Posts Categorized: Review

Friday, February 24, 2017

Destined to Become a Classic: The Castle in the Mist by Amy Ephron

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Destined to Become a Classic: The Castle in the Mist by Amy Ephron
The Castle in the Mist
Amy Ephron
Genre: Magic, Middle-Grade
Publication date: February 7th, 2017
by Philomel Books

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Tess and Max travel behind the walls of a magical castle where wishes really do come true—if the hawthorn trees don’t get you first.

Tess and Max are sent to the English countryside for the summer and long for some excitement. So when Tess, out for a walk alone, happens upon an ornately carved gate and an old brass key, she decides to see what’s inside. To her amazement, she discovers the grounds of a castle filled with swans, bullfrogs, a hedge maze, an old-fashioned carnival, and a boy, William, just her age. William invites Tess back, and she can’t wait to return, this time with her brother.

But strange things happen at William’s castle. Carnival games are paid for in wishes, dreams seem to come alive, and then there’s William’s warning: Beware the hawthorn trees. A warning that chills Tess to the bone.

In the end it’s up to Tess to save her family and her friends from being trapped forever in the world beyond the hawthorns—but will one wish be enough?
-A copy was provided by Philomel Books for review-

The Castle in the Mist is destined to become a classic. No question about it. It draws a lot of classic children’s literature tropes but somehow managed to create an entirely different narrative about families and the magic of nature. My literary analysis senses are tingling and I must stop myself from word-vomiting a bunch of off-topic stuff but seriously, THIS IS A BOOK I COULD write a 10 page paper about and have a lot of fun doing.

My biggest problem with the book doesn’t lie in the actual writing but in the fact that so many books like The Castle in the Mist exist yet all of them seem to feature only white children? Do not white children not deserve to be featured in gothic-y stories that are magical, mystical and all around fabulous? Are only the stories that feature not-white children destined to become classics (totally using my own words against myself but I am a contradictory person.) While reading this wonderfully written book, my brain kept coming back to the fact that while this book was wonderful and transformative, the book was really white?

I don’t know. I generally have a lot of feels about diversity and books and while there are so many wonderful middle grade novels that are already out and are coming out that are #ownvoices, I also just want to see more widespread diversity in middle grade books.

Having said all of that, The Castle in the Mist is still and incredibly well written book and so atmospheric. I love the gothicy-ness and the ways in which it plays with time. I love the relationships between the characters and I love that even though it is drawing on all these classic works, The Castle in the Mist stays true to (some of) its intended audience. It is a book well-worth reading but I wish that it was more inclusive.

 

Reminicient of Breakfast Club: Optimists Die First by Susin Nielsen

Reminicient of Breakfast Club: Optimists Die First by Susin Nielsen

Posted by on 02/22/2017 • 2 Comments

My feelings about this novel as about as complex as they get. Optimists Die First does some really great things but also needs a whole lot of work. Keep in mind that this is all based on an ARC version of the book as opposed to the finished copy and ARCs and finished copies can be worlds apart.

For starters, this book is about as cute as it sounds and looks. It is short and sweet and all about friendships and journeys. As one character in the book says, Optimists Die First is a ‘twisted version of the breakfast club.’

There is a complex portrayal of MH without any real labels and that was great. Petula has to go to mandatory art therapy and kind of really hates it. She doesn’t like any…

A Fun Mystery: To Catch a Killer by Sheryl Scarborough

A Fun Mystery: To Catch a Killer by Sheryl Scarborough

Posted by on 02/17/2017 • 5 Comments

This book has an unfortunate cover given that its insides are so different. To Catch a Killer as pitched as being great for fans of Veronica Mars yet this cover screams cheesy mystery. Luckily, To Catch a Killer is a well-written mystery that is fun to follow along and hella engaging. It is one of those books you are going to stay up reading saying just ONE MORE CHAPTER (spoiler alert, its never one more chapter, its usually the entire fucking book.)

Sometimes I’ll read mysteries and wonder how the MCs have the resources and ability to solve the big case just based on educated guesses but To Catch A Killer throws in forensics into the mix and everything is GREAT. EVERYTHING MAKES SENSE. I totally guessed the murderer a couple pages in but…

The Holiday Novel I Didn’t Know I Needed: We Are Okay by Nina LaCour

The Holiday Novel I Didn’t Know I Needed: We Are Okay by Nina LaCour

Posted by on 02/15/2017 • 2 Comments

I have no idea how to start this review because I just want to throw We Are Okay in everyone’s faces and get them to read it. What drew me to the book was Nina LaCour and the pretty cover. While I haven’t read anything solely written by her, I had read You Know Me Well by her last year which she co-authored with David Levithan and fell in love with her writing.

LaCour’s writing just makes me wish I was buried under a ton of blankets with a book and a nice, warm cup of hot cocoa. We Are Okay is everything I didn’t even know I wanted from a holiday-themed book. It is complex, cozy and gut wrenching. It uses the tropes from common holiday novels but…

The Last Harvest by Kim Liggett

The Last Harvest by Kim Liggett

Posted by on 02/10/2017 • 1 Comment

I have no idea how I am supposed to feel about this book. I love how the author builds tension throughout the book and I love the general creepiness of it but I struggled with a lot of other aspects of the book. The characters, the romance, and even some of the horror elements of the book.

I think my biggest qualm in terms of the actual horror parts of the book is how much they are based on Christian myth. This is obviously a very personal qualm and not all readers will have that same experience but as someone who exists outside of that narrative, it can be a little unsettling to have all this info forced down ones throat. It isn’t even just the satanic elements but rather the…

Just Another Teen Novel (IN A GOOD WAY!!): The Education of Margot Sanchez by Lilliam Rivera

Just Another Teen Novel (IN A GOOD WAY!!): The Education of Margot Sanchez by Lilliam Rivera

Posted by on 02/09/2017 • 2 Comments

2k17, the year where my eyes tear up because of everything. Currently tearing up because I wish I was a teen and I wish I could have had all these wonderful #ownvoices books in my life as a teen. I am not Latinx but goddamnit, it is so so SO good to read so many #ownvoices novels with non-white main characters. It is so good to see a POC main character and its so incredibly good to see a POC character in familiar tropes. Don’t ever let anyone tell you tropes are bad. TROPES ARE AMAZING (if done right) and people who think books need to not be trope-y are just reading books where tropes aren’t done well.

The Education of Margot Sanchez has been described as being ‘Pretty In…

A Book With the Potential to Completely Fuck You Over: Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson

A Book With the Potential to Completely Fuck You Over: Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson

Posted by on 02/01/2017 • 10 Comments

Holy shit. THIS BOOK GUYS. Allegedly was one of my most anticipated books, but my co-worker who read it before I had a lot of FEELS (not good or bad, just FEELS), so I was a little nervous when I dove in. I had no idea the book would grip me and NOT LET ME GO. I read the 373 page book in a little over 2.5 hours. I GOBBLED IT, all while growing more and more anxious as I could feel something B.I.G. coming.

This book treads all the fine lines ever. There is no easy black and white in this book and it goes to lengths to make sure YOU KNOW THAT TOO. Justice, family, life cannot be put into little boxes and Jackson really explores what is right…

A Well Written, Character Driven Novel: Fire Color One by Jenny Valentine

A Well Written, Character Driven Novel: Fire Color One by Jenny Valentine

Posted by on 01/27/2017 • 3 Comments

Fire Color One is usually not the kind of novel I would find myself enjoying but I was thoroughly swept away by it. I love character development but I don’t really tend to enjoy books that are solely character driven. Fire Color One is primarily character driven. There is definitely a plot but it revolves around character revelations. Not around actual happenings. Yet it somehow managed to sweep me away till I had somehow run out of pages to read (*shakes fist at book for not being longer*)

This is a novel about grief, about relationships and a little bit about some revenge (and I am totes petty so I am all about the revenge life.) I think part of the magic of this book comes from how well the relationships…