Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Review: Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter

From Back Cover: In the enchanted kingdom of Brooklyn, the fashionable people put on cute shoes, go to parties in warehouses, drink on rooftops at sunset, and tell themselves they’ve arrived. A whole lot of Brooklyn is like that now - but not Vassa’s working-class neighborhood. In Vassa’s neighborhood, where she lives with her stepmother and bickering stepsisters, one might stumble onto magic, but stumbling out again could become an issue. Babs Yagg, the owner of the local convenience store, has a policy of beheading shoplifters - and sometimes innocent shoppers as well. So when Vassa’s stepsister sends her out for light bulbs in the middle of night, she knows it could easily become a suicide mission. But Vassa has a bit of luck hidden in her pocket, a gift from her dead mother. Erg is a tough-talking wooden doll with sticky fingers, a bottomless stomach, and a ferocious cunning. With Erg’s help, Vassa just might be able to break the witch’s curse and free her Brooklyn neighborhood. But Babs won’t be playing fair ... 

My Rating: 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Inspired by the Russian folktale Vassilissa the Beautiful, Sarah Porter’s Vassa in the Night is a bizarre read that probably won’t appeal to everybody. If you like your books to make sense, Vassa in the Night is not that type of book. The plot, at times, took strange turns that I found downright confusing. For example, I still don’t get Vassa’s dad’s desire to be a German shepherd!

At other times though, despite the magic making no sense, I really enjoyed the book. Porter’s writing was almost dreamlike; and I loved that the story features a witch who doesn’t hesitate to behead shoplifters and has a great marketing campaign, a pair of bloodthirsty hands who delight in deception and violence, and a kleptomaniac wooden doll with an endless appetite. I also thought the setting was atmospheric and magical.

An odd book that should be given a chance, Vassa in the Night was released on September 20, 2016 by Tor Teen. 

Comments About the Cover: I like how the text stands out against the simple background.  

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (Raincoast Books) for free. 

Vassa in the Night can be bought from: [Amazon] [Barnes and Noble] [Book Depository]
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As part of the blog tour for Vassa in the Night, I was lucky enough to ask Sarah a question as well. I asked her, "If you were to write a story inspired by another piece of writing, what work do you think it would be based upon and why?"

Hi Zahida! I doubt I’ll ever write another retelling, but I can think of a few more Russian fairy tales that would make great novels. “Finest the Falcon” could be particularly lovely, though I’m not sure a story that romantic would be the right fit for me. I’d love it if somebody else tackled that one, though. I’ve toyed with the idea of doing something with “Ivan, the Glowing Bird, and the Gray Wolf.” Ivan encounters the Gray Wolf when the Wolf devours his horse in the wilderness; talk about a meet-cute! But then after that violent introduction, the Wolf is passionately loyal to Ivan, even when he doesn’t deserve it. There’s something so moving and fierce about their relationship; I think it could make an amazing book. 


Monday, September 19, 2016

Mini Reviews: Write This Down by Claudia Mills and Foxheart by Claire Legrand

From Back Cover: Twelve-year-old Autumn loves to write, and she can't wait to grow up to be a published author. She finds inspiration all around her, especially in Cameron, the dreamy boy in her journalism class who she has a major crush on. But when her older brother, Hunter - who used to watch out for her but has grown distant since he started high school - discovers one of her most personal pieces of writing and makes fun of it, she is devastated. Determined to show her brother how wrong he is about her talent, Autumn decides that she is going to become a published author - now! She writes an essay about her changing relationship with her brother and enters it in a contest that puts her dream of publication finally within reach. But if her essay is published, everyone will know her family's secrets. Is being published worth hurting those you love? 

My Rating: 3.5 hearts

Thoughts on the Novel: Personally, it was impossible to read Write This Down by Claudia Mills without being reminded of a time when I thought anything was possible but didn’t understand how difficult it can be to achieve your dreams. Mills’ protagonist Autumn dreams of being a famous writer like her idol Emily Dickinson – a choice that perhaps middle graders might find hard to connect to – but when her older brother makes fun of her poem about her crush, Autumn sets out to prove to her brother that her writing is good. As an adult, it’s easy to see that Autumn is a little na?ve in thinking that she could have a piece of writing published so easily, but I also liked that Write This Down focuses on trying to achieve your dreams – and doing so in a way that leaves you without regrets. 

Write This Down will be released by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) on September 27, 2016.

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (Raincoast Books) for free.
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From Goodreads: Orphan. Thief. Witch. Twelve-year-old Quicksilver dreams of becoming the greatest thief in the Star Lands. With her faithful dog and partner-in-crime Fox, she’s well on her way - even if that constantly lands them both in trouble. It’s a lonesome life, sleeping on rooftops and stealing food for dinner, but Quicksilver doesn’t mind. When you’re alone, no one can hurt you. Or abandon you. But the seemingly peaceful Star Lands are full of danger. Witches still exist - although the powerful Wolf King and his seven wolves have been hunting them for years. Thankfully, his bloody work is almost complete. Soon the Star Lands will be safe, free of the witches and their dark magic. Then one day a strange old woman and her scruffy dog arrive in Quicksilver’s town and perform extraordinary magic. Real magic - forbidden and dangerous. Magic Quicksilver is desperate to learn. With magic like that, she could steal anything her heart desires. She could even find her parents. But the old woman is not what she seems, and soon Quicksilver has to decide - will she stay at home and remain a thief? Or will she embark upon the adventure of a lifetime and become a legend? 

My Rating: 3 hearts

Thoughts on the Novel: Having liked Claire Legrand’s previous MG novels, I was looking forward to reading Foxheart, especially since I love books that involve thieves and magic. However, I wasn’t expecting Foxheart to incorporate time travel, a tricky subject to explain in my opinion, and made even more so in Foxheart because Quicksilver’s mentor is her older self. It was a concept I struggled with, and when combined with the fact that the worldbuilding wasn’t fleshed out enough for me, it negated the book’s enjoyable beginning. 

Foxheart will be released on October 4, 2016 by Greenwillow Books.

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (Harpercollins) for free via Edelweiss.

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Review: Diplomatic Immunity by Brodi Ashton

From Goodreads: Piper Baird has always dreamed of becoming a journalist. So when she scores a scholarship to exclusive Chiswick Academy in Washington, DC, she knows it’s her big opportunity. Chiswick offers the country’s most competitive prize for teen journalists - the Bennington scholarship - and winning will ensure her acceptance to one of the best schools in the country. Piper isn’t at Chiswick for two days before she witnesses the intense competition in the journalism program - and the extreme privilege of the young and wealthy elite who attend her school. And Piper knows access to these untouchable students just might give her the edge she’ll need to blow the lid off life at the school in a scathing and unforgettable exposé worthy of the Bennington. The key to the whole story lies with Rafael Amador, the son of the Spanish ambassador - and the boy at the center of the most explosive secrets and scandals on Embassy Row. Rafael is big trouble - and when he drops into her bedroom window one night, asking for help, it’s Piper’s chance to get the full scoop. But as they spend time together, Piper discovers that despite his dark streak, Rafael is smart, kind, funny, and gorgeous - and she might have real feelings for him. How can she break the story of a lifetime if it could destroy the boy she just might love?

My Rating: 2 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Having enjoyed Brodi Ashton’s Everneath series, I was really looking forward to reading her newest book, Diplomatic Immunity. Sadly, Diplomatic Immunity failed to live up to my high expectations for several reasons.

First, Piper was a character I never really warmed up to. I found her to be very judgemental, and thought she could have tried a bit harder to look up some other ways to get into Columbia besides just trying to win the Bennington. As well, even though she claimed to be very serious about journalism, her feelings got all muddled up pretty quickly. 

Secondly, I thought the relationships could have been better explored. I would have liked more insight into Piper’s family’s financial situation for example, and thought it was weird how Piper’s otherwise normal mom decided it was acceptable that Piper drink on Embassy Row (because it’s international soil) and be out all night as long as she came home before the sun rose. Another relationship that felt flat was Piper’s friendship with her best friend, Charlotte, since their conversation seemed to only revolve around Piper’s life.

Finally, the romance lacked chemistry, and I didn’t understand what Rafael saw in Piper (besides the fact that they both had siblings with ASD, which seemed extremely convenient). I also couldn’t fall in love with Rafael because I thought he was very stupid for being so frank with Piper when it wasn’t a secret that she was out for a good scoop and he had already been burned by a previous girlfriend for something similar. 

Diplomatic Immunity will be released by Balzer + Bray today!

Comments About the Cover: I’m not sure why the cover shows a couple kissing since – spoiler alert – very little of that happens until the end. 

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (Harpercollins) via Edelweiss. 
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