Liesl & Po by Lauren Oliver: review

Liesl & PoLiesl & Po by Lauren Oliver(story), Kei Acedera(art)

Stand Alone

My Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Age Group: Middle Grade

Genre: Fantasy, Adventure, Paranormal

Publisher: HarperCollins

Release Date: October 4th 2011

Synopsis: Liesl lives in a tiny attic bedroom, locked away by her cruel stepmother. Her only friends are the shadows and the mice,until one night a ghost appears from the darkness. It is Po, who comes from the Other Side. Both Liesl and Po are lonely, but together they are less alone.

That same night, an alchemist’s apprentice, Will, bungles an important delivery. He accidentally switches a box containing the most powerful magic in the world with one containing something decidedly less remarkable.

Will’s mistake has tremendous consequences for Liesl and Po, and it draws the three of them together on an extraordinary journey.

From New York Times bestselling author Lauren Oliver comes a luminous and magnificent novel that glows with rare magic, ghostly wonders, and a true friendship that lights even the darkest of places.

My Thoughts:

Liesl & Po radiates utter brilliance. But not in a loud way. This book will enchant a person with a quiet beauty that will circle around you for a little bit of time, and then grip onto your heart in an unbreakable hold. Lauren Oliver has created a flawless novel that not only sparks with magic, but also with friendship, hope, and love.

For me, this was a novel whose story made the eager, curious child in me to surface. The adventure just had a certain feeling to it that made me want to find the best adventures in the littlest events. It’s hard for me to describe the story of Liesl & Po since there is just so much going on, but just know that it will telaport you to a world filled with whimsy.

The most remarkable thing about this novel was how the author progressed the story by using the carefully woven relationships of the many characters. It was truly amazing and worth a mention in this review.

The three main characters of Liesl & Po will always be dear to me. Liesl is an incredibly endearing protagonist. Her bravery and sweetness had me smiling in adoration. The quiet, thoughtful, and enigmanic Po is the perfect kind of ghost, and the adorable, loveable Will completes the story with his hesitant but true to the heart feats of bravery.

There were also many other characters that were dragged into the adventure by the chain of events. And oh my goodness, were these characters colorful. They just lit up the  dark corners of the story that were somehow missed by the brightness of Liesl, Po, and Will’s light.

Lauren Oliver’s writing enhances the story with it’s unique way of painting the world. I couldn’t help but notice how Oliver puts to use the colors of the world to beautifully describe the many settings:

“The sky was still a velvet purple, with just a thin line of gray ringed around the horizon.”

But Oliver doesn’t just use the beauty of colors in her descriptions. She uses many other ways to present the world of Liesl & Po with ultimate finesse. 

The book itself is also very beautiful. There are many lovely pencil-drawings that are peppered throughout the book. They are a joy to look at and they really add to the story.

Out of all the middle grade novels I have read in my life, Liesl & Po is one of the best. The book just resonated with me in such a way that made my heart flutter. I can’t help but compare my experience with Liesl & Po with my experience with Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt. These novels are nothing alike, of course, but they are both beautifully realized stories that etched themselves deeply into my memories.

I think I found another bookish soul mate. I love you Liesl & Po

Splintered by A.G. Howard: review

Splintered (Splintered, #1)Splintered by A.G. Howard

Series: Splintered #1

My Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Age Group: Young Adult

Genre: Romance, Retelling, Fantasy, Adventure

Publisher: Amulet Books

Release Date: January 1st 2013

Synopsis: This stunning debut captures the grotesque madness of a mystical under-land, as well as a girl’s pangs of first love and independence. Alyssa Gardner hears the whispers of bugs and flowers—precisely the affliction that landed her mother in a mental hospital years before. This family curse stretches back to her ancestor Alice Liddell, the real-life inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Alyssa might be crazy, but she manages to keep it together. For now.
When her mother’s mental health takes a turn for the worse, Alyssa learns that what she thought was fiction is based in terrifying reality. The real Wonderland is a place far darker and more twisted than Lewis Carroll ever let on. There, Alyssa must pass a series of tests, including draining an ocean of Alice’s tears, waking the slumbering tea party, and subduing a vicious bandersnatch, to fix Alice’s mistakes and save her family. She must also decide whom to trust: Jeb, her gorgeous best friend and secret crush, or the sexy but suspicious Morpheus, her guide through Wonderland, who may have dark motives of his own.

My Thoughts:

I have always adored Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (a.k.a Alice in Wonderland) and Through the Looking-Glass. When I first read Alice in Wonderland I wanted to go out and find my own rabbit-hole, fall down, and have nonsensical adventure like Alice did. Actually, I still want to go find a rabbit-hole 😛 The utter nonsense and strangeness that are within the pages of the stories had me falling in love. And so began my journey eagerly looking out for Alice in Wonderland retellings in every shape and form, trying to find more beautiful Wonderlands.

Splintered is a retelling of Alice in Wonderland and I believe that the novel beautifully captures the nonsense and strangeness that the original tale contained and screams a bit of the delicious madness of American McGee’s Alice and Alice: Madness Returns. I only say a bit because those games are so disturbing and mad that they will scar you.

A.G. Howard vividly paints a twisted Wonderland that is full of life with her words. Howard masterfully creates twisted versions of the inhabitants of Wonderland with a clever mind. The author’s writing is evocative and detailed but it never becomes too flowery. The text itself is also very wonderful, dipped in violet.

Almost all the characters–side characters and main– are excellent. First, I would like to tip my hat to the twisted versions of the Alice in Wonderland characters. I loved them all. The morbidly cute Mustela netherling, the ugly little fairies, the woman who can’t remember anything without her ribbons, White Rabid, Chessie, and a great many more. They were all so colorful and eccentric that I grew attached to them quickly!

Alyssa Gardner, Morpheus, and Jeb are the main characters of this novel.  I only warmed up to two of them: Alyssa and Morpheus. Those two grew and developed which is something that I require in most books. Alyssa had a very long journey and she grew, developed, and became a stronger character. She also had her own interesting quirk–making mosaics with bugs? Yes, definitely a strange quirk. Morpheus is, to be put simple, a character that I loved and loathed. His cryptic words and scheming behind the scenes made me hate him. But he is very honest about himself, I think and some of his dialogue is very humorous. And when his regrets were revealed I felt really sorry for him. The only character I didn’t like was Jeb. Jeb was the weakest character of the group. He ruffled my feathers often. I didn’t find much personality to him

There is a love triangle in Splintered. I don’t abhor it but I do think that this novel would be better without it. Splintered had its moments where the focus was on the love triangle and not the fantastic world that Howard created. I found this incredibly irritating.

Darn, love triangle…

There is pain that the characters have to go through. Past regrets and guilt, allegedly insane family members, the threat of going mad yourself, having trouble fitting in, not feeling comfortable in your own skin, and abuse. There is also the fact that two characters have to travel and survive a insane world filled with dangers. Awhile there aren’t any tear jerking moments in this novel I did feel sorry for the characters–yes, even Jeb to some extent.

And have I mentioned how fun it was to find all the allusions–other than the all twisted up characters– to the original Alice in Wonderland? No? Well, it was very fun! Being the Alice in Wonderland fanatic I am I kept a close eye out for any allusions…even the smallest ones. There are even some nods American McGee’s Alice. One allusion to the game that I particularly liked was the Vorpal Sword.

This is a book in which the author clearly did her research and spent a lot of effort on coming up with the ideas–which were very unique. This novel does have its flaws but the fantastic Wonderland, allusions, and original ideas made it worth reading.

The Golden Twine by Jo Rioux: review

The Golden Twine by Jo Rioux

Series: Cat’s Cradle #1

My rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

Age Group: Middle Grade

Genre: Fantasy, Adventure

Publisher: Kids Can Press

Release Date:  August 1st 2012

Synopsis: To most, Suri is just an orphan in a traveling caravan. But Suri is determined to prove she has the mettle of a monster tamer. When she unknowingly takes something valuable from a caitsith — a cat monster — she will have to quickly harness her powers … if she even has them!

My thoughts: Suri, an orphaned girl who lives in a traveling caravan, believes that she is a monster tamer. To the people around her, however, she is just a young girl. The persistent Suri is determined to prove to her peers that she really is monster tamer. One day Suri takes something very important from a caitsith without even knowing it. In order to protect herself, Suri must use her powers and skills as a monster tamer…

This was a fun, short graphic novel to read. The Golden Twine is certainly not a perfect graphic novel but it was still able to keep me reading until the last page.

Suri is a heroine that is easily likeable with her feisty and persistent personality. She is a very determined young girl and I like that about her…Even though that determination gets Suri into unneeded trouble most of the time. The caravan that Suri lives in was an interesting setting. It had a mix of a gypsy camp and circus-like feel to it and I absolutely adored that. It’s not everyday that I see a graphic novel with this particular setting.

The area that Rioux really excels in is art. The blending of colors is beautiful, and the color pallets chooses for each panel set the mood fantastically. Rioux is able to draw the expressions on the character’s faces clearly. The character designs are very pretty. I am particularly in love with Suri’s outfit. And the way the monsters are drawn make them look menacing and dangerous but not to frightening.The illustrations alone are a good reason to buy this graphic novel.

The only problem I had with The Golden Twine is that fact that it was so short. There isn’t much character development, and I wish that information about the fantasy world Rioux created was revealed slowly instead of being told all at ounce at the beginning.

Even though The Golden Twine does have its flaws I do want to spend more time with Suri, and read more about her adventures. The Golden Twine does end in a cliffhanger so that is another reason. So when the next installment comes out, I will be hunting it down.

*An advanced copy was given to me by the publisher via Netgalley

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling: review

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Harry Potter, #1)Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

Series: Harry Potter #1

Genre: Childrens Fiction, Adventure, Fantasy, Middle Grade Fiction

Publisher: Scholastic Press

Synopsis: Harry Potter has no idea how famous he is. That’s because he’s being raised by his miserable aunt and uncle who are terrified Harry will learn that he’s really a wizard, just as his parents were. But everything changes when Harry is summoned to attend an infamous school for wizards, and he begins to discover some clues about his illustrious birthright. From the surprising way he is greeted by a lovable giant, to the unique curriculum and colorful faculty at his unusual school, Harry finds himself drawn deep inside a mystical world he never knew existed and closer to his own noble destiny.

Harry Potter is a magical experience! I loved the world Rowling created, her writing, and the story so much! I finished this faster than I thought I would! I really wish I had read this sooner because now I know what I have been missing! I also love the cover so much! The illustration is so cute and I love the style!

The characters are all colorful and relatable. I thought the characters were very well-developed. At first I thought that Harry was just a character to be pitied but after reading more about him I learned that he really had some good qualities. He is very brave, smart, and knew how to hold his own. Ron was a really cute and fun character. Hermione is a great female character. She might seem a little snobby and maybe unlikable at first but I started to really love her as the story progressed. Hermione was a very smart and brave character and I really loved how she had goals set for her life. I didn’t like Draco but I feel there is more to his character than there is revealed in this book and I hope there will be more development of Draco’s character in the next book. Severus Snape was a very mysterious character and I really wanted to know more about him! Rowling has given us information about him but I still want to know more about him-I love him as a character that much! Dumbledore was a very awesome character and he also has awesome quotes!

“It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live, remember that.”

“After all, to the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure.”

“The truth is a beautiful and terrible thing, and should therefore be treated with great caution.”

The Dursleys were very hateable and I really wanted to get a wand and turn them all into pigs!

The story was spendid and had a great pace! The mystery is very mysterious and I had to force myself not to look ahead. Suspense, excitement, and mystery was weaved into the story with a lot of skill. I really loved how Rowling had a lot of foreshadowing in her writing! You have to pay close attention for clues! The world building was superb. There is a lot of wands, robes, wizard hats, and broomsticks and I loved it all! Rowling was very creative and I really liked how she built the magical world that is Harry Potter. I loved reading about the photographs with the subjects moving inside them, the ingredients used for a spell, the Hogwarts houses, and everything else in the book! Rowling did an exquisite job with building the magic of the world and the Hogwarts Academy of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Rowling has such fantastic writing! Her descriptions of the magical world was very detailed and I could imagine Hogwarts with such clarity. Her writing is creative and I enjoyed reading the words for the spells! Her ideas are refreshing and very entertaining. My only complaint was the use of capital letters when someone is yelling or screaming. It just irks me a bit when authors do that but I will forgive this book.

Harry Potter is a great and fantastic read that will have you sitting in your chair all day until you finish it! Rowling’s writing, characters, and world building sucks you in and makes you a part of the story.

 I give Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone 4 out of 5 Wands

Graceling by Kristin Cashore: review

Graceling (Graceling Realm, #1)Title: Graceling

Author: Kristin Cashore

Series: Graceling Realm #1

Genre: YA Fiction, Fantasy, Romance, Adventure

Publisher: Harcourt

Synopsis: In a world where people born with an extreme skill – called a Grace – are feared and exploited, Katsa carries the burden of the skill even she despises: the Grace of killing. She lives under the command of her uncle Randa, King of the Middluns, and is expected to execute his dirty work, punishing and torturing anyone who displeases him.
When she first meets Prince Po, who is Graced with combat skills, Katsa has no hint of how her life is about to change.
She never expects to become Po’s friend.
She never expects to learn a new truth about her own Grace – or about a terrible secret that lies hidden far away…a secret that could destroy all seven kingdoms with words alone.

I am just astounded with Graceling! I never was a high fantasy reader but this book is convincing me I should read more of it. I do not just love Cashore’s writing. I practically worship her writing.

The characters were extraordinary! Katsa is definitely one of the most kick butt heroines I have ever read. She is courageous, smart, daring, and selfless. The things she would do to help the people she cares and loves for are dangerous but she takes the risk anyway. She is not the one to fling herself into danger unless she knows she can do it or she absolutely has to. Katsa is a very good role-model for children and I admire her greatly. She is a very respectable character. Po was a fantastic male main character. He was respectful, tough, caring, and was not at all controlling which was very refreshing as I am seeing many controlling male characters in the Young Adult genre this year. He was a very swoon-worthy character. Do not get the idea that these characters are perfect though. They are very flawed but the way they overcome those flaws throughout the book was made them so admirable. Bitterblue(I love her name) is a strong and fine character to. The way she reacted to things fitted very well to what she is: a princess but also a child. Leck, the villain in Graceling was very evil and cruel. The way he used his Grace was horrible. A very well made villain indeed.

The story is an adventure story meaning that there was a lot of traveling. I was surprised as books with lots of traveling in them normally bore me easily but Graceling did not. In fact I was totally enraptured in the traveling. Reading about the different places and settings was very interesting and enjoyable. The romance between Katsa and Po was very well-developed! There was no annoying insta-love or the annoying I-will-not-be-with-you-because-I-am-dangerouse thing either. Reading about Katsa and Po’s developing relationship was very entertaining. The climax did seem a bit rushed though. There was so much build-up and then it just..stopped. I did enjoy reading about the Seven Kingdoms.

The way the story was written is lovely! The words flowed very. The exchange of dialogue between characters never felt forced and the descriptions of the places was detailed but not overly detailed.

Graceling is a very endearing and unique novel and if I ever met Kristen Cashore-whom I love- my reaction would be:

Fix hair.

Then fangirl

I give Graceling 4 out of 5 Stars