The Books I Couldn’t Finish

Magonia (Magonia, #1)
Magonia
Author: Maria Dahvana Headley
Genre: YA Supernatural
Publisher: HarperCollins
Year of Publication: 2015

Characters: The only character I stuck around long enough to meet was Aza, the main character. Her “clever” thoughts were more than enough to convince me to put the book down.

The Good: There was a glimmer of hope that Aza’s snarkiness might get me to continue reading. The premise was so unique that I really wanted to like this novel enough to read it.

The Not So Good: The narrative prose was about as focused as if someone took all the thoughts they’d ever had, wrote them on slips of paper, and then drew them out of a hat to write a story. I tried to make it through the first chapter, but the writing style was so disruptive that I skipped to the second chapter in the hope that adding dialogue would change up the writing. It was no better.

Why I Didn’t Finish It: I couldn’t stand this character. The writing style was choppy and disorganized, and not in an artful way. Manipulating grammar and punctuation once in a while to make a line stand out is one thing, and I definitely encourage it if it’s the best way to get your idea across. Needlessly breaking convention with every other sentence is a huge problem, and can be highly off-putting to readers. I’m honestly surprised anyone was able to finish this book. I suppose there’s a reader out there for this type of writing, but it just isn’t me.

The Lost Girl of Astor Street

The Lost Girl of Astor Street
Author: Stephanie Morrill
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: HarperCollins
Year of Publication: 2017

Characters: The characters grated on my nerves. The main character (Piper) couldn’t stop dwelling on the past long enough to see what was going on around her. These characters were boring, even in moments when they should have been intriguing. They each had a very specific role to play and that was simply all the depth they had. They were not relatable and their relationships and conversations felt contrived.

The Good: The concept would have made an interesting novel. I can tell that the author put some effort into the concept, especially building the world and the backstory for each relationship.

The Not So Good: This book was set in Chicago during the Jazz Age. As a Chicagoan, I thought I would love reading a book set in my city, as that has been a major draw for me with other novels. There was not a single Chicago-like thing in this novel within the first seventy-five or so pages that I managed to read. There was a reference to the Chicago River, but that was the extent. Also, there were far too many characters introduced too soon. I didn’t even have time to get a read on one before another was thrown my way.

Why I Didn’t Finish It: I had no connections to any of the flat characters the author created. The plot never picked up, and the setting felt so stilted that I knew the book would not hold my interest. I do see the thought that the author put into creating the main plotline, but the subplots were littered with clichés and she failed to bring the story to life. I saw that this book was rated highly, so I am disappointed that I didn’t enjoy it. Perhaps I just didn’t stick it out long enough to get to the good part.

The Accident Season

The Accident Season
Author: Moira Fowley-Doyle
Genre: Supernatural YA
Year of Publication: 2016

Characters: I could not stand the characters in this book. All of the children were brats and the adults were irresponsible and worthless, especially the school staff.

The Good: This was a great setting for a spooky novel. The air of mystery was right on cue, and the timeline only increased my anticipation.

The Not So Good: Maybe I’m overreacting, but the one thing that bothered me outside of the major plot was the main character’s budding romance with her step-brother. A girl deciding to start a relationship with someone who was raised as her sibling in the same home by the same set of parents was not something I enjoyed reading. I’m sure that some people wouldn’t bat an eye, but it made me uncomfortable. As far as Elsie, her role was disturbing and the girls’ inability to leave Elsie alone passed weird and ended up at stalking. Once I took a sneak peek at the end, I rolled my eyes. It was a strange concept that didn’t appeal to me and actually kind of creeped me out, so I decided this one wasn’t worth my time.

Why I Didn’t Finish It: Simply put, this book just kept giving me reasons why I was uncomfortable reading it.

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Frostblood (Frostblood Saga #1)

Frostblood (Frostblood Saga, #1)Frostblood by Elly Blake
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Author: Elly Blake
Genre: YA
Publisher: Little, Brown
Year of Publication: 2017

Main Character: Ruby—4/5. She was tenacious, determined, and logical. She was willing to fight and willing to sacrifice anything she had to accomplish her mission.
Secondary Characters: The most major characters were well developed, complete with backgrounds, motives, emotions, etc. The rest of the secondary characters were just distinct enough to have personalities.
Pacing: Average
Accuracy of Publisher’s Synopsis: Not completely accurate, but close. For one, Ruby was not in hiding, but in prison. The people she was aligned with were monks, not rebels, and most of them did not support her residence in their monastery or her mission.
Resolution: It seemed a little too simple how they got there, but everything is set up for the next installment already.

The Good: I really liked Ruby. Most heroines have huge weaknesses and character flaws that make them frustrating to read about, but not this girl. Ruby had her goal in mind and was completely unwavering in her dedication to it, no matter what it cost her and no matter how many times her plan was forced to change. She wasn’t sidetracked by her love for some guy, either. Ruby’s setbacks were never due to her making a mistake. Now that’s a heroine I can applaud.

Arcus and Brother Thistle were the only other major characters. They were very useful to Ruby and likeable. They tolerated her antics with impeccable patience. The villains were portrayed in the most human way possible, meaning that they’re not great people, but their actions are understandable once you learn more about them. These antagonists are not purely malevolent, but complete with the full spectrum of emotions.

The mythology Blake created was interesting, but underutilized. I hope it becomes more central to the plotline in Fireblood. The Minax and the gods could add so much to the story if they became more involved.

The Not So Good: I had two main complaints about Frostblood: the superfluous descriptions and the simplicity of the plot. I had a hard time focusing in parts of the book because there would be way too much narrative, especially within conversations. I would forget what was being said while the author was busy describing the way something looked, and get lost when the dialogue resumed. Also, the plot in this book was somewhat simple and guided by common clichés. I saw Arcus’s big secret coming from the moment he was introduced, so that was a letdown. The secrets that Marella revealed seemed implausible and like they were just thrown in at the end for shock factor. By the end, it didn’t feel like much had happened.

On a side note, I felt like not everything was explained. There was no map to help the readers sort out where everything is. Plus, I had no idea that there was still a Fire throne! Everyone made it seem like Ruby was an endangered species, but there are probably a lot more Firebloods out there in the surrounding area.

Overall Impression: Frostblood is a novel that breathes a little life into classic YA tropes with a strong, focused heroine. With some fine tuning and more main characters, the rest of the series will hopefully gain some natural complexity.

Would I recommend it? While it wasn’t my favorite book, I think this series will be worth reading overall.

What I want to see in the next book:

1. These characters are a great foundation, but they can handle a lot more than they’ve been tasked with. I want to see them face some worthy adversaries and come into their new power.
2. More of Arcus and Ruby actually spending time together, please!
3. I don’t really trust Marella and I think she’s hiding a lot. I can’t subscribe to her words until she shows her true colors.
4. There wasn’t a lot of information given about the Minax or how it works. I would really appreciate more background on its power and how it relates to the prophecy Brother Thistle keeps talking about.
5. Let’s go find that Fire throne!
6. More characters, please. It felt like there were only really three people in the book. Ruby needs more allies than that.

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Witch’s Pyre (Worldwalker #3)

Witch's Pyre (Worldwalker, #3)Witch’s Pyre by Josephine Angelini
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Author: Josephine Angelini
Genre: YA
Publisher: Feiwel and Friends
Year of Publication: 2016

Overall Series Rating: 3/5 The first book was the best, and I kept reading hoping the series would turn out as well as the first book. I’m sorry to say my hopes were too high.
Main Character: Lily—I started liking her again in this book. If I could change one thing about her, though, I would have her think things through a little more thoroughly.
Secondary Characters: Toshi was the only secondary character I truly liked in this book, and that includes the characters from the previous two books.
Pacing: This one was kind of slow. The plot and the idea were actually perfect, but I feel like it could have been developed better. A good portion of the book could have been condensed without losing anything vital.
Accuracy of Publisher’s Synopsis: The inside cover gives such a vague idea of what the book is actually about. The part about Lillian’s way being the only way is not true at all.
Resolution: The buildup to the battle was huge, but when the main action finally came, it was disjointed and vague. I needed a little more to the end of the book than just Lily walking into Bower City. For instance, which world did Samantha and Juliet end up staying in? What happened to everyone in Bower City, especially Toshi’s family? Did the tunnel people and the Outlanders stay in the west? And where did the Hive go? I could have used another chapter to wrap all that up.

The Good: We actually got to the battle I’ve been waiting for! Finally, the mystery of the Woven was solved and Lily risked losing her entire coven and the war against Grace to do things the right way, distinguishing herself from Lillian. I appreciated that it was not an easy road, even though some of the problems faced were a little petty and could have been avoided. Rowan and Lily made up, albeit in the last chapter with very little exchange between them, but they did it. It only happened after Tristan shared a memory from Lily’s Tristan about what really happened when they rescued Lily from the Outlanders. And at long last, Rowan and Lillian were face to face! They finally got to discuss Rowan’s father and her reasoning for hanging him. However, I didn’t get the reaction from Rowan I was hoping for. I mean…I technically got everything I wanted, but it still somehow felt like a letdown, which I don’t understand.

The Bad: All of the inconsistencies that were just annoying in the first book were magnified in this book. It was exhausting to keep up with all of the new rules that Angelini seemed to devise on the fly. *Spoiler Alert* When was it ever stated that when a witch dies, she explodes and all of her claimed die with her? I feel like that was something that could have been explained more than a paragraph before Lillian went up in a giant fireball. * End Spoiler Alert* I think my phobia of bees really did me a disservice in reading this last book. Just reading about the Hive attaching themselves to people constantly was enough to make my skin crawl. Also, I got annoyed with Lily’s claimed being so up in arms about being possessed. It wasn’t like Lily did it maliciously; she was trying to save their lives. But even until the end, I found my interest wavering. I actually set the book down with fifteen pages to go and didn’t pick it up again until the next night.

Overall Impression: I just can’t say that this book was as good as the first one, although it was a little more interesting than the second. It was disorganized to a distracting level and less pleasurable to read. In essence, everything ended as it should have, but the execution of every plot point was lacking excitement and frankly, befuddling.

Would I recommend this series? I wouldn’t tell anyone not to read it…but I wouldn’t tell anyone to run out and buy all the books.

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