Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Legacy of Kings by Eleanor Herman

Legacy of Kings by Eleanor Herman. Harlequin Teen, 2015. 384 pages. Ebook. 

**I received a copy of Legacy of Kings courtesy of Harlequin Teen**

Legacy of Kings has left me with so many mixed feelings. To begin, I'm a classics major, so anything having to do with the Ancient Greeks immediately grabs my attention. I also have a weird obsession with Alexander the Great, so when I heard that Legacy of Kings was centered on Alexander, I was hooked. Then, when I received an email from from Harlequin Teen offering me a copy in exchange for an honest review, I was excited to finally read this book.

Unfortunately, things didn't go too well.

This is not a book solely focused on Alexander; instead, he is only one of many characters whose perspectives we are shifted between. Also, just as a side note - do not go into this thinking it is historically accurate, because it simply is not. That wasn't a problem for me, as I knew this is in advance and wasn't expecting accuracy - it is fiction, after all - but I know this bothers a lot of people, so I thought I'd throw it out.

Legacy of Kings got off to a rather slow start, but after a while it finally picked up a bit and I found myself beginning to enjoy the story. However, this was somewhat short-lived because as I begin to get further and further into the story, I found myself struggling to finish. I feel that Herman could have developed some of her storylines more, which would drag the reader in just a bit more. The plot itself was interesting, but there was too much going on to actually enjoy or understand it. If it had been cut down into only a few of the plot lines, it would have been much more enjoyable. As soon as I began to understand and get into one thing that was happening, it suddenly switched over to another event.

...which leads me to the next point. Too. Many. Characters. I had a difficult time keeping them all straight. In all, we have perspectives from Alex, Heph (Hephastion), Zo (Zofia), Cyn (Cynane), Jacob (no nickname), and Kat (Katerina). (Okay, what is up with all these nicknames?) While each one had an interesting story, I couldn't quite bring myself to care all that much. There was way too much going on and things became much too convoluted. It takes a certain talent and method of writing to have a large cast of characters and also be successful - George R. R. Martin, for instance - and I'm sorry to say that it was simply lacking here. There was, from my perspective, very little order, and everything simply felt too muddled; there was too much abrupt switching.

Despite the issue of too many characters, I do think that Herman crafted their personalities with great care and tried to develop each one's unique viewpoint. The female characters, however, seemed almost slightly too similar, and in the beginning I had difficulties finding enough distinctions between each character. As the novel progresses, however, Herman successfully develops each character's personal qualities and gives each one their own story to tell.

I did, however, enjoy all of the immense details and time that obviously went into the creation of this novel. Herman took so many great elements from Ancient Greek culture and incorporated them into an intricately developed novel. Regardless of my enjoyment of the story itself, Herman still constructed an exceptionally unique setting and atmosphere.

One last extremely minor and personal issue I had with this book was the use of the nickname of 'Alex' for Alexander the Great. I know this is largely irrelevant to the story, but this nickname doesn't really work for me because it simply takes too much away from who he is; the name 'Alexander' holds so much power that the name 'Alex' simply lacks.

Overall, I was disappointed. I expected a lot more from this book. I think maybe I had too high of expectations. I can't say the book was bad, as it was a truly unique and exciting plotline, I just feel that the execution was strongly lacking. As a result, I am giving Legacy of Kings three stars. While it wasn't exactly what I was hoping for, it was still an interesting and carefully crafted novel that I cannot help but recognize.

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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye by Tania del Rio, illustrated by Will Staehle

**Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye will be released Tuesday, November 24th!**

**I received a copy of Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye courtesy of NetGalley and Quirk Books**

Throughout my yearly readings, I like to try to incorporate some fresh and interesting middle-grade books into the mix, and I always end up having such a blast diving into each imaginative new story. Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye was a perfect addition to this category, and a wonderfully crafted middle-grade book!

Warren is an orphan living at the Warren House, a once bustling and popular hotel that has since fallen into disrepair after his lazy Uncle Rupert and villainous Aunt Anaconda take over control. His Aunt Anaconda, however, believes that a mysterious item known as the all-seeing eye is located somewhere on the property and will stop at nothing to find it - even if hundreds of unexpected and strange guests begin pouring into the hotel in order to find it as well. It becomes a race between all of these characters to discover the all-seeing eye, though Warren is the only one that means to do so in order to protect his family's legacy.

Warren the 13th is overflowing with vibrant, unique, and exciting characters - I can easily promise that you will never be bored. The illustrations are wonderfully whimsy and quirky, and there is no shortage of  crazy and unnatural creatures.

Warren himself is a hardworking young boy who wants nothing more than to reinstate the beauty and splendor of this once-great Victorian hotel. He is the hero of the story, though he doesn't act like any typical heroic trope; instead, he simply acts like a responsible young boy attempting to do his best to help out at the hotel where no one else works, all without many close companions to keep him company.

Aunt Anaconda is the perfect villain in any middle-grade story, and kids of any age will have a fantastic time hating her and rooting for Warren. She's spiteful and full of disdain, which makes for an exciting time. The rest of the cast of characters are equally intriguing, and I particularly enjoyed Warren's interactions with each one, whether brief of extended. For me, these interactions allowed Warren to meet new people, form some new bonds, and also truly allow the reader to get a sense for who Warren really is and why he wants to keep his hotel together - he wants to bring back all of the unique guests that brought the hotel to life. 

The illustrations were an amazing addition to the storytelling; they were interwoven in such a unique and quirky way that truly fit the overall atmosphere of the book. Though I was still able to enjoy the illustrations perfectly fine in ebook format, I can only imagine how lovely the physical book will be!

Overall, I am giving Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye four stars for its quirky charm and delightful storytelling! The storytelling is perfect, the illustrations and text arrangements are engaging, and the characters are all exceptionally charming and inventive. This would be a great book to read with or to kids, or even on their own (don't worry, I don't see anything wrong with adults reading books for younger audiences)!

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Friday, November 6, 2015

The Madman's Daughter by Megan Shepherd

The Madman's Daughter by Megan Shepherd. Balzer and Bray, 2013. 464 pages. Ebook.

I've had this book sitting in my Kindle for quite a while now, and I can't believe I didn't read it sooner.

 I subscribe to daily Bookbub alert emails, which sends daily or weekly digests that highlight Kindle books that are on sale for $2.99 or less (I actually recommend it if that's something you're interested in). Now, you do have to sift through these sometimes to find the real gems, but when you do, it's totally worth it. For instance, The Madman's Daughter.

Just the summary alone had me hooked. It's an enticing story inspired by H.G. Wells' The Island of Dr. Moreau, and boy, did it deliver. There were so many parallels to the original, yet also so many differences that that made it an absolutely perfect balance overall. I thought this brought a delightful twist to Wells' original haunting page-turner, and I had a hard time putting it down.

The story follows Juliet Moreau, whose father is the infamous Dr. Moreau. Dr. Moreau has been driven out of the country after his controversial experiments become public and he faces great public shame and potential legal conflicts. Juliet is left alone - her mother eventually dying of illness - and is forced to find work wherever she can take it, as her father's disgrace has also left her in disgrace and ill favor of society. Through unexpected events, she ends up on her father's island with Montgomery, her childhood friend and servant, and Edward, a shipwrecked man they take aboard on their journey to Dr. Moreau's island.  Once on the island, Juliet discover that her father has not discontinued his experiments, but is still working steadily away at things she never imagined...

Simple put, Megan Shepherd is master storyteller. Though the plot was somewhat predictable at times, it was also done so in a way that was almost unpredictable. I know, you probable think I sound rather contradictory, but hear me out: have you ever read something that seems familiar, yet is entirely new, or you feel like something is going to happen, but you don't know how or when? That's how I often felt while reading this, and it was perfect. I felt so engaged and enjoyed every gory and unnatural twist and turn that Shepherd threw at me.

It definitely had its gruesome moments, but they weren't excessive or unwarranted; they fit perfectly in each place and brought just the right amount of creepiness and horror to the narrative. This is a psychological journey as much as it s a battle for survival on this island filled with unnatural beings.

I found Juliet's personality quite likable; she was headstrong and determined in a way that I don't often see. She may have turned a blind eye in the beginning to what her father was doing, but once she was faced with facts, she accepted them and acted accordingly. Though Juliet did make a few impulsive moves (what main character doesn't?), she didn't do anything exceptionally stupid, which often frustrates me with headstrong, stubborn female protagonists. I found her incredibly intelligent, and I absolutely loved the internal struggle between giving into her scientific-minded side versus her more rational, ethic-oriented side. I thought it brought up an important topic and discussion on the morals of science - how much is too much? at what point does science cross a 'moral' line? is there a line if it's all for the sake of knowledge and advancement?

Montgomery and Edward were also two captivating gentlemen, and I enjoyed slowly unraveling their personalities and actions to find out more about them and how they became the men they are. The romance between Montgomery and Juliet as well as Edward and Juliet was a bit strong and it could have easily been removed, but it was an interesting element that created a more developed and complex storyline among the characters - though it did create the dreaded love triangle.

We also have Juliet's father, the madman himself. I actually don't want to discuss him too much because I feel as though he is one of those characters that you really have to experience yourself. However, I will say that Shepherd did exceptionally complex work in creating his character: he is at first  depicted as a loving father enraptured in science, but slowly revealing his true, inner nature and inability to deduce when science goes too far.

This ended up being the perfect Halloween read. It was truly spooky, and I found myself becoming so absorbed in the creepy, unexpected happenings of the story that I hardly noticed the time fly by - though I did, however, notice when absolutely anything around me moved or made an unnatural sound; it's very easy to get sucked in, and I certainly noticed an eerie atmosphere surrounding me as I read it.

Overall, I am giving The Madman's Daughter the big five stars! I had such a great time reading this, and I was absorbed from page one: the plot was intriguing and complex, the characters were well-developed, and it kept me both entertained and in suspense.

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