Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The Isle of the Lost by Melissa de la Cruz

Twenty years ago, all the evil villains were banished from the kingdom of Auradon and made to live in virtual imprisonment on the Isle of the Lost. The island is surrounded by a magical force field that keeps the villains and their descendants safely locked up and away from the mainland. Life on the island is dark and dreary. It is a dirty, decrepit place that's been left to rot and forgotten by the world.

But hidden in the mysterious Forbidden Fortress is a dragon's eye: the key to true darkness and the villains' only hope of escape. Only the cleverest, evilest, nastiest little villain can find it...who will it be?

Maleficent, Mistress of the Dark: As the self-proclaimed ruler of the isle, Maleficent has no tolerance for anything less than pure evil. She has little time for her subjects, who have still not mastered life without magic. Her only concern is getting off the Isle of the Lost.

Mal: At sixteen, Maleficent's daughter is the most talented student at Dragon Hall, best known for her evil schemes. And when she hears about the dragon's eye, Mal thinks this could be her chance to prove herself as the cruelest of them all.

Evie: Having been castle-schooled for years, Evil Queen's daughter, Evie, doesn't know the ins and outs of Dragon Hall. But she's a quick study, especially after she falls for one too many of Mal's little tricks.

Jay: As the son of Jafar, Jay is a boy of many talents: stealing and lying to name a few. Jay and Mal have been frenemies forever and he's not about to miss out on the hunt for the dragon's eye.

Carlos: Cruella de Vil's son may not be bravest, but he's certainly clever. Carlos's inventions may be the missing piece in locating the dragon's eye and ending the banishment for good.

Mal soon learns from her mother that the dragon's eye is cursed and whoever retrieves it will be knocked into a deep sleep for a thousand years. But Mal has a plan to capture it. She'll just need a little help from her "friends." In their quest for the dragon's eye, these kids begin to realize that just because you come from an evil family tree, being good ain't so bad.

Mal, Evie, Jay, and Carlos are the offspring of some of the most terrible villains of all time. They're offered a chance to leave the Isle of the Lost, where they have been imprisoned all their lives, and go to prep school in the idyllic kingdom of Auradon with all of the "good" kids. There, they must choose whether or not to follow in their parents' evil footsteps. Watch out Auradon--here come the Descendants!

Rating: 3/5 

I am a HUGE fan of Melissa de la Cruz. I loved her Blue Bloods series and when I found out she was writing a new novel, I was so excited! I don't like spoilers, so I tried not to read too much about her new project.

Honestly, I forgot about it, but about a week ago I was strolling through a local department store and when I passed by the books section, I was immediately drawn to The Isle of the Lost

The cover is very creative and artistic, which was one of the main reasons it captivated my attention. I then spotted Melissa de la Cruz credited as the author on the cover and I knew right then and there that I HAD to read this book. The plot is original, and the ambiance of the novel itself was, for lack of a better word, awesome! 

Melissa de la Cruz is back and ready to take on the worlds most nefarious villains. I enjoyed the plot, and it was paced very appropriately. It was paced fast enough to keep me engaged, but I was still able to put the book down during the few slow parts to get other things on my To-Do List done.

As a fellow writer, literary intern, and a scholar working my way towards a journalism degree, I am extremely familiar with the "formula" for writing a young adult novel. Almost every book follows this "formula," but The Isle of the Lost is a prime example of originality. Not only was the plot original, but the writing style is just as unique.

The overall idea was fantastic and original. I am incredibly happy I got the chance to review this book because I had a lot of fun reading it.

The Isle of the Lost is definitely worth checking out. Was it one of the best books of 2015? No, but it was still an entertaining and engaging book and I recommend it to all of you who love YA novels or Disney villains. Or if you like both, like me, that makes it even better!

I chose to give a 3-star rating to The Isle of the Lost because it wasn't as good as it could've been, but it was still an enjoyable read, as I mentioned previously, and I am grateful that I was given the opportunity to review this book. I don't regret reading it by any means, and I would re-read it again in a heartbeat.

My final words are this: definitely check out The Isle of the Lost as well as the Descendants junior novel, which is, of course, targeted towards younger, middle-grade readers. I gave the Descendants junior novel a 1-star rating because while The Isle of the Lost was quite enjoyable, the junior novel was not.
I found it to be very generic and immature, which is to be expected when writing a book for middle-grade readers. I'm sure if I was in that age group, I would probably enjoy it.

Melissa de la Cruz DID NOT write the junior companion novel, a novelization of the Disney Channel Original Movie. It was adapted by Rico Green and co-authored by Josann McGibbon and Sara Parriott. 

Note: The junior novelization offers eight pages of additional full-color photos.

Unfortunately, The Isle of the Lost wasn't up to par with de la Cruz's Blue Bloods series, which is a very difficult feat, but it was still a nice, well-written book that any 90s kid who was raised on Disney Channel would appreciate.

I am excited to see what Melissa de la Cruz has planned for the sequel because I have high hopes for the other books in this charming fantasy series. I am already eager to re-visit the Isle of the Lost to watch the story continue to unfold!

To you, my dear readers, expect another book review from me very, very soon. Happy reading! xoxo


P.S. I would like to take a moment to thank the wonderful people at Disney-Hyperion who work extremely hard to ensure that every title published by their company is unique, fresh, and exciting. 

Monday, October 26, 2015

We Are All Made of Molecules by Susin Nielsen

Thirteen-year-old Stewart is academically brilliant but socially clueless. 
Fourteen-year-old Ashley is the undisputed “It” girl in her class, but her grades stink.

Their worlds are about to collide when Stewart and his dad move in with Ashley and her mom. Stewart is trying to be 89.9 percent happy about it, but Ashley is 110 percent horrified. She already has to hide the real reason her dad moved out; “Spewart” could further threaten her position at the top of the social ladder. They are complete opposites. And yet, they have one thing in common: they—like everyone else—are made of molecules. 

Rating: 5/5

We Are All Made of Molecules is an inspiring and contemporary read that I wish would have been around when I was in high school. It steps across the social boundaries to examine the personalities of two distinct characters that, in high school hierarchy, would commonly be found residing on opposite ends of the “cool spectrum”. While two people as different as Ashley and Stewart tend to misunderstand and look down on one another as stupid or inferior, it is a reminder that intelligence is a subjective term able to be applied in many different ways. I identified very closely to Stewart through his too analytical mind that often left him struggling in the social department, but found myself admiring Ashley too because of how superbly she understood and could manipulate the social constructs of her life often to her greater benefit.

Through this novel, Susin Nielson made a powerful point that we often tend to get wrapped up in our own worlds and not realize that each of our own little planets we live on revolve around one another to create this huge, mini solar system called Earth where it all intertwines. The choices we make impact one another, and no one is of greater or lesser value because we are all made of molecules. It is a beautiful and humbling philosophy to keep in mind. No matter the controversies we face in life, and even though we all feel alone at some point or another, each one of us has the potential to change and be changed by another person. It is an inspiring story that subtly opens your eyes a little at a time, and you don’t realize how much it has impacted you until you finally reach the last page and think about what you just read. This is an inspiring book that I believe has the potential to empower and inspire teens, and even adults, that feel disconnected because of pain in their lives. It teaches that each person is responsible and capable of standing up against the injustices we witness in everyday life, and that no one is too small to make a difference.

While I am normally more of a fantasy and sci-fi reader, this book still somehow managed to grip me and challenge me to realize that sometimes life by itself is difficult and complicated enough without adding some supernatural monsters or a five hundred year old vampire boyfriend into that confusion.  It was a charming and pleasantly sarcastic read that intermittently had me wanting to chuck it across the room in frustration for the characters. This is a book for the depressed, lonely, and/or socially awkward teenager caught in the middle of a world that is tugging them in any direction, eager to slap a label on their forehead to define them by. It is also for anyone who has experienced a loss, a comforting hope that things will work out and get better no matter how difficult the struggle may seem at the time. This is a simple story that has the potential to break down social barriers and bring a realization that we are all connected and a part of the same world, and in accordance should demonstrate a greater care for one another.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Unspoken (Shadow Falls: After Dark, #3) by C.C. Hunter

I would like to thank the publicity department of St. Martin's Griffin for an advance copy of this book for an honest review and coverage on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads. Now, onto the review....

Hunter's Shadow Falls series is one of my all-time favorites. I love the world the author created, and I was definitely pleased when I found out she was writing a spin-off series featuring her vampire BFF, Della. 

To avoid spoilers for those who haven't read the previous installments, I won't dig in too much, but I find it extremely difficult to keep quiet when I've read a great novel. I rated this book, as well as the previous books (Reborn and Eternal) 5/5. 

If you're looking for an original YA paranormal novel, pick up the first book in the original Shadow Falls series, Born at Midnight. I loved that book SO MUCH that I devoured it in two sittings. I missed a lot of sleep everytime I started a C.C. Hunter novel, but it was totally worth it. 

I love the character Della and the gorgeous love interest she falls for. I enjoyed the authors perception of the world, and I felt that by reading this book I was, for a brief moment in time, someone else. Not every book does that, though, which makes me appreciate those books that go deep into your core and you can't get it out of your head. I read this book, read another outside of this series, and I missed it so much I just simply had to re-read it. 

I'm sad that Unspoken is the last novel of the SFAD trilogy, but it feels nice to feel complete, like you've put a lot of effort into something and you finally achieve your desired result. I highly recommend this book to all my readers, whether you're young or old(er). 

Right now I'm currently reading another St. Martin's Griffin title, "Romancing the Dark in the City of Lights" by Anna Jacobus. So far I'm enjoying it and can't wait to share my review with you! 

Until next time, happy reading! 


Monday, October 5, 2015

From Afar by Frank Scozzari

First off, I must thank Frank Scozzari for providing a copy of his book in exchange for an honest review. Now, on to the review....

"From Afar" is a contemporary adult novel featuring a strong hero named Morgan Stanfield, a Santa Barbara native, flees to Saint Perersburg, a far northern city in Russia. 

Morgan Stanfield was intelligent and witty and I really enjoyed reading his story. The first-person narration gave more life to the story, and I was able to slip into this world that Scozzari has created, and I was flipping page after page until I had finished. I was kind of dissapointed that the book ended, but I definitely plan on re-reading it someday. 

I have always found Russian history and culture fascinating, and Scozzari's novel was like a round trip ticket. I felt the richness of the setting, and I felt transported into this world. 

My favorite part was the wide range of characters introduced such as (quote from the back of the book) a Russian beauty, a prostitute, a wise old babushka, an American chauvinist, intellectuals, the and the Russian mafia.

I enjoyed this book, as it was equally thrilling as it was romantic, and I highly recommend you guys read Frank Scozzari's novel, "From Afar." 

Rating: 3.5/5

I always appreciate your thoughts and opinions, so don't hesitate to reach out by email or Twitter @CrewCasey

Thursday, September 24, 2015

A Letter to my Readers

Dear Readers, 

I know I haven't posted anything very recently due to a hiatus because of personal issues involving the untimely, tragic death of my grandfather. I am glad to let you all know that I am back, I started reading a lot more recently, and I have a lot of reviews coming up. I would like to thank you, my supportive readers, for your supportive, encouraging messages and e-mails. 

Once again, I thank you all for sticking by my side during these difficult few months. I've received a lot of really good book recommendations, and will post them very soon. 


Thursday, January 29, 2015

Prozac Nation by Elizabeth Wurtzel

Prozac Nation is a confessional memoir published in the late 90s by former Harvard and Yale student Elizabeth Wurtzel, a brave woman who has battled mental illness and addiction, a co-occurring disorder. In her book, Wurtzel accurately and painfully recalls her struggle with depression and drug addiction while at Harvard. I found her story appealing and resonating. Her description of major depressive disorder and her journey while being treated for it is one that has set the bar for many writers and publishers of memoirs. Ms. Wurtzel's tumultuous years of young adulthood are remarkably familiar to so many young adults today, stressing in her memoir that we all live in what has become a true Prozac Nation. 

I recommend this novel for my readers, and rate "Prozac Nation" 5/5 stars. 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Manic: A Memoir by Terri Cheney


Title: Manic: A Memoir
Author: Terri Cheney
Publisher: William Morrow & Company
Pages: 245
Release Date: February 5, 2008
Source: Library
Format: Paperback
Rating: 5/5

"I didn't tell anyone that I was going to Santa Fe to kill myself."
On the outside, Terri Cheney was a highly successful, attractive Beverly Hills entertainment lawyer. But behind her seemingly flawless fa├žade lay a dangerous secret—for the better part of her life Cheney had been battling debilitating bipolar disorder and concealing a pharmacy's worth of prescriptions meant to stabilize her moods and make her "normal."

In bursts of prose that mirror the devastating highs and extreme lows of her illness, Cheney describes her roller-coaster life with shocking honesty—from glamorous parties to a night in jail; from flying fourteen kites off the edge of a cliff in a thunderstorm to crying beneath her office desk; from electroshock therapy to a suicide attempt fueled by tequila and prescription painkillers.

With Manic, Cheney gives voice to the unarticulated madness she endured. The clinical terms used to describe her illness were so inadequate that she chose to focus instead on her own experience, in her words, "on what bipolar disorder felt like inside my own body." Here the events unfold episodically, from mood to mood, the way she lived and remembers life. In this way the reader is able to viscerally experience the incredible speeding highs of mania and the crushing blows of depression, just as Cheney did. Manic does not simply explain bipolar disorder—it takes us in its grasp and does not let go.

In the tradition of Darkness Visible and An Unquiet Mind, Manic is Girl, Interrupted with the girl all grown up. This harrowing yet hopeful book is more than just a searing insider's account of what it's really like to live with bipolar disorder. It is a testament to the sharp beauty of a life lived in extremes.

I've wanted to read Manic for a long time, so when I discovered it in my local library, I was ecstatic.  I checked out and devoured the book within a few hours.  I absolutely adored this book and its raw, poignant honesty.  Cheney introduces her readers to the startling truth of mental illness and the social stigmas surrounding depression and other disorders.  As a person living with bipolar disorder, Cheney's story resonated truthfully and honestly.

Cheney bravely and courageously invites readers into the privacy of her life and reveals the ultimate truth of her existence with intimacy.  I thoroughly enjoyed reading Cheney's story, although I felt as though I were walking with her along the course of her journey.  I was absorbed into this charming, witty memoir and highly recommend the rest of you to add it to your "to read" list.

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