Thursday, August 21, 2014

Mini Reviews: The Ever After High Edition

It's no surprise to my regular readers that I enjoy fantasy, fairy tale retellings, and I love middle grade books, though I don't always get to make time to read them anymore.  So...when Shannon Hale announced that she'd be writing the first novel in the new EVER AFTER HIGH series, I *knew* I would have to check it out.

The Storybook of Legends
by Shannon Hale
Ever After High, book one

At Ever After High, an enchanting boarding school, the children of fairytale legends prepare themselves to fulfill their destinies as the next generation of Snow Whites, Prince Charmings and Evil Queens...whether they want to or not. Each year on Legacy Day, students sign the Storybook of Legends to seal their scripted fates. For generations, the Village of Book End has whispered that refusing to sign means The End-both for a story and for a life.

As the daughter of the Evil Queen, Raven Queen's destiny is to follow in her mother's wicked footsteps, but evil is so not Raven's style. She's starting to wonder, what if she rewrote her own story? The royal Apple White, daughter of the Fairest of Them All, has a happy ever after planned for herself, but it depends upon Raven feeding her a poison apple in their future. What if Raven doesn't sign the Storybook of Legends? It could mean a happily never after for them both. (Description from

As a fairy tale lover, I really loved the concept of this book.  Getting to see the future generations of our beloved characters is a real treat.  Imagining the little ways that they would be different from the originals must have been so fun for Shannon Hale! Overall, I was really impressed with how fun this book was and yet, how well it presents really deep themes to kids - the concept of detiny vs. freedom of choice, self-identity versus fitting into the crowd, etc.  A great read. 

The Unfairest of Them All 
by Shannon Hale 
Ever After High, book two 

It's the aftermath of Legacy Day, the day when the students at Ever After High are supposed to pledge to follow in their fairytale parents' footsteps, and everyone is in a huff and a puff! Raven Queen, daughter of the Evil Queen, has refused to sign the Storybook of Legends, rejecting her story--and putting everyone else's in jeopardy. 

The Royal Apple White doesn't want to think Raven is being a rebellious pain, but Raven's choice means Apple might never get the poisoned apple, Prince Charming, and a kingdom to rule. Behind Apple stands the Royals, those who want to play by the book and embrace their stories. The Rebels, supporters of Raven, believe in breaking free from destiny and writing their own stories. 

But when the chaos and rivalry land wonderlandiful Madeline Hatter in trouble, Raven and Apple must bring the Royals and the Rebels together to shut the book on their feud before it threatens to end all of their Happily Ever Afters once and for all. (Description from

I loved returning to this world and seeing how the tween characters struggled to find their place after Raven chooses to follow her own path...not the one laid out for her.  Again, the way that concepts and themes were presented was so very well done, though with Hale writing this book as well, I shouldn't really have been surprised.  Maddie is one of my favorite characters and seeing how things go for her in this book and knowing that we get to explore a little more of the Wonderland-ish story in the next one makes me really excited! 

If you want to get a little taste of this series without having to read the entire 300 page first book, you can check out the ebook character introductions - available on all ebook platforms, I think... - which are short and very cute.  There's a bunch of them, and a few even give you a little more insight into the individual characters, adding depth to parts of the storylines in the regular novels.  

Full disclosure: Books Borrowed from my Library, enovellas "purchased" for my Kindle App 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Treachery in Death

Treachery in Death 
by J. D. Robb
In Death series, book thirty two

Detective Eve Dallas and her partner, Peabody, are following up on a senseless crime—an elderly grocery owner killed by three stoned punks for nothing more than kicks and snacks. This is Peabody's first case as primary detective—good thing she learned from the master.

But Peabody soon stumbles upon a trickier situation. After a hard workout, she's all alone in the locker room when the gym door clatters open; and-while hiding inside a shower stall trying not to make a sound—she overhears two fellow officers, Garnet and Oberman, arguing. It doesn't take long to realize they're both crooked—guilty not just of corruption but of murder. Now Peabody, Eve, and Eve's husband, Roarke, are trying to get the hard evidence they need to bring the dirty cops down—knowing all the while that the two are willing to kill to keep their secret.
(Description from

I hadn't read a book from this series in SO long... and I LOVE them. I really need to catch up. This is a phenomenal series if you've never read them.  Start with book one, Naked in Death, and go from there.  Though each book is its own murder case, there is an overarching story about Eve Dallas and the characters in her life that continues from book to book.  They are wonderful characters and seeing them grow and change over time is AMAZING.  Trust me. Seriously one of the best series of books...EVER. 

Specifically in this book I loved how Robb makes Peabody and Dallas grow once again in terms of their careers.  In the face of hunting down corrupt cops, Dallas has to confirm that she has made the correct choices about who she is going to be as a homicide detective, and this allows Peabody to reaffirm the choices she's made both for herself and in who she views as mentors/heroes.  There are some fabulous moments where the characters connect in really great emotional ways and when the bad guys get their comeuppance, boy you can't help but cheer! 

Another fabulous book in the series.  I can't wait to read the next one. 

Full disclosure: Borrowed from my Library 

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry 
by Gabrielle Zevin

On the faded Island Books sign hanging over the porch of the Victorian cottage is the motto "No Man Is an Island; Every Book Is a World." A. J. Fikry, the irascible owner, is about to discover just what that truly means.

A. J. Fikry's life is not at all what he expected it to be. His wife has died, his bookstore is experiencing the worst sales in its history, and now his prized possession, a rare collection of Poe poems, has been stolen. Slowly but surely, he is isolating himself from all the people of Alice Island-from Lambiase, the well-intentioned police officer who's always felt kindly toward Fikry; from Ismay, his sister-in-law who is hell-bent on saving him from his dreary self; from Amelia, the lovely and idealistic (if eccentric) Knightley Press sales rep who keeps on taking the ferry over to Alice Island, refusing to be deterred by A.J.'s bad attitude. Even the books in his store have stopped holding pleasure for him. These days, A.J. can only see them as a sign of a world that is changing too rapidly.

And then a mysterious package appears at the bookstore. It's a small package, but large in weight. It's that unexpected arrival that gives A. J. Fikry the opportunity to make his life over, the ability to see everything anew. It doesn't take long for the locals to notice the change overcoming A.J.; or for that determined sales rep, Amelia, to see her curmudgeonly client in a new light; or for the wisdom of all those books to become again the lifeblood of A.J.'s world; or for everything to twist again into a version of his life that he didn't see coming.
(Description from

This quirky story is set up in chapters, each headed by a different "review" of a book. As A.J.'s life changes, the reader sees the reflections in the vignettes of his life, and in the ways that the "reviews" change. The story is touching and heartfelt, I could not help but be charmed as cranky A.J. went from being the curmudgeonly bookseller to being a family man and part of the life blood of his small town.    

Zevin is an author that I like in general and I loved this foray into the adult world.  I felt that the characters were interesting and the whole concept was exceedingly well done.  The way the story unfolded was easy to follow and drew me right in, making me much more emotionally invested than I had thought I would be.  This was one of my favorite summer reads. 

Full disclosure: Borrowed from my Library