Sunday, March 23, 2014

"The Ring and the Crown" by Melissa de la Cruz

(image borrowed from

4/5 stars

Set in an alternate early 1900s England, The Ring and the Crown follows the stories of several characters as they attempt to navigate the London season. 

Princess Marie-Victoria, as heir to the throne, must marry to make an alliance with a neighboring country to end a war, and secure the royal line. Aelwyn, the daughter of the Mage of England, has recently returned to London after a magical misshape four years ago that banned her from court.  American Ronan is on her way to London for the season to make a marriage match and save her family from financial disaster.  Wolf would rather participate in underground fight matches than face his duties as a Prince of Prussia and attend the London season to celebrate his brother’s engagement.  And Isabelle has just had her engagement broken and must now face the court that caused it.

The Ring and the Crown is a story that has everything you would expect in a book set during the London season: romance, political intrigue, duels, and murder attempts.  What makes this story different is the large presence of magic.  This entire world is completely dependent on magic and it is used to show wealth and power.  If you don’t have magicians at your every beck and call, then you are nothing. 

The characters in this story are very strong, although you don’t really see a whole lot of development.  All of the characters with POVs are very likable, even though they have plenty of personal flaws.  You see the biggest changes with Marie-Victoria and Aelwyn, as they discover their roles in the world and make decisions based on what’s best for others, rather than themselves.  If there are changes with the other characters, they’re kind of minor.  Ronan and Isabelle sort of just get tossed to the side at the end.

I think my biggest problem with the story was the pacing.  The first three quarters of the book had a nice, steady pace.  You were introduced to the characters and the world, and everything was explained well.  But then at the end, everything speeds up!  All of a sudden, all the big dramatic stuff is happening with little explanation.  I was left a little dizzy and a tad confused.  I’m just going to go ahead and assume that many of these things will be answered in the sequel (goodreads says that this is book 1, so I’m assuming this will become a series).

I really enjoyed this book and would definitely recommend to anyone who loves books about royalty and the London season.  This is a fascinating new twist to the London season and I enjoyed every minute!

I was given an ARC of this book through the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

"Cruel Beauty" by Rosamund Hodge

(image borrowed from

5/5 Stars

I do really enjoy a good “Beauty and the Beast” retelling.  What I liked about this book is that it took a different path than most of the ones I’ve read.  In this story, Beauty is an assassin by the name of Nyx.  Promised since birth to wed the evil demon ruler, the Gentle Lord, Nyx has been trained to destroy her future husband once she enters his castle.  But the Gentle Lord, Ignifex, isn’t exactly as evil as Nyx has been taught to believe.  Soon she realizes that Ignifex might be just as much a victim as the rest of her kingdom.

Cruel Beauty is a wonderfully written debut novel!  Nyx is a well-developed character, with visible flaws and growth throughout the book.  You can actually watch her go from a scornful and angry girl, to a loving and confident woman who understands what is important in life.  Ignifex is quite the charmer and you cannot help but immediately like him once he is introduced.

The story line definitely follows that of Beauty and the Beast, but it also has many unique additions that keep you guessing as you read.  I also greatly enjoyed the Greek mythology that is prominent in the story and how it is interwoven into the plot.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who loves fairy tale retellings with a new twist.  I am looking forward to what Ms. Hodge will come up with next!

"Doll Bones" by Holly Black

(image borrowed from

5/5 Stars

I cannot stop gushing about this book!  I don't normally read a lot of ghost stories, but this was so well written and fun that I just want to tell the whole world about it! 

Zach, Poppy, and Alice have been best friends for a very long time and the big thing that bonds them together is "the game", which they play with their action figures. But when Zach's dad says it’s time to grow and throws away his toys, everything changes between the three friends.  Desperate to get Zach’s friendship back, Poppy and Alice unknowingly release the spirit of a girl that is connected to an old doll.  Now they have to take the doll to the girl’s grave or she will haunt them forever.

I think my favorite part of this book is the history behind the haunted doll.  It is extremely creepy and even maybe a little gruesome when you really think about it.  But Holly Black went into such detail about it and it’s fun to finally put all the bits and pieces of the story together at the end.  And although the characters don’t exactly interact with the ghost (she usually sends them messages while they are asleep), there is clearly a lot of evidence that she is real and wants to be laid to rest.

It’s also an underlying theme about growing up.  The characters are 12 years old, so I’m guessing they are in 6th or 7th grade.  This is such a hard time for kids, and that is displayed in the way the characters develop through the story, and voiced by Poppy, who fears her friends changing while she stays the same.  I feel like several students would be able to relate this change and may even have the same fears as Poppy.

As an elementary school librarian, my students are always asking me for “scary stories.”  In the past week I have book talked this story to many of my 4th and 5th graders and have been desperate to find a quick way to get multiple copies for my kiddos.  This book has been my favorite ghost story since “The Seer of Shadows” by Avi.  Read this book!  It won a Newbery Honor for a reason!


Welcome to my blog.  Yeah I'm now one of those people.  But don't worry, I don't really plan on blogging a lot of stuff about my life (because, let's face it, I'm boring sometimes).  You will mostly see book reviews on here in my attempt to become a "professional reader."  As a librarian, it is my duty to read books and then recommend the heck out of them!  You will see mostly Young Adult (YA) and children's literature, but I am known to throw a few adult books in there every once in a while.  So I hope you enjoy and don't get bored :-)