3 stars · fairy tale · young adult

Spelled by Betsy Schow is a fun mashup of fairytale madness

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Spelled

author : betsy schow

pages : [paperback] 345

favorite character : kato

summary :

Fairy Tale Survival Rule #32: If you find yourself at the mercy of a wicked witch, sing a romantic ballad and wait for your Prince Charming to save the day.

Yeah, no thanks. Dorthea is completely princed out. Sure being the crown princess of Emerald has its perks—like Glenda Original ball gowns and Hans Christian Louboutin heels. But a forced marriage to the brooding prince Kato is so not what Dorthea had in mind for her enchanted future.

Talk about unhappily ever after.

Trying to fix her prince problem by wishing on a (cursed) star royally backfires, leaving the kingdom in chaos and her parents stuck in some place called “Kansas.” Now it’s up to Dorthea and her pixed off prince to find the mysterious Wizard of Oz and undo the curse…before it releases the wickedest witch of all and spells The End for the world of Story.

review :

If you’re someone who doesn’t have the patience for unlikable narrators, then Spelled isn’t the one for you. If you’re like me and can put up with Dot’s shenanigans, then I think you’ll really enjoy this book.

Spelled is the first in a series about fairy tales ranging from The Wizard of Oz to Cinderella to Greek mythology. There’s a little bit of everything in here, and it’s kind of awesome that even major fairy tales will just have a minor shoutout in the background of a scene. How casually it’s all thrown together just shows how usual this is for Dot, when her entire life revolves around these magical things and the so-called ‘rules’ of story that ensure the good guys win every time. All until Dot ruins the magic holding her world together and everything about happily ever after seems to become its opposite.

Dot is forced on a wild adventure with extremely unlikely (and also kind of unlikable) companions. It’s a little strange that out of three main characters, not a single one of them is inherently pleasant. I wasn’t sure of how to feel about that at first, but this isn’t your typical fairy tale. Just like Dot is fighting to get her normal life back together, she’s also fighting the magically satisfying character growth that’s coming her way.

And the worldbuilding was excellent! I love the nods to original stories, like Dot’s magical heels. Familiar but unique, all at once. The patchwork quality of the land was great as well, because you never knew which story connected with the other and would cause more magical mayhem.

This is a very quick and fun read that doesn’t take itself too seriously. I’ll definitely be reading more of the series!

3.5/5 stars

3 stars · Fantasy · fiction · young adult

GLASS SWORD by Victoria Aveyard — are all trilogies the same nowadays?

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Glass Sword

#2

author : victoria aveyard

pages : [hardcover] 444

memorable quote :

No one is born evil, just like no one is born alone.

favorite character : shade

summary :

If there’s one thing Mare Barrow knows, it’s that she’s different.

Mare Barrow’s blood is red—the color of common folk—but her Silver ability, the power to control lightning, has turned her into a weapon that the royal court tries to control.

The crown calls her an impossibility, a fake, but as she makes her escape from Maven, the prince—the friend—who betrayed her, Mare uncovers something startling: she is not the only one of her kind.

Pursued by Maven, now a vindictive king, Mare sets out to find and recruit other Red-and-Silver fighters to join in the struggle against her oppressors.

But Mare finds herself on a deadly path, at risk of becoming exactly the kind of monster she is trying to defeat.

Will she shatter under the weight of the lives that are the cost of rebellion? Or have treachery and betrayal hardened her forever?

The electrifying next installment in the Red Queen series escalates the struggle between the growing rebel army and the blood-segregated world they’ve always known—and pits Mare against the darkness that has grown in her soul.

review :

Oh Glass Sword, how I wanted to love you!

Red Queen was the kind of book where as soon as I finished reading it, I wanted to buy a copy for myself because the one I’d been reading was from the library and I needed one for my own collection. So, when I heard Victoria Aveyard would be touring near me for the sequel, I hopped on the chance to meet her, get some signed copies, and hear her speak. It was a really fun event, and I wouldn’t mind going to one of hers again. Glass Sword sat aside for a while, waiting to be read. I finally picked it up, read about half of it, and then had to take a break because I ended up moving and forgot about it for a short while. When I picked it up again, I flew through the rest of it, but . . . Maybe it goes to show just how nonexistent the plot was, for how easily I could piece it all together again after such a long time away from the middle of the book. And I’m an exceptionally forgetful person.

Glass Sword suffers from the worst of second book in a trilogy syndrome. It’s ALL about setting up for book three and dealing with the aftermath from book one. There were some cool, world-building moments in here that I liked. Hints that we’ll get to see actual involvement from other countries and places in this world–such a rare thing in YA when these catastrophic events seem to take place in one country while all of the others casually ignore what’s going down. There are even some hints that we might find out more about what made the world come to this, Silvers ruling over the Reds, and usually in these fantasy/dystopian type stories, the world is plopped in front of us with little explanation. So if Aveyard can deal out all of this in book three, that would be awesome.

Unfortunately, I’ve pretty much decided that I’ll get book three out of the library, if I end up deciding to read it at all.

Glass Sword follows Mare as she builds up the resistance that will change everything, raise up the Reds who’ve been oppressed, and . . . Well. I’m still not entirely certain what her end goals will be. She clearly doesn’t consider Reds and Silvers equal, so it isn’t that she’s fighting for equality (even though she’s in a curiously unhealthy relationship with Cal when they snuggle when neither of them want to deal with their emotions). But she also doesn’t want to be put up as some ‘Red Queen’ to be a new ruling class of Reds. I understand that maybe she hasn’t figured it all out for herself yet, but she hasn’t really thought it through. Because we’re reading it all from her perspective, I would like to know her mind a little better, and I find it hard enough to fathom why she makes some of the decisions she does.

I really like the world of this book. I think I might like the direction in which it will be moving. I’m just not sure I’ll stick with it long enough to get to that point.

3/5 stars

3 stars · adult · Fantasy · Uncategorized

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith

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Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

author : seth grahame-smith

pages : [hardcover] 336

favorite quote :

Judge us not equally, Abraham. We may all deserve hell, but some of us deserve it sooner than others.

favorite character : henry

summary :

Indiana, 1818. Moonlight falls through the dense woods that surround a one-room cabin, where a nine-year-old Abraham Lincoln kneels at his suffering mother’s bedside. She’s been stricken with something the old-timers call “Milk Sickness.”

“My baby boy…” she whispers before dying.

Only later will the grieving Abe learn that his mother’s fatal affliction was actually the work of a vampire.

When the truth becomes known to young Lincoln, he writes in his journal, “henceforth my life shall be one of rigorous study and devotion. I shall become a master of mind and body. And this mastery shall have but one purpose…” Gifted with his legendary height, strength, and skill with an ax, Abe sets out on a path of vengeance that will lead him all the way to the White House.

While Abraham Lincoln is widely lauded for saving a Union and freeing millions of slaves, his valiant fight against the forces of the undead has remained in the shadows for hundreds of years. That is, until Seth Grahame-Smith stumbled upon The Secret Journal of Abraham Lincoln, and became the first living person to lay eyes on it in more than 140 years.

Using the journal as his guide and writing in the grand biographical style of Doris Kearns Goodwin and David McCullough, Seth has reconstructed the true life story of our greatest president for the first time-all while revealing the hidden history behind the Civil War and uncovering the role vampires played in the birth, growth, and near-death of our nation.

review :

I’ve been thinking about reading this book for a long while and, honestly, was never sure that I would actually get around to reading it. See, I always had so many other options, and so many new and more compelling books to reach for. But being temporarily moved away from all of that, with only access to a limited library and the more limited reach of whatever books aren’t currently checked out there, I chose this book because it’s one of the few titles I haven’t already read but have heard of.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter was nothing like I thought it would be. This is the first of Grahame-Smith’s books I’ve read, so I never before experienced his writing style in his retellings. It was an interesting take and better than I thought it would be. The tone is more dry historical nonfiction than sensationalized bestseller vampire lore. It reads like Grahame-Smith has really been commissioned by Henry, a vampire who’s lived for centuries, to tell the true story of Abraham Lincoln in a new historical textbook. There are even pictures included with insets that show you where Lincoln (or the vampires!) supposedly are. I liked how that added to the storybuilding with the play at realism.

Maybe it played in too well, however, because it really did bore me like an actual textbook would. There was surprisingly little vampire slaying in this Abe Lincoln biography. Although I’m not sure of how much written is historically accurate (I’m going to assume a fair part of it is, apart from the vampires and all), it was . . . dull. And demonstrates how utterly depressing it was to live in a time period where so many people died under mysterious or unexplained circumstances, not just because of vampires but because of diseases they didn’t even have a name for back then. It’s a wonder that some people managed to survive it all without losing their minds.

I’m not sure if I would pick up another book by Grahame-Smith. This book certainly shows the talent he has, but a book including vampires, to me, has to be entertaining. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter actually skimmed over most of the scenes where vampires appeared, and would refer back to action-packed events in one or two sentences rather than showing them. Actually, one of the things that annoyed me most in this book was the cheap trick of using a dream to get in an especially shocking or enrapturing scene, only to have it turn out to be a dream. That happened so often in this novel, I couldn’t even keep track of the number of times it frustrated me. At least three, maybe four or five scenes were constructed in this way.

I could certainly see the draw this book holds for the people who loved it so much but, for me, I’m now more interested to see how it would translate on screen for me because that form of media might work best with this material.

3/5 stars

 

3 stars · fiction · young adult

The Romantics by Leah Konan: Cool concept, meh execution

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The Romantics

author : leah konen

pages : [hardcover] 336

release date : november 1 2016

summary :

Perfect for fans of Lauren Myracle and Rainbow Rowell, The Romantics will charm readers of all ages. Gael Brennan is about to have his heart broken when his first big relationship crumbles on the heels of his parents’ painful separation. Love intervenes with the intention of setting things right—but she doesn’t anticipate the intrusion of her dreaded nemesis: the Rebound. Love’s plans for Gael are sidetracked by Cara, Gael’s hot-sauce-wielding “dream girl.” The more Love meddles, the further Gael drifts from the one girl who can help him mend his heart. Soon Love starts breaking all her own rules—and in order to set Gael’s fate back on course, she has to make some tough decisions about what it means to truly care.

review :

This book seemed like it was going to be so interesting because it has a unique narrator–Love. Love goes on to explain the different types of people there are out there, including romantics like main character Gael. Love explains that she can’t be in all places at once and, sometimes, when she’s distracted by putting one couple together, another will fall apart and get divorced. That’s what happens to Gael’s parents and he’s in so much pain after their separation that he wants to throw himself into love as soon as possible. Love knows that isn’t what’s best for him–somehow she can actually see what will happen in his future depending on what relationships he has.

It was kind of interesting to see a YA guy dating a “college girl”. It’s a dynamic you don’t usually see. But, based on growing up in a college town, I know the odds of this kind of romance happening aren’t so great to begin with, unless the relationship started when both parties were in high school. But that’s just a side note.

For the most part, the writing was fairly dry and forgettable. Terrible things would happen to Gael, literally in front of his parents, and it didn’t seem like they were doing much to try to help him out. It got to the point where they talked so little to Gael about important things that, of course, he started to make all the wrong assumptions about his parents and why they divorced.

For all of the build-up that happens in the book, the ending just isn’t satisfying. It comes too abruptly, after everything Gael’s been through in his various relationships, and I really wanted more. After all, Love herself has been spouting about how great this will be for Gael if he could just reach that point in life, but we get . . . nothing.

I don’t think I’ll be recommending this book, but I know there are people out there who would really enjoy it if they like contemporary romance and want the experience of a unique narrator.

3/5 stars

 

3 stars · fiction · science fiction

Marvel-ous Mondays: X-Men: Civil War

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X-Men: Civil War

author : david hine

illustrator : aaron lopresti

pages : [paperback] 112

summary :

Enough is enough. The tension between the X-Men, the 198 and the O*N*E* has finally reached breaking point. As Civil War rips apart the Marvel Universe, the X-Men also find themselves crumbling from the inside out. Will they admit defeat, or will they finally start to fight back.

review :

This book wasn’t that great for me. I’m new to the Marvel comics, really new to all X-Men who weren’t featured in the movies. I wanted to read this comic because it’s in the Civil War timespan and I’ve slowly been working through all of those comics. Unfortunately this just didn’t work for me.

It was boring, mostly because it made no attempt to explain what was going on. I understand that there weren’t clear sides in this conflict. Everyone is always changing their mind about whether they support the hero registration act, which is good, because it’s kind of a big decision that they shouldn’t be taking lightly. But there were also personal vendettas in here, and divisions among the mutants, and none of them were ever explained. You just kind of have to go with it.

There were also two issues included at the back of this volume on Mutant Town that were included, I think, because they briefly mentioned the registration act. But, taken out of context, they don’t really make much sense. I had no idea who these mutants were, what their abilities were, why they were all angry with each other . . . And after struggling so much through the more closely tied to Civil War I wasn’t really prepared to muddle through these two issues.

I’d recommend this volume only if you’re really familiar with the X-Men universe and everything that’s been going on in it. Otherwise, by itself, it doesn’t stand as a good volume.

3/5 stars

 

3 stars · science fiction · series

Rocket Girl was a very interested if cliched graphic novel

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Rocket Girl Volume 1: Times Squared

author : brandon montclare

artist: amy reeder

pages : [paperback] 120

favorite character : annie

summary :

The NYTPD sent her to 1986 New York City to investigate the Quintum Mechanics megacorporation for Crimes Against Time. Piecing together the clues, Dayoung Johansson discovers the “Future” she calls home–a high-tech alternate reality version of 2013–shouldn’t exist at all!

review :

I picked this volume up from the library because the concept seemed pretty interesting. Even though it’s based on a few science fiction tropes (traveling back in time to save the future, corrupt government, companies taking over seemingly the entire future) there were some interesting and unique concepts in here.

Rocket Girl, aka DaYoung Johansson, is sent back to 1986. Nevermind the amount of technological advances that would have to happen between then and 2013 to not only make this tech but DaYoung’s future possible, it’s interesting. She’s a police officer? For some reason the NYPD decided that teenagers are more trustworthy (a terrible idea, really) and that they should really run the show when it comes to cops. Once you’re 20, you bounce out of the New York Teen Police Department and basically aim for a job in private security. Nothing bad could come of that, right?

It was cool to have the comic set in the 1980s. The hair, the fashion, the atmosphere of NYC. It’s all seen sort of from DaYoung’s perspective, as she zips around the city in her jetpack. The only thing is, for all of the metal commentary done by her (and there’s TONS of interior monologue) she never really comments on the past other than to go on about how there’s no wonder it’s a terrible place because all of the cops are old. It would have been fun to see her showing Annie (a scientist who houses her after DaYoung arrives in the past) future tech, or commenting on Annie’s wardrobe, or . . her reaction to any of this, really, because DaYoung had no prep whatsoever for going to the past. And being stuck there where she won’t even blend in.

To expand more on my thoughts about her interior monologues, there was too much of it for how little we get from it. I would need to read each set of pages twice, once for the actual dialogue of the scenes and again for all of the thoughts in her head because she’d only think a word per panel at some points. Bouncing back and forth between her thoughts and the actual action would have been way too confusing and I would have ended up missing a lot. In the end I was still frustrated because it really lifted me out of the story.

I did like that there were some twists that make me feel like these comics will be even better if these ideas are expanded upon in the future. Other people follow DaYoung to the past. DaYoung seems like she’s finally going to try to blend into society, which would be funny and show a lot about her version of 2013. There are a few other things that I’d prefer not to spoil, if you’re interested in reading this collection. Overall, there’s so much potential. It’s just off to a little bit of a rocky start.

3/5 stars

 

3 stars · science fiction · series

The Woods: The Arrow, a very gruesome and gory graphic novel

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The Woods, Vol 1: The Arrow

author : james tynion iv & michael dialynas

pages : [paperback] 128

summary :

WHY WE LOVE IT: As fans of James Tynion IV’s work in the Batman universe (BATMAN ETERNAL, RED HOOD AND THE OUTLAWS), we were eager to publish his first original comic series. THE WOODS gives us that same eerie, smalltown horror feel we get whenever we read a Stephen King novel.

WHY YOU’LL LOVE IT: James Tynion IV is a former protege of BATMAN writer Scott Snyder, so you know he’s learned a lot about how to craft a compelling tale. If you’re fan of teen conspiracy comics like Morning Glories, Sheltered, and Revival, you’ll immediately be sucked into THE WOODS.

WHAT IT’S ABOUT: On October 16, 2013, 437 students, 52 teachers, and 24 additional staff from Bay Point Preparatory High School in suburban Milwaukee, WI vanished without a trace. Countless light years away, far outside the bounds of the charted universe, 513 people find themselves in the middle of an ancient, primordial wilderness. Where are they? Why are they there? The answers will prove stranger than anyone could possibly imagine.

Collects issues 1 to 4 of the critically acclaimed series.

review :

I picked up this volume on a whim when I was browsing the graphic novel section of my library. The concept seemed interesting and I liked the way that the artwork is done, so I decided to give it a shot. While this wasn’t my favorite, there was definitely enough intrigue here to get my interest.

This at first reminded me of the Quarantine books, because it’s an isolated high school and kind of shows how teens will begin to build their own society (or crumble under the pressure) when they’re removed from everything they know and find familiar and are faced with a deadly situation. Except in this case, we also have the faculty and principal struggling to decide what to do with the student body now that the entire high school has somehow been transported to an alien moon. As can be expected, nothing is going to go smoothly. Especially when the moon’s inhabitants are lethal.

While I liked the slow build to these issues, where a little more information is teased out in each chapter, there was never quite enough. I was still looking for the original thing that was going to happen here, what would make this series really stand out. I think that I’m still looking for it, even among all the high school drama and nightmarish creatures. Maybe a lot of it is the unnecessary gore? The shock factor wasn’t enough to really impress me.

I do like that there seems to be some kind of underlying conspiracy here that we’ll find out more about, eventually. I know that there are at least four more volumes to come after this, so I hope that the anticipation isn’t built up too much and that the revelations start coming. I’m intrigued enough to immediately reserve volume two, mostly because I’m hoping for more. Particularly because some of the main characters are being mysteriously vague and frustrating. And when the character who’s an asshole starts to seem to know more than anyone else, that’s when I have to begin to worry.

Overall, I liked this volume. It was a super quick read. But it wasn’t anything to rave over, and I’m hoping the next volumes really pick up the spooky conspiracy/alien atmosphere introduced here!

3/5 stars