Book Review: Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen

Will Scarlet is good at two things: stealing from the rich and keeping secrets – skills that are in high demand in Robin Hood’s band of thieves, who protect the people of Nottingham from the evil sheriff. Scarlet’s biggest secret of all is one only Robin and his men know…that she is posing as a thief; that the slip of a boy who is fast with sharp knives is really a girl.

The terrible events in her past that led Scarlet to hide her real identity are in danger of being exposed when the thief taker Lord Gisbourne arrives in town to rid Nottingham of the Hood and his men once and for all. As Gisbourne closes in a put innocent lives at risk, Scarlet must decide how much the people of Nottingham mean to her, especially John Little, a flirtatious fellow outlaw, and Robin, whose quick smiles have the rare power to unsettle her. There is real honor among these thieves and so much more – making this a fight worth dying for.

 

The only tale I know of Robin Hood is the Disney movie. (It was never my favorite, I was more of a fan of Ariel.) When I started this book I was not expecting much, but I enjoy a story about a strong female. I was actually expecting to stop reading halfway through. While this is not my favorite book it did keep my interest enough for me to finish. The entire time I wanted to know what was going to happen next.

-Some Spoilers-

The thing I disliked most about Scarlet was the love triangle. As an avid romance novel reader I can get how it can get the story moving and keep the reader guessing.  In this book I didn’t want there to be a love triangle. I wanted to see Scarlet play with knives and be a strong female lead on her own with no help from anyone. Maybe the love triangle has some sort of purpose later in the series. Even though I didn’t like love triangle, I still went with it because I am trash for any type of romance story.

-BIG SPOILER-

I was surprised when I found out Scarlet was actually a noble lady. It all made sense, why she was hiding with this band of thieves, why she was so freaked out when Lord Gisbourne came to Nottingham.  I was especially surprised she is engaged Lord Gisbourne. I guess that makes it a love square? When you find out some of the background as to why she is hiding you understand why she is doing what she is doing.

Overall I enjoyed the book, especially that she was strong and didn’t give up when things got hard and that she kept fighting.  It kept me guessing and interested enough to finish. – Liz
3.5 Bards

Scarlet


Kindle Edition: Check Amazon for Pricing Digital Only

Book Review: American Girls by Alison Umminger

She was looking for a place to land.

Anna is a fifteen-year-old girl slouching toward adulthood, and she’s had it with her life at home. So Anna “borrows” her stepmom’s credit card an runs away to Los Angeles, where her half-sister takes her in. But LA isn’t quite the glamorous escape Anna had imagined.

As Anna spends her days on TV and movie sets, she engrosses herself in a project researching the murderous Manson girls—and although the violence in her own life isn’t the kind that leaves physical scars, she begins to notice the parallels between herself and the lost girls of LA, and of America, past and present.

There are a few things that I found a bit weird about this novel, but I will tell you that the first thing that threw me off about this book is the title.  “American Girls,” just really didn’t seem to fit with the overall narrative of the story, and I definitely prefer the UK title, “My Favourite Manson Girl,” as that phrase is uttered multiple times throughout the story.  Plus, the cover for that novel is way more fitting.  Although it does feature the popular rounded sunglasses of the 60’s much like the cover of The Girls by Emma Cline, and they were being released on the same day, so I understand if the publisher decided to go a different way because of that.

I basically decided to pick up this novel because it was influenced heavily by the Manson family murders and found it interesting that two novels, one a cross-over adult novel (The Girls) and a young adult novel (American Girls) featuring details about some of the most infamous female criminals in history.  Now, where The Girls is set during the summer of 1969 and leads up to the family murders, American Girls tries to parallel some of the basic human aspects of these women and the narrator and her sister.

American Girls really is more of a commentary on life in Los Angeles and the modern teen than anything else, but there are some things that just didn’t sit right with me.  I found the main narrator, Anna, to be incredibly unlikable. She basically threw a $500 temper tantrum over feeling lonely and disregarded by her mother and her stepmother.  You don’t find out until later that she is being forced to switch schools (also something that happens to the narrator of The Girls) due to being part of some significantly disturbing bullying.  She somehow ends up being able to stay in LA with her sister after her $500 runaway scheme and is handed all of these opportunities that she takes for granted and doesn’t appreciate.

Sure, she gets in the middle of the weird life of her sister, who to be honest, I found more likable due to her acknowledgement and acceptance of her mistakes and who she is as a person, despite her flaws.  There are some pretty gruesome things that happen to her sister because of her idiotic choices, and there is a stalker/creeper factor going on that I think could have been a stronger plot point than it was, but I understand that the majority of the novel is about Anna’s journey rather than anything else.

The writing was fairly standard for a young adult novel, there wasn’t anything absolutely impressive about the narrative voice, word selection, or any risks taken with style.

I know it seems that I kind of bashed this novel, but overall, despite the flaws, I still found it an enjoyable read.  It isn’t one that I’d likely re-read over and over, unlike The Virgin Suicides (another novel about the lives of teen girls and the implications of the world around them), but it is one that I’d willingly recommend.

I’m going to give this novel an average rating of 3 Bards

threebards

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Queen of Hearts by Colleen Oakes

queenofheartsAs Princess of Wonderland Palace and the future Queen of Hearts, Dinah’s days are an endless monotony of tea, tarts, and a stream of vicious humiliations at the hands of her father, the King of Hearts. The only highlight of her days is visiting Wardley, her childhood best friend, the future Knave of Hearts — and the love of her life.

When an enchanting stranger arrives at the Palace, Dinah watches as everything she’s ever wanted threatens to crumble. As her coronation date approaches, a series of suspicious and bloody events suggests that something sinister stirs in the whimsical halls of Wonderland. It’s up to Dinah to unravel the mysteries that lurk both inside and under the Palace before she loses her own head to a clever and faceless foe.

It has been a long time since I’ve read a novel where I genuinely dislike almost every character.  I understand why this was necessary in a novel like Queen of Hearts as it is the story of a villainess becoming who she is meant to be by the time Alice arrives in Wonderland.

However, I couldn’t quite get past the feeling that all these characters needed a good slap.

Seriously.  Not only is Dinah hardly likable until the events at the end of the novel, but she is a spoiled brat who has some serious daddy issues.  Now if this had been done in a way to make her more sympathetic as a character, then I would be fine with it.  But it is almost as if Dinah is all hard edges and no smooth curves.  The King of Hearts is just as bad, a petulant adult still steaming from a past transgression and taking it out on his oldest daughter and doting on his illegitimate offspring despite the traditional lineage of the throne.

(^^^Seriously, the cover is absolutely gorgeous and it really does look like it could be the companion to the limited edition Queen of Hearts doll by Disney.)

Speaking of Vittiore, she is about as flat as a cardboard cut out and it was fairly obvious from around halfway through that she was simply a plot device and another way for Dinah to be enraged.

I think the only characters that really redeemed anything about characterization in this novel was her younger brother, the Mad Hatter character, who suffers from a sort of mental illness rather than mercury induced mania that Victorian hatters were known to succumb to.  Harris, the white rabbit character, I also found endearing, but he was very simply the same embodiment of the follower that he would be in the original novel.

I think the world building was the strongest point in this novel, as I really enjoyed the different aspects of the Court of the Hearts and the different rankings of Cards (which served as Security, Torturers, Accountants, and Soldiers), and the Black Towers.  That was the only part I found to be significant to the plot, as the rest of the novel sometimes felt like Dinah was just complaining to her long-time crush, Wardley.  Who, by the way, is so obviously uninterested that it made Dinah seem more like a mooning preteen than a teenager and future Queen.

The entire novel really just felt like it could have been a prequel short story in a lot of ways, or maybe a short novella.  However, as I am a giant Alice in Wonderland fangirl, Oakes can count on me reading the next installment, out January 2017.

I’m going to give it around 3 Bards as I found it average but with potential.

threebards

rykemedows:

Maybe the princess can save herself.
That sounds like a pretty good story too.

http://www.amidsummernightsread.com/2690-2/

I am in love with all of my Maas inspired candles by The Melting Library

http://www.amidsummernightsread.com/2705-2/

http://www.amidsummernightsread.com/2717-2/

Queen’s English: Avoiding life

Queen’s English: Avoiding life

I hope you will read and feel less alone in your journey. 

The Re-Read Frenzy

So, now that Summer has rolled around and changes are hitting the Midsummer team (Jess is starting a new job and Olyvia is moving to Texas) we have both been caught up in re-reading some of our favorites. Re-reading can be something that can make you feel comfortable and as if you are hanging out with an old friend.  There is also something to be said about how re-reading can encourage children to continue to discover new novels and stories similar to those they already love.  In fact, I really think that re-reading was a huge influence on how much I adore reading today.

Although, to be fair, the first book I liked to re-read was The Foot Book by Dr. Seuss and I didn’t so much read it as I had it memorized and would randomly flip the pages to make it look like I was reading! (I was a precocious kid)

Another benefit of re-reading favorites is that you will always find something new.  I’m yet to re-read a novel and be unsurprised by a small detail I’ve never noticed or even had a specific sentence or scene jump out at me in a whole new way.  It’s so fun.

From two book nerds to you: here are some of our favorite re-reads and why we enjoy taking time out of our busy reading schedule to sit back down and remember why we loved them in the first place.

Olyvia: It helps when I’m in a reading slump, but also when I can’t choose what to read next, if I go back to my favorites I’ll usually pick something new but similar.

Olyvia’s Go-To Re-Reads

The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
Throne of Glass Series by Sarah J. Maas
Anything Libba Bray.

Jessica’s Go-To Re-Reads: 

Throne of Glass Series by Sarah J. Maas
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

What are some of your favorite re-reads?  What book do you always turn to in time of reading slump or indecision?

If anything, you can take this from our post: Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas is definitely a series you should pick up, read, and re-read.

Book Review: A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

Feyre survived Amarantha’s clutches to return to the Spring Court—but at a steep cost. Though she now has the powers of the High Fae, her heart remains human, and it can’t forget the terrible deeds she performed to save Tamlin’s people.

Nor has Feyre forgotten her bargain with Rhysand, High Lord of the feared Night Court. As Feyre navigates its dark web of politics, passion, and dazzling power, a greater evil looms—and she might be key to stopping it. But only if she can harness her harrowing gifts, heal her fractured soul, and decide how she wishes to shape her future—and the future of a world cleaved in two.

Holy nail biting absolutely jaw-dropping awesomeness.

As I put in one of my tumblr posts about ACOMAF, this whole novel can basically be summed up in this gif:

Basically.

The entire novel is pretty much Feyre finally coming into her own as a high fae and discovering her own worth is within herself and that she is not just the woman who saved the entire fae race for the sake of first love.

Speaking of said first love, the best part of me reading this and remembering that the first novel was supposed to be a kind of Beauty & the Beast type of story, was realizing that Tamlin is actually the Gaston of the story and Rhysand is the Beast. Reasoning? Gaston consistently referred to Belle as serving as his loving, doting, “little” wife, who would be responsible for his household while he is out hunting and galavanting.  Belle, and Feyre, want more than this “provincial” life.  The only saving grace for Tamlin in opposed to Gaston is that he seems to genuinely love Feyre, whereas Gaston just wanted Belle because she was the prettiest lady in the land.

As for Rhysand being the misunderstood man who served his time as a beast underneath the mountain and thought he would never see light (literally and figuratively) or love again, gives Feyre/Belle her own space in his home to heal herself and find home.  He even has a merry band of amazing friends a la Lumiere, Cogsworth, Mrs. Potts, etc that Feyre befriends and grows to love.  Speaking of his friends, Mor is my favorite of the new characters. Her quote, “There are good days and hard days for me – Even now. Don’t let the hard days win,” is one of my favorites from the novel. MOR YOU ARE A BEAUTIFUL LAND MERMAID AND NO MAN SHALL TAME YOU OR CLAIM YOU, AS YOU HAVE CLAIMED YOURSELF.

There’s such an interesting juxtaposition between the Spring Court and the Night Court.  The Spring Court relegates Feyre, and consequently most women, to her miniscule role within their court, just a figurehead of the triumph Under the Mountain, rather than someone with actual opinions and powers.  However, the Night Court heralds two women as the second and third in command, providing them with the ability to govern themselves and have opinions in the matters of the court.  Not only does this environment allow Feyre to blossom and grow into her new abilities and life as an immortal, it literally restores her from the waif she was becoming while in Tamlin’s household.

Seriously though, Rhysand, Mor, Cassian, Azriel, and Amren are squad goals.

I’m just going to put this here: Chapters 54 & 55 are jaw-dropping. Love it. I refuse to spoil these for you, just read the book and get to this part!

The end was absolutely awe inspiring and the little knowledge at the end that the conflict between these two courts and the King of Hybern is nowhere near completed is making me so anxious for the next novel that I’m tempted to steal a timelord, hop in the Tardis and go get the next novel now.

If you haven’t read the first novel, A Court of Thorns and Roses, you can check out my review by clicking on the title. (Yes you will realize that I was on Tamlin’s side at first. Big mistake on my part. Or was it just clever writing and character construction?) Or if you found yourself underwhelmed by the first installment, I highly encourage you to pick up a copy of A Court of Mist and Fury, you will not be disappointed by the “wow women are powerful,” vibe and the smutty goodness.

I could keep gushing, but I’ll just end it with this:

5 Bards.

fivebards

 

 

 

Blog Tour: Scarlett Epstein Hates it Here

scarlettepsteintour

 

It is Midsummer’s stop on the Scarlett Epstein Hates it Here blog tour hosted by Penguin Teen!

Be sure to check out the information on the novel, listen to the playlist for Ashley, and order a copy of this unforgettable novel.  My review will be up next week, so stay tuned!

Meet Scarlett Epstein, BNF (Big Name Fan) in her online community of fanfiction writers, world-class nobody at Melville High. Her best (read: only) IRL friends are Avery, a painfully shy and annoyingly attractive bookworm, and Ruth, her weed-smoking, possibly insane seventy-three-year-old neighbor.

When Scarlett’s beloved TV show is canceled and her longtime crush, Gideon, is sucked out of her orbit and into the dark and distant world of Populars, Scarlett turns to the fanfic message boards for comfort. This time, though, her subjects aren’t the swoon-worthy stars of her fave series—they’re the real-life kids from her high school. And if they ever find out what Scarlett truly thinks about them, she’ll be thrust into a situation far more dramatic than anything she’s ever seen on TV…

 

“Hands To Myself,” Selena Gomez
She’s choreographing a cheer set to this song, so she listens to it like a zillion times a day.

“Fancy,” Iggy Azalea
The song she listens to when she’s driving to school (which her twin sister Avery hates, but too freaking bad).

“In The Night,” The Weeknd
She listens to this when she’s taking an evening drive by herself, just to CVS or something. It’s her time to be alone.

“Story of My Life,” One Direction
She and Avery sing along with this song in the car on the way home (assuming Ave’s not hanging out with that pretentious d-bag Scarlett).

“Hello,” Adele
When she’s sad about Gideon.

“Chichester Psalms,” Leonard Bernstein
She first listened to these to impress this college guy she was dating, but wound up loving them herself. She always cries at the end of III.

“Trap Queen,” Fetty Wap
The summer song that seems to play at all the block parties in the neighborhood that her family goes to.

“How Deep Is Your Love,” Calvin Harris & Disciples
Sexy shower-singing song.

“Let It Go,” Idina Menzel
Empowering shower-singing song.

“Work,” Rihanna
On in the background as she and her friends pregame for a house party.

“Ultralight Beam,” Kanye West
On in the background if she’s pregaming alone for a house party.

“Elastic Heart,” Sia
To remind herself she’s stronger than people think she is.

“All Of Me,” John Legend
She imagines this being her first dance as prom queen.

“Bad Blood,” Taylor Swift
Sometimes, remembering some diss Scarlett shot in her direction, she blasts this in the car and scream-sings it.

Swan Lake, Op.20, Act I: 2. Waltz (Tempo di valse)
She remembers this from ballet class—she quit because she wasn’t the best student there, and misses it sometimes—and listens to it often.

 

Buy the book:

Scarlett Epstein Hates It Here

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