Thursday, March 29, 2018

The Castle Behind Thorns by Merrie Haskell


Synopsis:
Stories don’t know everything.

When Sand wakes up alone in a long-abandoned castle, he has no idea how he got there. The stories all said the place was ruined by an earthquake, and Sand did not expect to find everything inside torn in half or slashed to bits. Nothing lives here and nothing grows, except the vicious, thorny bramble that prevents Sand from leaving. Why wasn’t this in the stories?

To survive, Sand does what he knows best—he fires up the castle’s forge to mend what he needs. But the things he fixes work somehow better than they ought to. Is there magic in the mending? Or have the saints who once guarded this place returned?

When Sand finds the castle’s lost heir, Perrotte, they begin to untwine the dark secrets that caused the destruction. Putting together the pieces—of stone and iron, and of a broken life—is harder than Sand ever imagined, but it’s the only way to regain their freedom.
(Synopsis from Goodreads).
My Thoughts:
I read Merrie Haskell's The Handbook for Dragon Slayers several years ago when it first came out and loved it. In fact, it became one of my favorite books that I read that year. It made me even more excited to read her newer book, The Castle Behind Thorns. I got a copy before it was released, but just now found the time to read it. I wish I hadn't waited so long. Once again, the author did not disappoint me. I greatly enjoyed the book.

I will admit, I found the beginning of the book very slow-paced. I think it's because the reader learns alongside with the main character what is happening. It can make things confusing at first. It was also hard to figure out how much time was passing in the castle during the book. However, once I got a couple chapters into the book I found myself loving it. I couldn't put it down. I love the way Marie Haskell weaves a storyline. It was like pure magic. It brought back a sense of nostalgia from reading some of my favorite medieval fantasy books when I was a kid. She brought back a sense of wonder that I haven't had while reading a middle grade book in quite a few years.

I also loved the characters in The Castle Behind Thorns. I love how smart and creative Sand was. He didn't just lay in the fireplace and give up, which I'm pretty sure is what I would have done in his situation. It shows younger readers that if you just use your imagination, you can persevere through anything. At first, I wasn't sure about Perrotte. However, by the end of the book, I loved her as well. Even after everything she went through, she was able to adapt to change and learn new things. I love when middle grade books have strong characters, and both of these characters are some of the strongest I've read in middle grade fiction.

Even though the book had a rocky start, I ended up loving it. From the incredible magic system to the strong characters, the book pulled me in and didn't let me go. I think I might have even liked it more than The Handbook for Dragon Slayers. I can't wait to see what Merrie Haskell comes out with next. Whatever she writes, it will definitely be at the top of my reading list. I recommend this book to children, teens, and adults alike. I think anyone that loves a great medieval fantasy book will love this.

I give The Castle Behind Thorns: 4/5.

Want to know more about the author?

I received this book from the publisher, via Edelweiss, in exchange for an honest review. I was in no way compensated for this review. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

The Happy Endings Book Club by Jane Tara


Synopsis:
This Christmas, the women of The Happy Endings Book Club are about to uncover a world of love and magic as they discover how to have their own happy ending or beginning, as they’re often the same thing.

Once a month, seven very different women come together to discuss books. They all love a happy ending, but have lost sight of how to get their own. Paige misses glimpsing the magic in the world. Sadie doesn’t see the beauty inside people. Amanda wonders what she ever saw in her ex husband. Tilda literally can’t see herself. Michi can’t bear looking at her family, while Clementine is blind to what’s right in front of her. And Eva looks for romance in all the wrong places.

But things are about to change …

Meet the women of The Happy Endings Book Club as they celebrate Christmas, and themselves, in London, Paris, Vienna, New York, Sydney and in love.

(Synopsis from Goodreads). 

My Thoughts:
Recently, I've been trying to read more contemporary books. It's not usually a genre that I read a lot of. For whatever reason, I am much more likely to pick up a fantasy book. However, I have decided that I'd like to broaden the genres that I read. Therefore, I picked up The Happy Endings Book Club by Jane Tara. I thought it was an okay book. Honestly, I found it a little disappointing.

My biggest problem with the book is that I found the title to be very misleading. Although the book does mention the book club, it wasn't really about the book club. In fact, the book doesn't really talk about books very much at all. Instead, the book was about the ladies of the book club. Due to their ages and the things they were going through, I couldn't relate to them at all. It made me feel very distanced from the story itself. The book should have taken me about 24 hours to read because it was a small book. Instead,  it took about three days because I just didn't care about any of the characters. Then when I did start to care about the characters, their storylines were never finished. It would switch to a different character story which made me angry. It made the book feel like it was a jumbled mess.

There was something that I did like about The Happy Endings Book Club though. One of the character's storylines had magical realism in it. I really liked that. It shocked me and surprised me, but in a good way. It was the last thing that I expected to read in a book like this. Out of all of the women, it was the only story that felt complete. I almost wish that the author would have just focused exclusively on Paige's storyline. I think I would have liked the book so much better. She could have still use the other characters but made their storylines minor, like side characters. I also liked how the author ended the book. I had never seen an author write their book into a book before. I thought that was so cool.

All in all, I found The Happy Endings Book Club to be very disappointing. I had high expectations for it but my expectations fell flat. I just wanted so much more, and never got it. The magical realism in the book is probably the only reason that I even finished it. I do own Jane Tara's other book, Forecast. I do plan on reading it eventually, but after how disappointed I was in this book it will be a while before I get to it. If you do decide to still read this book, I recommend going into it with low expectations.


I give The Happy Endings Book Club: 3/5.

Want to know more about the author?
Website: http://www.janetara.com/
facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Roadmancebooks?ref=hl
Twitter: https://twitter.com/janetara
Pintrest: https://www.pinterest.com/roadmance/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1080134.Jane_Tara

I received this book from the publisher, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. I was in no way compensated for this review.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

On the Fence by Kasie West


Synopsis:
For sixteen-year-old Charlotte Reynolds, aka Charlie, being raised by a single dad and three older brothers has its perks. She can outrun, outscore, and outwit every boy she knows—including her longtime neighbor and honorary fourth brother, Braden. But when it comes to being a girl, Charlie doesn't know the first thing about anything. So when she starts working at chichi boutique to pay off a speeding ticket, she finds herself in a strange new world of makeup, lacy skirts, and BeDazzlers. Even stranger, she's spending time with a boy who has never seen her tear it up in a pickup game.

To cope with the stress of faking her way through this new reality, Charlie seeks late-night refuge in her backyard, talking out her problems with Braden by the fence that separates them. But their Fence Chats can't solve Charlie's biggest problem: she's falling for Braden. Hard. She knows what it means to go for the win, but if spilling her secret means losing him for good, the stakes just got too high.

(Synopsis from Goodreads). 

My Thoughts:
I have heard a lot of great things about Kasie West's books. I have owned a lot of them for a while, but never picked them up because I have to be in the right mood to read contemporary books. Around Valentine's Day, I decided to read some contemporary to get into the spirit of the holiday. Therefore, I decided to pick up her book On the Fence. I thought it was just an okay book.

On the Fence was a cute, fluffy contemporary. There wasn't a real depth to it, which drove me crazy. Don't get me wrong, I did like the book. However, it was a bit too predictable for me. I think how fluffy the book was made it a little too hard to be believed. Certain scenes, like the one between the main character and her boss Linda, were resolved too quickly for my liking. I think there should have been a more in-depth conversation about what the main character did to Linda. Instead, she brushed it aside like nothing happened. When the book finally did get some depth towards the end, it went really dark, which I appreciated. What is revealed towards the end was completely unpredictable. I didn't see it coming at all, which is one of the things I really did like about the book.

I think the thing that I disliked the most about the book was that the main character was unlikable. She was a complete jerk to everyone around her. In fact, I almost dnf'd the book at the beginning after she said something terrible to her friend. I couldn't believe she said it. Towards the end of the book, she started to get a different attitude and became much more tolerable. However, I never really did end up liking her. Even after she became more tolerable, it seemed like she didn't learn her lesson. She still had a crappy attitude towards a few people around her.

Even though I didn't enjoy everything about On the Fence, I did think it was an okay book. It was one of Kasie West's first contemporaries. I have several of her other books. Even though this book wasn't one of my favorite contemporaries, I hope to read her other books soon. It should be interesting to see how her writing has evolved. I hope the books that she has written recently have more likable main characters than this book did. I recommend this book to anyone looking for a quick read to get a couple hours of entertainment.


I give On the Fence: 3/5. 

Want to know more about the author?
Website: http://www.kasiewest.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/kasiewest
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5027236.Kasie_West

I received this book from the publisher, via Edelweiss, in exchange for an honest review. I was in no way compensated for this review.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Fairy Tale Reform School series by Jen Calonita


Synopsis for Flunked:
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?

(Synopsis from Goodreads). 


Synopsis for Charmed:
Charmed is the exciting sequel to the wildly popular Flunked -- second in the brand new Fairy Tale Reform School series where the teachers are (former) villains. "Charming fairy-tale fun." -Sarah Mlynowski, author of the New York Times bestselling Whatever After series.

It takes a (mostly) reformed thief to catch a spy. Which is why Gilly Cobbler, Enchantasia’s most notorious pickpocket, volunteers to stay locked up at Fairy Tale Reform School…indefinitely. Gilly and her friends may have defeated the Evil Queen and become reluctant heroes, but the battle for Enchantasia has just begun.

Alva, aka The Wicked One who cursed Sleeping Beauty, has declared war on the Princesses, and she wants the students of Fairy Tale Reform School to join her. As her criminal classmates give in to temptation, Gilly goes undercover as a Royal Lady in Waiting (don’t laugh) to unmask a spy…before the mole can hand Alva the keys to the kingdom. 

Her parents think Gilly the Hero is completely reformed, but sometimes you have to get your hands dirty. Sometimes it’s good to be bad…

(Synopsis from Goodreads). 


Synopsis for Tricked:
Things are changing at Fairy Tale Reform School.

At least, that's what Gilly's heard through the Enchantasia rumor mill. Word is, notorious trickster Rumpelstiltskin has taken over management from Headmistress Flora, and he's locked down the school tighter than the Pied Piper's pants. Not that this news concerns Gilly. She's been released from FTRS and is now suffering through attending Jack of All Trades School, where she gets to learn about different kinds of shoe leather and ways to measure feet. Truly riveting stuff.

But when Gilly's little sister Anna gets whisked off to FTRS thanks to her troublemaking new friends, Hansel and Gretel, Gilly knows she's got to get Anna out of there. There's only one thing to do; make some serious trouble and get thrown back into FTRS.

It's time to out-trick a trickster.

(Synopsis from Goodreads). 


Synopsis for Switched:
Things at Fairy Tale Reform School are great. Rumpelstiltskin has been ousted, and everyone is buzzing about the fact that Beauty and Prince Sebastian (a.k.a. the Beast) have joined the teaching staff. Everyone, that is, except Gilly, who can’t seem to focus on anything but Anna. How is it that her beloved sister somehow went bad and joined up with Rump? And why doesn’t anyone seem to care? Sure, the Royal Court says they’re working on it, but they’ve got exactly nothing to show for it. 

But when new kid Jack joins FTRS with tales of his own family being snatched by Rump, Gilly knows she’s in good company. Jack wants answers, just like Gilly. And if the Royal Court can’t get the job done, then maybe it’s time to break some rules...

(Synopsis from Goodreads). 

My Thoughts:
*NOTE: This a review of the entire series.*

Even though I'm 27, every now and then I like to read a middle-grade novel. There's something magical about a good middle-grade book. I love getting swept up in a story of good versus evil, where the good guy always wins in the end. It just leaves you with a warm and cozy feeling. I was looking through the books on my Kindle and saw that I owned all of the Fairy Tale Reform School series, and decided to binge read it. I loved it. I flew through the entire series in less than a week.

I think the FTRS series is one of the best middle-grade series I've read recently. It reminded me a lot of Harry Potter, if Harry Potter had fairy tale creatures in it. There are many similarities, such as a constant change of professors, moving hallways, and a school setting. However, FTRS series isn't a Harry Potter copycat. It takes those tropes, and turns them into something completely unique and fun to read about. I loved trying to figure out how the kids were going to solve their problems. Just when I thought the books were getting predictable, it would take a completely different. route and surprise me all over again. 

At first, I thought the series should have ended after the second book. I thought that there was no way the author could keep the series interesting without jumping the shark after the way book two ended, but I was completely wrong. She shocked me with how well she continued the story with the addition of Rumplestiltskin and the Stiltskin Squad. It kept things fresh, and got me re-interested in the storyline all over again. The very subtle political references had me cracking up laughing. My only complaint is that books three and four were a bit slow at times, but I think that's because the reader is introduced to so many new characters and plot mechanics. Everything changes, and with that comes a lot of world building.

I loved the FTRS series so much. It's one of my favorite middle-grade series I've ever read. Possibly one of my favorite series in general. I thought Switched was the last book in the series because it's the last book shown on Goodreads, but I hope it isn't. Switched left a lot of unanswered questions. I hope the author writes at least one more book in the series so we can get answers. I am looking forward to the spin-off series, Royal Academy, which comes out in late 2018. I can't wait to immerse myself back into this world, and hopefully see some more of my favorite characters. I recommend this series for anyone who wants to read a great middle-grade series with some fun fairy tale and fantasy elements.


I give Fairy Tale Reform School series: 4/5. 

Want to know more about the author?
Website: http://www.jencalonitaonline.com/
facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jen.calonita?fref=ts
Twitter: https://twitter.com/JenCalonita
Pintrest: https://www.pinterest.com/jencalonita/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jencalonita/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/114528.Jen_Calonita

I received this series from the publisher, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. I was in no way compensated for this review.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

The Dragon's Boy by Jane Yolen


Synopsis:
Before the legendary Arthur became king, he took lessons from a dragon . . .

Artos is a lonely child, teased or ignored by the other boys in the castle of Sir Ector. One day, he follows Sir Ector’s runaway hound into a mysterious, dark cave, where he encounters a dragon who offers him the gift of wisdom.

Both frightened and intrigued, Artos becomes the dragon’s student and gains what he’s always longed for: the friendship and respect of other boys. Under the guidance of the dragon, Artos’s life begins to take shape in a way he could never have imagined. But has Artos really learned everything the dragon has to teach? And what does the dragon mean when he refers to him as “Artos Pendragon,” or “Arthur son of dragon”?

(Synopsis from Goodreads). 

My Thoughts:
Ever since I was a kid, I have loved Jane Yolen's books. When I was about thirteen years old, I picked up Sword of the Rightful King. It's the first King Arthur retelling that I remember reading. I remember loving it so much that I read it in about two days because I couldn't put it down. Recently, I came across a book by her called The Dragon's Boy and wanted to give it a try to see if I still love her books as an adult. I thought it was just okay.

I have to admit, if I would have been the intended audience about twenty years ago, I think I would have loved The Dragon's Boy. As is, I thought it was just an okay book. I liked it, and found it fun to read. However, it didn't blow me away. I've read books that are a lot better about King Arthur over the years. I also found all of the characters to be unlikable. The main character, Artos, was a brat for most of the book. He was very selfish, and a jerk to those around him. The only side character that I really liked was Lady Marion, and she wasn't in the book very much. 

Even though I didn't find The Dragon's Boy mind-blowing spectacular, I did enjoy it. Once it ended, I wanted to know more about the author's interpretation of the relationship between Linn and Artos. I might have to read/re-read some of Jane Yolen's other King Arthur books and refresh my mind on her take on the tale. I think this would be a good book for children that are interested in the King Arthur legend, but have never read anything about it before. It's a great beginning stepping stone to other King Arthur retellings.


I give The Dragon's Boy: 3/5. 

Want to know more about the author?
Website: http://janeyolen.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/janeyolen?lang=en
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5989.Jane_Yolen

I received this book from the publisher, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. I was in no way compensated for this review.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Follow the White Rabbit by Kellie Sheridan


Synopsis:
For centuries, Wonderland thrived as the domain of beautiful bedlam and unapologetic madness. It was a place like no other. All it took was one girl slipping in through the cracks of the universe to start chaos spiraling toward order. In the 150 years since Alice’s visit, the realm has become tainted—almost normal. Rabbits in waistcoats and playing card minions are little more than creatures of myth, and Wonderland is literally falling to pieces.

For Gwen, Rose, and Lucky, Wonderland is home, and yet they know little of its former glory. When the Alice prophecy resurfaces, they’ll have one chance to use Wonderland’s own legends to bring a little mayhem back into their reality. For she who controls Alice controls the fate of Wonderland.

(Synopsis from Goodreads). 

My Thoughts:
Alice in Wonderland has always been one of my favorite classics. I love it in any format I can get it, whether that be books, movies, tv shows, or video games. I've read a lot of Alice in Wonderland re-tellings over the years. Therefore, I'm fairly picky when it comes to reading them. Unfortunately, Follow the White Rabbit, while enjoyable, didn't meet my high expectations. 

Don't get me wrong, I did enjoy reading Follow the White Rabbit. The plot was interesting. I enjoyed the concept of a "normal" Wonderland. It was almost like the reverse of the classic story. Having a fresh take on the classic that I had never seen done before was great. I wish there was a bit more world building though. I wanted more details about how Wonderland was brought to normalcy after everything that had happened with Alice, and before the reader meets the new main characters, Gwen, Rose, and Lucky. 

Even though I wanted a little bit more from Follow the White Rabbit, I did enjoy it. I didn't see the sequel on Amazon, but I plan on reading the sequel when it is released, and seeing how the main characters help to get Wonderland back into the crazy, kooky land that we all know and love. I also plan on reading more of Kellie Sheridan's books. I have a feeling that I will enjoy them. I hope she creates more intriguing twists on favorite classics.


I give Follow the White Rabbit: 3/5.

Want to know more about the author?
Website: http://www.kelliesheridan.com/
facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kelliewrites
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Kellie_Sheridan
Pintrest: https://www.pinterest.com/kelloish/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/snarkybird/
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/SnarkyBird/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6579646.Kellie_Sheridan

I received this book from the publisher, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. I was in no way compensated for this review.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Sisters of the Craft trilogy by Lori Handeland


Synopsis for In the Air Tonight:
Four centuries ago, in a small Scottish village, three baby girls escaped the wrath of a witch hunter. Today, one young woman will learn about her secret history, her heart's destiny, and the sisters she never knew she had...

With her blue-black hair and dark eyes, Raye Larsen has never fit in with the Scandinavian community of New Bergin, Wisconsin. Being adopted is part of the reason she feels like an outsider, but what really sets Raye apart is her ability to see dead people. Everywhere. 

She’s learned to keep her visions to herself . . . until she stumbles onto the ghost of a murder victim who needs Raye’s help. Enter Bobby Doucet, a distractingly handsome homicide detective who has been tracking a killer all the way from New Orleans. Could this be the break in his case he’s been looking for all along? 

Meanwhile, the deeper Raye gets involved with the case—and with Bobby—the closer she comes to unlocking the mystery of her own origins. What she discovers about herself could destroy everything she knows . . . and everyone she loves. Is finding the truth worth the risk?

(Synopsis from Goodreads).


Synopsis for Heat of the Moment:
A spell that tore three sisters apart is broken four hundred years later, when the magic in their blood reunites them. Now, one of them will discover her gift—and reignite a love long thought lost…

Flame-haired Becca Carstairs was born to be a veterinarian. Since childhood, her affinity for animals has been special, and her healing touch nothing short of magic. But only Becca knows the truth—that she alone can hear the creatures’ voices. She’s always trusted her sixth sense… until a string of missing pets, an attempted murder, and a face from her past converge into one explosive mystery, with her at its center. 

Is haunted Owen McAllister, the boy who broke her heart ten years ago, related to the sinister crimes that have peaceful Three Harbors, Wisconsin, on its guard? Or is his reappearance part of the answer to questions that have troubled her all her life? As Becca delves into her strange heritage, she’ll have to fight for her life… and the man she will always love.

(Synopsis from Goodreads). 


Synopsis for Smoke on the Water:
Abandoned beneath a black willow tree on the banks of a northern Wisconsin creek, Willow Black spent her entire childhood in foster care. Her entire life she's had terrifying visions, and it is these visions that eventually land her in a psychiatric facility. And so Willow takes her meds and believes she is getting better. Until she meets a fellow patient who doesn't think she is crazy at all. She thinks Willow is a witch. 

Willow's psychiatrist, Dr. Sebastian Crane, works hard to resist his feeling that he and Willow are destined to be together while also working to convince her that strange occurrences aren't the result of witchcraft… until he is thrown into the middle of a storm of supernatural events that can't be explained any other way…

(Synopsis from Goodreads). 

My Thoughts:
For whatever reason, I rarely read paranormal romance books. I'm not sure why because it's a genre that I usually enjoy. I have a bunch, but I always seem to skip over them and pick up a fantasy book instead. I was browsing through my unread books, and came across the Sisters of the Craft trilogy. I decided to give it a try because it had been a while since I read a book about witches, and the covers are gorgeous. Unfortunately, I really didn't like the trilogy at all. 

I think my biggest problem with the trilogy, in general, is that the writing and plot were very simplistic. It felt like a bad soap opera that your grandma would force you to watch with her when you stayed home sick from school. Everything was over the top, and nothing felt original. It felt like a combination of every paranormal romance I had read, like it took bits and pieces from different stories and combined them to make a plot. The one thing that I really did love about the books was Reggie and Grenade, and they were only in one book, never to be seen again. The sex scenes in each book weren't even very descriptive. It felt like an eighth grade boy was trying to write them.

The first book, In the Air Tonight, was very slow paced. It took about seventy-five percent of the book for things to really get going, and to catch my interest. The second book, Heat of the Moment, went better but I think that's because I liked Reggie so much. I really loved hearing his thoughts. The third book, Smoke on the Water, started off interesting, but quickly went downhill. I was involved until about fifty percent into the book. Then things started dragging on and on. By the time I got about sixty percent, I had to resist the urge to skim read the rest because I was that bored. What should have taken me a day to read, took about three because it just dragged so badly and I kept losing interest. The only bright part of that book was Mary. I loved her snarky sense of humor. It had me chuckling a few times.

I was sad that the first paranormal romance series I picked up in such a long time turned out to be a letdown. I really wanted to like it, but unfortunately, that isn't the case. I disliked this trilogy so much that I felt a sense of relief when I finished the third book. If it wasn't for the fact that I got all three to review, I probably wouldn't have continued reading past the first book. I don't think I will read any more of Lori Handeland's books in the future. I think her writing style just isn't for me.


I give Sisters of the Craft trilogy: 2/5.

Want to know more about the author?
Website: https://www.lorihandeland.com/
facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LoriHandeland#
Twitter: https://twitter.com/nightcreatures
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17060.Lori_Handeland

I received all three books in this trilogy from the publisher, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. I was in no way compensated for this review.