Format: Audiobook

The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware | Book Review

Posted May 21, 2020 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 5 Comments

The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware | Book ReviewThe Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware
Published by Gallery/Scout Press on August 6, 2019
Genres: Mystery, Suspense, Thriller
Pages: 337
Format: Audiobook
Source: Audible
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4 Stars

When she stumbles across the ad, she’s looking for something else completely. But it seems like too good an opportunity to miss—a live-in nannying post, with a staggeringly generous salary. And when Rowan Caine arrives at Heatherbrae House, she is smitten—by the luxurious “smart” home fitted out with all modern conveniences, by the beautiful Scottish Highlands, and by this picture-perfect family.

What she doesn’t know is that she’s stepping into a nightmare—one that will end with a child dead and herself in prison awaiting trial for murder.

Writing to her lawyer from prison, she struggles to explain the unravelling events that led to her incarceration. It wasn’t just the constant surveillance from the cameras installed around the house, or the malfunctioning technology that woke the household with booming music, or turned the lights off at the worst possible time. It wasn’t just the girls, who turned out to be a far cry from the immaculately behaved model children she met at her interview. It wasn’t even the way she was left alone for weeks at a time, with no adults around apart from the enigmatic handyman, Jack Grant.

It was everything.

She knows she’s made mistakes. She admits that she lied to obtain the post, and that her behavior toward the children wasn’t always ideal. She’s not innocent, by any means. But, she maintains, she’s not guilty—at least not of murder. Which means someone else is.

I really love books set in creepy buildings… and I love them even more if isolation is thrown into the mix, so The Turn of the Key had my name written all over it. And Riley Sager, author of my favorite creepy building book: Lock Every Door, recommended it to me when I reached out on twitter so I was EXCITED. And I was so engrossed. I quickly became very addicted to the story and could not stop myself from reading long into the wee hours of the night.

What I Liked:

  • I listened to the audio, and Imogen Church is an amazing narrator.
  • Ruth Ware is SO GOOD at the atmospheric, suspenseful feelings. This book is eerie and dark and tense in a very subtle way that works itself into your very being. I’d read about a creepy sound and then feel sure I’d just heard that sound in my own house. I was afraid to run across the hall to go to the bathroom at 2 AM. I wouldn’t say the book is scary, it’s just got this underlying sense of foreboding like anything could happen at any moment.
  • The Turn of the Key is written as a letter from Rowan to a solicitor she hopes will represent her in her murder trial. I enjoyed reading a book in this format, and felt it brought some added intrigue to the situation. Rowan is currently in prison for murdering one of the girls in her care, but she swears she’s innocent. I loved unraveling her story and trying to figure out what really happened. 
  • The setting was exactly what I hoped it would be. I was so creeped out and uncomfortable reading about this isolated smart home with cameras and voice controlled everything (and I mean everything). Lights turning on on their own, doors locking themselves on their own, secret locked doors with who knows what behind them, a do-I-trust-him-or-not groundskeeper who seems to be very nice but might actually be a serial killer. I was so unsure of everything.
  • During the day Rowan and the girls explore the grounds a little bit, and discover a bit of the house’s history. CREEPY. I’d love a prequel book to get the story of the original inhabitants of the house in more detail. 
  • All the previous nannies could not handle living in Heatherbrae House, and I really loved trying to figure out the mystery of why. This book was really one mystery within another, and I liked all the layers that gave me to work through. I was never bored.

What I Didn’t Like:

  • I feel like we never get a heroine who is strong and level-headed in a Ruth Ware book. Unreliable narrators are a Ware hallmark, it would seem, and sometimes I don’t love it. Rowan put herself into some pretty sucky situations and then didn’t trust herself enough to be able to handle them. She never stuck up for herself. She never put the bratty, misbehaving girls in their places. I got a bit annoyed at how spineless she was, and how quick she was to believe that’s she’s going insane instead of the victim of someone other than herself.
  • The ending is VERY unsatisfying. So much is left up in the air and, after everything I had gone through as a reader, I wanted more answers. Be prepared to Google for other readers’ theories or find someone to chat with when you’re done (I’m happy to DM on twitter if you need someone to listen to your theories or discuss things!).

Additional Thoughts:

  • I really want to read The Turn of the Screw by Henry James now and see what the original story is like!
  • Imogen Church has to mimic a creaking floor in her narration, and oh man. It gave me goosebumps.
  • I never, in a million years, would have guessed the ending. Ruth Ware always tricks me and I never get it right, so that’s obviously one of the main reasons I keep coming back for more! She’s a very entertaining storyteller and a great writer.

All in all, The Turn of the Key was creepy and atmospheric and so engrossing. The ending drove me insane and I still think about it all the time, but I guess that serves Ruth Ware well! She’s always marinating in the back of my head. I keep telling myself I need to stop reading her books because I always come away slightly frustrated, but perhaps that’s her goal. And… I know I’m going to read more of her books. lol. So great. More torture on the horizon for me!

4 Stars

A Tale of Beauty and Beast by Melanie Cellier | Book Review

Posted January 4, 2019 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult Fiction / 2 Comments

A Tale of Beauty and Beast by Melanie Cellier | Book ReviewA Tale of Beauty and Beast by Melanie Cellier
Series: Beyond the Four Kingdoms #2
on November 26, 2017
Genres: Fairy Tale, Fantasy, Retelling, Romance
Pages: 295
Format: Audiobook
Source: Gift
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5 Stars

Lily has managed to save the duchy of Marin, with the help of her twin, Sophie. But now Sophie faces an even greater threat. Can she save the cursed kingdom of Palinor from its beastly prince?

I love Beauty and the Beast retellings, and after really loving the first book in this series I was even more excited to get to this one because I knew it would be amazing. Be careful reading any further, as this review will spoil who won the Princess Tourney in A Dance of Silver and Shadow!

The Princess Tourney is over and, as its winner, Sophie sets off on a curious and magical journey to Palinor to meet her betrothed: the beast (aka Prince Dominic). Since she’s the narrator this time, readers get to finally know Sophie better. I really liked her, and I felt I identified more with her than I did with Lily in the first book. Sophie arrives at the castle after a long journey in a carriage driven by an invisible force through a wintry wilderness, and finds it to be empty of people even though it looks taken care of. After some exploring she begins hearing voices of people she cannot see. She calls out to them, startling a whole staff of people who work there. They were not expecting her to be able to hear them. Dominic is not invisible, but he cannot speak to her and communicates through abrasive notes. It’s pretty obvious the kingdom has been placed under a curse and, of course, Sophie is going to try to break it and save the people she’s begun to form strong bonds with. The romance also begins to blossom and thrive as time goes on and we learn more about our tortured beast.

There are numerous ties to the original tale of Beauty & the Beast, as well as the Disney version. Melanie Cellier does find unique ways to make the story her own, however. Lily is still a part of the story, although the kingdom is quite isolated. I loved the secondary characters (the wait staff), and their interactions with Sophie. They look out for their master even though he’s kind of a jerk, but they also validate Sophie’s concerns and sympathize with her plight. I loved the relationships she formed with them. I really loved Melanie’s writing, too. Really my only complaint is that the female narrator did a pretty awful job portraying Prince Dominic’s voice. I felt the same with her portrayal of the male characters in the first book, too.

All in all, this was a very nice retelling of Beauty & the Beast! I love the writing, and I enjoy listening to these books even though the narrator bugs me a bit at times. I’m excited to read more from Melanie.

5 Stars

Reign of Shadows by Sophie Jordan | Book Review

Posted November 2, 2018 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult Fiction / 1 Comment

Reign of Shadows by Sophie Jordan | Book ReviewReign of Shadows by Sophie Jordan
Series: Reign of Shadows #1
Published by HarperTEEN on February 9, 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Retelling, Romance
Pages: 304
Format: Audiobook
Source: Publisher (Edelweiss)
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5 Stars

Seventeen years ago, an eclipse cloaked the kingdom of Relhok in perpetual darkness. In the chaos, an evil chancellor murdered the king and queen and seized their throne. Luna, Relhok’s lost princess, has been hiding in a tower ever since. Luna’s survival depends on the world believing she is dead.

But that doesn’t stop Luna from wanting more. When she meets Fowler, a mysterious archer braving the woods outside her tower, Luna is drawn to him despite the risk. When the tower is attacked, Luna and Fowler escape together. But this world of darkness is more treacherous than Luna ever realized.

With every threat stacked against them, Luna and Fowler find solace in each other. But with secrets still unspoken between them, falling in love might be their most dangerous journey yet.

This is not your magical, light and fluffy Rapunzel retelling! Reign of Shadows is dark and creepy and intense and so unbelievably exciting. Luna, the lost princess of Relhok, has been sequestered in a tower with her guardians for her entire life to protect her from those who would do her harm. She’s the rightful heir to the throne, and the current king is making life miserable for the members of his kingdom. The land is also ruled by evil creatures (dwellers) who delight in killing anyone who crosses their path.

While exploring one day, Luna stumbles across three people and saves them from a pack of dwellers and brings them back to her tower. These are the first strangers Luna has ever met. One of these people is a handsome archer named Fowler, who captivates and excites Luna. Due to circumstances beyond their control, they set out on a journey together in search of a safer place to live. As they journey together across a barren, dark wasteland that has been ravaged by the dwellers, they learn to depend on one another. Together they have a unique set of skills that aide them in heir survival.

I liked both of these characters a lot. Luna is so sheltered and comes across as being very helpless, but she has spent her life developing and refining her ability to survive. She’s unassumingly strong and courageous despite her lack of exposure to the world. She’s able to trust in spite of the murder of her parents, and she’s able to love regardless of the fact that he family was ripped away from her as a baby. Fowler is damaged and has hardened himself in an effort to avoid more pain. Those he cared about are long gone, and it’s easier for him to be alone than to risk losing someone he cares about. He has no interest in being a part of Luna’s life, but he also has this deep sense of loyalty and honor even though he doesn’t really owe anyone anything. I liked that about him.

The romance is pretty swoony, and very slow building. I like romances that take a long time to develop, though, so I was totally on board with this one. I also like romances in life or death situations because there’s a lot of tenderness and need in addition to pure trust and dependency on one another.

I don’t want to say too much and spoil the book for anyone, so I think I’ll leave it here. Reign of Shadows is filled with little story elements that made it unique from the original tale of Rapunzel. I’ve always loved Sophie Jordan’s writing, so I had a feeling I’d enjoy this book. I listened to it on audio, which was very well done. All in all, I really loved the story.

5 Stars

A Touch of Gold by Annie Sullivan | Book Review

Posted October 19, 2018 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult Fiction / 0 Comments

A Touch of Gold by Annie Sullivan | Book ReviewA Touch of Gold by Annie Sullivan
Published by Blink on August 14, 2018
Genres: Fantasy, Mythology, Retelling
Pages: 313
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
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5 Stars

King Midas once had the ability to turn all he touched into gold. But after his gift—or curse—almost killed his daughter, Midas relinquished The Touch forever. Ten years later, Princess Kora still bears the consequences of her father’s wish: her skin shines golden, rumors follow her everywhere she goes, and she harbors secret powers that are getting harder to hide.

Kora spends her days locked in the palace, concealed behind gloves and veils, trying to ignore the stares and gossip of courtiers. It isn’t until a charming young duke arrives that Kora realizes there may be someone out there who doesn’t fear her or her curse. But their courtship is disrupted when a thief steals precious items from the kingdom, leaving the treasury depleted and King Midas vulnerable. Thanks to her unique ability to sense gold, Kora is the only one who can track the thief down. As she sails off on her quest, Kora learns that not everything is what it seems—not thieves, not pirates, and not even curses. She quickly discovers that gold—and the power it brings—is more dangerous than she’d ever believed.

Midas learned his lesson at a price. What will Kora’s journey cost?

I’ve always been fascinated by mythology, but I’ve read very few retellings of mythological stories. When I learned of this retelling of the story of King Midas from his daughter’s perspective I was immediately intrigued. In the original story of King Midas, the king is granted one wish from the god of wine, Dionysus. The king wished that everything he touched turned to gold, making him the wealthiest man in the world. Everything is fine at first, but then he tries to eat and can’t because his food turns to gold. His daughter, seeing his dismay, throws her arms around him to console him and turns to gold herself. Obviously the moral of the story is to not be greedy and to value family more than wealth.

A Touch of Gold picks up where the story of King Midas ends, so it’s not exactly a retelling. It’s close, though. In A Touch of Gold, King Midas’s daughter, Kora, survived the touch and is alive and human once again. However, she has suffered permanent side effects. Her skin has a gold sheen to it, and anything she touches turns to gold. She can also sense gold, and it calls to her constantly. This side effect in particular is kept a secret. The King has also suffered long-lasting side effects. He cannot be too far away from the remaining items that he turned to gold himself. They are stored in a room in his palace, but someone breaks in and steals them one night. The king begins to get very sick and slowly deteriorates. In an effort to save his life, Kora goes on a journey by ship to find and return the gold to her father before it gets so far away that he dies. A handsome duke offers to take her on his ship, and the adventure begins.

A Touch of Gold is filled with action, adventure, betrayal, and a bit of romance. I flew through it pretty quickly because it was such an entertaining story. Some other mythological stories and woven into the story of King Midas, and it was very interesting to see how the author chose to do that. I liked the characters, and the twists and turns that they were involved in.

I can definitely see room for a sequel or a companion novel, and I hope that Annie Sullivan writes more mythological stories to expand this world that she has created in A Touch of Gold. Her writing is lovely and flowing, and I really enjoyed my reading experience. I wholeheartedly recommend this story to those interested in mythology and adventures on the high seas. There’s strong characters and just a hint of romance, so I think there’s something in it for everyone.

5 Stars

The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner | Book Review

Posted October 17, 2018 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult Fiction / 7 Comments

The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner | Book ReviewThe Thief by Megan Whalen Turner
Series: The Queen's Thief #1
Published by Greenwillow Books on December 27, 2005
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 280
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
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2 Stars

The king's scholar, the magus, believes he knows the site of an ancient treasure. To attain it for his king, he needs a skillful thief, and he selects Gen from the king's prison. The magus is interested only in the thief's abilities.

What Gen is interested in is anyone's guess. Their journey toward the treasure is both dangerous and difficult, lightened only imperceptibly by the tales they tell of the old gods and goddesses.

I’ve been hearing great things about Megan Whalen Turner’s Queen’s Thief series for years, but wasn’t ever really interested in The Thief because there’s no romance in it. I must have at least a little romance in my books or I start to go a little nuts! However, I quickly changed my mind when I found out that Steve West narrates these books because I’m basically in love with him. Honestly, his narration was pretty much the only reason I even finished it. I mean, it was ok. I was intrigued enough that I wanted to see how things ended. And I’d heard of an awesome twist that happens in The Thief, so I was curious about that as well. A word to the lovers of this series: don’t make it sound THAT amazing and filled with twists and action because I built it all up so much in my head that I’m not sure anything would have lived up to my anticipation. As always, my main points are bolded.

1. The bulk of this story takes place during a journey toward a mythical treasure. There’s a lot of walking. A LOT of walking and traveling and horseback riding and stopping for camp at night. Things were very uneventful for a long time. 

2. Gen complains a lot. Like, I wanted to slap him upside the head all the time but didn’t because he’s STEVE WEST so I refrained from getting too mad. I mean yes, his life is not so good. He’s been held prisoner and now he’s been let out to go steal a treasure for the magus so the magus can give it to the king and have all the credit and notoriety. That sucks. Gen is a prisoner during the entire journey. That’s not fun at all. But oh my gosh, does he have to be such a whiney baby!?

3. I found the mythology of this world to be rather interesting. While the characters walk and walk, they tell the stories of their belief system. We get to hear about the creation and their system of gods and goddesses. It was interesting for a while, but then I started to grow bored and wanted something else to happen.

4. The twist. As I mentioned before, when people build something up to be so unbelievably amazing and exciting I almost always end up being disappointed. I wish I hadn’t known a twist was coming. Maybe my imagination is just way too big, but I thought up a ton of possible twists that would have been more exciting to me. Yes, it’s a twist. Yes, it did kind of make me double-take and start analyzing everything up to that point to see why I hadn’t thought it up myself. But it was still not as grand as I had hoped. It did make me glad I finished the book, though, so I guess it still worked a little.

All in all, I enjoyed The Thief enough to immediately start The Queen of Attolia. I wanted to know where things would go next, and I wanted to listen to more of Steve West’s swoony voice!! But I ultimately DNFed it after about an hour into the audiobook, so I guess I reached the point where even Steve couldn’t keep me going anymore. And that makes me sad. I can see why people like these books, but I can also tell that they came out before YA fantasy really took off. I’ve just read much better.

2 Stars

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater | Mini Audiobook Review

Posted September 10, 2018 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult Fiction / 8 Comments

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater | Mini Audiobook ReviewThe Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
Published by Scholastic on October 18, 2011
Genres: Fantasy, Mythology
Pages: 409
Format: Audiobook
Source: Audible
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5 Stars

It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die.

At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them.

Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn’t given her much of a chance. So she enters the competition — the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen.

I read and loved Maggie Stiefvater’s Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy years ago before I started blogging, and was captivated by her storytelling and beautiful writing style. The Scorpio Races sounded like something I would love and I immediately aded it to my TBR, but then The Raven Boys came out a year later and I DNFed it (I know, I know… total black sheep here), so I was worried Maggie was a one hit wonder for me (especially since Books of Faerie duology was just ok for me). Needless to say, I was worried that I’d never love another Stiefvater book and that broke my heart a little. But I LOVED it. I’ve broken this review up into sections: my thoughts on the audiobook and my experiences listening to it, and then my thoughts and feelings about the story itself and the world and the characters. If you’re not interested in the audiobook, feel free to skip the first section!

Audiobook Thoughts:

While looking for a great audiobook to listen to, I remembered how much Brittany loved Steve West’s narration of The Scorpio Races, and that he made her really fall in love with Sean Hunter. I listened to the sample and YES STEVE WEST, so I jumped right in. Basically, the stars aligned and I took a leap of faith regarding Maggie and audiobooks (because those don’t always work for me either). I am so glad I did, because I loved this book and I loved listening to it more than I think I would have loved reading it. Steve West’s voice drew me in and took hold of my heart. His voice drips with emotion and feeling, and he brought Sean to life. I think I fell a little in love with both Sean and Steve. Hehe. Whoops. Fiona Hardingham’s voice really complimented Steve’s. I loved listening to both of them, and the personality and depth they brought to the characters. I loved the musical bits that were composed by Maggie throughout the book. It totally set the celtic tone of the story and transported me right to the beaches of Thisby. I tried to actually read the book instead of listen to it one day because then I could read faster, but I just couldn’t do it. I made it a page and things felt so wrong. This is truly a book to listen to.

Story Thoughts:

This. Story. It has become a part of me, and I loved it so much. It’s very simple: a girl named Puck feels compelled–both by the need for money and the need to prove herself to herself–to enter the races and become the first female ever to do so. Sean, the reigning champion of these races needs to win, too, but not for the same reason Puck does. They both need it, they both need each other, they both need Thisby, and they both need their horses. This is their story. It’s not just about racing. It’s not just about horses. It’s about two lonely, incomplete souls risking everything to gain everything. They are both incredibly flawed and lost, and they find something in each other. I wouldn’t say this is a romantic book in the lovey-dovey sense. There’s definitely intrigue and feelings, but it’s romantic in the sense that it’s emotional. There’s so much feeling and mystery surrounding the water horses and the people who ride them. The mystical aspects of the island and the races themselves made me forget I was even reading anything. It’s really hard to explain.

Maggie’s prose and style is so breathtakingly beautiful that it almost hurts. I love how she so intricately weaves her words together to create such a perfect and mesmerizing atmosphere. The story alternates back and forth between Sean’s and Puck’s points of view, and it’s done in first person. I usually do not like first person or multiple points of view, but they are both done so well in this book.

There’s so much I can say about Thisby and the characters and the yummy food, but I don’t want to spoil the surprise. I think the synopsis is vague for a reason. That’s the magic! Bottom line, I LOVED The Scorpio Races. It’s the perfect fall story, with an eerie atmosphere; biting, salty winds; harsh waves; and monstrous creatures that will take you a bit by surprise, with their viciousness and intellect. These horses are magical in more ways then one. I do hope you pick up a copy and discover the magic and mystery of autumn on the tiny island of Thisby.

5 Stars

A Dance of Silver and Shadow by Melanie Cellier | Book Review

Posted September 6, 2018 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult Fiction / 4 Comments

A Dance of Silver and Shadow by Melanie Cellier | Book ReviewA Dance of Silver and Shadow by Melanie Cellier
Series: Beyond the Four Kingdoms #1
on September 4, 2017
Genres: Fairy Tale, Fantasy, Retelling, Romance
Pages: 345
Format: Audiobook
Source: Gift
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5 Stars

When Princess Liliana and her twin sister set sail for new lands, Lily hopes to find adventure and romance. But the people of Marin live under the shadow of a curse--one powerful enough to destroy entire kingdoms. To protect them all, Lily and eleven other princesses are forced to participate in a mysterious and secret tournament.

Lily spends her nights competing in a magical underground realm and her days unraveling the dangers of this new court. Although she needs the help of the Marinese prince, Lily knows she can't let herself grow too close to him. There's no time for romance when the duchy is about to fall to the encroaching darkness and the winner of the tournament faces a terrible fate.

But Lily and her twin have a secret advantage. And Lily grows increasingly determined to use their magical bond to defeat the tournament, save the princesses, and free Marin. Except she might have to sacrifice true love to do it.

In this reimagining of the classic fairy tale, The Twelve Dancing Princesses, there's a lot more at stake than worn out dancing slippers.

I’ve always really loved fairytale retellings, and I accidentally stumbled across this one last year while I was browsing Amazon looking for Christmas present ideas for people. That’s a super dangerous thing to do, isn’t it? I always find more things that I want than anything else! This was a beautiful story, though, so I don’t even regret it! As always, my main points are bolded.

1. A Dance of Silver and Shadow is a retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses, which I’m really unfamiliar with. And when I say unfamiliar, I mean that I know absolutely nothing. I’m tempted to go read it now to see how closely this story follows the original. Anyway, this book is centered around a “Princess Tournament” (the characters all refer to this as the “Princess Tourney”, which drove me absolutely insane until I learned to live with it). Twelve princesses from various kingdoms have been gathered together to compete in a series of challenges. The tournament itself is governed by magic, and the tasks that the princesses must perform reflect the prince that the tournament is being held for. The winner of this particular tournament will enter a betrothal with the beastly prince of Palinar (any guesses which fairytale the next book in this series will retell?). None of the girls want to win, as tales of the beast are frightening, but harm will come upon them and their families if they don’t put forth and honest effort.

Every few nights, a ball is held where the princesses dance and mingle with members of the kingdoms who have come for the tourney. After the ball is over the girls are all sent into a room, where a magical portal opens in the floor and they climb down to enter an underground realm with forest, a lake, and a mirror version of the palace above ground. This is where the challenges, some of them very dangerous, occur. The princesses return in the wee hours of the morning, their slippers worn through. The magic of the tourney prevents them from discussing the goings on with anyone, even amongst themselves. The premise is really very interesting!

2. Princess Lily and Princess Sophie are our two main characters. They are twins, who can project their thoughts to each others’ minds. They are incredibly close, and I loved their sisterly bond. They are also two of the older princesses in the tourney (17, I believe). Lily narrates the story, and I liked her voice. She’s strong and brave, and feels it is her duty to protect the other princesses (some of them much younger) during the tourney. She takes it upon herself to help them and keep them safe. She also finds herself falling for the Marinese prince. While residing in Marin for the tourney, she learns of the dangers in the kingdom and decides she must save Marin as well! It’s a pretty big undertaking for a young princess.

3. I listened to the audiobook version of this story, and found it to be mostly enjoyable. I didn’t love the sharp voice the narrator used for some of the characters. Luckily the voice she used for Lily did not bother me, since we listened to her narration a lot. The male voices were not done well at all, in my opinion, but I was able to look past that and enjoy listening.

4. The tourney was very creepy to me, and I loved reading about the different tasks the princesses had to complete. The realm where everything takes place has been corrupted by a sinister magical force, so things felt very unsettled. It was exciting and suspenseful! 

5. Some of the other princesses really bothered me, particularly the younger ones. They were very whiny and complained a lot, but I did like Celine. I’d love to read a book about her soon.

6. A Dance of Silver and Shadow is completely clean, with no bad language and just a light romance on the side.

7. I LOVE Melanie’s writing. It’s so lush and descriptive!

8. The ending made me immediately start the second book because I had to know more. Make sure you don’t read the synopsis for A Tale of Beauty and Beast, though, until you read this book or you will find out who wins the tourney!

Overall, I really loved this story and I’m so excited that I’ve found an author I like who does retellings. I don’t read nearly enough good ones. I don’t know how closely this one follows the original, but that didn’t matter to me at all. If you enjoy retellings, magic, fantasy worlds, mysterious kingdoms, sister bonds, strong female characters who don’t need a man to save them, and beautiful writing, definitely give this book a try!

5 Stars

Over Raging Tides by Jennifer Ellision | Audiobook Review

Posted June 21, 2018 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult Fiction / 2 Comments

Over Raging Tides by Jennifer Ellision | Audiobook ReviewOver Raging Tides by Jennifer Ellision
Series: Lady Pirates #1
Published by Self on March 20, 2018
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 239
Format: Audiobook
Source: Audible, Author
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3.5 Stars

The pirate crew of the Lady Luck lives by many rules, but chief among them is this: they do not allow men on board.

That’s a rule that quartermaster Grace Porter is willing to break when a shipwrecked young nobleman offers her information of an omniscient map, stolen from his warship by an enemy vessel. Until now, the map was only the stuff of legend… but with its help, Grace may finally be able to hunt down the Mordgris, the sea monsters who stole her mother away from her.

Unfortunately, some members of her crew have other plans...

To find the map and face the Mordgris, Grace will have to confront her past, put the Luck between warring nations, and uncover treachery aboard the ship. And ultimately, her revenge and the destruction of the Mordgris will come at a hefty price: the betrayal of her crew.

Grace promised them they wouldn’t regret this.

She just isn’t sure that she won’t.

I love stories set on the high seas, particularly when pirates are involved, but I usually gravitate towards romantic stories with male pirates because I have a major crush on bad-boy pirate types, apparently. lol. I’ve never read a book with female pirates before, but I really enjoyed this one!

First off, the narration was amazing. Victoria Boulton’s performance really drew me in and had me hooked from early on. She did not read too quickly or too slowly, and her British accent brought each character to life.

I loved the setting of the Lady Luck, and reading about all the ins and outs of life aboard the ship. The crew is made up entirely of women, who live by a very strict code of honor. No men are allowed on board, no children can be kidnapped and forced into service, no crew member is allowed to steal from the rest of the crew, etc. And unlike Captain Barbosa, these rules are not merely guidelines. They take these rules very seriously, and I quite liked reading about a bunch of pirates who at least have some morals.

The story itself was not particularly unique, but I still enjoyed this adventure on the high seas. The crew is on the hunt for the holy grail of all treasure: a map that will lead them to any treasure they wish. There are obstacles along the way, and two of those obstacles come in the form of two brothers who Grace saves from the Mordgris–the sea monsters who took her mother from her. Grace breaks a cardinal rule and brings them aboard the ship. As it turns out, the older brother, Leo, can help them find his map. The little brother, John, endears himself to the crew, so they decide both boys can stay. For now. I liked Grace, John, and Leo, but didn’t feel much for the rest of the characters. They all felt like typical pirates to me, with no real unique traits that made them stand out to me.

This was my first book by Jennifer Ellision, and I really enjoy her writing style and creativity. While the story kind of follows the normal pirate adventure formula, she’s added some elements that set it apart. I’m super intrigued by the Mordgris. I want to know more about them and their origins and purpose. What are they really about? Who are they? They play a big part in Grace’s life quest and are the real reason she wants this magical map. She hopes, against all odds, to find her mother. I loved reading about her determination, and the fact that she believes that family is more important than all the riches in the world. I’m really eager to see how things work out for her and to learn more about this world and the map. There’s so much to look forward to with the next book! And beware, this book ends on a major cliffhanger and you’re going to want more story ASAP!

3.5 Stars

The Girl I Used to Be by April Henry | Mini Book Review

Posted July 6, 2017 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult Fiction / 0 Comments

The Girl I Used to Be by April Henry | Mini Book ReviewThe Girl I Used to Be by April Henry
Published by Christy Ottaviano Books on May 3, 2016
Genres: Mystery, Thriller
Pages: 240
Format: Audiobook
Source: Publisher (Mail)
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2 Stars

When Olivia's mother was killed, everyone suspected her father of murder. But his whereabouts remained a mystery. Fast forward fourteen years. New evidence now proves Olivia's father was actually murdered on the same fateful day her mother died. That means there's a killer still at large. It's up to Olivia to uncover who that may be. But can she do that before the killer tracks her down first?

Ok… I think I’ve officially given up on April Henry. This is my third book from her and I haven’t liked any of them. I’m honestly surprised that I’ve given her books this many chances, although they are usually very short and very fast reads, so maybe I keep trying because her books are easy to get through if I’m behind on my Goodreads goal. Wow. That sounds harsh. And don’t get me wrong, I think young teens might really enjoy them. I just think they read a little younger than most YA mysteries I’ve read and loved over the years (like Dangerous Girls, for example).

I feel like there was not much thought put into this story. Things seemed very flat, and the characters all very shell-like… the kind of stock characters that get thrown into stories to fill roles but not connect with you or make you feel anything. The story itself was not suspenseful or exciting, and the anticlimactic ending left me wondering why I even bothered wasting my time. Everything that did happen felt very convenient, as though there was a checklist of things that needed to happen for the book to end when it was time to end. Many things felt unbelievable to me as well. A 17 year old doesn’t just move herself into a new town and start interrogating all these strangers about the intimate details of the lives of her murdered parents without raising some suspicion. Why did these people even talk to her at all, much less tell her the things that they did? I don’t understand. Everything ended so quickly, but nothing was really explained. Rather than tying up loose ends and explaining why things happened, the author cut those loose ends off bluntly and chose to not explain anything at all. It could have been better. Maybe not much better, but almost anything would have been better than what I got.

So… Goodbye, April Henry. I had such high hopes for finding a YA author that writes a ton of mysteries because I LOVE THEM, but unfortunately I’ll have to keep looking for an author that puts a little more thought into their stories. I did like the appeal of Henry’s short mysteries because sometimes I just want a quick escape, but I’d rather read a longer novel that is more complex, more thought out, less convenient, and more exciting.

2 Stars

Nantucket Blue by Leila Howland (Book Review)

Posted July 16, 2013 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult Fiction / 7 Comments

Nantucket Blue by Leila Howland (Book Review)Nantucket Blue by Leila Howland
Published by Disney Hyperion on May 7, 2013
Pages: 294
Format: Audiobook
Source: Publisher (Netgalley)
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3 Stars

For Cricket Thompson, a summer like this one will change everything. A summer spent on Nantucket with her best friend, Jules Clayton, and the indomitable Clayton family. A summer when she’ll make the almost unattainable Jay Logan hers. A summer to surpass all dreams.

Some of this turns out to be true. Some of it doesn’t.

When Jules and her family suffer a devastating tragedy that forces the girls apart, Jules becomes a stranger whom Cricket wonders whether she ever really knew. And instead of lying on the beach working on her caramel-colored tan, Cricket is making beds and cleaning bathrooms to support herself in paradise for the summer.

But it’s the things Cricket hadn’t counted on--most of all, falling hard for someone who should be completely off-limits--that turn her dreams into an exhilarating, bittersweet reality.

A beautiful future is within her grasp, and Cricket must find the grace to embrace it. If she does, her life could be the perfect shade of Nantucket blue.

I’m not typically a fun of summer romances with a little meat on their bones. Typically, I go for the light and fluffy summer romances on the beach. I was a little scared going into Nantucket Blue for this reason, but I ended up enjoying it, even though it fell a bit short. As always, my main points are bolded. :)

1. My absolute favorite part of Nantucket Blue was the setting. I love the descriptions of quaint, little Nantucket. This is the kind of small town environment I love–where everyone knows each other, nobody locks their doors, and there are more bikes than cars driving down the stone streets. Secluded beaches are abundant, and the perfect place to fall in love. This book made me want to visit Nantucket, and I hope to find more books that take place there!

2. Cricket. This is the summer she’s going to find herself, and after losing her second mom suddenly, the companionship of her best friend, and the admiration of a boy she was crushing on, she’s definitely in need of a summer of soul searching. After the invitation to spend the summer with Jules on Nantucket is retracted, Cricket finds a job that brings her to Nantucket anyway. After a twist or two, she ends up taking a job at the local Cranberry Inn (I love this place) as a chambermaid, and becomes an intern for a journalist. She cleans rooms, tries not to fall in love with her ex-best friend’s younger brother, assists the injured journalist, jumps out of her comfort zone, and makes a few new friends. I’m not sure how I feel about Cricket. She’s kind of a pushover, and I was hoping to see some major growth throughout the book, which I didn’t really get.

3. I have a really hard time seeing people push away all the good in their life in the face of tragedy. I’ve seen it happen with numerous friends and acquaintances in my life, and it makes me sad. Why not grab hold of the things you love as you grieve the things you’ve lost? That’s why I had a hard time with Jules. She changed into an unrecognizable person, and got so snotty and rude. I felt awful for her when she lost her mom, but this transformation made me not like her very much. She just did not seem to be a very good friend, and I was frustrated with Cricket for fighting so much to keep her in her life.

4. This book is just not happy. There were a few sunshiney moments, which were nice, but there was the constant sadness weighing on me. It felt like everyone was hiding behind a facade, and it made emotions and thoughts feel less genuine. Characters are at least supposed to open up to the readers.

5. I LOVED the supporting characters at the Cranberry Inn: Liz, Gavin, and George. They made this entire book for me, and are the reason I kept reading. Liz is a quirky Irish girl, who wants so badly to bring Cricket out of her shell. She’s so funny! Gavin is like a concerned dad type, and George is the journalist who was the funniest, most genuine character of them all. They became a supportive family to Cricket, and they all meshed so well together.

6. I’m iffy on the romance. It seemed kinda insta-lovey, with no real build-up. I liked the guy ok, but there was an age difference that rubbed me the wrong way. He’s 16 and she’s 18… and I just wasn’t feeling it.

7. Leila’s writing drew me in and kept me there. I loved her descriptions and her writing style.

Overall, this was kind of a “meh” read for me. I loved the setting and the secondary characters, and everyone else was jut ok. I feel like the ending was rather lackluster, but Leila Howard’s writing throughout the rest of the book kept me going. I never considered not finishing the book, but I was not entirely invested in the story. Still, though, I am now in LOVE with Nantucket. I want to go find the Cranberry Inn and hug everyone there!

3 Stars