August 22, 2014

July Haul



Bought:
I've already read it and enjoyed it. It was as good as Shadow & Bone (my review). My review will be posted soon.

I probably won't be reading the last one though. I'm staying away from last books in series because they're usually terrible. I also spoiled Ruin & Rising and the author undid something that makes you wonder what the point of reading this entire trilogy was. 
This is the Shakespeare play I want to read the most. I've been wanting to read it since I watched the anime, Blast of Tempest, which is based off it. The Tempest seems to have a lot of fantasy elements like Ariel the air spirit and I'm excited to see how it turns out. 

Trade:
I really enjoyed the first book in this trilogy - A Great and Terrible Beauty. I've read it quite a while ago though, so I'll be rereading it before I continue on with the trilogy. I recommend A Great and Terrible Beauty for those that want a good book set in the Victorian times.

Review:
  • Half a King by Joe Abercrombie (Thanks to Random House Canada)
This one seems like it can be read as a stand alone. There aren't many stand alone fantasy books and I'm curious to see how this will turn out.
This is the first book in a new fantasy series based off middle east mythology/folkore, which is different. 
  • Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld (Thanks to Simon & Schuster Canada)
I really should have read the synopsis before requesting this one. Westerfeld's books are usually very different and interesting reads and that's way I expected this one to be good. After reading the synopsis and the reviews though, this book sounds awful. It alternates between a girl's adventures in New York and her YA novel. That sounds like a disaster waiting to happen and both stories sound boring. Also, making it about a girl who's a YA writer is such a cheap way to appeal to the audience. I probably won't be reading this one.
  • Complicit by Stephanie Kuehn (Thanks to St. Martin's Press)
A lot of people seemed to have enjoyed this one and I want to read more stand alones. 
This is a Russian epic fairy tale in the form of a poem. I've been trying to branch out more in what I read. I really hope the translation is decent, but otherwise this sounds like it could be a fun read.
  • Sketcher by Roland Watson-Grant (Thanks to Alma Books)
This one sounds very different than what I usually read, but it could be really good for all I know. If anyone has read Sketcher, what did you think?
I really enjoyed A Little Princess and The Secret Garden seems to be more popular than it, so I have high hopes for it.  
  • Heidi by Johanna Spyri (Thanks to Random House UK)
I don't know if this will be really good or really boring. I vaguely remember watching a kids TV series based off it though.
  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (Thanks to Random House UK)
  • Good Wives by Louisa May Alcott (Thanks to Random House UK)
I've already read Little Women and its sequel, but I wanted to reread them, considering it was such a long time ago.
  • Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild (Thanks to The Collector’s Library)
I remember watching the 2007 film of this and liking it. 

Freebies:
  • Vicious (by Victoria Schwab) cards & bookplate (Thanks to the author)
The author is giving away trading cards (& a signed bookplate I guess) to whoever reviews her book Vicious (my review). If you're interested, more information can be found here

August 21, 2014

Review: The Sky is Everywhere

The Sky Is Everywhere
by Jandy Nelson

Release Date: March 22, 2011
Publisher: Speak
Age Group: Young Adult
Rating: 1 2 3 4 5

Lennie plays second clarinet in the school orchestra and has always happily been second fiddle to her charismatic older sister, Bailey. Then Bailey dies suddenly, and Lennie is left at sea without her anchor. Overcome by emotion, Lennie soon finds herself torn between two boys: Bailey's boyfriend, Toby, and Joe, the charming and musically gifted new boy in town. While Toby can't see her without seeing Bailey and Joe sees her only for herself, each offers Lennie something she desperately needs. But ultimately, it's up to Lennie to find her own way toward what she really needs-without Bailey. A remarkable debut novel perfect for fans of Sarah Dessen, Deb Caletti, and Francesca Lia Block.

My Review:

Cover: The paperback cover is so much better than the hardcover version. I think it suits the story a lot better and I like that it's bright and cheery.

Writing: (2/5) The author is a poet who first intended The Sky is Everywhere to be a novel in verse. What I like about the writing is that there aren't any unnecessary words or lines. The author uses minimal language to describe things. And of course the writing is very beautiful, it's very pretty. There were many lines I liked that I underlined.

But despite that, what I really didn't like is how the book makes you feel extremely happy and extremely depressed at the same time. This is apparently what the author intended according to an interview:

"I imagined a story where joy and sorrow cohabited in really close quarters, where love could be almost as unwieldy as grief."

She also said (concerning the main character, Lennie):

"She’s taking steps that will propel her into the future when she’s suddenly clobbered (not for the first time) by the realization that she has a future and Bailey doesn't. It’s agony for her and it occurs to her that grief is forever, that it will be with her always, step for step, breath for breath, but she also realizes in this moment that this is true because grief and love are conjoined and you can’t have one without the other. Grief is always going to be a measure of the love lost."

Honestly that sounds like you're still grieving. That you haven't gotten over someone's death. Grief fades with time, I believe it always does. Grief fades when you learn to let go. Love stays. Grief, shouldn't.

You're not happy if you're grief-stricken at the same time, that doesn't make any sense.

At the heart of it, that's what I dislike about this book. This theme, that makes me feel simultaneously happy and sad. And looking back at the novel, what stayed with me was the grief and the sad, which doesn't make it a very good novel at all. It's depressing looking back at it and yes, losing someone you love is sad. Everyone knows that. So this novel did not teach me anything new.

Setting: (2.5/5) I really liked the town of Clover where the book is set and all its beautiful landscape. It was a nice setting, but the tone and mood was dreamlike and grief stricken and I couldn't focus on the setting. It was also a stark contrast to the otherwise cheerful and the nature and landscape filled town. 

Plot: (2/5) While reading this book, there were times where I really, really enjoyed it. And then there were times where I really wanted to just stop reading and even drop it. It's probably because of how the book makes you feel depressed at times and happy at times.

The plot of the book is basically like the summary. A girl tries to get over her dead sister. Two guys help her with her grief. One in a bad way and one in a good way.

The plot, to the say least, was one of the most cliche plots I've ever come across. I've seen this type of story before, everyone has. There's so many ways you could have dealt with the topic of grief, why choose this one?

Not to mention I hate that she uses guys to get over her sister. Why does there even have to be love interests in this type of story? It's so cheap and unrealistic. I hate the whole idea of love interests in fiction helping someone get over their issues. You have to get over it yourself.  A crutch won't help you get stronger.

To be fair, on some level, Lennie does get through her grief on her own, but the inclusion of the two boys takes up most of the story. 

Main Character: (1/5) Lennie is unlikable to say the least. She's also flat and has no personality, but she does something that I can't forgive. She starts lusting after her dead sister's boyfriend (who her sister loved very dearly) to get over her grief!?

Obviously she realizes that's wrong, but I can't forgive her for doing this in the first place. How can you even pretend to have loved your sister if you did this!?

Lennie also writes poems and scatters them across town. I thought she was into music, I'm not sure how she can write poetry or if she even likes it. The poem and scattering them thing seems to be something the author is into and not necessarily the character.

Other Characters: (2.5/5)
Toby Shaw: Bailey's (Lennie's sister) boyfriend. I hate him just as much as Lennie, if not more. He basically does the same as Lennie. He lusts after his dead girlfriend's sister to get over his grief.

Joe Fontaine: The new half-French guy every girl wants. I did like Joe's extremely cheerful personality, I really did. I could have adored his character in another story, but in this story I find his presence unwelcome.

Lennie's Grandmother and Uncle: I really liked them and their place in the story. They're probably in all my favourite parts of the book.

Sarah: Lennie's friend. She's extremely annoying and poorly constructed.

Romance: (1/5) As I mentioned above, the inclusion of love interests in a story about grief just cheapens the whole thing for me.

Overall: (11/30) Right after I finished reading this book, I loved it. But very soon after, I just got sad and depressed the more and more I remembered the book. I think the book has a bad theme which is the heart of the whole story. The flat and unlikable main character doesn't help, nor does the inclusion of love interests which cheapens a story about grief. I don't recommend The Sky is Everywhere.

August 14, 2014

Blog Tour: Recipe Reveal (and Giveaway) with Yangsze Choo, Author of The Ghost Bride

The Ghost Bride
by Yangsze Choo
William Morrow Paperbacks
August 5, 2014 (paperback)

Yangsze Choo’s stunning debut, The Ghost Bride, is a startlingly original novel infused with Chinese folklore, romantic intrigue, and unexpected supernatural twists. 

Li Lan, the daughter of a respectable Chinese family in colonial Malaysia, hopes for a favorable marriage, but her father has lost his fortune, and she has few suitors. Instead, the wealthy Lim family urges her to become a “ghost bride” for their son, who has recently died under mysterious circumstances. Rarely practiced, a traditional ghost marriage is used to placate a restless spirit. Such a union would guarantee Li Lan a home for the rest of her days, but at what price?

Night after night, Li Lan is drawn into the shadowy parallel world of the Chinese afterlife, where she must uncover the Lim family’s darkest secrets—and the truth about her own family. 

Reminiscent of Lisa See’s Peony in Love and Amy Tan’s The Bonesetter’s Daughter, The Ghost Bride is a wondrous coming-of-age story and from a remarkable new voice in fiction.

Recipe Reveal: 
Teh Tarik

As a former British colony, Malaysia has a long and rich history of independent little coffee shops, or kopitiam, as they’re known by locals. These are usually little shophouses with round marble topped tables and the iconic Polish bentwood chairs that used to be so common. You can sit under the lazily spinning ceiling fans and order toast with butter and kaya (a kind of caramelized egg custard jam), soft-boiled eggs, and a wide variety of tea and coffee drinks. 

One of the most beloved drinks you can find in a kopitiam is teh tarik. Teh means tea, and tarik means “to pull”. It’s basically a cup of perfectly frothed milky tea that’s made by pouring hot tea from one cup to another. The more expert you are, the further the distance between the two cups, and when it’s done right, it looks effortless, as though the stream of tea is being pulled between the two cups. 

Although it takes some practice to do, it’s an entertaining and fun way to serve tea to your guests, though practicing outdoors makes it easier to clean up spills! Try it some time and see. 

Teh Tarik

- Make strong tea. The traditional way to make this is to use 4 teaspoons of tea dust or broken tea leaves per cup. Add 1 cup boiling water, let it steep for 5 minutes, then strain through a cotton strainer or “sock” (not a real one though!). If you don’t have tea dust, choose a robust tea like Malaysian Boh tea from Cameron Highlands, or Lipton black tea and use 2-3 tea bags per cup. Steeo longer if you want a stronger brew.

- Next, add about ½ inch of sweetened condensed milk per cup of tea. More if you have a sweet tooth, and less if you don’t, but in kopitiams, tea and coffee are generally served very sweet and strong. Stir to mix. If you prefer thinner tea, you can add milk and reduce the amount of condensed milk. If you have a very sweet tooth, you can add more sugar.

-Now comes the tarik part! Traditionally, this is done by putting the tea into two stainless steel mugs and pouring it from one to another. As you pour, the tea becomes cooler and frothier. The higher you pour from, the better the quality of bubbles. People say that the flavours blend well and it tastes better. 

Fun facts: 

If you’re ever in Malaysia or Singapore, here’s a glossary of kopitiam terms so you can order like a local!

Teh - tea
Kopi - coffee
Chum - tea and coffee mixed together
Teh/kopi oh - Hot tea/coffee served black with sugar
Teh/kopi see - tea/coffee with evaporated milk (less sweet than regular teh or kopi)
Teh/kopi kosong - black tea/coffee with no milk or sugar (kosong means “empty”)
Teh halia - hot tea with ginger. This is especially good when you’re not feeling well or have a cold.





[Photo captions: 1. Our local teh tarik guy in Malaysia. A professional like him can get a lot of height while pouring! 2. The tea has a nice head of bubbles, rather like beer]


About the Author:
Yangsze Choo is a fourth generation Chinese from Malaysia. After graduating from Harvard, she worked in various corporate jobs while secretly writing fiction between financial spreadsheets. Now a stay-at-home-mum, she writes late at night when her kids have (finally!) gone to sleep. Yangsze Choo eats and read too much and often does both at her blog www.yschoo.com


Giveaway:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Check out the rest of the blog tour:
4th Guest Blog @ Fire & Ice 
5th Character Spotlight @ Pages From My Thoughts 
6th Author Interview @ The Mod Podge Bookshelf
7th Recipe Reveal @ Pieces of Whimsy
8th Character Spotlight @ Gobs and Gobs of Books
11th Guest Blog @ A Dream Within A Dream
12th Recipe Reveal @ Bookish Things and More
13th Author Interview @ Bibliophelia, Please
14th Recipe Reveal @ Fantasy's Ink
15th Character Spotlight @ Addicted Readers

August 12, 2014

Review: Ignite Me

Ignite Me
by Tahereh Mafi

Release Date: February 4, 2014
Publisher: HarperCollins
Age Group: Young Adult
Rating: 1 2 3 4 5

Series: Book 3 in the Shatter Me series

The heart-stopping conclusion to the New York Times bestselling Shatter Me series, which Ransom Riggs, bestselling author of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, called “a thrilling, high-stakes saga of self-discovery and forbidden love.”

With Omega Point destroyed, Juliette doesn’t know if the rebels, her friends, or even Adam are alive. But that won’t keep her from trying to take down The Reestablishment once and for all. Now she must rely on Warner, the handsome commander of Sector 45. The one person she never thought she could trust. The same person who saved her life. He promises to help Juliette master her powers and save their dying world . . . but that’s not all he wants with her.

The Shatter Me series is perfect for fans who crave action-packed young adult novels with tantalizing romance like Divergent by Veronica Roth, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, and Legend by Marie Lu. Tahereh Mafi has created a captivating and original story that combines the best of dystopian and paranormal, and was praised by Publishers Weekly as “a gripping read from an author who’s not afraid to take risks.” Now this final book brings the series to a shocking and satisfying end.

My Review:

Cover: This cover implies that it's spring or summer, the flowers have bloomed and Juliette is all better. I personally think that this cover is depressing because it's the opposite of the book. The book just ended bleakly.

Another thing is that the eye is reflecting a bird. From reading Shatter Me, you'd think Adam symbolizes the bird and freedom and he has bird tattoo and all that. But, not really a spoiler, Juliette and Warner end up together and Adam becomes the exact opposite of himself. At the end of all that, you wonder why they even bothered with the whole bird analogy at all.

OK, and I hate this cover because I hate this book. I hated looking at my copy so much, I threw in the trash where it belongs, even before I had a chance to write this review.

Writing: (1/5) Why, why the hell did I ever think the writing for this series was good? God I don't even want to get into the previous books, but if you think the writing for this series is good or have heard it's good, please read this review

Let's just get into the writing for Ignite Me. This book was 98% dialogue. So the author needs to redeem Warner right? So she spends most of the book making the characters talk and talk and talk about Warner. Every problem characters have had with Warner, they work it out through talking. Why should Juliette end up with Warner? He's just horrible. Well, Warner explains why he's not that horrible in the first chapters so they can leave more room for the rest of the book for him and Juliette to have plenty of sex.

Talking and talking and talking...

You know I remember when at school, the teacher would assign us to write a short story, and because we kids were amateurs and had no idea how to write a story, we would just write almost completely in dialogue.

Setting: (1/5)always thought the setting for this series was flimsy. Looking back though, I just imagined the characters in a white void. Out of all the books I've ever read, and I've obviously read tons, this has to be the most sorry excuse for a setting I've ever seen.

Did you think that there would be world building in Ignite Me? That the stupid dystopian conflict would get resolved? Hell no, it doesn't.

Plot: (1/5) Plot...

I don't even know how anyone in their right mind could pretend Ignite Me had a plot. The idea is laughable

Here's the plot. We have 400 pages, give or take. 350 pages are spent redeeming Warner, getting every character to love Warner (and I do mean everyone), and of course the main course, HAVING SEX WITH WARNER AND TOUCHING WARNER AND AAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!

OK, and the last 50 pages are settling the conflict with Anderson in a way that's beyond a joke.

Main Character: (1/5) If you read my past reviews, I read this series because I loved Juliette. That's it. I did not read it for the romance or Adam or Warner. I wanted to see character development and I wanted to see Juliette becoming better. I did not want to see Juliette throwing away her kindness and thinking it's weakness. I did not want to see Tahereh Mafi shredding this character into bits because she wanted to get into Warner's pants so much.

Villain: (1/5) Anderson literally appeared for like two seconds...

Wow, talk about such little screen time for such a major character.

Also, his first name is kind of awkward with Juliette.

Other Characters: (1/5) 
Adam: So how does the author make everyone completely agree with the disgusting pairing that is Juliette and Warner? By deconstructing Adam and making him a jerk that would swear, yell, and even hit Juliette.
Kenji: No one's going to be on Juliette's side because everyone thinks Warner is a psychopath. I know! Let's make Kenji and her sudden BFFs and we know BFFs support you in all your decisions. Especially when it comes to men. You hate him, we hate him. You love him, we love him.
Castle and the rest of the people at Omega Point: OK, we don't have time to squeeze you in because we need every chapter for Juliette x Warner, so let's kill most of you and only keep a few. With Juliette leading of course. Because she'd make a fabulous leader.
James: We still might not buy that Warner is indeed a good person. I know, let's make the little kid talk and even become attached to him! You know, because little kids are so innocent and cute and stuff.
Warner: Ha, Warner. Warner just scares me. This is not Warner. How can a psychopath do such a head turn? From psychopath to this unbelievably "kind" person. 

Romance: (1/5) You know the title fits very well. Ignite Me, as in, hey Warner have some hot passionate sex with me. It felt gross writing that, but that's how gross this book is. If any of you think Juliette and Warner actually love and care for another, then something is wrong with you. If the author had to ruin not one, but all the characters just to make these two be together, then there is something seriously wrong here.

How did these sex scenes even make it into a YA book? I swear, if you're teenagers, read the sex scene to one of your parents and see if they think this is appropriate. A lot of people told the author that she should write erotica...

The sex scenes were a mix of very descriptive and leaving it up to your imagination and that combination was frightening. I've never been more traumatized. I wanted to puke.

Other Comments: I was thinking of burning the book and posting the video here just to show how much I hated this book. It keeps asking for it - Ignite Me, Ignite Me. But I decided not to because that's too childish. So I just threw it in the trash. I could not find any worth it had for me to give it away to someone.

Overall: (7/35) Ignite Me was the worst book I read in my life. I had months to think about it, so trust me. No book has traumatized me more than this one. Tahereh Mafi is a terrible author. Do not read the Shatter Me series.

I'm sorry if this review seems like a joke in comparison to my other reviews. But I just can't review it seriously, this book is a joke. 

July 24, 2014

Review: Shadow and Bone

Shadow and Bone
by Leigh Bardugo

Release Date: June 5, 2012
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Age Group: Young Adult
Rating: 1 2 3 4 5

Series: Book 1 in The Grisha series

The Shadow Fold, a swathe of impenetrable darkness, crawling with monsters that feast on human flesh, is slowly destroying the once-great nation of Ravka.

Alina, a pale, lonely orphan, discovers a unique power that thrusts her into the lavish world of the kingdom’s magical elite—the Grisha. Could she be the key to unravelling the dark fabric of the Shadow Fold and setting Ravka free?

The Darkling, a creature of seductive charm and terrifying power, leader of the Grisha. If Alina is to fulfill her destiny, she must discover how to unlock her gift and face up to her dangerous attraction to him.

But what of Mal, Alina’s childhood best friend? As Alina contemplates her dazzling new future, why can’t she ever quite forget him?

Glorious. Epic. Irresistible. Romance.

My Review:

Cover: I really like the covers for this series. So much effort was put into them. I especially like the antlers on either side of the palace.

The book also included a nicely drawn map:


I also really like the chapter title illustrations:


A lot of effort was put into the book's design. I can definitely see why though. YA lately are the same thing over and over, at least this one had something slightly different with the Russian and fantasy setting. 

Writing: (3/5) The writing was clear and very easy to get into. I definitely found the writing better than most YA books. I really liked the prologue and the epilogue's writing, probably because it was written in third person. The rest of the book is written in first person and Alina is such an annoying narrator. She was so much more tolerable from a third person narrative. I really wish the whole book was in third person, it would have been so much better.    

Setting: (2/5) The setting was medieval and it felt like it was spray painted with a "Russian" setting. On one hand, the setting was fun and I did enjoy it to a certain extent and there were one or two original things. But on the other hand, it was flimsy and more importantly, beyond cliché.

Plot: (4/5) Ordinary girl finds out she has power. Taken away by organization and trained. You wouldn't believe how overused this plot line is in fantasy. Despite this, Shadow and Bone threw in a couple of surprises and it was really fun to read. After I finished reading the book, I didn't understand why it was so popular. But looking back, I was way too harsh. I really enjoyed it and it was such a fun read. Most YA books (maybe you can say like all YA books) focus on romance. Let's not pretend it's not true. It's romance with a dabble of plot and fantasy. I sort of felt like Shadow and Bone was the opposite, it was plot and fantasy with a dabble of romance (mind you I didn't really enjoy what romance it had and just wish the author would have cut it).

Main Character: (1.5/5) Alina...where do I start? Well, let's start with her name. I don't really care that her last name is inaccurate in Russian (although a quick Google search could have remedied that). My problem is her first name...Alina. What is wrong with authors and choosing the whitest sounding name? I wish her name was Lyudmila or even Olga or Miroslava. That would have made me like her so much more. God, I hate these names in fantasy books...I really don't feel like ranting so let's just move on.

Alina is an orphan. And by orphan, I mean her parents are conveniently gotten ridden of. How original!! Especially for a fantasy!

Alina is ugly. I would consider her plain but no, she's ugly. She's described as sickly and you could have actually worked with that, if she actually looked sickly. But no, it felt like she was just one of those brown haired and brown eyed heroines, because anybody with that combination is doomed to be ugly or plain (whatever, YA books act like it's the same thing). It's downright disgusting how much Alina whines about her looks. I actually was counting and that was amusing until I lost count.

I don't like assuming things about authors, but considering the author of Shadow and Bone was a make-up artist, maybe that says a lot about Alina...I'm just saying...

I did like the whole sickly thing but it was executed so terribly and, at the end of the day, I don't like females being defined by their looks.

There's just so much to complain about and I don't feel like getting into it. There are so much reviews on people hating Alina that I don't think I'll be adding anything new.

The only interesting thing about Alina was probably her power. It was kinda neat. Everything else was ugh!?

Villain: (3/5) I liked the villain. I think everyone likes him. He's probably my favourite character. It has to be that contrast with Alina being so useless and him being so much more competent. She's like a fat friend.

Other Characters: (2.5/5) The characters were meh. I enjoyed some of their interactions. They weren't brilliant nor terrible, just meh. Though I hated "Mal" (ugh another white sounding name), Alina's childhood friend. I hate him more than Alina and that's saying something. And before anyone starts, it's not because I want Alina to be with the Darkling. I hate the romance. The book would have been so much better without it. Anyway, back to Mal...I really don't understand what the point of him is. He's also such a poorly constructed character. One second he feels like an egotistical bastard that can't be bothered with Alina and next he's all moody and extremely annoying. I hope he dies. PLEASE, someone tell me he dies. 

Overall: (16/30) Shadow and Bone has an annoying main character and the setting and plot is pretty cliché. But it was a very fun read and I still enjoyed it. There were also a few original things here and there. I'll be picking up the sequel.

July 14, 2014

Giveaway: The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia by Candace Fleming

by Candace Fleming
Random House
July 8, 2014

From the acclaimed author of Amelia Lost and The Lincolns comes more nonfiction at its very best—and a perfect resource for meeting Common Core standards. 

Here is the riveting story of the Russian Revolution as it unfolded. When Russia’s last tsar, Nicholas II, inherited the throne in 1894, he was unprepared to do so. With their four daughters (including Anastasia) and only son, a hemophiliac, Nicholas and his reclusive wife, Alexandra, buried their heads in the sand, living a life of opulence as World War I raged outside their door and political unrest grew. 

Deftly maneuvering between the lives of the Romanovs and the plight of Russia’s peasants—and their eventual uprising—Fleming offers up a fascinating portrait, complete with inserts featuring period photographs and compelling primary-source material that brings it all to life. History doesn’t get more interesting than the story of the Romanovs.

Giveaway:
Thanks to the publisher, I have one copy of The Family Romanov to give away. Giveaway is U.S./Canada only and ends August 8th.

July 3, 2014

Review: In the Shadows

In the Shadows 
by Kiersten White (Text Story) 
Jim Di Bartolo (Art and Art Story)

Release Date: April 29, 2014 
Publisher: Scholastic Press 
Age Group: Young Adult 
Rating: 1 2 3 4 5

From the remarkable imagination of acclaimed artist Jim Di Bartolo and the exquisite pen of bestselling author Kiersten White comes a spellbinding story of love, mystery, and dark conspiracy, told in an alternating narrative of words and pictures. 

Cora and Minnie are sisters living in a small, stifling town where strange and mysterious things occur. Their mother runs the local boarding house. Their father is gone. The woman up the hill may or may not be a witch.

Thomas and Charles are brothers who've been exiled to the boarding house so Thomas can tame his ways and Charles can fight an illness that is killing him with increasing speed. Their family history is one of sorrow and guilt. They think they can escape from it . . . but they can't. 

Arthur is also new to the boarding house. His fate is tied to that of Cora, Minnie, Thomas, and Charles. He knows what darkness circles them, but can't say why, and doesn't even know if they can be saved.

Sinister forces are working in the shadows, manipulating fates and crafting conspiracies. The closer Cora, Minnie, Arthur, Thomas, and Charles get to the truth, the closer they get to harm. But the threat is much bigger than they can see. It is strangling the world.

Until one of the boys decides he wants to save it. 

Told in an astonishing mix of art and words, IN THE SHADOWS collides past against future, love against evil, and hope against fear. The result is both a mystery and a masterpiece.

My Review:

Cover: This is a pretty boring cover (not to mention the title doesn't sound noteworthy or have anything to do with the book). I wouldn't have given it a second glance if I didn't see the illustrations in the book. I really liked the art, which makes you wonder why the cover turned out like this. These hand-painted covers by the artist are so much awesomer.

Writing: (1/5) The chapters (the text part of the book) weren't that long. They were 2-6 pages each, but they were so hard to get through. They were so dull. I read a couple of chapters a day, even though they were so short, just because I couldn't stand how boring they were. Was the art so good that they were lazy with the writing? 

Art: (5/5) My favourite part was the art story. I would sluggishly try to read through the text chapters just to get to the art story. It was so much more interesting, probably because the art wasn't as dull as the writing. I really liked the style and the colors. There was just so much more life to it than the incredibly flat writing:


Setting: (1.5/5) Most of the book is set in a boarding house in Maine 1900. The setting in In the Shadows was incredibly lackluster. I wouldn't call it a cardboard backdrop, but it wasn't really good either. Like the writing, it was just incredibly boring.  

Plot: (2/5) The book has two separate storylines that eventually intertwine in the end. One is told in text and the other through the art (without any words). The text story was the most godawful boring thing ever. I'm not sure if any effort was even put into it. 

The art story on the other hand was so much more interesting and the only reason I didn't drop this book. I really liked that there were no words. The separate text story and art story felt like such a gimmick. The artist should have just tried to make his own story, the text only held the book back. 

Main Character: (2/5) The main character is probably the main character in the art story, but I can't really spoil who that is. I did like him, but because there was more emphasis on the text story, we didn't really see his personality play out that much.

Villain: (1/5) The villains were poorly constructed. Their dialogue was trying too hard to be evil and impressive and just ended up being cringe-worthy. They were unmemorable. Not to mention there were just too many of them. 

Other Characters: (1.5/5) The text story focuses on five characters: the sisters Minnie and Cora, the brothers Thomas and Charles, and Arthur. There are chapters from all their point of views.

Minnie was energetic and irresponsible. She was the opposite of her sister Cora, who was nice and responsible. I hate when they have two sisters and give them opposite personalities.


Thomas and Charles are boarders at the sisters' family boarding house. Charles is sickly and Thomas worries for him. Thomas was easily the most boring character. I liked that Charles didn't care much about his impending death, but that was about it. I found the brothers to be completely pointless. You could have taken them out and the story would have worked fine without them.


Arthur was probably the best. He's very cliché, brooding, and with a dark past. He was the most interesting though, probably because he actually had some kind of conflict. The brothers did not feel like they should have been in the story and the sisters were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.


There was also the local "witch" Mary, who is one of those poorly constructed crazy characters I loathe. 

And there was the sisters' mother, who runs the boarding house. I liked her motherly personality and it sadly felt like she was the best character...

Overall: (14/35) The book is told through a text and art story that eventually intertwine. While the art story was fun to read through, the text story was so dull and poorly constructed that I can't recommend this book. Not even for the art story, considering it was so intertwined with it.