Double Book Review - "Victoria's Victorian Victory" and "Dragon Rose"

File May 26, 8 42 38 PM.jpeg

In case you all haven't heard, I finished the first draft of my next book.  Hooray!  Which means I'm taking a few days off to read, read, and read some more!  I've finished two books recently that both have pretty short reviews, so I wanted to go ahead and combine them.

The first is Victoria's Victorian Victory by fellow Instagram author Abigail Shepherd.  Firstly, if you're not already following her - @abiwriting - you really should be.  Many of her posts are written and designed to encourage, inspire, and educate in small, succinct snippets.

Star Rating: 4/5
Genre: Middle Grade/YA, Historical Fiction
Buy the book: Amazon

It feels odd to say I loved how this book began because it began with a heartbreaking scene of Victoria and her family experiencing the grief of losing her father.  Rather, I'll say I appreciated the tact and respect with which Abigail handled this.  Let's be honest, death is a big catalyst in countless books.  Any time it's dealt with in a book for young people, though, it needs to be handled with more care than perhaps in some other genres, and I feel like Abigail did that very well.  There are several scenes where mourning and the loss is discussed (without getting too heavy) in a way that makes their grief so relatable, which I feel is so important, as grief can make people feel so very, very alone.

Beyond that, as I was reading, I was eventually reminded of the American Girls books I used to read as a kid...this could be a kind of International Girls twist on those.  The only thing I was missing was a mini history lesson at the end about life back in the Victorian time period.  In fact, I think Victoria could easily have an adventure with Samantha of the American Girl series, so fitting with this type of book was Abigail's writing.

This story, however, also sincerely made me laugh.  I find humor is often stunted in Victorian-era books just because of all the rules of propriety that surrounded everything back then, but little gibes were artfully woven into the story without breaking the authenticity of the tale.  I have to admit, though, this is where Victoria fell down a bit for me, making way for her younger sister Mary-Anne to shine.  Don't get me wrong, Victoria is everything I expect from an older sister (and I should know because I have one): responsible, a bit more serious, headstrong, and proud.  Abigail hit these characteristics perfectly, but I found myself relating to Mary-Anne and her snarkiness far more.  Could that be because I too am a snarky younger sister.  I dunno.  You should ask my big sister and see what she says, teehee!

Abigail's writing is clever, and I love her portrayal of her various characters, though the pacing was a little slow in the beginning, and some of her dialogue was a little unrealistic to my mind, but that only bothered me a little bit since it is a book for younger people first and foremost.  In the end, though, I highly encourage you to read this book.  It's really fun and well crafted and short and I'm pleased I did.  You should also connect with Abigail on social media because she is a gem!

As for my second review, it's quite a bit shorter.

Star Rating: 4/5
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction & Fantasy
Buy the book: Amazon

I also recently read Dragon Rose by Christine Pope.  It's a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, which I am an absolute sucker for, so I went in pretty much knowing what to expect.  As I've read so many of these, the new challenge is to wow me with something new and different.

File May 26, 8 42 55 PM.jpeg

Tea and biscuits enhances the reading experience.

True fact.

Dragon Rose...didn't quite do that for me.  The book was free for Kindle one day, and I enjoyed reading it for the most part, so I didn't really lose much.  The writing was excellent, as was the characterization.  And I really liked the the Dragon, our mysterious love interest...hey, he's a man-shaped dragon.  Of course I'm gonna like him.  There were some things that dimmed my joy at reading, though: 1) some of the storytelling vehicles were a little too on the nose, 2) I didn't feel like I got a payoff with the romance, and 3) can we please stop with focusing so much on the female protagonist's appearance?!  Guh, this is such a pet peeve of mine.  I'm okay if it's mentioned once, maybe twice, but more than that and it begins to undermine the rest of her good traits.  Character, intelligence, talent, and then beauty is my ideal hierarchy of things to focus on in any character, so...yeah...that got old fast for me.

Still, it's a Beauty and the Beast story, so I still really enjoyed it.  Plus, it was riveting enough that I read the entire thing in one day, which always gets a book bonus points for me.

Thanks for reading!

Book Review - Percy Jackson and the Olympians (2 - 5)

Star Rating: 4/5
Genre: Middle Grade/YA, Science Fiction & Fantasy
Buy the book: Amazon

So a few months back I did a review for The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan, and I loved it.  Sadly, I wasn't able to read any of the others in the series while I was there.  I've just been back home to visit for a week, however, and my awesome nephew was good enough to loan the rest of the series to me while I was there, and man did I chew through these babies.  Every minute I could get, I was reading.  In the car, late into the night, I needed to get this series done, and I'm really pleased I did.

I genuinely enjoyed the stories and the characters.  I thought the latter of these were the better of the two.  I also have an even deeper appreciation of Riordan's characterization work since watching the two Percy Jackson films that have come out last night.  Ugh...Hollywood can be such an evil place that absolutely mangles good characters.  Granted, sometimes they do a good job, but not with those films.  Nathan Fillion as Hermes is a saving grace.  Anyway, loved the characterizations as well as how deep he got into the mythology.  The books were all really engaging and kept me guessing as to who was going to do what.  Loved that.

I did have a few issues that strongly pervaded the books, however, and took me out of the stories.  Firstly, I ended up having a lot of issues seeing the Greek gods as caring parental figures because they're so capricious.  I know because they're immortal, mortal lives, even those of the children of their fellow gods, are nothing, but it really lost any sense of humanity the gods might have had for me.  Even Hermes, who seemed the most engaged with his kids, was still really distant.  And on that same note, they have so many kids!!!  Holy cow, guys, can't you keep it in your pants for five minutes?!  I cannot believe that any of the gods truly loved the mortals who bore them children because there were gobs of children all around the same age from the same parents.  That got to be a little unbelievable for me, made me lose connection with them.  And then there's Hephaestus.  So I was under the impression that he was loyal to Aphrodite.  I mean, he set a trap for her because she was cheating, but turns out he's got a gaggle of offspring of his own?  That was a big issue for me too.

All in all, though, the stories were really interesting and exciting and kept me hooked.  I liked them so much I want to read Riordan's other work, though I would probably buy them on Kindle...except that I really love physical books.  The struggle is real.

Thanks for reading!

Book Review - Pegasus

Just a reminder, if you haven't signed up for the VIP newsletter on the main page, you really should.  The first one is coming out soon!

Princesses, pegasi, magic!  What could go wrong?  Dang...

Princesses, pegasi, magic!  What could go wrong?  Dang...

Currently drinking: Honeybush tea because that totally sounds like something a pegasus would drink.

Currently drinking: Honeybush tea because that totally sounds like something a pegasus would drink.

Star Rating: 2/5
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Buy the book: Amazon

*Deep breath*  Okay, guys, if you've been following me for a while, you know that I am a huge Robin McKinley fan.  I adore her writing.  Her gift with painting pictures with words is enviable.  Her romances make me swoon.  Sunshine, Deerskin, and Chalice are among my favorites, but really I've never read anything by her that I didn't like...until now.  Ugh, I feel so bad saying this...really and truly.  I was not that enthused by Pegasus.  When I told the hubs this, he was shocked.  "But she's your favorite" he said to me.  Yeah, I know.  Before I get into all that, though, here's a little info on the book.

From Amazon: Because of a thousand-year-old alliance between humans and pegasi, Princess Sylviianel is ceremonially bound to Ebon, her own pegasus, on her twelfth birthday. The two species coexist peacefully, despite the language barriers separating them. Humans and pegasi both rely on specially trained Speaker magicians as the only means of real communication.  But it's different for Sylvi and Ebon. They can understand each other. They quickly grow close--so close that their bond becomes a threat to the status quo-and possibly to the future safety of their two nations.

First, the good stuff.  McKinley's is, as always, a master of description and world building.  The way she paints scenes and settings, they just flow around you without you even realizing it's happening.  The pictures rise up in your mind, unbidden, giving the backdrop depth.  She also did a really interesting thing with some of the dialogue.  In the book, the pegasi speak a different language, and it sounds very different from English because they have horse mouths and not human mouths.  It's handled really simply with dashes and repeated letters to give the reader much more of a feel of the words rather than the words themselves, and I found it to be really effective.  Aaaaaaand that's about it.

*Sigh*  Well, I think the best word I can use to describe the book is slow.  I just could not get into it.  It took me years to get through.  That's not an exaggeration, actual years.  I'd pick it up, read a bit, put it back down, and wouldn't open it again for a couple of months.  I understand it's part of a series, so I think the next one will likely move a lot faster, but even still.  Did we really need Sylvi's entire life/backstory?  To me it seems like a whole lot of nothing happens in the first half of the book.

I can't say for certain whether I'll read the next in the series.  I don't know that I care about the characters that much, to be totally honest.  There's another one from her, Shadows, which I will read, however...probably once my book buying ban is over.

Thanks for reading!

Book Review - Caraval

That cover is gorgeous, no?  The picture really doesn't do it justice.  It's so shiny and sparkly!  I'm glad I've got the book now because I understand it's already becoming a movie and I  hate  movie covers.

That cover is gorgeous, no?  The picture really doesn't do it justice.  It's so shiny and sparkly!  I'm glad I've got the book now because I understand it's already becoming a movie and I hate movie covers.

Currently drinking: a gingered dark chocolate mocha because something dark and complicated and spicy really goes well with this book.  You can find my recipe for gingered dark chocolate syrup in a recent post  here .

Currently drinking: a gingered dark chocolate mocha because something dark and complicated and spicy really goes well with this book.  You can find my recipe for gingered dark chocolate syrup in a recent post here.

Star Rating: 3/5
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Buy the book: Amazon

If you're at all involved in the Bookstagram or Booklr community, you've heard of this book.  It's everywhere right now!  I'm on a self-imposed book buying ban at the moment, but I took part in a GoodReads read-along, soooooo LOOPHOLE!  XD

First, what I liked about it: the writing is gorgeous!  As someone who adores but really struggles with writing vivid descriptions, this book was like a drug.  I could tell as I worked on my own writing I was being more aware of small details.  Additionally, the main character Scarlet has something about her that sounds a bit like some form of synesthesia.  In her case, she sees colors when she feels strong emotions, and that was really interesting to me.  Fear was often shades of yellow, for instance.  It was something that gave the story a unique twist and served a practical purpose once.  That's probably the strongest part of the book, to me.  The story too, IMHO, was also pretty good...until the end.  More on that later.  Pieces were assembled well for the first 90% of the book.  Things that were mentioned in passing earlier came back up later, and there was a good twist at the end.

As for the not-so-great-stuff...the ending.  As this is a spoiler free review, I can't really say why I felt this way.  Instead, let me just say that...
-1) I thought it was too easy.
-2) I was so angry with the main character, due to some of my own personality traits, at the end because I thought she made a really stupid move.
-3) I was even angrier with one of the secondary characters.  I wanted to punch that character...a lot.
-4) The character motivations didn't really work for me.

Even saying all of that, I will probably read the next one.  I do want to know what happens (though I am really, really hoping it ends with the second book).  And, despite how I felt about the ending, I did enjoy the process of reading this book.  Who knows, maybe the next one will redeem the characters for me a bit.

Have you read the book?  If you have, feel free to let me know what you think in the comments below.  Thanks for reading!