Friday, February 12, 2021

Book Review: Pride and Premeditation by Tirzah Price

 Pride and Premeditation

by Tirzah Price

I received a free audiobook from NetGalley & HarperAudio in exchange for my honest review.

Historical Fiction, Mystery, Retelling, Romance, Young Adult

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a young woman who desires a law career must be in want of a case. So when sixteen year old Lizzie Bennet hears about a scandalous society murder, she sees an opportunity to prove herself as a solicitor by solving the case and ensuring justice is served.

Except the man accused of the crime already has a lawyer on his side: Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, the stern young heir to the prestigious Pemberley Associates law firm. Lizzie is determined to solve the murder before Darcy can so that she can show the world that a woman can be just as good as a man. (The fact that Darcy is an infuriating snob doesn’t help.) But there’s still a killer on the loose, and as the case gets more complicated, Lizzie and Darcy may have to start working together to avoid becoming the next victims themselves.

Review (may contain spoilers):
This was my first Voice Galley, and I know that this isn't meant to be a review of the app or recording, but I was pleasantly surprised. NetGalley's app is comparable to the Audible app for listening functions, and it was an all-around pleasant listening experience.

I thought this was a really fun retelling of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. To be honest, I have never read the original, but I have watched and loved several film adaptations, and would count this retelling among my favourites. I really should try to read the original one of these days... 😂

In this completely new and reimagined version of Austen's beloved story, Mr. Bennett is cast as a partner in the law firm Longborn & Sons. Mr. Collins is another solicitor in the same firm, and Mr. Bennett's heir. Charlotte Lucas is the firm's secretary. When Mr. Bingley is accused of murdering his brother-in-law, Lizzie jumps at the chance to solve her very own case and prove herself to her father (and all of mankind) and earn a position in the firm. Lizzie gets herself into all kinds of trouble as she follows leads, searches for evidence, interviews witnesses, and cavorts with questionable characters in an effort to prove Bingley's innocence, find the murderer, and beat Darcy.

I enjoyed the mystery a lot, but the romance didn't quite do it for me. It felt a smidge contrived to fit the original story, and if I'm honest, this version of Darcy is one of my least favourites. He just didn't come across as an exceptional or very interesting character, even at the end. I was much more invested in Lizzie herself, and in solving the mystery.

My favourite part of this book was probably the characters. I felt that the author stayed true to the personalities of the characters as portrayed in other versions of the story that I have known and loved, which is really important, in my opinion, especially when retelling a well-known classic with such iconic characters.

I've learned that this is the first in a series of Jane Austen murder mystery retellings which will be coming out in the next few years. I must say that I am very excited to see what other adventures the author will take us on, and I'm also curious to know if there will be any character crossovers. 

My Goodreads rating:
I gave this book a 4-star rating on Goodreads and would happily recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical fiction, retellings, murder mysteries, and young adult novels.


Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Book Review: Ninja Girl Adventures by Melissa Wilson & Phil Elmore


Ninja Girl Adventures
by Melissa Wilson & Phil Elmore

I received an e-version via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Young Adult, adventure, ninja, supernatural, fantasy


Fourteen year old Moira Mackenzie and her sisters, Mindy (15) and Marci (9), are newly orphaned. Their mother, Kameko, died in a car accident, and now their father, Stephen Mackenzie, has disappeared in a plane accident (presumed dead). The girls are now under the guardianship of their father's best friend Morton Gerardi, aka Uncle Mort. Unbeknownst to anyone, their father willed his corporation, KogaTech Consolidated, to 14 year old Moira, instead of leaving it to the girls' uncle, Jiro Akiyama (Kameko's adopted brother) as was expected.

Through the course of the story, Moira meets her grandmother, Aiko Akiyama, who turns out to be the head of a clan of ninjas! She also learns that Uncle Jiro is also a ninja, head of a branch of Aiko's original clan, and that he is out to get Moira and will stop at nothing to get control of KogaTech Consolidated. Aiko begins training Moira in the art of ninjutsu (and Moira, in turn, begins teaching her sisters), which eventually comes in handy as Moira needs to fight her uncle to save her sisters' lives.

When I first read the synopsis for this book, I thought it sounded like a really interesting middle grade/young adult read with a new twist: ninjas and sisterly love! This is not a subgenre I generally go for, but I thought it sounded fun. Unfortunately, the story really wasn't that interesting to me; it just fell a bit flat. 

After reading the first two chapters, I was ready to quit. I had already encountered two story continuity issues, which I really don't deal well with, and I was tempted to drop the book completely. However, after seeking advice from friends, and taking a couple days to think about it, I decided to give the book a second chance and at least try to finish within the time frame I had left before the book would expire from my NetGalley library, which I did.

The first continuity issue I encountered was that the main character, Moira, is supposed to be the middle child, but within the first chapter, when describing her relationship with her guardian, Uncle Mort, it says that "he always offered Moira coffee because she was the oldest." It is possible that referring to her as being the oldest is meant to be some kind of inside joke, but it only came across as a confusing error.

The next chapter talks about the older sister, Mindy, and how she has been skipping school and generally getting into trouble with her friend "Aubry," but then on the same page, it suddenly starts referring to the friend as "Amy." It is, of course, possible that there are two different friends, but the text just sounds like there is one friend whose name changed in the middle of the page.

Aside from these errors and some grammatical stuff, the rest of the book seemed technically sound. It is very dialogue heavy, and uses 3rd person omniscient POV. Personally, when I read a book with this POV, I prefer for there to be separate chapters using each character's voice. This book just passes to another person's perspective fluidly. Yet, we only get another person's perspective once in a while. For the most part, the story is just following Moira in third person. In my opinion, I think it might have been better to not include the other perspectives, or to have rewritten them to fit third person limited, OR to have inserted a short chapter here and there, where necessary, to share that person's perspective.

There were also times when a "punchline" of the story was unnecessarily reiterated. The main example being, near the end of the book, when Moira is facing off against Uncle Jiro and he gets away. They follow his blood trail and discover it was an illusion, then go back to where he was injured to see the real trail leading away to the elevators. Moira then goes on the explain exactly that back to Aiko, who obviously knows what has happened because she pointed out the illusion to Moira in the first place.

In conclusion, I did not enjoy reading this book. I found the character names of the sisters too similar and was often getting confused about who was who. If I'm honest, I didn't really like any of the characters all that much. I found Uncle Mort to be an irresponsible guardian. I really couldn't understand why Moira acts like a parent to her siblings when she is the middle child, and only 14? It really bothered me that a 14 year old child would be present at her 15 year old sister's disciplinary meeting at school. Not only that, but this 14 year old is missing school to "take care" of her siblings, when there is a supposedly capable adult guardian around?! And I do get that it's supposed to be a "chosen one" kind of trope, where Moira inherits her father's business because the other girls aren't interested, and then she becomes a ninja because that's also part of the family business/history and makes up the backbone of the story, but... How unlikely is it that a parent would leave his entire fortune and business to the middle child, when that child is only 14 years old? I also think it is unfortunate that the final chapter leaves off with a cliffhanger indicating that there is more to come.

I don't know if there are planned sequels, but this book should really just be a standalone novel.

My Goodreads rating:

I am usually very generous with my ratings, but I really don't feel I can give this one more than 1 star.

Friday, December 4, 2020

Book Review: The Girl with the Whispering Shadow by D.E. Night


The Girl with the Whispering Shadow (Crowns of Croswald #2)
by D.E. Night

After being approached by the publisher (Stories Untold Press) to read & review The Crowns of Croswald via NetGalley, I inquired about also being able to read & review the second book, The Girl with the Whispering Shadow, which they agreed to.

Middle Grade, Adventure, Fantasy, Magic

Spoiler Warning:
This review contains spoilers for the first book in the series, The Crowns of Croswald and may contain some spoilers for The Girl with the Whispering Shadow.


When we left Ivy Lovely at the end of The Crowns of Croswald, she had just defeated the Dark Queen at the Ball, had learned her true identity, was given part of a Kindred Stone, and had discovered that the pirate she kept being drawn to in glanageries was actually her family's scrivenist, Derwin Edgar Night.

In this book, Derwin then sends Ivy off to "The Town" (the enchanted magical city of scrivenists, called Belzebuthe)  to search for the second part of her Kindred Stone and stay hidden from the Dark Queen. It just so happened that the address Derwin sent her to stay at in Belzebuthe belonged to none other than Fyn Greeley and his mother! Ivy spends much of the book running around with Fyn and his friends, getting into trouble and dodging a creepy shadow figure.

We got to see more of how the magic in Croswald works in this book, which I really enjoyed. Ivy spent most of the story either in Belzebuthe or on other adventures, and only a very small part actually at The Halls of Ivy. It was quite fun to get to know some other settings! The whole world of Croswald still gives me major Harry Potter vibes, and I enjoy it quite a bit.

In the first book, I didn't find that there was much character building of the secondary characters, like Fyn and Rebecca, but I found that was improved in this book (however I still don't much care for, or trust, Fyn). I did have a bit of difficulty keeping the members of the Quogo Club straight, but that is likely more a personal thing than the characters themselves.

I don't have much to say on the side of criticism - there were a few grammatical errors here and there, but nothing too serious. This second book also reads like a middle grade novel, which is great. There were moments when Ivy did act a bit more like a 16-17 year old girl than in the first book, but I still feel like she should be around 14, so her age still throws me off and is still a bit of an issue for me.

One of my favourite aspects of The Girl with the Whispering Shadow were the stars in Belzebuthe. I  love that the stars are wishes, and that a person can rent stargusters to putter around among the stars, and that if one were to catch a star, the wish inside would be granted...! Such a romantic and lovely idea! If I lived in Belzebuthe I would most definitely buy wishes/stars on a very regular basis. I also really love that because this magic system uses quills instead of wands, spells are actually written as well as spoken, and so good penmanship is of quite high importance. I have always loved penmanship, and taken pride in having legible handwriting - I think I would get along quite well in the world of Croswald!
I continue to recommend this series to others, and am looking forward to reading the next two books at some point!

My Goodreads rating:


Thursday, October 15, 2020

Book Review: The Crowns of Croswald by D.E. Night


The Crowns of Croswald
by D.E. Night


I was approached by the publisher (Stories Untold Press) on Instagram, and was offered a free e-copy of the book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review and following the author on Instagram.

Middle Grade, Fantasy, Adventure, Magic


The Crowns of Croswald is the story of 16 year old Ivy Lovely, a lowly scaldrony maid, who suddenly discovers that she has magical powers, and is swept away to master her skills at the Halls of Ivy, a prestigious school of magic. She soon lands herself in all kinds of trouble as she seeks to find the truth about her past and the Halls of Ivy, and tries to keep out of reach of the Dark Queen.

This basic synopsis may sound very familiar to Harry Potter fans (how could it not?), and I did see many similarities between this book and some other magical series, but I was pleased to note that there were also many differences. Croswald is definitely a unique world all its own. The similarities between series were just enough to make it feel familiar, which is not a bad thing in my opinion.

As soon as I knew that this was a middle grade fantasy involving a magical boarding school, my interest was instantly piqued, and I feel like it mostly lived up to my expectations. The story flowed very well and there was just enough adventure vs world-building, etc. To be honest, I wasn't that drawn into it until about the halfway point, but after that, I was absolutely hooked and could hardly put it down for wanting to know what would happen next!

The Crowns of Croswald is promoted as being middle grade, and it does very much read like a middle grade fantasy adventure book. However, that being said, I was constantly surprised by the fact that Ivy is 16 years old. She doesn't act like a 16 year old (even one who's lived her life more or less sheltered in a dungeon as a maid), and 16 seems a little too old for the middle grade genre. I see that others have categorized it as young adult, which the protagonist's age would support, however the author and publisher classify it as middle grade, so I think that Ivy's age is a bit of an oversight by both the author and the publisher. It would have made more sense, in my opinion, for the main character to be around 12 or 13 years old, based on the genre, target audience, and Ivy's maturity. Perhaps I haven't completely grasped how the world of Croswald works, but it also felt a little unlikely that a magical school with four years of study would only begin teaching magic to students at age 16, unless we are to assume that the Halls of Ivy is meant to be more of a college, which really doesn't fit middle grade. However, the school doesn't feel like a college, so again, perhaps the ages are a bit of an oversight. Then again, we are assuming that all the first year students are the same age as Ivy, but maybe Ivy is older than the rest?

Some of the dialogue felt a bit awkward, in particular between Ivy and her friends. This may be because I didn't find that either Rebecca or Fyn were particularly well-developed characters; I think I would have liked to have just seen more of them and to get to know them better. Middle grade books are typically very friendship heavy, and I kind of missed that here. For example, all we really know about Fyn is a vague physical description, that he is a third year student and "class facilitator," and he always seems to show up when Ivy is getting herself into trouble (which really made me wonder whether he is good or bad?).

I found it interesting that the royals and sqwinches all attend the same school and the same classes together, while there is such apparent disparity between them in society. I really would have liked it if we would have seen more of what "normal" first year sqwinches are/should be capable of, and how they perform magic. I'm also wondering if the concept of time is actually different in Croswald than it is to us? It seemed that the school year passed very quickly, and I wonder if it was just a lack of reference points (other than moons) such as holidays or semesters to help note the passing of time, or if time just moves at a different rate in this world. Lastly, I wonder how or why the slurry actually inhibits magic?

I do feel I should mention some technical points while I'm here. These do not affect my rating, however they may affect others' ratings, and I think they are things to be noted by the publishers. There were a few spelling & grammatical errors in the e-version that I read. There was also one mistake that I found particularly disturbing, which is found on page 400 of the NetGalley e-book, wherein a background character called Coton is described as having "pupils as green as emeralds"  - as a general rule, human pupils are black and the iris has colour. If this character is actually meant to have green pupils, then it should be explained why (for example, what kind of creature she might be if not human).

Some of my favourite aspects of The Crowns of Croswald were Ivy's forever-fitting dress (I would love to have one of those!), the ballroom, the hairies, and the bedroom bars (how awesome would it be to have unlimited access to the perfect beverage - hot or cold - from the comfort of your bedroom!?).

To summarize, there were some aspects of the book that I didn't find relatable or believable or that didn't suit my preferences, but overall I did enjoy it and am looking forward to reading the rest of the series at some point. I also would absolutely recommend this book to anyone who has loved Harry Potter and Nevermoor, anyone who appreciates a good middle grade fantasy, and anyone who loves magic, boarding schools, and "chosen one" or "secret heir" tropes.

My Goodreads rating:
I gave this book 3 1/2 out of 5 stars, but rounded up to 4 on Goodreads.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Year To Date: January - June 2018

Hello again!

Wow... Well, I definitely started writing this post before the end of June, but obviously I then forgot all about it, because here we are freshly into August... Oy.

So the plan for this post was to first give a quick summary of the books I read in June, then do a little reminiscing about the books I read during this first half of the year gone by, and then finish off with some goals/TBR list for the rest of the year. So, I might as well continue with that!

June 2018 reads
Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi - 4.5 stars
The Last of August by Brittany Cavallaro - 5 stars
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling (audio) - reread
The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner - 5 stars
Legendary by Stephanie Garber - 5 stars
Relative Happiness by Lesley Crewe - 5 stars
Sold by Patricia McCormick - 3 stars

2018 Part One
So between January and June, I read/finished 41 books on Goodreads. Technically, it's 43 because The Hogwarts Library (Quidditch Through the Ages, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and The Tales of Beedle the Bard) only counts as one on there. We'll keep counting it as one, unless I need more books at the end of the year.;)

Favourites so far:
Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend
The Magic Misfits by Neil Patrick Harris
Relative Happiness by Lesley Crewe

Pleasantly surprised by:
Trouble is a Friend of Mine by Stephanie Tromly
The Hearts We Sold by Emily Lloyd-Jones

Disappointed by:
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
The Wizards of Once by Cressida Cowell

2018 Part Two
For July and August, I am participating in a reading challenge called Summer Lovin' Book Camp hosted by the amazing admins of the TBR and Beyond Facebook group. They created a really cool board game where each square had a different genre/theme. I pre-rolled so that I could pick out a list of books ahead of time, and ended up with eleven. The squares I landed on, and the books I (originally) picked out, are below. I think I will write a separate post to discuss my progress with this challenge. Aside from this summer reading challenge, I have a few other books that have been on my shelves for a while that I would like to finally tackle, and Christmas gifts from this past year. I don't have any specific goals, except continuing toward my Goodreads challenge of 80 books.
  1. Diverse: Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli
  2. Debut author: Beyond a Darkened Shore by Jessica Leake
  3. Fae: The Cruel Prince by Holly Black
  4. TBR group read: Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young
  5. Paranormal: Our Dark Duet by V.E. Schwab
  6. Tear jerker: Where She Went by Gayle Forman
  7. Free space: Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
  8. Retelling: Fairest of All by Serena Valentino
  9. All the feels: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  10. Purple: Heart of Iron by Ashley Poston
  11. Summer: When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Progress Report: April - May 2018

Well, I have all but given up on book blogging. I just can't seem to make it happen. I'm terrible at writing reviews anyway. I can appreciate how taking notes and writing a review helps to really comprehend what you've read and be able to discuss any topics it raises... I get that. But that's not why I read. I read to escape, for entertainment, to have a harmless pastime. I'm not in a book club so I don't need to discuss anything with anyone. And then it comes down to it, if it was a good book, I will remember the basic premise and my feelings about it enough to either recommend it or not. Admittedly, after some time, I barely remember the plot of most of the books I've read, and I literally have to check Goodreads to see if I've read it or not. *sigh* Anyway...

Since it has been a while, I guess I'll just do a summary of the books I read in April and May, and how I rated them. And I will try to come back in a couple weeks to summarize what I read in June, and do a little 6 month recap! Ok, here goes...

April 2018 reads:
The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton (audio) - 5 stars
Alice in Tumblr-Land by Tim Manley - 3 stars
The Magic Misfits by Neil Patrick Harris - 5 stars
The Hogwarts Library by J.K. Rowling - 5 stars
Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee - 4 stars
Death Du Jour by Kathy Reichs - 4 stars

My favourite read in April was definitely The Magic Misfits. I loved how interactive it was, with actual clues and puzzles in the book for you to solve as you read. I really enjoyed the story as well, and I am looking forward to reading any sequels.

My least favourite read in April was definitely Alice in Tumblr-Land. It's just a sort of coffee table book, conversation starter, not exactly a "read" as such. It's basically just comics about the "real" lives of fairytale characters in a modern world. Some were funny, but some weren't. I had picked it up because when I flipped through it there was one that struck me funny, but in the end, not worth it.

May 2018 reads:
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman (audio) - 3 stars
York: The Shadow Cipher by Laura Ruby - 5 stars
The Dollmaker of Krakow by R.M. Romero - 4 stars
The Doldrums by Nicholas Gannon - 5 stars
The Wizards of Once by Cressida Cowell - 3 stars
How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell - 4 stars
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman - 4 stars

In May I did a reading challenge through one of the Facebook groups I am in, called TBR and Beyond. The challenge was called "Book to School" and we had to read all middle grade books. There was a "report card" to fill out, and at the end of the month we were graded, and every middle grade book read equalled one entry for a prize. My favourite read in May was a tie between York and The Doldrums. They both have so many elements that I love in a middle grade book: adventure, mystery, friendship...

My least favourite read in May was probably The Wizards of Once just because I had such high hopes and was really disappointed by it. I had never read any of the author's other books. It's classified as middle grade, but definitely geared toward the younger end of the 8-12 age range. I have more appreciation for books that are written for the older end of that range. Her other book, How to Train Your Dragon, was in the same style, but I enjoyed it more, perhaps because of the movie.


So, as of the end of May, I had finished 34 books out of my goal of 80, putting my 2018 Goodreads reading challenge at 43% complete!

Thursday, April 26, 2018

What I'm Currently Reading...

It's one of those days where I feel like writing a blog post, but I don't really have anything to write about. I haven't got any book reviews ready, it's not a day for any of the weekly memes I have previously participated in, it's not quite the end of the month, and I just did a quarterly update last month... What to do?
So I thought I might just let anyone who is reading this know what I am currently reading!
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How to Stop Time by Matt Haig
I started reading this book at the end of March. It didn't immediately grab my attention, so I set it aside and read a couple others in the meantime, but I am still saying I'm "currently" reading it because I do plan on finishing it soon.
The premise intrigued me. It has a sort of The Time Traveler's Wife and The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August vibe to it. I am drawn to stories about time travel, reincarnation, regeneration, so this sounded like the perfect book for me. The story is about Tom Hazard who has a rare condition: he ages at an extremely slow rate. The story alternates between Tom's present and his past as he relives the tragedies and heartaches that brought him to this point.
Death Du Jour by Kathy Reichs
This is the second book in the Temperance Brennan series (the inspiration for the TV show Bones). I liked the TV show very much, and decided to collect and read the books which inspired it. I have most of the series (with the exception of some of the newer titles) and read the first book probably five years ago.
I remember thinking at the time that the book was not like the TV show, and that it was a bit darker than I had expected, but then years passed and I couldn't remember why I hadn't read more. It's starting to come back to me... At this point in my life, it's not the writing style or the dark content that is a turnoff, it really is just how different the books are from the show. Basically the only similarities are the main character's name (Temperance Brennan), occupation (forensic anthropologist), and her romantic involvement with the detective with whom she works.