Blog Tour: Undying by Valerie Grosjean

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Good morning! Today I’m participating in a blog tour for Valerie Grosjean’s fabulous debut novel, Undying, the first in her exciting new series! Take a look!


18596439Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Zombies

Synopsis: This is a story of love . . . and zombies.

When eighteen-year-old college freshman Christian discovers his dormitory is crawling with the living dead, he knows he has a problem. But once he learns the whole country is overrun by the flesh-eating horde, he must race to protect what matters to him most.

Sixteen-year-old Iris, the girl he loves, is stranded eighty miles away, alone and completely unaware of the gruesome threat surrounding her.

Christian’s plan is to evade the zombies, drive the distance to rescue Iris, and get them both to his family farm—where there are guns, fuel, and everything else they’ll need to survive. His mission seems simple: Get the girl, get to the farm, and stay alive.

Things get complicated when Christian is forced to make an unthinkable choice between Iris and his family. Someone he loves must die, and he must decide.

Purchase Links

AmazonBarnes & Noble

My Thoughts

I must say, Undying didn’t really have a warm-up chapter. I was immediately sucked into the action from the very first page and before I could manage to tear my eyes from the screen, I was almost finished. The writing put me right there alongside the characters, dodging zombies and fighting to survive and make it home, and it felt really gritty and definitely kept me on my toes.

Christian really impressed me. If and when the zombie apocalypse come, I call dibs on him, because he’s really freakin’ handy in a zombie fight. He makes some incredibly difficult choices and faces impossible dilemmas about love and loyalty, and I really enjoyed reading about his struggle with the moral ambiguity of killing/being a zombie. And while I never quite bought Iris as a love interest, I liked Christian well enough to go with it.

Honestly, I’m not usually one for horror, and I definitely didn’t pick this one up after dark, but the author did an amazing job with the fear and thriller aspect of the novel. I was screaming in the first chapter and the vivid descriptions had me flailing all over the place and shouting “GO CHRISTIAN GO” at the top of my lungs. That ability to make me so quickly invested in Christian’s wellbeing and so completely engrossed in the story is what really won me over on this one. I’m looking forward to the sequel!

About the Author

Valerie Grosjean is the author of the young adult novel UNDYING. She grew up on a Nebraska farm. After college, she married and moved to Northern California, where she lives with her husband and their two young children. Her obsession with zombie movies inspired UNDYING, her first novel and the beginning of the Undying series.

Find Her:

Goodreads | Website

Giveaway

Prizes:

One signed paperback copy of Undying

A bookmark

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This promotional post was organized by Xpresso Book Tours.

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Review: Jane by April Lindner

JaneHow did I get it? Bought

Genre: YA, Romance, Retelling

Summary: Forced to drop out of an esteemed East Coast college after the sudden death of her parents, Jane Moore takes a nanny job at Thornfield Park, the estate of Nico Rathburn, a world-famous rock star on the brink of a huge comeback. Practical and independent, Jane reluctantly becomes entranced by her magnetic and brooding employer and finds herself in the midst of a forbidden romance.

But there’s a mystery at Thornfield, and Jane’s much-envied relationship with Nico is soon tested by an agonizing secret from his past. Torn between her feelings for Nico and his fateful secret, Jane must decide: Does being true to herself mean giving up on true love?

An irresistible romance interwoven with a darkly engrossing mystery, this contemporary retelling of the beloved classic Jane Eyre promises to enchant a new generation of readers.

My Thoughts

I really, really, really wanted to love Jane. I read Jane Eyre at the end of this past November and adored it, so I was really looking forward to this. But unfortunately, I was a little bit disappointed.

Mind you, I still enjoyed it. The author obviously knew the book well and she very rigidly stuck to the original, which I appreciate to an extent. Jane was a decent protagonist and I liked the spin on her background.

But there were definitely some things that didn’t work for me.

1.) Nico

First of all, Nico? Of all the names in the galaxy, Nico? Rathburn as a surname was fine, but whether or not Nico is fitting as a “rockstar name,” I just couldn’t see it. The name sounds fake, a teensy bit sleazy, and, in my opinion, ridiculous.

Nico’s characterization also didn’t sit well with me. I didn’t buy his personality at all, and he’s nothing at all like Rochester. It felt like Rochester’s words were simply shoved into his mouth; he has none of the passion, the rawness, the haunted edge. He’s older than Jane (30-ish, I think) but he still came off to me as very two-dimensional and with none of the jaded, gruff attitude of the original man. Rochester is NOT some “emo” artist with mood swings; I kept sticking the two side by side, picturing a broad, dark man in period clothing next to a skinny 20-year-old in black with his jeans around his knees, silver chains hanging off every appendage, jagged dyed-black hair, and thick eyeliner. And I couldn’t see it in the character.

2.) Marriage

Okay, this was really bizarre to me. Jane and Nico (God, it weirds me out every time I say his name) fall in love and are in front of a priest within 3 weeks. I’m sorry, what? Not only is it unrealistic, but Jane was very sheeplike about it. “Okay, he’s throwing marriage at me. Yeah, okay, I’ll do it, whatevs.” It really weakened her as a character for me. It felt like they’d barely had time to develop a relationship before they were whipping out rings and the L-word. But oh no, the absurdity of this whirlwind affair is totally normal apparently.

What bugged me the most was the fact that the more stretched-out timeline in the book was cut down to under a month, while Jane’s relationship with St. John is giving what adds up to about a year of development, and that was just for them to become more-than-friends and go to Haiti together, nevermind marriage.

Also, Nico is apparently offering to propose to Bianca/Blanche within a week or two of knowing her through a photoshoot, and this isn’t thought odd at all? Jane seems to think it’s perfectly normal for things like that to happen so quickly, which would explain why she’s so willing to marry a guy she doesn’t have much of a relationship with after like a month.

It all just felt very unbelievable to me and I couldn’t buy into it at all.

3.) Plot Problems

I’m really grateful to the author for doing her best to keep the plot as close to the original as possible, but in some ways that was a bit of a let-down. For one, some social situations in Jane Eyre just wouldn’t work in modern society. The issue of Jane having to leave because of her employer’s impending marriage isn’t the same problem now as it would’ve been. Originally, Jane had to leave because a new wife meant Adèle had to go away to boarding school; it would’ve been inappropriate otherwise. Obviously that would be sort of weird to basically say, “I’m the new wife, kick the stepkids out now” in today’s world, so the author chooses to say that Jane has to leave because Bianca “doesn’t like her”. And she’s really adamant about it. It felt like a very flimsy excuse to me and it also brought up the issue of Bianca’s character, which Nico fails to address.

The plot as a whole, while comfortably familiar, took very few risks and felt too much like the author was just plugging in solutions she’d come up with. Obviously I knew the original plot, so I was expecting to know the gist of it, but there were no surprises or unexpected twists that made it new and refreshing and exciting, which took some of the fun out of it for me.

In conclusion…

I did enjoy reading this, as a Jane Eyre fan, but it just didn’t work for me. Jane was the only person with any real depth, although Nico had a few moments, and it didn’t quite pull it off. Not to say that it’s a bad book, but I think it could’ve been better. I will say that I am still a fan of the idea of it, Rochester being a rockstar and Jane his nanny.

(Aside: I’m a terrible person for saying this, but I was very disappointed that Nico wasn’t blinded in the end. I loved that scene in the book; it was so bittersweet and romantic and I just wanted to hug Rochester, but instead Nico just has a messed-up hand that can be fixed with physical therapy. Laaame.)

Rating:

Three Stars

Recommend it?

Sure.

Purchase Links:

Barnes & Noble | AmazonBook Depository

ARC Review: Defy by Sara B. Larson

DefyHow did I get it? Netgalley (thanks @ Scholastic Press)

Publication Date: January 7, 2014

Genre: YA, Fantasy

Summary: A lush and gorgeously written debut, packed with action, intrigue, and a thrilling love triangle.

Alexa Hollen is a fighter. Forced to disguise herself as a boy and serve in the king’s army, Alex uses her quick wit and fierce sword-fighting skills to earn a spot on the elite prince’s guard. But when a powerful sorcerer sneaks into the palace in the dead of night, even Alex, who is virtually unbeatable, can’t prevent him from abducting her, her fellow guard and friend Rylan, and Prince Damian, taking them through the treacherous wilds of the jungle and deep into enemy territory.

The longer Alex is held captive with both Rylan and the prince, the more she realizes that she is not the only one who has been keeping dangerous secrets. And suddenly, after her own secret is revealed, Alex finds herself confronted with two men vying for her heart: the safe and steady Rylan, who has always cared for her, and the dark, intriguing Damian. With hidden foes lurking around every corner, is Alex strong enough to save herself and the kingdom she’s sworn to protect?

My Thoughts

I must say, I enjoyed this book. Alexa is a fantastic protagonist, and I love that she refuses to be a damsel in distress. She kicks everybody’s asses and saves everybody and she refuses to just lie back and do what the men tell her. I. Love. Her. She is my spirit animal and if I could call on a fictional character to have my back in a fight with the mafia, I would choose Alexa. Every time.

I will say it was a bit heavy on the romance, especially the love triangle situation, but that’s partly due to the fact that I would much rather see her fighting than making out with a guy, just because she’s so awesome at it. I would have found it more interesting if the animosity between her and Damian was real, or if Rylan was less of a Jacob Black clone. As it was, the love triangle annoyed me, especially because it seemed to transform Alexa into some starstruck idiot “discovering her newfound femininity.” And (slight spoiler), I was a bit bummed that there was no “OH MY GOD YOU’RE A GIRL WTF IS THIS” moment. Apparently Alexa is really shitty at pretending to be a boy. And apparently it’s not like anybody caught a glimpse of her lady bits; they just went “oh that’s a effeminate looking guy, must be a girl” and then went quietly about their business while allowing Alexa to keep believing she was the best fake boy to ever fake boy.

And when Damian is an ass (which, let’s be honest, is like once a page), Alexa takes none of it. She demands answers and is rightly furious at what he does, and although she does lose steam rather quickly, I still loved how feisty she is. By the end of that book, everybody and their mom knows not to mess with Alexa Hollen.

Also, SHE SAVES PEOPLE. There was no girl-plays-miniscule-role-in-actually-killing-bad-guy. Nope. This girl kicks the bad guy’s ass herself and becomes a national hero. It’s like Mulan except with a really not-cool king instead of an old emperor who is basically a Chinese Dumbledore.

Serious note: I was impressed with the inclusion of “breeding houses”. Rape is a really difficult and sensitive topic but I think the author approached it very well and it made me root for Alexa to succeed even more. Just the thought of what those girls were going through in that place is horrific, and it instantly made the plot so much more real and urgent for me. BUT, with that being said, I’ve heard other opinions and I know that not every reader will see it in that light. I can certainly see where it would come across as offensive, so just be aware of that.

Overall, I really enjoyed this. Alexa was an great protagonist and I’m very excited for the next book in the series!

Rating:

Four Stars

Recommend it?

Absolutely!

Purchase Links:

Barnes & Noble | Amazon | Book Depository

ARC Review: Witch Finder by Ruth Warburton

Witch FinderHow did I get it? Netgalley (thanks @ Hodder Children’s Books)

Genre: YA, Fantasy/Paranormal

Synopsis: London. 1880. In the slums of Spitalfields apprentice blacksmith Luke is facing initiation into the Malleus Maleficorum, the fearsome brotherhood dedicated to hunting and killing witches.

Luke’s final test is to pick a name at random from the Book of Witches, a name he must track down and kill within a month, or face death himself. Luke knows that tonight will change his life forever. But when he picks out sixteen-year-old Rosa Greenwood, Luke has no idea that his task will be harder than he could ever imagine.

My Thoughts

I fell in love with Witch Finder from the cover alone. I mean, it’s freaking GORGEOUS. And also I love reading witch stories, so I was really excited to get approved for this one.

It actually turned out even better than I thought it would. Ruth Warburton has a lovely way with words and Luke and Rosa just gave me a lot of feelings. I loved Luke’s conflict over what he’s sworn to do; it was written perfectly and he did some things that I was rather surprised by. He’s not immediately torn with grief over his task of killing this upper-class witch, nor is Rosa a glowing beacon of virtue winning him over with the sheer purity and goodness of her heart. They both have faults and weaknesses and they had splendid chemistry together. The romance between them felt so sweet and genuine and I had to allow myself a few fangirling moments while reading.

There are some heavier issues in this book that I did not expect, such as abuse and financial problems, which really enhanced the story to me. The “villain” role, while a bit shallow in this book, has clear potential as a deeper character who has a legitimate reason for what he’s doing, and I was especially pleased by this because I hate typecasted antagonists who are bad just for the sake of being bad. It’s such a cop-out and it drives me nuts when authors do that.

I also really love the fact that Rosa does not just lie down and take everything that’s thrown at her—she’s a brilliant, strong character who, although having moments where she is powerless and defeated, really comes into her own by the end of the book. Luke, of course, made me want to throw myself off a cliff and paint rainbows everywhere simultaneously. He’s not fearless but he’s not a pushover either; I loved his protective side and the way he interacts with Rosa and the conflict he feels.

Overall, I loved this book. It was sweet, brilliantly written, and the ending came far too soon.

Rating:

Five Stars

Recommend it?

Absolutely.

Pre-order it:

Amazon | Book Depository

Other books by the author:

A Witch in Winter            A Witch in Love             A Witch Alone

Review: Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

Dash and Lily's Book of DaresHow did I get it? Bought

Genre: YA, Romance, Contemporary, Christmas (it is totally a genre you guys, stop judging me)

Summary: “I’ve left some clues for you.
If you want them, turn the page.
If you don’t, put the book back on the shelf, please.”

So begins the latest whirlwind romance from the bestselling authors of Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist. Lily has left a red notebook full of challenges on a favorite bookstore shelf, waiting for just the right guy to come along and accept its dares. But is Dash that right guy? Or are Dash and Lily only destined to trade dares, dreams, and desires in the notebook they pass back and forth at locations across New York? Could their in-person selves possibly connect as well as their notebook versions? Or will they be a comic mismatch of disastrous proportions?

Rachel Cohn and David Levithan have written a love story that will have readers perusing bookstore shelves, looking and longing for a love (and a red notebook) of their own.

My Thoughts

First things first: I’d never read anything by either Rachel Cohn or David Levithan when I got this book, but let me just say I have two new people on my To-Be-Hugged list.

But on to the book. I feel like I should have adored it; it really had the potential to be a new holiday favorite. But while I really did love it to pieces and I’ll probably reread it a few times during the next few years, it didn’t quite make it up to the level of book I typically build a shrine to. I’m not sure exactly why. It could’ve been because I wasn’t in the right mood, or I was tired, but oh well, I still really enjoyed it. It took me a few days to finish, but while reading I did have a lot of feels and I really fell in love with the story.

Lily was probably my favorite character just because she’s a little bit like me (although I’m actually the oldest child, not the youngest). She’s the sheltered, slightly naive baby of the family, and I loved her enthusiasm for all things Christmas. I loved to see her coming out of her shell and growing up a bit, while still managing to retain that sweet, childlike heart. I liked her instantly and I was rooting for her the entire way. I did like Dash a lot as well, and I really enjoyed his wit and the way he thinks, but there were a few times when he got on my nerves. I was shaking my book and yelling, “YOU IDIOT STOP BEING DIFFICULT!!!” in at least three different scenes.

But this book was, in general, charming. It was original, well-written, and completely hilarious. I mean, if you don’t laugh at the baby stealer part, then you need an intervention.

(Also, because of this book, I have a need to visit the Strand. A mighty need.)

Rating:

Four Stars

Recommend it?

Absolutely.

Purchase Links

Barnes & NobleAmazonBook Depository

Other Books by the Authors

Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist Naomi and Ely's No Kiss List Every Day

Review: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

The Fault in Our StarsHow did I get it? Waterstones in Uxbridge

Genre: YA, Romance

Summary: Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.

Review: It’s a bit difficult to summarize how I feel about The Fault in Our Stars. I can say that it without a doubt deserves the hype it’s gotten; it’s an incredible book with an incredible message. And I loved John Green before I read it, so I was thrilled to see his voice shine through so clearly. The writing felt pure, honest, and genuine, which in the end made me laugh and cry with alarming regularity.

My only disappointment was that John Green did not do what I expected him to. I don’t want to give away anything, so I’ll put it this way. Hazel’s favorite book ends in a peculiar way. I expected—as John Green is a clever man—for The Fault in Our Stars to end in a similar way, which I feel would’ve been not only stronger, but less ordinary. The ending as it is comes dangerously close to being unoriginal, which bothers me considering what a unique book this is. But that is my only real complaint.

Did this book change my life? No, but it is an exceptionally rare thing for any book or work of art to do that for me, so I wasn’t really let down by that. And while I did not find anything particularly enlightening or profound in this story, I know that a great many other readers have and will. So my opinion of this book, while slightly more detached, is that it should be read, if only for the reason that it is a beautiful story.

Rating:

Four Stars

Recommend it?

Yes.

Purchase it:

Amazon | Book Depository

Other books by the author:

Looking for Alaska Paper Towns Will Grayson, Will Grayson

Review: Another Little Piece of My Heart by Tracey Martin

Another Little Piece of My HeartHow did I get it? Netgalley (thanks @ Harlequin Teen), and then I bought it on Barnes & Noble

Genre: YA, Romance, Contemporary

Summary: What if your devastating break-up became this summer’s hit single? In this rock-and-roll retelling of Jane Austen’s Persuasion, music can either bring you together or tear you apart.

At her dying mother’s request, Claire dumps Jared, the only boy she’s ever loved. Left with a broken family and a broken heart, Claire is furious when she discovers that her biggest regret became Jared’s big break. While Jared is catapulted into rock-star status, another piece of Claire’s heart crumbles every time his song plays on the radio.

The summer after her senior year, it’s been months since the big break-up, and Claire is just trying to keep her head down and make it through a tense trip to the beach with her family. But when Jared shows up, and old feelings reignite, can Claire and Jared let go of the past? Or will they be stuck singing the same old refrain?

My Thoughts

I had a great time reading this last week. It was a great retelling and even though I didn’t stop hating Jared until more than halfway into the book, I did enjoy the connection between him and Claire. They had a lot of problems but the little things that brought them together, like “hun” and other inside jokes, made me love them together.

And also, I knew I was going to at least like this book, if not love it, because I love a modern retelling of Persuasion about as much as I love chocolate and kittens, just on principle. It’s my favorite Austen novel (with Pride and Prejudice at a close second), so I expected to enjoy this, and I did.

However, that being said, while I enjoyed a lot of things about this novel, there were two aspects of it that turned me off.

1.) Claire whines.

I mean, I wouldn’t say excessively, but she’s clearly throwing a pity party most of the time and while I get that her life is pretty much awful and she’s had a gigantic heap of huge disappointments in the past two years, it kind of grated on my nerves at times. It’s a small complaint though and in the end, it didn’t bother me that much.

2.) Zach

I can deal with minors smoking and drinking and going at it like bunnies. It’s not model behavior, sure, but I can live with reading about it. But there is a scene which made me very uncomfortable, and Claire’s reaction to that scene made me even more so. Despite having come very close to being raped (and yes, it is rape if a girl says “no” and “stop” like 4 times, which apparently some people haven’t gotten the memo about), Claire completely brushes it off and gives the man “the benefit of the doubt”, and then literally nothing happens. No consequences, no confrontation, nothing. And that was a big issue for me. I would be fine with the scene itself if Claire had gotten angry, if she’d done anything rather than the “we were drunk, forget it” routine. Even the most intoxicated person can understand the word “no”. But I was very bothered that the author introduced such a sensitive topic and then had the protagonist downplay it. It was only mentioned once in passing after the scene, and I was just baffled. Claire, you were drunk with a man taking off your clothes and touching you despite the fact that you didn’t want him to and you repeatedly told him to stop. You are supposed to be more bothered by that. And also it just plays into this idea that when someone tries to rape you, it’s not a big deal and you should just get over it.

Conclusion

I really did love this novel, and I would be giving it a higher rating if it weren’t for the second issue I just mentioned. Maybe it won’t bother other readers, but I was very disturbed by that scene and it ruined the rest of the novel for me a little bit, which is why I’m giving it 4 stars instead of 5. Other than that, however, this was a great, fun, well-written retelling that I’m glad I read.

Rating:

Four Stars

Recommend it?

Definitely.

Purchase it:

Barnes & Noble | Amazon

Flash Review: The Espressologist by Kristina Springer

The Espressologist

How I got it: Local used bookstore

Genre: YA, chic lit

Summary: What’s your drink of choice? Is it a small pumpkin spice latte? Then you’re lots of fun and a bit sassy. Or a medium americano? You prefer simplicity in life. Or perhaps it’s a small decaf soy sugar-free hazelnut caffe latte? Some might call you a yuppie. Seventeen-year-old barista Jane Turner has this theory that you can tell a lot about a person by their regular coffee drink. She scribbles it all down in a notebook and calls it Espressology. So it’s not a totally crazy idea when Jane starts hooking up some of her friends based on their coffee orders. Like her best friend, Em, a medium hot chocolate, and Cam, a toffee nut latte. But when her boss, Derek, gets wind of Jane’s Espressology, he makes it an in-store holiday promotion, promising customers their perfect matches for the price of their favorite coffee. Things are going better than Derek could ever have hoped, so why is Jane so freaked out? Does it have anything to do with Em dating Cam? She’s the one who set them up! She should be happy for them, right?

With overtones of Jane Austen’s Emma and brimming with humor and heart, this sweet, frothy debut will be savored by readers.

Things I Liked

  • Coffee porn: The author was very good at describing the coffee shop and the drinks themselves, to the point that my mouth was actually watering. And I don’t even like coffee!
  • The idea of Espressology: I just think the idea of matching people based on their drink orders is really awesome. (Not so sure about the scientific accuracy of it, but whatevs.) It’s fun to think about, and it actually makes sense in a lot of ways that what kind of coffee you drink says a lot about you.
  • Derek: This guy made me smile. He’s just such an awkward turtle. He’s in charge of all these girls and you can tell he’s just like “I did not sign up for this”.
  • It was fun: I just finished reading something pretty heavy, so having something that took maybe an hour and a half to read was nice. I didn’t have to think hard and it was light and simple, which was a bit of a relief.

Things I Didn't Like

  • Jane: The main character was just really shallow and immature. I’m not sure if the author was basing her characters on what she thinks teenagers are really like, but honestly, an 18-year-old senior in high school? I understand she’s not going to be quoting Sophocles or anything, but a little emotional integrity and sense of responsibility wouldn’t have hurt.
  • Gabby Girlz: Just. No.
  • There wasn’t really a plot: I mean, there was, but it didn’t feel like it. It sort of just felt like a circular pattern of two steps. Step 1: Jane makes awesome match. Step 2: Jane whines. Rinse and repeat.

Overall

I had fun with it, even if it wasn’t what it could’ve been. I would’ve liked it a lot more if Jane had been a bit less of an airhead.

Rating:

Three Stars

Recommend it?

Maybe to a younger teen

Purchase it:

Barnes & NobleAmazon | Book Depository

Review: Ophelia by Lisa M. Klein

OpheliaTitle: Ophelia

Author: Lisa M. Klein

Genre: YA, Romance, Historical Fiction

How did I get it? Powell’s (Portland bookstore/giant palace of awesome)

Summary: He is Hamlet, Prince of Denmark; she is simply Ophelia. If you think you know their story, think again.

In this reimagining of Shakespeare’s famous tragedy, it is Ophelia who takes center stage. A rowdy, motherless girl, she grows up at Elsinore Castle to become the queen’s most trusted lady-in-waiting. Ambitious for knowledge and witty as well as beautiful, Ophelia learns the ways of power in a court where nothing is as it seems. When she catches the attention of the captivating, dark-haired Prince Hamlet, their love blossoms in secret. But bloody deeds soon turn Denmark into a place of madness, and Ophelia’s happiness is shattered. Ultimately, she must choose between her love for Hamlet and her own life. In desperation, Ophelia devises a treacherous plan to escape from Elsinore forever . . . with one very dangerous secret.

Lisa Klein’s Ophelia tells the story of a young woman falling in love, searching for her place in the world, and finding the strength to survive. Sharp and literary, dark and romantic, this dramatic story holds readers in its grip until the final, heartrending scene.

Review: I’m honestly not sure if I loved this book or not. I’m a Shakespeare girl, so I was in love with the idea of a retelling from Ophelia’s point of view, but I don’t know how to think about this novel.

It was well-written, although a bit archaic for a YA novel. Ophelia had plenty of wit and she was a very compelling heroine. Hamlet was portrayed fairly accurately, I think, although their love story seemed a bit stilted to me. Gertrude was a very intriguing woman, and the only character whom I could say I had a problem with was Laertes. His actions weren’t really explained very well and I felt like he was sort of passed over and made into a two-dimensional character when there was plenty of opportunity to show him in a more human light.

I really did love Ophelia for her thirst for knowledge and her awareness of the sexism within her culture. In a good deal of YA fiction, I see so many instances where the imbalance between women and men is obvious but never addressed. I didn’t have this problem with Ophelia. I could rely on the main character to realize the injustice of her situation and do her best to counter it, and that was very refreshing.

I think my only serious issue with this novel was the latter part of it. The plot is faithful to the original play, but because it doesn’t end where Shakespeare ended it, the last stretch of the book was rather boring. The author tacked on another hundred pages or so, and that much falling action is a bit of a yawn. But the end was very satisfying and I liked the way she brought everything full circle in this very bittersweet, hopeful way that made me smile.

Rating:

Four Stars

Recommend it?

Probably not to the average teenager girl, but certainly to anyone with an appreciation for Shakespeare.

Purchase it:

Barnes & Noble | Amazon | Book Depository

Other books by the author:

7936035 6393834 Two Girls of Gettysburg

ARC Review: Counting Shadows by Olivia Rivers

Counting ShadowsTitle: Counting Shadows

Author: Olivia Rivers

Series: Duplicity (#1)

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Romance

How did I get it? Netgalley

Summary: Faye’s soul-mate is everything she should hate—an Angel, an outcast, an enemy. Ashe is just one more imperfection in her life that somehow makes everything… perfect.
Until he’s murdered.
With the only person she loves ripped away, Faye sets out to avenge Ashe’s death. The task seems impossible, until she finds Lor—an Angel who looks nearly identical to Ashe’s killer. Arrogant and hot-headed, Lor is everything Ashe wasn’t. But Lor is connected to her soul-mate’s past, and Faye needs him to find the killer—even if Lor is potentially deadly.
But when Faye discovers that Ashe’s past isn’t as black and white as she thought, she faces an impossible choice: Give up the hunt, and risk the lives of others. Or continue pursuing Ashe’s murderer, and forfeit the lives of everyone in her family—including herself.

Review: I’m not sure what I expected when I started reading this. The summary doesn’t mention that Faye is a princess, or that the actual revenge plotline makes up no more than 50% of the plot. So I was a bit blindsided.

Firstly, to get it out of the way, there were some things that weren’t working for me in this. The writing was well and good on its own, but the dialogue annoyed me, mostly because I couldn’t picture a princess/angel/king saying “okay” and there was also a good deal of phrasing that made me roll my eyes. The king also really bothered me, because at first, I got the impression that he was a very loving father, and then all of the sudden he does a 180 and becomes a heartless monster. I’m sorry, what?

That being said, I liked the concept of it. Faye being hated by everyone was certainly refreshing, and even if she and Lor had less than spectacular chemistry, it certainly felt more authentic than this “he completes me” routine with Ashe. I didn’t feel any real connection with the characters but neither were they incessantly annoying like they could have been.

But unfortunately, this one just fell flat for me. It felt a bit unorganized overall, more of a mishmash of ideas and thrown-together plotlines rather than a coherent story, and so many of my questions went unanswered that I just couldn’t make myself care about what was going on.

I understand that this is the first book of a series, however, so I might try reading the second book when it comes out to see if it gets any better.

Rating:

Two Stars

Recommend it?

Probably not.

Purchase it:

Amazon