Wednesday, August 27, 2014

ARC Review: The Iron Trial (Magisterium #1) by Holly Black & Cassandra Clare

The Iron Trial by Holly Black
Source: Paperback ARC via Scholastic
My rating: 4 of 5 stars :star :star :star :star


I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

“Fire wants to burn.
Water wants to flow.
Air wants to rise.
Earth wants to bind.
Chaos wants to devour.”


The Iron Trial is the first in a collaborative fantasy series by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare. It was a book I was most excited to read, and I'm so glad I got an ARC so I could read it early (Thanks, Scholastic!). Now, I heard a lot of different opinions from my Goodreads friends who read it early. Many of them thought the similarities to Harry Potter were too stark, and disliked it for that reason. So I was pretty curious about how I would fare when I read this, since I'm a HUGE Harry Potter fan (and a huge Middle Grade fan).

Do I think this is a Harry Potter rip-off? NO, I don't. Let me elaborate. In the beginning, I admit, there are definite similarities to Harry Potter. The world is being set up, and we are introduced to a baby with a propensity for evil(?) in the Prologue. Then we see Callum Hunt, the MC, attend the Trials in order to determine if he will go to magic school, known as Magisterium. He tries to purposely fail, convinced by his father that those who learn magic die under the Mages (as his mother did long ago). His mother's death by magic isn't unique though, as half the class lost family members in one war or another. There are three people in each group who study under each Master. In Call's group, it's him and Aaron and a girl named Tamara (who seems like a perfectionist in the beginning). So those are the similarities. And they're all established early on, so I definitely can see where people are coming from. BUT as I kept reading I forgot all about Harry Potter and became immersed in a completely new world indicative of a great middle grade fantasy.

I found Call to be a bit annoying. He was likable enough for a main character, but sometimes his attitude was a bit meh. He has a disability in his leg, which was shattered when he was a baby. I actually really respected the fact that we have a main character who isn't the attractive perfect orphaned boy, who is instead a disabled, bitter boy who doesn't even want to learn magic. It was refreshing. I also liked that he had to deal with his disability and even be bullied by it, yet he always acted confident even when he didn't feel it inside. When Tamara and Aaron stood up for him in the lunch room, I admit I got a bit teary eyed. No one had stood up for this boy before, and I could tell that he hadn't really ever had real friends.

The dynamic between the three friends was interesting too. I felt like Call's perception of Aaron (the orphaned good looking popular boy) was one we don't see a lot in middle grade books. Call was a bit jealous at times, and sometimes he felt left out. Not only did Call's character develop and grow; but each and every one of the kids had their own character development. Tamara went from perfect little know it all to the biggest rebel of them all. Aaron went from nice guy to the different boy who was put on a pedestal and afraid of the fall down (and his own mortality). Call went from not wanting to make friends or even learn magic to being excited for his future yet dreading his very soul. Even Jasper, the bully, had a lot of depth in that he went from resentful to actively trying to become a better student. I liked that a lot.

Besides the amazing characters, I gotta say I loved the setting. The Magisterium is completely underground. Call's father raised him to fear the Master's and the Magisterium. He said you can get lost in the underground tunnels and never come out. He told Call that the Master's don't care about the safety of their students and send students to their death. This added an ominous feeling to the surroundings that I found cool. I sometimes think there's such a fine line between providing an overly descriptive setting, and one that is not descriptive enough. This book had the perfect amount. I had a clear view of what the Magisterium school looked and felt like. It's stalagmites, lakes, and tunnels that lead into the outside world made for a fascinating school setting. Each year has a different name, Call and the rest in their first year are the Iron Years. After the first year they can decide whether they wish to continue or not. At that point they know enough to control their magic so it's not dangerous to themselves and those around them.

I'm definitely super excited for the rest of this series. I can't wait to read the next book! I always tend to either LOVE author collaborations (Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch, Just Like Fate) or hate them (which doesn't happen too often since I can't think of an example). To those of you on the fence about reading this due to all the people saying it's a HP knock-off. Don't knock a potential knock-off until you read it. ;) You may find, like I did, that although there were similarities, there were more differences and it made for an excellent read.



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Monday, August 25, 2014

The Voyage of Lucy P. Simmons: The Emerald Shore by Barbara Mariconda


The Voyage of Lucy P. Simmons: The Emerald Shore
by Barbara Mariconda

Source: eARC via Katherine Tegen Books | Edelweiss
My rating: 4 of 5 stars  :star :star :star :star


I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Ever since I read The Voyage of Lucy P. Simmons: Lucy at Sea, I've been looking forward to this book. The end of a great middle grade series can be tricky to perfect. Especially a series such as this; with a plethora of characters, locations, and backstory. Lucy is a recently orphaned girl determined to break her family's curse.

I don't want to spoil any of the previous books in the series so I'm going to keep this review brief and somewhat vague. The book begins right where the last one left off. Lucy and her group are in search of the cursed treasure of Pirate Queen Mary Maude Lee. Only when Lucy and her Aunt Pru find the treasure and return it to its rightful owners (Marni + the remaining descendants of the Pirate Queen) will the curse be stopped. But until then, the sea keeps trying to claim Lucy, and The Grey Man comes often almost killing her numerous times.

This book has a few additional characters, who I found to be quite charming. Grady's mother is a seer, Mrs. Oonaugh and she is hilarious! She smokes her tobacco pipe, only instead of blowing O's she blows smoke in the shape of whatever prophecy is important at the time. Then there's Seamus, who makes Walter quite jealous by doting on Lucy. But can he be trusted?? The final new character is Old Peader. He's pretty grumpy, but made a good addition to the crew. Sometimes I feel like there are too many characters in this series, and I have a hard time keeping up. This may be because I never read the first book, I just jumped right in at the second. So it was hard sometimes keeping up. And certainly in the beginning it was a bit hard remembering who was who. But for the most part I kept it straight and remembered why I loved all of them. Oh, and there is a fairy in this one!! Nessa was hilarious and deviant and I loved every minute of her and the big mess she made.

I thought the author did an excellent job with Lucy. Her thought process was extremely mature and adult. I really like this. I love when middle grade books don't dumb down their characters. I felt like her maturity and inner monologues were extremely intelligent and realistic. Big props for that.

Other than that there isn't much to say about this amazing adventure novel. I thought it ended brilliantly and everything came together quite nicely. I was very surprised at the end, and found myself (twice) having to reread what happened because I could hardly believe it! I quite prefer this to the obvious endings that often occur with this type of series. I'm sad to say goodbye to Lucy. I feel there is room for a spin off series with the new school and the kids of the workhouse. Perhaps we will see more of this world from the author? One can only hope. I have to say, I really enjoyed the ride during the Voyages of Lucy P. Simmons.
I definitely recommend this series to lovers of adventure and historical fantasy. :tup


Friday, August 22, 2014

ARC Review: The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer Holm

The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm
Source: eARC via Random House Children's | Netgalley
My rating: 5 of 5 stars :star :star :star :star :star


I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

"We knew the world would not be the same. A few people laughed. A few people cried. Most people were silent."
-Oppenheimer (Loc 476 of ARC)


That's right, that's an Oppenheimer quote from a middle grade book. This isn't any old middle grade book about a girl and her goldfish (admit it, you kinda thought it was). It's a deeply moving story about a girl, Ellie and her grandfather Melvin. Melvin is a scientist who just made a groundbreaking discovery. He discovered the fountain of youth! He is now her grandfather trapped in a 13 year old's body. As you can imagine, hilarity ensues. But this isn't some comical joke of a novel.

First of all, the book is about science. Technical details, famous scientists name, and controversial issues were all discussed. Keep in mind, in case you're forgetting, this is a middle grade novel. I can't tell you how happy this made me. I mean, middle school was the setting, but Ellie was considering really great topics. For instance, the issue of scientific discovery. Oppenheimer's Manhattan Project (which I didn't learn about until High School, and Ellie is learning it in middle school because of her grandfather), created the atomic bomb. Was the world ready for it? What were the ramifications? How was his discovery received? Did the scientists eat burritos while discussing ideas?

The characters were hilarious. The majority of the humor came from Melvin, Ellie's grandfather-turned 13 year old, who also turns into her new babysitter. He wears her moms leggings because he hates doing laundry. He steals soy sauce packets from the Chinese restaurant (my grandfather does that with saltine crackers). Basically, he's laugh out loud funny. The book is a fast read, and I was instantly captivated by Ellie and her scientific mind. I loved how the author didn't dumb things down for the audience. In fact, she did the opposite. She encourages young readers to look up these famous scientists, and their discoveries! Marie Curie, Einstein, Galileo, Oppenheimer, and Stalk are some of the many that are listed and referenced in the book. Not to mention, at the end there's a wonderful "for further research" page for kids who want to quench what curiosity was piqued from reading the book.

So thank you Jennifer Holm! I will be recommended this to my nephew and niece, as well as my students I tutor. Those who like and those who don't like science, will find this a pleasurable and funny read. I wouldn't be surprised if this wins awards. 



Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Clear Your Shelf Giveaway Hop (US)

This hop is hosted by I am a Reader and Bookhounds.

It's time for a giveaway!!

 I'm happy to participate in the Clear Your Shelf Giveaway Hop and get rid of some of my many books cluttering up my shelves. These are some of the books I've read and loved (but won't read again), or I haven't gotten around to (and probably never will). I tried to include a wide variety of genres. I'll also be including swag from upcoming releases!

Rules:
-US Only
-No Cheating. I do check!
-See Giveaway page for complete rules
-You have 48 hrs to respond to my email if you win

+ PICK TWO BOOKS FROM THOSE PICTURED:
(ARCs + finished copies)





The Pearl Wars (Skyship Academy, #1)


Good luck! 



a Rafflecopter giveaway


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FOR MORE CHANCES TO WIN:
CLICK HERE to visit more blogs for more chances to WIN!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

ARC Review: Salt & Storm by Kendall Kulper

Salt & Storm by Kendall Kulper
Source: eARC via Little, Brown Books for Young Readers | Netgalley
My rating: 3 of 5 stars :star :star :star

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Salt & Storm is a debut that came amid the influx of young adult witch  books that are becoming so prevalent lately. I am a fan of this trend. I love witch books. Even if they're bad, I'm sick of vampires and werewolves and am welcoming this trend with open arms. The last witch book I read (ya) was House of Ivy & Sorrow, and Salt & Storm was definitely better. Unfortunately, that's not quite as good of a compliment as it sounds, lol.

So here's the thing. Salt & Storm is a meticulously researched historical fiction novel. I respected all the historical accuracies and enjoyed reading about a whaling island set in the time period of the late 1800s. Avery was an interesting main character; her mother and grandmother even more complex and interesting. My favorite character, however, was the "boy" Tane. He was hot and I really liked his character. When he emerged, my annoyances with the story took to the background because I wanted to keep reading about him. In some ways I cared more about his future than Avery's.

Avery Roe is a descendant of a long line of witches. The witches keep the whalers and the ships and the entire island safe and running, for a price. Avery was ripped from her grandmothers care, and her witchly training, as a child and now lives with her mother. Her mother cursed her so she cannot seek out her grandmother, and her magic is bubbling painfully inside of her. Avery has the power to tell dreams, and when she has a foreboding dream about her own murder, she desperately seeks to evade her mother and find a way to her grandmother's aid. This is when she meets Tane, a tattooed island homie who proposes a deal: he can attempt to break the spell Avery's mom put on her, if Avery will tell his dreams. She agrees, and thus their relationship develops.

I basically sped read a lot of this book. I just felt there were many details that were unimportant. Whether that's true or not, I don't know. Maybe they were important, but they were boring as hell. So I read super fast over the boring bits. Avery annoyed me, her grandmother disgusted me, and I pitied her mother. In the end, I thought the story was well done. BUT, I have to remember how I felt when I was reading it. I was kind of bored or just waiting for her to figure things out. When she finally did, I wondered why she didn't ask or deduce a lot of the things she found out. It felt unbelievable, in a way. Plus, all her whining didn't help. She just resigned herself to the fact that she was going to be murdered. Like, really? You're 17 years old, in love, and you're going to give up because someone you looked up to told you its useless? Psh. Whatever, Avery. Ookay.

I did get emotional a bit at the end, and that showed me I had enough of an attachment to the characters Tane. For a debut, the author did well. I don't want my review to be full of only criticism, because reading it was an interesting ride. I will definitely be watching for future works by this author.

Would I recommend this book to others? If you're a fan of historical fiction and witch-filled plots, then yes. Read it. It's not terrible, nor will it floor you with its amazingness. It's a good story.



View all my reviews

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

ARC Review: The League of Seven by Alan Gratz

The League of Seven by Alan Gratz
Source: eARC via Tor-Forge | Netgalley
My rating: 3 of 5 stars : :star :star :star


I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

The League of Seven is a steampunk adventure for middle grade readers. It takes place in a world that is completely unique, with an alternate history. It's kind of difficult for me to explain my thoughts about this book. I started this book immediately after reading the best middle grade (also steampunk) book of the year, Flights and Chimes and Mysterious Times. Sometimes when I read a book so spectacular and amazing, other books simply pale in comparison. That's kind of what happened here. It makes me think my response may not be too fair, so when I hovered between 2 and 3 stars, I decided to rate up and stick with 3.

Don't get me wrong, The League of Seven was a good read. The story was unique and I liked the characters a lot. The friendship that developed between Hachi, Fergus, and Archie was inspiring and realistic. Hachi, the girl, impressed me the most. Of the three friends, she was the only girl and also was "the warrior." She constantly saved the lives of the boys, and was fighting while they hid or stayed out of her way. It was brilliant! I can't tell you how long I've waited for a middle grade book to have a sensitive girl who is the warrior (self-taught) who keeps the boys alive! I was cheering for her from the start.

The only real criticism I can make it that it took me awhile to get into it, and I felt like the book was missing something. There was a spark that is usually present that I didn't really sense at all. Unfortunately, I can't really describe it any better than that.

The story had enough creativity, myth, and action to interest me. If you're obsessed with steampunk, you'd like this story. It may not be the best steampunk tale of the year, but it was good. The message it gives is more positive for females than is the norm, and for that alone I give it a thumbs up. 



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Sunday, August 10, 2014

Monster Read-a-thon Wrap-Up

The monster Thons are hosted by the lovely ladies @ The Book Monsters.

I'll be honest, I was expecting to finish more books. I went on a last minute vacation, though, and didn't read as much as I wanted to due to all the activities and fun I had in San Diego. 
But I plan to read as much as possible for the rest of the month! 

Here are the books I made progress reading this week:




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Did you participate at all? What did you read? Comment below! 



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