May Releases I Can’t Wait to Get My Hands On!

Happy May, friends! Long time no see! I took several months off from the blog – I just checked and the last post was back in February, eek – but I’m thrilled to be jumping back in. And what better way to return than by sharing the books of May that have caught my eye. Also, is it just me or has 2021 seriously been bringing it with the releases?? I swear, each month has me swooning!

PROJECT HAIL MARY by Andy Weir | May 4

Ryland Grace is the sole survivor on a desperate, last-chance mission–and if he fails, humanity and the earth itself will perish. Except that right now, he doesn’t know that. He can’t even remember his own name, let alone the nature of his assignment or how to complete it. All he knows is that he’s been asleep for a very, very long time. And he’s just been awakened to find himself millions of miles from home, with nothing but two corpses for company.

His crewmates dead, his memories fuzzily returning, he realizes that an impossible task now confronts him. Alone on this tiny ship that’s been cobbled together by every government and space agency on the planet and hurled into the depths of space, it’s up to him to conquer an extinction-level threat to our species. And thanks to an unexpected ally, he just might have a chance.

GREAT CIRCLE by Maggie Shipstead | May 4 *Thank you, Knopf, for a review copy*

After being rescued as infants from a sinking ocean liner in 1914, Marian and Jamie Graves are raised by their dissolute uncle in Missoula, Montana. There–after encountering a pair of barnstorming pilots passing through town in beat-up biplanes–Marian commences her lifelong love affair with flight. At fourteen she drops out of school and finds an unexpected and dangerous patron in a wealthy bootlegger who provides a plane and subsidizes her lessons, an arrangement that will haunt her for the rest of her life, even as it allows her to fulfill her destiny: circumnavigating the globe by flying over the North and South Poles.

A century later, Hadley Baxter is cast to play Marian in a film that centers on Marian’s disappearance in Antarctica. Vibrant, canny, disgusted with the claustrophobia of Hollywood, Hadley is eager to redefine herself after a romantic film franchise has imprisoned her in the grip of cult celebrity. Her immersion into the character of Marian unfolds, thrillingly, alongside Marian’s own story, as the two women’s fates–and their hunger for self-determination in vastly different geographies and times–collide. 

COMING HOME TO SEASHELL HARBOR by Miranda Liasson | May 4

Hadley Wells swapped her dreams of saving the planet for the glamour of Hollywood. But when a very public breakup reveals cracks in her not-so-perfect life, she returns to her hometown to reassess what it is she truly wants. Unfortunately, Seashell Harbor has some trouble of its own—including the first man to ever break her heart.

A serious injury forced footballer Tony Cammareri into early retirement—now he’s determined to reboot his life with a splashy new restaurant venture. He knows better than to expect a happy reunion with Hadley, but he’s determined to make up for the way things ended between them. Yet when Tony and Hadley end up vying for control of the town’s future, they find themselves once again on opposing sides. As their rivalry intensifies, they must decide what’s worth fighting for—and what it truly means to be happy.

THE GIRL WITH STARS IN HER EYES by Xio Axelrod | May 4

Growing up, Antonia “Toni” Bennett’s guitar was her only companion…until she met Sebastian Quick. Seb was a little older, a lot wiser, and he became Toni’s way out, promising they’d escape their small town together. Then Seb turned eighteen and split without looking back.

Now, Toni B is all grown up and making a name for herself in Philadelphia’s indie rock scene. When a friend suggests she try out for the hottest new band in the country, she decides to take a chance. She’s in for a surprise when one of the decision-makers turns out to be none other than Seb. Toni can handle it. No problem. Or it wouldn’t be if Seb didn’t still hold a piece of her heart, not to mention the key to her future.

HOUR OF THE WITCH by Chris Bohjalian | May 4

Boston, 1662. Mary Deerfield is twenty-four-years-old. Her skin is porcelain, her eyes delft blue, and in England she might have had many suitors. But here in the New World, amid this community of saints, Mary is the second wife of Thomas Deerfield, a man as cruel as he is powerful. When Thomas, prone to drunken rage, drives a three-tined fork into the back of Mary’s hand, she resolves that she must divorce him to save her life.

But in a world where every neighbor is watching for signs of the devil, a woman like Mary–a woman who harbors secret desires and finds it difficult to tolerate the brazen hypocrisy of so many men in the colony–soon finds herself the object of suspicion and rumor. When tainted objects are discovered buried in Mary’s garden, when a boy she has treated with herbs and simples dies, and when their servant girl runs screaming in fright from her home, Mary must fight to not only escape her marriage, but also the gallows.

ARSENIC AND ADOBO by Mia P. Manansala | May 4

When Lila Macapagal moves back home to recover from a horrible breakup, her life seems to be following all the typical rom-com tropes. She’s tasked with saving her Tita Rosie’s failing restaurant, and she has to deal with a group of matchmaking aunties who shower her with love and judgment. But when a notoriously nasty food critic (who happens to be her ex-boyfriend) drops dead moments after a confrontation with Lila, her life quickly swerves from a Nora Ephron romp to an Agatha Christie case.

With the cops treating her like she’s the one and only suspect, and the shady landlord looking to finally kick the Macapagal family out and resell the storefront, Lila’s left with no choice but to conduct her own investigation. Armed with the nosy auntie network, her barista best bud, and her trusted Dachshund, Longanisa, Lila takes on this tasty, twisted case and soon finds her own neck on the chopping block…

OUT OF THE SHADOWS by Emily Midorikawa | May 11

Queen Victoria’s reign was one of breathtaking social change, yet roles for most women remained rigid and narrow. The “angel in the house” rarely expressed an opinion, and certainly not one that challenged the status quo. But not so within the social sphere of the seance–a mysterious, lamplit world dominated by enterprising women whose apparent ability to move between the realms of the dead and the living rewarded them with otherwise unthinkable fame and power. Such talents allowed them to cross rigid boundaries of gender and class, and to summon unique political voices–voices capable of reaching some of the era’s most famous personalities, including even Victoria herself.

Out of the Shadows, which draws on original diaries, letters, and memoirs, tells the stories of six such visionary Victorians. The clairvoyance of Kate, Leah, and Maggie Fox, three sisters from upstate New York, inspired some of the era’s best-known female suffrage activists and set off an international séance craze. British performer Emma Hardinge Britten left behind a career on Broadway for the life of a “trance lecturer,” whose oration on the death of Abraham Lincoln was celebrated by tens of thousands. The meteoric rise of Victoria Woodhull, born into poverty in Ohio, took her from childhood medium to Wall Street broker to America’s first female presidential candidate. And Georgina Weldon, whose interest in spiritualism nearly saw her confined to an asylum, went on to become a favorite of the press and a successful campaigner against Britain’s archaic lunacy laws.

PEOPLE WE MEET ON VACATION by Emily Henry | May 11

Poppy and Alex. Alex and Poppy. They have nothing in common. She’s a wild child; he wears khakis. She has insatiable wanderlust; he prefers to stay home with a book. And somehow, ever since a fateful car share home from college many years ago, they are the very best of friends. For most of the year they live far apart—she’s in New York City, and he’s in their small hometown—but every summer, for a decade, they have taken one glorious week of vacation together.

Until two years ago, when they ruined everything. They haven’t spoken since.

Poppy has everything she should want, but she’s stuck in a rut. When someone asks when she was last truly happy, she knows, without a doubt, it was on that ill-fated, final trip with Alex. And so, she decides to convince her best friend to take one more vacation together—lay everything on the table, make it all right. Miraculously, he agrees. Now she has a week to fix everything. If only she can get around the one big truth that has always stood quietly in the middle of their seemingly perfect relationship. What could possibly go wrong?

MARY JANE by Jessica Anya Blau | May 11

In 1970s Baltimore, fourteen-year-old Mary Jane loves cooking with her mother, singing in her church choir, and enjoying her family’s subscription to the Broadway Show Tunes of the Month record club. Shy, quiet, and bookish, she’s glad when she lands a summer job as a nanny for the daughter of a local doctor. A respectable job, Mary Jane’s mother says. In a respectable house.

The house may look respectable on the outside, but inside it’s a literal and figurative mess: clutter on every surface, IMPEACHMENT: Now More Than Ever bumper stickers on the doors, cereal and takeout for dinner. And even more troublesome (were Mary Jane’s mother to know, which she does not): The doctor is a psychiatrist who has cleared his summer for one important job—helping a famous rock star dry out. A week after Mary Jane starts, the rock star and his movie star wife move in.

Over the course of the summer, Mary Jane introduces her new household to crisply ironed clothes and a family dinner schedule, and has a front-row seat to a liberal world of sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll (not to mention group therapy). Caught between the lifestyle she’s always known and the future she’s only just realized is possible, Mary Jane will arrive at September with a new idea about what she wants out of life, and what kind of person she’s going to be.

LONG LOST by Jacqueline West | May 11

When Fiona’s family moves to be closer to her older sister’s figure skating club—and far from Fiona’s close-knit group of friends—nobody seems to notice Fiona’s unhappiness. Alone and out of place, Fiona ventures to the town’s library, a rambling mansion donated to the town by the long-dead heiress. And there she finds a gripping mystery novel about a small town, family secrets, and a tragic disappearance.

Soon Fiona begins to notice strange similarities that blur the lines between the novel and her new town. And when she looks for the book again, it’s gone. Almost like it never existed. With stubbornness and a little help from a few odd Lost Lake locals, Fiona uncovers the book’s strange history. It’s not a novel, but the true story of an unsolved century-old crime filled with clues to the mystery. Lost Lake is a town of restless spirits, and Fiona will learn that both help and danger come from unexpected places—maybe even the sister she thinks doesn’t care about her anymore.

A TRAIL OF LIES by Kylie Logan | May 11 *reviews of books 1 and 2*

Jazz Ramsey is just getting used to the idea that her on-again-off-again beau, Nick, might actually be a permanent fixture, when she gets an alarming call in the middle of the night from his mother, Kim: there’s a dead man in her backyard. Kim has a long history of drinking and a vivid imagination, so when Jazz’s human remains detection dog, Wally, finds no evidence of a body, Jazz thinks she can breathe easy.

But when the body of a middle-aged man, Dan Mansfield, is discovered in a nearby park, and a photo of Nick and his mom is found in his pocket, Jazz has to admit that something isn’t adding up. Kim claims not to know who Dan is, but the cops find out soon enough: he’s a recently paroled convict who served thirty years for murder. And when Jazz traces his crime back to a bar fight with an antiques dealer, she ends up with more questions than answers.

Meanwhile, no one wants her poking around–not Nick’s mom, nor the Motorcycle-riding ex-con she connects to Dan, nor Nick himself, who seems worried about Jazz’s safety, but also about what she might find. But Jazz has never been one to take no for an answer, and she won’t give up now–even if it means risking her own life.

LAST SUMMER AT THE GOLDEN HOTEL by Elyssa Friedland | May 18

In its heyday, The Golden Hotel was the crown jewel of the hotter-than-hot Catskills vacation scene. For more than sixty years, the Goldman and Weingold families – best friends and business partners – have presided over this glamorous resort which served as a second home for well-heeled guests and celebrities. But the Catskills are not what they used to be – and neither is the relationship between the Goldmans and the Weingolds. As the facilities and management begin to fall apart, a tempting offer to sell forces the two families together again to make a heart-wrenching decision. Can they save their beloved Golden or is it too late?

Long-buried secrets emerge, new dramas and financial scandal erupt, and everyone from the traditional grandparents to the millennial grandchildren wants a say in the hotel’s future. Business and pleasure clash in this fast-paced, hilarious, nostalgia-filled story, where the hotel owners rediscover the magic of a bygone era of nonstop fun even as they grapple with what may be their last resort.

ROSALINE PALMER TAKES THE CAKE by Alexis Hall | May 18

Following the recipe is the key to a successful bake. Rosaline Palmer has always lived by those rules—well, except for when she dropped out of college to raise her daughter, Amelie. Now, with a paycheck as useful as greaseproof paper and a house crumbling faster than biscuits in tea, she’s teetering on the edge of financial disaster. But where there’s a whisk there’s a way . . . and Rosaline has just landed a spot on the nation’s most beloved baking show.

Winning the prize money would give her daughter the life she deserves—and Rosaline is determined to stick to the instructions. However, more than collapsing trifles stand between Rosaline and sweet, sweet victory.  Suave, well-educated, and parent-approved Alain Pope knows all the right moves to sweep her off her feet, but it’s shy electrician Harry Dobson who makes Rosaline question her long-held beliefs—about herself, her family, and her desires.

Rosaline fears falling for Harry is a guaranteed recipe for disaster. Yet as the competition—and the ovens—heat up, Rosaline starts to realize the most delicious bakes come from the heart.

LAST CHANCE BOOKS by Kelsey Rodkey | May 18 *Thank you, HarperTeen, for a review copy*

Don’t you just love the smell of old books in the morning? Madeline Moore does. Books & Moore, the musty bookstore her family has owned for generations, is where she feels most herself. Nothing is going to stop her from coming back after college to take over the store from her beloved aunt.

Nothing, that is—until a chain bookstore called Prologue opens across the street and threatens to shut them down.

Madeline sets out to demolish the competition, but Jasper, the guy who works over at Prologue, seems intent on ruining her life. Not only is he taking her customers, he has the unbelievable audacity to be… extremely cute. But that doesn’t matter. Jasper is the enemy and he will be destroyed. After all—all’s fair in love and (book) wars.

OPHIE’S GHOSTS by Justina Ireland | May 18 *Thank you, Balzer + Bray, for a review copy*

Ophelia Harrison used to live in a small house in the Georgia countryside. But that was before the night in November 1922, and the cruel act that took her home and her father from her. Which was the same night that Ophie learned she can see ghosts.

Now Ophie and her mother are living in Pittsburgh with relatives they barely know. In the hopes of earning enough money to get their own place, Mama has gotten Ophie a job as a maid in the same old manor house where she works.

Daffodil Manor, like the wealthy Caruthers family who owns it, is haunted by memories and prejudices of the past–and, as Ophie discovers, ghosts as well. Ghosts who have their own loves and hatreds and desires, ghosts who have wronged others and ghosts who have themselves been wronged. And as Ophie forms a friendship with one spirit whose life ended suddenly and unjustly, she wonders if she might be able to help–even as she comes to realize that Daffodil Manor may hold more secrets than she bargained for.

THE INVISIBLE HUSBAND OF FRICK ISLAND by Colleen Oakley | May 25 *Thank you, Berkley, for a review copy*

Piper Parrish’s life on Frick Island—a tiny, remote town smack in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay—is nearly perfect. Well, aside from one pesky detail: Her darling husband, Tom, is dead. When Tom’s crab boat capsized and his body wasn’t recovered, Piper, rocked to the core, did a most peculiar thing: carried on as if her husband was not only still alive, but right there beside her, cooking him breakfast, walking him to the docks each morning, meeting him for their standard Friday night dinner date at the One-Eyed Crab. And what were the townspeople to do but go along with their beloved widowed Piper?

Anders Caldwell’s career is not going well. A young ambitious journalist, he’d rather hoped he’d be a national award-winning podcaster by now, rather than writing fluff pieces for a small town newspaper. But when he gets an assignment to travel to the remote Frick Island and cover their boring annual Cake Walk fundraiser, he stumbles upon a much more fascinating tale: an entire town pretending to see and interact with a man who does not actually exist. Determined it’s the career-making story he’s been needing for his podcast, Anders returns to the island to begin covert research and spend more time with the enigmatic Piper—but he has no idea out of all the lives he’s about to upend, it’s his that will change the most.

THE KINGDOMS by Natasha Pulley | May 25

Joe Tournier has a bad case of amnesia. His first memory is of stepping off a train in the nineteenth-century French colony of England. The only clue Joe has about his identity is a century-old postcard of a Scottish lighthouse that arrives in London the same month he does. Written in illegal English—instead of French—the postcard is signed only with the letter “M,” but Joe is certain whoever wrote it knows him far better than he currently knows himself, and he’s determined to find the writer. The search for M, though, will drive Joe from French-ruled London to rebel-owned Scotland and finally onto the battle ships of a lost empire’s Royal Navy. In the process, Joe will remake history, and himself.

ONCE UPON A PUPPY by Lizzie Shane | May 25

Connor Wyeth has a plan for everything. But when he adopts Maximus, an unruly Irish wolfhound mix, he gets more than he bargained for. If he doesn’t act fast, the big dopey mutt is going to destroy his house. The only person Max ever listens to is the volunteer who used to walk him at the shelter—a perennially upbeat woman whose day job is planning princess parties for little kids. Connor couldn’t ever imagine that she’d be able to tame such a beast as Max, but he’s desperate enough to try anything.

Deenie Mitchell isn’t looking forward to spending more time with uptight, rules-oriented Connor—no matter how attractive he is. But when her sister announces her engagement, Deenie realizes he’s the perfect person to impress her type-A family. When she learns he needs a plus-one for his law firm’s work events, an unlikely alliance is formed. But as they play the perfect couple, the friendship—and the feelings—that are forming start to feel all too real. Opposites may attract, but can the man with a plan for everything and the misfit who makes her own rules ever find common ground?

3 mid-week mini-reviews

Happy hump day, friends! To get through this mid-week slump, I want to share mini-reviews for three recent – and very different – reads!

KARMA MOON by Melissa Savage | January 19, 2021 (Thank you, Crown Books for Young Readers!)

Karma Moon’s life changes with one phone call. A phone call from Netflix. For 11 days, her dad’s team of ghost hunters will explore the Stanley Hotel (yep, that one!) and if they capture actual paranormal evidence, there will be a docuseries with their name written all over it. Though she’s a firm believer in everything woo-woo, even going so far as to consult her trusty Magic Eight-Ball when things look grim, her dad’s a bit more of a skeptic, but as the time begins to run out on their Netflix deal, everyone’s hoping for those hauntings.

I’m a big fan of Middle Grade reads and Karma Moon was a quick-paced, intriguing story – definitely up my alley with the paranormal angle! I can see this working as a read-along with a parent: there are references for younger readers (Scooby Doo, the Jonas Brothers) while plenty of sneaky catches for adults (The Shining/Stephen King, Poltergeist, Harry Houdini). It’s also not all fun and games as Karma is dealing with real-life heartbreak: her mother recently packed several suitcases and took off, happily running around on a beach with her new boyfriend. The not-so-paranormal ending will ensure younger readers can sleep with the lights off but still provide heavier topics for discussion.

FAYE, FARAWAY by Helen Fisher | January 26, 2021 (Thank you, Gallery Books!)

After losing her mother at 8, Faye discovers, at 36 and with two young daughters of her own, that she suddenly has the ability to travel back in time. See her mother again, spend time with her and get to know her as a woman rather than a parent. Each trip back to the present, however, is like grieving all over again – and she’s unable to confide in her husband who will clearly feel his wife has lost it. Faye, Faraway was pitched as a heartfelt read and I completely agree.

That this novel was a one-sitting read is a testament to Fisher’s skill as a writer of what would otherwise be a fairly farfetched plot. I was completely caught up in Faye’s story and longed for the moments when she would venture back to the 70s. That said, I admit I wasn’t as into the present day plot: Faye’s husband has suddenly had a calling to the church and is looking to become ordained. Scenes with him mainly focus on Faye’s lack of faith and how a minister’s wife wasn’t her calling. I also struggled a bit with the loose rules regarding time travel. Faye interacts with her younger self, has conversations with people, leaves things behind. Unlike every single other book or movie I’ve come across, her actions have no effect on the present day. Still, this was a really lovely read and I’m looking forward to more of Fisher’s work!

FIRST COMES LIKE by Alisha Rai | February 16, 2021 (Thank you, Avon!)

Jia Ahmed is a YouTube beauty blogger whose make-up tutorials are viewed by millions. Dev Dixit hails from Bollywood royalty and is now looking to make it big with an American tv show. For the past year Jia has been exchanging DMs and texts with Dev and now finally has the chance to meet him in person…only he doesn’t recognize her. As Jia quickly learns, she’s been catfished. For an entire year. And one quick paparazzi snap forces the two together, whether they like it or not.

I’m brand-new to the Modern Love series, this being the third book, but quickly got up to speed. Fake dating is my most favorite romance trope, so from the start I was sold, but by the middle of the book it began to slow and by the end I was feeling every one of its 400+ pages. After the two are photographed together, their completely innocent pose is seen as decidedly not-so-innocent by both their families and VERY quickly an engagement is announced – immediately followed by a marriage. Despite the agreement to pretend to be in a relationship, Jia and Dev are never seen out in public together, so that angle was a bit pointless. I also had to roll my eyes as there was drama and miscommunication thrown in during literally the final chapters in a botched attempt to heighten the tension. Something interesting worth noting, it’s never explicitly stated, but Jia and one of her sisters both suffered from an unnamed illness, her sister still recovering from the aftermath. I’m not the only reader to read between the lines and wonder if this was meant to be COVID.

Blog Tour: Naked Mole Rat Saves the World by Karen Rivers

Naked Mole Rat Saves the World by Karen Rivers
Pub. Date: October 15, 2019
Source: e-ARC via publisher (Thank you, Algonquin Young Readers!)
Summary: Kit-with-a-small-k is navigating middle school with a really big, really strange secret: When she’s stressed, she turns into a naked mole rat.

It first happened after kit watched her best friend, Clem, fall and get hurt during an acrobatic performance on TV. Since then, the transformations keep happening—whether kit wants them to or not. Kit can’t tell Clem about it, because after the fall, Clem just hasn’t been herself. She’s sad and mad and gloomy, and keeping a secret of her own: the real reason she fell.

A year after the accident, kit and Clem still haven’t figured out how to deal with all the ways they have transformed—both inside and out. When their secrets come between them, the best friends get into a big fight. Somehow, kit has to save the day, but she doesn’t believe she can be that kind of hero. Turning into a naked mole rat isn’t really a superpower. Or is it?
Genre: Middle Grade, Contemporary, Magical Realism

When I was first approached to take part on the blog tour for Naked Mole Rat Saves the Day, I was ecstatic. I don’t get a chance to discuss as much Middle Grade as I would like to and the book sounded emotional and exciting (and more than a bit quirky with the main character transforming into a naked mole rat whenever she’s stressed). I disregarded the fact that my first and only other experience with the author wasn’t that great and let my optimism rule.

Kit (spelled kit – with a small k, thank you very much) is not having the best year. As if dealing with middle school wasn’t bad enough, she’s no longer speaking to one of her best friends, and watched another best friend horribly injure herself on national television. Her mother was once a one-hit wonder and now she’s aiming for a comeback and kit never knew her father; her mother always said he was the stars and kit was more than happy to accept that until Jackson blurted out her father’s true identity.

Though she won’t tell her other friends why she’s no longer speaking to Jackson, they do know they’re not to speak to him anymore either. And once Clem is released from the hospital, she doesn’t seem like the same bestie kit knew. She’s moody and sad – and holding in a secret.

I’ll cut right to the chase and say that Naked Mole Rat Saves the Day didn’t work for me, unfortunately. While it was certainly a one-sitting read (admittedly due to a lot of skimming on my part), I couldn’t help but feel the book was weighed down with an overabundance of heavy topics: mass suicide, a parent’s mental health, another parent found someone else and left the family, the MC learns the identity of her father, another character learns the grandmother had been married previously and the mom’s dad had actually died before she was born/grandmother didn’t realize she was pregnant. There are also themes on friendship and growing up and a completely random scene in a shelter where it’s announced all the animals need to be adopted ASAP or they’ll all be put down. All the while, the main character spends scenes turning into a naked mole rat (I never understood this) and that odd mix of magical realism/fantasy was extremely jarring when thrown in between mentions of mass suicide and mental health.

My previous novel of the author’s, A Possibility of Whales, was another too-quirky novel that didn’t live up to my expectations. In that book, the main character’s father, a celebrity, has his name in all caps anytime it’s mentioned. In Naked Mole Rat, kit (short for keep it together) is written in all lower case. I’m not sure if Rivers’s other books do this as well; just another way to try and make an already strange book feel ‘unique.’

Sadly this one didn’t work for me. There was a too-strange juxtaposition between extremely heavy topics and random scenes where the main character transformed into an animal. There was a checklist of issues in this book ranging from mental health to suicide to family secrets and I wish the author would have instead chosen to focus on just one or two. Instead I felt I was constantly on edge, bouncing from one issue to the next. This story might work better for tweens and I’m sad to say I didn’t enjoy it as I had hoped.

my latest library haul 4/20

In February roughly a million holds all came in at once at my library and I decided to do a library haul post. I had so much fun with it that, in March, I shared another haul. Since then I’ve been pretty good about getting a handle on my requests, but now I’m back with a new edition of a feature that’s quickly becoming a favorite of mine!

Over the Fence by Mary Monroe
It turns out this book is a sequel to last year’s One House Over, which I haven’t read and I’m hoping that won’t hurt my enjoyment! 1930s, Depression-era South. Milton and Yvonne found a better life via bootlegging. Gone are their days in poverty – now they’re in a respectable middle-class neighborhood…with a very interesting couple next door. It turns out Joyce and Odell aren’t as perfect as they’re letting on and in order to keep his own secret hidden, blackmail is looking mighty tempting to Milton.

The Lost History of Dreams by Kris Waldherr
“A post-mortem photographer unearths dark secrets of the past that may hold the key to his future.” Um, yes please. This one is being compared to Wuthering Heights and The Thirteenth Tale – as if I wasn’t intrigued already!

The Raven’s Tale by Cat Winters
I hadn’t heard about this one until I was browsing upcoming titles in my library’s online catalog. The SECOND I saw it, my eyes flew to the word raven and I pounced. Edgar Allan Poe as a teen in a world where muses exist as terrible creatures that ultimately lead artists “down a path of ruin and disgrace”. YES YES YES.

Professor Chandra Follows His Bliss by Rajeev Balasubramanyam
“In the moments after the bicycle accident, Professor Chandra doesn’t see his life flash before his eyes, but his life’s work.” Having just missed winning the Nobel Prize (again), Professor Chandra wants nothing more than to jump right back into his work – but his doctor has other ideas: if he doesn’t want the stress of his work to kill him, Professor Chandra needs to take a break. I am all for curmudgeons and this Professor Emeritus in Economics is calling my name.

We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia
Totally random grab here. I rarely read YA and even less Fantasy YA. At the Medio School for Girls, young ladies are trained for one of two roles: upon graduation they will either run their husband’s household or raise his children – both promising a life of luxury. Daniela Vargas is the school’s top student…as long as no one finds out her life is a lie. Identification papers were secretly forged so she could rise from her lowly station and now, with graduation drawing nearer, Daniela has to fight to keep the truth hidden or risk being thrown back into a life of poverty.

Ungovernable: The Victorian Parent’s Guide to Raising Flawless Children by Therese Oneill
I really enjoyed Therese’s debut, Unmentionable: The Victorian Lady’s Guide to Sex, Marriage, and Manners, and now she’s back with a new book detailing what comes after the marriage: raising children the Victorian way.

The Diary of a Provincial Lady by E.M. Delafield
I love WWII novels and went on a bit of a spree recently. During that mini-binge I came across this 4-book collection: a fictitious diary written by a disaster-prone lady in the 1930s. She details her attempts at keeping her house from falling into chaos, there’s her grumbling husband and mischievous children, and don’t forget the servants who always manage to one-up her. Originally published in the 30s, I’m so excited to dive into this highly-rated collection!

Operation Return to Hogwarts: Year One

Hogwarts, Hogwarts, Hoggy Warty Hogwarts. Like millions (billions?) of other readers around the globe, Harry Potter has my heart and has had it for years. I remember when I first discovered it – my mom bought the Sorcerer’s Stone for my 9th birthday. It had only been out a few months at this point and was starting to gain a following, but I was completely unfamiliar with it and, honestly, wasn’t too interested in opening it so I held off for a bit. When I finally did sit down to read though, it was all over for me. I was sold.

Eventually AOL created HP message boards and if anyone remembers Leah Riddle or Loki Riddle, HIIII~ I ended up meeting some of my very best friends there and a decade+ later our friendships are still going strong (take that, you naysayers that insist real friendships can’t be formed online.) In 2008 a friend and I flew to Chicago to take part in Terminus, a convention where we jammed to wizard rock, got sorted into houses, attended a ball, and even played Quidditch – our team reached the semi-finals and even went up against a professional team. We made it to the Chicago papers too! (I’ll definitely have to do some tbt photos on instagram, that week was an absolute blast.

ANYWAY, I love Harry Potter. A lot. Yet I haven’t read the series since Deathly Hallows came out eight years ago. With each release I would go back and reread the previous books in the series, but once it was all said and done a part of me was terrified of revisiting these books. Would they still hold up after all these years? Would it feel different reading them ‘alone’ instead of with millions of other people at the same time?

Over the weekend I made the decision to finally – finally – start from the beginning and I feel absolutely ridiculous for being so worried. I actually jumped into Chamber of Secrets immediately after finishing Sorcerer’s Stone and that’s something I NEVER do. I never ever EVER binge read series in one go. At least not since blogging – years ago I loved to do it and this weekend I discovered why I loved it so much.

I decided to do a mini series dubbed Operation Return to Hogwarts to jot down my thoughts/feelings/whatever else I want to discuss. These won’t be actual reviews – plenty of those exist.

I DIDN’T REALIZE THE WRITING WAS SO YOUNG. The first thing that stuck out for me when rereading SS was just how young the style was. Naturally, Harry is only 10/turning 11 in this book, but I now completely understand why adult readers who had never read the series find it a bit hard to get into. As someone who loooves Middle Grade, though, I didn’t mind, I was just a bit surprised. As he ages the writing style and voice matures as well (and as Jo became more experience, I suppose) so it would make sense that I forgot about the younger tone.

I FORGOT ABOUT A TON OF CHARACTERS. Minor ones though, I promise! Hahahaha, it’s not like I forgot about Dumbledore or anyone – but instead secondary characters like Mrs. Figg (how did I forget about Mrs. Figg??) and Norbert! ♥ Norbie I’m so sorry.

MCGONAGALL IS KIND OF A B. At least in the opening scenes/early chapters. When I think of her, I imagine a total BAMF and was shocked when I noticed her characterization here was more severe than I remembered. Also, when she and Dumbledore meet on Privet Drive (just before Hagrid drops off a baby Harry) their interactions/conversations felt really odd. As though they didn’t know one another and hadn’t been working together for years. Maybe that’s just me being overly critical these days. Either way, in the beginning of the book I felt as though McGonagall (one of my favorite characters) was set up to be a character to dislike.

I GOT THE BOOKS MIXED UP. Obviously not the Big Pictures (I know the Triwizard Tournament doesn’t take place in the second book, etc) but small things I misremembered. The zoo scene with the snake, in my mind, happened in CoS. I was shocked while reading about detention in the Forbidden Forest. Somehow I connected that to Aragog and convinced myself that happens in PoA. Having read the scene, however, I feel like an idiot. I’m discovering all sorts of details I knew at one time but had forgotten over the years.

I’M HOME. After all these years, Harry and Hogwarts hold such a large part of my heart and all weekend I was kicking myself for waiting so, so long to return to these books. Now that I have, I think I’ll have a hard time tearing myself away to read other books!

7 reasons YOU should be reading Seraphina & Shadow Scale


Seraphina | Shadow Scale (Seraphina #1 & 2) by Rachel Hartman

If you follow me on goodreads, instagram, or twitter, you probably noticed that for the past two weeks I’ve been on a huge dragon kick. I had a review copy of Shadow Scale and a copy of Seraphina on my shelves that had been gathering dust for the past year. For once I decided to get my butt in gear and find out what this series is all about and OH MY GOSH WHY DIDN’T ANY OF YOU FORCE THIS ON ME EARLIER?! I fell hard for these two books and with Shadow Scale‘s release, I wanted to do something a little differently. Instead of my usual review, I’m going to give you seven awesome things you’re missing out on by not reading this series!

WORLD-BUILDING
Throughout high school I lived and breathed Fantasy. When it’s good, it’s great, and when it’s not, the problem comes down to one thing: the world-building. Contemporary fiction and Mysteries need world-building, yes, but because those genres tend to be firmly rooted in the Real World, it’s really not too difficult to make the setting sound convincing. Fantasy doesn’t work without a solid foundation. When I first started reading Seraphina and saw mentions of places like Goredd, Ninys, Samsam, and Porphyry, I was a little concerned. Would this debut author really have the chops to craft, not just a believable city, but an entire universe? …turns out that, yes, yes she can.

While the names might take some getting used to in the beginning, halfway through Seraphina they’re so ingrained in your mind that you think nothing of it. While reading, these countries became real, and that is the mark of a truly gifted writer. Although Seraphina takes place in Phina’s native country of Goredd, Shadow Scale introduces us to the other countries and I couldn’t wait to go exploring! Each land has a distinct voice, a distinct culture and I’m completely in awe of Rachel Hartman. Bravo, madam!

GLOSSARY/MAPS
Just like any self-respecting Fantasy, this series comes with a massive multi-page glossary in both books – trust me, you’ll need it. Ard, quig, saar (a shortened form of saarantras), ityasaari, these words all have very specific meanings and you do not want to get them mixed up (I think a Son of St. Ogdo would have your head if you called him a saar). Again, initially I was a little confused (it took a while for me to figure out Ardmagar was a title and not a separate character!), but once I got the hang of it, I was golden.

As if the glossaries didn’t make my heart swell already, Shadow Scale features a map! If a book has a map in it, there’s a good chance I’ll read it; I’m a total map girl.

CHARACTERS
Rachel Hartman created a mind-boggling amount of characters here. Don’t worry though, because there’s another glossary just for the characters! (seriously, it’s like Hartman peeked into my heart and found everything that makes me happydance) There are characters that exist in the world and then an entirely separate set that exists in Seraphina’s ‘garden’ in her head. I could seriously go on for days about these fantastic people – including my little love Abdo ♥ Instead I’m going to tell you a little story: last weekend I had a nightmare. In this dream I was in a house inside a bedroom, but I couldn’t sleep because the house across the street had an evil ghost inside who could see through the walls and would stare at me. At one point I left that bedroom, ready to run downstairs in an attempt to flee and when I did, I left the bedroom door wide open. When I got downstairs, there was a voice asking me if I had remembered to shut and lock the bedroom door because if I hadn’t it meant the ghost could come through. When I woke up I was completely baffled and chalked it up to a movie or something…only to later realize that HOLY CRAP my dream was about Jannoula, an evil character who tried to slip into Phina’s mind and control her until Phina was able to trick her into being locked up inside a cottage. What I’m trying to get at here is that these characters are so expertly written that I’m constantly thinking about them – whether I’m awake or asleep.

DRAGONS
The real kicker here. In Seraphina’s world, being half-dragon is seen as dirty, something to be ashamed of. Phina herself is half-dragon and she goes to great lengths to conceal her scales (a band around her waist and forearm). Phina’s condition really isn’t too bad – one character has to hide a tail and another (my dear, sweet Abdo) has never been able to speak because his mouth and throat are coated in scales. A treaty had been signed to make peace between the dragons and humans, but the hard feelings still remain decades later. There are groups who fiercely oppose the treaty and take it upon themselves to brutally attack anyone they suspect of being a dragon (hence Phina’s constant veil of secrecy).

That said, dragons are amazing teachers although they lack emotion to allow them to convincingly pass in their human form. This is actually pretty funny – there are multiple scenes where a dragon tries to joke or show affection and I giggled like crazy. In their dragon form, though, I wouldn’t dare dream of giggling – they’re all business.

So I might be getting a little ahead of myself, but not since Harry Potter have I come across such detailed dragons. This race has a history, they have their own customs and politics and more than a few blemishes in their past.

SLOW-BURN ROMANCE
Oh, Lucien. The romance between Phina and Lucien has a BIG red flag all over it: he’s the Prince and engaged to the Princess…who happens to be Phina’s closet friend and student (Phina teaches music). Yeah, it’s messy and they both know it. I honestly wasn’t even sure if I should include their relationship here: it’s slow to the point of nonexistence (particularly after EVENTS in Shadow Scale)

PLOT TWISTS
SORRY GUYS, that’s all you’re getting from me here! I honestly was caught off-guard a few times.

THIS SERIES IS SMART
Not just in terms of subject matter (philosophy, politics, and religion all play HUGE roles), but in the way threads weave together. I can’t even begin to imagine what Hartman’s outline or notes must have looked liked! Minor characters mentioned in a chapter in the very beginning of the story play vital roles, there’s so much depth to the characters, and Hartman has seriously created centuries worth of history for these people. When I read Seraphina, I kept thinking about how it was trying so hard to be a Serious Story with its new language and constant talk of treaties and documents and pacts that happened decades (if not centuries) ago. But, no. This series wasn’t trying to be anything other than what it is: a damn good story with a wealth of secrets and hidden nooks and crannies. Check your pre-conceived notions at the door, folks, Seraphina is about to take you on the ride of your life.

Alias Hook by Lisa Jensen

Alias Hook by Lisa Jensen
Pub. Date: July 8, 2014
Source: finished copy via publisher (Thank you, Thomas Dunne Books!)
Summary: Meet Captain James Benjamin Hook, a witty, educated Restoration-era privateer cursed to play villain to a pack of malicious little boys in a pointless war that never ends. But everything changes when Stella Parrish, a forbidden grown woman, dreams her way to the Neverland in defiance of Pan’s rules. From the glamour of the Fairy Revels, to the secret ceremonies of the First Tribes, to the mysterious underwater temple beneath the Mermaid Lagoon, the magical forces of the Neverland open up for Stella as they never have for Hook. And in the pirate captain himself, she begins to see someone far more complex than the storybook villain.

With Stella’s knowledge of folk and fairy tales, she might be Hook’s last chance for redemption and release if they can break his curse before Pan and his warrior boys hunt her down and drag Hook back to their never ending game.
Genre: Fantasy
Rating:

Everyone knows the evil Captain Hook, the villain of Neverland. What Alias Hook delivers is the tale of Jamie Benjamin Hookbridge, the eleven-year-old boy obsessed with ships. James Hookbridge, the charming young man who enjoyed women and drink and was in no hurry to settle down. The curse that cast him a devil, the boy who haunts him day and night, and his only chance at a way out.

I’m a big fan of retellings. A big fan. When I first heard about a retelling that focused on Captain Hook, the story that told his side, I couldn’t contain myself. This was a story for me. Unfortunately, after an extremely strong start, I quickly found myself losing focus; Alias Hook lost its steam hardly a quarter of the way into the story.

Hook’s childhood was fascinating and I loved these early alternating chapters between his life in London in the late 1600s and his hellish existence in Neverland in (what turns out to be) 1950. I’m a total sucker for a good backstory and I think it’s crucial to a successful retelling. Hook’s time spent with his father, his passion for the sea, even his early adulthood when he was often found in a saloon with his uppercrust pals or entertaining ladies in a seedy brothel. These windows into just who this man was made the story for me. I’ll take some good old-fashioned character exploration over action scenes any day of the week.

Unfortunately, once his backstory was established and there were no longer any of those lovely looks into his previous life – his mortal life – I found it was a struggle to continue. There was a woman Hook loved, though he secretly wasn’t looking forward to a life at home with a wife and children. He took to the seas and never returned. A dark curse was placed upon him, sending him to a boy’s fantasy world where he would forever be tormented and challenged. Two centuries later – two centuries worth of shipmates, Lost Boys, Wendys, and Pan’s antics – Hook discovers something new to Neverland: a woman.

Stella Parrish was a nurse who aided wounded soldiers in the Second World War. When that world became too unbearable, she sought the refuge of her childhood dreams and soon found herself in a place she immediately recognized from her storybooks. Naturally she doesn’t believe Hook is really the Captain Hook, nor does she take Pan’s word as truth; he’s just a silly boy, a child. What power could he possibly wield? It’s not until she witnessed firsthand just how deadly Pan’s games are that she comes to realize this isn’t silly, this isn’t a game. For centuries Pan has acted out his heroic fantasies while Hook is predestined to lose every single time. While he is never fatally harmed (despite his longing for release from this dreadful place), his men, mere mortals, die for Lost Boys grow up to become men and Pan would never allow grown-ups to plague his world.

Stella’s arrival is met with confusion – if Pan’s in charge and he adamantly refuses to allow adults, just how did a grown woman appear? Hook takes her aboard his ship in an attempt to protect her and possibly gain the upper hand on Pan for once (Hook reasons that Stella made her way to Neverland without Pan’s knowledge and he won’t pass up any advantage he could have over the boy). Over time the two become close and, yeah, I wasn’t at all surprised by the romance – anyone reading this book should not be surprised. The only woman in Neverland and the first woman Hook has seen in over two hundred years? Yeah.

There’s lovely homage paid to J. M. Barrie. Although he’d long since passed by Stella’s arrival, Hook remembers him as Pan’s Scotch Boy. Barrie was one of the Lost Boys and when he returned to our world and grew up, a part of him retained those childhood memories. In his recollections, however, Barrie viewed Peter as a great leader, as all Lost Boys do, thus making Peter Pan beloved and renowned while Hook was demonized.

While I felt the story began to drag once James became Hook, I was never not interested. I certainly wasn’t nearly as invested in the story as I had been in the beginning, leading to it taking nearly two weeks to read when I typically get through a book in two or three days. By the halfway mark I found myself skimming over the longer passages, usually those scenes where Hook was lamenting Stella’s absence or discussing matters with his men. A large part of the book was slow-going and as much as I love a story that takes its time, Alias Hook didn’t have enough to keep me turning the pages. Many nights I only got through a chapter – two if they were short. Although I wasn’t as in love with Alias Hook as I had hoped, I like the idea behind it and I loved the look into Captain Hook’s life before Neverland. His quest for redemption, for death, captivated me and the ending is open to a variety of interpretations. And, really, the cover is seriously spectacular in person. The colors are astoundingly vivid!

NOTABLE QUOTES

We were the envy of every clerk and apprentice in London, and most of their masters. We were dazzling. We were immortal.

This is what I am, what I’ve become in this place: handmaiden to the dead. My last, my only desire is to one day be rewarded for my centuries of service, earn my own passage into the Kingdom of Hades, and be allowed to rest in peace. But I am aged Charon ferrying the souls of the damned to the Underworld where I can never follow. The obolus has yet to be coined that will purchase my passage out of this never-ending Purgatorio.

The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson

The Kiss of Deception (The Remnant Chronicles #1) by Mary E. Pearson
Pub. Date: July 15, 2014
Source: e-ARC via netgalley (thank you, Henry Holt!)
Summary: In a society steeped in tradition, Princess Lia’s life follows a preordained course. As First Daughter, she is expected to have the revered gift of sight—but she doesn’t—and she knows her parents are perpetrating a sham when they arrange her marriage to secure an alliance with a neighboring kingdom—to a prince she has never met.

On the morning of her wedding, Lia flees to a distant village. She settles into a new life, hopeful when two mysterious and handsome strangers arrive—and unaware that one is the jilted prince and the other an assassin sent to kill her. Deception abounds, and Lia finds herself on the brink of unlocking perilous secrets—even as she finds herself falling in love.
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Rating:

On the day she is to be married, Princess Lia makes the rash decision to flee. She leaves behind her family, her home, everything she has ever known for a new life, a life where she’s free to do whatever she pleases and marry whomever she chooses. As First Daughter, she was nothing but a disappointment. All First Daughters are given the Gift, the ability to see and predict the future, but somehow this ability was passed over Lia. She grew up watching the effects it had on her own mother, another First Daughter, and realized nothing good could come from it.

Despite what the marriage would bring to her kingdom, Lia runs away, her maid in tow. They conspire to head to the maid’s hometown, a quiet little village where they can hide, and along the way barter for clothes, food, and horses. Unfortunately for Lia, the Prince isn’t one to handle rejection quite so easily and there’s also an assassin on her trail. That quiet life Lia had hoped for? Not gonna happen.

It’s a shame this book didn’t live up to my expectations. I honestly wanted to like it! It’s not for a lack of skill – Pearson writes beautifully. Instead it’s because I was lied to; the entire novel was a lie. The Kiss of Deception is pitched as Fantasy – High Fantasy at that! – when it’s actually an almost-500 page love triangle with a ‘twist’ that was so confusing I went back and reread earlier chapters because I had thought I misread.

I was looking forward to this princess who shares my name, particularly when other bloggers began lavishing her with praise over what a strong female she is. I’m wondering if I read a different book. Okay, sure, Lia has been practicing with a dagger, but where’s the kickass woman I was promised? She puts on an ever-so-brave face to wait on tables at a bar. She carelessly throws a generations-old ceremonial robe into a river and dons filthy commoners’ clothing. Clearly I missed something.

Because there’s nothing else as far as actual plot goes, the love triangle dealt with the Prince and the Assassin and the minute these two walk into the bar they’re all Lia can think about. One is dark-haired and brooding. The other is light and full of warmth. Gag. When Lia wasn’t pining after these two she was listening to Pauline wax poetic about her own love. A medieval tavern does not a High Fantasy make, Pearson! Dishing out mugs of ale to dockworkers doesn’t give you a free pass. The Kiss of Deception was a long, drawn out romance and had I known that, I would never have bothered.

Naturally there’s a Big Reveal, Lia chooses one of the boys, and that’s that. The entire thing could have been condensed into a novella. If you’re looking for a new Fantasy series, look elsewhere. Trust me, this isn’t what you’re looking for. However, if you’re a big fan of romance and love triangles, you might want to check it out. I’ve heard good things about Pearson’s Jenna Fox series, but after this book, you’ll be hard-pressed to convince me they’re worth reading.

The Cracks in the Kingdom by Jaclyn Moriarty

The Cracks in the Kingdom (The Colors of Madeleine #2) by Jaclyn Moriarty
Pub. Date: March 25, 2014
Source: e-ARC via publisher (Thank you, Arthur A. Levine Books!!)
Summary: Princess Ko’s been bluffing about the mysterious absence of her father, desperately trying to keep the government running on her own. But if she can’t get him back in a matter of weeks, the consequence may be a devastating war. So under the guise of a publicity stunt she gathers a group of teens — each with a special ability — from across the kingdom to crack the unsolvable case of the missing royals of Cello.

Chief among these is farm-boy heartthrob Elliot Baranski, more determined than ever to find his own father. And with the royal family trapped in the World with no memory of their former lives, Elliot’s value to the Alliance is clear: He’s the only one with a connection to the World, through his forbidden communications with Madeleine.

Through notes, letters, and late nights, Elliot and Madeleine must find a way to travel across worlds and bring missing loved ones home.
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Rating:

This review is for the SECOND book in a series. I’ll try to keep things vague, but heads up for potential spoilers!

After last year’s A Corner of White (read my review here), I was sold. Who wouldn’t want to read about a world totally separate from ours where colors can execute deadly attacks!! Immediately after finishing I knew I needed to read The Cracks in the Kingdom – I wanted to read it so badly it was one of my most anticipated releases this year. While I didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as the first, it was still a solid second novel and worthy sequel, setting up the scene for a fantastic third book!

Madeleine Tully lives with her mother in Cambridge, England. Once spoiled by a lavish lifestyle, Madeleine now resides in a cramped, leaking apartment and the building’s residents take turns homeschooling the children. A few months ago she discovered something remarkable: a small crack in a parking meter leads to another world. Naturally Madeleine assumed it was a prank – there’s no way another world exists, right? The more she and Elliot communicated, however, the more she came to believe what she was seeing.

Elliot Baranski lives in a small farming community called Bonfire in the Kingdom of Cello. It’s a world much like ours, only with the added danger of colors. Yep. Certain colors can be wonderful things – turquoise, for instance, can give you an adrenaline rush like none you’ve experienced before! – while other colors can be devastating. Elliot recently lost his uncle to a Purple attack and his father still hasn’t been found, although there are rumors floating around that he’s been seen. When the entire royal family (save for Princess Ko) mysteriously vanishes, the entire matter is treated with the utmost secrecy; dealing with the World is extremely illegal and punishable by death. Elliot is among a small group recruited to help rescue them and now he needs Madeleine’s help more than ever.

While The Cracks in the Kingdom wasn’t a bad book by any means, it definitely suffered a big from Second Book Syndrome – and was very much Elliot’s story. A Corner of White beautifully set up both worlds and was chock-full of character development. This time around I didn’t get that at all. Madeleine’s mother played a large role in the first book; she wasn’t in it at all in the second. The same with her friends (and we’ll get to Belle’s mindboggling change of character in a moment). Instead, this book gave much of its focus to Elliot’s story and Cello – understandable, since the plot revolved around finding the missing royal family.

The Cracks in the Kingdom gives a deeper look into Cello and I loved exploring this world! There’s a lake where you can catch spells – and only if you’re under a certain age. There are strange new sports and, of course, the color attacks. Unfortunately, I felt the lack of both worlds ultimately made the story suffer a bit. I could have dealt with that if it wasn’t for the abrupt character changes. Out of nowhere Madeleine’s friend Belle leaves a note (the others joke that it’s a suicide note and her own mother doesn’t seem worried) and runs away from home to be with a “man” she’s fallen for. A grown man. These are 14-year-old children. That entire subplot not only seemed tacked on last-minute (particularly since it was at the VERY end of the book and lasted all of a few pages), but completely rubbed me the wrong way.

The end provided a few surprising reveals – I honestly didn’t see a certain one coming! – and sets things up nicely for the third book. The royal family, now found, is stuck in the World, half-remembered who they really are and unable to get home. Elliot and Madeleine have finally managed to see each other (in the first book I wasn’t quite sure how a potential romance could work out, but The Cracks in the Kingdom does a decent job of making it not only plausible, but a reality), and the cracks between the worlds are becoming larger. Despite my issues with this novel I still thoroughly enjoyed it and am definitely looking forward to the next book!

mini review: Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee

17910570 Title: Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy
Author: Karen Foxlee
Pub. Date: January 28, 2014
Source: e-ARC via netgalley (thank you, Knopf Books!!)
Summary: Unlikely heroine Ophelia Jane Worthington-Whittard doesn’t believe in anything that can’t be proven by science. She and her sister Alice are still grieving for their dead mother when their father takes a job in a strange museum in a city where it always snows. On her very first day in the museum Ophelia discovers a boy locked away in a long forgotten room. He is a prisoner of Her Majesty the Snow Queen. And he has been waiting for Ophelia’s help.

As Ophelia embarks on an incredible journey to rescue the boy everything that she believes will be tested. Along the way she learns more and more about the boy’s own remarkable journey to reach her and save the world.
Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy
Rating:

After the recent loss of her mother, Ophelia travels with her sister and father to a museum where her father is working on a sword exhibit. While exploring the various floors one afternoon, Ophelia discovers a mysterious boy who’s locked behind a door. He tells her his name was taken from him three hundred years ago by a group of wizards and that he had been sent to defeat the Snow Queen. Being a child whose beliefs lie in science rather than tales, Ophelia initially shrugs him off – this boy doesn’t look a day older than she does yet he insists he’s 300? As she hears more of his stories, however, she comes to realize there might be something to them after all. Unfortunately time is running out and the pair only have three days to beat the evil Snow Queen before the world ends.

As much as I wanted to love this one, I just couldn’t get into it. I should know better than to automatically leap at comparisons, yet the first mention of Roald Dahl had me hooked. While the similarities were abundant and clear, Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy would have needed something more for it to work.

Throughout the book, Boy’s own story is told and these chapters were my favorite. There was definitely a fairy tale-like quality to them that I loved and the giant owls, the wizards, the King – they were all so vivid and full of character. Back in the present, however, I couldn’t connect with Ophelia’s story. Numerous times her mother talks to her and even after reading I’m still unsure as to whether that was real or if it was all in Ophelia’s head (with this story both options are entirely plausible).

Toward the end I was skimming more than reading and the big fight scene was over in such a rush it felt completely pointless. I had high expectations for Ophelia and the Real Boy and, sadly, they fell flat. Despite my lackluster feelings, I do think this book will find its fans and I’m disappointed I was not one of them.