Book review: Valiant by Sarah McGuire (ARC)

Valiant by Sarah McGuireAuthor:  Sarah McGuire
Genre: Middle grade, fantasy, fairy tale retelling
Publisher: Egmont USA
Publication Date: April 28, 2015 (I thought it was June 9! That’s what Netgalley said. Oops)
384 pages, hardcover

Check out the full synopsis on Goodreads.

NOTE: I was provided with an e-ARC of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to Egmont USA for letting me read this!

Saville hates the bolts of fabric that her father loves more than her. After Saville’s father moves her to Reggen, he becomes ill, and she must find a way to survive, even if her plan involves wearing boy’s clothes and using those hated bolts of fabric to gain a commission from the king. Life gets even crazier when giants, which are supposed to only be stories, come for Reggen. Saville tricks them into leaving, and as court gossip does, tales of her triumph quickly turn into stories of giant slaying. But will the tailor be able to save the whole kingdom especially when she never meant to be a champion?

This one had a slow start for me. I don’t think we had enough time to really connect with any of the characters before things started happening – events during which we were supposed to care for them. I actually wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to finish it, but suddenly, somewhere in the story (almost halfway, I’d say), I got hooked. I don’t know whether it was the giants, the insane, power-hungry Duke, Saville’s daring bravery, or the love interest. But whatever it was, I raced through the rest of the book in no time. However, while I enjoyed reading Valiant, I felt like a lot of it was filler. There was a decent amount of time waiting for something to happen or with Saville’s inner thoughts that felt unnecessary.

On the other hand, I loved the creativity and the story here. It’s a retelling of The Valiant Little Tailor, but Valiant was also really imaginative and a tale of its own. Saville is a great character: brave, smart, and independent. Occasionally, I felt that she changed her mind too quickly; a few times, time that she spent deciding/learning/growing (like the first few months creating clothes for the king) was skimmed over, which made it hard to connect to her and the story.

The bottom line: Valiant is the simple story of a girl who becomes a champion. It’s creative and (after the beginning) pretty entertaining. It was fun to read but not without its problems. I’d recommend it to those who love fairy tale retellings, particularly those fairy tales that are usually ignored.

Rating: 6 – good, but not great

ARC Review: Get Happy by Mary Amato

A sweet, fun, emotional read from Mary Amato (author of Guitar Notes), Get Happy made me…well, happy.

Get HappyAuthor: Mary Amato

Genre: Contemporary, YA

Publisher: Egmont USA

Publication Date: October 28, 2014

256 pages, hardcover

NOTE: I was provided with an e-ARC of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to Egmont USA for letting me read this.

Get Happy is about high-school girl Minerva just wants to buy a ukulele and play songs while hanging out with her friends. In the novel, she learns that her father didn’t abandon her like her mother told her, and so she begins to investigate him. As Goodreads says, she “builds a substitute family with her friends in place of the broken family she grew up with.”

I’m not going to lie, I’m also a little iffy with books I get approved for on Netgalley. They can be hit or miss with me. It was also said to be for fans of Sarah Dessen (hit) and Gayle Forman (miss), so I was worried, but I shouldn’t have been. This one was a HIT. I’m really impressed with Amato’s writing and with this book.

Get Happy is a coming of age story for Minerva; we see her grow up and into herself as she navigates her first job, finding out her father is not who she thought he was, and fights with her mother. Realistic fiction has a tendency to feel decidedly not real, but not this book. Minerva’s feelings and actions all felt real and genuine, and because of this, I was really able to connect with Minerva and feel for her when it all went to hell. There was one part where something horrible happens (which I will not spoil) that I actually felt like I’d been punched in the gut. That’s a great author that can make me have such a reaction.

Minerva wasn’t the only great character either. Her best friend Fin is so full of life and a ton of fun. New friend Hayes is developed well too. Even the girl we don’t like is fully developed, so we actually do feel annoyed when she shows up. No characters were wasted or useless. I also liked that the parents in the book weren’t just in the background; they care about and protect their children. Even if they don’t always do the right thing, they’re still there.

The bottom line: Get Happy feels like a fun, light, easy read but it has some pretty deep feelings to get through. I really enjoyed it and am happy that I was able to read it.  Recommended for anyone who likes good contemporary, realistic fiction.

Rating: 7.5/10

ARC Review: Of Monsters and Madness by Jessica Verday

Of Monsters and MadnessAuthor: Jessica Verday
Genre: Historical fiction, retelling, paranormal, young adult
Publisher: Egmont
Publication Date: September 9, 2014
288 pages

Check out the synopsis on Goodreads.

NOTE: I was provided with an e-ARC of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to Egmont for letting me read this.

 

What I thought:

I’m a big fan of Edgar Allan Poe so when I saw that this book was a retelling of Annabel Lee, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. I enjoyed what Verday with Poe; I’m okay when an author takes creative liberties with an author’s work or life as long as it is laid out. What she did with Poe was very interesting though at times it was quite obvious.

1820s Philadelphia was the perfect setting for the book as it gave Of Monsters and Madness a decidedly creepy feel. There is a dark, Gothic feel to the book, which felt just right for an Edgar Allan Poe retelling. I was really looking forward to an author’s take on Annabel as, in the poem, we don’t know her except through Poe’s eyes. Her mother has recently died and she moves from Siam (Thailand) to Philadelphia to live with her father. She wants to be a doctor, which is not a proper role for a woman at that time. You would think she would be strong willed and brave and fierce, but really, she was boring, in my opinion. Something that irritated me was Annabel’s thoughts: the book is set in her perspective but occasionally we would get her thoughts in italics. The book is set in her perspective! Those are her thoughts, which made the parts in italics rather repetitive and unnecessary.

The book’s pacing is quite slow. It follows an almost day-by-day timeline for Annabel’s first weeks in Philadelphia, and of course, every day is not exciting. There were three or four scenes that I found truly exciting and creepy. I also found that the big secret was pretty obvious early on, though that didn’t stop me from wanting to keep reading and see how it played out.

There is not as much horror or creepiness as one would expect from a retelling of anything Edgar Allan Poe has written. If you are offended by creative liberties in regards to an author’s work or life, I probably wouldn’t recommend this one to you. Overall, the book didn’t really impress me though I won’t say that I hated it. I was obviously intrigued enough to keep reading. The ending was kind of abrupt though, so maybe there’ll be a sequel?

I want to share a few lines that I thought were wonderful and unbelievably romantic. Annabel’s love interest comes to her and this happens:

“You have haunted my dreams. My waking hours. Every moment in between,” he says.
I stare up at him, lost in the darkness of his eyes. He lowers his mouth to mine, and just before he steals away my breath again, he echoes my thoughts. “I am lost in you.”

Ooooweee. If someone said that to me, I’d be gone.

The bottom line: If you are looking for the gothic, horrific, creepy awesomeness that is Edgar Allan Poe, this may not be for you. If you are looking for a quick, strange take on Annabel Lee and Poe, you might want to check this out – particularly around Halloween. This book came so close to being what I wanted, but each time it fell short.

Rating: 5 – take it or leave it

Reading next: The Shadow Prince and Mortal Enchantment by Stacey O’Neale