Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi

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Under the Never Sky

Under the Never Sky #1

Veronica Rossi

3.5stars


 

Exiled from her home, the enclosed city of Reverie, Aria knows her chances of surviving in the outer wasteland–known as The Death Shop–are slim. If the cannibals don’t get her, the violent, electrified energy storms will. She’s been taught that the very air she breathes can kill her. Then Aria meets an Outsider named Perry. He’s wild–a savage–and her only hope of staying alive.

A hunter for his tribe in a merciless landscape, Perry views Aria as sheltered and fragile–everything he would expect from a Dweller. But he needs Aria’s help too; she alone holds the key to his redemption. Opposites in nearly every way, Aria and Perry must accept each other to survive. Their unlikely alliance forges a bond that will determine the fate of all who live under the never sky.

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This was another reread for me, but it was one of the series I set out to finish in 2016. I remember really liking this book the first time, and while my opinion didn’t really change, there were a few things that made me lower the rating from a 4 to a 3.5

Pacing is pretty slow. It didn’t ruin the story, but not much really happens. Within the last 100 pages the story really picks up, which I guess is pretty normal. There isn’t a whole lot of backstory but in this case I don’t think it really ruins the book. Sometime around 300 years ago the “Unity” occurred, which I think involved some sort of catastrophic weather shift that forced people into domes. And after living outside for 300 years, the outsiders also developed genetic mutations, which allow some people’s senses to be extra strong. Although I personally would have enjoyed way more backstory, I think this was pretty sufficient. I do still hope we will learn more in the next two books.

I liked Perry a lot, but Aria annoyed me for 50% of the book. She was just so…I don’t really know. Not immature. Maybe naïve. She is really rude to Perry and continuously calls him a monster and savage even though he keeps saving her life. She is so upset that he killed three men who were going to EAT HER. Come on. Sometimes murder (especially in a wild land where there are no rules and people are going to EAT YOU) is totally and completely justified. I won’t go so far as to say that everything with happens with the Croven’s is totally her fault, but if she had just listened to Perry it probably would have turned out differently.

She gets better about halfway through the book though and by the end I actually really like her so yay for character development.

And I really enjoyed the romance. Once Aria stopped being an asshole I can see why Perry falls for her. Sure it’s bordering on instalove (it’s been less than 2 weeks) I am always a bit quicker to forgive the trope when the couple is involved in a fight for survival. Like, when it’s just the two of you working together, it makes some sense that you would seek comfort with the other one.

Other pluses include an actual mention of Aria’s period (and while I wouldn’t go so far as to call it barbaric, I totally agree that it is bullshit that it has to happen every month) and sex in YA! Yeah it happens off page but they very clearly have sex.  I’m totally for incorporating more sex into YA lit.  I don’t even care if it happens off page.  I just want more sex, especially when the characters do not hold their virginity up on a pedestal as the be all and end all of their worth as women.

s2f

ARC Review: These Vicious Masks

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These Vicious Masks

These Vicious Masks #1

Tarun Shanker and Kelly Zekas

February 9, 2016

Source: Netgalley, e-ARC

3.5stars

Goodreads | Amazon | The Book Depository

I was provided with this ARC by the publisher and Netgalley in exchange for my honest opinion.


Jane Austen meets X-­Men in this gripping and adventure-­filled paranormal romance set in Victorian London.

England, 1882. Evelyn is bored with society and its expectations. So when her beloved sister, Rose, mysteriously vanishes, she ignores her parents and travels to London to find her, accompanied by the dashing Mr. Kent. But they’re not the only ones looking for Rose. The reclusive, young gentleman Sebastian Braddock is also searching for her, claiming that both sisters have special healing powers. Evelyn is convinced that Sebastian must be mad, until she discovers that his strange tales of extraordinary people are true—and that her sister is in graver danger than she feared.

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Throughout reading I felt a bit removed from both the characters and the plot.  Basically, for the majority of this book I was just reading it because I had an ARC and felt as if I had an obligation to finish, since nothing was really annoying me enough to DNF.  I’m glad I finished because the ending really helped up my enjoyment of this novel and I am 85% positive I will continue with the series.

What I liked:

Evelyn

I really enjoyed that she was constantly rebelling against society’s restrictions, but at the same time acknowledged that deep down it still mattered to her.  I feel like whenever I read about a heroine who wants nothing to do with Society they often don’t recognize how difficult life would actually be if they were to truly spurn it.  She was sassy and outspoken, and she was always ready to save not only her sister, but herself.  Yes she got help from 2 men, but she wasn’t about to be left behind while they played hero.

I also really liked that even though she is told that she has special “powers” she doesn’t actually believe it until she sees it.  I am so sick of instant acceptance.  Oh, I can heal people with my touch? OK awesome. No need for proof.  Nope. Not Evelyn.

The “X-Men” aspect

I LOVE X-Men.  When I was in high school I used to watch those movies over and over again.  Until I saw Captain America, they were in fact my favorite superhero group. So I really enjoyed this part of the novel.  I’m really looking forward to the sequels to learn more about them and what other people can do.  There actually wasn’t much information about the powers in this book, as it was more Evelyn’s searching for her sister and her introduction into this new world, but I’m ok with that.

The Romance (or lack thereof)

Ok, this one is kind of misleading, because I wasn’t in fact the biggest fan of the love-triangle, as you will see, but I will mention that I did appreciate that you could remove the romance entirely and the book would survive and still be pretty awesome.

The Ending

I have to say that I saw it coming, and I’m totally OK with it.  It just had to happen, in my opinion.  It opens up so many possibilities for the sequel, but it also doesn’t exactly end on a cliff hanger.  It would have been totally possible to end the book with the first one, but I’m glad there will be more.

What I didn’t like:

The Love Triangle/Square

I have to admit that I don’t automatically hate love triangles.  I can enjoy them well enough, but usually only if the girl (who is usually the top of the triangle) has enough redeeming qualities for me to see why even one guy would be interested in her.  And it works because Evelyn is pretty damn awesome, but I just didn’t really like either of the male love interests.  Sebastian Braddock was dark and broody, and they had some nice scenes, but I just didn’t see any chemistry between them.  Added to the fact that there is also another lady who is interested in him, and things are getting a bit crowded.  I did like Nicholas Kent more, but there was just something about him.  He always seemed a bit shady.


That’s pretty much all that I really didn’t enjoy, and even that didn’t take too much away.  The plot was fast paced and non-stop action and it kept me engaged for the majority of the time.  And there is nothing quite like reading a historical novel (even a supernatural/paranormal/sci-fi one) to make me thankful I live in the 21st Century.

Reviewing the Sequel: Untold by Sarah Rees Brennan

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Untold

The Lynburn Legacy #2

Sarah Rees Brennan

2013

3.5stars

Goodreads | Amazon | The Book Depository


It’s time to choose sides….

On the surface, Sorry-in-the-Vale is a sleepy English town. But Kami Glass knows the truth. Sorry-in-the-Vale is full of magic. In the old days, the Lynburn family ruled with fear, terrifying the people into submission in order to kill for blood and power. Now the Lynburns are back, and Rob Lynburn is gathering sorcerers so that the town can return to the old ways.

But Rob and his followers aren’t the only sorcerers in town. A decision must be made: pay the blood sacrifice, or fight. For Kami, this means more than just choosing between good and evil. With her link to Jared Lynburn severed, she’s now free to love anyone she chooses. But who should that be?

A darkly humorous take on Gothic romance, Sarah Rees Brennan’s Lynburn Legacy weaves together the tale of a heroine desperate to protect those she loves, two boys hoping to be saved, and the magical forces that will shape their destiny.


Some spoilers for the first book.

So since the last book, Kami and Jared have broken the link between them, Jared hates her and Kami has no power. Rob is raising a Sorcerer army, and Lillian wants nothing to do with Kami, Ash, or Jared.

This was another reread for me.

This was my original review:

not as good as the first one, but I have hope for the third. I don’t really consider Kami Jared Ash to be a love triangle because it’s obvious at this point that she really doesn’t care for Ash the way she does Jared. There is no competition at this point. Also, where the fuck is Kami’s mom and why does she suck so much?

It wasn’t as good as the first one, but I think I will change my original 3 star rating to 3.5. I still really enjoyed the book, it’s just not much really happened. It was kind of a filler book, with a weak battle scene at the end. There was a lot of relationship drama and SO MUCH could have been avoided if Kami and Jared had just had a conversation where neither jumped to conclusions about what the other one wanted/meant.

Again, the characters make this book, and again Kami comes out as the true winner.

She cried quietly, hands pressed to her eyes, and as she cried she was almost relieved. Here she was, lonely and miserable, and she was still going to go into the gym and do what needed to be done. She had wondered who she was without Jared, stripped of all her supports and forced to stand on her own. She had worried that she would break if her heart broke, but she wasn’t broken. She had lost everything, but she was not lost.

NOW THIS IS HOW YOU HANDLED A BREAK UP.   Honestly, I don’t think I can think of another book, especially a paranormal romance book where a character so maturely handles a break up. Honestly, for all it’s faults, this one paragraph alone makes up for a lot of the bullshit drama. Kami NEVER lets the fact that she is upset over a break up stand in her way. I mean, that is seriously bad ass. At her age, I would have taken a day or two off from trying to fight evil. But NOPE. Not Kami. And that is why she is possibly one of my favorite heroines ever.

Oh, and lets not forget about the fact that throughout this book, Kami is literally powerless. Yes she was a source in the first book, and was at some points able to control the magic, but she has lost that link. All she has is her brains and her mouth and she kicks serious ass. I mean, not exactly in the fight scene that comes at the end, but just in general. She doesn’t need special magic powers to be awesome. And I love that.

The other characters were just as awesome, with the exception of Jared. He was funny again, but way too melodramatic. And I really hate Kami’s mom. She is completely useless as a human being. Jon Glass for the win. Rusty Montgomery was another winner in this book. I just love him so much. I really want Kami to forget the Lynburns and be with him, but you know…platonic friendships are cool…I guess.

Ooh, just something else, the book actually mentions bisexuals!! An actual mention, which is almost unheard of in, ANY form of entertainment.

All in all, I enjoy these books mostly for the characters. Untold read almost a bit too much like a filler book and the drama was a bit much, but I would still totally recommend it.  I am super excited to FINALLY read the last book and find out once and for all how this all ends!

s2f

A Journey Through Time: Review of Timebound by Rysa Walker

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Timebound

The Chronos Files #1

Rysa Walker

2012/2014 (self-published/republished)

3.5stars

Source: Netgalley

Goodreads | Amazon | The Book Depository

I was provided with this ARC by the publisher and Netgalley in exchange for my honest opinion.


 

When Kate Pierce-Keller’s grandmother gives her a strange blue medallion and speaks of time travel, sixteen-year-old Kate assumes the old woman is delusional. But it all becomes horrifyingly real when a murder in the past destroys the foundation of Kate’s present-day life. Suddenly, that medallion is the only thing protecting Kate from blinking out of existence.

Kate learns that the 1893 killing is part of something much more sinister, and Kate’s genetic ability to time-travel makes her the only one who can stop him. Risking everything, she travels to the Chicago World’s Fair to try to prevent the killing and the chain of events that follows.

Changing the timeline comes with a personal cost, however—if Kate succeeds, the boy she loves will have no memory of her existence. And regardless of her motives, does she have the right to manipulate the fate of the entire world?


 

I have absolutely no idea how to write this review.  First, because it’s hard to review something you do not have a complete grasp on. Second, because I was annoyed for more than half the book.

Here is a screenshot of my Goodreads updates:

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So obviously, there is no real time traveling until 68% into the book. But everything did speed up after that.  It took me 6 hours to read the first half, because honestly, I was bored.  I took me like 3 hours to finish the book after that because I was so invested.

As I am writing this, I’m not sure if I have posted my review of Alexandra Bracken’s Passenger yet.*  But if I haven’t, I guess I’ll just say that  I LOVE time travel books.  75% of the time I have no idea what is going on.  I’m guessing time travel involves some sort of physics-ish type of science understanding and I dropped out of AP Physics on the 1st day of 11th grade and spent the year in the library writing horrible stories and love notes. I don’t do science.  So it takes awhile for my brain to catch up with the idea of timelines and alternate universes and a lot of times I just try to look past any lack of understanding and chalk it up to the fact that it could be in the plainest of English and I will not understand.  Any time travel experts out there willing to help a girl out?

( I do, however, remember reading somewhere that there are 2 schools of thought when it comes to time travel, and if I’m not mistaken–which i probably am–I like the one that says you can’t really fuck with time, because if you go back in time and do something, then it has already happened in the future.)

So suffice to say, I am completely and totally confused as to how the hell time travel works in this book, but I don’t even care. I will probably at sometime go back and reread the book, and hopefully gather a greater understanding.  If not, then maybe it was the author’s fault and not my own.

Back to the book.

No time traveling happens until 68% into the book, and while I was super annoyed while I was reading, I realize now that it wasn’t that big of a deal.  Obviously it might be to other people, but I’m glad I stuck with it.  There is a LOT of information given during the first 68%.  Sometimes it really did verge on info-dumping, but I thought it was pretty interesting either way.

I really liked Kate.  For as little action there is in the first half, it is still an plot driven book.  There isn’t a super large amount of character development, but I still connected with her.  She’s a girl, who has been thrown out of her own timeline, ripped away from everything she has ever known, and she handles it pretty well.  Of course, there is that instant acceptance that irks me, but what are you going to do?  You can’t have a book where the MC refuses to believe the truth for multiple chapters. That would really slow the plot down. But Kate does what she needs to do in order to restore her life, at least as normally as she can, given the constant shifting of the timeline.

There is a love triangle. Kind of.  It was actually probably one of the best love triangles I’ve ever seen because, first, there is solid reasoning behind it, and second, it doesn’t really exist.  That doesn’t really make much sense, but you’ll understand if you read it.

Trey was so sweet and kind.  There was a teensy-tiny bit of a instalove between the two of them, but honestly it just reminded me of falling in love for the first time at 16.  They weren’t obsessed with each other in a gross way, but they wanted to spend all the time together that they could.  I was 16 and in love once, so I understand.  It was a healthy relationship, and ugh.  Trey was pretty damn near close to perfect.

And Kiernan.  I had almost completely written him off but ugh.  There had to be that little twist and now my heart is battling back and forth between the two boys.

Kate makes her choice in this book.  I’m not sure what will happen in future books, but honestly, at this moment, I’d be happy either way.

Also A++ for an accurate description of DC.  And I loved the idea of intertwining the World Fair and HH Holmes into the story.

Even though I am still lost with the science-y aspect and I had to read more than half a book before any real time traveling occurred I’m still going to give this 3.5 stars.  Honestly, I would have given it a full 4, but I’m still a bit bitter.

So if you are going to give this a shot, it’s best you go in knowing that it is pretty information heavy, action light in the beginning, but it really speeds up.  I am really looking forward to starting the second book!

 

* I have already posted my review of Passenger.  I really suck at reviewing time travel books, but I hope you get the idea that I really do love them.

Belle Epoque by Elizabeth Ross

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Belle Epoque

Elizabeth Ross

2013

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Goodreads | Amazon | The Book Depository


When Maude Pichon runs away from provincial Brittany to Paris, her romantic dreams vanish as quickly as her savings. Desperate for work, she answers an unusual ad. The Durandeau Agency provides its clients with a unique service—the beauty foil. Hire a plain friend and become instantly more attractive.

Monsieur Durandeau has made a fortune from wealthy socialites, and when the Countess Dubern needs a companion for her headstrong daughter, Isabelle, Maude is deemed the perfect foil.

But Isabelle has no idea her new “friend” is the hired help, and Maude’s very existence among the aristocracy hinges on her keeping the truth a secret. Yet the more she learns about Isabelle, the more her loyalty is tested. And the longer her deception continues, the more she has to lose.


I understood something I will never forget: how I wished to arrest all the beauty that came before me. Not the classical beauty of symmetry and exact proportions or the fancy of fashion, which is ever-changing with the seasons, but the beauty of a soul, that inner life that reveals itself so seldom, just for an instant, and only if you look closely and learn to see with an open heart.

When she discovers that her father is planning to marry her off to the butcher, a man 20 years her senior, Maude decides to run away. After years of wanting to see the world and all it has to offer, she takes the train to Paris. She envisions herself working in a shop, and being the independent young woman that was becoming popular in the late 19th century. But with no references and her village upbringing, her dreams are soon dashed.

Desperate for work, she finds herself applying for a job with Monsieur Durandeau. Once she discovers that she was hired as a repoussoir, an ugly women rented by high society women in order to make themselves look better, she is rightfully horrified and humiliated. She leaves and tries to find “honest” work but when things get desperate she finds herself on Durandeau’s doorstep once more asking for the job.

She is hired by the Countess Dubern, to be her daughter’s companion through the Season. The Countess hopes that by having Maude next to Isabelle will only work to highlight Isabelle’s beauty and help catch a husband.

This was more of a quiet story than a slow one. Not much really happens plot wise. It is much more just Maude slowly getting caught up in the world of high society and her internal conflict. But that didn’t stop me from reading it really quickly. I love when books remind me that they don’t have to be non-stop action to be enjoyable.

So much emphasis on beauty in society, whether today or in 1888. That has not, and probably will never, change. And most stories are told from the POV of the beautiful. Yeah they might consider themselves plain, but there are always people there to remind them how special they are. But not Maude. She is plain, and has it pointed out to her on a daily basis. (although if you put a picture of a girl on your cover, I automatically assume that that girl is the MC, so Maude is far from plain).

I felt for Maude though. I understood her shame, but was also happy how she never really lost her dreaming spirit. Even when I wanted to shake her to remind her of her situation so she wouldn’t get hurt, I kept rooting for her. I wanted her to have a better life; the life she deserved. I enjoyed seeing how Maude’s opinions changed and shifted over the course of Season.

I was much more interested in Isabelle’s character though. She doesn’t really go through character development so much as we see the already developed layers of her character unfold. Like Maude she doesn’t wish to be married off to the highest bidder and fights her mother’s will for a successful Season. She has her own dreams, and like with Maude, I wanted to see those come true.

The ending wrapped up very neatly, which sometimes I have an issue with, but not this time. It was just so wonderful and I don’t think I could have asked for a better ending for all these women.

The writing was beautiful. It was so descriptive and I felt as if it really brought 19th century Paris to life. As much as I enjoyed reading about the “Season”, I wish there had been more focus on the Bohemian aspect then on high society. The discussions of art and music were an added bonus and it actually made me want to learn more about the culture of the period.

And, another bonus is that this story is very light on the romance. It is always refreshing to find a book in which the plot survives if you remove the romance entirely.

So if you’re looking for a low-key, character driven historical novel that is light on romance, I recommend you give this a shot.

Reviewing a Classic: The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

This isn’t a real review. It’s basically me just explaining why I don’t really review Classics.

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The Haunting of Hill House

Shirley Jackson

Format: Audiobook; read by Bernadette Dunne

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First published in 1959, Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House has been hailed as a perfect work of unnerving terror. It is the story of four seekers who arrive at a notoriously unfriendly pile called Hill House: Dr. Montague, an occult scholar looking for solid evidence of a “haunting”; Theodora, his lighthearted assistant; Eleanor, a friendless, fragile young woman well acquainted with poltergeists; and Luke, the future heir of Hill House. At first, their stay seems destined to be merely a spooky encounter with inexplicable phenomena. But Hill House is gathering its powers—and soon it will choose one of them to make its own.


I started this way back in October when I was trying to read scary books for Halloween.  I stopped reading around 30% and returned it to the library. I just couldn’t really take it seriously.  I think that’s one of my main problems with older books. Did they really talk like this?  But a few days ago I was thinking about the classics challenge I’m participating in and figured I might as well give it another shot because I’m going to have to read a bunch of old books.  But I decided to listen to the Audiobook instead.  And I really enjoyed listening to it.  Bernadette Dunne read it and I think she did a great job.  Her narration added the perfect creep factor that I wasn’t getting from just reading. 75% of enjoying an audiobook to me is the narrator.  And usually I prefer male narrators to female.  I think it has to do with listening to so many YA audiobooks, such as the Hunger Games and Legend where the narrators were so boring.  An English accent always helps as well.
For the story, I’m not really going to review it.  The book is pretty old, and it’s a classic “horror” story.  I’m sure this book has been analyzed thousands of times and I’m not about to add my nonsensical thoughts to that.  Although I wouldn’t mind actually reading some literary commentary on it.   Sometimes I miss college.  I would gladly go back if I didn’t have to write any papers or take any tests.

I enjoyed the actual plot as well.  It reminded me a lot of The Turn of The Screw, by Henry James, which I had to read for a Lit class in college. You’re never quite sure if anything at all is really happening or if it is all in the characters head.  It’s more than “horror” because it is so intensely psychological. I wasn’t exactly scared while listening, but I was definitely intrigued and I may have shivered involuntarily on more than one occasion.

I don’t usually rate classics literature (Again, who cares what I have to say when it is clearly a classic for a reason), but I’d give it a 3-3.5.  Let’s be nice and go up because I really enjoyed the narration .  I’ll probably actually try and read it again to see if there is anything I missed while I was cleaning my  bathroom.  Maybe next Halloween.

Has anyone read The Haunting of Hill House? 

What do you think? 

Was it all in their heads?

Or was Hill House really evil? 

Jackaby by William Ritter

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Jackaby

Jackaby #1

by William Ritter

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It’s 1892 and Abigail Rook has left her parents home in search of adventure. After a brief tenure as an archaeological assistant, she leaves Europe behind to head to the United States. She is soon employed by a Mr. R. F. Jackaby, a strange and brilliant man who has the ability to detect the supernatural that are usually otherwise hidden from the human eye. Their first case together involves a supernatural serial killer with the penchant of ripping open his victims and mopping up their blood.

While the mystery aspect of Jackaby was pretty standard (beyond it being a supernatural suspect), what really sold me on the book were the characters.

Abigail Rook is a strong, independent young woman (I don’t think her age is ever mentioned, but I’d guess she is anywhere from maybe 16-19.) After years of being left behind while her father went to one archeological digs after another, she decides to set out on her own.

“As you had previously cautioned, a professional dig site proved to be no place for a young lady to run around. Currently in seek of a better location to do so.”

She is smart, observant and won’t let anyone tell her how she is supposed to act as a young lady, which I particularly enjoyed. The subtle (Ok maybe not so subtle) jabs at gender norms was one of my favorite parts.   And she has a healthy appreciation for pockets.

“Pockets! I was thrilled. I have never understood the aversion to pockets in ladies fashion—as though it has become some great shame to appear as if one might actually need to possess anything.”

It’s funny how 120 years have passed and it’s still a struggle to find any women’s clothing that has real pockets. But, back to the story.

I liked Abigail’s narration a lot. She was funny witty and I think an overall awesome counterpart to Jackaby.

“I see the things more extraordinary still, the things no one else sees. But you—you notice mailboxes and wastebaskets and…and people. One who can see the ordinary is extraordinary indeed, Abigail Rook.”

Jackaby, like the synopsis stated, is the Sherlock Holmes of supernatural mysteries.

“I am a man of reason and science. I believe what I can see or prove, and what I can see is often difficult for others to grasp […] I do not believe, for an example, that pixies enjoy honey and milk because some old superstition says they do …I believe it because when I leave a dish out for them a few times a week, they top by and drink.”

But at the same time he reminded me of Shawn Spencer from Psych because he can be funny when he wants to be, often at the expense of the police inspector who doesn’t believe in the supernatural.

And the relationship that developed (albeit rather quickly) between them was great. First, because it is 100% platonic without any sort of indication that would ever change. They banter was probably my favorite part:

“That book. What on earth are you doing with it?”

“Well, you had the stick.”

His eyebrows furrowed. “This is a shillelagh. It was cut from Irish blackthorn by a leprechaun craftsman […] That […] is a book.”

“It’s heavy, though. A Leprechaun? Like, the tiny fellow who keeps pots of gold at the ends of rainbows?”

“Don’t be asinine. I mean a real leprechaun.”

I also really liked that there was almost no romance. There was the development of a crush and the hint of a possible future romance but that’s really it.

The writing was good; it was pretty simple and straightforward, but that’s not always a bad thing. I think Jackaby would be great for middle grade and the younger set of YA, but I still had a great time reading it. I’m looking forward to reading the sequel.