Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Haunting of Sunshine Girl / The Awakening of Sunshine Girl



The Haunting of Sunshine Girl is a YA supernatural novel by Paige McKinnon. The Awakening of Sunshine Girl is it's follow-up sequel, recently released this year.

Sunshine has lived in sunny climates with her mother up until her sixteenth birthday, but now it is off to rainy, dreary Washington state. Her mom has a new job in a small little town. They move into a rather... creepy... house. She's trying to make the best of it.

But things are seriously weird.

It seems a cold breeze follows her throughout the house causing doors to slam. And she hears an eerie laughter that turns to sobs. She *knows* she is hearing it.

And where initially her mom was skeptical but noticing some things... now she is completely oblivious to supernatural acts occurring right in front of her. Clearly she needs to figure out what is going on...

Before it's too late.

Okay. That synopsis was weak. Let's all agree to this.

It was token. And the problem is... so was the book. I got 100 pages into the story and was trying very hard to get into it. Every author deserved an audience and this one will have it! It has glowing reviews and clearly quite a few readers enjoy it.

For me - Sunshine was very typical. She was clearly meant to relate to the normal YA girl audience. A little awkward around boys, nice, smart and a major book lover that quotes classics.

The move to the small town and a haunted house... it just all felt very cliche. I couldn't make it past the first 100 pages and therefore also didn't read the sequel.

I feel bad to say that - and like I said, many readers will love it.

However, in my position of reading so many books over the years - I could not devote time to reading longer into something that felt all too familiar.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Throwback Review: Where the Mountain Meets the Moon


Throwback review from June 2011!


Where the Mountain Meets the Moon is a middlegrade fantasy and Newberry Honor winner by Grace Lin.

Minli lives in the Valley of Fruitless Mountain where she sees her parents work very hard every day in the fields with very little to show for it. Her favorite part of the day is the evening when her tired but pleasant father tells Minli tales about the Valley they live in and how it became Fruitless, as well as about the Old Man of the Moon, who knows the answers to everything.

Then one day Minli decides to try and make things better for her family by setting out on a quest to find the Old Man of the Moon - knowing that he will know how to change their fortunes. So she sets out on a journey that causes her to meet a talking fish, a dragon who can't fly, a powerful king, and more!

First off, I must say that I love the vivid, eye-catching cover and illustrations that decorate this charming, sweet, earnest tale of magic and fantasy. It didn't take long at all for me to be swept away in this quest for a better life, sought after by a loving, caring young girl.

The stories told throughout Where the Mountain Meets the Moon are intelligent and provocative, interweaving seamlessly in the plot and enriching it. It's an easy, fast book to read and ready for all ages - a beauty of a book.

Grace Lin's storytelling is entrancing and enchanting, a fun journey with lots of interesting stops. It's surprisingly poignant and touching, bringing the human element of family and love into the story. Where the Mountain Meets the Moon is lyrical, lovely tale of kindness and generosity, highlighting the evils of greed and cruelty and the fruits of wisdom, compassion and thankfulness.

There are meaningful connections and plot twists that are astounding and so very sweet and heart-rending. Where the Mountain Meets the Moon is a truly magical, elegant, riveting tale that puts a new spin on Chinese folklore. It is stupendous and stunning - a simple yet powerful read!

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child - Parts One and Two


First of all, I am so sorry for two weeks off the map!! However, I am back with a BRAND NEW REVIEW. Worth waiting for, yes?!?



Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts One and Two by J. K. Rowling, John Tiffany and Jack Thorne is the script that carries on the story of Harry Potter in a new modality.

Beginning as Harry, Ginny, Ron and Hermione’s children are at the start of their Hogwarts education, Cursed Child introduces us quickly to our primary child character, Albus Severus. We had a brief meeting of him at the very end of the original series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, in which his name brought us to shuddering tears or scoffs of bewilderment of the terrible name – I was in the former category, unashamedly.

Now, though, we see that something happens in the start of young Albus’s time at Hogwarts that puts a strain on his relationship with his father, Harry. And as some initial years pass – quickly in a montage-like scene in script format – growing that resentment in a way that is disheartening and surprising.

In the meantime, Harry and Hermione both play vital roles in the ministry – Harry being the Head of Magical Law Enforcement and Hermione being the actual Minister herself. They deal with what has been a lasting peace after the defeat of Voldemort – but also whispers of a scandalous rumor.

A rumor that Voldemort has a child.

And that this child is living. Somewhere.

There are some that think they know exactly who that child is, too. They believe a time-turner must have escaped the utter destruction in Harry’s fifth year and a devoted follower of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named went back in time to make sure this would happen.

When these mutterings reach Albus and his best friend at Hogwarts, and the means of investigating further happens, Albus decides it is a perfect opportunity to correct a vital mistake he feels his father made in the past…

But is this best way to try to conquer the heavy weight of a legacy he never wanted to inherit?

Okay, so y’all know I am a HARDCORE Harry Potter fan. I love it. I’ve read the books so many times that they have become a part of me. Because of this, I like many fans, know these characters and plots through and through.

That’s why as much as I didn’t want it to be the case – Harry Potter and the Cursed Child felt much more like entertaining fan fiction than actual canon. In fact, I cannot include it in my mind as “Book Eight.”

Keep in mind, it is not a bad read. I enjoyed it as I think most fans will. But certain concepts that had been well established throughout the series get a little tweaked here, which is unsettling. Also, the script format is so very different and lacks the lovely, imaginative narrative that Rowling excelled at in the novels. It’s not meant to be a novel, and it’s not.

What it is, is an interesting concept that was never boring and certainly was a fast read. Seeing the children of our favorite protagonist’s is fun in a curious way and the twists the story take are at times quite shucking and, dare I say, eyebrow raising.

As I do not want to give anything away, I cannot go into more detail here. I will just say I do feel it is worth a read from Harry Potter fans – but I warn you to go into with a grain of salt or a preparation to not feel fully satisfied.

I am wholeheartedly excited about going to see Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them and honestly am hopeful it will be a more satisfying experience than Cursed Child, as it is not extending a plot and characters we know well and love – it’s a prequel of sorts just taking place in the same world as Harry Potter. I think it will step on less toes and be a more enjoyable experience. I hope.

But, again, still a pleasurable read and I do still recommend it – as a fan fiction type of story that is watered down from the Rowling we know and adore.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Throwback Review: Eleanor & Park

Throwback review from July 2013 - this is a memorable read.

Eleanor & Park is a YA 1980s coming-of-age novel by Rainbow Rowell.

It’s 1986 and Eleanor’s brilliantly red, curly hair makes her impossible to not see as she steps onto the school bus for the first time.

It also makes her an excellent target when you combine it with her odd, eclectic assortment of clothing and the fact that she’s brand new.

Unable to watch the horror show, Park offers her a seat by him – in urgent, angrily embarrassed undertones.

And then everything changes.

This is the moment that Eleanor and Park met their first love – each other.

I really don’t want to give more details of Eleanor & Park than that. I didn’t have more, and oh what an experience this novel was!!

I loved the slow burn to the romance – that it wasn’t attraction based but initially built on kindness, like interests, and sharing small, but significant, pieces of themselves. Startlingly authentic and genuine, I think it might be impossible for Eleanor & Park to not tug at your heartstrings.

Park is Asian and Eleanor is a chubby redhead – I liked that. It’s different. More real. Relatable.

This is a book that is truly touching, showing the epic-ness of ordinary life. It’s an emotional coming-of-age tale in 1986 – heart wrenching and refreshingly authentic in both good and bad ways.

So sad, yet at times so hopeful, Eleanor & Park highlights bullying and a terrible domestic situation, while also making you smile at the joy of first love. Bittersweet.

And – oh wow! What an end!!

Oh, I wanted more – desperately – yet I knew there was a perfection to it that I didn’t want touched.

Eleanor & Park is one that will stay with me.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Throwback Review: The Diviners

Throwback review from December 2012 - just got the sequel!

The Diviners is the first in a new YA historical supernatural series by best-selling author Libba Bray.

I am a HUGE fan of Libba Bray’s Gemma Doyle trilogy. When it comes to my foray into her contemporary fiction? Almost a completely opposite reaction. So, when I heard about The Diviners I was hesitantly excited because I hoped it would remind me more of the former, not the latter. In fact, maybe it could make me forget all about Beauty Queens.

Maybe you’re a fan of that book. That’s great! I wasn’t, sadly, at all.

What’s The Diviners about?

Seventeen-year-old Evie O’Neill is a little too much of a wild child flapper for her hometown to contain, and as much as she tries to make herself normal she never seems to be able to. And this time she’s really gotten herself into a pickle.

She has a supernatural power that’s brought her nothing but pickles so far – and this latest round of excitement led her to drunkenly declare one of the town’s most admired young men of knocking up the maid. And of course she can’t prove it without telling the truth about her ability.

So, to let the scandal die down Evie’s family ships her off to New York City, which is preferable to Evie anyway. Because New York in 1926 is bursting full of speakeasies and her pen pal bud Mabel, as well as Ziegfeld girls and dangerously attractive pickpockets.

In order to come to the city, though, she must live with her uncle Will who runs a museum and classes on the occult. He’s a bit of an odd sort, but Evie doesn’t mind him – as long as his hobbies don’t dig up her guarded secret.

But when gruesome, ritualistic murders begin to occur and Will is called for in regards to his expertise, Evie realizes that she may be able to use her power to help catch a serial killer of the worst kind.

Meanwhile, we also meet Memphis, Theta, Jericho and other characters – each with their own mysteries, hidden pasts, and difficult decisions. This is, after all, the city that never sleeps!

What none of them know is that an unspeakable evil has awakened – and they all have a part to play…

The Diviners really brings Libba Bray’s excellent story-telling to the forefront. It has a smooth, cool, spellbinding element right from the introductory chapter, as well as an innate creepiness. She presents us with a large cast of dynamic, memorable characters that are increasingly three dimensional, often funny, and always interesting. New York City in 1926 is a setting that is alive with period details and descriptions that give just enough for the imagination to flesh it out.

As you can tell, I really, really liked The Diviners!

There is a TON of suspense and edge-of-your-seat tension. As the story develops we see a truly frightening psychopath as our villain. Every once in a while the level of how disturbing Bray allows it to get goes farther than I prefer, though. As an animal lover, I really hate seeing any violence to animals in movies or books. There’s about three specific scenes that go there, which I didn’t like – but I did understand how it underscored the pure evil we’re working with. I just still prefer it not to be there… That's the one hiccup I had with A Great and Terrible Beauty as well.

However, thankfully, the characters (especially Evie’s) humor lightens the heavier, spookier aspects of The Diviners and keeps it entertaining. Plus, a slow-burn, satisfying romantic tension is welcome too! Overall, I found The Diviners to be a first-rate, awesome into to a new series that I’m enthusiastic to follow!

*I received a review copy of The Diviners from Hachette Book Group. Their generosity in no way influenced, nor sought to influence, my opinion of the novel.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Throwback Review: The True Meaning of Smekday

Throwback review from March 2015 - I remember this one like it was yesterday!!!

The True Meaning of Smekday is a middle grade sci-fi contemporary humor novel by Adam Rex.

Hoo Boy!

I think I’m in love!!!

When young Gratuity (Tip) Tucci is assigned a school five-page essay to explain the true meaning of Smekday (previously Christmas, now the day the first aliens invaded and renamed Christmas), she ends up writing a WHOLE LOT MORE than five pages.

Instead we get the full story of just what happened to Tip when she determined to find her Mom as the aliens stated that all American humans must migrate to Florida, how she joined forces with the alien J.Lo and kept track of her cat, Pig.

I can’t really imagine saying more without giving away too much laugh-out-loud goodness!

The True Meaning of Smekday is AWESOME!!!

It’s very funny – yet also has enough seriousness and legitimate emotion to have a level of care and investment in the characters to make it, well, all the more AWESOME!

I absolutely adored J.Lo – a hilarious, adorable, lovable alien that provides a hefty amount of chortling as he gives the history of his alien race, the Boov. Not to mention their interesting way of speaking English!

The True Meaning of Smekday is truly entertaining – constantly. It’s an adventure of hilarity for ALL AGES! It features a great friendship, loyalty, lots of fun, surprising twists and a perceptive and clever narrative.

A couple of snippets of ACTUAL notes I wrote as I read The True Meaning of Smekday:

“Oh my gosh!! So sweet and cute!” and “So awesome I could almost cry!!”

Yep – I loved it.

Plus, the illustrations (also by Adam Rex) are amazing!

Cannot praise it enough – a happy little bibliophile am I!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Throwback Review: The Princess in the Opal Mask

Throwback review from March 2014 - I have the sequel and have yet to read it. So exciting!!!

The Princess in the Opal Mask is a YA historical fantasy by Jenny Lundquist.

Just as with Jennifer A. Nielsen’s Ascendance Trilogy, this novel has a sense of a fairy-tale, of a fantasy, but does not actually feature any magic or enchantments. Somehow we all put it in the fantasy genre anyway; I suppose because it just has that vibe and time period sense.

Anywho, I LOVED THIS BOOK.

Let me tell you a little about it, hmm?

Princess Wilhamina, since she was introduced to the kingdom of Galandria as an infant, has always worn a mask. Over the years this has caused rumors to rampage from speculating that she must be horrendously ugly, that a look upon her face blesses others, or the one that speaks to Wilha’s deepest personal fears – that those who look upon Wilha’s face die.

Wilha herself does not know why she must always wear a mask, but she has learned to stop asking…

Elara, orphaned as a child in the crumbling village of Tulan, has spent her life becoming numb. Living with the cruel Ogden family, Elara has endured things that have left her broken off mentally from others – and no longer able to connect to the one friend she did have.

Elara desperately wants to know the truth of her identity and escape from her surroundings, and she’ll use her dagger if she has to.

As talk of war or peace between Galandria and long-time nemesis of the kingdom Kyrenica increases, Wilha and Elara unknowingly are led to meet. And when they do, everything changes.

There is a chance for both to possibly improve their futures – but there are risks.

There are choices…

When I went into The Princess in the Opal Mask, I admit it – I didn’t expect that much. That sounds terrible, but sometimes as a bibliophile you can get a little jaded.

It only took a handful pages to turn that thinking around.

Initially I was unsure of the writing quality, but then the utter hostility of Galandria’s people and the sad mystery of the princess constantly wearing a mask intrigued me and added to an edgy grit that The Princess in the Opal Mask quickly proved to have.

Then I was caught.

There is a LOT of questions and secrecy, and I have to say – it worked for me.

I liked the romantic element of both characters, and with time came to appreciate both Wilha and Elara – despite Elara’s acidity and hardness due to the life she’s endured. There was some heavy character development here, which I really, really valued.

The Princess in the Opal Mask has a ton of danger, conspiracies and intrigue going on. Mix that in with convincing bitterness, resentment and cruelty done very well and we have a plot that is sharp and stinging both on a personal and epic level.

I came to care for both Wilha and Elara and be in deep suspense as we followed their switching narrative voices. I don’t want to give anything away, so I’m being purposefully vague – but please believe me when I say it was awesome.

The Princess in the Opal Mask is engrossing, addictive, gripping and surprising. I LOVED IT!!!

Happily, there is a sequel mentioned to be released Fall 2014.

I want it ASAP!!! Hopefully you’ll feel the same.

I think you will.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Throwback Review: Shades of Grey

Throwback review from May 2015!

Shades of Grey is a dystopian satire novel by Jasper Fforde.

In a world where color perception determines the hierarchy of a Colortocracy society, what you can see is everything.

That’s why Eddie Russet is trying to secure a marriage into the powerful Oxblood family to combine his better-than-average Red perception to their aristocratic name – yet those plans are upended when he and his father are sent to the fringe town East Carmine.

Manners, rules and accepted mores in the Chromatacia seem a bit more lax in East Carmine – dangerously so. Beyond the normal fear of lethal swans and lightening, the sneaky Yellows seem sneakier than ever, the deMauve’s are angling to marry their horrid Violet to Eddie and he’s finding himself fascinated by a Grey named Jane.

Riskiest of all is the knowledge Eddie begins to gather in East Carmine – truths behind the ordered, peaceful, rule-abiding Colortocracy that shed light on its deceptions…

And it’s that innate inquisitiveness that could lead him away from a life of conformity – of career and spouse – and into trouble.

Jasper Fforde has to be one of the most imaginative authors out there right now. Seriously, what a unique, wonderfully bizarre concept!

We are introduced to a futuristic world in which everyone is, essentially, color blind. What they can see leads to where they are ranked in society – who they can marry, what jobs they can do, etc. Education, preference and love have nothing to do with it.

Plus, there is the abundance of RULES. Rules ranging from the illegality of manufacturing spoons (therefore making all spoons currently in existence a high-value, high-demand item) to the time of day you are allowed to drink Ovaltine.

Eddie is, of course, a fully immersed member of this society and we get to watch him go from embracing and believing in it to beginning to question it. He’s a likable character that cannot seem to help his curiosity, yet fears it as well.

Characters in Shades of Grey have, dare I say, colorful personalities! They burst from the pages with snappy dialogue and make the wacky world around them easier to accept – though the intricacies of Chromatacia are still confusing at times.

I loved it. It’s so absolutely different in every way. It’s hilarious, insightful, suspenseful and even a little romantic. There are supposed to be two more books – rounding out a trilogy – yet it has been six years since the release of Shades of Grey.

That’s okay. I will be patient. I am immensely interested in where this story will go – and willing to wait as long as it takes!

In the meantime, Jasper Fforde’s other novels will continue to sweep me away into a level of intelligent creativity that is not so easily found in today’s literature.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Book Spotlight: Against All Silence


The new novel AGAINST ALL SILENCE (pub date: August 23, 2016). 

The book, which is a sequel to SILENCE OF SIX from E.C. Myers, will tell the next part of Max’s story with some recurring characters from its predecessor.

E.C. Myers is the author of the Andre Norton Award–winning Fair Coin and Quantum Coin, young adult science fiction novels published by Pyr.

It’s a fun read that combines thriller with computer hacking knowledge.  It’s a little Mr. Robot.

After being a key figure in the exposing of government corruption, Max Stein has spent a quiet semester abroad in Paris, studying, staying off the Internet, and looking for his long-lost mother. But just as he is about to fly back to the United States for the holidays, trouble manages to find him once again.

Max receives a call from Penny, his on-again-off-again girlfriend who is part of the expert hacking duo DoubleThink. She wants him to meet with Ada Kiesler, a high-profile whistleblower hiding out at a foreign embassy in Berlin. Max has no interest in getting drawn into another corporate conspiracy. But when airport security suddenly detains him on suspicion of cyber-terrorism, he has little choice but to get involved. Soon Max and Penny are tangling with a new group of shadowy figures who are determined to control how the world shares its information. And some figures from Max’s past resurface, including his own mother, whose life has mirrored his own in more ways than he’d realized.

In this action-packed follow up to THE SILENCE OF SIX, Max and his hacker friends must fight to expose a corrupt corporation that has been systematically taking control of the Internet.


AGAINST ALL SILENCE
Author: E.C. Meyers
Release Date: August 23, 2016  (hardcover)
Genres: YA Thriller, Hacking/Computer Science
Synopsis: In the action-packed sequel to SILENCE OF SIX, Max Stein and his hacker friends must fight to expose a corrupt corporation that has been systematically taking control of the Internet.


PUB. DATE: August 23, 2016 / 368 pages / $13.99
ISBN: 9781945293085
PUBLISHER: Adaptive Books
B&N LINK: Here


Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Throwback Review: Persuasion

Throwback review from February 2014:

Persuasion is a classic novel (that hopefully all bibliophiles have heard of) by Jane Austen.

This was the only Austen novel I had yet to read – and I had to fix that!

Anne Elliot is seven and twenty and not yet married.

Eight years ago she had been in love. She had been engaged.

But as he was a poor, lowly Royal Navy man, her family and friends persuaded Anne to break it off with Captain Wentworth.

She is still unmarried – because she knows she will never love another man as she loved him.

When circumstances throw them together again, Anne finds it difficult to ignore the searing pain of seeing him – the look of low regard in his eyes that she has resigned herself to deserve.

And yet – is there hope?

Her heartbreak all these years later leads her to realize that her feelings are no less deep – and the persuasion that led her to give him up all those years ago could not touch her now… if he would only have her once more.

Oh wow.

It’s been a while since I’ve read Jane Austen – I seriously need to carve out some rereading time, people! – but my vivid memories of adoring her novels was reignited with Persuasion.

The amazing prose and language that is impossible to rush, improbable to imitate, takes my breath away.

There’s this universally understood tone of melancholy – no matter the fact that Persuasion was published almost two hundred years ago. Jane Austen infused this story (and all of them, let’s be frank) with such a heady sense of emotional realism – of passion and love.

Here, though, unlike her other novels – Persuasion is a story of heartbreak and strong, painful emotions. Love lost, time passed, and an older heroine. There’s a maturity and a yearning to Persuasion that swept me away.

I. Loved. It.

This is an epic love story – a beautiful novel. Fantastic, colorful, personality-filled family elements, social scenes, and the core of loneliness in our poor, solitary Anne’s soul led me to feel for her deeply.

If you haven’t yet read Persuasion – well, you need to!!!!!

Right. Now.