Monday, March 18, 2019

Review: Rule by Ellen Goodlett

Rule by Ellen Goodlett
Rule (Rule #1)
By Ellen Goodlett
Publisher:
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley

To Sum It Up: Zofi, Akeylah, and Florencia are strangers to each other until King Andros of Kolonya summons them all to court. Upon their arrival, they learn that the ailing king is their father, and they are all potential heirs to his throne. Each sister, however, carries an explosive secret that, if discovered, could result in execution. When the girls start receiving threatening messages, it seems that someone already knows what they’re hiding, and the sisters must band together to find their blackmailer.

Review: It’s been a while since a fantasy blew me away, and unfortunately, Rule left me less than awed. The premise sounds promising: three young women who would otherwise continue leading disparate lives suddenly discover that they’re daughters of the ailing king. Only one of them can inherit his crown, and each sister is hiding a secret that could get her executed. Zofi, Akeylah, and Florencia are all naturally wary of each other since only one of them can rule Kolonya, but the sisters may have no choice but to work together after all three begin receiving messages threatening to expose their secrets.

My biggest issue with the book was how thinly sketched everything was: the plot, the characters, and especially the world building. War figures heavily in Kolonya’s past and present, but the details are sparse and delivered through telling instead of showing. Despite a magic system based on tithing one’s blood to temporarily gain enhanced abilities, there isn’t much of a fantasy feel here. The story focuses more on the girls’ efforts to stop their blackmailer amidst a treacherous court where no one can be trusted.

The book is also repetitive, as we’re constantly reminded that the girls must do whatever it takes to keep their secrets safe, even from each other. A plot point that could have used some hashing out instead of belaboring the secrets thing was the big reveal of the sisters’ paternity. All three accept the news that their father is the king with relative ease. The girls then move swiftly on to resuming their worries over what they’re hiding.

As much as I’d hoped that Rule would be an engrossing fantasy read, it spent too much time on its non-fantasy plot as well as went down the YA trope road with some insta-love and a potential love triangle. I considered DNF-ing this, but there was something about the pacing that still made Rule compulsive to read. As much as I’d also hoped that there would be some resolution to the girls’ blackmail situation, alas the book ended on a giant cliffhanger which I’m not invested enough in to see the outcome of in a sequel.

All in All: Rule has some really good pacing, which spurred me on to read what otherwise would have been a DNF. The other aspects of the book, however, are not as strong. The plot is all about the sisters keeping their misdeeds hidden in a world that isn’t fully fleshed out.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Review: The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand

The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand
The Afterlife of Holly Chase
By Cynthia Hand
Publisher:
HarperTeen
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased

To Sum It Up: Holly Chase is a failed Scrooge. After receiving a visit from three ghosts on Christmas Eve warning her to change her ways, Holly completely ignores them and a few days later, she dies. Then begins Holly’s afterlife as an employee of Project Scrooge, the company that tried to reform her. Holly is Project Scrooge’s Ghost of Christmas Past, a job that she’s not entirely keen on until the team begins planning for this year’s assignment: Ethan Winters, a Scrooge whom Holly takes a particular interest in when she starts to realize how much his life experiences mirror her own. As Christmas Eve approaches, Holly’s duties as the Ghost of Christmas Past increasingly take a backseat to what her heart wants.

Review: I’m a huge fan of Cynthia Hand’s angel series Unearthly, so I was very excited to read her modern take on A Christmas Carol. Hand’s version tells the story of Holly Chase, who failed to be swayed by the efforts of Project Scrooge, a secret company that tries to save one Scrooge-like individual every Christmas. After being visited by the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future à la Dickens’s classic tale, Holly ignores all of the ghosts’ warnings and subsequently dies. Her afterlife consists of being a Project Scrooge employee, as its current Ghost of Christmas Past. Holly is less than thrilled about this purgatory/hell she’s landed in and hasn’t changed much, if at all, from her days as a mortal.

It doesn’t take long to realize why Holly was selected as a Scrooge: she’s selfish, materialistic, and mean. A good portion of the novel sees Holly put her responsibilities as the GCP on the backburner as she falls for the current Scrooge, Ethan Winters. Holly’s recklessness is sometimes cringe-worthy, yet it also builds suspense. Will Project Scrooge discover what she’s up to? Will she put Ethan’s future in jeopardy by not doing her job?

I found the middle section of the book, which focuses on Holly meeting Ethan in secret when she should be carrying out her GCP duties kind of slow moving. I wasn’t really sold on the romance here. My investment was in whether or not Ethan would be another failed Scrooge thanks in large part to Holly’s egregious breaking of Project Scrooge protocol.

I admit that I was prepared to be a bit disappointed with this one until—and I must squeeze in a bad Christmas pun here—things started wrapping up. I loved the book’s conclusion; it was extremely satisfying with just the right amount of closure, yet without being hokey. Although I would have enjoyed the book even more if the middle part had been as strong as the finish, overall this was a solid retelling as well as a solid holiday read.

All in All: I struggled some reading through the romance bits, but the ending was totally worth hanging in there for.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Book Loot (34)

Welcome to the first book haul post of 2019, in which I spotlight books that I accumulated back in 2018, lol. I feel like "book hoarding" is more accurate here because while I'm still not reading very much, I'm continuing to buy books. XD

Most of these were highly anticipated 2018 releases that I had pre-ordered. I also received this nifty Mr. Darcy mug as a gift. One can never have enough book-related mugs, I say!



Bought:

A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi
Vengeful by V.E. Schwab
What If It's Us by Becky Albertalli & Adam Silvera
The Lady's Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee
The Dark Days Deceit by Alison Goodman
Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J. Maas
The Disasters by M.K. England
All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung
Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
Sadie by Courtney Summers

Have you read any of these or are planning to read them?

Monday, January 28, 2019

Review: All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater

All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater
All the Crooked Saints
By Maggie Stiefvater
Publisher:
Scholastic Press
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased

To Sum It Up: Pilgrims flock to Bicho Raro, Colorado, home of the Soria family, in search of a miracle. While the Sorias can perform miracles, they are forbidden from helping the pilgrims permanently banish their darkness, lest the Sorias bring the darkness onto themselves. Cousins Beatriz, Daniel, and Joaquin know this rule as well as any Soria, but when Daniel, the Saint of Bicho Raro, finds himself battling the very thing all the Sorias fear, it’s up to Beatriz and Joaquin to find a way to save their beloved cousin.

Review: Soooo, according to Goodreads, I began reading All the Crooked Saints on July 31, 2018, and finished it on December 9, 2018. And this review is posting in January of 2019. Yikes!

So, what happened here? I did read a few self-help books for work during that stretch but . . . what happened here?! Maggie Stiefvater is one of my all-time favorite authors!

Looking back at how long it took me to read All the Crooked Saints, I’d say that 90% of it taking forever was due to life and necessary adulting usurping reading time. The remaining 10% was due to just not finding my groove with this book. There was nothing really concrete that I disliked about it. Stiefvater’s prose is as beautiful as ever, and once again, she has assembled a cast of finely crafted characters. I think my struggle here was the same as it was with another Stiefvater standalone, The Scorpio Races. Both novels moved very slowly for me, and I found it challenging to get invested.

I did manage to find more investment in All the Crooked Saints than I did in The Scorpio Races thanks to the compelling backstories of the members of the Soria family and the miracle-seeking pilgrims who still haven’t left the Sorias’ home in Bicho Raro, Colorado. I also loved the contagious charisma of Diablo Diablo, AKA Joaquin Soria, pirate radio DJ extraordinaire, and the role that his rogue broadcast, engineered by Joaquin’s clever cousin, Beatriz, played throughout the novel.

The last 70 pages really picked up for me, and when, after reading this book in fits and starts for about four months, I reached the last page, I realized that I’d quite enjoyed the book. Maggie Stiefvater is brilliant at threading magic through reality. Pilgrims with coyote heads or nonstop rain falling over them are entirely the norm in Bicho Raro.

My rating does reflect the difficulty I encountered with the book’s overall pacing, but the strong finish left an impression deep enough to bump the rating up by another half star. No ravens or quests to find sleeping kings to be found in this one, but there are owls and an atmosphere infused with magic that makes Bicho Raro much more than just a setting for a story about saints and pilgrims.

All in All: Although it took me quite a while to get into All the Crooked Saints, it ended up being the type of read that grew on me the more I thought about it.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Reading and Blogging Resolutions for 2019

Happy New Year! All right, 2019: let's do this!

Yesterday I started writing a post to look back at 2018, but since it was another meh year for me reading and blogging, I just wasn't feeling it and scrapped the post. Not dwelling on what I didn't accomplish last year and instead making a fresh start for 2019 seemed like a better idea.

My overall goal for 2019 is to keep my goals simple, lol. As in not make them so ridiculously unreachable that I'm just going to end up a soggy mess of tears at the end of the year, sobbing over all that I failed to accomplish. XD So on that note:

  • Read 25 books. This was my number for last year's Goodreads challenge. I only made it to 17, same as 2017. If I can read just 2 books a month and squeeze 1 more in at some point during the year, it's totally doable.
  • Scheduled blogging time. Blogging was practically nonexistent on my radar last year because I let it be that way. I've been reading Ryder Carroll's The Bullet Journal Method, and it's been an eye-opener as far as thinking about how I manage, or more accurately, don't manage, my time. I'm switching over to bullet journaling for 2019 from the Passion Planner, and regular, consistent blogging time is a priority task for this year.
  • Move to WordPress/new blog design. I've wanted to move to WordPress for literally years now, lol, and I'm at the point where I realize this is one of those "just do it even though you have no idea what you're doing" type of things. So if you stop by the blog one day and it's acting all wonky, it probably means I finally took the WordPress plunge.

I hope everyone has an incredible 2019! Good luck with all of your reading/blogging challenges!

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