Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Review: Wonder

R.J. Palacio
Contemporary, Middle Grade

You can't blend in when you were born to stand out.

My name is August. I won't describe what I look like. Whatever you're thinking, it's probably worse.

August Pullman wants to be an ordinary ten-year-old. He does ordinary things. He eats ice cream. He plays on his Xbox. He feels ordinary - inside.

But Auggie is far from ordinary. Ordinary kids don't make other ordinary kids run away screaming in playgrounds. Ordinary kids don't get stared at wherever they go.

Born with a terrible facial abnormality, Auggie has been home-schooled by his parents his whole life, in an attempt to protect him from the cruelty of the outside world. Now, for the first time, he's being sent to a real school - and he's dreading it. All he wants is to be accepted - but can he convince his new classmates that he's just like them, underneath it all?

Narrated by Auggie and the people around him whose lives he touches forever, WONDER is a funny, frank, astonishingly moving debut to read in one sitting, pass on to others, and remember long after the final page.

This book has won so many awards and has been on the bestsellers lists for so long that of course I had to try it out- and I recommend you do, too.

Wonder was NOTHING like I expected it to be. First off, while I knew he was a kid, I hadn't comprehended that the book was going to be narrated by a 10 year old. This, of course, gave the novel a whole new flavor that I'm not used to- the last time I read a book told by a child younger than 12 was To Kill A Mockingbird.  

I was also not expecting the POV flips - of course, I spared you the surprise with the above Goodreads blurb. (As you can see, I did not do any research on Wonder.) The voices were beautiful and unique, and switched at exactly the right time - each character telling you what you needed to know about them to really be a part of the story.

Wonder was an emotional story - but not the kind that makes you cry. The kind the pulls you in and has you rooting for Auggie and Jack Will, adoring Via and Justin, sympathetic with Miranda. By the way, this book has a ton of crossover potential. Via, Justin and Miranda are in high school, while Auggie, Jack and Summer are in the 5th grade. Truthfully, I think this is a must read, no matter what age you are.

My only complaint was the slow exposition. I think the beginning could have been condensed to fewer chapters. Rating:


Friday, April 24, 2015

Review: A Scandal in Bohemia + The Red-Headed League

Sherlock Holmes: The Ultimate Collection (4 Novels, 44 Short Stories, and Exclusive Bonus Features)The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes 
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Classics, Mystery

A Scandal in Bohemia:
Holmes is hired by the King of Bohemia to recover blackmail evidence, held by the woman whom the king once promised to marry, but who he abandoned for a woman of noble birth.

The Redheaded League:
Holmes is engaged upon two seemingly unrelated cases, a daring bank robbery and the disappearance of a pawnbroker's assistant. Using minute details of the small mystery, he is able to solve the larger one. 

Although it is EXTREMELY difficult for me to choose, my favorite episode of BBC's Sherlock is A Scandal in Belgravia. Therefore, I was looking forward to reading the story it was based on very, very much.

Indeed, it was my favorite Holmes story thus far. However, I don't think that means much as I've only read four(: 

Unlike the SH novels I had read before (A Study in Scarlet and The Sign of Four), these stories are part of the The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes collection, and are MUCH shorter and faster-paced. Naturally, this means they were funner to read. 

In Scandal, it was really enjoyable to see Holmes upstaged by a common woman. Irene Adler was new, ridiculously intriguing and of course, as smart as Sherlock himself(; However, she is not a main a character and as totally badass as she is on the TV show, which was admittedly a bit of a let-down. 

The Red-Headed League had such an amusing premise that I was smiling right off the bat, and I had NO IDEA where the story was going. HOW THE HECK Conan Doyle came up with these crazy mysteries is beyond me.

I had a lot of fun reading these. They were quick and easy, and I highly recommend them! Rating:

Happy weekend! What are you reading?

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Review: The Shadowhunter's Codex

The Shadowhunter's CodexThe Shadowhunter's Codex
Cassandra Clare and Joshua Lewis
TMI companion

The Clave is pleased to announce the newest edition of the Nephilim’s oldest and most famous training manual: the Shadowhunter’s Codex. Since the thirteenth century, the Codex has been the young Shadowhunter’s best friend. When you’re being swarmed by demons it can be easy to forget the finer points of obscure demon languages or the fastest way to stop an attack of Raum demons. With the Codex by your side, you never have to worry. 

Now in its twenty-seventh edition, the Codex covers it all: the history and the laws of our world; how to identify, interact with, and if necessary, kill that world’s many colorful denizens; which end of the stele is the end you write with. No more will your attempt to fight off rogue vampires and warlocks be slowed by the need to answer endless questions from your new recruits: What is a Pyxis? Why don’t we use guns? If I can’t see a warlock’s mark, is there a polite way to ask him where it is? Where do we get all our holy water? Geography, History, Magic, and Zoology textbook all rolled into one, the Codex is here to help new Shadowhunters navigate the beautiful, often brutal world that we inhabit. 

For my reviews on all things Shadowhunter click here.

Ultimately, the top prize for best project to appease fans series companion ever goes to The Bane Chronicles and Percy Jackson's Greek Gods. HOWEVER, The Shadowhunter's Codex is a close, close second.

While I'll never claim The Mortal Instruments or The Infernal Devices are written works of genius plot-wise, they are THE BEST BOOKS EVER when it comes to characters and fun and world-building and FEELS. If you are a fan of Cassie Clare's books, you will LOVE having this book on your collection.

For starters, The Shadowhunter's Codex is GORGEOUS. The jacket is soft and 3D and ridiculously detailed and PUUUURRRRTYYY. When you strip the book its hardcover is swirly blue and black and has a little golden Mortal Cup.  

The interior is decorated with illustrations by a slew of SERIOUSLY TALENTED artists. They were cool and pretty and creepy all at once. And of course, Cassandra Jean doodling all over the thing as Clary. 

Secondly, Clary, Jace, and Simon have added their sarcastic comments on everything, making the read good fun. Also, Magnus and Clary each put in a letter, and every once in a while Luke or Jocelyn have some input through Clary. Basically, it's a nice catch-up with the crew. 

A lot of the actual content you know already, but don't let that bore you into putting the book down. Towards the middle there is a whole lot of info we never knew from the regular Shadowhunter books, not to mention a well-done Table of Marks, a map of Idris, and interesting appendixes.  

All in all, the Codex is a funny and quick and absolutely drool-inducing good-looking read. SO ABSOLUTELY worth adding to your Cassandra Clare shelf. Believe me, you'll be showing it off to your fanpeople friends. Rating:

Have a great week!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Review: Isabella's Heiress

Isabella's Heiress (book 1)Isabella's Heiress
N.P. Griffiths
Adult, Paranormal

Newly dead and struggling to cope with her new reality, Emma Elliott is thrust into a dark and desperate vision of London.

In her fight to survive she meets friends, both old and new, and uncovers a world inhabited by two warring clans of angels, one bent on the ultimate destruction of mankind, the other committed to our salvation. A way out presents itself but with the forces arrayed against her Emma starts to wonder why, of all the people who have found themselves in this position; she is being singled out for such special attention.

As time passes more questions arise for Emma. Who is Isabella, the woman she is constantly mistaken for? Who are the mysterious Cado Angelus who cast a shadow over Emma's every move? And what part does Emma have to play in the events that will soon unfold in her world and ours.

I received this book for an honest review from the team at Authoright. Thank you!!

I had thoughts all over the spectrum for this one. Leggo:

- It was BIG. Now, sizable books are SO my cup of tea, but if they're not yours avoid this.  In the case of Isabella's Heiress, it was both a pro and a drawback - it worked in the sense that we got to explore Emma's life in the Twilight plane and before, and a lot happened. However, the novel started off very slow and only picked up about halfway through.

- The plot: Definitely was original, which was refreshing. It also has a lot of crossover potential; I had debated whether to categorize it as YA or Adult. I decided to go with Adult for a few reasons, the first and foremost being that there are a few harsher elements that I would recommend for an older audience. Torture, rape, and family disasters play roles, but small ones, therefore prompting me to say that it could work for teenagers, too. The other reasons I chose Adult in the end are Emma's age (not mentioned, but twenty-something implied) and the frankly, the lack of romance that all we young ones seem to want (if you are an exception to this understandable but ridiculous rule, by all means pick up this book). 

-Characters: Nothing remarkable on this front. Emma is realistic, brave and guilt-ridden, but not as kind and smart as we have come to expect from our protagonists. I liked the character of Father Eamon, and feel that Sister Ignacia could have been an interesting person to hear more about. 

-Setting: I ADORE London, and it was part of the reason I decided to read this book. However, I wish the idea of the Twilight plane was explained more. What do the inhabitants do all eternity? Is it London for all the initiates or is that just how Emma perceives it? What do the Cado Angelus and the Cordoban Council really want? What does the church have anything to do with this? What did the prophecy say and who issued it? The whole background story was murky and unclear, and I was left with more questions than answers.

Overall: As you can tell from above, I was really ambivalent about Isabella's Heiress- there was a lot I liked and a lot I didn't.  I think, though, that good structural editing and proofreading could fix most of the problems I had with this book(:

Hope you've been having a wonderful holiday, be it Easter or Passover!

Friday, April 3, 2015

Review: Fifty Shades Freed

Fifty Shades Freed (Fifty Shades #3)
EL James
Romance, Erotica

When unworldly student Anastasia Steele first encountered the driven and dazzling young entrepreneur Christian Grey it sparked a sensual affair that changed both of their lives irrevocably. Shocked, intrigued, and, ultimately, repelled by Christian’s singular erotic tastes, Ana demands a deeper commitment. Determined to keep her, Christian agrees.

Now, Ana and Christian have it all—love, passion, intimacy, wealth, and a world of possibilities for their future. But Ana knows that loving her Fifty Shades will not be easy, and that being together will pose challenges that neither of them would anticipate. Ana must somehow learn to share Christian’s opulent lifestyle without sacrificing her own identity. And Christian must overcome his compulsion to control as he wrestles with the demons of a tormented past.

Just when it seems that their strength together will eclipse any obstacle, misfortune, malice, and fate conspire to make Ana’s deepest fears turn to reality.

You can read my reviews of Fifty Shades of Grey and Fifty Shades Darker here.

*Commence intense end-of-series feels*

I'll start with what I didn't like:

-The writing. As usual. In Fifty Shades Freed the author reached a new height of ridiculousness with the repeated "hmmmmm" and "woah" in Ana's thoughts. Not in the dialogue!! "HMMM" IS A SOUND WE MAKE WHILE THINKING. WE DON'T ACTUALLY THINK IT. 

-The flashbacks. This is a method that works for lots of different books but somehow fell flat here. One of the fun things in the 50 Shades series is the second-by-second cover of the events (as opposed to, "the next morning") so I did not appreciate skipping the wedding (and wedding night ;-) ) I was promised in book two, and then later telling it in flashbacks. (Also, hello? Wasn't this a Twilight fanfiction? I expected the wedding to take up half the book) It broke the fast storytelling that made these books so addicting in the first place. Luckily, after the first quarter of the book we catch up to the present and the time-lapses stop.

What I liked:

Everything else, pretty much. The characters are hard to truly figure out, but instead of being a flaw it ended up enhancing them - people are complex at their core. The witty banter and emails were hysterical as usual (though I still think book 1 takes the crown for that).

Somehow, despite all the writing complaints, I managed to fall in love with Christian, Ana, and their story. I fully stand by the reason I picked up Fifty Shades of Grey originally- a fad so big and popular must have something that rings true and no, it's not because it's sexy. No other erotica book ever stood out so much. 

The epilogue almost reduced me to happy tears, and the chapters from Christian's POV left me waiting for more (is she writing this or will another Midnight Sun episode happen?). 

Rating: Believe it or not, 5 stars.