Character, Middle Grade, MMGM, Reading, Review

MMGM: THE TRAIN OF LOST THINGS by Ammi-Joan Paquette

Hello, MMGM friends! It’s been a bit since my last flurry of reviews and even longer since my last middle grade review, but I was in the revision cave and then at the Lake of the Ozarks enjoying time with my family. On the way back, I started THE TRAIN OF LOST THINGS by Ammi-Joan Paquette and ended up finishing it that evening. Despite the fact it deals with a sad topic, it was a quick and engaging read that I couldn’t put down. My ten-year-old son also read it a few days later and enjoyed it as well. But on to the description.

The Train of Lost Things by Ammi-Joan PaquetteMarty has always loved to hear his father tell the story of the Train of Lost Things: a magical engine that flies (yes, flies!) all around the world, collecting children’s lost objects. Then one day, Marty loses his most precious possession–a jean jacket packed with memories–which was given to him by his dad, who’s now very sick. Marty is devastated. He thinks the Train of Lost Things is just a story–but what if it’s real? Marty embarks on a desperate adventure to find the train, which is now his only link to the irreplaceable jacket.

To Marty’s shock and delight, he learns that the train is real! But it’s also gone out of control. Instead of helping return the lost items, the train has become an ever-growing heap of toys, trinkets, and memories. Along with Dina and Star, two girls he meets aboard the train, Marty sets about to learn what’s going on and to help put it right. And hopefully find his jacket in the process.

Here are the five things I loved most:

1. The jacket – What a wonderful idea to create a jacket full of memories, every pin and patch a representation of an activity Marty and his father had done together. My heart dropped with Marty’s when the jacket went missing.

2. The magic – I love the concept of a place where all the lost treasures go. Who hasn’t lost something at some point, something you’ve never been able to find again, no matter where you looked? It’s nice to think it might be out there, waiting for you.

3. The descriptions – I’ve read several of Ammi-Joan Paquette’s books now, and I always love her descriptions. Here’s an example of Marty climbing up to the top of the train.

It was a weird feeling, hiking up a tiny curlicue staircase on a moving mystery train. The steps were so narrow that Marty almost had to take them sideways. The whole thing was a bit like watching–no, like being–a fizzy bubble zooming up the inside of a bottle. Like he said, weird. With an extra dose of super weird on the side. Especially because he got to the top faster than he expected, and before he knew it his head and shoulders had oozed right through the opening window hatch, and then he was half in and half out of the train, and for a second his eyes blurred over because it was literally the craziest thing he had ever experienced.

4. Marty’s journey – Marty was such an authentic character to me. I felt so deeply what he was going through with his dad as well as the distance he felt from his friends. I appreciated how his adventure on the train helped him.

5. The ending – I expected this story to be sad based on the premise, but I was very satisfied with the resolution of the story. Now, my son had one more thing he wanted to happen at the end, but overall he was good with it too.

Have you read THE TRAIN OF LOST THINGS? What did you think?

Giveaways, Reading, Review, Young Adult

YA Review & Pre-Order Giveaway: THE WEIGHT OF FEATHERS by Anna-Marie McLemore

I’m thrilled to feature Anna-Marie McLemore’s THE WEIGHT OF FEATHERS on the blog today and to give away a pre-order to one lucky winner! Anna-Marie and I were teammates in the first-ever The Writer’s Voice contest in 2012 (Team Krista), and we’ve stayed in touch ever since–which is why I was able to get in on an ARC tour for the book and read it early :). The book comes out Sept. 15, and I will definitely be adding it to my permanent collection! Here’s the gorgeous cover and description.

The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemoreFor twenty years, the Palomas and the Corbeaus have been rivals and enemies, locked in an escalating feud for over a generation. Both families make their living as traveling performers in competing shows—the Palomas swimming in mermaid exhibitions, the Corbeaus, former tightrope walkers, performing in the tallest trees they can find.

Lace Paloma may be new to her family’s show, but she knows as well as anyone that the Corbeaus are pure magia negra, black magic from the devil himself. Simply touching one could mean death, and she’s been taught from birth to keep away. But when disaster strikes the small town where both families are performing, it’s a Corbeau boy, Cluck, who saves Lace’s life. And his touch immerses her in the world of the Corbeaus, where falling for him could turn his own family against him, and one misstep can be just as dangerous on the ground as it is in the trees.

Here are the five things I loved most:

1. The title – This may seem like a strange thing to love, but sometimes I read a whole novel and never figure out where the title originated. For this book, the title showed up on page two, and it completely grounded me in the story. Titles aren’t always powerful, but this one is.

2. The blend of magic and science – On the surface, this story is one of magic–not spells and transformations but an old, intrinsic magic that permeates these families. But at the same time, sciences plays an important role, and the two are woven together in a way I found quite fascinating as the story progressed. It’s unique and masterful.

3. The distinct voices – The story mostly alternates between Lace and Cluck, occasionally staying with one character for a couple of chapters. I loved how distinct the voices are. I wish I could share an example, but the scenes that I felt best exemplified this are quite long. It’s when each of them describe the other’s show. Lace goes into much more detail than Cluck, is more complimentary, and yet you still understand how much Cluck appreciates the mermaid show. Very well done.

4. The romance – I loved Lace and Cluck’s dialogue and wordplay, and if I hadn’t passed the ARC along to someone else, I would have found a passage to share for this :). But I also loved how the feelings built differently on each side, particularly as they each learn the other’s true identity at different points in the story. Imagine falling in love with someone and discovering later they’re your enemy versus knowing from the beginning they’re forbidden. I get shivers just remembering it!

5. The languages – I loved how seamlessly Anna-Marie wove in French and Spanish. Often the words were translated in an easy way, but sometimes they weren’t and it was entirely appropriate. There was a moment with Cluck’s mother where Lace said she must not have wanted her to know what she’d said since she didn’t translate. I never felt like the translations interrupted the flow of the narrative, and that’s quite an accomplishment.

I so love this book that I want to put it in someone else’s hands as soon as it’s available (remember, that’s Sept. 15!). As a result, I’m giving away a pre-order to one lucky winner. North America only, please. Click on the link below to enter.

Click here to enter the giveaway for THE WEIGHT OF FEATHERS!

And come back next week, as I’m planning another giveaway. I know! Two in a row :)!

Reading, Review, Young Adult

YA Review: ILLUSIONS OF FATE by Kiersten White

I was a huge a fan of Kiersten White’s PARANORMALCY trilogy, and while I’ve enjoyed her last few books, they haven’t quite lived up to that series for me. Hey, when you really love something, that’s hard to do. However, her latest, ILLUSIONS OF FATE, captured that magic again–in more than one way :).

Illusions of Fate by Kiersten WhiteThe people of Albion are different from anyone Jessamin has ever known: harsh, uptight, and obsessed with wealth and rank. Jessamin knew as much when she left her sun-drenched island home to attend school in their gray, dreary country.

But she had no idea how different they truly were.

She never thought she would discover a house with doors that open onto a hundred corners of the city or a book that spends its days as a bird. She certainly never expected to become a pawn in a political and magical power struggle between the sinister Lord Downpike and the handsome, charming Finn Ackerly. And she never so much as imagined she’d win Finn’s affections–or that one day his shadow would follow her every step.

Fortunately for Jessamin, fate has other ideas …

Here are the five things I loved most.

1. The setting – Despite the description, I didn’t realize until I started reading that this book is historical fantasy. I loved the period, with the beautiful gowns and carriages and formalities. It does give a sense of the characters being older, as in any historical YA, but I enjoyed it.

2. Jessamin’s letters – It’s a rather small part of the story, and yet Jessamin’s letters to her mother are such a great demonstration of her personality. Here’s a sample from the opening of the book:

“Dear Mama,

“I am most certainly not dead. Thank you for your tender concern. I will try to write more often so you don’t have to worry so between letters. (Because a week’s silence surely means I have fallen prey to a wasting illness or been murdered in these boring, gray streets.)

“School is going well. I am excelling in all of my classes. (Apparently, some things never change, and girls are not challenged in Albion in the same way they weren’t on Melei.)

It goes on, obviously. But don’t you get such a great sense of how she thinks in what she doesn’t say to her mother?

3. The magic – It’s amazing that with all the stories out there about magic, Ms. White found a new way to introduce it in this story. At least, a way I haven’t seen it done before. I won’t give it away because you should just experience it yourself.

4. The romance – It’s both a love-at-first-sight and a slow-building romance at the same time. I know that sounds contradictory, but it makes complete sense if you read the book, so do it!

5. The ending – Ooh, there was something I really didn’t see coming at the end. And yet, something I kept wondering about throughout the whole book so that it made total sense. That’s nice and vague, isn’t it? Very well done, Ms. White!

Have you read ILLUSIONS OF FATE yet? What did you think?

Reading, Review, Young Adult

YA Review: THE BURNING SKY by Sherry Thomas

As a writer, I get a lot of books recommended to me during the critique process for various reasons. Sometimes it’s because the author uses a similar technique, others for a similar premise or plot point. Discovering new authors is a great side benefit of the critique process. I’m not sure I would have heard about this one or picked it up on my own otherwise. So, thank you to Melanie Conklin for directing me to Sherry Thomas and THE BURNING SKY!

The Burning SkyIolanthe Seabourne is the greatest elemental mage of her generation—or so she’s being told. The one prophesied for years to be the savior of The Realm. It is her duty and destiny to face and defeat the Bane, the greatest mage tyrant the world has ever known. A suicide task for anyone let alone a sixteen-year-old girl with no training, facing a prophecy that foretells a fiery clash to the death.

Prince Titus of Elberon has sworn to protect Iolanthe at all costs but he’s also a powerful mage committed to obliterating the Bane to revenge the death of his family—even if he must sacrifice both Iolanthe and himself to achieve his goal.

But Titus makes the terrifying mistake of falling in love with the girl who should have been only a means to an end. Now, with the servants of the Bane closing in, he must choose between his mission and her life.

Here the five things I loved most.

1. The footnotes – I loved the way Ms. Thomas used reference texts from within the world to provide background. My only caveat was that I wished the footnotes had been on the actual pages instead of having to flip to the back of the book, but they were long footnotes, so I can see why the publisher decided to do it that way.

2. The new twist on an old story – Is it a Chosen One story or not? With the prophesy, it certainly sounds like a Chosen One story, but it’s not that simple, and the question of how much control they have over fate becomes central to the story. I’m interested to see how it plays out in the rest of the series.

3. The romance – I was a little nervous going in about a romance author switching to young adult, but Ms. Thomas handled it very well. It had just the right amount of adolescent tension, particularly for the first book in a series. And I love Titus, with the multiple faces he puts on depending on his audience!

4. The magical elements – I liked they way Ms. Thomas pulled in a number of magical elements that seemed familiar from existing stories and still introduced new concepts. It made the world easy to relate to and yet offered more to discover. I think this is a hard balance to achieve.

5. The enemy – The Bane remained a complete mystery to me at the end of the book, and that was kind of amazing considering it was a hefty novel. Quite a lot happened. I think that’s because one of his underlings was the more immediate threat, so now I’m hooked and intrigued about this villain and what is in store for Titus and Iolanthe in the next book.

Have you read THE BURNING SKY? Are you anxiously awaiting the next book in the series? Are there any authors you’ve discovered thanks to a recommendation from a critique partner or beta reader?

Iolanthe Seabourne is the greatest elemental mage of her generation—or so she’s being told. The one prophesied for years to be the savior of The Realm. It is her duty and destiny to face and defeat the Bane, the greatest mage tyrant the world has ever known. A suicide task for anyone let alone a sixteen-year-old girl with no training, facing a prophecy that foretells a fiery clash to the death.

Prince Titus of Elberon has sworn to protect Iolanthe at all costs but he’s also a powerful mage committed to obliterating the Bane to revenge the death of his family—even if he must sacrifice both Iolanthe and himself to achieve his goal.

But Titus makes the terrifying mistake of falling in love with the girl who should have been only a means to an end. Now, with the servants of the Bane closing in, he must choose between his mission and her life.

– See more at: http://www.sherrythomas.com/the-burning-sky.php#sthash.JTiwEDMI.dpuf

Iolanthe Seabourne is the greatest elemental mage of her generation—or so she’s being told. The one prophesied for years to be the savior of The Realm. It is her duty and destiny to face and defeat the Bane, the greatest mage tyrant the world has ever known. A suicide task for anyone let alone a sixteen-year-old girl with no training, facing a prophecy that foretells a fiery clash to the death.

Prince Titus of Elberon has sworn to protect Iolanthe at all costs but he’s also a powerful mage committed to obliterating the Bane to revenge the death of his family—even if he must sacrifice both Iolanthe and himself to achieve his goal.

But Titus makes the terrifying mistake of falling in love with the girl who should have been only a means to an end. Now, with the servants of the Bane closing in, he must choose between his mission and her life.

– See more at: http://www.sherrythomas.com/the-burning-sky.php#sthash.JTiwEDMI.dpuf

Iolanthe Seabourne is the greatest elemental mage of her generation—or so she’s being told. The one prophesied for years to be the savior of The Realm. It is her duty and destiny to face and defeat the Bane, the greatest mage tyrant the world has ever known. A suicide task for anyone let alone a sixteen-year-old girl with no training, facing a prophecy that foretells a fiery clash to the death.

Prince Titus of Elberon has sworn to protect Iolanthe at all costs but he’s also a powerful mage committed to obliterating the Bane to revenge the death of his family—even if he must sacrifice both Iolanthe and himself to achieve his goal.

But Titus makes the terrifying mistake of falling in love with the girl who should have been only a means to an end. Now, with the servants of the Bane closing in, he must choose between his mission and her life.

– See more at: http://www.sherrythomas.com/the-burning-sky.php#sthash.JTiwEDMI.dpuf