Saturday, June 21, 2014

Review - Fathomless by Jackson Pearce

Celia Reynolds is the youngest in a set of triplets and the one with the least valuable power. Anne can see the future, and Jane can see the present, but all Celia can see is the past. And the past seems so insignificant -- until Celia meets Lo.

Lo doesn't know who she is. Or who she was. Once a human, she is now almost entirely a creature of the sea -- a nymph, an ocean girl, a mermaid -- all terms too pretty for the soulless monster she knows she's becoming. Lo clings to shreds of her former self, fighting to remember her past, even as she's tempted to embrace her dark immortality.

When a handsome boy named Jude falls off a pier and into the ocean, Celia and Lo work together to rescue him from the waves. The two form a friendship, but soon they find themselves competing for Jude's affection. Lo wants more than that, though. According to the ocean girls, there's only one way for Lo to earn back her humanity. She must persuade a mortal to love her . . . and steal his soul.

Fathomless by Jackson Pearce. The lastest that I've read of her FairyTale Retellings. It's a retelling of The Little Mermaid... but not the redhaired teenager with the fish for a best friend and the crab for a babysitter.

It's a retelling of the Hans Christian Andersen version of the story. The one where she falls for the prince, but he's fallen in love with (and marries) the woman he THINKS has saved him from the storm he almost died in. The little mermaid was permitted by the sea witch to turn her tail in to legs in exchange for her voice AND with the added awfulness of EVERY step on land being excruciating pain. Her sisters barter with the sea witch for a way out. They give their hair in return for a knife that will kill the prince and allow the little mermaid to return to the sea and just forget everything, but she can't bring herself to do it.

Lo remembers that she hasn't always been Lo. But she can't remember who she was before she was Lo. She tries desperately, but to no avail. Her "sisters" explain to her that if she were able to make a human love her she could drown them and steal their soul, turning her back in to her former self. But... who is that?

Celia can see a persons past through touch. She feels pretty useless compared to her sisters because who needs to know what they've already been through... right? Until Lo. FINALLY Celia can help SOMEONE. But at what cost?

Jude. The "prince".  A handsome guitar player who fumbles and falls in to the ocean only to be pulled to shore by Lo and subsequently "rescued" by Celia. He falls for Celia, thinking all along that it was SHE who saved him from drowning. Something Celia doesn't try to correct for a while.

So... Celia feels pointless. Her sisters always tell her that they are stronger together but she never feels like she fits in. I don't know how many of you can see the entirety of a persons past with the touch of your hand, but I think it would be a pretty interesting power to have. But I guess I can kind of see her point. In the... adventures of her sisters... the past doesn't really matter. Much. So I get that. I get the whole "Woe is me, what am I doing here. What's the point?" I do. She's looking for her purpose. And until Lo comes along, she hasn't found it.

I don't know if her eagerness to help Lo is because of her desire to actually be of some use to someone, or if she truly cares about Lo. I think after a while it may be a mixture of both. And I think that Lo got more than she bargained for. They say ignorance is bliss. Lo discovers that she is Naida (Sofia Kelly's sister from Sweetly!) and thinks that the knowledge of her past can bring her nothing but good things.

But it doesn't. She puts herself through excruciating pain on a regular basis to uncover more of her past, and again, I get that part. But unless she can get someone to love her to the point where she can steal her soul, what good is it? She knows that Jude doesn't love her. And even if he did she couldn't bring herself to kill him.

I like that there are different points of view in this story. Sometimes we read from Celia, sometimes we read from Lo. And sometimes, we even get to read from Naida when she remembers who she is enough to narrate. I can't remember how many times I've read a book where I wished I could get in to another characters head but it was only told through the point of view of one person. This book switches between the 3 seamlessly and effortlessly. I never got confused as to who I was reading. Not even when Lo and Naida switched between herself? each other? Anyways.

The more I think about the original story, the more parallels I can see between it and Fathomless. I think that for the most part, this follows it's original much more closely than the other two retellings. Not that that's what makes it better, just something I noticed. However, in tying together with Sweetly in that we find out where Sofia's missing sister went, it also brings in the werewolves from Sisters Red and from Sweetly.

Like before, I was kind of disappointed to find that there was no actual sea witch. And that the "angels" all of the "old ones" spoke of were, in fact, the werewolves from the previous two stories. But I suppose for the sake of bringing the plots full circle it was necessary. It is interesting to see what a different role the "bad guys" played in stories that don't seem like they'd be related in any way.

I love retellings. and I loved this one a lot. I suppose you could read it as a stand alone, but it's more impressive if you've read the other two. Once you find out who is who and what is what it's one of those "OOOOh!" things. I definitely recommend giving it a read!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Review - Stone of Destiny by Laura Howard

Allison thought it was crazy enough when she found out her father, Liam, wasn't entirely human. But now she has to join his magical allies to unravel his former mistress's plans. Aoife wants to keep Allison's parents apart forever.

Despite Allison's efforts to keep Ethan, the only guy she's ever cared about, out of this supernatural mess, fate keeps throwing him back into the mix.

Will Allison be able to find the amulet that holds the enchantment Aoife placed on Liam and destroy it? Are Ethan' s feelings for Allison strong enough to endure the magic of the Tuatha De Danaan?
Stone of Destiny by Laura Howard is book 2 in The Danaan Trilogy.

First of all, I want to say THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for putting a pronunciation guide in the beginning of the book. It was EXTREMELY helpful (even though I still pronounced some of them wrong, haha). I don't like when I have to stumble through words or names that I don't understand or can't pronounce because they're in a different language. So having the key in the front was awesome.

Second, I am just going to say that every time I see the words Tuatha de Danaan I just picture Liv Tyler as Arwen from Lord of the Rings saying them. It just sounds like something she'd say. Is that weird? Oh well. Too late now.

Ok, so book 2. Aoife has escaped the fey globe, Allison's mother is starting to write music again, Ethan hates Allison, and it looks like Allison is going to have to travel back to Tir na Nog.

Aoife has plans for Liam though. She wants to perform a binding ceremony to keep him away from Allison's mother and Allison is terrified to lose her mother (and now her father) forever. Deaghlan is intent on messing with people, it seems just to irritate Allison. He's the all powerful fairy king and can pretty much do whatever he wants to whomever he wants whenever he wants. Allison has to constantly remind herself not to look him in the eye or else she's entirely held captive in his gaze. Liam is tired and worn out and comes to find out he has ANOTHER daughter that's been more or less hidden from him and just wants to stop Aoife before she ruins him (and as a result everyone he loves) forever.

Allison seems to have adapted well to her knew knowledge of all things magical and fantastical in this book. She's torn, though, between the fairy world and being there for the people she loves in the... real?... world. She's a daughter completely dedicated to the well being of her mother and she does what she can to be considerate to the people around her. Except the Danaan are making it difficult for her. Deaghlan has made Ethan hate her. Aoife is trying to steal her father. And now she has a sister she never knew who thought she was hated by Allison and Liam.

Ethan does come around though, thanks to Niamh. And Allison FINALLY stops trying to save him from her life and her goings on with the Danaan and lets him decide for himself whether or not he wants to be a part of it. THANK YOU. SO much. Ethan is there for Allison every step of the way, like he should have been able to be from the beginning. Dangit Allison.

I loved that I got to see the relationship between Niamh and Aodhan. They are both fiercely loyal and protective of the people who they call friends and are doing everything that they can to make right what Aoife has obliterated. In our world and in Tir na Nog.

Allison's new sister was an interesting new addition. She was like Allison's complete opposite. From personality to the way she dressed to how she grew up and how much of the Danaan was in her. But, she also grew up never knowing her real father. Or her mother for that matter. Although her mother didn't go crazy. At least, not in the way Allison's did. And she's more Danaan than Allison. Since Aoife is her mother. She can read minds which I totally wish I could do sometimes. She definitely becomes an asset to the group at the end.

These books always end with a cliff hanger and I'm SOOOOO not patient. I want to know what happens NOW! I can't stand waiting. And it figures, it ends RIGHT when I didn't want it to. If you read the first book go grab this one and give it a go. You won't be disappointed. If you love all things Fairy and fantasy go grab it and give it a go. If you like Irish Mythology give it a go! This book will appeal to so many different types of readers it's hard to say no.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Review - Sweetly by Jackson Pearce

The forest invites you in . . . but will never let you go.

As a child, Gretchen's twin sister was taken by a witch in the woods. Ever since, Gretchen and her brother, Ansel, have felt the long branches of the witch's forest threatening to make them disappear too. Years later, when their stepmother casts Gretchen and Ansel out, they find themselves in sleepy Live Oak, South Carolina. They're invited to stay with Sophia Kelly, a beautiful candy maker who molds sugary magic: coveted treats that create confidence, bravery, and passion.

Life seems idyllic, and Gretchen and Ansel gradually forget their haunted past -- until Gretchen meets handsome local outcast Samuel. He tells her the witch isn't gone -- it's lurking in the forest, preying on girls after Live Oak's infamous chocolate festival each year, and looking to make Gretchen its next victim. Gretchen is determined to stop running and start fighting back. Yet, the further she investigates the mystery of what the witch is and how it chooses its victims, the more she wonders who the real monster is.

Gretchen is certain of only one thing: a monster is coming, and it will never go away hungry.
I love Jackson Pearce's Fairy Tale Retellings. Sweetly is a retelling of the classic Hansel & Gretel. It comes complete with the candy house, "witch", and the "fattening up" of the brother while the sister wants to leave. Sort of.

There are enough similarities in the two stories to consider it a re-telling. But it is definitely a modern, YA uptake on the children's story. Gretchen had a twin sister who was taken by a "witch" in the forest when they were little. I don't believe we learn her name until almost the end of the story (if I'm even remembering correctly). Ansel falls in love with the owner of the "candy house", Chocolatier Sofia Kelly. Now, her house is not literally made of candy, but there is definitely plenty of it to go around. And... he falls in love with her.

Now, she doesn't stuff him in the oven and try to eat him, but she does plan to offer up Gretchen to the "witches" we find out from Samuel are actually werewolves. I was a tad disappointed in that. BUT, there was an actual tie in with Sisters Red so it was easy to overlook the fact that there weren't ACTUAL yellow eyed old-lady witches in the story.

The small town seems typical of small (read: TINY) towns where everyone knows everyone and they all know your business. It's also an old town with a lot of old people who, once they're pissed at you they stay that way. Which is unfortunate for Sofia Kelly.

That part did bother me, however. She seems genuinely hurt that the towns people dislike her... because they believe she had something to do with the disappearance of their daughters after her Chocolate Festival for the last few years. She's upset when there aren't as many RSVPs as she was hoping for.

But I mean... can you blame the people? She really DID have something to do with their disappearances. And in a WAY worse way than the towns people can even fathom. So, while I can kind of understand her motives behind her actions (her sister Naida who was taken before hand and is being held captive by the "witches"), I do NOT understand her butt-hurtedness at the fact that some of the people in Live Oak can't STAND her. They really do have every right to their feelings and are, in fact, justified in them.

Ansel... love sick puppy. A rock for his sister, but a drooling love sick puppy. You've got to hand it to him though... he is definitely a "Knight in Shining Armor". He wants to save Sofia and he's been saving his sister their entire lives. Almost without regard to himself. But, the fact that he's a love sick puppy blinds him to the fact that there's something not right with his precious Chocolatier.

Gretchen. She's the oldest teenager I've ever read. Forced to grow up way beyond her years with the disappearance of her sister, the death of her father, and the subsequent disowning of her step-mother. I guess you could say Ansel was too, but when I read him I just picture him falling all over Sofia. Oy. Anyways. Gretchen has PTSD and rightly so. Even being near trees gives her anxiety like you wouldn't believe. She doesn't want to disappear (metaphorically and literally). She doesn't want to feel like she doesn't exist. But she's tired of being scared all the time. So she finds Samuel and decides to take her fate in to her own hands. She starts making things happen rather than being terrified of things happening TO her. Good for Gretchen.

And Samuel. Kind of the actual hero of the story in my opinion. The one who opened Gretchen's eyes to the reality of her "witches" and helped her overcome her fear of the forest to the point where she was able to take care of herself AND make the decision to try and protect the other girls of Live Oak.

It was a good book. Again, kind of disappointed about the werewolf thing but I liked the tie-in to the other novel. If you like retellings or contemporary fantasy (whether you know Hansel & Gretel or not), I definitely suggest you give this one a read.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Review - Rosemary Opens Her Heart by Naomi King

Another spring reminds the Amish of Cedar Creek, Missouri, that for everything there is a season.

Zanna Lambright is finally marrying Jonny Ropp, and friends and family have come from far and wide to celebrate. Among them is young widow Rosemary Yutzy, mother of toddler Katie, whose husband was tragically killed last fall. With a willing heart Rosemary has taken over care of her in-law’s family and continued to run a baked goods business from home, but privately she still mourns her lost Joe...and is unprepared for the changes that are coming...

Rosemary’s father-in-law wants to merge his lamb-raising business with Matt Lambright’s—a move that will require the Yutzys to relocate from their nearby town to Cedar Creek. Moreover, it will bring Rosemary into constant contact with Matt, who is making no secret of his romantic interest in her. The challenges of contemplating a future unlike any she expected are overwhelming for Rosemary. And although Matt is strong and kind, his courtship is so persistent, she often wants to run the other way. As Rosemary struggles to see beyond her immediate joys and sorrows, will she embrace the outpouring of welcome and support from the people of Cedar Creek...and accept this new chance to open her heart to a more abundant life?
I love Naomi King's novels. Rosemary Opens Her Heart is no exception. I love her portrayal of the Amish communities and culture and the way that she spins her stories together with romance are just fantastic.

Rosemary was a bit frustrating at first. Here is this handsome kind-hearted man who is interested in her and is incredibly kind to her little girl. And here is this town full of kind-spirited Amish folk who are more than happy to welcome her into the fold. Why is she so hesitant to let people love her? Why is she so hesitant to accept that maybe, just maybe, it doesn't matter to everyone that she has a child to take care of so courting her and eventually marrying her would mean that they would accept the responsibility of a child as well?

She was frustrating... at first. But then when you remember that it's been just about a year since her husband died, you forgive her a bit. I can't imagine losing a spouse that way and if I did... I don't expect I'd really be interested in receiving affection from anyone either. I probably wouldn't be interested in moving away from the only home we'd had together and leaving behind everything that reminded me of him either. Not for a long while at least.

But Matt is persistent. And gracious. And he's full of love and has such an amazing heart that eventually he could win over even the most stubborn of women if you ask me. He's a little in your face, but I think it's just because he's young and enthusiastic. Matt knows when to appear patient (even if he's anything but) and to lay off no matter how hard it is. And in the end, persistence pays off.

Abby is the kind of person I would want as a best friend. She's so sure of everything and always seems to have an answer for everything... She's quick to offer advice to anyone who needs it or she can point you in the direction of someone who can help you if she can't do it herself. She's sweet and loyal and just seems to me like an amazing person. Silly James Graber for taking such a long time to get his act together.

Abby is the perfect friend for lonely Rosemary. She reminds Rosemary that there are people who are kind and compassionate. And she reminds her that, while she may be mourning now, there is a time to mourn and then a time to let go and let the light shine again. She goes out of her way to make sure that the Yutzys feel at home in Cedar Creek.

The book was wonderful. The characters, as always, are just lovely. Reading Naomi King's novels always makes me want to start baking pies and cookies and they make me want to figure out how to sew and make clothing. Haha. They also make me wish I knew more about the Amish lifestyle and the people in the Amish communities.

Like I said, I love her novels. Every one of them I've read. The characters become like friends and family and when you read a new book with old characters, it's like coming home. I highly suggest you read them!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Review - The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

In his first book for young adults, bestselling author Sherman Alexie tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot. Heartbreaking, funny, and beautifully written, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which is based on the author's own experiences, coupled with poignant drawings by acclaimed artist Ellen Forney, that reflect the character's art, chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one Native American boy as he attempts to break away from the life he was destined to live.
I'm going to be honest, I've had The Absoltely True Diary of a Part - Time Indian by Sherman Alexie for an incredibly long time but hadn't actually picked it up to read it yet. I DID so recently almost solely because of the most recent controversies surrounding the book being banned from certain schools due to content. It was banned for it's language, reference to masturbation, and "anti-Christian" ideas.

Junior is ostracized by the entirety of the population of the Reservation he lives on (save his own family) when he decides to go to school off the Reservation. Add that to the myriad of health problems he's faced since infancy and you've got a pretty good crap sandwich. He knows getting off the Reservation is the only way to make something of himself but he still has to go home to it every day after school and face the ridicule and the possible beatings that come with being a traitor.

I admire Junior. With all of his health issues and social issues you would think he would be rather weak. The courage it took him to leave his school on the Reservation and transfer to a school 20 miles away makes him so incredibly strong. In essence, he turned his back on his people. His friends. Well... friend. And in some opinions, his family. But they (his family) were all so incredibly supportive of him. I think that may have been the only reason he didn't collapse under the pressure of being only a "part-time Indian".

This book seemed so raw and honest and I think that scared some adults in to thinking it was not suitable reading for their students. Yes, Junior mentions masturbating, but the references are so fleeting they're negligible. And honestly, what teenage boy doesn't EVER think about it? Yes, he cusses, but again, it's nothing worse that what's heard on a regular basis in public, in some homes, and on television.

Junior feels like he's got nothing. He feels like his Reservation is a prison. You live there, you die there. You spend your life in poverty and with violence and without any expectation that you're going to become more than you are that very second. He loses more loved ones in such a short period of time than most adults can handle and come through on the other end ok. But he makes it. His family is poor, his dad is a drunk, and his sister runs away... but he makes it. He's put through the proverbial ringer and even though he's beaten and bruised he's more confident and sure of himself than he was beforehand.

The book kind of slaps you in the face with how honest it is. Junior questions things and hates things and cares about things... and the emotions that he feels just smack you in the face with how raw they are. It feels real. The look you get in to the life that he lives along with so many other people is incredibly eye-opening and sad.

It's definitely a book that will stay with me for a while. I don't think I'll be able to forget this one. You should take a look at it if you've been sitting on the fence about it. You won't be disappointed. I would, however, recommend it probably for 14 and up as there IS some bad language and mature ideas. Not because it's offensive and shouldn't be read, but simply because I don't think that anyone too young could even begin to comprehend what Junior Spirit goes through in his story.


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