Just Another Magic Boarding School | Miss Mabel’s School for Girls by Katie Cross [ARC]

Miss Mabel's School for GirlsBianca¬†needs to get into Miss Mabel’s school and once she does, she also must win the yearly competition to study directly by Miss Mabel’s side. Usually only third years are allowed to compete, but a loophole allows Bianca and another underclassman to compete as well. A lot of Bianca’s classmates thinks she’s just competing to show off, but they don’t know that for Bianca this is a matter of life and death. Literally. Her grandmother was cursed when she was Bianca’s age and Bianca has inherited it. Winning the competition doesn’t guarantee Bianca’s survival, but losing would mean certain death.

I really thought this book was going to be a great cross between Gail Carriger’s Finishing School series and Kathleen Baldwin’s Stranje House series and I was really looking forward to it (love both those series’). Unfortunately this book read more like a (rough)¬†rough draft of Harry Potter with only girls. There were so many things that were reminiscent of Harry Potter. The forbidden woods, the dining hall, the competition…just too much and not done nearly as well as Harry Potter (obviously).

That being said, I thought that the characters were alright. There were a couple that I found particularly interesting, but the requisite “mean girl” was flat, boring, and not compelling. Bianca herself also rubbed me the wrong way a few times. The main character that I felt was more than just a piece of cardboard¬†was Miss Mabel. She was SO evil. Delightfully evil. I was kept wondering what foul thing she would do or have Bianca do next. At the same time, she had like…no purpose. ¬†Her motivations were not made clear at all so she’s basically just being evil for no reason the whole time. Towards the end of the book we get some sense of her motivations, but it doesn’t feel like they come from the person, more like they come from the situation…¬†Does that even make sense?

The plot itself was also pretty weak. I understand Bianca’s overall plotline, but the competition feels kind of pointless and all the pages about Bianca’s struggles studying really weighed the book down. One thing it did have going for it is that there was no romance. I mean, I love romance in books (especially YA books) but it’s just so rare to read a book without even a hint of romance.¬†Overall, I thought this book was just okay. I’m mostly just disappointed because I had such high hopes in the first place.

Overall Rating: 3
Language: None
Violence: Moderate
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Sexual Content: None

Note: I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

Doctor Who with a dash of Sherlock Holmes (Jackaby by William Ritter)

JackabyAbigail Rook is fresh off the boat and looking for a job. Unfortunately, it seems that the only one hiring is the strange Mr. Jackaby. The rest of the people in town tend to give Jackaby a wide berth, but Abigail can’t afford to do that if she’d like to have a warm place to sleep and food to eat. On her first day she follows Jackaby to a crime scene–a murder investigation to be exact. While Jackaby seems to notice things that may or may not be there and may or may not have fantastical origins, Abigail is quite good at noticing the ordinary. The two misfits make quite a team as they investigate just what kind of supernatural killer they have on their hands.

I was lucky enough to get signed copies of the first three books in this series¬†at BookCon. William Ritter is very nice and refreshingly genuine and I’m so happy that I can say that I enjoyed this book. It is¬†very reminiscent of both Doctor Who and Sherlock Holmes, but not necessarily in a way that is annoying or tiring. Jackaby is a really delightful character and it’s a really nice change for¬†me that there is NOT a romance brewing between him and Abigail. Abigail herself is perhaps a little flat for a narrator–I wish she had a little more depth. That being said, I still thought she was a good narrator and didn’t get annoyed with her at all. Secondary characters were all fine, but I think they’ll probably have bigger roles in later books.

The plot itself is intriguing and I like how all kinds of mystical/fantastical elements are woven into the story so matter-of-factly. It really feels like the author did his research into these mystical animals/creatures. I had some ideas about who the murderer was, but I was by no means sure of myself. I think the best kind of mystery is where the reader has a suspect, but cannot say for sure whether or not they are right. This book definitely accomplishes that.

Overall, I thought this book was great! I also really appreciated that the book has very little adult content outside of violence/gore. Very little language, no sexual content, and very little alcohol/drug use. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of Doctor Who or Sherlock Holmes, or anyone who is looking for a nice, clean mystery. I’ll definitely be reading the rest of them myself!

Overall Rating: 4
Language: Mild
Violence: Heavy
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Sexual Content: None

Genius by Leopoldo Gout [ARC]

GeniusRex, Tunde, and Painted Wolf are best friends and they’re about to meet in real life for the first time. The CEO of one of the biggest companies in the world is hosting an event simply called The Game. 100 of the best and brightest from around the world will be competing head-to-head and they’re all under the age of 18. Rex is a coder, Tunde is a brilliant engineer, and Painted Wolf can out-strategize anyone. They’ll need all of these skills if they want to win, but the question is, what will happen if they do?

I felt like this book was a really great idea. The premise was interesting and I always love the idea of gifted teenagers coming together to compete in a reality show-esque atmosphere. The characters were interesting and I liked that they were all very distinct. Sometimes when authors try to do multiple perspectives, all of the narrators just end up sounding the same. Luckily that wasn’t the case here. Since all three of our main characters have such different skill sets, it makes sense that they would think and communicate very differently. This really came through with the switching narratives.

I liked the way the author took the reader through The Game. It could have been easy to feel passive as a reader because there’s no way we can help our characters to move on, but each problem was still engaging and I found myself thinking about possible solutions. Overall, the plot follows a pretty linear path and I thought most things made sense and nothing was too technical. I also appreciated the drawings and diagrams that were scattered throughout the story. It makes things more interesting and also helps the story to feel like it’s moving faster.

Those things being said, however, I felt like this book and the idea would have been much better suited as a movie. I don’t think the book was able to create as much or the same kind of tension that the author was looking for. It just doesn’t come across on the page whereas I think film would have been a very good medium for it. In addition, while I liked that some of the contestants were very, very young, I think the book would have been better if the competitors were all college students. It’s almost hard for me to take the characters seriously because they’re so young.

Overall, I thought this book was pretty good. There were definitely some changes that I would have made, but I think readers will still enjoy the book anyway.

Overall Rating: 3
Language: None
Violence: Mild
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Sexual Content: None

Note: I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

BLOG TOUR: Love, Lies, and Spies by Cindy Anstey [GIVEAWAY]

25320766Love, Lies, and Spies
by Cindy Anstey
Release Date: April 19th, 2016
Genres: Historical, Young Adult

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SYNOPSIS: Juliana Telford is not your average nineteenth-century young lady. She’s much more interested in researching ladybugs than marriage, fashionable dresses, or dances. So when her father sends her to London for a season, she’s determined not to form any attachments. Instead, she plans to secretly publish their research.

Spencer Northam is not the average young gentleman of leisure he appears. He is actually a spy for the War Office, and is more focused on acing his first mission than meeting eligible ladies. Fortunately, Juliana feels the same, and they agree to pretend to fall for each other. Spencer can finally focus, until he is tasked with observing Juliana’s traveling companions . . . and Juliana herself.

REVIEW:¬†This book was quite enjoyable and reads a lot like a Jane Austen novel while at the same time using more modern language¬†and is therefore a quicker read. The characters were great. I really enjoyed both Juliana and Mr. Spencer Northam and thought they had a really fun relationship. Carrie and Mr. Reeves were both awesome secondary characters who acted as a great support system for Juliana and other secondary characters were delightfully hateable. Characters weren’t 100% original, but I found myself enjoying them anyway.

There wasn’t too much of a plot throughout the book, which I was okay with, but it did make the overall story¬†feel a little flatter. I was kind of bugged throughout that Juliana was supposed to be portrayed as this strong, intelligent woman, but then she keeps being put in physical danger where Mr. Northam has to save her. I would have just liked a little less “damsel in distress” and a little more “I don’t need a man to save me”.

Overall, I thought this book was a really fun read. The narration is witty and speeds the story along even if it seems like the author is trying a little too hard at times. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys Jane Austen novels and regency era stories.

Overall Rating: 4
Language: Mild
Violence: Heavy
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate
Sexual Content: None


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Version 2ABOUT THE AUTHOR: 
She has lived on three continents, had a monkey in her yard and a scorpion under her sink, dwelt among castles and canals, enjoyed the jazz of Beale St and attempted to speak French.

Cindy loves history, mystery and… a chocolate Labrador called Chester. Love, Lies and Spies is her debut novel.

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BLOG TOUR: Blackheath by Gabriella Lepore [GIVEAWAY]

BlackheathBlackheath
by Gabriella Lepore
Release Date: December 21st 2015
Genres: Paranormal, Young Adult

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SYNOPSIS:¬†Seventeen-year-old Maggie Ellmes is dogged by a case of chronic bad luck. She figures that‚Äôs just her lot in life‚ÄĒthat is, until the psychic at Blackheath‚Äôs annual carnival reveals that Maggie‚Äôs problems are caused by more than just ordinary misfortune; she‚Äôs actually been cursed.

Desperate to shake the hex, Maggie has no choice but to seek out the help of Joel Tomlins, a rebellious classmate who’s descended from Blackheath’s most powerful line of witches. After breaking all of his coven’s conventions to help her, Joel discovers that the curse isn’t as bad as Maggie fears. In fact, it’s much, much worse.

REVIEW: The synopsis of this book is a little bit misleading…I thought we’d see more of this “bad luck” that Maggie’s supposed to be suffering from. It really doesn’t play much into it though and doesn’t really have much to do with what’s going on. Let me just start by saying that this book was pretty good. I felt that the premise was solid and the main characters made realistic choices for the most part. The book did a good job of grabbing me right away and making me want to keep reading. The plot became predictable at parts, but not necessarily in a boring way.

That being said, I had some confusion as to where this book was supposed to be set.¬†The author is from the UK and so it made sense that she used British terms like “Maths” and “Jumper”, but then one of the characters is trying out for the soccer team. Literally, the book uses the word soccer. I was under the impression that everyone in the UK used the term football? Seriously, correct me if I’m wrong. So that kind of bothered me.

The secondary characters in this book were really flat and didn’t feel as developed as they could have and should have been. Some of them seemed purposeless. Why is Blonde Lauren called Blonde Lauren? We have no idea. Also, what does it even mean that Evan is the “Chosen One”. It’s never really explained–they just keep calling him that and it never really plays a role in the book. It seems possible that there would be more books after this where it might play a bigger role, but in this book…nothing.

Overall, this book was okay. I thought it started out pretty strong, but then the ending was a little anti-climactic. That being said, I like the way that magic is portrayed and some of the characters are interesting.

Overall Rating: 3
Language: Moderate
Violence: Mild
Smoking/Drinking: Mild. One scene of underage drinking.
Sexual Content: None


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GabABOUT THE AUTHOR:¬†Gabriella Lepore lives on the coast of Wales in the United Kingdom. She¬†began writing at an early age and grew up with a passion for all things¬†supernatural‚ÄĒespecially¬†witches! She currently has six Young Adult books¬†in print: Evanescent, The Blackheath Witches, How I Found You, Secrets¬†In Phoenix, and The Witches of the Glass¬†Castle books 1 & 2.

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BLOG TOUR: Nora & Kettle by Lauren Nicolle Taylor [GIVEAWAY]

NKNora & Kettle
by Lauren Nicolle Taylor
Publisher: Clean Teen Publishing
Release Date: February 29th 2016

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SYNOPSIS: What if Peter Pan was a homeless kid just trying to survive, and Wendy flew away for a really good reason?

Seventeen-year-old Kettle has had his share of adversity. As an orphaned Japanese American struggling to make a life in the aftermath of an event in history not often referred to‚ÄĒthe internment of Japanese Americans during World War II and the removal of children from orphanages for having ‚Äúone drop of Japanese blood in them‚ÄĚ‚ÄĒthings are finally looking up. He has his hideout in an abandoned subway tunnel, a job, and his gang of Lost Boys.

Desperate to run away, the world outside her oppressive brownstone calls to na√Įve, eighteen-year-old Nora‚ÄĒthe privileged daughter of a controlling and violent civil rights lawyer who is building a compensation case for the interned Japanese Americans. But she is trapped, enduring abuse to protect her younger sister Frankie and wishing on the stars every night for things to change.

For months, they’ve lived side by side, their paths crossing yet never meeting. But when Nora is nearly killed and her sister taken away, their worlds collide as Kettle, grief stricken at the loss of a friend, angrily pulls Nora from her window.

In her honeyed eyes, Kettle sees sadness and suffering. In his, Nora sees the chance to take to the window and fly away.

Set in 1953, NORA AND KETTLE explores the collision of two teenagers facing extraordinary hardship. Their meeting is inevitable, devastating, and ultimately healing. Their stories, a collection of events, are each on their own harmless. But together, one after the other, they change the world.

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REVIEW: This book…wow. I’ve never read anything quite like it. First let me start by saying that this book deals a lot with the mistreatment of individuals based on race as well as domestic violence/abusive relationships. If these are things that you have a hard time reading about, I advise you away from this book. That being said, I personally feel like these are really important things to read about and I feel like this book changed some of my perceptions.

The book started off a little slow for me. The reader is placed in the middle of some action so we have to play a little catch-up to really figure out just what is going on. I had a hard time figuring out what the plot might be or where this book was headed. It also seemed like it took forever for our protagonists to finally meet. For whatever reason I felt really anxious the whole time about them finding each other and that kept me from fully enjoying the first half of the book.

I really liked the historical portrait that was painted for us. It’s a very stark picture and it makes me so glad that I live in the time that I do. It’s hard for me to read about kids living on the street or being discriminated against based on race though I know it¬†did (and still does) happen. Taylor did a great job of making the setting come alive and creating a believable backdrop.

Despite the fact that this book is based off of the Peter Pan story, I feel like this book really transcends that idea. Like I said earlier, it deals with really important topics and I am so glad that I read it. I definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction (especially Post-WWII era), fairy tale retellings, or just likes to read things that make them look at the world a little differently.

Overall Rating:4
Language: Moderate. Some stronger language scattered throughout.
Violence: Heavy
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Sexual Content: None


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lauren Nicolle Taylor lives in the lush Adelaide Hills. The daughter of a Malaysian nuclear physicist and an Australian scientist, she was expected to follow a science career path, attending Adelaide University and completing a Health Science degree with Honours in obstetrics and gynaecology.

She then worked in health research for a short time before having her first child. Due to their extensive health issues, Lauren spent her twenties as a full-time mother/carer to her three children. When her family life settled down, she turned to writing.

She is a 2014 Kindle Book Awards Semi-finalist and a USA Best Book Awards Finalist.

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Holding Court by K.C. Held [ARC]

The women in Juliet’s family all have special “gifts”. Her grandmother can read peoples’ auras while her mother has a talent for knowing when ancient artifacts are made and whether they’re real or fake. Both women have been able to start businesses that capitalize on their abilities but Juliet just wishes hers would go away. She calls it Psychic Tourette Syndrome (PTS for short). Without warning Juliet will blurt out a prediction for the future–someone just has to interpret it first since the things she blurts never make sense. Juliet just wants to¬†land a summer job that doesn’t immediately fire her for “blurting” but when she does, she doesn’t expect to stumble across a dead body.

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For some strange reason I was under the impression that this book was going to have a time travel element? Yeah, I’m not sure why either. I was pleasantly surprised when this turned out to be a mystery because I don’t actually come across very many YA mystery books. At first this book was just pretty “meh” for me (perhaps because I was waiting for the time travel to come in and it never did), but towards the end I started to get into it.

Juliet isn’t my favorite protagonist–frankly she was kind of annoying at times. I was taken aback that she didn’t seem to be trying to hide her ability from other people. She was embarrassed by it, but people seemed to know that she was kind of psychic. In books (and movies) people usually try to hide their special abilities, but it didn’t seem like Juliet or the other women in her family were too concerned about it. The secondary characters were kind of interesting, but mostly flat. I wished that Juliet’s best friend Cami had been a more prominent character, but since she was so background-ish I felt like she was turned into a cardboard cutout best friend. Gran was a fun, quirky character (I liked her Eleanor Roosevelt quotes) but I thought Grayson was pretty vanilla as a love interest.

The plot itself was pretty good. Once I realized it was a mystery things started to make more sense. And I’ll be honest, I didn’t know who the killer was until it was revealed. It was interesting how Juliet’s blurts played a role in solving the mystery–I almost wished that they had played a bigger role. The only (admittedly minor) plot point that didn’t make sense to me was Angelique’s pregnancy. She’s supposed to be not too noticeably pregnant, but then literally two days after people figure out she is, she goes into labor…uh…what? Sorry, but I don’t think you’re going to be able to hide that you’re nine months pregnant–even under a nun’s habit.

Overall, this book was pretty good. I think it had some weak points, but there were some strong points as well. The last thing that was a little weird was the way some of the chapters were separated. Like usually a chapter starts in a different scene than the last chapter ended, right? Well a few times a chapter would end and then the next chapter would start in the same scene literally five seconds later. It was just kind of unexpected and took me out of the story at times.

Overall Rating: 3
Language: Moderate
Violence: Heavy, but most of it is “off-screen”
Smoking/Drinking: None
Sexual Content: None

Note: I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.