Wednesday, March 29, 2017
Going waaay back to only my third review on this thing, I'm finally taking a minute to review the sequel to The School for Good and Evil. This one's got a lot to live up to, considering that I liked the first one so much and let's hope that this one lives up to its predecessor. Let's begin.
Sophie and Agatha have returned home from the School for Good and Evil having achieved their Ever After through the strength of their friendship. However, their Ever After seems to be lacking in the Happily department when both girls find themselves longing for things they've lost back at the school. When they're transported back to the School they find that it is no longer for Good and Evil but Girls and Boys. Witches and princesses have taken over the Good castle, along with a vicious and mysterious new Dean, while warlocks and princes are shoved off into the Evil castle, lead by Agatha's would-be prince, Tedros. Both sides are aching to war with each other and it's up to Sophie and Agatha fix everything their Ever After seemed to tear apart.
Much like The Gender Game that I reviewed awhile back, the supposed "feminism" portrayed in the girl's school is actually just sexism and both sides are wrong. Though, while The Gender Game took itself very seriously, this book never loses its sense of humor. It's obvious how wrong both sides are and takes things to the extreme, pointing out that while it's okay to not have a traditional ending that doesn't mean a traditional ending is wrong. It pushes the ideas to the extreme so that even younger readers will be able to see just what the book is trying to say. It's played very smartly and, like I said, never really loses its sense of wonder and cleverness that we saw in the first book.
On that note, this book very much lives up to its predecessor, writing-wise. This is still the same universe as the first book; the same humor, the same details, the same vibrant and colorful characters. Everything is familiar and you can go from one book to the next and it flows beautifully between the two stories. All the characters are just as amazing as before (Hester, Anadil, and Dot are my spirit animals) and you see how their arcs improve instead of simply repeating. Everybody's changed from how they originally began and have adapted to the strange new environment that the School has become. The plot is genuinely gripping at times and, while this is still a humorous story that for younger readers, it gets pretty dark just as the first one did. There's death and despair and the book doesn't shy away from it. Actions and consequences don't go ignored and it comes together very well.
If I had to nitpick, I'd say that it does end in the big Trial just as the first one did and the ending is an Empire Strikes Back level of "holy crap are you seriously going to leave it there?" but overall a very successful sequel with lots of depth and character, funny moments, interesting commentary and a great feel overall.
While not quite as good as the first, this was still a really enjoyable book and a great follow up to the first. It never loses touch with what it is, it isn't afraid to take itself seriously but it also has enough humor to keep a balance. In the end, this sequel is totally worth your money at your local bookstore!
Have you read the book? What did you think? Comment below and share your thoughts. Find me at goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/65448711-michelle-beer and if you could click that pretty new Follow button, I'd really appreciate it.
Next Time: When they say Hollow, they sure don't mean this place is empty....
Saturday, March 25, 2017
I knew there was a reason to keep reading these Inkitt books! Only the second one I've read to completion and it is a vast improvement from last time. This book is the reason we have these debut sights online, so that stories like this can see the light of day. Let's dive right in.
Set in an alternate, steampunk version of London, a scientific accident lead to the birth of Espers, men and woman with supernatural gifts and amazing powers. The scientist responsible for their creation takes as many as he can under his wing in the Institute which serves as both a school and a headquarters for a group of Espers who police the Esper population and keep them from committing crimes against the people of London. But when a child prodigy is kidnapped by band of evil Espers, it's up to the Professor's top agents, Nathan and James, and the child's sister to find him before it's too late.
Now, this books strength is also its biggest weakness: you can pretty easily pinpoint the inspirations behind this story. A group of super-powered humans who face discrimination from the world but continue to help protect them and lead by a guy named the Professor? Yeah, you know where that comes from. Still, for what it is, it's done very well. This story has fun with itself. It's easy to read and fast paced, but manages to keep you intrigued. There's heart in this story. It's a fun story. You can feel the author's passion behind this project. Yeah, so it's X-men meets Heroes, but it's hard to care when the story is still so interesting and the characters so well written.
Speaking of the characters, let's have a little chat about Nathan, shall we? My goodness, I liked this guy. He's just the kind of person you want to go on a supernatural mystery adventure with. He possesses a great sense of humor yet knows when to take things seriously. He's intuitive and clever and there's almost something The Doctor-esque about him in the fact that you can tell he's had a lot of adventures before but never tires of it. And while he possesses the Peter Petrelli power of being able to copy the powers of others, you never get the sense that he's too powerful or invulnerable. He's capable of being hurt and when his life is in danger, you feel it. I liked him a lot. The other stand out character is that of Freya, the ice-powered teenager who's just being introduced to this world. At first I thought I wasn't going to like this character very much, as she showed every sign of being the stereotypical bratty teen who never listens, she exceeded my expectations. Yes, she takes matters into her own hands when she probably shouldn't, but she's capable of recognizing her mistakes and learning from them. She's able to say, "you were right". That's refreshing to see in this type of character.
Now, the writing flows well and is easy to read and get invested in, it's also got its flaws. Describing the same character more than once and skipping over events that might actually have helped the plot are a couple things that kind of take away from the experience. But, for me, the story's major drawback has to be the villain, the Baron. While I do honestly miss this type of character (villains who don't need tragic backstories or overly complicated motivations) this guy was just too hammy to take seriously. In the attempt to make him intimidating, that author has this guy copy trademark killing techniques that anyone would recognize. I'm not kidding! Within the space of three paragraphs this guy does the Vadar Force Choke, the Mola Ram Kali-mal, and the Syler slice all at once! I henceforth rename you Baron Overkill!
While a bit familiar at times, this book was still a lot of fun to read. Great characters, a thrilling story, good action, this Inkitt winner is definitely worth your money at your local bookstore!
Have you read the book? What did you think? Comment below and share your thoughts. Find me on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/65448711-michelle-beer
Next Time: When Battle of the Sexes goes too far....
Wednesday, March 22, 2017
You remember that movie The Game with Michael Douglas? Well, replace the two brothers with two sisters, add a crap ton of whimsy and magic, a much more relevant love interest and you've got Caraval...and I mean that in the best possible way. I like that movie.
Scarlett and Donatella Dragna have lived their lives under the merciless rule of their abusive father and longing for the day that they get to see Caraval, a fantastical show full of magic and wonder. As they get older it seems they'll never get a chance to see Caraval, especially when Scarlett is set up in an arranged marriage. Donatella has other plans, however. She whisks her sister away with the help of a handsome and enigmatic sailor and to see the show. But when Legend, the mysterious owner of Caraval, kidnaps Donatella, it's up to Scarlett to play the Caraval game and find her sister before the game sweeps them away.
Like any fantastical world, the setting and overall feel of the Caraval has a great balance. Sure it's colorful and magical and the kind of place you'd love to see but there's also a threat about the place. Caraval is a game, one that can be either watched or played. If you watch, you're safe but bored. If you play, you get to have an adventure but you also put yourself in danger. Every action has a consequence and none of the magic comes for free. Everything has a price, be it a possession or your deepest, darkest secret. The whole thing possesses that kind of dangerous fun you'd get out of jumping out of an airplane, which can be both thrilling and dangerous. In that sense, the show is kind of it's own Rorschach test: some see it as an amazing adventure and others see it and think who in their right mind would want to go through all that.
But the game itself is one thing, the heart of the story is the relationship between the sisters. It's made pretty clear early on that both Scarlett and Tella have a very deep relationship and would do just about anything for each other. The key to the story is just how much Scarlett cares about Tella and does she care about her as much as she says she does. As is the case with most siblings in these types of stories they're very different people. Scarlett is the down to earth and serious one while Tella is the outgoing, rebellious one. Basically, Scarlett is Elsa and Tella is Anna. Unlike that story, however, it's the serious sister trying to help the younger one whose gone and gotten herself into trouble. This makes it a deep study into Scarlett as a character. When she's tempted with things and possibilities she may never have had before, things she's never allowed herself to have before, her dedication to her sister is thrown into question. It gets to the point where you honestly don't know what she'll chose and, as the story progresses, the stakes become even higher. The story does this very well, building tension and making every choice mean more and more.
Overall, the book is very well written and has a lot of character and charm. Sure, I thought the color/emotion thing was just a little gimmicky for me and there are one or two things that seemed a bit cliche or a little too convenient, but other than that the story really comes together. It also avoids committing a really annoying sin that a lot of books are doing lately: sacrificing the story of the first book in favor of sequel fodder. While it is clear that there is another book in the works, the integrity of this one is unhurt by it. In fact, this book could be a stand alone and I'd be just fine with that. It is a good book on its own and, for that, I give it props.
Intriguing, mysterious, adventurous, Caraval possesses both style and substance. The story is gripping, any flaws are forgivable, and I've gotta say that this story is worth your money at your local bookstore.
Have you read the book? What did you think? Comment below and share your thoughts. Also find me on goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/65448711-michelle-beer
Next Time: Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters just got competition
Sunday, March 19, 2017
It looks like we're 0 for 2 in my reviews of James Patterson books. I gave this one a try despite not liking Witch & Wizard because I thought that, since the crime/mystery genre was more Patterson's style, this would be an improvement. Not so much. Let's just get started, shall we?
Young child prodigy Tandoori Angel (ugh, these names) and her siblings wake up one night to find that their parents have been killed. The police and the media are hot on the case and they all seem to believe that one of the Angel children must be responsible for their deaths. Tandy (ugh) must conduct an investigation of her own if she's to clear her name and the names of her brothers before one of them is arrested for murder.
Yeah, this one has a lot of problems. The first being that it's not much of a mystery. Right from the start you can guess what happens and you're probably right. The rest of the book is just trying to distract you from the fact that you already know what the answer to the mystery is! And this book tries a lot of things to try and make you overlook how easy this mystery is to solve. It throws a ton of stuff at you like a plethora of unpleasant non-suspects, weird conspiracies, out of nowhere plot twists, and none of them stick. No matter how hard this book tried to sell me something, nothing stuck.
Also, the character of Tandy, apart from having a stupid name, is a cardboard cut-out Mary Sue. Because she's a prodigy, she automatically can do anything and everything that apparently fully capable adults can't seem to do. Not to mention when she's not bland as unbuttered toast, she's unbearably smug and annoying. In fact, all the kids in this family are annoying. They all have serious issues and it's really no wonder that the police suspect these kids. Even the annoying twelve-year-old is capable of murder! And while I'm at it, this family is just crazy! The punishments and expectations that these kids go through is just bizarre! I know this a family of really rich pharmaceutical company tycoons but these prizes they give these kids include extravagant vacations (for just one of them, the rest of the kids are left behind!) and weird statues that they name and talk to and a freaking shark in a freaking tank! Who lives like this!?
But the biggest problem with the book is the writing. It's just written so pretentiously and in a manner that almost talks down to its audience. It's written from Tandy's point of view and she has a very nasty habit of telling everything and showing nothing. Some observations of the crime just go straight over her supposedly super smart head and the audience is stuck with her brooding and irrelevant thoughts. She goes on and on saying, "Oh, I can do this." and "I obviously know how to do that" instead of just freaking showing us! Let us figure stuff out for a change...except for the mystery that we figured out in all of three seconds!
This story was just an annoying bore! Seriously, I wouldn't be so hard on it if it wasn't one of the most bestselling and highest paid authors of the day, but since it is, I'm going to be hard on it. I don't know if this is because he worked with a co-writer or if he's really just not very good, but either way this one is going into the Waste Bin of Despair.
Have you read the book? What did you think? Comment below and share your thoughts. Also, check out my goodreads page at https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/65448711-michelle-beer
Next Time: Remember, it's only a game....
Monday, March 13, 2017
While not the best book I've ever read, I will admit there's something almost kind of refreshing about this thing. It's the kind of thing that's nice to read on a whim, simple and quick and definitely amusing. In a day and age when fairy tale stories are taking themselves unbearably seriously, this one kind of breaks the tension and comes out as its own thing to stand out amongst the fairy tale genre.
The story is that of Princess Dorothea of the land of Emerald. She's upset because being a princess is deeply annoying to her, especially on her birthday when she finds out she's been engaged to a snooty prince. In an attempt to ditch her fate, Dorothea makes a wish on a cursed star, which warps her desire and tears her world apart, sent mobs of evil beings into her kingdom and turned her fiancé into and adorable winged lion cub. Now Dorothea must right the wrongs she's committed on her own and march across the untamed fairy tale lands with her transformed prince and a pissed off servant, all while wearing ridiculous heels worthy of Bryce Dallas Howard via Jurassic World.
The biggest obstacle for most people in this book is the character of Dorothea. She is deeply, deeply annoying when this book starts out. Selfish, spoiled, pampered and entitled, she's the kind of character who feels all she has to do is sit down and wait to be assisted simply because she's a princess. However, amazingly, I didn't mind this very much. Probably because, unlike many other characters I've read with these kinds of traits it's intentional! She's meant to be this way. The world isn't insisting that, "oh, she's actually a really kind and special and talented and super amazing person you just don't understand her". No. Dorothea is spoiled on purpose and her journey throughout the story is one of redemption and growth. Dorothea learns some bitter lessons (some strictly for the amusement of the readers) and she does learn them. She slowly reshapes herself and the trials she goes through has a genuine impact on her life and personality. For that reason, I didn't mind Dorothea.
The book is a pretty simple read and has a lot of sardonic humor to it. It never really takes itself either too silly or too serious. There's a nice balance in this book. The humor is pretty good in this thing too. While most if it is making fun of its own main character, there is a lot of fairy tale satire going on and destroying old stereotypes while taking time to develop its own mythos and build its own world. It gives this world a bit of perspective that's not exactly unlike anything we've seen before, it's still pretty solid for what it is.
The side characters are a very sassy bunch. Nobody in this world gives into Dorothea's whining and complaining. They force her to grow up and accept responsibilities, while never coming off as too cruel or out of line. Rexi and Kato are just the kind of characters who will put up with Dorothea's antics and not take any of her crap. Also, blessedly, Dorothea and Kato's relationship develops very naturally. Even by the end of the book, they're not totally in love or anything. They learn a lot about each other and it's handled slowly and with great care. However, the book is not flawless. Dorothea, while I appreciate what she is, does really get on one's nerves, the foreshadowing is heavy as a rhino and it's not exactly full to bursting with originality, but for what it is, it's pretty good.
I feel this book has kind of a bad reputation that I don't really feel it deserves. It was certainly fun to read, easy to get through and understand, and it clearly had fun with itself as well, so it's pretty easy to get pulled in. Overall, I'm going to say that if this sounds like your cup of tea, check it out but wait for it on paperback.
Did you read the book? Comment below and share your thoughts and any recommendations you may have. Find me on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/65448711-michelle-beer
Next Time: ....I don't think I like James Patterson very much....
Wednesday, March 8, 2017
Not so much a fairy tale get-together as a classic literature get-together, this book has vastly interesting premise that writers everywhere are kicking themselves for not thinking of first. Beloved characters from classic stories (again, as long as their public domain) come together in an interesting idea, but how well does it pay off? Let's dive right in.
Alice is now a twenty-five year old woman, living in an asylum after having been gone from Wonderland for a year. When a mysterious stranger comes by and offers her a job, Alice is reluctant but ultimately agrees. This results in her being transported from her asylum in Victorian England and into modern day New York and the headquarters of a group of book characters who have come together to form the Collectors' Society. It is the Society's job to travel into the plots of different novels, or Timelines, and collect objects of great importance to the story called a catalyst. If the catalysts fall into the wrong hands and are destroyed, the Timeline and all its inhabitants disappear, making the story become just that: a story and nothing more. When a thief has taken to breaking into Timelines, stealing and destroying catalysts, Alice must team up with a group of classic characters, including a very handsome, grown up Huckleberry Finn, and save the Timelines while dealing with her strange new world and the demons of her past.
Now I meant what I said when I said this was a premise to be envied. It's very clever and the ideas of catalysts and Timelines is just amazing. You can tell a lot of time and energy went into the specifics of this idea. It's all very carefully thought out and interesting. Now, just because it deals with characters from the kinds of books you read as a kid, doesn't mean this is for kids. This is definitely an adult book. Drug references, sex, Mary's mouth, all are things that make this book not appropriate for younger readers. It's not a bad thing, per se, but one might get the wrong impression, especially with books like The Book Jumper that has a similar idea but is tamer and directed to the YA crowd as apposed to being strictly for grown ups.
The plot of the story, sadly, is kind of up and down for me. A lot of time is devoted to things like Alice getting acquainted to modern day New York and preparing and talking about missions and problems going on in the book world, but never seeing things happen in the book world. Things like Alice getting used to her new home is fine, but in moderation. Whole chapters are devoted to this, and it kind of drags. There's also a really pointless club scene and a lot of downtime between major events that just make it harder to get and stay invested in the story. When the action does pick up, it is very interesting though. Breaking into buildings spy-style, fighting off villains, betting kidnapped in the midst of a Wonderland War is all well and good, it's just a long time in-between these events and it could have moved a bit faster.
The biggest downside to this book, for me at least, was the main character of Alice. Now, anyone whose been reading this for a while knows that I really like Alice in Wonderland and stories that are based off the character. This Alice, however, is just a downer! While it's good for a writer not to tell the reader everything about the main character right off the bat, this writer has their main character guard their secrets with all the dignity of a spoiled child yelling, "I have a secret and I'm not going to tell you because you smell!" and promptly sticking their tongue out at you. The character is very whiny and very bratty at times, leading me to nearly tearing my hair out wishing the woman would lighten the frig up already!
On the other hand, there are some good characters, or rather reimaginings of classic characters. Abraham Van Brunt is a mysterious yet balanced leader, commanding but someone you'd still be willing to follow into battle. Huckleberry Finn is, of course, the world's most perfect man except when he too guards his secret jealously and throws massive tantrums. Mary from The Secret Garden is the kind of person you both want and don't want as a best friend. Tough and good in a fight and willing to go to the ends of the earth for you, but also colossally nosy and invasive and just plain mean at times. They are most certainly an interesting bunch. I especially liked the character of the Librarian, a mysterious woman who knows almost everything that goes on around her and doesn't put up with Alice's crap, or anyones for that matter. They make for a very interesting mix, but sadly, we just don't see much of them and when we do, they don't have many opportunities to do much.
Interesting but flawed, The Collectors' Society has a wealth of promise that, sadly we still haven't seen very much of. There are sequels out there and I might get around to them, but for now I'd say if this sound like something you'd be interested in, then check it out at your local library.
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Next Time: Good Grimm, what the spell is going on around here!?
Thursday, March 2, 2017
I think I'm in trouble. This is easily the most perplexing book I've read since I've started this. It's left me flabbergasted, it really has! Still, I will do my utmost to give my honest opinions and share them as best I can. Let's just get right into this.
The story is of Elisabeth, or Liesl, Volger who lives with her family in a tiny village in Bavaria. All her life, she's kept to the shadows, envious of her sister's beauty and her brothers musical talent. But then her sister is abducted by goblins and dragged away to their secret kingdom: the Underground. Liesl must do everything she can to save her sister, even if it means making a deal with the beautiful and mysterious Der Erlkönig, or Goblin King, and release the inner music that she's kept hidden from the world.
Okay, does this sound even the teeniest, tiniest familiar to anyone? Yeah, it should. No beating around the bush: this is a self insert Labyrinth fan fiction. And don't try to tell me it isn't. Not only is the Goblin King word-for-word David Bowie's character from the film, but there's also hallucinogenic peaches, hands that form a face, constantly referring to the Underground as a labyrinth, heck the word Underground is taken from the movie's end credit song, I could go on. I get that fan fiction has kind of moved past it's bad reputation and are being taken more seriously among readers and the publishing industry alike, but this is just silly! It's so blatant and unrepentant that I'm surprised nobody's really said anything about it!
Now, there is good stuff in this story. It's described very well, the setups of the setting and characters is very good, the reasons for the Goblin King's existence is very clever. There is legitimately good things about this book. There's a lot to like, but also a lot of things wrong with it as well. Here's the weird part: this book has flaws, major ones, but for some reason....it doesn't bother me! The writing style is not very good, repeating phrases over and over and can come off as ridiculously pretentious...but it doesn't bother me. The story is told in the first person of a main character who is so painfully insecure it's alarming...but it doesn't bother me! It's silly and stupid at times but, for whatever reason, I didn't get mad at this book like I have other ones where I encounter these problems. I guess the big reason behind that is that I've read Labyrinth fan fictions before so I know what a bad Labyrinth fan fiction reads like...and this isn't one of them.
Is there just enough good things in the story to make up for the bad ones? Debatable. But I guess the thing is that, while these are really big flaws there's nothing particularly harmful about them. Aside maybe from the squicky relationship between our main leads and the unusually intense "love" scenes for a YA novel, the book isn't promoting abuse or teaching anything bad to readers. It's just kinda silly. It's kind of like the book equivalent to Moulin Rouge, plot and characters are unrealistic and silly but there's nothing it that's morally incorrect or anything. It's like poetry that I don't get but can appreciate that it is, indeed poetry. (and this book really, really wants to be poetry) Now I don't know anything about Ms. Jae-Jones' life, but it just feels like that kid in Band class who wrote music that nobody appreciated or understood the genius of and wrote themselves into their favorite 80's movie. And that's okay!
One more thing and them I'm done, I promise. This book talks a crap ton about music and musical references, mostly classical, in this story. Now writing about music is nothing new but there's a bit of a problem when reading about it in this form. The reader can't hear what's not there! It talks on and on about these fantastic musical pieces that, if you're not musically inclined and know what the author is talking about, it leaves us out. I feel this thing should come with a soundtrack or something that the reader can listen to and appreciate, otherwise your just going on and on about how fantastic and beautiful and revolutionary this music that we can't hear is. Just something to think about for future writers.
I don't have guilty pleasure books...but I think I just found one. Lots of style, lots of romance, lots of angst, lots of questionable writing and yet I still ate up every word of this book. It wasn't like Need where I read it as often as possible just to be done with the wretched thing, I read it as often as I could because it was genuinely hard to put down. I know, a really up and down review but, ultimately, if this sounds like something that's up your alley, go ahead and check it out. But wait for it on paperback.
Have you read the book? What did you think? Comment below and share your thoughts. You can also look me up at goodreads.com to see what's coming up and recommend your favorite books to be reviewed here. I hope to see you there.
Next Time: Some people collect stamps, some buttons, some coins. These guys collect catalysts.