Wednesday, April 26, 2017

R&R Review Wednesday: The Ugly Teapot by Fred Holmes

The Ugly Teapot #1

Goodreads Blurb:
"Fourteen-year-old Hannah Bradbury loved her father so much that she worried about him constantly. After all, he was a photographer who traveled to the most dangerous places in the world.

To allay her fears, each time he came home he brought her silly gifts, each one with supposed magical powers: the Seal of Solomon, the Ring of Gyges, even Aladdin’s Lamp. It was that lamp Hannah found the most unbelievable, for it looked like an ugly teapot. Nevertheless, her father assured her it was real, and made her promise to save her three wishes for something very special.

Then . . . six months later . . . the unthinkable happened. Her father was killed while on assignment to Baghdad. And so on the day of his funeral Hannah did something she never thought she would ever do.

She took out that teapot and gave it a rub . . .

The Ugly Teapot by Fred Holmes is a timeless tale, filled with magic and adventure. More importantly, it will make you believe in the overwhelming power of love."

Thank you to the author, Fred Holmes, for gifting me with a copy of The Ugly Teapot in exchange for an honest review!

I have overall mixed feelings for this book.  I think it's time I start weaning myself off of middle grade because I consistently want more character development but in MG, that's not exactly a priority.  But let me wait to go into more detail on that.

1.  The plot.  By definition, the middle grade (MG) genre is very plot driven.  The plot for this specific book is well-organized and structured with a spectacular sense of overall drive.  This is an Aladdin retelling and there is an overall end goal to get the lamp to the secret cavern in order to save the world from itself (more on the retelling later).  The author did a great job keeping the action moving along which created a very fast paced novel; perfect for MG.

2.  The characters.  This is where I have a little bit of internal struggle.  On one hand, the genre is MG which designates a certain amount of ambiguity in terms of character development.  On the other hand, I found myself consistently baffled by the decisions of the characters.  This was especially the case with Hannah.  She seemed to always think in the moment and never took a big picture view.  This was not helped by the fact that I'm unsure of her actual age.  I don't believe it was ever actually stated (or perpetuated) in the novel and she would act mature in one scene and descend into a 10 year old mindset in another.  With all that being said, it doesn't hold a large bearing on my rating simply because this is MG and the characters don't matter as much as in YA or Adult.

3.  The ending.  I feel I have to address this as I am a bit mystified by the ending.  Generally speaking, without spoilers, I wish there were more there.  Hannah and her father's adventure ends quite abruptly and after the ending, there is very little recovery time shown which would have built up the ending's reasoning a bit more.  There is an epilogue as well that connects this book to the next (not currently written to my knowledge at this time) which I did appreciate.  It did a wonderfully smooth job of slipping the reader into the next story.  The rest of this section has spoilers (highlight to view).  The difficulty I found with the ending is the inconsistency.  Hannah's adventure ends with her mother pulling her out of her reverie (she was imagining the whole adventure).  I can understand Hannah imagining the whole thing as that is actually a psychological condition.  However, like I said earlier, there was no recovery period after the end of the adventure to show her getting treatment or a diagnosis or anything of the sort.  Additionally, the epilogue suggests that the lamp (the ugly teapot so to speak) actually is magical which contradicts Hannah's imagined adventures.  This played a significant role in my rating.

4.  The retelling.  I truly loved how the author chose to do an Aladdin retelling.  I rewatched the Disney version during Freeform's 25 Days of Christmas and I was thinking about why there aren't many retellings of Aladdin.  There are plenty of Peter Pan, Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, etc etc, but there aren't many of Aladdin so I found this book quite refreshing and unique.  The story is kept relatively the same (it's set hundreds of years after Aladdin gets the lamp) with some changes.

5.  The writing.  This is the best part of my reading experience.  The author of this book has such concise and smooth prose which made reading a true delight.  I felt as if I was actually within the novel and participating in the story, even with the hiccups.

The Final Verdict:
This retelling of Aladdin has a well-structured plot line, solid characters, and excellent written form.  The ending could use some reworking, however (or clarification).  Overall, a well-rounded MG novel.
3.5 stars

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

R&R Review and Release Tuesday: Among the Flames by Shelby K. Morrison

Legend of the Liberator #2

Goodreads Blurb:
"After fleeing her home in Tharien with the Emperor's forces hot on her heels, Aia Wynnald has only one goal: To end the two-thousand-year-old discrimination against Benders—a race of beings like her, with a misunderstood gift. But when the Emperor’s Church of Mighty retaliates with a new threat, her noble plans are put on hold.

With her companion Cole Balain, a former enemy, by her side, Aia must halt the devastation triggered by her well-meaning actions. The only way she can fight the Church is with the help of a disenchanted group of rebel Benders who'd sooner submit to their fate than follow Aia's lead.

Can she inspire them to fight and work together to resolve this new crisis, or will her ingrained submissive nature bring her, and the Benders of Dyel, to their knees?"

Thank you to the author, Shelby K. Morrison, for gifting me with a copy of Among the Flames in exchange for an honest review!

This series is truly a hidden gem.  I reviewed the first book, From the Ashes, a while ago and loved it and I had pretty much the same feelings for the second installment (read my review HERE).

1.  The characters.  The main characters we get to know more are Aia (obviously), Cole, and Fynris (a new character).  I loved exploring their personalities further.  I especially loved getting to know Aia more as she leads the rebellion and does so a bit unwillingly in the beginning.  Seeing her transformation and her ability to stick to her values is so wonderful.  Cole is such a great supporting character and Aia ensures his opinion is always heard.  Finally, Fynris.  He's not the sharpest tool in the shed which makes him quite unlikable (I found myself consistently yelling at him throughout the book), however, the author presents him in such a way that he is an understandable nitwit.  Generally speaking, the characters are all fleshed out wonderfully and each play important roles.

2.  The plot.  The novel is equally plot and character driven which I loved.  There's the perfect balance of character development and plot development.  It was fascinating to see how the rebelling (Aia specifically) would handle the challenges thrown at them and I loved how the author made their actions and their doubt in themselves palatable and real.  The plot goes through the typical ups and downs and I was able to read it all in one sitting!

3.  The settings/world.  One aspect we get more of in this book is world building.  During Aia's quest to help Benders, she travels to the different kingdoms, allowing the reader to get a closer look at them.  While it wasn't truly comprehensive, I loved how the author expanded the world.  I do wish there would have been a map of some sort but that's honestly my only complaint about this book.  A map would have pulled everything together marvelously, however, the author did quite adequately with only her words.

4.  The POV's.  Like the first book, the second installment also has multiple POV's.  This time, it's mainly Aia, Cole, and Fynis.  I enjoyed each chapter and each perspective as they were presented.  I really liked how this allowed for a more comprehensive view of the situation which is so important in books featuring large groups of people with differing opinions.  Each chapter, while not specifically marked with whose POV, is easily distinguishable within the first 2-3 sentences, if not the first.  Each has their own unique voice.

The Final Verdict:
A flawlessly executed fantasy novel with stunning prose, characters and plot lines.  While a map would have brought the novel to a whole new level, the settings and overall world are also well-developed.
5 stars

Meet the Author
Shelby K. Morrison believes fiction should be an escape and any great escape involves a world of wonder, characters you wish you knew, and good food. She can usually be found in three places; her office, the couch or....well just those two unless an overcast day calls her out of doors. She has a particular weakness for animals, Studio Ghibli movies, traveling, and Flamin' Hot Cheetos (resulting in a frequently stained keyboard). She is not opposed to tokens of appreciation, particularly edible ones. But if you really want to make her smile, drop her a line!


Sunday, April 23, 2017

R&R Review and Giveaway Sunday: Fractured Memories by Jo Schneider

Amazon (free for Kindle today!) Goodreads  Barnes and Noble (free for Nook today!)

Jagged Scars #1

Goodreads Blurb:
"Sixteen year old Wendy never knew the world before the Starvation. She’s learned to put her trust in her knives, and her confidence in her fighting ability. When the Skinnies attack her compound, she's the lone survivor.

Injured and near death, Wendy is rescued and nursed back to health by mysterious strangers. Her saviors offer her a place among them, but trust has never been one of Wendy's strengths, and suspicion soon leads to evidence that these people might be the group who killed her family.

The decision to get her revenge, and take the settlement down from the inside out is easy. Keeping her distance from those she must befriend in order to make it happen proves to be much more difficult."

Thank you to the author, Jo Schneider, and Olivia (who organizes the Review Chain) for gifting me with a copy of Fractured Memories in exchange for an honest review!

I really liked this book, contrary to what you might think as you see my star rating.  It has lots of fighting and mystery and a dystopian feel which I love.  There was just one big sticking point for me.

1.  The plot.  The plot is set up very nicely and alternates between intense fight scenes and funny exchanges between characters.  I read this all in one sitting!  There was also plenty of mystery embedded into the plot and it kept me interested to see what would happen.  Wendy starts out in her home compound, struggling to survive.  Skinnies attack and she survives because of her trainer, Pelton.  She's discovered and taken to another compound and is accepted into the new community.  The destruction of her home weighs on her, however, and she just can't seem to put it behind her.  As you can see it, has the classic mentally injured but physically strong MC which completely worked with the plot.

2.  The characters.  As I mentioned above, the MC is that typical strong hero with a dark past.  I loved being inside of Wendy's mind and seeing how she reacted to different events.  She experiences new things in the new compound and her reactions are wonderful.  I also loved her interactions with the other characters as she struggles to warm up to all these new people who may or may not have caused the destruction of her old home.  The one thing I wish there was more of in this entire book is enemy contemplation and development.  While Wendy is in the compound, I feel like there isn't much focus placed on her trying to figure out what happened and if the new people are responsible or not.  It just comes up near the end, sort of by chance.  I also wish there would have been more development on why the person who caused everything did it in the first place.  It felt kind of like a cop-out and wasn't really convincing.  It kept me from understanding the other side and their motivations which is essential.

3.  The settings.  I loved the concept of this book.  The Skinnies are the 'enemies' of this world and they're regular people who ate contaminated food which makes them crave meat and nothing else.  The imagery of the world is described brilliantly and I loved the macro-world in general.  I do wish there was more conversation on what happened to cause the Starvation (the whole catalyst event) and, just in general, a little more backstory.  The micro-worlds, on the other hand, were set on very well which, when there's a lot of fighting scenes, can be difficult to maintain.  The author kept every room stable as the characters moved within it.

4.  The writing.  I like the author's writing style quite a bit.  They make sure to keep it consistent and know when and how to speed up the pace when there's a need.  The writing flowed wonderfully from one scene to the next and there weren't many, if any, awkward bumps in the road.

The Final Verdict:
Overall, a very well executed post apocalyptic novel with positively stellar fight scenes.  There could have been much more development on the enemy side to build up the divide, however.
3.5 stars

Meet the Author

Jo Schneider grew up in Utah and Colorado, and finds mountains helpful in telling which direction she is going. One of Jo's goals is to travel to all seven continents—five down and two to go.

Another goal was to become a Jedi Knight, but when that didn't work out, Jo started studying Shaolin Kempo. She now has a black belt, to go with her shoes, and she keeps going back for more, because hitting things is fun. An intervention may be in order.

Being a geek at heart, Jo has always been drawn to science fiction and fantasy. She writes both and hopes to introduce readers to worlds that wow them and characters they can cheer for. Post Apocalyptic survivor stories are one of her favorites, as illustrated by her  five book JAGGED SCARS series.

Jo lives in Salt Lake City, Utah with her adorkable husband, Jon, who is very useful for science and computer information as well as getting items off of top shelves.



Friday, April 21, 2017

50/50 Friday (29): Favorite/Least Favorite Book in the Fantasy Genre

50/50 Friday is a meme hosted by Carrie @The Butterfly Reads and I and focuses on the opposite sides of books (best/worst, differing opinions, etc).  Every week will have a new topic and several advance topics will be listed in the tab labeled 50/50 Friday!

Today's Topic: Favorite/Least Favorite Book in the Fantasy Genre

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Bookish Discussions: YA Protagonists and the Eternal Pool of Brave (and 3 Reasons Why I Will Not Be a YA Protagonist)

I recently read and reviewed the book The Awakening by D.J. Torres.  If you haven't read my review and you'd like to, you can find it HERE.  I realized something about YA protagonists that I hadn't before while reading that book.  They all seem to have access to an eternal pool of brave that the rest of the world is seemingly barred from using.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

R&R Review Sunday: Meritorium by Joel Ohman

Meritropolis #2

Goodreads Blurb:
"Charley has escaped from Meritropolis…

but in his quest to take down the System that has taken his brother from him, he must go through Meritorium, a city where gladiatorial games of life or death combat are waged between High Scores and Low Scores, man and beast.

Charley and Sandy must face man-eating plants, religious zealots, slave traders, and the ever present mutant animal combinations that roam a dystopian Coliseum presided over by Emperor Titus, the one man standing between Charley and the answers he seeks. Man is not an animal, but if they are to make it through Meritorium, will they even be able to tell the difference?

The lines between man and beast, friend and foe, will blur in Meritorium, the riveting sequel to the bestselling Meritropolis."

Friday, April 14, 2017

50/50 Friday (28): Lightest/Darkest Book (atmosphere)

50/50 Friday is a meme hosted by Carrie @The Butterfly Reads and I and focuses on the opposite sides of books (best/worst, differing opinions, etc).  Every week will have a new topic and several advance topics will be listed in the tab labeled 50/50 Friday!

Today's Topic: Lightest/Darkest Book (atmosphere)

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