Review of Isabella and the Slipper by Victorine E. Lieske

Isabella and the Slipper
By Victorine E. Lieske

Star Rating: 
Genre: Young Adult Fairy Tale Retelling
Number of Pages: 327

Date Started: January 7, 2018
Date Finished: January 7, 2018

Synopsis: (From Amazon)
When Isabella accidentally switches phones with Chase Hawkins, the hottest guy in school, she finds herself making an unexpected connection with her secret crush. There’s only one problem: her awful stepmother and two horrible stepsisters would freak out if they knew. Plus, she’s sure Chase will run if he finds out he’s been texting the school nobody. But things get interesting when he gets paired up with her in physics class. Will it blow her cover?

Review:
When I first started this book, I thought of A Cinderella Story starring Hilary Duff. In some ways, this book is similar, but this book has great connection and depth. What made this book truly stand out is that while Isabella might be in an unfortunate situation, she still is a talented and bright individual with many people who care about her. I absolutely love her talent, and the way that the author continually mentions how important it is to her.

There’s little I dislike about Chase or Isabella. I found that they were both believable young adults, not fitting in, trying to do what’s expected of them and trying to find their way in the world. This is one of the best modern day Cinderella retellings and I’d definitely recommend it for anyone to read (though if you haven’t seen A Cinderella Story, go watch that).

It’s sweet, and it goes really quickly– it’s hard to put down! Give it a read.

Author Biography: (From Amazon)
Victorine enjoys commercial success through her writing, thanks in part to her ability to analyze and adapt to the constantly changing trends in today’s publishing environment. She self-published her first book, Not What She Seems, in April of 2010. In March of 2011, Not What She Seems began its 6 week run on The New York Times best selling eBook list. By May 2011 she had sold over 100,000 copies. Victorine’s first romantic comedy novel hit the USA Today Best selling books list in January 2015.

Victorine has also helped countless other authors through her involvement and outreach as immediate past president of the Nebraska Writers Guild. She is active in many writing groups and forums and has given dozens of interviews for TV, radio and print media and has been a panel member and keynote speaker at several major events, including The Business of Writing International Summit. Her candor as a blogger and guest has made her a favorite with audiences worldwide. Victorine also served as a judge for the 2015 Whitney Awards. Because of her selfless service to fellow authors through assistance with critiquing, beta reading and graphic design, she was chosen as the inaugural recipient of the CIR Strong Award, named for late Clean Indie Reads forum member Jessica Strong.

Victorine and her husband have raised their four children in Nebraska. Victorine also does graphic design work in the publishing industry.

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Review of Making Bad Choices by Rita Stradling

Making Bad Choices
By Rita Stradling

Star Rating: 
Genre: Young Adult
Number of Pages: 406

Date Started: January 5, 2018
Date Finished: January 7, 2018

Synopsis: (From Amazon)
Culter Fuller came back into my life on the day my mother died.

We’d hated each other since childhood. Well, I hated him, and I thought the feeling was mutual. Then when I moved to my dad’s house to finish my last semester of high school, we went from being bitter enemies to . . . something else. He was suddenly everywhere, occupying my space and filling me with thoughts I knew were wrong.

I knew that soon we would cross a line that should never be crossed, a line with very serious consequences.

Because Culter wasn’t just any irresistible boy, Culter Fuller was my stepbrother.
But I have always been very bad at making the right choices.

Review:
There was such hope and potential for this book! So very much of this story fell flat. It was as if the author had an idea but didn’t completely develop it. The characters were flat and one dimensional, the relationships completely loopy. The wording was absolutely atrocious with multiple instances of sentence structure that just doesn’t make sense at all–whether reading or in speech.

Cassie is moving from L.A. to Colorado because her mother died of cancer. She is grieving and misses her–which she should do. However, there was no depth to this and everything felt somewhat ill-conceived. Her friends in L.A. were at the funeral, and we get small snippets of memories of things she did with them, but not once during the entire book when she moves do they contact her or she them.

There is no build up for the relationship between Culter and Cassie. They’re there together, and while there might be some jabs back and forth, there’s nothing preventing them from talking or doing anything together. In essence, while Cassie worries intensely about their “secret” becoming out in the open, there’s really no risk to it–nothing’s at stake, nothing happens.

The drama with her father and Tyler could be seen from the beginning, and it was in no way a surprise, though perhaps his lack of stepping up might be. This also goes for Culter and her father’s relationship– supposedly they don’t get along, but there is never any depth shown to this except the two avoiding each other.

Stradling’s Colorless was a much better developed story, and one I would recommend over this.

If these are topics that are intriguing, that of death/dying and a teen having to deal with it (especially from cancer) I instead recommend the books The Silver Kiss by Annette Curtis Clause and Six Months to Live by Lurlene Daniels.

If one is really into stepsibling romance (and are looking for a romance novel, NOT YA) I would recommend Stepbrother Dearest by Penelope Ward. In some ways, Making Bad Choices seems inspired by this novel, though I Ward’s story is well developed and has a depth that Making Bad Choices doesn’t have.

Author Biography: (From Amazon)
Rita Stradling is the author of The Deception Dance series, the Dakota Kekoa series and The Fourteen Day Soul Detox Novella Serial. She has a BA in Art History and a particular love for modern and medieval art.

Rita lives with her husband and son in Northern California.

She has an insatiable novel addiction and mostly reads young adult and adult: romance, paranormal, urban fantasy and high fantasy.

**Updated with proper author info!

Review of A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas

A Court of Wings and Ruin
A Court of Thorns and Roses book 3
By Sarah J. Maas

Star Rating: 
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy/Historical
Number of Pages: 720

Date Started: December 30, 2017
Date Finished: January 4, 2018

Synopsis: (From Amazon)
Feyre has returned to the Spring Court, determined to gather information on Tamlin’s maneuverings and the invading king threatening to bring Prythian to its knees. But to do so she must play a deadly game of deceit-and one slip may spell doom not only for Feyre, but for her world as well.

As war bears down upon them all, Feyre must decide who to trust amongst the dazzling and lethal High Lords-and hunt for allies in unexpected places.

Review:
I thought that showing what happens to one’s psyche during war was well done. There were changes that Feyre didn’t expect, feelings and sights that one cannot simply forget about.

Unfortunately, this book had slow pacing, and while that may be true with getting ready for a war, it made it quite hard to read because it didn’t flow nearly as well together as the first two in the series–it was a completely different type of story/vibe, and it threw me.

Definitely still saying this book isn’t really Young Adult, but New Adult given the copious amounts of intimacy.

There were a few times that I teared up during this one. The ending was decent, and I do want to read the continued stories in the series. I do hope, however, that the characters do not continue to dull simply because they are now at peace. A lot of fire and passion was lost in this book, and while it might be due to worries and time constraints from the war, I hope to see that fire return in any future showings.

Author Biography: (From Amazon)
Sarah J. Maas is the #1 New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Throne of Glass series, as well as A Court of Thorns and Roses and A Court of Mist and Fury. A New York native, Sarah currently lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and dog.

Tidings for the New Year

Wow, this past year has been insane! I’ve read more than I recall doing before, surpassing my total of 2016 and 2015 by a large portion. I am quite pleased with the amount of books I have read, though I do wish there had been a bit more quality.

My end of the year total was 102 books!

Of those 102 books, I’m going to recommend the ones who have stuck out most to me, without me having to go back and go through the log of what I have read. Without further adieu, my reading recommendations from 2017 are as follows:

A Court of Thorns and Roses
Starting with the last series I’ve read first, I was enamored with this series from the first book, and that love has only continued as I read the second book, and am entrenched in the third. While this particular book could be considered a retelling of my absolute favourite fairy tale and is by far my favourite fairy tale retelling, this story in no way NEEDS to be considered a retelling to be enjoyable. It completely stands alone, and is a fantastic story and the beginning of a trilogy I’m certain will be beloved for many as it is for me.

Something Strange and Deadly
This book has a bit of everything. It’s in Victorian times, there are steampunk elements, and there are zombies. There’s intrigue and passion and the desire to stay in society’s good graces even when society hasn’t been kind. In essence: it’s wonderful. There’s magic and darkness and the need to keep one’s ambitions and goals always at the forefront of one’s mind. This book is the beginning of a trilogy, and I would recommend it and also recommend you have all three books ready because waiting when you finish one is torture (I know, I had to wait until I bought the third when I had already gotten the first and second).

Slouch Witch
Another first in a series, I absolutely adored the book series Slouch Witch. Not only do we have an unlikely heroine, but we learn that appearances can be deceiving, and that even in the magical world, who you know and are connected to matters. Through a mistake the cab driver Ivy ends up working on solving a mystery with a high ranking magical employee– and it’s quickly realized that just because she’s lazy, doesn’t mean she’s dumb or inept. I absolutely love this book and am so very glad that a good friend recommended it to me.

The Apothecary’s Poison and The Magician’s Diary
Books 3 and 4 in the Glass and Steele series by C. J. Archer. I recommend starting with the first book in the series– The Watchmaker’s Daughter, and going from there. Archer writes well, and the books are mysteries that aren’t so easily figured out, and sometimes not in time.

Vow of Deception
What was supposed to be the 9th and final book in The Ministry of Curiosities series– what can I say other than this is amazing, and you really should read this series starting with the first book, The Last Necromancer. The series follows Charlie, a necromancer, and Lincoln, the head of a mysterious organization.

Honorable Mention in order of most currently read:
Colorless by Rita Stradling
The Four Kingdoms and  Beyond the Four Kingdoms books by Melanie Cellier
Beauty and the Beast and Zarina and the Djinn by Vivienne Savage *These are Fairy Tale Retelling Romance
Fairy Tale Adventures series by A. G. Marshall
Cinder and Ella by Kelly Oram
The Wizard Heir series by Cinda Williams Chima

 

Review of A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

A Court of Mist and Fury
A Court of Thorns and Roses book 2
By Sarah J. Maas

Star Rating: 
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy/Historical
Number of Pages: 640

Date Started: December 28, 2017
Date Finished: December 30, 2017

Synopsis: (From Amazon)
Feyre survived Amarantha’s clutches to return to the Spring Court–but at a steep cost. Though she now has the powers of the High Fae, her heart remains human, and it can’t forget the terrible deeds she performed to save Tamlin’s people.

Nor has Feyre forgotten her bargain with Rhysand, High Lord of the feared Night Court. As Feyre navigates its dark web of politics, passion, and dazzling power, a greater evil looms–and she might be key to stopping it. But only if she can harness her harrowing gifts, heal her fractured soul, and decide how she wishes to shape her future–and the future of a world cleaved in two.

Review:
Things change. I think that’s the most important lesson in life and love that anyone can get. When things change in one person’s life, the other in a relationship must be willing to adapt and change as well. Sometimes things don’t work out, but relationships always have to be a give and take– as Feyre learns.

The depth of characters is expanded upon as we are introduced into more people, and learn that there is usually more to a person than an acquaintance would know and understand, and that rumours and gossip are not always true. But Feyre, Feyre is growing and changing and while she wants stability, she also wants to DO something, to have a purpose– for as a wise man once told me, life isn’t worth living if it’s stagnant.

The selflessness of some characters, in being so connected and invested, yet allowing others to do what would make them happy, was an excellent contrast to how some may not necessarily truly love a person but the idea of a person–what they represent, what they wanted/expected them to be, but not necessarily who they are.

Needless to say, this book was tremendous, and I’m well into the third at the time of writing this review. Read this series– it’s by far my favourite new series I’ve read in 2017.

Author Biography: (From Amazon)
Sarah J. Maas is the #1 New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Throne of Glass series, as well as A Court of Thorns and Roses and A Court of Mist and Fury. A New York native, Sarah currently lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and dog.

Review of A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

A Court of Thorns and Roses
A Court of Thorns and Roses book 1
By Sarah J. Maas

Star Rating: 
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy/Historical
Number of Pages: 432

Date Started: December 27, 2017
Date Finished: December 28, 2017

Synopsis: (From Amazon)
When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin–one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.

As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she’s been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow over the faerie lands is growing, and Feyre must find a way to stop it . . . or doom Tamlin–and his world–forever.

Review:
My copy of this book was a gift to me from a dear friend, Maria Picone. She’s awesome, and if you have the chance, feel free to check out her website here.

It took me a bit to get into this story, but once I was finished with the first chapter, I found it impossible to put down. During the first chapter, I worried. I worried that Feyre was going to be a Katniss. There’s something for everyone in this novel, and from the beginning I understood that this particular novel is, while not marketed as, a retelling of my favourite fairy tale of all time (which if you haven’t figured it out by now, shame on you!) but moreso, this novel in no way needed to rely on the original story it likely originated from, completely able to stand on its own. If Maria hadn’t recommended this to me after reading it, I’d really have to reconsider how well she knows me.

In so many stories there is an insta-romance, but with Feyre and Tamlin, it happened so slowly and gradually that it took me by surprise when Feyre realized her feelings had changed. I found myself thinking back on their interactions, on why they might have developed feelings for each other, and was pleasantly pleased with what had transpired. While Feyre and Tamlin are the main protagonists, I did enjoy the various other characters as well, and their relationships with Feyre. While Feyre is important, I liked that not everyone treated her nicely/with respect.

This book is listed as Young Adult but I’d say it’s more New Adult.

Such a depth and difference from any other fairy tale retelling I’ve read, having the faerie politic background, festivities, and interests not usually integral to most fairy tales, that it was impossible to not love this novel.

I regret waiting so long to read this amazing book, but when someone gives you a book, it has power. It has the power to either bring you closer together, or wonder if you know each other as well as you thought. This one was the perfect mark, and I can’t wait to devour the rest in the series. Thank you, Maria!

Oh, and as for the riddle… my original guess was wrong.

Author Biography: (From Amazon)
Sarah J. Maas is the #1 New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Throne of Glass series, as well as A Court of Thorns and Roses and A Court of Mist and Fury. A New York native, Sarah currently lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and dog.

Review of Colorless by Rita Stradling

Colorless
By Rita Stradling

Star Rating: 
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy/Historical
Number of Pages: 452

Date Started: December 26, 2017
Date Finished: December 27, 2017

Synopsis: (From Amazon)
In Domengrad, there are rules all must live by: Fear the Gods. Worship the Magicians. Forsake the Iconoclasts.

To Annabelle Klein, the rules laid down by the Magicians are the mere ramblings of stuffy old men. As far as she’s concerned, the historic Iconoclasts, heretics who nearly destroyed the Magicians so long ago, are nothing but myth. She has much more important matters to worry about.

Heiress to a manor mortgaged down to its candlesticks and betrothed to her loathsome cousin, sixteen-year-old Annabelle doubts the gods could forsake her more.

Then Annabelle is informed of her parents’ sudden and simultaneous deaths, and all of the pigment drips out of her skin and hair, leaving her colorless. Within moments, Annabelle is invisible and forgotten by all who know her.

Living like a wraith in her own home, Annabelle discovers that to regain her color she must solve the mystery behind her parents’ murders and her strange transformation.

Meanwhile, hundreds of the Magicians’ monks, with their all-black eyes and conjoined minds, have usurped control of Annabelle’s family manor. An Iconoclast is rumored to be about—a person who they claim goes unseen, unheard, and lost to memory, yet is the greatest threat to all of Domengrad. For the first time in a hundred years, the monks plan to unleash the dire wolves of old.

Their only target: Annabelle.

Review:
How do you put this book down? From the beginning there is so much that the reader doesn’t know, and to be honest, at the end, I still had plenty of questions that will now and likely forever more remain unanswered.

The most intriguing twist in this series is that of the “iconoclast”. Upon looking up the meaning of the word, it makes literal sense when used in the novel, yet there’s a level of mysticism never fully explained or realized, adding another depth to this story. The iconoclasts are woven so expertly with the religion that while learning about their beliefs, there’s no doubt that there is something more than what the average layperson understands.

I loved this story, and the ending, oh the ending, what I wouldn’t have given for another paragraph or two!

Author Biography: (From Amazon)
Rita Stradling is the author of The Deception Dance series, the Dakota Kekoa series and The Fourteen Day Soul Detox Novella Serial. She has a BA in Art History and a particular love for modern and medieval art.

Rita lives with her husband and son in Northern California.

She has an insatiable novel addiction and mostly reads young adult and adult: romance, paranormal, urban fantasy and high fantasy.