Thursday, August 17, 2017

Book Review: No Good Deed

Title: No Good Deed
Author: Kara Connolly
Genre: Retelling, young adult
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Re-tellings. The latest fad.
While they can be successfully pulled off, so long as the world is drastically different (ie: Lunar Chronicles), it's awfully hard to do well. This re-telling of Robin Hood has some great little anecdotes and moments; but for the most part it feels like recycled scenes, characters and concepts. Right down to the time travelling aspect. 

While there is action, intrigue, teeny bit of romance and all the things that generally make up a good story; I just couldn't help but feel like I'd read this book before or at the very least seen the movie. 
Now I know the scene of Robin Hood having a battle with staffs over the river is a classic moment in lots of Robin Hood lore and/or stories. However, the reality is that all I could imagine during this scenes description was the scene from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. Now maybe it's not fair as I've seen that movie almost 100 times in my life (it was my Mom's favourite movie when I was a kid; and while we couldn't watch Simpsons or other shows on TV apparently violent movies were okay...). I suppose I'm bound to imagine similar moments in any Robin Hood story to scenes from the movie... even still it would have been nice for something interesting and different to have been thrown in the mix. 

As with any retellings Kara Connolly choses to focus on a couple of things and drop out other things. There is no Maid Marion (but is a Templar knight that our main gal is blown away by every time he dons his armour) or damsels in distress (unless our lead gal counts). Given that our gal is Robin Hood I suppose it was too much to hope for a lesbian romance. But we do get Little John, Will Scarlett, Alan Dale and (sort of) Friar Tuck. The characters themselves are not well fleshed out, but most of us don't need them to be as we know the players. The most disappointing character of all for me was the Sheriff of Nottingham. I adore this character usually but here it felt like he was far less important that others in Nottingham. It's almost like Connolly's story was too vanilla for the sheriff's black and morbid personality. 

The basic plot
Like any good time travel story, girl is plunged into medieval times (luckily she's an amazing archer), screws a bunch of stuff up, concerns herself with trying to survive and get home; whilst not changing history... there's really not a lot else to say here except that I am really tired of reading time travel books where the character has to "fulfill" some task or event in order for the door to open back home. Let's not kid ourselves, this is a cheap, easy way for the author to write their way into a perfect ending at the perfect moment. I'd rather it be elaborate, magical or scientific. Pretty much anything but convenient would have been better. 

So are you wondering why I gave this three stars yet, given that I seem to have rolled my eyes at a lot of it and didn't really enjoy it?  (lol)
The ending. In any 'fairy tale' I'm a sucker for a good ending (not necessarily happy I'd like to point out). No Good Deed ends in a way I was not really expecting. Connolly takes what could have been a super mushy, annoying and overly romantic ending and makes it just... well perfect. It's plausible, cute and lovely all at once. 

So, is the ending worth the read?
Not really. If you love Robin Hood then maybe. Perhaps a tween or pre-teen would love this but it's not even really a teen book (even though it's classified as young adult). In my opinion, you could read this to an 8 year old and honestly it would be less violent and offensive than most saturday morning cartoons. 

Overall you're not missing anything if you skip this one. I'm sure there will be dozens more re-tellings just like it tomorrow.

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Book Review: The Bone Witch

Title: The Bone Witch
Author: Rin Chupeco
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

I found this to be a very disappointing read. There is so much potential here and yet I wasn't at any point excited about reading this, dying to keep reading, or even all that inspired to pick it up. 
After thinking on this for a day I think I've identified why. 

The world building is spectacular in this book with a magical system that is intricate and well thought-out. However, the reality is that world building is not enough. Even with moderately interesting characters like Prince Kance and Kalen I still just didn't care enough about anyone to be concerned about their safety or destiny. Rin Chupeco gets too caught up in indulging herself and info dumping about her world. This is not the Silmarillion. I don't need, or even want, to read every detail of every ingredient in a tincture, step in a dance, or history lesson or story that isn't even relevant to the current politics! Or if you're going to write out a fable or story within the realm then make that story really, really good. There are two amazing examples of this being done well in fantasy literature: Suzanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (with crazy story footnotes) or Juliet Marillier's Daughter of the Forest. These books incorporate the lore and history of their worlds so well that you almost care more about the mini stories told than the larger story! 

Additionally there is little to no actual chemistry between anyone in this book. Be it a friend, mentor, teacher, or possible love interest. Our lead gal, Tea, doesn't seem to connect with anyone, not even her own brother that she says many times she loves and yet I never really felt it. 

The format of the book is interesting and I did enjoy the snippets of Tea 'today' in the quick page or two break-ups to the main story of Tea as a novice asha. And yet, by the end of the book we have learned NOTHING more to really connect the Tea we get to know as a novice and the Tea in her 'current state'. Additionally the ending is soooo disappointing. There is clearly a HUGE chunk of the story left out. Which would be fine if at least the story I had written to that point had some sort of plot or intrigue. Even the so-called love interests (if you can even call them that) are dull and Tea has almost no actual ability to connect with them. 

It's really odd because all the right elements seem to be in this book but it's just not compelling. I just can't get excited about any of it and ultimately I became bored and looking forward to the next book I was going to read. I almost DNF'd this one. 
However, all that said, and even in spite of my boredom, there is a spark of interest at the end of the book. This tiny spark means I would actually consider trying to read book 2. Because I think there is potential here. 

In the meantime  really hope someone is mentoring Chupeco on how to write more compelling characters and stories. Plot is important, please give me some! And let's face it, this is a young adult book, if you are going to have love interests then don't just make them a passing blip on the radar. Let's get them involved a bit more! I appreciate that there is no insta-love and the eluded to love triangle didn't seem to happen (though still could in future books); and yet I just wanted something more. 

I believe this book, in the hands of a different writer could be sensational. But Chupeco is missing that 'something' that gives writers like Mass and Meyer an edge over other young adult writers. I hope she can find it before book 2 is released. 

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Book Review: On the Spectrum

Title: On the Spectrum

Author: Jennifer Gold

Genre: Contemporary Teen

Rating: 4 out of 5


There's one thing this book definitely is, highly readable. It was a very quick read for me and while not everything is perfect in it; some plot points are a bit contrived to set-up scenarios, I can't deny that I ate it up in two sittings without any thoughts of wanting to put it down. This is unusual for me with a contemporary teen book. Kudos to a Jennifer Gold and her writing style! 


I loved our 'on the spectrum but not autistic' little guy Alastair. He said things I've heard from a little guy I used to babysit, who is autistic in real life. The perfect example was his comment about not having 'cold feet' when he was afraid to ride the Ferris Wheel at the last minute. Autism kids don't understand much that isn't literal. By far Alastair was the star of the book for me. 


Our mail gal, Clara, has an eating disorder I'd not heard of before. And for this reason if nothing else this book deserves a spot on library shelves! Orthorexia, a disease where you're obsessed with counting calories, exercising and how 'healthy' food is. Very interesting. One criticism I have is is liked to better understand the difference between anorexia and orthorexia.  


There are many moments in this book that many readers may connect with. For me it's when when Alastair says: 

"I'm on the autism spectrum, but I'm not autistic. You're on the eating disorder spectrum."

This really struck me personally in regards to my own mental health. If you're not willing to accept you have a disease, in my case anxiety, that's okay but at least start to accept that you are 'on the spectrum'. A clever way to perhaps speak to those who don't quite see their predicament in a hard hitting way or can't accept any part of what is being said about them. 


Lastly I'd like to give a copy of this book to all overprotective, my kid is special, parents. Our author, Jennifer Gold, really drives home the very real reality that you need to set your kids up for success. Don't baby them, don't buy them dumb looking shoes unless they absolutely medically need them. Superman backpacks and glow-in-the-dark running shoes are definitely going to make your child a less likely bullying target. If you want to help your kids with bullying situations a the first step can be to change the things that are easily changed. Ie: shoes, clothes, haircuts, etc. While we don't want to teach kids vanity and to try too hard to fit in; there is a balance here that is crucial for parents to find between 'my kid is picked on because he's uncool' and 'my kid is picked on because his clothes are uncool'. I have often wondered if I'd have a bit of an easier time in elementary school if I'd have had more than hand-me-downs for clothes. 


Overall I think this book is well written as it's engaging, cute, funny at times and clever. But it's not five stars because of two major reasons: 

1) Guidance Counsellors rarely call social services over eating disorders. Generally this action is reserved for physical abuse;

2) Real life can often seem to rain down awful events; but three major happenings in a 12 hour period seemed like a bit much. However I cannot deny that it made for a quick read that was concise and to the point. For me this trumps the plot probability issue. 


I definitely look forward to more from Gold in the future. 



Please note: I received an eARC of this book from qthe publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Book Review: The Halloween Children

Title: The Halloween Children

Author

Genre: Thriller, Horror

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars


This story needed to be one of two things; instead of straddling the middle. 

  • Either make it a 100 pg or less short story, change the title so it's not a dead giveaway of the ending and tighten it up. 

OR

  • Make it a longer, more mind-bending book (200+ pgs) where there is much more emphasis on the children and expand the psychosis look at the family. 


Instead this book is stuck in a space of not quite a short story but not really in-depth enough to be a novel. Unfortunately the title gives it all away. So that no matter how creepy or disturbing the lead-up is to the end (which is well put together) you already figured out 75% of the 'twist' of horror. This just makes it no fun to me. 


It's an easy read, it does have some chilling moments but for the average horror reader I believe there is nothing here. 


If you don't normally read horror then I think you'll quite enjoy it. And it's tame enough for non-horror readers to handle in my opinion. 


Please note: I received an eARC of this book from qthe publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Book Review: Dear Reflection - I never meant to be a rebel

Title: Dear Reflection: I never meant to be a rebel
Author: Jessica Bell
Genre: Memoir, Teen, Drugs & Alcohol
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Critiquing a memoir always feels almost unfair... you can't say that someone didn't feel the way they did or isn't being genuine; as likely they have explained things in the only way they know how. 
So how can you criticize them? 
The short answer is, you can't. 
The long answer is more complex. 
If I end up sounding like a heartless bitch by the end of this then I will only apologize to Jessica Bell to say that it's not about devaluing her experiences, it's about how they were written about and discussed. 

I found this memoir to use 'shock' value moments in a very odd way. Not to send a morale or turn you straight message to the reader, not to show the progression of Bell as a person, but instead as an excuse. It's like each time something happens that is a 'big deal' Bell uses it as a reason for why it's okay to then do something else. This is not really a good message in my mind, especially for teens. I'd like to have read more about the actual consequences of her binge drinking, of having an abortion, etc. I'd also like to have read more about how those situations have made her the person she is today. Instead by the end of the memoir I feel like Bell has just made a myriad of excuses for why she hasn't done things in life that she maybe wanted to. Or is with the man she is with. 

That said, her definition of love is different; and this I commend her for. She does discuss how love is not a blinding moment or 'instant' and how sometimes it's hard to even see it. So I give her props for describing a non-typical relationship and allowing readers to maybe gain a sliver of insight into why people stay together that may not seem like a perfect match. 
Now alternatively you could easily say that Bell settled. But I will give her the benefit of the doubt here that she isn't taking the easy way out on this one. 

I think overall the glazing over of issues is what bugs me the most here. I hate when moments in life are used as a crutch or justification for why someone should receive sympathy... maybe it's because I can go toe-to-toe with Bell on a lot of situations I personally experienced as a teen myself. And maybe that isn't fair to her... but in my mind those experiences are not something to be used as a way to garner sympathy or used as an excuse. They are moments that make us stronger, more resilient and overall shape our personality today. They also inform our current decisions. And here is where I felt like Bell missed out in this memoir. She didn't connect her past decisions with her future ones. Let's face it, whether we like it or not, the things that have happened to us in the past ALWAYS influence the future us. 

While some may connect with Bell's story and her aloneness, I personally felt like this was missing something. Some piece of Bell that I craved. I still feel like I don't know her even after reading this. I feel like I know about her; but don't actually know HER. 
Overall if you want to read a shock value story about drugs, alcohol and how damaging it can be; read Go Ask Alice instead. 

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Book Review: The Devil's Prayer

Title: The Devil's Prayer
Author: Luke Gracias
Genre: Religion, Thriller, Suspense
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

The Devil's Prayer feels like it is three separate books with a couple chapters of a prologue. My 'parts' do not line-up with the parts defined in the book. Here are my three breakdowns of this book: 
1) The first part is a grusome thriller novel. Including every trigger ever; from suicide to torture to murder to moral ambiguity. This section is done by our main gal reading journal entries. It's well written and compelling. I often find journal entries to be a bit dull and an easy way for writers to trick us or leave out important details but that was not the case here. This was easily the best part of the book; and yet also the most disturbing. Be warned it's very horrifying. 

2) The story of a deal made with the devil, and not how the deal was made (as that is covered in part 1) but instead of what happens after you make a deal with the devil and follow-through. It also includes our main gal fleeing across the world. Here is where things start to feel the most 'Da Vinci Code'-esque as we learn (from more journal entries) that there are secrets in the church that have been hidden for centuries. This is all interesting enough and was shaping up to make for a really stellar ending. 

3) Then we are told the a duller than dull story of how a man came to be involved in the church and know many of these secrets that are discovered in part 2. Super boring!  This is set-up to also give us all a lecture about how we are ruining our earth and the Devil is winning. And I honestly couldn't have been more bored or irritated by the lecture. 

Then, like the couple chapters prologue, there is a couple chapters of 'wrap-up'. Except for the part where NOTHING HAPPENS! There is no climax, no plot points and literally the book ends when it feels like there should be another 200-300 pages of plot and story. This is beyond frustrating to me and makes me wish I hadn't read the book at all. It's that annoying. 

For a book to go from amazingly face-paced and engaging to as dull as a history book written in ancient text to  no ending whatsoever is so odd. So if you want to read a book about how to NOT set-up a story. This is a good one to read and be very critical about. Otherwise, I suggest you don't waste your time. 
I am giving it two stars because the first part is so well written and would make an amazing novel on it's own. But otherwise it's not worth reading this book. 

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Stitching: New Start!

Well I couldn't just work Alice... and I wanted a new stitch in hand fabric piece. 
So, much to my hubby's chagrin (he wants Alice done tomorrow, lol); I started a new piece!
I think hubby forgives me as I took this one 100% from my stash! 

On: 32ct Relic Linen (that is gorgeous!!!). 
Design by: Elizabeth Foster 
Design name: Antique Celtic Sampler 
Threads: All Weeks Dye Works
Stitches 2 threads over 2 

Here's the start: 


For once an overdyed linen that photographs well!! 

And here's what the final piece will look like:


This brings me up to four pieces I'm actively working on: 
- Alice - HAED (28ct, 1 over 1)
- Mermaid - Mirabillia (28ct, 2 over 2)
- Sugar skull - Mill Hill kit (perforated paper)
- Here there be Monsters (this one! 32ct, 2 over 2)

As usual I rename my projects to something that represents what each item looks like. 

Thanks for stopping by and for all your lovely comments on Page 1 of Alice. I've actually got almost 1/3 of the next page done already!! Part of why I made this start. I am justifying it as 'deserved'. Lol! 
Happy Stitching!