Beautiful Curse by Jen McConnel Review and Blog Tour

YA Bounk Tour Buttonbeautiful curse new banner

 

Today I’m taking part in the BEAUTIFUL CURSE blog tour hosted by YA Bound Book Tours. I’ve gotten the chance to read and review Jen McConnel’s great take on one of my favorite myths – Cupid and Psyche.

The Review

Beautiful CurseTitle: Beautiful Curse

Author: Jen McConnel

Publisher: Swoon Romance

Publication Date: December 2014

Genre: YA Fantasy

Book Summary (from Goodreads)

Sixteen-year-old Mya Jones is cursed.

She is, hands down, the most beautiful creature on earth. But beauty can wound, and Mya finds herself reviled and shunned by her peers. If there is even a chance that she could start over, Mya longs to take it, no matter the risks.

So when the strange Mr. Merk offers her a new life away from home, Mya is hesitant but hopeful. Only she didn’t count on the mysterious Ross, or her feelings for him.

BEAUTIFUL CURSE is a contemporary retelling of the myth of Psyche and Cupid.

Review

If you’re a retelling fan, this is a great book for you to read! I love the Eros and Psyche myth (also related to my love of East of the Sun and West of the Moon) so this was a no brainer when I saw the chance to sign up for the blog tour and review.

The book focuses on Mya, who wakes up her first day of her junior year of high school and is suddenly freakishly gorgeous. You’d think that would make high school fantastic, but it doesn’t. The boys all want to…well, you know… and the girls hate her. Even the teachers seem to despise her, with a few exceptions (and I love the way McConnel sorts out the teachers so a few are immune to her “charms.”

She is dealing with a lot of family drama as well, and believes her beauty may be the cause of it. Just when she thinks things can’t get worse, she finds out she’s been chosen for a special school, and that’s where things get into the retelling more seriously. The palace and its occupants are quite well done and very intriguing. If anything, my complaint is that we don’t see enough of it and Mya’s time with her teachers and servants.

Ross, despite not seeing him at all, is an interesting and warm character, though he does sometimes act far older than a man you’d expect Mya to be interested in. While the romance here is sweet, it is also my only complaint with the book. Mya and Ross suffer from insta-love (IMO) and I really wanted to see their interactions and see how they could have fallen in love with words and tones of voice and such. Instead, she’s got a crush on him after meeting him only twice.

Once Mya breaks her promise not to look on him, she seeks out help and must perform some impossible feats. I love where the author has Mya meet Aphrodite, and I enjoyed their interplay. In some ways, I found the tasks too easy to perform, but they made sense with the story and the character.

Mya is a well-drawn character, as are all the supporting cast. The author has done a great job of creating a believable world for these characters to inhabit, as well as a great underlying and subtle message, and I actually liked the bittersweet undertone to the ending. If you like retellings, definitely pick this one up!

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Where to Find the Book

Goodreadshttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20706772-beautiful-curse?ac=1

Amazonhttp://www.amazon.com/Beautiful-Curse-Jen-McConnel-ebook/dp/B00O2JKYGU/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1417376141&sr=8-1&keywords=Beautiful+Curse

Book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

 

 

About the Author

jen mcconnelJen McConnel first began writing poetry as a child. Since then, her words have appeared in a variety of magazines and journals, including Sagewoman, PanGaia, and The Storyteller (where she won the people’s choice 3rd place award for her poem, “Luna”).

She is also a former reviewer for Voices of Youth Advocates (VOYA), and proud member of SCBWINCWN, and SCWW.

A Michigander by birth, she now lives and writes in the beautiful state of North Carolina. A graduate of Western Michigan University, she also holds a MS in Library Science from Clarion University of Pennsylvania. When she isn’t crafting worlds of fiction, she teaches college writing composition and yoga.

Once upon a time, she was a middle school teacher, a librarian, and a bookseller, but those are stories for another time.

Author Links:

WebsiteGoodreadsTwitterFacebook

 

Fiendish by Brenna Yovanoff

91mVuKxQdoLTitle: Fiendish

Author: Brenna Yovanoff

Publisher: Razorbill

Publication Date: August 2014

Pages: 341

Genre: YA Horror

Book Summary (from Goodreads)

Clementine DeVore spent ten years trapped in a cellar, pinned down by willow roots, silenced and forgotten.

Now she’s out and determined to uncover who put her in that cellar and why.

When Clementine was a child, dangerous and inexplicable things started happening in New South Bend. The townsfolk blamed the fiendish people out in the Willows and burned their homes to the ground. But magic kept Clementine alive, walled up in the cellar for ten years, until a boy named Fisher sets her free. Back in the world, Clementine sets out to discover what happened all those years ago. But the truth gets muddled in her dangerous attraction to Fisher, the politics of New South Bend, and the Hollow, a fickle and terrifying place that seems increasingly temperamental ever since Clementine reemerged.

Review

Yovanoff’s other books have been on my to-read list for awhile. But this one appeared during a trip to B&N this weekend, and I loved the cover and was in the mood for something creepy. When the first line tells you the MC has been trapped in a cellar by roots for ten years, well, it doesn’t get much creepier and intriguing than that, right?

The book was enjoyable, and while I didn’t find it scary at all, parts of it were creepy and disturbing. At least, the beginning was. I will admit that being dropped into the middle of Clementine’s world, with mention of craft and crooked families and fiends, was jarring at first. It was explained over the course of the book, but I found myself at times wishing for some more explaination. I mean, boys found a girl pinned in a burned out cellar with her eyes sewed shut. While there was some cursing and some fear, there wasn’t nearly enough for what I would have thought. It both confused me and set things up that this place was outside of “normal” reality.

The magic in the book is also not fully explained, and I ended the novel still unclear about the star and its five points and the system itself. I wished for more, because I think it would have made the whole thing better and maybe made me love the characters a little more. For most of them, I felt like it was a love them or hate them kind of thing. I liked Clementine and Shiny. Rae and Davenport and Fisher all were a little blah for me.

I also had a hard time with Clementine. She is put in the cellar when she’s 7. She comes out 10 years later. There’s a lot of talk about how she can’t fit into her skin quite right, but she never really comes out with a seven-year-old’s mentality. I mean, she’s singing Farmer in the Dell not long before being locked up and going over her numbers, and then she comes out, thinks about things, says some vague things that sound like she was “out of body” while imprisoned, and then she’s acting like a normal seventeen year old. Especially since halfway through the book she’s got a romance going. When you forgot about the beginning and the age, it works. When you really think about it, its weird.

I have to say one thing I truly adored, and that was Yovanoff’s prose. Its beautiful. The first three pages alone I went back and reread more than once. Her words just shine. Throughout the book there were little sprinkles of fantastic lines and descriptions, and that I loved. I wish I had loved it more, but I will be going to check out her other books soon! If you enjoy dark fantasy, I’d suggest you give it a try.

Ratingstarcolorunlabeledstarcolorunlabeledstarcolorunlabeled(But four stars for the prose!)

Where to Find the Book

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18667948-fiendish?from_search=true

Amazonhttp://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1595146385/ref=x_gr_w_bb?ie=UTF8&tag=httpwwwgoodco-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=1595146385&SubscriptionId=1MGPYB6YW3HWK55XCGG2

Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/fiendish-brenna-yovanoff/1117163910?ean=9781595146380&itm=1&usri=9781595146380&cm_mmc=AFFILIATES-_-Linkshare-_-GwEz7vxblVU-_-10:1&r=1,%201

Book was purchased by the reviewer.

This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales


15777621Title
: This Song Will Save Your Life

Author: Leila Sales

Publisher: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux

Publication Date: Sept 2013

Pages: 279

Genre: YA Contemporary

Book Summary (from Goodreads)

Making friends has never been Elise Dembowski’s strong suit. All throughout her life, she’s been the butt of every joke and the outsider in every conversation. When a final attempt at popularity fails, Elise nearly gives up. Then she stumbles upon a warehouse party where she meets Vicky, a girl in a band who accepts her; Char, a cute, yet mysterious disc jockey; Pippa, a carefree spirit from England; and most importantly, a love for DJing.

Told in a refreshingly genuine and laugh-out-loud funny voice, THIS SONG WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE is an exuberant novel about identity, friendship, and the power of music to bring people together.

Review

This is not my normal reading choice. Generally, as I work in a high school, I do not go for contemporary YA novels because I can get enough real life drama everyday. But this book had an interesting premise – a girl who saves herself with music – so I decided to give it a try.

The book is a great read. It deals with some tough issues – fitting in, losing yourself by trying to be something you aren’t, learning to trust yourself and value yourself, and suicide and bullying. It deal with these well, and I think that while Elise is at times a bit over the top, she also has some thoughts, feelings, and attitudes that most teenagers can relate to. The fact that she is bullied and takes it, and when it gets extreme still takes it without getting an adult involved is something that teenagers everywhere are dealing with.

There are times when I didn’t like Elise, and I thought that some of the behaviors would have been flags for her parents, and some things, like her nighttime walks, were a little hard to swallow. (My mother would have known. I might have gotten away with that once, but she’d have been waiting up for me the next time…) I didn’t expect so much from this book. I didn’t expect the undercurrents about cutting and suicide, or the heavy amount of bullying in the book. But I felt that it was a book that teens can relate to, and if it helps even one teen who is feeling depressed and alone and maybe thinking about harming themselves to stop and ask for help from someone, then it is definitely worth the read.

Sorry this review is a bit disjointed. The book was good, and overall I liked it, but there were parts that I didn’t care for. If you enjoy contemporary YA, this is a great book.

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Where to Find the Book

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15777621-this-song-will-save-your-life?from_search=true

Amazonhttp://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0374351384/ref=x_gr_w_bb?ie=UTF8&tag=httpwwwgoodco-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0374351384&SubscriptionId=1MGPYB6YW3HWK55XCGG2

Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/this-song-will-save-your-life-leila-sales/1114168111?ean=9780374351380&itm=1&usri=9780374351380&cm_mmc=AFFILIATES-_-Linkshare-_-GwEz7vxblVU-_-10:1&r=1,%201

Book was borrowed from the local library by the reviewer.

Ghost House by Alexandra Adornetto

19486754Title: Ghost House

Author: Alexandra Adornetto

Publisher: Harlequin Teen

Publication Date: August 2014

Pages: 312

Genre: YA Horror

Book Summary (from Goodreads)

From the New York Times bestselling author of Halo comes the start of a beautiful and powerful new series.

After the loss of her mother, Chloe Kennedy starts seeing the ghosts that haunted her as a young girl again. Spending time at her grandmother’s country estate in the south of England is her chance to get away from her grief and the spirits that haunt her. Until she meets a mysterious stranger…

Alexander Reade is 157 years dead, with secrets darker than the lake surrounding Grange Hall and a lifelike presence that draws Chloe more strongly than any ghost before. But the bond between them awakens the vengeful spirit of Alexander’s past love, Isobel. And she will stop at nothing to destroy anyone who threatens to take him from her.

To stop Isobel, Chloe must push her developing abilities to their most dangerous limits, even if it means losing Alex forever… and giving the hungry dead a chance to claim her for their own

Review

This was one of the books I’ve got on my list for my Halloween read. It is, after all, October and Fall and whenever the weather finally turns a bit cool and the leaves hint at a change, I feel the need to read more horror than normal. So when I saw this in Barnes & Noble the other day, it seemed like the perfect choice!

I enjoyed the main charater, Chloe, and the fact that while she does grow over the course of the book, she never solves all her problems or resolves everything. The changes that happen in the book, from her mother’s death to the ghosts and their drama, aren’t really things that you just bounce back quickly from. I also enjoyed the feeling of being a fish out of water that she has in the end.

The storyline with Chloe and the ghosts and her family problems are good. The backstory of Alex and Isabelle are also really well done and well thought out. The author does well at explaining why they are acting they way they are, for the most part. There are some discrepancies that I wondered at – Isabelle’s reasons for taking Benjamin, for instance, are a bit much for me. While they sort of fit in with her character, there’s something about it that also seems flimsy. I also think Chloe’s jump from liking Alex to being head over heels in love is a bit sudden. I loved Joe’s character, and wanted to see more about him and his connection to everything.

Overall, the ghost story is intriguing, and I love the tidbits you’re given – the author does a great job of feeding you just enough information to keep you guessing, but not enough to get the whole picture too early. The romance is good, but I must admit, I have no idea what will happen next. This book is the first in a series, and I’ll be keeping an eye out for the others.

If you enjoy ghost stories, this is a good one to pick!

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Where to Find the Book

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/19486754-ghost-house

Amazonhttp://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0373211309/ref=x_gr_w_bb?ie=UTF8&tag=httpwwwgoodco-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0373211309&SubscriptionId=1MGPYB6YW3HWK55XCGG2

Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/ghost-house-alexandra-adornetto/1117716181?ean=9780373211302&itm=1&usri=9780373211302&cm_mmc=AFFILIATES-_-Linkshare-_-GwEz7vxblVU-_-10:1&r=1,%201

Book was purchased by the reviewer.

The Murmurings by Carly Anne West

13260536Title: The Murmurings

Author: Carly Anne West

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Publication Date: March 2013

Pages: 384

Genre: YA Paranormal

Book Summary (from Goodreads)

Everyone thinks Sophie’s sister, Nell, went crazy. After all, she heard strange voices that drove her to commit suicide. But Sophie doesn’t believe that Nell would take her own life, and she’s convinced that Nell’s doctor knows more than he’s letting on.

As Sophie starts to piece together Nell’s last days, every lead ends in a web of lies. And the deeper Sophie digs, the more danger she’s in—because now she’s hearing the same haunting whispers. Sophie’s starting to think she’s going crazy too. Or worse, that maybe she’s not…

Review

I’ve said it before – I frequently judge books by their covers. Especially horror novels – if it doesn’t look creepy enough, I’m not as likely to pick it up. That being said, the cover was the main reason I picked this up in the bookstore. It was staring at me from the shelf and screamed “I”m creepy! Read me!”

I want to tell you that it was a fright-inducing read and I couldn’t sleep without a light on at night. That wasn’t quite how things worked out. The book starts out with Sophie mourning her sister’s death, and wondering about the circumstances that caused it. You know that her sister had been in a mental institution, and you know that there’s a lot of guilt in Sophie about it. You begin to understand why when it comes out that Nell saw and heard things and Sophie might have the same ability, though she doesn’t want to admit it. The potential creep factor was there. It had all the earmarks for some really weird and frightening things to go on. Without giving too much away, Sophie finds out that her abilities make her able to see Takers, and that’s not a good thing. But for me, the brief glimpses we get at first of the Takers – in mirrors or reflections of Sophie – are more scary than the actual Takers. When one finally comes out, they’re just…  meh.

I really enjoyed the mystery portion of the whole thing and the way that West has plotted out the details. There were times when the book dragged for me, and Sophie visited the hospital far too many times before being held there for my taste. I like the way that West makes us question the motives of those around Sophie, just as Sophie does.

The ending was a bit anti-climatic for me, and I still don’t fully understand exactly why things worked out they way they did. I would have liked more of an explanaition for that, because I was left with more questions than anything about the Takers and Sophie and how it was going to affect her life. But if you enjoy mildly creepy books and don’t mind a bit of slow movement in the middle, the book isn’t too bad.

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Where to Find the Book

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13260536-the-murmurings?ac=1

Amazonhttp://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1442441798/ref=x_gr_w_bb?ie=UTF8&tag=httpwwwgoodco-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=1442441798&SubscriptionId=1MGPYB6YW3HWK55XCGG2

Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-murmurings-carly-anne-west/1107394057?ean=9781442441798&itm=1&usri=9781442441798&cm_mmc=AFFILIATES-_-Linkshare-_-GwEz7vxblVU-_-10:1&r=1,%201

Book was purchased by the reviewer.

At The House Of The Magician by Mary Hooper

1463307Title: At The House Of The Magician

Author: Mary Hooper

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing

Publication Date: August 2007

Pages: 240

Genre: YA Historical

Book Summary (from Goodreads)

A poor runaway during the Elizabethan period, Lucy does not have many options. Her luck turns around when she is taken on as a maid in the household of Dr. Dee, a real-life figure who was court magician to Queen Elizabeth I. The household is strange and sinister, and Lucy has a nose for intrigue. So when she stumbled across a plot to assassinate the queen, Lucy must find means to warn her . . . before it’s too late.

Review

This novel is about Lucy, who runs away from home and her drunk, abusive father. In the process, she rescues two children from drowning, takes them home and manages to secure a position as a nanny in their house. Turns out, they are the children of Dr. John Dee, who is Queen Elizabeth I’s magician. That’s the short version anyway.

Lucy is a likeable cahracter, even though there are times when I wanted to shake her, or point out some of the sillier things she did. Most of it stems from a certain amount of immaturity that the character has. For instance, she wanders through Dr. Dee’s home before she’s actually been offered the position. She’s just staying overnight, hoping for a position and wanders the house without permission. After the cook spends some time wondering about her motives and whether she’s out to steal in the first place. It seemed a stupid and unlikely thing to do. Her lack of fear of anything is slightly strange as well, especially considering her upbringing. We know her father was abusive, but she lacks any of the fear and forced maturity I expected.

The story itself is entertaining. Lucy is a devoted subject of Queen Elizabeth I and has always dreamed of seeing her. Working for her magician is a dream come true because she might get that chance. Dr. Dee is sufficiently mysterious, and many comments are made about how Lucy doubts his authenticity. I was surprised when there was a paranormal element introduced, but I enjoyed it. It isn’t overbearing and it helps to add to the story, rather than taking over.

The secondary characters are interesting, and while there were some parts I found hard to believe, the book is a quick and entertaining read, so I chose to let them slide. The author has done her homework, but I do sometimes wish for a little more of the history and setting.

If you enjoy Tudor and Elizabethan era fiction, this will be good. Its a quick, fun read and is the first in a series. I liked it well enough that I’ll probably read the other two at some point.

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Where to Find the Book

Goodreadshttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1463307.At_the_House_of_the_Magician

Amazonhttp://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0747588864/ref=x_gr_w_bb?ie=UTF8&tag=httpwwwgoodco-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0747588864&SubscriptionId=1MGPYB6YW3HWK55XCGG2

Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/at-the-house-of-the-magician-mary-hooper/1008728012?ean=9780747588863&itm=1&usri=9780747588863&cm_mmc=AFFILIATES-_-Linkshare-_-GwEz7vxblVU-_-10:1&r=1,%201

Book was purchased by the reviewer.

Brazen by Katherine Longshore

brazen by longshoreTitle: Brazen

Author: Katherine Longshore

Publisher: Viking Juvenile

Publication Date: June 12, 2014

Pages: 528

Genre: Young Adult Historical

Book Summary (from Goodreads)

Mary Howard has always lived in the shadow of her powerful family. But when she’s married off to Henry Fitzroy, King Henry VIII’s illegitimate son, she rockets into the Tudor court’s inner circle. Mary and “Fitz” join a tight clique of rebels who test the boundaries of court’s strict rules with their games, dares, and flirtations. The more Mary gets to know Fitz, the harder she falls for him, but is forbidden from seeing him alone. The rules of court were made to be pushed…but pushing them too far means certain death. Is true love worth dying for?

Review

Brazen, by Katherine LOngshore, is a novel set in Tudor England, in one of the most written about time periods around. That being said, I’m a sucker for a novel about Tudor England. But while I love them, they have the potential to be tired before you even begin. Mainly because people choose to write about the same people over and over. Longshore manages to choose a character here that few people ever even remember existed. That’s really what made me want to pick up the book in the first place.

Few books ever get around to writing about Henry Fitzroy, King Henry VIII’s bastard son. No one that I know of has ever bothered to remember that he had a wife. This novel is told from Mary Fitzroy’s point of view, and I enjoyed it. Mary is an oddity in court. Her parents are at odds, physically at times, and she is uncertain and easily led at the beginning, even when she doesn’t want to be. She’s honest, sometimes when she shouldn’t be, but learns how to cover that as well in a way that doesn’t deviate from herself, but isn’t going to get her into trouble either.

The author also includes a peculiar character trait that I loved. LOVED. Mary is a synesthete – to her, words (or at least some words) have a taste. Her descriptions of them are lovely, and often hold their own meaning in regards to what Mary is thinking or what is going on around her. Her character growth from beginning to end is really well done. It isn’t unbelievable and is actually pretty subtle. Only when you really think about the beginning do you realize that she did make some serious personal growth and choices.

Her relationship with Henry Fitzroy is a major running thread, and it is an important one, but it isn’t the whole story. To me, her relationship with him is a secondary plot line to her finding her own way in the world. That being said, I loved their relationship. The beginning was rocky and exactly like you think it might have been. Henry is a likeable character, though I must admit that I was having some issues with becoming too involved, because I knew what was going to happen to him. (I won’t say, just in case someone doesn’t know)

The book and its twisting relationships and its weaving of history and fiction are really well done. The author’s notes in the back explain how the author has modified and filled in history for the story, and I really think she did a great job. I especially enjoyed the note about Mary’s book and how it was based on a real manuscript. I found that really surprising and interesting and will be looking into more information about it.

My only complaint, and the reason this book received three stars instead of four, was because there were times when I had to force myself to continue reading. It wasn’t boring – it just couldn’t quite keep my attention until well into the second half. Part of that is the nature of the beast. Tudor historical fiction set in the court has a large cast of characters and all have a part to play. You have to know some of what’s going on, and the secondary characters of Hal, Madge, Margaret, and even Anne Boleyn and King Henry have parts that weave in and out of Mary’s own history. Some of this may also be due to the timing of my reading the book – as I have some big events going on in my life at the moment and it’s hard to concentrate, so take that for what it’s worth.

The last scene between Henry and Mary made me cry, which is rare, and I really think the author did a fabulous job of conveying emotion in this book – not just here but throughout. I really got to know Mary and I really wanted her to win. I wanted to see her happy and to succeed.

So – If you’re a fan of Tudor historicals, this is a good book to try. You may get a little bogged down in the middle, but the book is a good one overall.

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Where to Find the Book

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18668016-brazen?from_search=true

Amazonhttp://www.amazon.com/gp/product/067001401X/ref=x_gr_w_bb?ie=UTF8&tag=httpwwwgoodco-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=067001401X&SubscriptionId=1MGPYB6YW3HWK55XCGG2=

Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/brazen-katherine-longshore/1116402533?ean=9780670014019&itm=1&usri=9780670014019&cm_mmc=AFFILIATES-_-Linkshare-_-GwEz7vxblVU-_-10:1&r=1,%201

Book was purchased by reviewer.