Review of The Mirror King by Jodi Meadows

TheMirrorKingThe Mirror King
By: Jodi Meadows
Release Date: April 5th 2016
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Format: Print ARC
Source: Publisher

My Rating:
star

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

Summary:
Wilhelmina has a hundred enemies.

HER FRIENDS HAVE TURNED. After her identity is revealed during the Inundation, Princess Wilhelmina is kept prisoner by the Indigo Kingdom, with the Ospreys lost somewhere in the devastated city. When the Ospreys’ leader emerges at the worst possible moment, leaving Wil’s biggest ally on his deathbed, she must become Black Knife to set things right.

HER MAGIC IS UNCONTROLLABLE. Wil’s power is to animate, not to give true life, but in the wraithland she commanded a cloud of wraith mist to save herself, and later ordered it solid. Now there is a living boy made of wraith—destructive and deadly, and willing to do anything for her.

HER HEART IS TORN. Though she’s ready for her crown, declaring herself queen means war. Caught between what she wants and what is right, Wilhelmina realizes the throne might not even matter. Everyone thought the wraith was years off, but already it’s destroying Indigo Kingdom villages. If she can’t protect both kingdoms, soon there won’t be a land to rule.

My Thoughts:
I think after that traumatizing ending from The Orphan Queen we were all ready to find out what was going to happen. The Mirror King picks up directly after that scene…you know the one. I was so happy that we were thrown RIGHT back into the fray and didn’t miss days or weeks of the story. I didn’t reread TOQ before reading this one and it might have helped if I had just so I could remember the secondary characters a bit clearer.

Overall I liked this book and it did answer most of the plot points (though the very end was left fairly open). I did feel like there was way too much shoved into this one book and I think the series would have benefited from one (or even two) more books. Too much happened and things that could have been developed far deeper were somewhat rushed over. It was far too many plot points and characters to have it all try to wrap up in this one book (granted it is a rather thick book).

I really felt that TOQ was a much stronger book and I honestly felt a bit bored through the middle of this one. A lot was happening but I wasn’t as invested. There were entire sections I could have done without personally. I did still like the magic system and the addition of the wraith boy. I thought his character was interesting and I liked that he was so uncontrollable for Wil.

Wil was still bad ass and we get to see her come into her own and even deal with self doubt. Tobiah continues being…Tobiah. I wanted to shake him a few times but I still enjoyed his and Wil’s relationship (though not as well as in the first).

The secondary characters, the Osprey’s etc, were well developed and I thought added to the story well. I’m not sure we really got all that much insight into the more minor secondary characters but some, like James, we really got a lot more about their backstory. I am very much in the minority that this book didn’t rock my emotions or cause me emotional distress. I must have a cold heart because I never could get really emotionally invested. Maybe I would have had I read the prior book again?

Final Thoughts:
I did enjoy The Mirror King though I felt some plot points were rushed (or left open) while other areas dragged. I think this series would have benefited from being a trilogy rather than a duology since there was just so much to address. I do think that fans of TOQ will find this novel to be gratifying and a great read.

A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis- Deeply disturbing yet beautifully written

efitz-5528355e1a3aaa4@2xA Madness So Discreet
By: Mindy McGinnis
Release Date: October 6th 2015
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Format: ARC
Source: Friend picked me up a copy. Thanks Kate!

My Rating:
star

Summary:
Grace Mae knows madness.

She keeps it locked away, along with her voice, trapped deep inside a brilliant mind that cannot forget horrific family secrets. Those secrets, along with the bulge in her belly, land her in a Boston insane asylum.

When her voice returns in a burst of violence, Grace is banished to the dark cellars, where her mind is discovered by a visiting doctor who dabbles in the new study of criminal psychology. With her keen eyes and sharp memory, Grace will make the perfect assistant at crime scenes. Escaping from Boston to the safety of an ethical Ohio asylum, Grace finds friendship and hope, hints of a life she should have had. But gruesome nights bring Grace and the doctor into the circle of a killer who stalks young women. Grace, continuing to operate under the cloak of madness, must hunt a murderer while she confronts the demons in her own past.

My Thoughts:
I went into this book expecting to be disturbed, creeped out and generally enthralled. I was happily not let down on these desires though the story was much different I expected. McGinnis’ writing style always manages to really grab my interest and I find it to be incredibly beautiful.

A Madness So Discreet started out in an asylum that had little care to actually help those living there. Grace has swallowed her words and refused to speak. This first section of the story was DARK. Really, really disturbing and a good amount of the subject matter was really hard to read though somehow it didn’t manage to be so dark I was at all wanting to stop reading. It was a mesmerizing darkness that kept me eager to know what would come next.

Once Grace meets the doctor, Thornhollow, the pacing and the feel of the book really switched gears. Going into this book I expected the asylum darkness and the horror of reading about Grace’s horrible past. What I didn’t expect was the banter between Grace and Thornhollow and the focus on Grace’s friendships with the inmates at her new ethical asylum.

McGinnis introduced many side characters that really played a major role throughout the story. I enjoyed watching Grace open up to them and begin to live again. Dr. Thornhollow pulled her from inevitable death and despair and gave her the hope to live again. I felt this was all very well done. Grace as a character was exceptionally strong, loyal and brave. I was very impressed with her perseverance in the face of amazingly awful things occurring.

Thornhollow was the classic intelligent, socially awkward and brilliant doctor/detective type. I am such a sucker for this character type I was immediately a fan of him. His care for his patients and his dedication was also a draw to his character. I loved that though he was caring and considerate he lacked that human connection to others in many cases. I felt that as the story progressed and as he gets to know Grace he learns from her and begins to open up himself.  I also liked that though many elements of his personality seemed so positive it still look me back a bit by the things he was willing and able to do to others.

While reading this book I became fascinated in asylums and the use of lobotomy. I have had very little research in how asylums have changed through time and how our perception of mental illness continues to evolve. I still have some researching I’d like to do because of questions and curiosities this book introduced. I can easily see that McGinnis did a wealth of research to be historically accurate and it came across very naturally within the story.

The only aspect that sort of threw me off was that the story switched gears three times. The first section was dark and disturbing, the second was the hunt for a serial killer and the last section focused on Grace coming to terms with her family history and seeing retribution and protection for her sister. Somehow, McGinnis was able to succeed in her execution and the story did flow rather well for containing so much in a rather small amount of pages. I was able to connect to the characters and I was always interested in the outcome. I do think that it might have been a little more successful to me if more time was spent on the different story themes.

The book didn’t leave off in a manner where there HAS to be a sequel though I really would love to read more with these characters. I still see many possibilities for expansion on the character’s stories and growth.

Final Thoughts:
Mindy McGinnis is an incredibly strong writer and it’s always a pleasure for me to read her writing. I really enjoyed the characters introduced in A Madness So Discreet and it was evident many hours of research were done to help create the setting and historical elements. I only wish that some of the story elements had been either cut or expanded on since it felt rushed in spots.

Extras:

AMSDRLego320

Review of This Monstrous Thing- Stellar Re-working of Frankenstein

ThisMonstrousThingThis Monstrous Thing
By: Mackenzi Lee
Release Date: September 22nd 2015
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books

This book was sent to me in exchange for an honest review.

My Rating:
star

Summary:
In 1818 Geneva, men built with clockwork parts live hidden away from society, cared for only by illegal mechanics called Shadow Boys. Two years ago, Shadow Boy Alasdair Finch’s life shattered to bits.

His brother, Oliver—dead.

His sweetheart, Mary—gone.

His chance to break free of Geneva—lost.

Heart-broken and desperate, Alasdair does the unthinkable: He brings Oliver back from the dead.

But putting back together a broken life is more difficult than mending bones and adding clockwork pieces. Oliver returns more monster than man, and Alasdair’s horror further damages the already troubled relationship.

Then comes the publication of Frankenstein and the city intensifies its search for Shadow Boys, aiming to discover the real life doctor and his monster. Alasdair finds refuge with his idol, the brilliant Dr. Geisler, who may offer him a way to escape the dangerous present and his guilt-ridden past, but at a horrible price only Oliver can pay…

The Story:
This Monstrous Thing was everything I wanted in a Frankenstein retelling/reworking. The story was evenly paced and pulled enough from history that it felt plausible. Lee took the classic storyline and added a mechanical element (dare I say steampunk?) and the complexities of a sibling relationship.

annex_-_karloff,_boris_(bride_of_frankenstein,_the)_06

The setting was so eerie and vivid it was easy to visualize the time period as well as the setting. I loved all the little details that were included in the descriptions. I have never honestly considered the idea of bringing someone back to life with mechanics though the way Lee presented it along with medical know how it all seemed incredibly realistic.

In this world those that have had mechanical elements added to themselves are looked down upon and considered nearly evil and a stain on God’s creation. The vast societal gap between this created between characters was incredibly interesting and beautifully executed.

Lee eloquently questioned what makes someone human and how much does our own medical tinkering impact this. I loved the questions the characters dealt with as well as how much it led me to consider things on my own as I read. Even with such deep questions being asked and addressed this story moved at a fast pace and there were some very tense action sequences. I don’t think anyone will have trouble becoming entranced with the story-line.

The Characters:
Where this book really shone for me was with the main character, Alasdair. I loved how he suffered from guilt, self loathing yet ambition. He wrestled with his own decisions and choices and questioned himself. I found his character to be so incredibly complex.

His relationships with all of those around him were also a major draw for me, especially with him and his brother. I found the love between the brothers realistic as well as touching. Though these two love one another they aren’t free of sibling rivalry or a touch of jealousy.

I really loved reading about Alasdair’s self discovery and growth. He changed a good amount from the beginning of the novel to the end. I felt that this gradual growth was really one of the best aspects of the novel.

Lee didn’t disappoint with her secondary characters either. They were all well executed, detailed and unique. I felt that she gave them all depth and complexity.

Final Thoughts:
What an impressive book This Monstrous Thing was! Not only were the characters well developed but Lee’s grasp of history and her ability to provide a detailed and rich setting provided a wonderful reading experience. I’d highly recommend this one to anyone with an interest in historical fiction.

Review of The Orphan Queen by Jodi Meadows

18081228The Orphan Queen
By: Jodi Meadows
Release Date: March 10th 2015
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Format: Print ARC
Source: Publisher

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

My Rating:
star

Summary:
Wilhelmina has a hundred identities.

She is a princess. When the Indigo Kingdom conquered her homeland, Wilhelmina and other orphaned children of nobility were taken to Skyvale, the Indigo Kingdom’s capital. Ten years later, they are the Ospreys, experts at stealth and theft. With them, Wilhelmina means to take back her throne.

She is a spy. Wil and her best friend, Melanie, infiltrate Skyvale Palace to study their foes. They assume the identities of nobles from a wraith-fallen kingdom, but enemies fill the palace, and Melanie’s behavior grows suspicious. With Osprey missions becoming increasingly dangerous and their leader more unstable, Wil can’t trust anyone.

She is a threat. Wraith is the toxic by-product of magic, and for a century using magic has been forbidden. Still the wraith pours across the continent, reshaping the land and animals into fresh horrors. Soon it will reach the Indigo Kingdom. Wilhelmina’s magic might be the key to stopping the wraith, but if the vigilante Black Knife discovers Wil’s magic, she will vanish like all the others

Jodi Meadows introduces a vivid new fantasy full of intrigue, romance, dangerous magic, and one girl’s battle to reclaim her place in the world.

My Thoughts:
Overall I thought The Orphan Queen was an entertaining read though I would consider on the lighter end of the fantasy side. The aspects I felt the book excelled at was the magic system Meadows created. Using magic in this world left remnants called Wraith that was thought to be destructive. I loved that as it spread across the land it was like a virus destroying and reshaping the life it touched.

I felt that the characters lacked a little something for me though I’m not sure exactly what. I had trouble truly connecting to any of them on a deep level. Even so I did enjoy the action scenes and storyline. I really loved that Meadows gave her main character, Wilhelmina, the skill of calligraphy and forging documents. I thought this was a nice, unique touch for a young adult fantasy that I’ve not seen used before. I thought that her loyalty and protective nature for the Ospreys was realistic and made her likeable.

Black Knife’s character felt a tad ‘done before’ but he was still a fun character that provided a nice touch to the story and presented some nice interactions between him and Wil.

I felt that some of the twists were pretty obvious and I’m not honestly sure they were really supposed to be that surprising. I did enjoy that Wil lived in the Palace of her enemy and had to interact with him on a daily basis. I thought her ability to see his better points was an interesting touch.

Fair warning the ending was evil to the extreme-be sure to prepare yourself for a cliff hanger.

Final Thoughts:
I enjoyed Meadows foray into fantasy and felt that her use of magic had vast potential and created some interesting moments. I felt a slight disconnect from the characters that in some ways impeded my compete enjoyment of the story though it was well worth the read.

Review of In a Handful of Dust by Mindy McGinnis

In a Handful of Dust (Not a Drop to Drink, #2)In a Handful of Dust
By: Mindy McGinnis
Release Date: September 23rd 2014
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Format: Print ARC
Source: Publisher

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

My Rating:
star

Summary:
The only thing bigger than the world is fear.

Lucy’s life by the pond has always been full. She has water and friends, laughter and the love of her adoptive mother, Lynn, who has made sure that Lucy’s childhood was very different from her own. Yet it seems Lucy’s future is settled already—a house, a man, children, and a water source—and anything beyond their life by the pond is beyond reach.

When disease burns through their community, the once life-saving water of the pond might be the source of what’s killing them now. Rumors of desalinization plants in California have lingered in Lynn’s mind, and the prospect of a “normal” life for Lucy sets the two of them on an epic journey west to face new dangers: hunger, mountains, deserts, betrayal, and the perils of a world so vast that Lucy fears she could be lost forever, only to disappear in a handful of dust.

The Story:
I was blown away with Not a Drop to Drink, I thought it was brilliantly done. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this companion novel and see what McGinnis was going to hit us with this time. This book was bound to surprise me in some way and it surely did. I had a couple moments that I didn’t see coming.

Overall, this book was slow paced though McGinnis’ writing was intriguing enough to keep me invested though not a lot was happening. Some areas did drag a bit more than I would have liked. You can see from the above summary that in this book we focus on Lynn and Lucy’s story, both of which we were introduced to in Not a Drop to Drink. I loved revisiting some of the characters from the prior book though the secondary characters are only present for a very short time.

Most of this book centers on the cross country journey our main characters are on. We are introduced to new characters on their path and learn a bit more about this world without water. The entire book has a very western feel since everything has been reduced to finding water and traveling by foot or horseback. The path was strewn with many obstacles for our leads that gave the book some needed action sequences. Of course the stakes are high but though I worried for our characters I was never as invested as I was with the first book. I think I got thrown off by the slower pacing but I can’t be sure why I didn’t connect as deeply this time around.

Once we get to some of the big reveals they are sure to surprise the reader. I wasn’t overly enthused about one in particular. It felt almost overblown to add some shock value to an otherwise slow story line. That sounds harsh, and I don’t mean it to be. I just didn’t feel it was overly realistic. Or, perhaps I’d rather not think it would be for my own sanity.

The Characters:
We spend a short amount of time with Vera, Stebbs and the rest of the old cast of characters because only Lynn and Lucy are really focused on. It’s not far into the story that they take off on their journey.

As in the first novel McGinnis has crafted a beautifully touching and poignant relationship between these two women. I loved their mother/daughter relationship and felt that it was the driving force for the novel. Though there are many action scenes within In a Handful of Dust it read more character driven story to me. I think the readers enjoyment will depend upon how connected they feel towards Lynn and Lucy. Without a deep level of emotional connection this book might fall flat for some readers.

We are introduced to a handful of new characters that I never fully trusted or cared for. They all had a role to play in Lynn and Lucy’s journey but I wasn’t overly enthused to read about any of them but one. I’ll let you read to figure out if and who you connect with. For the most part the characters were well developed though a few later in the novel felt very one dimensional to me.

Final Thoughts:
McGinnis’ writing was a strong as ever and her ability to create realistic and emotional relationships between her characters was impressive. Though I enjoyed In a Handful of Dust I never had the level of connection that I’d have liked. I felt the pacing was a bit on the slow side though I’ll not soon be forgetting Lynn and Lucy’s story any time soon.

Extras:

  • Review of Not a Drop to Drink
  • Interview with Not a Drop to Drink and In a Handful of Dust’s cover designer Erin Fitzsimmons