Monday, September 16, 2019

Review: City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab

City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab
City of Ghosts (Cassidy Blake #1)
By Victoria Schwab
Publisher:
Scholastic Press
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased

To Sum It Up: Cassidy Blake’s parents may write books about ghosts for a living, but for Cass, ghosts are all too real. After being saved from drowning by a ghost named Jacob, who becomes her best friend, Cassidy can step into the Veil, the curtain between the living and the dead. When her parents are given the opportunity to film a TV show about haunted places around the world, the family packs their bags for Edinburgh, Scotland, where Cassidy is about to discover that not all ghosts are friendly like Jacob.

Review: Victoria Schwab has become an auto-buy author for me, so of course I had to check out her middle grade novel, City of Ghosts. In it we meet Cassidy Blake, a girl whose near-death experience has given her the ability to cross into the Veil, the barrier between the worlds of the living and the dead. Cass’s best friend is Jacob, a snarky, comic book-loving ghost who saved Cass from drowning. Cass and Jacob’s friendship was definitely the highlight of the novel for me; I loved the banter between them.

Overall, though, I’m bummed to say that I just wasn’t feeling this book. While I loved the concept and the wonderful, thoroughly detailed descriptions of Edinburgh, the story itself seemed to be missing something. As spooky as some of Cass and Jacob’s forays into the Veil are, the sense of danger doesn’t feel all that palpable.

I also thought that the book took a while to get going, and even then, the plot is pretty straightforward. I think I expected more suspense and tension build-up given that this is a story about ghosts. I realize that this is middle grade, but I felt there was still room to add more layers to the plot and to the characters.

Perhaps I’m too used to the complicated characters of Schwab’s adult novels to fully appreciate City of Ghosts. This one fell a bit short for me, but I do think that the book offers plenty of chills to thrill younger readers who will enjoy watching Cassidy and Jacob grow as characters as they continue their ghostly adventures together.

All in All: Sadly, I didn’t love this as much as I’d hoped despite some snappy dialogue and an immersive setting. The plot was a tad thin for me to really get into the story. Middle grade readers, however, will very likely find City of Ghosts to be a promising start to the series.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Review: Vengeful by V.E. Schwab

Vengeful (Villains #2)
By V.E. Schwab
Publisher:
Tor
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased

To Sum It Up: It’s been five years since ExtraOrdinaries Victor Vale and Eli Ever faced off, with Victor seemingly killed and Eli captured. With the help of another EO, however, Victor is alive, though not well and deteriorating at an alarming rate. Meanwhile back in Merit, once the scene of Victor and Eli’s showdown, a new EO named Marcella Riggins is literally using her bare hands to destroy anyone who stands in her way of taking control of the city. Marcella’s power is so formidable that it may take turning to the currently imprisoned Eli for help in stopping her.

Review: I finally read Vengeful, the highly anticipated sequel to Vicious, one of the best stories about morally ambiguous characters EVER. I’d say THE BEST that I’ve ever read. And everyone continues to walk a fine line between good and evil in Vengeful.

Once again, Victoria Schwab jumps back and forth between the present and the past to unreel her narrative. Five years have passed since Victor and Eli met for what appeared to be the final time. Eli is now the prisoner of EON, an organization headed by Joseph Stell, the former detective who locked Victor up. Stell thinks that EOs might be rehabilitated into using their abilities for something other than wrongdoing. Eli, who once hunted EOs down and killed them in his belief that they were abominations, finds this notion preposterous and insists to Stell that heroes are not in an EO’s nature. When a new EO named Marcella Riggins threatens to destroy Merit in her quest for power, Stell reluctantly realizes that his best hope for stopping Marcella may be Eli Cardale. Watching Stell and Eli try to stay one step ahead of each other is absolutely riveting.

We also get some significant backstory for Eli that details the development of that carefully calculated veneer. I love how Schwab constantly challenges the reader, both in Vicious and in Vengeful, to rethink their views of the characters by making them so complex. You can’t help but wonder what Eli’s life would have been like if he’d had a different childhood, if he hadn’t ended up at Lockland University, and/or if he hadn’t met Victor Vale.

As for Victor, we discover that Sydney’s EO ability to bring back the dead isn’t without consequences, and Victor’s time to find a permanent fix for his problem is running out. Here again this series questions the definitions of good and evil as Victor takes lives in in order to try and save his own. As much as you may want him to survive, you’ll probably also ask, but at what cost?

While Vengeful is still Victor and Eli’s story, new EO Marcella Riggins commands an equally powerful presence on the page. After her mobster husband Marcus’s failed attempt to kill her, Marcella wakes up in the hospital with the ability to reduce whatever she touches to dust and ashes. She also awakens, understandably, in a murderous mood towards Marcus. What begins as a thirst for revenge quickly escalates into an insatiable hunger for power. She teams up with two other EOs—Jonathan, who can shield himself as well as extend the shield to another person, and the mysterious June, who can take on someone else’s appearance—with a very interesting twist. Alone, Marcella and her destructive touch are formidable, but working with June and Jonathan, she seems unstoppable. Marcella puts the “Extra” in “ExtraOrdinary,” reveling in making a spectacle of everything she does. I do think her grandstanding slowed down the book’s pacing at times, making Vengeful not quite the feverish page turner that Vicious was.

Overall, though, Vengeful is a not to be missed sequel. Once again, Victoria Schwab takes the superhero story and flips it every way imaginable, creating an unpredictable, deliciously twisted tale that you won’t easily forget.

All in All: Although Vicious just edges this out as my favorite book in the duology, Vengeful is certainly not a sidekick of a sequel. These are some of the best flawed characters ever—perfectly imperfect and incredibly compelling to read about.

Monday, August 5, 2019

July 2019 Recap

Happy August, everyone! Hope you're all enjoying summer! It's been an extremely hot summer even for Florida, as evidenced by the monthly horror story I call my electric bill. :( Ah, well—at least we have air conditioning to stay cool.

I really slacked off in July, only reading 2 books and posting 1 review. :( I did finally get around to reading Victoria Schwab's Vengeful, which I was determined to cross off my 2019 TBR. Although I read consistently (I LOVE having a daily reading tracker in my bullet journal), most days I only got in a few pages either before work or late in the evening. Noticing this pattern has really made me think about how I spend my time and if there are any things in my daily routine that really aren't that high priority and which can be swapped out a few times a week for some extra reading and blogging.

I also lost the past week to a whopper of a cold that made it difficult to do very much other than sneeze, blow my nose, and sleep. I can usually fight this kind of thing off in a day or two, but I think I was really run down this time. I'm finally feeling like myself again and trying to get back on track with reading and blogging.

Have you read anything good lately? How has your summer been going?

Reviews Posted:

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Book Loot (36)

I don't know about you guys, but I have a hard time not tapping that 1-click button whenever the Kindle edition of a book that I really want to read goes on sale for a really good price, lol. That's how I arrived at this Book Loot post, with my mini, mostly eBook haul, lol.

Last month I also received my pre-order of the latest Shadowhunter short story collection, Ghosts of the Shadow Market. I also picked up this nifty Avengers: Endgame bookmark. I figured if they can save the world after The Snap/Blip, my place in my book should be in good hands haha.


Bought:

Ghosts of the Shadow Market by Cassandra Clare, Sarah Rees Brennan, Maureen Johnson, Kelly Link, & Robin Wasserman
The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon
Here's to You, Rachel Robinson by Judy Blume
The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang
Time and Chance by Sharon Kay Penman
To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo

Have you read any of these? I'd love to hear what you thought of them!

Monday, July 8, 2019

Review: The Place on Dalhousie by Melina Marchetta

The Place on Dalhousie by Melina Marchetta
The Place on Dalhousie
By Melina Marchetta
Publisher:
Ivy Press
Format: eBook
Source: Borrowed

To Sum It Up: Rosie Gennaro and Jimmy Hailler meet during a flood in Queensland, and their brief time together forever changes both their lives. Two years later, Rosie has moved back to Sydney and into the house on Dalhousie Street that her father, Seb, was supposed to renovate for her and her mother, Loredana. Now it’s Rosie’s stepmother, Martha, who occupies that house and whom Rosie has never accepted because Martha and Seb married less than a year after Loredana lost her battle with cancer. Meanwhile, Jimmy has also returned to Sydney and back among the school friends who are like family to him. He’s never been this close to having a family to call his own, though, and it’s Rosie who may be able to help him finally find one.

Review: First, let me say how absolutely wonderful it was to read one of the magnificent Melina Marchetta’s books again. Second, let me say that if you haven’t read any of her books, you need to fix that immediately because you’re missing out on sheer brilliance.

It’s been almost five years since I last read a Marchetta book, and that book was, fittingly, The Piper’s Son, one of two companion novels to The Place on Dalhousie. We first met Jimmy Hailler, one of the latter’s protagonists, back in the equally superb Saving Francesca. Two books later, we still didn’t know what happened to Jimmy, and finally, finally, finally, Marchetta has given us the answer. It turns out that Jimmy has been looking for his family, and this book sees him presented with the chance to truly have one that’s all his, though maybe not in the way he expected.

The Place on Dalhousie also tells the story of Rosie Gennaro, whom Jimmy meets amidst a flood in Queensland. Like Jimmy, Rosie originally hails from Sydney, where too many painful memories drove her to leave. Two years after their short time together in Queensland, Rosie finds herself back in Sydney and back in the titular place on Dalhousie Street. It’s the house her father, Seb, was going to restore for his family. Rosie’s definition of family was never meant to include her stepmother, Martha, whom Seb married eleven months after Rosie lost her mother, Loredana, to cancer. Martha lives downstairs and is considering selling the house, which infuriates Rosie even though Martha has offered to split the money from the sale with her. In Rosie’s mind, Martha has zero right to the home that was supposed to belong to Rosie, Seb, and Loredana. Selling it means losing another part of her parents.

At its core, The Place on Dalhousie is a story about family. Rosie, Jimmy, and Martha all learn that family isn’t limited to one’s parents or siblings but also includes friends and even the family of those friends. Watching the extended family in this book grow and grow as they laugh, fight, and cry together is sure to melt your heart because Marchetta’s writing makes you so invested in these characters’ lives, whether it’s Rosie or Jimmy or Martha or Rosie’s formidable grandmother Eugenia or Martha’s sort-of-boyfriend Ewan’s father, John. And don’t even get me started on how emotional I got whenever the name of a member of the St. Sebastian’s crew from Saving Francesca, where it all began, popped up.

I knew as soon as this book had referenced Game of Thrones and Elvis Costello by the end of Chapter 3 that this was going to be an amazing read. I wasn’t wrong. Sometimes reading a book is like viewing a pleasing landscape painting. You enjoy it in the moment, but it’s not especially memorable. Then you read a book like The Place on Dalhousie in which the characters have been created with the detail of a Renaissance masterpiece that lingers in your mind long after you’ve had the privilege of viewing it. The latter experience is what reading a Melina Marchetta book is like—expert storytelling and unforgettable characters.

All in All: Another stellar novel from Melina Marchetta. While I think you can skate by reading this as a standalone, I highly, highly recommend reading Saving Francesca and The Piper’s Son beforehand to get the most out of The Place on Dalhousie. After reading this, I wanted to reread the previous two companion books to relive their brilliance all over again.

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