Review of Dark Companion by Marta Acosta

Dark Companion
By Marta Acosta

Star Rating: 

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Number of Pages: 368

Date Started: January 17, 2016
Date Finished: January 21, 2016Dark Companion

Synopsis:(From Amazon)
Orphaned at the age of six, Jane Williams has grown up in a series of foster homes, learning to survive in the shadows of life. Through hard work and determination, she manages to win a scholarship to the exclusive Birch Grove Academy. She finds herself accepted by a group of amazing girls. She even starts tutoring the headmistress’s gorgeous son, Lucien. He represents everything that Jane has done without in her miserable life, and she thinks that if she can have him, she’ll also have security, family, and safety from the dangerous world.

The more she learns about Birch Grove’s recent past, the more Jane comes to suspect that there is something sinister going on. Why did the wife of a popular teacher kill herself? What happened to the previous scholarship student, whose place Jane took? Why does Lucien’s brother, Jack, seem to dislike her so much?

As Jane begins to piece together the answers to these puzzles, she must find out why she was brought to Birch Grove–and what she would give up to stay there. Because even the brightest people make terrible decisions when they’re offered everything they’ve always needed. And that’s exactly what powerful forces were counting on when they invited a vulnerable and isolated teenager to live among them.

Review:
The author is trying too hard.  The ghetto that Jane is from is especially heinous, and the language she uses is not one that anyone would recognize.  At one point Jane explains that she had to teach herself to be educated and that she only knew the words “go, you, me” and cuss words, which is completely unbelievable.

Countless times Jane states that she doesn’t or couldn’t understand material in class, yet somehow managed to become an A+ student in the best classes at her school.  This is simply said, never explained or shown.  While Jane is having issues staying afloat and doing well in classes, she has somehow decided that she will get a PhD.

Purple prose is definitely evident in this novel as almost every minute detail is described, oftentimes with similes in sentences mentioning far too many colours.  And instead of apt word choice instead “bread stick things” are mentioned several times within three pages.  There are continuous words used that instead of giving context clues about, characters explain the definition.

The supernatural is evident from the start, and it is far too easy to know exactly what Lucian is well before it is properly introduced.  The only truly likeable character is Jack, whom seems to have an uncanny way of spotting supernatural beings, yet this is never fully explained.

Jane is not just plain but also oftentimes self deprecating.  While this might be done to show that high school girls often don’t feel like they are good enough, this was a constant thought of Jane’s stated far too many times.  It’s hard to enjoy a character who thinks of themselves so poorly.

Each chapter began with a quote, but none of the quotes were necessary to the chapters.  Much of the information and lessons learned, that foreshadow what is going to happen in the novel, are given through lessons in class.  Far too often the reader is brought into a class, learning about another book, and then brought back into Acosta’s novel.  If this had happened once or twice it would have been a neat twist.

The best part of this book is the trees and Jane’s reaction to them.  Much like Saratoga (now called Muse, by M. R. Pritchard), this novel had a very unique idea, but it was overrun by the already widely known/written about supernatural.  While Jack has an idea that Jane might be special there is very little time spent describing what makes her special, or dedicated to actually figuring out what she is (if she is, indeed, a supernatural creature herself).

While in the end Jane does realize who she is and that you can take your past with you without letting the bad parts of it control you, the lead up was excruciatingly painful.  Despite knowing better, she constantly puts herself into bad situations, and although she says she wants to study and do well in school, there are multiple described weeks in which she pines over Lucky and can’t concentrate on anything else. 

Author Bio: (From Amazon)
Marta Acosta’s dream job is to write heart-rending obituaries, because she feels they are the most under-appreciated of all literary forms. She’s the author of the recently-released THE SHE-HULK DIARIES, DARK COMPANION, a young adult gothic, the award-winning CASA DRACULA series, and NANCY’S THEORY OF STYLE (under the pen-name Grace Coopersmith).

She’s a Stanford University graduate and was a frequent contributor of features and op-eds to the SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE and the CONTRA COSTA TIMES.

A native of the San Francisco Bay Area, Marta still lives in a fog-belt with her family and dogs. Her many attempts to grow tomatoes have failed, but she can finally bake a loaf of crusty bread. Her current obsession is vintage fountain pens and she’s happy to send personal notes to readers.

 

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Review of All the Ways to Ruin a Rogue by Sophie Jordan

Star Rating: 

Genre: Romance

Number of Pages: 384

Date Started: January 12, 2016
Date Finished: January 12, 2016

Synopsis:(From Amazon)51+XJKeP74L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
First friends, then enemies . . .

Lady Aurelia hasn’t always hated Max, Viscount Camden, her brother’s best friend. In fact, as a besotted girl, she thrived under his kind attention— sure that he was the most noble and handsome man in the land. Until her young heart discovered what manner of rogue he really was. Now, though she enjoys nothing more than getting on his last nerve, she can’t deny Max drives her to distraction— even if she tries to pretend otherwise.

Now something more . . .

Max cannot recall a time when Aurelia did not vex him. If she was not his friend’s sister, he would stay far away from the infuriating vixen. Unfortunately, they are always thrown together. At parties and family gatherings . . . she is always there. Mocking him, tossing punch in his face, driving him mad . . . until one night, she goes too far and he retaliates in the only way he can: with a kiss that changes everything.
 

Review:
From the beginning the reader learns Aurelia’s intentions and feelings.  Although she does act, at times, scandalously, it is hard to see her in the bratty light that Max continuously paints her in.  Max himself comes across as standoffish and emotionally unavailable, though why is a major premise of the plot.  Many other reviews state a dislike for the two main characters, but I found them amusing and rather realistic.

One thing I certainly did not like was the several grammatical errors throughout the novel, however, they in no way made the book unreadable/unenjoyable.

This book moves fast, and is hard to put down, because there is always another thing that HAS to be known/resolved before you can start doing something else.

6103U+hHndL._SY200_Author Bio: (From Amazon)
Sophie Jordan grew up in the Texas hill country where she wove fantasies of dragons, warriors, and princesses. A former high school English teacher, she’s also the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Avon historical romances. She now lives in Houston with her family. When she’s not writing, she spends her time overloading on caffeine (lattes and Diet cherry Coke preferred), talking plotlines with anyone who will listen (including her kids), and cramming her DVR with true-crime and reality-TV shows. Sophie also writes paranormal romances under the name Sharie Kohler.

website: sophiejordan.net

 

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Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

I am quite excited to tell you that I have finished the book Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith today, January 11th (I started it on the 8th).  This is my book club book of the month, so I won’t give too much away now, lest we discuss it later but I had to share a few of my feelings while they are fresh.

I absolutely love this book, and while there are some parts that irritated me, I find that this one very closely rivals the original Pride and Prejudice in my heart.

This is an absolutely amazing book, and since the movie is coming out next month, you’d definitely do well to read it now!

Review of Eternal by Cynthia Leitich Smith

Eternal
By Cynthia Leitich Smith

Star Rating: 

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Number of Pages: 320

Date Started: January 7, 2016eternal_PB_med
Date Finished: January 8, 2016

Synopsis:(From Amazon)
At last, Miranda is the life of the party: all she had to do was die. Elevated by none other than the King of the Mantle of Dracul, she goes from high-school theater wannabe to glamorous fiend overnight. Meanwhile, her guardian angel, Zachary, demoted to human guise as her personal assistant, has his hands full saving his girl’s soul while planning a fast-approaching Death Day gala. In alternating viewpoints, Miranda and Zachary navigate a cut-throat aristocracy as they play out a dangerous, diabolically witty love story for the ages.

Review:
The premise of this book was so promising that I couldn’t wait to see what happened with Miranda’s life and unlife.  The reader gets a solid grasp on what Miranda’s life was like, her aspirations and dreams.  Unfortunately, Zachary was a bit harder to empathize with.  While many might find it endearing that Zachary is falling in love with the girl he is supposed to be the guardian of, some will find it rather breaks character of an angel.  Zachary falling from grace, behaving abhorrently, yet being forgiven without having repented what he did seemed too easy– as if his actions were infallible.

When Miranda changes, everything about Zachary’s girl changes as well.  Everything about Miranda changes when she becomes a vampire, and she seems to completely go with what her new master wants– no mention of her parents, and brief mentions of her former best friend, Lucy.  It is not until very near the end that Miranda seems to think about her parents at all, and never once about how her disappearance would have affected them.  Her interests, which were once so her, only seem to float around, coming back into play at the last possible second.

Action based, there is a lot of running around and attempts to make Miranda and Zachary seem normal.  While their outing into the city is brilliant afterwards everything seems rushed towards the climax.  For how long the book is, more time should have been spent preparing for the big fight.

The opposition of good and evil was very straightforward, and more importantly, the knowledge that there is a choice.  Your circumstances might have been dictated by others, but it is ultimately you who decide your fate and who you will be.

This book is unconventional and odd, and seems a fair bit inspired by Twilight.  Overall, this book was a pleasant quick read.

Author Bio:
As the author has no amazon picture or biography, I shan’t have one here either.

 

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Review of Beauty and the Beast by Jenni James

Beauty and the Beast
By Jenni James

Star Rating: 

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy, Fairy Tale Retelling

Number of Pages: 260

Date Started: January 5, 2016
Date Finished: January 6, 2016

Synopsis:(From Amazon)13570639
A prince by day and a wolf by night -Prince Alexander has been turned into a werewolf and has one year to find someone to love the beast and break the spell, or he will be a wolf forever. He has nearly given up achieving the impossible, knowing no girl would ever fall in love with such a monster.

Just when he is about to abdicate the throne to his cousin, he meets Cecelia Hammerstein-Smythe, while a wolf, and begins to hope for the first time in months. Can he balance both worlds as a human and beast, gaining the love and trust of a girl who has every reason to despise him?

Cecelia detests the prince. She only knows Alexander as the arrogant monarch the tyrant who has made her life miserable though perhaps he’s changed right before her eyes. He’s not as full of himself as he once was. The prince is gentle now… but then again, so is the beast.

Review:
Beauty and the Beast is perhaps my favourite fairy tale of all time, and more than less likely that has been influenced by my love of the Disney animated film.  This book and the animated film share several similarities, but more in imagery than actual content.  Disney’s enchantress is James’ witch, and the enchanted rose the enchantress offered is instead Cecelia’s mother’s rose garden.  That is where the similarities end.  Though the story is written much like the style of Disney tales, that style is not conducive to a full novel.

James does create an almost believable plot line, but unfortunately, her characters fall completely flat.  Cecelia is a Mary Sue whereas Alexander is a stock character– whatever growth he has is not actually shown.  While the characters lack depth, there also lacks action.  Almost everything is moved entirely along by the dialogue, of which there is an overabundance.  The reader will learn more about the various garments Cecelia wears than about Cecelia’s relationship with her father, and how he used to be the one person who was always there for her (of which the novel has one line about, making it seem like a thrown in afterthought).

The names Cecelia and Alexander may seem like they were just chosen at random– but no!  The author chooses to have the characters explain what their names mean, completely unnecessarily, and how that has played into their characterization the entire time (so perhaps that is why there is a lack of characterization, as one trait cannot make up an entire personality).  There is a stark lack of subtext and foreshadowing– everything is completely stated for the audience.  The true villain and his reasons for treachery are quite believable however given that he, like all of the other characters, seemed to have no depth, it was hard to maintain interest in him.

All in all, there seems to be no true purpose to James’ retelling.  There is no driving force, no true stakes at risk.  The tale is retold and finished the same way expected by anyone who has seen the Disney film.

41T2k4NvaHL._UX250_Author Bio:
Jenni has 7 kids, and an obsession with Pride and Prejudice.  The majority of her novels are retellings/reimaginings.

See her amazon page here.

 

 

 

 

 

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Review of The Fairest Beauty by Melanie Dickerson

The Fairest Beauty
By Melanie Dickerson

Star Rating: 

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy, Fairy Tale Retelling

Number of Pages: 336

Date Started: January 3, 2016
Date Finished: January 5, 2016

Synopsis:(From Amazon)15700446
A daring rescue. A difficult choice.

Sophie desperately wants to get away from her stepmother’s jealousy, and believes escape is her only chance to be happy. Then a young man named Gabe arrives from Hagenheim Castle, claiming she is betrothed to his older brother, and everything twists upside down. This could be Sophie’s one chance at freedom—but can she trust another person to keep her safe?

Gabe defied his parents Rose and Wilhelm by going to find Sophie, and now he believes they had a right to worry: the girl’s inner and outer beauty has enchanted him. Though romance is impossible—she is his brother’s future wife, and Gabe himself is betrothed to someone else—he promises himself he will see the mission through, no matter what.

When the pair flee to the Cottage of the Seven, they find help—but also find their feelings for each other have grown. Now both must not only protect each other from the dangers around them—they must also protect their hearts.

Review:
I’ll start by saying that this is part of a series of fairy tale retellings and I started in the wrong order.  If you want to start in the correct order, I believe the first on is The Healer’s Apprentice.

From the moment I started reading this book, I was enthralled in the world.  I wanted to know if Sophie really was who Pinnosa claimed her to be.  There were so many amazing twists and turns in this book, and although there was almost a dystopian feel, I absolutely adored it.  Although this book it very obviously marketed and listed as a fairy tale retelling, when wrapped deeply in the story and continuing on, I had forgotten that it was supposed to be a fairy tale when Gabe and Sophie reach the Cottage of the Seven, and it took me a few minutes to recall.  The fairy tale itself is expertly entwined with Dickerson’s plot, making this book a quick page turner, and hard to set down.

Again (and as I now suspect, in all of Dickerson’s Fairy Tale Romance stories) religion played a large role.  This time, religion almost played the part of a parent to Sophie, reminding her of morals and values, and that although she had been treated quite unfairly, she should not seek vengeance or harbour hatred in her heart.  Gabe also helped remind her of what God wants– for you to let go of all of your pain, and give it to him.  Everyone needs to learn, at some point, that no one is meant to weather everything alone, and sometimes it is easier to let things go, forgive, and try to forget.

The one inconsistency that drew me out of the novel was the mention of how having a crossbow meant that there would be no reload time versus a long bow.  A crossbow would be more deadly, and likely more accurate (easier to aim) especially on horseback, however, all traditional bows do need to be reloaded.  More importantly, traditional crossbows generally need to be either stepped on or cranked to set the draw string back, which means there would be a bit more time between each shot than if someone had a long bow.  Another inaccuracy mentioned is the arrows that Gabe would use for his crossbow– crossbows use bolts, which while comparable, are slightly different in that they are smaller and don’t have feathers.

71pR6EFJ7UL._UX250_Author Bio: (From Amazon)
Melanie Dickerson is the author of Historical Romances, and her favorite time periods are Medieval, which she has combined with her love of fairy tales, and Regency, which shows her love for Jane Austen and the fact that she has memorized the Pride and Prejudice movie–the one with Colin Firth, of course. She is a 2-time Christy Award finalist, a 2-time Maggie Award winner, winner of The National Reader’s Choice Award for 2010’s Best First Book, and winner of the 2012 Carol Award in Young Adult fiction. She earned her bachelor’s degree in special education from The University of Alabama and has taught children with special needs in Georgia and Tennessee, and English to adults in Germany and Ukraine. Now she spends her time writing, hanging out on facebook, and taking care of her husband and two daughters near Huntsville, Alabama. Visit her on the web at http://www.MelanieDickerson.com.

 

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Review of The Golden Braid by Melanie Dickerson

The Golden Braid
By Melanie Dickerson

Star Rating: 

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Number of Pages: 320

Date Started: January 2, 2016
Date Finished: January 3, 2016

Synopsis:(From Amazon)24867658
The one who needs rescuing isn’t always the one in the tower. 

Rapunzel can throw a knife better than any man. She paints beautiful flowering vines on the walls of her plaster houses. She sings so sweetly she can coax even a beast to sleep. But there are two things she is afraid her mother might never allow her to do: learn to read and marry.Fiercely devoted to Rapunzel, her mother is suspicious of every man who so much as looks at her daughter and warns her that no man can be trusted. After a young village farmer asks for Rapunzel’s hand in marriage, Mother decides to move them once again—this time, to the large city of Hagenheim.

The journey proves treacherous, and after being rescued by a knight—Sir Gerek—Rapunzel in turn rescues him farther down the road. As a result, Sir Gerek agrees to repay his debt to Rapunzel by teaching her to read. Could there be more to this knight than his arrogance and desire to marry for riches and position?

As Rapunzel acclimates to life in a new city, she uncovers a mystery that will forever change her life. In this Rapunzel story unlike any other, a world of secrets and treachery is about to be revealed after seventeen years of lies. How will Rapunzel finally take control of her own destiny? And who will prove faithful to a lowly peasant girl with no one to turn to?

Review:
I’ll start by saying that this is part of a series of fairy tale retellings and I started in the wrong order.  If you want to start in the correct order, I believe the first on is The Healer’s Apprentice.From the beginning there are a few details that make it impossible not to know that our heroine/protagonist is, indeed, Rapunzel.  Starting with the obvious, her name is the same, but then she also has the quite long golden hair.  I greatly enjoyed that Rapunzel’s mother was given much more depth than the usual story allows, and that she appeared to have reasons for what she suggested to Rapunzel and the things she tried to make Rapunzel practice.  All in all, she was quite well done, and while empathetic, still quite villainous.  Rapunzel herself was also greatly characterized, ambitious, and well learned.

This was the first time I have seen a fairy tale so artfully mastered and wrapped around religion and the bible.  I quite enjoyed watching Rapunzel learn the scripture and contemplate what it meant to her, the reader left to assume that her mother had never spent much time speaking of religion.  For many, there needs to be a belief that someone will be there watching out for them, wishing them well, and loving them– especially for those who may not have a physical person out there doing so, and in that regard, entwining religion and God was quite perfect.

Unfortunately, while I did love the majority of the story, the reveal of who Rapunzel truly is (who her parents are) was too easily pieced together based on little snippets of foreshadowing given throughout the book, which made the official knowledge a bit lackluster, since, as a reader, it had been known for quite some time.

Overall, I greatly recommend this book, especially to people who wonder why their parents try to tell them to do certain things, to any that worry no one loves them or cares, and to those who believe every damsel in distress can’t save herself.

71pR6EFJ7UL._UX250_Author Bio: (From Amazon)
Melanie Dickerson is the author of Historical Romances, and her favorite time periods are Medieval, which she has combined with her love of fairy tales, and Regency, which shows her love for Jane Austen and the fact that she has memorized the Pride and Prejudice movie–the one with Colin Firth, of course. She is a 2-time Christy Award finalist, a 2-time Maggie Award winner, winner of The National Reader’s Choice Award for 2010’s Best First Book, and winner of the 2012 Carol Award in Young Adult fiction. She earned her bachelor’s degree in special education from The University of Alabama and has taught children with special needs in Georgia and Tennessee, and English to adults in Germany and Ukraine. Now she spends her time writing, hanging out on facebook, and taking care of her husband and two daughters near Huntsville, Alabama. Visit her on the web at http://www.MelanieDickerson.com.

 

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