Thursday, June 11, 2015

Last Year's Mistake by Gina Ciocca Review

Title: Last Year's Mistake
Author: Gina Ciocca
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction/Romance
Series: N/A
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

This book was given to me by the publisher, Simon Pulse, through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review--thank you so much!

This was how I felt after finishing this book, and it really should sum it up:

Last Year's Mistake tells the story of Kelsey and David, two best friends who are more in tune with one another than they are with themselves, and when their high school friendship begins to form into something entirely new, Kelsey does the only thing she can: She runs. Trying to look at her family's move as a blessing, a fresh start, she leaves town, and David, and shatters his heart entirely in the process.

Sounds fun, right?

Well, it gets worse. David returns, and this time, Kelsey has new friends, a new boyfriend, a whole new life, and she herself has changed as well. Forced to finally face the pain of her past, Kelsey tries to confront David, and is suddenly bombarded by feelings long buried, for him, for her former home, for her other life in which she couldn't live without David, her best friend, her other half.

I'll start with the good parts of it. I loved the concept of this teen novel: two best friends, falling in love, and complications soon follow. But most of the reason I loved this novel wasn't just the tumultuous relationship between Kelsey and David; it was Kelsey's journey to self-discovery, and to herself, and her love for David. I loved Kelsey as a character: at first, she is lost, confused, trying desperately to tread water when hr past comes to call, and by the end of the book, she finally knows what she wants, and where her future is.

And then there's David, the sexy ex best friend, (and maybe something more) who longs to give Kelsey his heart, the way he tried to the first time. He is a nuanced, incredibly complex character that proved a great foil to Kelsey's desperation: he is easygoing, sweet, (did I mention gorgeous?) and firm in his belief that he and Kelsey are meant to me, everyone and everything else be damned. I loved his and Kelsey's relationship, despite the drama that constantly ensued, and I loved the ending.

I couldn't give this five stars, though, because at times it was tiring, Kelsey going back and forth between Ryan and David and back again, as well as Kelsey's friends, Violet and Ryan in particular, and the constant testosterone had me rolling my eyes pretty much constantly, but overall, this was a lovely book. The bottom line: A bittersweet tale of best friends, first love, summer, and finding yourself, Last Year's Mistake definitely wasn't a mistake on my part! A wonderful debut! Next on deck: Second Life by S.J. Watson!

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Shadow of the Wolf by Tim Hall Review

Title: Shadow of the Wolf
Author: Tim Hall
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: High Fantasy
Series: Sherwood's Doom, book one
Star Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars

This book was given to me by the publisher, Scholastic, through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review--thank you so much!

What do you think of when you think of Robin Hood?

Maybe it's this:

Or maybe this:

Or this:

Okay, I promise, I'm done with the gifs! (Also, I'll be doing this more often. Probably every review now. God, I love my husband for patiently explaining how technology works to me.. Okay, moving on!)

Robin Hood and His Merry Men is among the first classics I ever encountered as a child. I can distinctly remember wiling away more days than was actually healthy, dreaming of leading The Merry Men on countless adventures full of coin, danger, and excitement. It helped foster my passionate love of British literature.

Normally, retellings make me nervous; I love them, but they make me anxious in that, in giving their own spin on a beloved, classic tale. I'm happy to tell you guys that Tim Hall does not disappoint. I loved the feel of it; the high fantasy spin put on an already historically rooted tale. Robin Hood is the same, and yet different: A wild boy, a boy versed in the ways of the forbidding woods that ring his peaceful dwelling.

But with mysterious whispers of winter-born, dangerous legends, and the fear of the other villagers, Robin's only solace is the fiery, free-spirited Marian, his other half, his partner in crime, and, in some ways, his soulmate. He enjoys the life of a squire, but all of that is ripped away when a dark shadow falls upon our heroes tiny village: It is the Sheriff of Nottingham, a man of sick, deviant practices, ruling with fear and brute force, and he wants only one thing: Marian.

Ripped away from one another, both Robin and Marian embark on a dark path, one that cannot be turned away from once tread..

For the most part, I really, really enjoyed this lovely, dark debut. It had the old, classical feel of the original Robin Hood, but it also had creepy, dark Gothic elements that served not only to enhance the story, but to enrich it. I never imagined I would be scared of the bumbling Sheriff Nottingham of Disney's beloved film, but Hall paints a very different, and distinct, picture of him: A man not above anything to satisfy his gluttonous urges, and willing to do anything to capture the object of his desire: Marian.

This book was incredibly enjoyable, a wild ride full of meaning and emotion. The characters are wonderful: complex, nuanced, real. They felt like real people. Silent, sinuous, watchful Robin, longing to be a part of a village that sees him as cursed, ostracizing him and even being cruel. And then there's the lovely, lively Marian, free-spirited and alluring, even in her adolescent years, an arresting foil to her companion. The Sheriff makes a terrifying villain, but what intrigued me most was his fascination with Marian, and his desire for her.

What really sold this, though, was the character development. It was rich and wonderful, and it was real. Robin and Marion, changing from carefree, excitable children to two hardened warriors, working to take down the Sheriff at any cost, even if it costs them their lives, or worse, their love for one another.

I, unfortunately, couldn't give this book a completely perfect rating; at times in parts of the novel, the tense kept changing from past to present, and it was confusing, especially where the narrative was concerned. But regardless, it was a wonderful debut and a great retelling! A must read for any diehard fan of Robin Hood! Next on deck: Last Year's Mistake by Gina Ciocca!