BEASTKEEPER by Cat Helligan [Review]

Beastkeeper was a middle-grade twist on the classic tale of Beauty and the Beast. But despite this being told from a thirteen-year-old’s point-of-view, this is no happy tale. This is a bittersweet story of love, loss, and magic. And also a talking white raven.

(Now we all know this is a plus for me because I LOVE ravens. And birds in general. I’m a fanatic.)

➸ Writing

Hellisen’s writing style is very poetic without being too ornate. I adored her use of similes and metaphors, the pretty nouns and verbs she would use rather than an overdose of adjectives.

Sarah tiptoed along the landing towards her parents’ room and wondered what flavor silence was, and if it grew hard and brittle if you threw it away, or if people sometimes stepped on wads of discarded silence and stuck it to the soles of their shoes and made their footfalls softer.

I loved her style, however there was more showing rather than telling. At least twenty-five percent of the story was told in other stories, rather than the main character, Sarah, learning herself. Don’t get me wrong, I love when another character drops a bomb on the main character by telling the real story–I’ve written scenes like those myself–but when the novel is this short, I think it was excessive.

“People fall out of love slower than they fall in, to be sure, but there’s the story no one wants to tell. It’s dull. Boring. The good ones don’t always win. Nothing lasts forever.”

BUT STILL THESE QUOTES. So many pretty words, guys.

➸ Plot

Sarah and her parents have always been on the move, running away from the cold. Sarah knows her parents are running from some kind of magic, but she doesn’t realize what until her whole life suddenly turns askew.

Despite being told Beastkeeper is a Beauty and the Beast retelling, it didn’t seem to have many elements of the classic tale, which is fine. I actually like when books diverge from the original story. But as I said before, it just felt like barely anything happened.

This book could have been a whole one-hundred pages longer and given more depth to the story. There was so much more I wanted to explore, rather than having the key points shown to me flat-out.

➸ Characters

With the amount of action and lack of pages, I felt like I came away not knowing much about the characters. I knew about a few likes and dislikes, but that was about it. The characters were created well, though I think they needed more page-time to truly blossom.

Again, I think the biggest loss with this book is it wasn’t long enough to give significant depth to anything. I like short reads, but I think this should’ve been paced differently because of the length.

➸ Overall: ★★★

This was a good book and an interesting retelling. If I wasn’t in the midst of finishing my own book, I would’ve finished this about a week ago. So if you’re looking for something quick and/or a fairy tale without all of the happy, bubbly magic, then give Beastkeeper a go.

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WARM BODIES by Isaac Marion [Review]

Alright, so I’ve committed one of the ultimate sins of reading by watching the film first. HOWEVER, back when I watched the film, I wasn’t reading and I had no idea it was originally a novel. But much like Divergent, watching the film had no impact on me reading the original tale. In fact, I loved it so much more and made me appreciate each project for what it was.

➸ Writing

First, we have to talk about the writing style. Marion has such an eloquent style that is both beautiful and gritty, real and raw like the life we live. He creates these magnificent strings of words that made me go back and read again and again, and may have also made me extremely shameful as an aspiring novelist.

“The world that birthed that story is long gone, all its people are dead, but it continues to touch the present and future because someone cared enough about that world to keep it. To put it in words. To remember it.”

This novel touched upon so many subjects with a grace I can’t even begin to describe. But it was sentences like the one above that me remember why I love writing and why I shouldn’t ever stop. Why I should always live for what I want and never give up no matter what’s going on around me.

In my short life I made so many choices just because I thought they were required, but my dad was right: there’s no rule book for the world. It’s in our heads, our collective human hive-mind. If there are no rules, we’re the ones making them. We can change them whenever we want to.

I could have tabbed just about every sentence in this book, but I kept it to the ones that really stuck with me. So now let’s move onto the plot before I go on and on about Marion’s writing, because I’m OBSESSED with it.

➸ Plot

I know, I know. It sounds silly. A zombie falling in love with a human girl? No way. But read it. This has layers upon laytes of deeper meanings that are incredibly beautiful and true.

There were certainly moments where the plot seemed a little too outlandish, but I adore fiction. I love the impossible coming to life on paper. Isn’t that what books are all about? Bringing magic and the impossible to life? I think so.

➸ Characters

Loved them. They were all so real and genuine, flawed and torn at the edges as everyone is. R’s personal commentary was witty and fun, but also insightful and curious–traits that I can relate to. (I also heard Nicholas Hoult’s voice in my head as I was reading this, so that was a plus.)

I also really liked Julie and her personality through it all, though I did find some of her behavior to be a bit off for certain events. Grief hits us all in different ways, but her reaction was quite diverse than what I see from most. Honestly, I would say it was unrealistic, but as I said, everyone is different and handles things in their own way. I just thought it was strange, to say the least.

ALSO LET’S TALK ABOUT NORA. I always love a sassy sidekick, but Nora was more than a sidekick. She was an awesome addition to the novel that elevated the development of the characters and detailed their backstories. Again, I appreciate her realness and her genuine nature. She was relatable and a great assest to the overall storyline.

➸ Overall: ★★★★✩

I loved it. I could see picking this up again in the future for a re-read because it was that good. Just read it, guys. READ IT.

September Wrap-Up [2016]

September has been a wild month of writing and reading and emotions. I wrote a total of 27,000+ words towards my current WIP (read more in my writing update section) and read five books. I also may have had a few little meltdowns about finishing my book and worried that everyone will hate it and that I’ll never get published and be a failure.

You know, the usual month for me.

BUT ANYWAYS, September is over and October is here, which means it’s time to review over what I’ve read. I was hoping to read more this month, but five is a great count towards knocking down my TBR. Though from here on until the end of the year, I’m not going to add any more books to my TBR and instead focus on reading the ninety-two books I have to read. My goal is to try to read twenty more books by the end of the year, knocking it down to around seventy. But that would mean I would have to read about ten books each month, SO WE SHALL SEE.

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1. My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Jodi Meadows, and Brodi Ashton

Rating: ★★★★☆

Review:

My Lady Jane was such a fun historical retelling. It was lighthearted and humorous without being cheesy. It had the proper amount of sass and modern references to make me smile and laugh, all while keeping me intrigued by the political drama of the novel.

Ashton, Brodi, and Meadows banded together to create a magnificent book that yanked me right out of my reading slump. My Lady Jane was the first book in months that I was aching to pick back up and finish. Summer leached those feelings away, but My Lady Jane brought them back. So thank you, my dear darlings.

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2. Metaltown by Kristen Simmons

Rating: ★★★

Review:

I was lucky enough to win an ARC of Metaltown by the lovely Kristen Simmons herself. I had already read The Glass Arrow from Simmons last year and loved it. And though I didn’t love Metaltown as much as The Glass Arrow, it was still a riveting story with a grungy, sci-fi setting that will pull you down into its dirty depths. Despite this being a fictional world, it isn’t too different from our own. This is sure to open your eyes about certain topics.

You can find my full review for Metaltown here.

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3. Wendy Darling: Seas by Colleen Oakes

Rating: ★★★

Review:

Wendy Darling: Seas is the sequel to Wendy Darling: Stars, a retelling of Peter and Wendy told from Wendy’s perspective. But this retelling has a dark, twisted underbelly that will leave you gaping. Oakes’ lush writing style will entwine you in this new version of Neverland, one where Peter is the villain.

I can’t say too much about Seas being that it is a sequel, but I can say that it was an enjoyable read spilling over with blood and magic. But like most sequels, I don’t feel too much happened. Although, the development within the characters was superb. Definitely give this series a read if you haven’t already!

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4. The Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell

Rating: ★★★

Review:

The Wolf Wilder was an adventurous middle-grade novel with a snowy, Russian atmosphere, sassy children, and WOLVES. I mean, what’s NOT to love about that. And also, LOOK AT THIS COVER AND THIS FONT OMG.

*clears throat* Alright, but despite these qualities, I only liked this novel. There were some wonderful quotes wrapped up in this wintry environment, but I wasn’t too fond of any of the characters. We all know I love sass. All of my stories are full of sass. But I wasn’t able to connect with any of these characters and found their sass to have a little too much attitude. Still, this was a quick and easy read with a stunning setting.

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5. Vixen by Rosie Garland

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Review:

With the gorgeous cover and the interesting synopsis of Vixen, I was expecting a lush historical tale with hints of magical realism and possibly a dark setting, being that it takes place during the great plague. But this book was off-putting, to say the least. Almost every other scene was a detailed sex scene with the use of words that made me uncomfortable.

I appreciate the themes Garland presents in this book and how she develops them, but with her rich prose, it was difficult to understand what was happening most of the time. She created some gorgeous strings of words, but then when she threw in words such as, “turd”, “fart”, and “cunny” over and over again, it felt as though she was just trying to make the reader uncomfortable. And it worked. This book made me so uncomfortable to the point where I couldn’t enjoy the book, which is unfortunate because of that amazing cover. *sigh*

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I wasn’t able to find any new favorites this month, but I am proud of myself for reading this many books and writing over 27,000+ words. Despite my little meltdowns, this new month has brought me hope and joy thanks to my family, my friends, my characters, and all of you. I can’t thank you all enough for your constant support and positivity.

Cheers to a new month to the magical world of literature, to reading and writing it!