Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Book review: The Silver Mask by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

Book Summary
A generation ago, Constantine Madden came close to achieving what no magician had ever achieved: the ability to bring back the dead. He didn't succeed . . . but he did find a way to keep himself alive, inside a young child named Callum Hunt. Now Call is one of the most feared and reviled students in the history of the Magisterium, thought to be responsible for a devastating death and an ever-present threat of war. As a result, Call has been imprisoned and interrogated. Everyone wants to know what Constantine was up to-and how he lives on. But Call has no idea. It is only when he's broken out of prison that the full potential of Constantine's plan is suddenly in his hands . . . and he must decide what to do with his power. In this spellbinding fourth book of Magisterium, bestselling authors Holly Black and Cassandra Clare take us beyond the realm of the living and into the dangers of the dead.

Flo's Review
So, true to Holly Black and Cassie Clare style, the Magisterium book #3 left us with a devastating ending. Book 4 starts us about 6 months after the events at the end of the last book. Call is still gauging his thoughts and actions based on if they will put him in the Evil Overlord category  Unfortunately, there may be more mages who believe him to be an Evil Overlord than who do not. 

Romance starts to brew and it's middle grade romance, so it's just cute. I think it might largely be based on the circumstances the two characters find themselves in, but it was a fun way to bring some levity into what could be a pretty heavy story. Speaking of levity -- Jasper for the win! I laughed every time he complained to Call about Celia, but I also found myself surprisingly touched (as Call was) by a confession that he makes in the book.                                    

The comparisons of this series to Harry Potter are inevitable, and I feel this book is akin to The Order of the Phoenix.  Phoenix, to me, is when I felt things started to get really dark really fast, and Master Joseph and Alex Strike took it to that level here. 

Of course, I have to discuss the ending. (Of course, I will do so in a spoiler-free way.) So, there was something good followed by something really, really bad. I think the next book will be the last book in the series, so it will hopefully answer the unanswered questions that Call pondered about himself, his abilities, Constantine Madden's actions, chaos magic, and more in this book. The dynamic between the characters has changed again, so I wonder what that will mean for the romance. I do hope it's addressed.

I listened to this one on audiobook and absolutely loved it! I popped it into my CD player after a bad experience with another audiobook, and it was exactly what I needed. The reader did a great job of reading well the pacing that kept the story moving. I never felt stuck in the plot. And it went by so fast! The only thing that threw me -- and this is a little thing -- is the way he pronounced Callum's name. I have been reading it as Cal, rhyming with Al. But he read it as Call, pronounced like "phone call." Who knew?! But overall, if you like audiobooks and you like this series, then The Silver Mask audiobook is the way to go.

Thank you to Books on Tape for sending me a copy of this audiobook in exchange for my honest review.

Our other reviews of the Magisterium series:

The Iron Trial:

The Bronze Key

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

Book Summary
Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis.

Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.

Flo's Review
Well, I just flew through that one! But, I mean, it's a John Green book, so not surprising. Actually, it did take a little bit to get into at first. I'd forgotten about John Green's style of writing, where you are intimately learning the characters more so than following an action-packed plot. But there was so much to love about Turtles. I'll probably be more articulate if I go with list form, so here we go:

1. The portrayal of mental illness: This is something I cannot relate with, but while reading this book I could understand how it happened for Aza. John Green did such a good job going into her mind, that I could clearly understand how the thought spirals worked and how she ended up where she was every time. It will be interesting to see if they try to make a movie out of this one, though, because so much of it takes place in Aza's thoughts. I'm not sure how that would translate on-screen.

2. It reminded me of The Fault in Our Stars: It did. Davis and Aza are both introspective characters, like Augustus and Hazel. Both couples are broken individuals who find their way to each other and are learning how to be broken together. The dynamics of how the two couples found each other aren't similar, but at the same time they are. I absolutely see this as its own distinct story, but it did remind me of Fault, and I was okay with that. It gave me a similar feeling.

3. The ending: I'll be spoiler free, but I will say that the ending wasn't necessarily happy or sad. It was just real. It was just life. At the end of the period, everything does not tie up with a perfect bow and all the loose ends cut off. Because people go on living, continue with all the parts of their lives. And that's how this ended. The story "ended," but it didn't close. It became part of the continuing life of the characters. Some might have even found it anti-climactic, but I liked the realness and the honesty of it.

4. Daisy: What did you guys think about Daisy? I'm trying to decide. I didn't necessarily like her? I see how she is a good friend for Aza, because she is "out there" and Aza is internal. So she makes sense. But nothing really attracted me to her character. I guess in order for the story to start, though, you needed an impetus, and Aza wasn't in a place where it could have been her. So it had to be Daisy. Like I said, I understand Daisy's role in the plot, but I just wasn't enamored by her character. Thoughts??

Overall, Turtles is another signature John Green masterpiece and I enjoyed reading it. 

Book review: Across Oceans by Kelsey Gietl

Book Summary
Tragedy, unrelenting guilt, and hostile hallucinations of his dearly departed sister — that’s just typical life for Reuben Radford. 

That is until one atypical May Day. In the most unlikely of places — the cemetery of their quiet Hampshire town — Reuben meets Maggie Archer. Quirky and spontaneous, she’s like no other woman he’s ever met. By the time they part ways, in a promise not to meet again for a year, he knows she could be the love of his life.

There’s just one problem. Reuben and Maggie’s families have left them both with enough emotional baggage to fill a steamship. 

Not to mention one other little complication. Reuben has a secret. It’s not pleasant. It’s not pretty. And it’s one he’s determined to keep buried at all costs.

But if there’s one word to describe Maggie, it’s headstrong. Once she resolves to uncover the truth, she’ll stop at nothing to find it. After all, what does she have to lose? Unlike Reuben, Maggie never believed in love.

Spanning five years of England's Edwardian era, Across Oceans is the captivating story of first love, lost innocence, and the unexpected moments that change everything.

Flo's Review
Across Oceans tells the love story of Reuben Radford and Maggie Archer. It will be a delight for those who love historical fiction. I actually really enjoyed reading the Author's Note at the end of the book as she talked a bit about what was real, what was made up, and the inspiration behind the story.

I also enjoyed reading about everything surrounding the May Day festivities in a couple of the towns where this story took place. And when I first saw the name of a well-known ship mentioned, my heart started pounding faster as I debated the implications of what this could mean for the story.

Reuben and Maggie both have issues. It's understandable, based on the hand that life has dealt them both, but if I got a penny for every time I was screaming in my head for Maggie to be reasonable and for Reuben to not go down a dark path in his thoughts, I would have no voice. The banter between Maggie and Reuben was mostly fun, though when they tended to have the same conversation over and over (as commitment-phones might do), I rolled my eyes and was ready to move on.

I adored Tena and Charles! They are adorable both individually and together. They are perfect best friends for Maggie and Reuben, and they are perfect for each other. They did a great job of being foils for the main characters -- while Maggie worried about being trapped in marriage, Tena embraced it without hesitation. While Reuben worried that people would think him crazy if they knew his secrets, Charles wanted to be open about his relationship with Tena and never turned his back on Reuben. 

The story ended not so much on a cliffhanger, but on a question. Same effect though. I'm all kinds of curious about the answer to the question left in the air. 

Thank you to the author for providing me a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Book review: Kindred Spirits by Rainbow Rowell

Book Summary
'Everybody likes everything these days. The whole world is a nerd.'
'Are you mad because other people like Star Wars? Are you mad because people like me like Star Wars?' 

If you broke Elena's heart, Star Wars would spill out. So when she decides to queue outside her local cinema to see the new movie, she's expecting a celebration with crowds of people who love Han, Luke and Leia just as much as she does. What she's not expecting is to be last in a line of only three people; to have to pee into a collectible Star Wars soda cup behind a dumpster or to meet that unlikely someone who just might truly understand the way she feels. Kindred Spirits is an engaging short story by Rainbow Rowell, author of the bestselling Eleanor & Park, Fangirl and Carry On, and is part of a handful of selected short reads specially produced for World Book Day.

Flo's Review
I've been reading this 96 page book for months. That's because it was my purse book. Do you have one of those, ladies? The wise Lemony Snicket once said, "Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them." You never know when you're going to end up in a situation where you have much more time to kill than you planned. I always try to have a book. In a larger purse, most regular sized books will fit. But in my small crossbody bags, I had to carry something tiny. Enter Kindred Spirits!

This was such a cute little story, and I've been reading it at the right time. As you might have recently seen on the blog, I'm going through a phase of reading books about finding love at cons. This is not exactly that story, but it's pretty close. Elena and Gabe were fun to read. And so was Troy! I understood the nerdiness, the idea of fun that comes with camping out, the having to pee when you're sleeping outside in a line...I've been there. This book might me smile and nod and laugh. It won't take most of you several months to read -- in fact, it might only take you several hours, if that. So I definitely recommend you give yourself the slight detour of your current read and take this one in.