Review of The Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall-Great Character Growth but Lacked the Creepy Factor I Wanted

HysteriaHallThe Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall
By: Katie Alender
Release Date: August 25th 2015
Publisher: Point (Scholastic)

A copy of this book was sent to me in exchange for an honest review.

My Rating:
star

Summary:
Delia’s new house isn’t just a house. Long ago, it was the Piven Institute for the Care and Correction of Troubled Females—an insane asylum nicknamed “Hysteria Hall.” However, many of the inmates were not insane, just defiant and strong willed. Kind of like Delia herself.

But the house still wants to keep “troubled” girls locked away. So, in the most horrifying way, Delia gets trapped.

And that’s when she learns that the house is also haunted.

Ghost girls wander the halls in their old-fashioned nightgowns. A handsome ghost boy named Theo roams the grounds. Delia finds that all the spirits are unsettled and full of dark secrets. The house, as well, harbors shocking truths within its walls—truths that only Delia can uncover, and that may set her free.

But she’ll need to act quickly, before the house’s power overtakes everything she loves.

My Thoughts:
If you look over on Goodreads you’ll see that this book gets wonderful ratings but sadly I’m in the minority. It wasn’t bad by any means but I didn’t love it nor did I find it creepy. It was an easy read though that did manage to keep my interest.

This was the first book I’ve read from this author so I didn’t know what to expect past the creepy cover and title. I was sold with the setting being an old insane asylum…who doesn’t love the idea of a place being haunted by crazy ghosts? Well, turns out that most of the ghosts aren’t very crazy and the asylum was less for the mentally unstable and more for ‘troubled’ girls…girls families wanted rid of (if I’d bothered to read the summary I’d have known that). I thought this was an interesting approach though it did take away from the scare factor.

Writing this review I realize I just don’t have a ton to say about this book. Everything about it was okay but nothing blew me away. Was it worth the read? Sure! It was an enjoyable and fast read that kept me interested though I wasn’t fully invested in needing to know the outcome. I will say that the topic of grief was addressed and it was pretty heartbreaking though it didn’t impact me as much as I’d expect (since I do have a child I thought I’d be a mess reading some of this but nope).

I did appreciate the relationship between Delia and her sister and felt that the author did a great job representing a sister relationship. Delia did experience a good amount of character growth throughout the novel which I appreciated. I also enjoyed the overall message the book presented.

Final Thoughts:
The Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall was worth the read but I think I went into it expecting something it was not. I wanted more creepy than I got. This book’s message was very well done and I appreciated the family relationships and the main character’s growth.

Review of Mechanica by Betsy Cornwell

MechanicaMechanica
by Betsy Cornwell
Release Date: August 25th 2015
Publisher: Clarion Books
Format: Print ARC
Source: Publisher

A copy of this book was provided in exchange for an honest review.

My Rating:
star

Summary:
Nicolette’s awful stepsisters call her “Mechanica” to demean her, but the nickname fits: she learned to be an inventor at her mother’s knee. Her mom is gone now, though, and the Steps have turned her into a servant in her own home.

But on her sixteenth birthday, Nicolette discovers a secret workshop in the cellar and begins to dare to imagine a new life for herself. Could the mysterious books and tools hidden there—and the mechanical menagerie, led by a tiny metal horse named Jules—be the key to escaping her dreary existence? With a technological exposition and royal ball on the horizon, the timing might just be perfect for Nicolette to earn her freedom at last.

Gorgeous prose and themes of social justice and family shine in this richly imagined Cinderella retelling about an indomitable inventor who finds her prince . . . but realizes she doesn’t want a fairy tale happy ending after all.

My Thoughts:
I love retellings so I was very eager to read Mechanica (and that cover!) and overall I did enjoy it. I loved that Cornwell took the classic Cinderella story and added some feminism. Nicolette- Nick for short- was a strong character that had mechanical skills like her mother before her. I thought that her mechanisms were interesting and for the most part easy to visualize. Jules, the mechanical horse her mother created, was adorable and he was my favorite character in the story….until View Spoiler »

Mechanica didn’t revolve around the romance but when the romantic elements were present they weren’t my favorite. There was some insta-love but it did help that the character was aware that they were feeling things a little quickly. The idea of being in love with the idea of someone rather than their true self was present and was a believable approach since that happens often in life. I never felt any chemistry between the characters. Not one little bit. The scenes felt pretty typical for the most part and were less swoony and more annoying.

As I mentioned above, Nick was a strong character and I loved that she was set on helping herself and creating a new life with her mechanical skills. She had a goal and worked towards it even with many obstacles standing in her way. I thought that was a great twist to the Cinderella story. No prince needed to save her. The only issue was that somehow it all fell flat regardless? I’m not sure exactly how or why but there were parts of the book that felt slower and yet the ending sequence felt rushed. Things sort of fell into place and were a tad too easy.

Final Thoughts:
Though the idea behind Mechanica was strong the execution fell flat for me. Nick was a strong character though not overly relatable and I never did feel chemistry between any of the characters. I wanted to have an emotional investment into Nick’s story but I never did. I though the mechanical elements added a great deal to the story and like I said it was based on a great twist to the typical Cinderella story.

Review of Dead Upon a Time by Elizabeth Paulson

DeadUponaTimeDead Upon a Time
By: Elizabeth Paulson
Release Date: August 25, 2015
Publisher: Scholastic
Format: Print ARC
Source: Publisher

A copy of this book was sent to me in consideration for an honest review.

My Rating:
star

Summary:
It’s a fairy-tale nightmare . . .

One girl is kept in a room where every day the only food she’s given is a poisoned apple. Another is kept in a room covered in needles — and if she pricks her finger, she’ll die. Then there are the brother and sister kept in a cell that keeps getting hotter and hotter. . .

A sinister kidnapper is on the loose in Kate’s world. She’s not involved until one day she heads to her grandmother’s house in the woods — and finds her grandmother has also been taken. Already an outcast, Kate can’t get any help from the villagers who hate her. Only Jack, another outsider, will listen to what’s happened.

Then a princess is taken, and suddenly the king is paying attention — even though the girl’s stepmother would rather he didn’t. It’s up to Kate and Jack to track down the victims before an ever after arrives that’s far from happy.

My Thoughts:
Dead Upon a Time was a mash-up of several fairy-tales that was an easy, fast paced read. The book itself was fairly short and the writing was immersive but I never fully connected with the cast of characters. I enjoyed reading about them but I feel like the story might have been a tad too short to really grab me emotionally.

I did enjoy the adventure aspect and also seeing tid-bits of fairy tales all mixed up. I felt that the book was a very entertaining read and I especially liked Jack’s character. Of course, this is Jack and the bean-stalk Jack but in this book he wasn’t a hero in any way. He was actually an outcast. I loved reading this twist on the typical and felt that it was a great direction to take.

Our main character, Kate, was Little Red Riding Hood for the most part. She’s a bold and loyal character that was very easy to root for. She’s on a quest to save her grandmother from an evil force and the story rotates around her realizing what this evil was (though the reveal was sort of anti-climatic for me).

Some of the imagery was enticingly creepy (like the embroidered images of classic characters being tortured) but as with most other things in the book not enough was done with them. It all seemed a bit rushed to me.

Final Thoughts:
Dead Upon a Time took a creative and unique look at the classic fairy-tale. I loved the twist on the typical and felt that though the characters were easy to like I never had a deep connection to them. Regardless, this book was an entertaining and fast read.

Review of Legacy of Kings by Eleanor Herman

LegacyofKingsCoverLegacy of Kings
By: Eleanor Herman
Release Date: August 25th 2015
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Format: Print ARC
Source: Thank you Grace from Books of Love

Summary:
Imagine a time when the gods turn a blind eye to the agony of men, when the last of the hellions roam the plains and evil stirs beyond the edges of the map. A time when cities burn, and in their ashes, empires rise.

Alexander, Macedonia’s sixteen-year-old heir, is on the brink of discovering his fated role in conquering the known world but finds himself drawn to newcomer Katerina, who must navigate the dark secrets of court life while hiding her own mission: kill the Queen. But Kat’s first love, Jacob, will go to unthinkable lengths to win her, even if it means competing for her heart with Hephaestion, a murderer sheltered by the prince. And far across the sea, Zofia, a Persian princess and Alexander’s unmet fiancée, wants to alter her destiny by seeking the famed and deadly Spirit Eaters.

My Thoughts:
I am a huge fan of fantasy and multiple point of views so I was thrilled to be given a copy of this book by the very kind Grace. Legacy of Kings was my first of Herman’s books to have read but I was aware of her accolades regarding her historical fiction. Needless to say I was excited!

Overall, I liked this book but for me the pacing seemed a tad on the slower side. It might be because I read the majority of young adult books but I kept waiting for things to pick up and for me to need to turn the page. I never became so engrossed with the story or characters that I had a burning desire to read.

I did enjoy the storyline and the characters but once I set the book down I sort of lost touch with them and when I picked up to read again I had to remind myself what was going on. This could totally be a me thing–perhaps I wasn’t in a reading mood. It’s so hard to tell at times if it’s a mood or if the book wasn’t engaging me.

The story revolved around a good amount of characters but the main story arc in this first book rotated mostly with Alexander and Katrina’s stories. Alex’s character was based on Alexander the Great and I enjoyed seeing tidbits of history thrown in. Beyond these two characters we also spend time with Jacob, Zo, Heph, Cyn and Olympias. Each point of view was done in third person and the chapters were numbered rather than labeled with whom the chapter was about. I admit that it sometimes took me a minute to remember who I was reading about and after finishing the book this evening I still couldn’t remember some of the lesser character’s (Zo and Cyn) names. As you can tell I had a disconnect throughout my reading experience.

I enjoyed the world that Herman created and felt that for the most part I was able to visualize her settings and characters fairly well. I could see it playing out in sections like a movie which I loved. The majority of the action scenes were well constructed and there were a few ooh la la moments. As far as romance was concerned there were scenes but nothing that overrode the story. I do think that the next book might feature a love triangle (warning to those that are firmly against those). I could be wrong but I can see the makings of one very easily.

The big twist of the story was fairly easy to see early on but it didn’t detract too much from my enjoyment of the story. I think that a lot of the writing was a bit too clear about the reveal and also foreshadowing later events. I’d have preferred for more to be left a mystery.

If you don’t want to be spoiled on a plot point don’t click on the below View Spoiler. You’ve been warned.

View Spoiler »

 

The villain of the story had some fairly creepy scenes and think that in the next book we’ll see much more. I don’t want to mention too much because I don’t want to give away any spoilers. Since this was a sprawling fantasy I felt that there were many different people that could easily be considered a villain at one point or another. I always enjoy reading a fantasy with multiple threats and I feel that as this series moves along more will be introduced.

Final Thoughts:
I might have gone into Legacy of Kings with too high of expectations but overall I felt that it was an enjoyable read and I will be interested in reading the next book. I’m curious what might be changed in the final version of the story (will there be chapter headings? etc).

Where this novel fell short for me was my constant disconnect with the characters. I don’t know if it was because their point of views were in third person or they all ‘sounded’ too similar but I had difficulty really feeling anything deep for any of them. I’d be hard pressed to pick a favorite character or feel anything passionate about any of them. Regardless, as a fantasy fan it was worth the read.