Ice Like Fire

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Review: I loved the first book, Snow Like Ashes, and I was psyched to read this sequel, albeit a little wary of middle book syndrome. Turns out, my suspicions were correct; this book exhibits all the symptoms of middle book syndrome: slow plot, poor character development, a focus on romance rather than politics and battle, and a slew of plot conveniences.

This sequel tracks Meira and Theron as they visit other Rythms and Seasons on a sort of political tour, but Meira and Theron are motivated by different causes and this divide threatens to split the couple. As she struggles to draw Theron to her cause, Meira also struggles to keep her powers under control and find a solution that could save not just Winter but her whole world.

In spite of the slow plot, though, I found myself speeding through the novel. Sara Raasch is a great world-builder, and that, at least, was not lost in this sequel.

Part of what slowed the plot down is the alternating perspectives. This technique is used far too often and is often an encumbrance and annoyance, splitting the plot in two and drawing it out longer. In this book, Raasch alternates chapter perspectives between Meira and Mather. While I enjoyed the Meira chapters (lots of world-building there), Mather’s chapters were often slow and more angsty, and they saw little action until the end of the novel. Moreover, the fact that Mather is voiced but Theron is not irks me (#Theira4ever).

The main characters didn’t seem to grow much aside from dealing with their growth in the first book. Raasch did, however, introduce a few side characters who seem to have the spunk and fierceness to quell our thirst for strong characters for the duration of the novel (Feige and Ceridwen come to mind).

This book also took some liberties with the magic part of the world, inventing new rules for the magic as we went and leaving several questions unanswered (why could Meira make it snow in Summer?). While the majority of the plot’s reliance on magic made sense and fit with the previous series, I was confused about some of the additions. Why exactly could the Decay infect other people? If Angra died, wouldn’t the Decay then infect the entire population rather than a select few? Perhaps I missed these details by reading quickly, but I wish Raasch would stick with clear boundaries for the magic and let the plot play out within that world rather than continuing to change the rules.

Recommendation: If you enjoyed the first book in the series, I recommend continuing with it; I have hopes that the last book (Frost Like Night) will make it all worth it. Those who enjoy angsty YA plots where love triangles triumph burden the plot (guilty pleasure, perhaps) might want to start this series just for the second book. I still stand by my opinion that Raasch is an excellent world-builder, so perhaps the book will appeal to you solely for that reason. There is a brothel scene (which the main characters find distasteful) and some violence (beheading, cutting, etc.), so this book is probably best for ages 14+.

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Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

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Rating: 4/5

Review: This was the optimal time for me to read Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs (which is an awesome name). Not only is it Friday the 13th (a notably creepy day for a notably creepy book), but I’m in the midst of researching freak shows for my thesis project (which I’m sure you’ll hear more about on Goodreads). I’ve seen a great deal of odd, even haunting black and white photographs of late, and Miss Peregrine’s seemed like something straight out of my research.

I heard about this book mostly because the movie is coming out in September. It looks like it’s taken quite a few liberties from the book, but Asa Butterfield is starring in it, and I can’t miss that. Naturally, I had to read the book first.

 

I was a little nervous about it because I read other reviews that claimed the book had little plot and was slow in the middle. I did not find this to be true. It was perhaps slow in the middle, but I didn’t see this as a negative note; I mean, what book isn’t slow in the middle? You might say the same thing about Pride and Prejudice or The Count of Monte Cristo or any other of my favorite classics. I think the book needed to be slow in the middle to give the reader a chance to take in the world Riggs built and breathe before the fast-paced ending sucked them back in.

I also believe Riggs builds a unique world. I have read other allegations that his world is too similar to that of the x-men, though you could also say the same of the Percy Jackson series or Avatar: The Last Airbender or even Harry Potter. The people-with-special-abilities-who-attend-training-school/group is a common fictional trope. It’s a popular one, too, because it’s a fantasy people want to buy into. Everyone secretly (0r not-so-secretly) wishes they had some sort of superpower and could go to a school to learn under Dumbledore or Prof. X or just make friends who could teach you. Heck, when I’m sick part of me hopes it’s something the doctors can’t identify and suddenly I’ll be able to do things I couldn’t before. But it’s always just allergies or something normal like that.

Point is, we can’t blame this book for following a fairly successful plot type. Riggs works hard to make his book unique from similar stories, ensuring that the word “peculiar” fits the sort of powers given to the children of the tale. Moreover, he builds a whole world around them, with terrifying beasts and all. Unlike the similar titles I named, Miss Peregrine’s has an unsettling tone. There are happy moments, sure, but even those are darkened with the peculiarity of the children’s powers and somber language and accompanying black-and-white images. This is not a horror tale or a thriller, per se, but it’s a story meant to bother you a while after reading it.

Several reviews have claimed the photos in the book fail to fully fit in the story. While I see where those views are coming from–some of the images of supposedly the same people, for example, seem quite different from one another–I don’t mind it. The pictures set the tone for the novel and differentiate it further from tales of similar worlds by offering a sort of proof in old photographs. It reminds me a little of magical realism, where if you don’t buy into the world of the book, you’re not going to have a good relationship with it.

Though I disagree with many of the negative remarks concerning this book, I find I cannot rate it five stars. I enjoyed the plot, the setting, the language, and the photographs, but I was disappointed in the characterization. I did not feel sympathetic towards Jacob or Emma, and I (ironically) found them to be unbelievable at times. I appreciated some of the side characters, but I wished Jacob and Emma were a little more complex, relatable, and distinctive. Perhaps I will witness their growth through the next books in the series.

Recommendation: This book had some rough language, a bit of violence, and morbid commentary (thinking of you, Enoch). It should be fine for high school students and up, but those sensitive to language and dark scenes might want to hold off a bit. It reminds me a little of the Middle School book Serafina and the Black Cloak, but for a more teenaged audience. If you enjoy reading about freak shows and oddities, you will likely enjoy this read. Fans of Bone Gap interested in a darker novel should check it out, as well. It’s pretty quick to get through, and would make a satisfyingly creepy (yet nightmare-less) Halloween read.

Rutkoski is the Real Winner in The Winner’s Kiss

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Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Review: It’s always bittersweet to read the conclusion of a series. You want to read it, to have that sense of conclusion so badly, but you’re also afraid of saying goodbye. In the short time it took me to read this novel, I was entranced yet again by the world Marie Rutkoski has built; a world I have not visited in about a year. I’m happy to say the conclusion has left me full of appreciation for Rutkoski.

Kestrel and Arin are just as brilliant as I remember them to be. Kestrel is perhaps one of the most intelligent and tactical characters I have had the pleasure of walking alongside. But she’s not me, and Rutkoski doesn’t try to make her me. That’s where so many YA novels have fallen. They’ve sacrificed their female characters’ originality in an attempt to allow them to reach the reader at their own level. But Kestrel is different than the average reader, I think. She takes risks I don’t think many of us would take. She’s not better than us or worse than us–she’s just different and I love her for that.

I also appreciate Rutkoski’s ability not get lost in the romance. As in the second book of this series, she dedicates proper time and thought to the political and doesn’t force Kestrel and Arin together. I believe the spaces between the romance are when the readers want them to be together most, and this is a plot tactic for which I applaud Rutkoski.

I would have liked to have seen more of the side characters in this novel, as I became close to several of them in the previous book but did not see much of them in this conclusion. I also felt that The Winner’s Crime was superior on a line-by-line basis. Part of what made the second book so good was that I expected little of it, but that just made my expectations higher for this conclusion. Rutkoski certainly met my expectations, but she also has a precedence of exceeding it, which this novel did not do for me.

Nonetheless, the series is brilliant and this book is a fitting conclusion to it all.

Recommendation: Those who have already picked up the first book in the series should certainly not put it down, and should read the series out to its end. I recommend it to those interested in The Hunger Games and The Throne of Glass, as Kestrel is a similarly determined, tactical young protagonist. The series is good for about 14 and up, I’d say.

The Rose Society

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Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Review: To be honest, part of me expected Marie Lu to redeem Adelina’s character from villain to hero or to keep Adelina as dark as she was in The Young Elites. I didn’t think Adelina could get much darker–but Lu managed it. By the end of the book, I felt numb from reading Adelina’s violent perspective of the world around her.

In this sequel, Adelina attempts to rise in power and take the throne with the help of her sister and a number of new elites. Her ambition leads her to conflict with old friends and new friends alike, as well as the whispers and illusions her own mind sets against her.

I love that Lu was able to remain focused on the plot rather than the romance without losing the reader’s interest. This quality alone might raise the Young Elites above Lu’s other series, Legend. The only other modern YA series I know that was able to keep its second book afloat without hugging the romance for dear life is Marie Rutkoski’s The Winner’s trilogy.

Adelina also “trembled” much less in this book than she did in the first (which was a complaint of mine on my Goodreads review of The Young Elites).

Adelina grew in this book to become one of the most powerful female characters I’ve read in YA fiction. I’m convinced that if Adelina knew Machiavelli, the two would’ve gotten along splendidly. What concerns me is that I am led to sympathize with Adelina in a way I would have never thought possible for a Machiavellian character. That’s what makes this series so complex; it attempts to show that even the most fearsome of villains can be relatable or pitiable to an extent.

Of course, it helps that Adelina’s victims are fictional; our reaction would be different if this were nonfiction.

Without giving too much away, I also think the end of this book sets the third book (The Midnight Star) up for greatness. The plot twist reveals something Lu had the foresight to set up in the first book. While my hopes are raised for the third book, I’ll have to pin my feelings about this series as a whole on how Lu concludes it all.

Recommendation: If you read The Young Elites and are debating whether the series is worth finishing–it is. The Young Elites series is original, so anyone interested in reading it should give it a shot, but fans of dark fantasy will likely appreciate it most.

The Sword of Summer (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard #1)

First off, sorry I’ve been gone so long. This is exam/project/essay season. I really do care about this blog still, but school comes first. As does the newest season of Doctor Who–but that’s over now, too.

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Rating: 4/5 stars

Review: Maybe I’m being a little harsh but, while this book is certainly a fantastic start to what looks to be a promising series, it’s not as good as The Lightening Thief. Still, Riordan makes improvements in some areas.

Take the character list. We have a blonde teen as the protagonist Magnus Chase. Then we have his friends: Hearth, who’s deaf, and Blitz, who’s–well, he doesn’t easily fit a mold. Riordan makes an effort for diversity, too, by including Samirah Al Abbas, a Muslim Valkyrie. Annabeth pops up again, too.

Some of the side characters are different from Riordan’s previous work, but Magnus has the same voice and personality as Percy Jackson and Jason Grace. Magnus says all the right things. Even though he gets himself into trouble, he manages to find a way out. He’s snarky and cheesy and loves adventure. He’s the typical hero; I’ve read a number of books in his voice before and, frankly, I’m bored with him. I think Riordan’s philosophy on this is “it’s worked well before,” but this book sounds too similar to the Percy Jackson series for my liking.

That’s not to say it’s a bad book, nor does it follow the exact same path as the previous mythical adaptations. What I think I like most about this book is the lack of romance for the main character. The fact that this is a bestselling YA page-turner without any romance is refreshing.

It’s also different because it lacks the formal “camp” setting that runs through the Percy Jackson and subsequent Heroes of Olympus series. There’s a sort of gathering place for the Norse demigods in the afterlife, but most of the book takes place on a quest. In that way, it’s a little more like the Kane Chronicles.

The book fails to live up to my usual standards for Riordan, though. The climax falls short of the suspense I want it to have. Really, the whole plot lacks tension. I wanted to see the progression of characters. The plot didn’t startle me at all–in fact, it was fairly predictable. I never bought into the whole “end of the world” scenario because I know Riordan’s not going to do that to me. I’m disappointed he didn’t take more risks with this book by putting characters at risk.

Riordan does well shaping the characters of Samirah and Heath, though. Whatever else may be afflicting this book, at least those two are solid characters, unique to the series. And even though the novel runs in the same vein as the other books in this mythical universe, the mythical universe itself is original, and it seems Riordan still has more to explore.

Recommendation: Honestly I feel too old to be reading this series still, but I appreciate the nostalgia of going back to a world I remember losing myself in throughout middle school and high school. It’s not obscene and the violence is mild. While I believe the book is best suited for middle school or upper elementary school students, those who have been exploring this world with Riordan for a while will likely still find pleasure in this novel.

A Court of Thorns and Roses

Rating: 2.5/5 stars

Review: Another book I was so ready to love–but didn’t.

Anyone who knows me knows I’m a huge fan of fairy tales. I love how everything has a purpose even if it seems completely random. I love how they can turn so quickly from romance to tragedy. I love how occasionally–not often, but occasionally–a subtly empowering female figure steps into the fray.

It’s no surprise, then, that I also love adaptations of fairy tales. And, props to Sarah J. Maas, her adaptation draws more from Jeanne-Marie LePrince de Beaumont’s Beauty and the Beast than the Disney version. When “Beauty” (Feyre) mentioned her older sisters, I squealed. That’s how excited I get when authors adapt the original stories. From the first few chapters, I was hooked. I wanted to see this strong, independent hunter girl take down the beast.

But the beast (Tamlin) didn’t need anyone to take him down. In fact, he’s the one who seems to take Feyre down, and even that doesn’t take as much work as I’d like–it’s not so hard to get a human to fall in love with you if you look like a freakin’ god.

Another YA book, another instalove story.

So the first couple hundred pages of the book is that constant “he loves me, he loves me not” questioning where the readers complain about the protagonist’s blindness. Yes, he loves you. We get it. He’s handsome, he thinks you’re beautiful, move on already. In spite of the hostilities and mystery surrounding her, Feyre allows romance to take the central theme of the plot.

And why does Tamlin constantly blame Feyre for being attractive to him? Like he can’t control himself, but he can control Feyre? He tells her “don’t ever disobey me again” and says he “can’t be held accountable for the consequences” even when the consequence is his own lust for her.

I’ve said it. This story doesn’t show love–it shows lust. Aside from one scene where Tamlin notes how easily Feyre understands him, there’s nothing more to their romance than mutual passions. More than lust, it shows the sort of dominant-subordinate roles common in abusive relationships.

And then action happens again and Lucien is amazing and Feyre’s sisters are amazing and Rhysand is amazing and Amarantha is–well, terrifying–and every character seems multi-faceted EXCEPT Feyre and Tamlin and I want to yell at this book because is it really so hard to stick to a strong, interesting female character?

Not to mention the fact that the trials and the riddle are way too predictable.

Why two and a half stars out of five, you ask? Why not lower? Like I said, the rest of the characters are amazing and complex and Maas clearly worked hard to weave the original into the adaptation. The setting is gorgeous and Maas has created yet another fascinating world for this series. I’m hopeful that the second book will focus more on the war in the plot rather than the romance, and from the way the first book ends, it looks like some of my favorite characters will play a larger role in the next book.

Recommendation: Fans of Alex Flinn and Donna Jo Napoli‘s fairy tale adaptations will likely enjoy this read.

I would recommend those interested in fairy tale adaptations to look into Marissa Meyer’s YA sci-fi Lunar Chronicles, Ruth Frances Long’s stand-alone The Treachery of Beautiful Things, or Shannon Hale’s fantasy MS series Books of Bayern instead.

Walk on Earth a Stranger: Stranger in a Good Way

My library offers a summer reading program, with different incentives for each age group. This was my brother’s first year in the teen group, where, after reading four books, he could select one book from the library’s prize stash to keep. And this year (now that I’m finally in the adult group and can no longer pick a book) they had ARCs on the shelves. And one of the ARCs was Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson, one of my favorite authors. I begged my brother to pick that book for me. Like a loving little sibling, he did.

And like a true little brother, he wouldn’t let me touch it, holding it just out of reach at all times.

He finally gave it to me last Sunday for my birthday, and, naturally, I read it soon after.

That was probably the longest backstory for a book review, but it had to be told. In any case, here are my thoughts on the YA novel.


Rating: 4/5 stars

Review: This book is very different from Carson’s Fire and Thorns series. That’s not a bad thing; it just took me a few chapters to adjust to Carson using words like “blast” and “witchy.” The novel takes place during the California Gold Rush. The protagonist, 15-year-old Leah Westfall, calls herself “witchy” because she can sense gold around her. In the time of the California Gold Rush, this is an incredibly useful talent. It should be no surprise, then, that anyone who finds out about her powers would want to use them for their own gain. So when someone takes everything away from her and attempts to control her, Leah dresses like a man and runs off to California on her own. As anyone who’s played Oregon Trail knows, Leah encounters quite a few setbacks on her journey.

One of the things I loved about the Fire and Thorns series was the unusual protagonist. While Leah Westfall is by no means usual for her time (what kind of girl can hunt and muck the stables in 1849?), she is a familiar character. The situation and fantastical elements Carson surrounds Leah in, though, are new and intriguing. No book about Western America in the 1800s has interested me as much as this one. In fact, I can’t say I’ve heard of many books at all on the subject, and certainly not any YA novels. Walk on Earth a Stranger is one of a kind in its setting and audience.

Leah may be a familiar character, but the rest of the cast are not. Jefferson, Leah’s friend from home who sets off for California shortly before her, is unpopular at school because his mother is Native American. His father is an abusive alcoholic. The Joyner family, whom Leah works for on much of the journey, is the mid-1800s version of a “white picket fence” family, but each member of the family (except Olive, who remains out of the spotlight) becomes increasingly complex as the book progresses. Reverend Lowrey is an obnoxiously religious Presbyterian pastor. The Illinois College Men are “confirmed bachelors.” The Hoffmans are German immigrants. James Boisclair is a wealthy, free African American.

The plot is a little slow, but I imagine that fits the time well. The trip to California was not a fast one. Still, the novel is indisputably faster than another book about Southerners moving to California in hope of finding wealth. Regardless of the pacing, I consider this book a page-turner.

The fantastical element of the story–Leah’s “gold-witching”–is not as central to the story as I expected. It set the plot in motion, but it doesn’t play as large a role as Elisa’s magic in Girl of Fire and Thorns. Leah’s talent does help her find others several times in the story, but I think there could be a bigger buildup of tension to her secret being revealed. My favorite kind of plot is one in which the main character keeps a secret from everyone else for so long, the reader might melt if they don’t reveal the secret soon. That might be an exaggeration, but I didn’t feel anything close to melting when Leah reveals her secret to one of the main characters. I’m glad the focus remains on history rather than fantasy, though, as I was able to learn much about the time and setting through this novel.

Recommendation: I can’t think of a way to recommend this book other than to say who might not enjoy it.

I don’t think everyone who loved Girl of Fire and Thorns will love this book. It’s for a different audience, certainly.

I also don’t believe super conservative families will enjoy the book’s take on religion. Though, truthfully, I’m from a more conservative background and I find the novel honest in this aspect. In a time where much of the church encouraged slavery and white male supremacy, I find Leah’s attitude toward Christianity completely understandable.

I also wouldn’t say this book is just for people who love the old west; Carson does well explaining the setting in an interesting way, so people unfamiliar with the historical context might enjoy it, too.

The Dead Fire of An Ember in the Ashes

Rating: 4/5 stars

Review: Sabaa Tahir’s An Ember in the Ashes is not as fiery as I expected for something that’s received so much attention.

The main draw would be for fans of ancient Roman culture and dystopian-style fantasy who can overlook a love-at-first-sight romance.

The novel follows two characters–the slave scholar Laia and the elite soldier Elias–as they struggle to escape their destinies. When Laia’s brother is taken from her, she runs. Her guilt and her desire to save him leads her to join up with the Resistance, a group of rebels who are not all they seem. Around the same time the Resistance places her as a spy in Blackcliff, the military academy Elias attends, Elias is one of four selected for the Trials, a competition to rule an empire for which he has no love. Their paths intertwine as they resist all odds to fight the Martial Empire.

I was particularly excited for this book because it was advertised as a stand-alone. Stand-alone fantasy novels (particularly in YA) are few and far between, likely because much of the first book is spent world-building.

But this is not a stand-alone book.

By Part III, I realized there was not nearly enough time for an empire to be overthrown. The first objective established–retrieving Laia’s brother–isn’t even finished in this novel. It’s no surprise to me, then, that the publishers recently announced a sequel. Why this would ever pass as a stand-alone, I don’t know.

The Martial empire is indeed an interesting world. The ancient Roman inspiration can be found in everything from the Trials and government structure to character names. Tahir clearly put a lot of work into world-building, and her efforts paid off.

I also respect the book for Tahir’s ability to juggle two speakers. It’s difficult to build an interesting plot, develop characters, and build a strong voice from two perspectives. And I appreciated having a cowardly protagonist in Laia.

While Laia’s character was realistic in her tendency to run away from a fight, Elias’s character was unrealistic in that he still had a soul. How could he not be broken after all the obstacles Blackcliff threw at him? He didn’t even have a faith of any kind to cling to. Horrible as it is, the only reason I see for him to not commit suicide in attempting to desert sooner or to not have a broken soul is for plot convenience.

And while we’re on the topic of unrealistic… I can’t buy into the romance in this novel, be it between Laia and Keenan, Laia and Elias, or Helene and Elias (yes there really are love triangles for both main characters). I’m sorry, but a scholar-scholar or elite-elite relationship makes much more sense than the scholar-elite relationship (Laia and Elias) the author seems to prefer. I mean, at least the other pairings have a chance for couple names (Laias? Elaia? Doesn’t come off as good as Kaia or Helias).

So while An Ember in the Ashes has an intriguing premise and successful use of two speakers, I cannot give it five stars because the romance feels flat to me. To be fair, the love triangles weren’t obnoxious and the love-at-first-sight romance is a personal pet peeve of mine. Perhaps this book is worse in my eyes because my expectations were so high.

Recommendation: An Ember in the Ashes contains some violence (branding, maiming, disfigurement) and rape of scholars by Masks is brought up frequently. I would recommend this series for high school students who enjoy the Geisha trilogy, The Hunger Games, and The Winner’s Curse series.

Magonia, I { } you more than [[[{{{(( ))}}}]]].

5/5 stars

Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley is poetry.

Not literally, of course. It’s prose. But if poetry could be prose, it would be Magonia. Headley pays attention not only to the words she uses, but how they look on the page. I’ve never seen a novel do that before–especially not a YA novel.

Within just a couple chapters I could tell the author is smart. She weaves historical irregularities (or, dare I say, conspiracy theories) around the fantastical world of Magonia, a civilization living in the clouds.

In the novel, 16-year-old Aza Ray, who suffers from a never-before-seen lung disease, hears a ship in the storm clouds call to her. While others chalk it up to medication-induced hallucinations, Aza and her genius best friend Jason research what the ship may be. Just as they’re on the brink of something big–in both their research and their relationship–Aza loses herself to her sickness and finds herself in a different world. A world above the clouds. A world that seems convinced she can help save it from the disaster pollution has doomed it to.

Not only does this book have a beautiful plot; it has quirky, loveable characters. The protagonist is a pessimist and I didn’t like her attitude from the start, but… she’s dying. I think a negative outlook on life fits her character well, particularly since she was in such a difficult situation. And I was able to appreciate her voice by the end of the book. My favorite character was the pi-reciting, alligator-suit-wearing inventor Jason. He’s different from any other character I’ve read in the best way possible. While I normally find that I prefer one voice over another when a story is told through multiple characters, I enjoyed reading from both Aza’s and Jason’s perspectives.

Though the novel centers on Aza and Jason, the secondary characters are also well-developed. I know very little about Aza’s sister Eli, for example, but the image of her hair cut ragged at the ends brought me to tears. And Jason’s moms (especially Eve) were defined in such a way that they clarified Jason’s character. Through a single comment about Big Bird and a story about war-mice I understood all I needed to know about Aza’s parents. Headley’s characterization brought the story to life; moreover, it did so concisely. There isn’t one scene I would cut.

The book isn’t a light read, either. It addresses a wide variety of controversial topics, namely environmental destruction, physical disabilities, mental disorders, and homosexuality. I mean, the novel is based on an early conspiracy theory.

I scrolled through other reviews on Goodreads to see why other readers may dislike this book. One reader said she couldn’t buy into the concept of bird-people. While I think Headley could have used more description of their appearance, what does it really matter? The ambiguity of this fictional race allows readers to come up with their own image of the “bird-people.” I understand that some people prefer authors to have detailed world-building rather than leave it up to the reader’s imagination, which is why I just recommend this book for those who can allow themselves to imagine and believe in another world, even if only for a little while.

The urban fantasy seems to be the only bit readers get caught up on, so I think the problem is not in the book itself, but in making its target audience a little more precise. Though the beginning may sound similar to John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, for example, I would not recommend it to the same readers, since it relies much more on fantasy and strays from the “sick girl perspective” about a quarter of the way through.

Who would I recommend it for, then? Hm. This book is so completely unlike anything else I’ve ever read, it’s difficult to identify the best audience. Age-wise, I would recommend it for high school students and above due to language and the depth of certain concepts.

All I can think to say besides that is Magonia is like if Neil Gaiman were to write Kenneth Oppel‘s Airborn from the perspective of a darker Hazel Grace. If that sounds remotely interesting to you, I recommend reading it.

PS–Apologies for my absence from this blog. I returned from college and had to train for my summer job, so my schedule’s been a bit scattered.

A Review of Serafina and the Black Cloak

I had the privilege of reading an advanced review copy for a middle school novel! Spread the word if you know anyone else looking for advanced reviewers; I love reviewing novels. Plus, free books are always nice.
Here’s my review:
Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty blends fantasy, historical fiction, mystery, and thriller.
The novel is set at the Biltmore estate in late 1800s America. When twelve year old Serafina discovers a dark secret behind the recent disappearances of local children, it’s up to her (and her unlikely friend) to figure it out.
When I say it like that, this story sounds similar to a thousand other tales I’ve read, but trust me when I say it’s not. Summarizing just isn’t my strong suit.
In addition to telling an intriguing story, the novel looks at what it means to be evil or good, teaches the values of observation and courage, and emphasizes the importance of those labeled unimportant.
I recommend the book for ages 11-14 in particular, but sensitive readers might want to wait until they’re at the end of that age group. There was no issue with language or sexuality and the violence wasn’t too graphic, though there were a couple good vs evil battles. As my 12-year-old brother put it, “It’s not scary, but it’s creepy.” That said, fans of Tim Burton especially will enjoy this novel.
Though I’m out of my recommended age group and I’m not a big fan of Tim Burton, I enjoyed this novel. Admittedly, I didn’t get into it until chapter 6, but after that chapter, I couldn’t put it down. My recommendation, then, is just a suggestion for who I think would enjoy it most.
Also, in response to the question I would have asked when I was within the recommended age group, yes, there is a bit of romance in this novel.
For those interested, the novel will be released July 15, 2015.