Monthly Archives: September 2015

The Secret Fire – the battle between good and evil comes to modern day England

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The Secret Fire – the battle between good and evil comes to modern day England

It isn’t often that I find YA paranormal that is actually set in the contemporary world, so I was excited to see The Secret Fire didn’t linger in the past or seek refuge in an alternate or parallel universe.  It is firmly set in modern day England and France, which means we get mini skirts and motorcycles mixed in with the magic.  Unfortunately, I didn’t end up appreciating it as much as I had anticipated, but I think there is a good chance that other readers will, particularly those in the YA demographic.

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Goodreads Summary

French teen Sacha Winters can’t die. He can throw himself off a roof, be stabbed, even shot, and he will always survive. Until the day when history and ancient enmities dictate that he must die. Worse still, his death will trigger something awful. Something deadly. And that day is closing in.

Taylor Montclair is a normal English girl, hanging out with her friends and studying for exams, until she starts shorting out the lights with her brain. She’s also the only person on earth who can save Sacha.
There’s only one problem: the two of them have never met. They live hundreds of miles apart and powerful forces will stop at nothing to keep them apart.

They have eight weeks to find each other.

Will they survive long enough to save the world?

My Thoughts

The Secret Fire wasn’t a great reading experience for me – I wasn’t particularly invested, and I drifted away from it several times to read other things, but I don’t think my experience will necessarily be yours. There is a lot of action, especially once the setting and characters are established.  There is an engaging premise based on a curse made generations before the story begins.  There is a secret battle going on between good and evil forces that sweeps up the two main characters.  There is magic and there is mystery.  I think I just wasn’t in the right frame of mind.  I absolutely think there is an audience for this book.  Taylor is an average girl who excels at schoolwork. She is pleasantly surprised to find herself dating the hottest guy in school and those strange electric fluctuations surely have nothing to do with her.  She is a bit of a Pollyanna, erring on the side of perfection, but I think most YA readers will like her well enough.  Sasha is an image of a bad boy but with all the chivalry a girl could want. He is a bit of a stereotype, but he has the better character arc, and I think he will be appealing to teen girls.  The inciting incident – a class assignment that comes across as too awkward and contrived- and the pacing of Taylor and Sasha’s relationship- it dragged on for me but still felt underdeveloped- are the two things I can clearly identify as a problem for me as a reader.  I don’t necessarily think they will be an issue for you.  If you enjoy paranormal YA in a contemporary setting, you might just find this book really grabs you.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Remembrance by Michelle Madow a contemporary teen romance complicated by past lives remembered

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Remembrance by Michelle Madow a contemporary teen romance complicated by past lives remembered

Past lives are a terribly romantic notion, and I will jump on board with almost any book that implies the topic is going to surface.  It leads me to great stuff, like Susanna Kearsley’s The Winter Sea, but it also leads me to books like Remembrance.  This book just didn’t have the chops to impress me, but I think it will have appeal for the target audience.  I gave it three stars, but you might find it very romantic and engaging if you are in high school and you like contemporary YA romances with drama and unnecessary past life memories.

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Goodreads Summary

Lizzie Davenport has been reincarnated from 1815, England … but she doesn’t realize it until she meets her soul mate from the past and he triggers her memories to gradually return.

When Drew Carmichael transfers into Lizzie’s high school, she feels a connection to him, like she knows him. But he wants nothing to do with her. Reaching Drew is more difficult because she has a boyfriend, Jeremy, who has become full of himself after being elected co-captain of the varsity soccer team, and her flirtatious best friend Chelsea starts dating Drew soon after his arrival. So why can’t she get him out of her mind?

Lizzie knows she should let go of her fascination with Drew, but fighting fate isn’t easy, and she’s determined to unravel the mysteries of the past.

My Thoughts

Rememberance is a book that I think will appeal most to an audience who is young simply because age and life experience will impact a reader’s perspective.  As an adult reader, I saw this as a drama filled contemporary high school romance were there is little added by a past life experience.  The love story didn’t feel epic or important, and the past life is just a way to fuel the jealousy and love that is typically found at any high school at any time.  Where I saw this as a low stakes story, a teen reader would probably believe the stakes are higher.  Example – a hundred years ago, women couldn’t just walk away from a family approved romance without the threat of losing everything – I get that, but in contemporary society, Lizzie’s decisions about love will, at worst, cost her close relationships with friends who won’t really matter after she leaves high school.  As a teen, the thought of losing your childhood best friend is much more dramatic than it is to an adult who knows how fleeting those bonds are when life beyond high school starts.  I didn’t really care about these characters because I couldn’t really see how who you date in high school was really a big deal, and every person in the story came across as generic, one dimensional and flat.  Themes were those a reader might encounter in any teen romance.  I liked the things that Lizzie slowly uncovered about her past life, but there really wasn’t anything important about whether the scenario played out differently this time.  There were no babies to save or evils of the world to prevent – she either got a happy life with the boy she felt connected to or not.  Yes, there was some threat near the end, but it could have gone the other way without me really caring.  I absolutely do not think that other readers will feel the same.  I know some teen readers will see this as very romantic and engaging, but it fell flat for me.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Darkness Brutal – Dark YA Urban Fantasy

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Darkness Brutal – Dark YA Urban Fantasy

Darkness Brutal, as the title implies, is a rather dark read featuring a battle between good and evil.  I’m not a huge fan of  angel/demon scenarios, this one did hold my interest until the end.  Ultimately, it was only a three star read for me, but it did rate a four star review from one of the toughest reviewers on Goodreads, Khanh.  She’s brutal and she thought this was one of the best YA urban fantasies she’s read in a long time.  So, who knows?  You may love it.

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Goodreads Summary

Aidan O’Linn’s childhood ended the night he saw a demon kill his mother and mark his sister, Ava, with Darkness. Since then, every three years the demons have returned to try to claim her. Living in the gritty, forgotten corners of Los Angeles, Aidan has managed to protect his sister, but he knows that even his powers to fight demons and speak dead languages won’t keep her safe for much longer.

In desperation, Aidan seeks out the help of Sid, the enigmatic leader of a group of teens who run LA Paranormal, an Internet reality show that fights demons and ghosts. In their company, Aidan believes he’s finally found a haven for Ava. But when he meets Kara, a broken girl who can spin a hypnotic web of passionate energy, he awakens powers he didn’t know he had―and unleashes a new era of war between the forces of Light and the forces of Darkness.
With the fate of humanity in his hands, can Aidan keep the Darkness at bay and accept his brilliant, terrifying destiny?
My Thoughts

This is a pretty interesting read if you can handle demons and angels.   It uses what you (and the narrator) don’t know to keep twisting the story and driving the suspense.  It was a little frustrating, but, to be fair, you often don’t realize that people are withholding info until it is reveal time.  The overall plot line is pretty heavy on a strange mix of religion and demonology.  I’m sure my deeply religious grandmother would not approve of the combination, and it will probably be an uneasy read for people who aren’t sure how they feel about interpretations of religious history/texts with magical and mystical elements.  Pacing is fairly consistent, and there is a lot of action, but the big issue of a sexual attraction/romance does bog down the story with a lot of will we or won’t we.  Character development was a little iffy.  Aidan is clearly drawn and given a good dose of dark and light.  The other characters often feel like characters instead of people.  There were a lot of people living in the “safe house,” and they got confusing, especially the guys.  One of them who was barely introduced as an individual played a key part towards the end of the story and I kept trying to remember who he was before he became important.  Overall, this is probably a book I could have lived without reading, but for the right audience, it could be very engaging.  Mature language and frequent references to sensuality make this most appropriate for mature high school readers.

I received a copy of this book through the Kindle First To Read Program.

Robert L. Anderson’s Dreamland – Who walks your dreams?

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Robert L. Anderson’s Dreamland – Who walks your dreams?

Fans of books like Lisa McMann’s Wake series will definitely be interested in Dreamland, a book that features a mystery and a girl who can slip into the dreamscapes of others.  She actually has to dreamwalk or there are physical consequences.  I was all in, and I was pretty pleased until the explanations started coming.  They changed the entire shape of the book.  They changed the genre of the book, actually.  I wasn’t happy about that, so I only gave it three stars.  I do think that teen readers of YA may enjoy it more.

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Goodreads Summary

Odea Donahue has been able to travel through people’s dreams since she was six years old. Her mother taught her the three rules of walking: Never interfere. Never be seen. Never walk the same person’s dream more than once. Dea has never questioned her mother, not about the rules, not about the clocks or the mirrors, not about moving from place to place to be one step ahead of the unseen monsters that Dea’s mother is certain are right behind them.

Then a mysterious new boy, Connor, comes to town and Dea finally starts to feel normal. As Connor breaks down the walls that she’s had up for so long, he gets closer to learning her secret. For the first time she wonders if that’s so bad. But when Dea breaks the rules, the boundary between worlds begins to deteriorate. How can she know what’s real and what’s not?

My Thoughts

Dea is independent and strong, but like most of us, she struggles to follow the rules when you add a hot, mysterious boy into the mix.  It doesn’t help that her mother is keeping a few secrets of her own – secrets that prevent Dea from understanding the full scope of the consequences of bending the rules of dream.  The secondary characters are a little off-beat, but likeable, and there is a romantic element that is appealing.  The pacing is consistent, and if I pinpointed the villain fairly early, it didn’t take away from my enjoyment.  What I did find was that, as answers about Dea and her past came to light, this book took a turn that threatened my ability to suspend disbelief.  That did kill my good time.   Overall, though, this was an enjoyable read with Inception-lite concepts that many readers will enjoy.  It is going on my classroom library wish list because I think my high school students will find the premise too hard to resist.  It is a fairly fast and easy read with characters who live on the fringes like most of us.

I received an ARC from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

Once Upon A Time: Red’s Untold Tale left me underwhelmed

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Once Upon A Time: Red’s Untold Tale left me underwhelmed

I thought this was going to be a general re-telling of a fairy tale classic, but it is actually connected to the show Once Upon A Time (I was given a different summary than the one on Goodreads which is a lot clearer about that). I wasn’t really impressed as an adult reader, and even adult fans of the show will probably be disappointed, but middle school readers might think it is just right.  Three stars from me, but the reviewers at Goodreads scored just under four stars.

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Goodreads Summary

Red is 16 and lives with Granny in a cottage in the village, where boarding up the house and hiding during Wolfstime is a means of survival. Red help’s Granny with Granny’s baked good business, catering as well as door-to-door sales.

Red has a constant internal battle between her wild side and her strict, overprotective upbringing, and the issue of “control” as she discovers she has a hot temper when the “mean girls” push her too far. (“When we learn to control it, we needn’t fear it,” Rumpelstiltskin says in the series.) She has flashbacks to her 13th year when she received her cloak and the nickname “Red.”

She is plagued by nightmares that she doesn’t understand, but the Once Upon a Time fans will recognize them as her wolf side coming out.

Red balances the difficult times with Granny at home and the girls at school with an emerging and satisfying romance with Peter.

My Thoughts

This book is definitely going to be most appealing to middle school readers.  The conflicts are firmly middle school territory – mean girls, jealousy, disagreements with Granny.  Red is angsty and impulsive.  She has an irritating habit of doing the opposite of what she is told because she thinks she knows best, and that leads her to drugging Granny so she can sneak out, stealing so she doesn’t have to explain how the mean girls got the better of her, and wandering into the woods at the height of wolf season to make a deal with a strange magician.  I found the pace to be a little slow, and my interest drifted as Red mostly got tormented or yelled at by Granny for a majority of the book.  Peter admired her and had a knack of showing up just when she needed him most, and their slow blossoming relationship is sweet if unrelentingly G rated.  I think that this book is trying to give fans of Once Upon a Time an origin story for Red, but I haven’t seen the show since the first season, and I didn’t really connect it to the show until I finished reading.  Perhaps avid viewers would find this story fascinating, but I thought it was fairly mundane and dull.  Through flashbacks, readers learn about how Red got her nickname and how she came to own her red riding hood.  In the course of the story, readers also discover a little about Red’s parents and their deaths.  I’m not sure if anyone really desperately wanted this  background information because most of it can be inferred, but just in case you did – here.  As an adult reader, I was underwhelmed.  A lot of the story seemed very ordinary and nothing about Red really stood out as a narrative voice.  The plot line is rather predictable, and the resolution is sweet enough to give you a tooth ache, but wholly unrealistic.  I can’t help but think that this book is forgettable in a genre full of more memorable and distinct female fairytale protagonists.  I can’t even begin to guess how much context is lost on me simply because I haven’t followed the show, but I can’t help but imagine that adult readers who look to this book because of their love of Once Upon A Time will be a little disappointed.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Nightfall is YA fiction with an intriguing premise that is hard to resist

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Nightfall is YA fiction with an intriguing premise that is hard to resist

Nightfall is a light horror/mystery and full of action that is probably going to be most engaging for the middle school reader. The characters come across as too naive, and it did lack some depth, but it managed to surprise me with its twists and turns.  It wasn’t exactly what I wanted or expected, but you might be hard pressed not to give it a try once you read the premise – all I could think was The Village, and I couldn’t resist!  Three star read.

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Goodreads Summary

The dark will bring your worst nightmares to light, in this gripping and eerie survival story, perfect for fans of James Dashner and Neil Gaiman.

On Marin’s island, sunrise doesn’t come every twenty-four hours—it comes every twenty-eight years. Now the sun is just a sliver of light on the horizon. The weather is turning cold and the shadows are growing long.

Because sunset triggers the tide to roll out hundreds of miles, the islanders are frantically preparing to sail south, where they will wait out the long Night.

Marin and her twin brother, Kana, help their anxious parents ready the house for departure. Locks must be taken off doors. Furniture must be arranged. Tables must be set. The rituals are puzzling—bizarre, even—but none of the adults in town will discuss why it has to be done this way.

Just as the ships are about to sail, a teenage boy goes missing—the twins’ friend Line. Marin and Kana are the only ones who know the truth about where Line’s gone, and the only way to rescue him is by doing it themselves. But Night is falling. Their island is changing.

And it may already be too late.

My Thoughts

Nightfall is a book that will draw a wide range of readers with its intruiging premise, but, as I said, it will probably be most satisfying to a middle school crowd.  The narrative is shared by three teens who have been left behind in the bustle of an exodus of their village from an island.  This island goes dark every fourteen years, and as the night gets closer, the villagers engage in some strange rituals that have been part of their migration for hundreds of years.  While readers will quickly guess what nightfall on the island brings, the young protagonists don’t.  The fact that they don’t put the pieces together until the answer is staring them right in the face is one of the many reasons that they come across as younger than expected.  Their character arcs, too, are fairly simple.  Growth seems small in comparison to their experiences through the course of the novel, and that left me a little disappointed in the end, especially since the biggest epiphany is one that I guessed at nearly the beginning of the story.  I think middle school readers will be less bothered by this because they will probably be focused on the action and the atmosphere more than character growth.  There is a lot of action once the story gets rolling, and there is certainly enough threat to the characters to keep readers engaged.  I honestly couldn’t predict what was going to happen next, and I wasn’t certain how this would end until it drew to a close.  I enjoyed it for what it was, a fast and light adventure with a side of menace, but I was left a little disappointed by the character development.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Walk On Earth A Stranger is Rae Carson’s start to a new western series, and it is phenomenal!

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Walk On Earth A Stranger is Rae Carson’s start to a new western series, and it is phenomenal!

I loved this book from the moment I saw the cover – I have bloodhound senses for westerns, and I knew this book was exactly what I needed in my life.  I was so right.  The majority of the book takes place on a wagon train headed to the Calofornia goldfields, and I cannot explain how very happy that made me – thank you, creators of The Oregon Trail computer game – you instilled a lifelong obsession! This book is going to make so many readers so happy that they took a chance on it.  I don’t care if you hate historical fiction or if you dislike westerns or if you didn’t like Rae Carson’s other books – this book is absolutely worth your time. You can sample the first chapter (which includes author annotations and sketches) via this link if you don’t want to take me at my word.

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Goodreads Summary

Lee Westfall has a secret. She can sense the presence of gold in the world around her. Veins deep beneath the earth, pebbles in the river, nuggets dug up from the forest floor. The buzz of gold means warmth and life and home—until everything is ripped away by a man who wants to control her. Left with nothing, Lee disguises herself as a boy and takes to the trail across the country. Gold was discovered in California, and where else could such a magical girl find herself, find safety?

Walk on Earth a Stranger, the first book in this new trilogy, introduces—as only Rae Carson can—a strong heroine, a perilous road, a fantastical twist, and a slow-burning romance. Includes a map and author’s note on historical research.

My Thoughts

Action, adventure, romance and lessons about loyalty and family make this both a joy to read and a book to ponder.  The protagonist, Lee is a smart, determined, and tough girl, and she is also one of the most lonely souls in YA fiction right now.  Readers will be drawn to her character, not just because of the empathy her situation evokes, but also for her innate goodness.  She wants so much to embrace the people around her, but her secret forces her to keep a part of herself back, and others sense and respond to that distance.  That is what makes her plight universal – almost everyone has experienced the isolation and sadness that come with having to keep part of yourself concealed.  The cast of secondary characters do initially feel repelled by her standoffish behavior, but as her true nature begins to shine through her disguise, they are drawn to her –  You can change your appearance, but you usually can’t hide who you really are.  I’ll admit this book wasn’t exactly what I expected, but I am not in the least disappointed.  I was expecting more of a quest, and I worried it would be too close to the other western YA that just published, Erin Bowman’s Vengance Road (excellent read as well).  This book is more about Lee’s journey West than a quest for gold or revenge, but it is also her journey towards finding her place in the world.  There is plenty of action and conflict, but it was quite contemplative as well.  It is well paced to develop the plot, the characters, and the relationships.  I didn’t savor it because I devour good stuff, but I know it is a book that I will come back to time and again.  The resolution, while satisfying, does leave room for additional books in the series, and I will certainly be looking forward to reading them. Five star perfection!

I received an ARC from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow – YA SciFi as intriguing as anything I’ve read this year

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The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow – YA SciFi as intriguing as anything I’ve read this year

Erin Bow’s The Scorpion Rules has a big buzz going in the YA book world, and I have to say it lives up to the buzz.  It has all the things I want in a book (thus, all the things you want in a book) and it is wildly different from anything else I’ve read this year. Ultimately, I had a few problems with it so it was only a four star read, but if you want to keep your status as the hip kid at the bookstore cafe (or the biggest Geek in the SciFi Club), you are going to want in on this book early.

The Scorpion Rules is publishing September 22, 2015.

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Goodreads Summary

A world battered by climate shift and war turns to an ancient method of keeping peace: the exchange of hostages. The Children of Peace – sons and daughters of kings and presidents and generals – are raised together in small, isolated schools called Preceptures. There, they learn history and political theory, and are taught to gracefully accept what may well be their fate: to die if their countries declare war.

Greta Gustafsen Stuart, Duchess of Halifax and Crown Princess of the Pan-Polar Confederation, is the pride of the North American Precepture. Learned and disciplined, Greta is proud of her role in keeping the global peace, even though, with her country controlling two-thirds of the world’s most war-worthy resource — water — she has little chance of reaching adulthood alive.

Enter Elián Palnik, the Precepture’s newest hostage and biggest problem. Greta’s world begins to tilt the moment she sees Elián dragged into the school in chains. The Precepture’s insidious surveillance, its small punishments and rewards, can make no dent in Elián, who is not interested in dignity and tradition, and doesn’t even accept the right of the UN to keep hostages.

What will happen to Elián and Greta as their two nations inch closer to war?

My Thoughts

There are many reasons I quickly lost contact with the outside world when I started reading this book.  First, the premise – Artificial Intelligence decides the only way to end the wars that threaten humanity is to keep rulers in check by holding their royal offspring as hostages. One of those hostages is going to throw a wrench in that plan in a pretty horrible way.  Awesome.  Second, Greta – the narrator and protagonist is compelling and smart and pretty scared she will die very, very soon.  Yes, please!  Third, the setting – a mind melt of pastoral harmony and menacing threat – think 1984 set in an Abbey with intelligent robot spiders who like their tazers.  Brilliant!  Finally, the AI running this rodeo – awful in such a crazy good way that readers are probably going to be talking about him more than anything else in this entire book.  So we have all the hallmarks of a huge hit – kids threatened with death for the greater good, strong yet sensitive female protagonist, rebellion, evil robots.  So why doesn’t my review have a huge five star rating at the top?  Because I’m still struggling with the way this one ended.  I don’t exactly hate it, but I’m not sure what to do with it, and I think a lot of readers will struggle with that as well.  Don’t get me wrong.  I think you should scoop this book up and run to your reading hidey hole immediately, but I bet you are going to want to talk this one out as soon as you finish.  I think this is going to be a very big deal in the YA reading world, and if you want in on the conversation, you are going to want to read it.  Now.  Before someone corrupts it with a movie deal.  I have no doubt this will be a hot item with my high school readers, and I think lots of adults are going to find it just as compelling. Language and situations are appropriate for high school readers who are prepared for some sensuality and bloodshed (that means all of them).

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich – two souls sharing one body and a disastrous attempt to separate them

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The Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich –  two souls sharing one body and a disastrous attempt to separate them

I wasn’t a fan of this book for several reasons, but other people seemed to like it just fine.  I gave it two stars.  If you are interested in multiple personalities, Sybil is a better read.  If a diary found amid the ruins of a horrific crime turns your crank, I suggest The Boy Meets Girl Massacre.

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Goodreads Summary

Debut author Dawn Kurtagich is dead on in this terrifying psychological thriller!

Over two decades have passed since the fire at Elmbridge High, an inferno that took the lives of three teenagers. Not much was known about the events leading up to the tragedy – only that one student, Carly Johnson, vanished without a trace…
…until a diary is found hidden in the ruins.
But the diary, badly scorched, does not belong to Carly Johnson. It belongs to Kaitlyn Johnson, a girl who shouldn’t exist Who was Kaitlyn? Why did she come out only at night? What is her connection to Carly?
The case has been reopened. Police records are being reexamined: psychiatric reports, video footage, text messages, e-mails. And the diary.
The diary that paints a much more sinister version of events than was ever made publicly known.

My Thoughts

This is one of those times I really hate reviewing books because I see all the time and effort that went into the writing and plotting of The Dead House, but I still just can’t see much value in the final product.  I am very interested in DID (what used to be called multiple personality disorder), and I like books that give me insight into what I consider a fascinating topic.  Unfortunately, this book ended up being a pretty confusing mix of psychological and supernatural, and in the end, I was no closer to answers about the biggest mysteries of Carly’s life and likely death.  That can be frustrating when I pushed myself through four hundred plus pages just to get to those illusive answers.  It wouldn’t have been such a big loss to me if I had connected with any of the characters or if I was enjoying the escape the book offered, but I really felt every single second I put into this book was a second I could have spent reading something I enjoyed more.  I was not a huge fan of the formatting in this book.  I think it made the story incredibly difficult to read, it confused the timeline, and it didn’t add anything to the story, other than repetition.  I also felt like this story just went on and on with little regard to pacing.  There were no real developments in relationships, and the “mystery” isn’t “solved” until the very end, so it just felt like gratuitous writing, especially interviews that involved characters on the perimeter of the story who basically said they didn’t know anything.  I’m a careful reader, and If I struggled to see the relevance of a document in the text, I imagine my high school readers will really be at a loss.  I think this narrative style added to my other biggest complaint – I was not able to care about any of the characters.  Even Kaitlyn, the character that readers get closest to, is so hard to relate to – her episodes of crazy or haunting were torture to read.  I think this added to my overall apathy about the outcome of the story – I wasn’t shocked or bothered by any of the awful things transcribed or recorded.  I just didn’t care.  I kind of wanted to kill off characters myself so the story would end.  That sounds harsh, and it is, but it is also honest.  Language and situations are suppose to be disturbing, but they come across as slightly silly and unbelievable, so I think it is appropriate for high school readers.   I do, however believe that my own students would struggle to maintain interest in the story beyond the first 25%.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

Ash and Bramble plays with the concept of story and structure.  Yeah.  It wasn’t exactly what I expected, either.

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Ash and Bramble plays with the concept of story and structure.  Yeah.  It wasn’t exactly what I expected, either.

The first thing you need to know before picking up this book is that this isn’t a fairytale retelling.  I would describe it as a look at the behind the scenes of a fairytale.  It was an interesting perspective to take because I think most readers take the magic and the characters at face value, and this book forces you to see the characters as actors who are thrust into a story simply to punch out the happy ending everyone expects.  That takes a little effort to wrap your brain around, but I think anyone who has ever watched Once a Upon a Time will be able to appreciate the concept.  Ultimately I gave it only three stars, and I don’t see this engaging a lot of readers who just want an escape read, but I have been wrong before (once in 1989 when I thought I needed a short perm – it didn’t work as planned).

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Goodreads Summary

When the glass slipper just doesn’t fit…

The tale of Cinderella has been retold countless times. But what you know is not the true story.

Pin has no recollection of who she is or how she got to the Godmother’s fortress. She only knows that she is a Seamstress, working day in and out to make ball gowns fit for fairy tales. But she longs to forsake her backbreaking servitude and dares to escape with the brave young Shoemaker.

Pin isn’t free for long before she’s captured again and forced to live the new life the Godmother chooses for her—a fairy tale story, complete with a charming prince—instead of finding her own happily ever after.

Sarah Prineas’s bold fairy tale retelling is a dark and captivating world where swords are more fitting than slippers, young shoemakers are just as striking as princes, and a heroine is more than ready to rescue herself before the clock strikes midnight.

 

My Thoughts

Pin is the female protagonist in this book, and though she can’t remember exactly who she is or her life before, she knows she wants a choice in her future.  This is the hook that could have snagged a lot of YA readers because that is a universal feeling, especially when the reader knows their own mom and dad are just pushing them a certain way because it is a guaranteed happy ending, even if it isn’t their preferred ending.  I can’t quite explain how that theme seems to get lost in the shuffle, but it shows up again and again without making any real impression.  Pin, too, seems to get lost in the shuffle.  I didn’t connect with her personally, and I think that is because she never could quite get a grasp of who she was herself.  I liked her well enough, and she was brave and a fighter, but I was just a little ambivalent about her fate by the end.  Shoe is the character I connected with the most.  He is much more aware of himself, so that helped, but his motivation was a little weak for me – love. He doesn’t call it that, but it is what drives him throughout the story.  I know that sounds terribly romantic, and it would have been if he had been given enough time with Pin to convince me he really loved her.  This may not be a problem for other readers, but I have to believe in the starting romance before I can really get behind the rescue it motivates.  Despite the fact that Pin and I won’t doing a mani/pedi day and the fact that this story wasn’t exactly what I was expecting, I enjoyed it. I don’t think that this book will be for everyone.  I have always been interested in the internal works of things, though, and Ash and Bramble manages to dissect fairytale in a way that gives readers a slightly ominous glimpse at the guts and clockwork that hides beneath the shimmery, romanticized facade.  I will say that it felt like a literary work more than something I would read for pleasure simply because it played with structure and narrative in such an experimental way.

I received an ARC from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.