Review of Nightbird by Alice Hoffman

nightbirdcoverNightbird
By: Alice Hoffman
Release Date: March 10th 2015
Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher

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

My Rating:
star

Summary:
“Some things could only be found in Sidwell it seemed: pink apples, black owls, and my brother, James.”

Twelve-year-old Twig’s town in the Berkshires is said to hide a winged beast, the Monster of Sidwell, and the rumors draw as many tourists as the town’s famed pink apple orchards. Twig lives in the orchard with her mysterious brother James and her reclusive mother, a baker of irresistible apple pies. Because of a family secret, an ancient curse,Twig has had to isolate herself from other kids. Then a family with two girls, Julia and Agate, moves into the cottage next door. They are descendants of the witch who put the spell on Twig’s family. But Julia turns out to be Twig’s first true friend, and her ally in trying to undo the curse and smooth the path to true love for Agate and James.

My Thoughts:
I really loved the setting that Hoffman presented in Twig’s town. It was very easy to visualize and I could smell her mom’s pies cooking as I read. Yes, that’s corny but man…the apple pie descriptions really made me hungry (thankfully there is a recipe at the end of the book). I’ve never lived in a small town myself but I could imagine how it might feel very easily through the town’s physical descriptions as well as the details about the residents. I loved that we saw things through Twig’s point of view and that she was such a lovable character.

Twig’s upbringing wasn’t typical which made her blend into the background in her town rather than stand out. I found that incredibly interesting to imagine her just slipping by. I genuinely felt sad for her though she was in a loving home- but to be such a stranger and vastly ignored? It made me a sad. But as the story progressed Twig learns about friendship and we as the reader really get to experience her coming out of her shell. It was beautifully done and wonderfully slow in its evolution.

The magical realism was such a great aspect of this book (I’ll not tell you how it’s presented because spoilers). It was handled so well that I could completely visualize all of it being real and though it was magic it didn’t feel all that unlikely.

Though I enjoyed my reading experience I will say that the twists weren’t all that surprising to me and it was fairly clear where the story was going. I’m not entirely sure how obvious things need to be for this age group–but it wasn’t that much of a mystery. Some of the pacing was a touch on the slow side but it was a meandering sort of slow rather than a boring one (if that makes any sense).

Final Thoughts:
Nightbird was a beautiful example of magical realism that had a strong and likeable main character. The pacing was slow in parts probably due to how easy it was to predict the story’s outcome. I’ll be hanging on to this one and reading it with my son when he gets a bit older.

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.