Friday, June 23, 2017

REVIEW: As Old As Time by Liz Braswell (Twisted Tale #3)

As Old As Time
Author: Liz Braswell
Publisher: Disney Press
Genre: YA Fantasy

Rating:
2/5 stars
PG: for some violence, some disturbing images, and for politics that turn people violently against a specific class of people

Summary:
What if Belle's mother cursed the Beast?

Belle is a lot of things: smart, resourceful, restless. She longs to escape her poor provincial town for good. She wants to explore the world, despite her father's reluctance to leave their little cottage in case Belle's mother returns—a mother she barely remembers. Belle also happens to be the captive of a terrifying, angry beast. And that is her primary concern.

But Belle touches the Beast's enchanted rose, intriguing images flood her mind—images of the mother she believed she would never see again. Stranger still, she sees that her mother is none other than the beautiful Enchantress who cursed the Beast, his castle, and all its inhabitants. Shocked and confused, Belle and the Beast must work together to unravel a dark mystery about their families that is twenty-one years in the making.



The Review:
What sounded great in concept was disappointing in execution. The 'what if' twist of this tale wound up throwing off the entire chemistry of the story, without infusing it with enough chemistry of its own to carry itself.

As Old As Time did not work for four big reasons:

1. At its core, this is not a Beauty and the Beast story -twisted, retelling, or otherwise. This is Beauty and the Enchantress. The ‘what if’ twist of this story puts Belle’s mother as the Enchantress, which is an interesting idea and could be a very good story on its own, but it completely changes the dynamic of what is supposed to be a Beauty and the Beast story. Belle’s entire focus in this version is learning about her mother while the Beast is just ...there. He is ultimately a clue in the mystery of the Enchantress for Belle and serves little other purpose.

2. There is very little chemistry between Belle and the Beast, and what chemistry there is fairly screams ‘besties’, not romantic interest. This is in no way a love story, even though the characters somehow wind up falling in love somewhere along the way. I also felt both of them -and a lot of the other characters- were portrayed uncharacteristically.

3. Braswell tries too hard to fit this into a real world context, rather than letting the Disney version of the story exist in its own world. She did the same thing with Once Upon A Dream, which I had very mixed feelings about there, but it’s much more pronounced here and it really does not work for me. The story necessitates explaining magic plausibly in a historical context long after belief in magic had largely faded; an Enchantress who can go around cursing castles and princes; and why that magic is no longer the norm in Belle's world -all within a very short time frame. If this had been an original story by Braswell I would have liked it more, because I did find the changes she made interesting, but I didn't like them in the context of the existing tale or the time period it resides in.

4. Braswell at once tried to keep almost religiously true to the original while doing something completely different at the same time. What is left is a weird mesh of original content that gives way to conversations and situations pulled directly from the film, duplicated almost word-for-word and then peppered with inexplicable inconsistencies as Braswell tries to fit them into the context of her story.
For example, when Belle feigns interest in the library to slip past Lumiere and Cogsworth to investigate the West Wing: in the movie, they're merrily fooled into thinking she's right behind them; in the book, Cogsworth and Lumiere see right through her deception, but nothing in the situation changes to excuse the inconsistency. The moment is exactly the same as in the movie, but the characters' reactions change regardless.
Maybe I'm being nit-picky, but this happens continually throughout the story. It really bugged me. It feels like Braswell twisted her retelling into knots trying to fit it into the mold of the original, instead of vice versa, and the result is very unnatural and jarring. Much of the story feels forced, most of the character interactions are awkward, and the story takes on the darker flavor of a tragedy that pushes the light-hearted tone of these beloved characters completely off kilter.

In the end, it's one redeeming quality is in creating an interesting character in Rosalind, Belle's mother, but I felt that she too fell victim to the forced nature of the story; again, if this had been an original story -or even a Twisted Tale that took more liberties- I probably would have liked it better.

Unfortunately, I think this will prove to be my last foray into Braswell's Twisted Tales. I've read all three for intriguing twists and -while Once Upon A Dream was the best of the bunch, and a story I still think Braswell did a pretty good job with- the series as a whole has been mostly disappointing so far.


Check out my reviews for the rest of the series!
#2 Once Upon A Dream 

Have you read any of the Twisted Tales?

Monday, June 19, 2017

TTT: Series I've Been Meaning To Start But Haven't

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly blog meme put on by The Broke and the Bookish
Yikes! This one was a lot harder than I'd thought it would be. Apparently I love to read the first book in a series and then stop. Sure, I tell myself I'll go back and read the rest -eventually- but so far I don't seem to have a very good track record. Now, if I were to do a list of Series You Want to Finish That You've Read the First Book Of, I' d probably win a gold medal there.

New Jedi Order by various authors
By far, the most important one on the list. I've been wanting to read this series forever and -barring natural and reading disasters- this is the year I'm going to start.

The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters
Book 1 is on my Summer Reading List, if you're so inclined to check it out.

Castle Glower by Jessica Day George
I've loved every book of George's that I've read, but this series comes with the bonus of being recommended by my niece. Awwwww...

The Madman's Daughter by Megan Shepherd

The Lotus War by Jay Kristoff

Once Upon a Time by various authors
Especially the ones by Cameron Dokey; I've got a friend who adores them.

Oracles of Fire by Bryan Davis
This is a branch off series of Dragons In Our Midst, which I loved as a teenager. I always meant to read through these, but still haven't gotten around to it. I wonder if I'd still enjoy them. I ought re-read the original series and see!

The Hollow Kingdom by Claire Dunkel
I have two friends who are as obsessed with this series as they are with Labyrinth and Jareth. Go figure. I started this once a while back and -to their utter horror and disbelief- didn't finish it. Then again, I never really did get into Labyrinth.

The Shoe Books by Noel Streatfield
You've Got Mail is one of my mom's favorite movies so it's not a real surprise that she went searching for these books after it first released. (Lucky for us, Skating Shoes is back in print!) She's is completely in love with them.  After trying and failing to get my sister and I to read them, she's been sending copies to grandkids, in they hope she can finally convert somebody to Shoe Book fans. A few years back, I found the movie of Ballet Shoes and gave it to her for her birthday and I totally loved it. I've been meaning to give the series another try ever since.

The Selection by Kiera Cass

Monster Hunter International by Larry Correia

Anna by Kendare Blake

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J Maas
I finally read Throne of Glass this year and loved it. I want to read all of Maas' stuff, but a friend has ordered I not start ACOTAR until after I finish the Throne of Glass series.

King Raven by Stephen R. Lawhead
A retelling of Robin Hood steeped in Celtic mythology. I tried to read these back when I was a teenager, but I was far too impatient to read them. I recall this being a thick book, with lots of Briton history (back in the days of the Angels and Saxons) -a portion of history I'm currently very intrigued by.



HOLY NEVER ENDING TBR, BATMAN!!!
There are a LOT more of these than I realized and now I'm feeling a little overwhelmed. I didn't even get half way through my to-read shelf on Goodreads! GAH!!!

There is a lot of reading in my future, that's all I've got to say.

Have you read any of these?
What are some series you've been meaning to read?

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

REVIEW: Kitty Hawk and the Curse of the Yukon Gold by Iain Reading

Kitty Hawk and the Curse of the Yukon Gold
Author: Iain Reading
Series: Kitty Hawk Flying Detective Agency #1
Genre: Adventure

I received a copy of this book courtesy of the author and Book Publicity Services in exchange for an honest review.

My Rating:
3.5/5 stars
PG-13 for mild language throughout
Recommend to readers looking for realistic, historical adventure stories. Also for fans of strong heroines and little to no romance.

Summary (via Goodreads)
After leaving her home in the western Canadian fishing village of Tofino to spend the summer in Alaska studying humpback whales Kitty finds herself caught up in an unforgettable adventure involving stolen gold, devious criminals, ghostly shipwrecks, and bone-chilling curses. Kitty's adventure begins with the lingering mystery of a sunken ship called the Clara Nevada and as the plot continues to unfold this spirited story will have armchair explorers and amateur detectives alike anxiously following every twist and turn as they are swept along through the history of the Klondike Gold Rush to a suspenseful final climatic chase across the rugged terrain of Canada's Yukon, the harsh land made famous in the stories and poems of such writers as Jack London, Robert Service and Pierre Berton. It is a riveting tale that brings to glorious life the landscape and history of Alaska's inside passage and Canada's Yukon, as Kitty is caught up in an epic mystery set against the backdrop of the scenery of the Klondike Gold Rush.


The Review

Kitty Hawk and the Curse of the Yukon Gold is a fun adventure with plenty of history and daring, featuring a great and capable heroine, but a little heavy-handed on facts and details.

What initially struck me about this book is the great voice of the main character, 19-year-old adventurer Kitty Hawk. This girl has spunk and energy and Reading does a fantastic job showing that through this first person narration. Readers will appreciate Kitty's humor, sarcasm, determination, and smarts. She's capable and clever and, best of all, she doesn't make those face-palming, stupid decisions so many YA characters seem to make. In addition to her strong personality, Kitty is a licensed pilot and the owner of a De Havilland Beaver, in full possession of the empowering quality of figuring out what she wants and going for it, no matter what; she is definitely the best thing about this book.  Part Nancy Drew, part Amelia Earhart, Kitty Hawk is a good role model for girls; she reminded me particularly of my beloved Vesper Holly, Lloyd Alexander's adventure heroine from his series of the same name.

While Kitty's voice in the prologue hooked my attention, the book does have a slow start after that, detailing a lot of Kitty's background and childhood, the technical specifics of flying a plane, a lot of her whale research, and quite a history lesson into the Klondike Gold Rush. I skimmed a good deal of this, because I found it rather dry. It wasn't until after 80 pages before I really got into it, but once the adventure gets under way, the reading went pretty fast.

The story itself was rather unexpected; it took a much different direction than I thought it would and I actually kind of loved it. This is much more of an adventure story than a traditional mystery, because Kitty isn't Nancy Drew sneaking clues to solve something; she's more of an Indiana Jones, setting off on a mission, but stumbling into an adventure along the way. There's even a pretty good Indiana Jones moment in the story; don't worry, you'll know it when you read it.

This delves deep into the history of Alaska and the Klondike, which I really love, and it has a strong sense of place, from the coast of Alaska to its fierce wilderness. Unfortunately, a lot of the information is conveyed through off-putting info dumps; even when another character is telling Kitty a story it feels more like reading a Wikipedia page than a conversation. I skipped over a lot of the history and technical information because it was too dry for my taste.

Interesting, fun, and educational, I wound up loving the adventure, the concept, and the characters. I would love to see some of these characters (specifically one) pop up in the other books, because I liked Kitty's chemistry with them (him). Outside of Kitty's great voice I had a hard time with the writing style, though Reading does paint some gorgeous and poetic landscapes.

Overall, I enjoyed it enough that I plan on checking out the rest of the series someday.

Realistic adventure fiction is a hard genre to come by.
Have you read any good ones?

Monday, June 12, 2017

SUMMER READING LIST 2017

I love summer reading. I have ever since I was a kid. All reading, all the time, and prizes to boot! What could be better than that?!

Now that I'm an adult with responsibilities (if not an actual responsible adult) I can't exactly read 15-20 hours a day. (Yes; you read that right. As teenagers, my sister and I would read 15-20 hours A DAY during the summer. We were basically rock stars at our library. Dang, I miss those days!) I've made it a summer tradition to pick out 10 or so books that I've been DYING to read but putting off for whatever reasons or newer books that got shoved to the bottom of my TBR because of all the other books I've been putting off. I usually don't read most of them, because I'm kind of terrible with lists, and I don't always account for real-life stuff and required reading like ARCS. (Seriously, you don't want to look at my To Do list. It's horrifying.) Yet I keep trying.

This year is no different.


SUMMER READING LINEUP

Randoms and Rebels by David Liss
You might remember my review for Randoms from a few years back. I certainly remember it because I fangirled all over the place about all things sci-fi and it's still one of my favorite video reviews to date. I've been waiting and anticipating the sequel ever since and yet somehow completely missed the publication for Rebels last year. I know! I'm still kicking myself for it!
If you haven't seen it, check out my review for Randoms!


The Night Watchman by Mark Mynheir
I am always on the lookout for good, gritty mysteries, but it's really hard to find titles that are mostly clean, too. I've been trying to squeeze this into my reading schedule for about four months now.

Battlefront: Twilight Company by Anthony Freed (Star Wars)
This is an audio that's been hanging out on my MP3 player for the better part of a year and my current listen. I'm really enjoying it. It's a very different Star Wars story than I'm used to, since it doesn't focus on any of the familiar characters and so far only makes passing references to them.

The Last Policeman by Ben Winters
This one has probably been on the TBR the longest, which makes me really sad. I'm very intrigued by this idea. Another mystery (possibly gritty) about a policeman determined to find the truth about a suspicious suicide that no one else cares about because THE EARTH IS GOING TO BE DESTROYED BY AN ASTEROID. I'm hoping this will be a great character-driven piece because, seriously, what's driving this guy to solve a case when everyone else is living their last months to the fullest? What makes him choose to be -dun dun DUN!- The Last Policeman?

Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin
I was all set to avoid this book because it sounded depressing but unbeknownst to me I've suddenly started loving stories with sad endings, like West Side Story and a certain box office hit I need to see for at least the sixth time. That, coupled with this review/love letter over at OUR FAMILIARIUM sold me on adding it.

NOTHING LEFT TO LOSE BY DAN WELLS
This one gets all caps because I LOVE THIS SERIES and I HAVEN'T TALKED ABOUT IT virtually at all. I've been saving reviews for this series for videos (which will be starting again late summer/early fall!) because I need to VOCALIZE my COMPLETE ADORATION of this series.
*achem*
This is the last book of the John Cleaver series, the first of which you've probably heard of: I Am Not a Serial Killer. It's also the newest release on the list, since it only came out June 6. I can't wait to read the conclusion, which is obviously going to be EPIC, but I'm nervous about how it's going to end too.

The Edge of Everything by Jeff Giles
Another new release that I don't want to wait to read. All I know is there's basically a bounty hunter from Hell (as in, the pit-of-fire-where-bad-souls-go Hell) whose job is to take the souls of evil people. I have high hopes, so we'll see.

Hearts & Other Body Parts by Ira Bloom
I was really happy to win this title in a Goodreads giveaway earlier this year and it's been sitting in my To Read stack for months, staring at me, judging me, and begging me to read it.

The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly
This is the second-oldest TBR title on the list. My good friend The Library Ninja recommended this way back when and I haven't been able to read it yet. THIS SUMMER. I will read it THIS SUMMER.

Specter of the Past by Timothy Zahn (Star Wars)
My next, huge TBR project is to read through the New Jedi Order series, but first I have to read Zahn's Thrawn duology. Because Thrawn. And Zahn. Hello.

My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows
I really had no interest in this historical title until I found out it's a historical fantasy and one the characters spends his day as a horse. This is the lowest on the list, however, because it's the most recent.

Last but not least, I still have book club through the summer! So add two more titles to the list, one blank for July, and one for my June read, Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman, which I really should start soon...

Voila! My considerably trimmed down Summer Reading List!

What's on your list for the summer?
What new releases are you anticipating?

Friday, June 9, 2017

REVIEW: Geekerella by Ashley Poston

Geekerella
Author: Ashley Poston
Publisher: Quirk Books
Genre: Contemporary YA

I received this eBook via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

My Ratings:
3/5 stars
PG-13 for some swearing
Recommend to geeks, nerds, and GEEKS, although more conservative readers should know there are several homosexual characters and references throughout.

Summary via Goodreads
When geek girl Elle Wittimer sees a cosplay contest sponsored by the producers of Starfield, she has to enter. First prize is an invitation to the ExcelsiCon Cosplay Ball and a meet-and-greet with the actor slated to play Federation Prince Carmindor in the reboot. Elle’s been scraping together tips from her gig at the Magic Pumpkin food truck behind her stepmother’s back, and winning this contest could be her ticket out once and for all—not to mention a fangirl’s dream come true.

Teen actor Darien Freeman is less than thrilled about this year’s ExcelsiCon. He used to live for conventions, but now they’re nothing but jaw-aching photo sessions and awkward meet-and-greets. Playing Federation Prince Carmindor is all he’s ever wanted, but the diehard Starfield fandom has already dismissed him as just another heartthrob. As ExcelsiCon draws near, closet nerd Darien feels more and more like a fake—until he meets a girl who shows him otherwise.


The Review:

Geekerella is a believable and lovely Cinderella-style story for those of us who love to attend (or mourn our inability to attend) those cons every year, who write detailed analyses of television shows and fictional characters, or pan poorly-done reboots.

When I decided to request this book, I wasn't expecting a whole lot. I figured this would be a fairly cheesy, modern Cinderella adaptation, like so many of those made-for-TV movies, only instead of having a singing competition or a dance-off, it would be set against a super geeky backdrop. I got way more than that.

A lot about Geekerella was pleasantly surprising. It boasts two great, fleshed out stories with a fully developed hero and heroine who both live and breathe the 'geek life' through a pretty fantastic (and sadly, fictional) cult classic show 'Starfield' -and, being a geek myself, I loved that. Geekerella also handles the love story well; I loved the relationship that Elle and Darien unwittingly stumble into and I love that it's born of relating to one another's life problems, hopes and dreams, and how their shared love of the Starfield fandom has seen them through the best and the worst.

My favorite character had to be Darien Freeman. I maybe fell a little hard for the closet geek, pretty boy actor who just landed the role of a lifetime. I loved everything about him. He has a good 'tragic' story in his past that makes his flaw of distrust reasonable. His favorite expletive is also "Holy [insert appropriate remark here], Batman!" which I absolutely adored, and I liked watching him shuffle between his public and personal personas and trying (and kind of failing) to find a balance between who manager Mark thinks 'Darien Freeman!' should be and who Darien Freeman actually is.

As for Elle, her best quality, I think, is her die-hard devotion to the Starfield fandom and everything it represents to her. What it doesn't tell you in the summary is that she runs a Starfield blog that hits it big overnight when she tears into Darien Freeman as being just a heart throb actor unworthy of donning the crown of her beloved Federation Prince. When she's in her element -anything to do with Starfield- she's a strong, capable character and definitely a heroine geeks can relate to. Outside of the Starfield fandom, I did get a little frustrated with just how helpless Elle seems under the thumb of her stepmother. Granted, this is a Cinderella trait, but I would have liked to see a bigger moment when she stands up for herself in her real life and manages to make a difference, rather than someone else stepping in to help her.

More than the good characters, the story has depth and insight for real life drama, tragedy, and love, all with a heavy geek culture influence that makes it a pleasure to read. This is a 5-star story set with a great hero and heroine.

So why did I only give it 3 stars? I've got to be honest. I was all set to run out and buy a copy of Geekerella, but about halfway through the book it revealed that two of the characters are homosexuals and that killed a lot of the enjoyment for me, so this one proved to be a tough rating. Geekerella definitely has a 5-star plot, maybe 4-star hero/heroine, but here on the blog I mostly rate books on personal enjoyment, so that lands it closer to a 3.

What TV show would you most like to see rebooted in film?