her own without relying on this modern fad for making something "edgy" - something I deeply appreciate about her.

This particular retelling is of a Norse tale called "East of the Sun, West of the Moon" which is actually a folktale I was, up until now, unfamilar with, though I have seen some other retellings popping up recently. It seems that Norse mythology is very en vogue at the moment.

Overall, I really liked this boook, but again, I will totally admit a bias toward the writter - I love her writing style. But in all honesty, the characters are interesting as is the story itself. My only major criticism is that the pacing does fall into a lull during the middle and I found myself yearning for more action. Other than that though, I enjoyed it. I highly reccomend it to anyone who loves folklore retellings.
The Book of Lost Things - John Connolly I appreciate the aesthetics and ode to folklore that Connolly attempted to evoke here, but for me, this story really fell flat.

"The Book of Lost Things" is a story about a young boy named David who gets spirited away into a dark fairy tale world after hearing the voice of his dead mother beckoning him to save her. It's a standard hero's quest story full of very Jungian ideals and Campbellian motifs. At it's heart it is a classic coming of age story which relates a number of universal themes related to our fear, suffering and journey of growing up.

On the surface, that would seem to sing to my heart. But the reason I have marked this book so low was because the style in which is was written; The first four or five chapters are essentially giant info dumps. It takes a long time for any action to occur at all and even throughout the book the reader still has to wade through long info dumps. This book was almost all Tell and no Show. It made the pacing increidbly sluggish.

Now don't get me wrong - I do understand that this was probably intentional so it would read like an authentic fairy tale, because that is how they used to be written. But the field of literature has changed and I think the same story could have been told much more effectively had he used conventional methods to achieve it. For me, this book was a boring, tedious mess though I admit there were a few fleeting moments of powerful tenderness evoked - The feelings were very raw and geniuine and the sinister and dark of the world felt very true to original folklore.

Another issue I had was at the end of my copy there was an extended interview and other resource materials which seemed to me like it screamed "Look at what it all means! See how clever I am? Look how deep these themes are!" in the same way an English teaceher would quiz their students. I am a grown adult. I don't need to be quizzed on this. If your story fell short, that's on the author, not me. I don't know that last section of the book just rubbed me the wrong way - it felt incredibly pretentious. I've never seen a book have to explain itself to the reader before.

Some people might really enjoy this story and I don't fault them for that. I understand what the author attempted to do, but it just didn't work for me.
A Little Princess - Tasha Tudor, Frances Hodgson Burnett I grew up very familiar with the Shirley Temple movie version of the story and then later, the 1995 movie version and adored both. For many years I've wanted to actually read the book itself though. I have a beautiful hard cover of the book with beautiful color illustrations, but because of it's size, it's awkward to carry around for my coomute to work, so unfortunately, I haven't gotten around to it. But now that I have my Nook, I can actually get to reading it! And now finished with it, I only wish I had the chance sooner.

What a perfectly lovely story! I am totally in love with this book. It was utterly enchanting and really touched my heart. The writting is beautifully crafted and I got swept up in Sara's story. For many, it may seem to be almost too saccharine, but growing up with the story, I found it as warm and comfortable as an old blanket.

There's really not much to say other than that I highly reccomend reading the book if you're a fan of the films. It is a well-deserved children's classic and I think more young people should be exposed to this book because it sends some very good messages.