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review 2018-07-10 19:16
Contemporary fiction meets supernatural thriller
Graveyard Shakes - Laura Terry

Continuing the trend of reading books selected for the Summer Reading program, I read Graveyard Shakes by Laura Terry. The reader follows two very different storylines that at the outset have no correlation to one another. The first revolves around two sisters who have newly arrived at a boarding school and are struggling to come to terms with their change of environment. The second focuses on a little ghost and his friend Modie (I don't know either) who as best as I can tell is a reanimated corpse. So on the one hand we are rooted in reality with a situation that seems very familiar: wanting to fit in yet also wanting to be recognized as the individual that you are. On the other hand, the supernatural elements of ghosts and zombies are compacted with horror because the only way that Modie can stay 'alive' is to absorb the soul of a dead (i.e. murdered) child. Yes, this is a middle grade graphic novel. (It is at this point that I have essentially 'sold' this book to the reluctant child reader standing in front of me while the parent stares at me open mouthed.) The good parts: The illustrative style was excellent and I really enjoyed the character journey of Victoria, the older sister. The not so good: It was way more disturbing and graphic than I expected plus the ending was entirely too predictable after all of the narrative build-up. While I did thoroughly enjoy the illustrations, I don't know that I'll be rushing out to read Terry's next work (unless the cover draws me in again). I didn't overwhelmingly dislike this book but I also didn't love it with all of my heart and soul (get outta here, Modie!). The little guys and ghouls in your life that love a good ghost story will probably fall head-over-heels for this one. 5/10

 

An example from the inside. [Source: A Kids Book A Day]

 

What's Up Next: The Bad Guys by Aaron Blabey

 

What I'm Currently Reading: Recovery: Freedom From Our Addictions by Russell Brand

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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review 2018-01-20 20:45
Undercover Princess
Undercover Princess (Rosewood Chronicles) - Connie Glynn

[I received a copy of this book through NetGalley.]

There were good ideas in there, and I was fairly thrilled at first at the setting and prospects (a boarding school in England, hidden royals that looked like they’d be badass, etc.), but I must say that in the end, even though I read the novel in a rather short time and it didn’t fall from my hands, it was all sort of bland.

The writing itself was clunky, and while it did have good parts (the descriptions of the school, for instance, made the latter easy to picture), it was more telling, not showing most of the time. I’m usually not too regarding on that, I tend to judge first on plot and characters, and then only on style, but here I found it disruptive. For instance, the relationship between Ellie and Lottie has a few moments that border on the ‘what the hell’ quality: I could sense they were supposed to hint at possible romantic involvement (or at an evolution in that direction later), but the way they were described, it felt completely awkward (and not ‘teenage-girls-discovering-love’ cute/awkward).

The characters were mostly, well, bland. I feel it was partly tied to another problem I’ll mention later, namely that things occur too fast, so we had quite a few characters introduced, but not developed. Some of their actions didn’t make sense either, starting with Princess Eleanor Wolfson whose name undercover gets to be... Ellie Wolf? I’m surprised she wasn’t found out from day one, to be honest. Or the head of the house who catches the girls sneaking out at night and punishes them by offering them a cup of tea (there was no particular reason for her to be lenient towards them at the time, and if that was meant to hint at a further plot point, then we never reached that point in the novel).

(On that subject, I did however like the Ellie/Lottie friendship in general. It started in a rocky way, that at first made me wonder how come they went from antipathy to friendship in five minutes; however, considering the first-impression antipathy was mostly based on misunderstanding and a bit of a housework matter, it’s not like it made for great enmity reasons either, so friendship stemming from the misunderstanding didn’t seem so silly in hindsight. For some reason, too, the girls kind of made me think of ‘Utena’—probably because of the setting, and because Ellie is boyish and sometimes described as a prince rather than a princess.)

The story, in my opinion, suffers from both a case of ‘nothing happens’ and ‘too many things happen’. It played with several different plot directions: boarding school life; undercover princess trying to keep her secret while another girl tries to divert all attention on her as the official princess; prince (and potential romantic interest) showing up; mysterious boy (and potential romantic interest in a totally different way) showing up; the girls who may or may not be romantically involved in the future; trying to find out who’s leaving threatening messages; Binah’s little enigma, and the way it ties into the school’s history, and will that ever play a part or not; Anastacia and the others, and who among them leaked the rumour; going to Maradova; the summer ball; the villains and their motivations. *If* more time had been spent on these subplots, with more character development, I believe the whole result would’ve been more exciting. Yet at the same time all this gets crammed into the novel, there’s no real sense of urgency either, except in the last few chapters. That was a weird dichotomy to contend with.

Conclusion: 1.5 stars. I’m honestly not sure if I’ll be interested in reading the second book. I did like the vibes between Lottie and Ellie, though.

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review 2017-12-14 20:57
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Review)
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - J.K. Rowling

You guys, I have good news! There here is a Harry Potter book I actually liked! You were beginning to think it wasn’t going to happen, huh?

 

My string of short reviews isn’t over quite yet, since I finished this book more than a year ago. I have definitely learned my lesson that my reviews are next to worthless if they aren’t written within at least a month of finishing the book (unless I’ve taken extremely detailed notes, which I certainly didn’t do here). Considering I’ve been a few chapters into Order of the Phoenix for almost a year now, I might just reread this one to get back into the swing of things; if that’s the case, I’ll definitely write a more detailed review then!

 

This is where Rowling’s writing finally begins to mature and Harry starts to feel some genuine emotion. Goblet of Fire has always been my favorite of the Harry Potter films, and I’m incredibly relieved that I enjoyed the book. The overall plot of the series finally began to kick in, and it felt much less like a string of happy-go-lucky mysteries than the first three books. My biggest complaint with the series has been that I don’t love Rowling’s writing (still true) and I feel I have no emotional connection with Harry. While my feelings on the writing haven’t changed quite yet, I am ecstatic to see development from Harry, and I’m thrilled to know that whatever happens in the next book, at least I’ll finally see Harry actual feel something genuine and realistic. This book cracked him open so much more, and it’s nice to begin to feel excited again about reading these books, which I know contain stories I already love.

 

Overall: The more I think about it, the more I believe I should reread this book before diving into Order of the Phoenix again, just so I can get the excitement back again (and write a better review than this). I was told when I started the series that I should consider just skipping to Goblet of Fire, and boy, turns out they were right! I’m finally excited to be reading Harry Potter instead of wondering why I don’t just watch the movies instead.

 

Read the review on my blog:

http://thaliasbooks.tumblr.com/post/168547037247/harry-potter-and-the-goblet-of-fire-review

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review 2017-09-15 00:40
Stand-off (Review)
Stand-Off (Winger) - Andrew Smith,Sam Bosma

I am finally reviewing a book I actually read this year! However… I finished it in May, so here’s to the (almost) last shorter-than-normal review. I borrowed a copy of this book from a teacher, so I don’t have any notes or ability to flip back through it and remember my thoughts better; I’ll still give this my best effort at detail, though!

 

As you may remember, Winger was one of my favorite books. It’s not a book that someone like me typically goes for as Ryan Dean West is not typically the type of character I enjoy reading. However, something about Andrew Smith’s ability to craft him as this realistic, perfectly imperfect guy just struck a chord with me. Winger also ripped my heart out unexpectedly, which always scores points with me.

 

When I discovered that Winger had a sequel, I had to read it right away. Fortunately, the teacher I was working with let me borrow it, and I got to reading right away. I got through the first third no problem, but then it took me several months to pick it up again. When I finally did, I binged the last part in a day or two. I worried that I had outgrown Ryan Dean, but I was delighted to discover that Andrew Smith still had the ability to make me laugh out loud and cry within mere pages of each other.

 

Stand-off explores a lot of themes related to grief and especially avoiding grief. Ryan Dean goes through a lot of things he can’t quite explain, and this book is about him trying to understand himself again and dealing with the fact that he doesn’t want to be miserable for the rest of his life. I completely empathize with NATE (the Next Accidental Terrible Experience) because I experienced the same thing after one of my friends passed away in high school. I thought this novel was excellently crafted, and it is a great follow-up to Winger. However, it lacked the same sparkle, and I found myself missing that all-encompassing enthusiasm for the book. It had an overly-satisfying ending, in that everything wrapped up with a pretty, little bow, and the resolution seemed forced to me. After the unexpectedly world-shattering ending of Winger, I could have stood an ending less-than-ideal than this one. It felt like Smith really wanted to end this story, and he wrote out a resolution that would leave no room for speculation or further wondering. I loved the ending of Winger without the idea of a sequel, so having a sequel that perfectly wrapped up the story I’d loved so much was fairly disappointing.

 

Overall: As with Winger, I don’t recommend this to younger readers. Ryan Dean West may be fifteen years old, but I doubt I’d let my kid read it at fifteen. Use discretion because there is a lot of language and Ryan Dean West is a teenage boy who thinks like a teenage boy, but, unlike how I usually feel, it all contributes to the characters and the story overall. Stand-off wasn’t as brilliant as Winger, but it’s still worth reading if you loved the first book.

 

Read the review on my blog:

http://thaliasbooks.tumblr.com/post/165345904967/stand-off-review

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review 2017-07-28 16:58
I continue to be drawn in by beautiful cover art
The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle - Janet Fox

The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle by Janet Fox is another prime example of an eye-catching cover which I couldn't resist. It evokes a certain gothic mysteriousness which I'm happy to say was delivered. From the very beginning,  the reader is launched into a tale of magic, wickedness, desperation, and all-consuming power. The story follows a family of children who are sent to stay at an estate in the country during the Blitz of WWII. However, all is not what it seems at this country school as the oldest daughter, Kate, quickly realizes after meeting the lady of the house. Much of the drama is tied to a chatelaine (a chain decorated with different items used around a house and usually worn by the woman in charge of the household affairs) worn by this woman. There are a lot of different threads to follow in this narrative which made it a little challenging to follow at times. The reader is sent back in time to follow this woman's history and then suddenly we're back with Kate in the present. That was a bit jarring but easily overcome. I'd say that the book's biggest strength was its originality in using magical artifacts of an unusual sort (I don't want to give it away entirely). If you are a fan of boarding school mysteries with a healthy heaping of dark magic then you'll most likely enjoy this book. It's a 6/10 for me but it would have been higher if the narrative thread had been a bit tighter.

 

I mean how could I have turned down this cover?!

 

Source: Amazon

 

What's Up Next: Some Writer!: The Story of E.B. White by Melissa Sweet

 

What I'm Currently Reading: The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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