Review: Mechanica (Betsy Cornwell)

MechanicaNicolette’s awful stepsisters call her “Mechanica” to demean her, but the nickname fits: she learned to be an inventor at her mother’s knee. Her mom is gone now, though, and the Steps have turned her into a servant in her own home.

But on her sixteenth birthday, Nicolette discovers a secret workshop in the cellar and begins to dare to imagine a new life for herself. Could the mysterious books and tools hidden there—and the mechanical menagerie, led by a tiny metal horse named Jules—be the key to escaping her dreary existence? With a technological exposition and royal ball on the horizon, the timing might just be perfect for Nicolette to earn her freedom at last.

Gorgeous prose and themes of social justice and family shine in this richly imagined Cinderella retelling about an indomitable inventor who finds her prince . . . but realizes she doesn't want a fairy tale happy ending after all.

This book has everything!

What can I say about Mechanica? It exceeded all expectations. You can't tell from here, but that cover glows. It's beautiful and perfectly captures this tale.

Plus, a steampunk retelling of Cinderella with magic and fairy folk? AND a strong, determined heroine? OMGee.

Mechanica- or Nic- is great. She shares many similarities with the original, neglected and poorly treated Cinderella, but she is also unique. She's witty, brilliant with machines, and has a purpose for her life that she is working so hard to achieve. I love that. There will be no waiting around for a prince to save her (or will there be?).

I am not sure what it says about me to love Jules as much as I do. The way the author described him gave him so much personality that I imagined him like a real animal. I wanted a tiny pet horse for myself.

I loved the writing in Mechanica. Every page was filled with prose that created such an extraordinary world. I wanted to be sucked in to Nic's life and experience her world. The descriptions were rich and dripping with detail, but they weren't wordy. It was the perfect combination. I flew through this book because it had me captured from the start. I did not want to stop reading. From what I can tell, there might be a sequel? It sure ended that way and my hopes are high that we will get to revisit this land and characters soon.  

Review: The Selection and The Elite (Kiera Cass)

The Selection (The Selection, #1)For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime. The opportunity to escape the life laid out for them since birth. To be swept up in a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels. To live in a palace and compete for the heart of gorgeous Prince Maxon.

But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her. Leaving her home to enter a fierce competition for a crown she doesn't want. Living in a palace that is constantly threatened by violent rebel attacks.

Then America meets Prince Maxon. Gradually, she starts to question all the plans she's made for herself—and realizes that the life she's always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined. 

I'm always a bit tardy for the party, but I figured better to arrive late than never to attend at all. With that being said, I just couldn't ignore these covers any longer. Every book has a beautiful dress that just makes me want to rub my fingers all over the fabrics. Plus, I don't watch a lot of television, so the plot line sounded a lot like swarmy reality tv. 

I've never been patient, which is usually why I don't read series until all the book are out or close to being out. I just don't want to wait. Plus, it makes binge reading way more fun. Since I read The Selection and The Elite close together, I'm going to review them together. I have to wait for The One. *hrumph*

Do not go into The Selection expecting any big surprises. Really. There aren't any. In fact, I predicted how this book would end someone around the middle. Usually that would leave me a bit disappointed, but I enjoyed reading it all the same. For me, it was mindless reading with just a few irritants.

First, Maxon got on my nerves. I'm hoping he grows on me, but so far- no. He's too sugary sweet. I'm not buying it. Also, Aspen kind of ticks me off too. He throws America to the side out of pride (in my opinion), then suddenly wants to swoop in and claim his turf again. And he's thinks it's (a) okay to do that and (b) what everyone wants. He's a persistent and highly arrogant thing.

The characters weren't really all that exciting or fresh either. They felt flat and predictable. If I had to pick my favorites, it would be America's maids. They seemed alright. There were a
few places with some humor that made me chuckle.

To be honest, I'm not sure why I enjoyed the book so much. Love triangles usually annoy me. For whatever reason, though, I kept reading. I once read somewhere that Kierra Cass is not a great writer but she is a great story teller. I think I might tend to agree with that statement. There were plot holes and minor details that kept creeping up, but the story was so richly colored in descriptions (of amazing dresses) that my girly side just kept flipping the pages.

The Elite (The Selection, #2)The Selection began with thirty-five girls.
Now with the group narrowed down to the six Elite, the competition to win Prince Maxon's heart is fiercer than ever—and America is still struggling to decide where her heart truly lies. Is it with Maxon, who could make her life a fairy tale? Or with her first love, Aspen?

America is desperate for more time. But the rest of the Elite know exactly what they want—and America's chance to choose is about to slip away. 

Oh, this book. Man. The Elite was (not surprisingly) just as predictable as The Selection. However, there were a few surprises in this one. One character manages to find herself in a tough spot, and that did surprise me a bit. There was finally a depth to someone in the character to make them not seem as flat.

But Maxon and Aspen as still awful-- and America's constant flip flopping is not helping. Maxon wants America. That was established in The Selection, except even though he says he'll wait for her, he really won't. He's working on a back up plan. But don't worry. He tells America that and she's okay with it. Because, you know, everyone is okay with their future husband keeping his options open. As for Aspen, he's still being a pig. It just bothers me so much that he assumes America still wants him after how he acted. But then again, America doesn't really say she doesn't want him. Indecisive characters are so annoying.

I know how The One will end. Each books sets it up perfectly and does nothing to alter your expectations. Maybe they aren't meant to. I still keep reading. I have no idea what pulls me to these books, but I want to see them through until the end.

Book Tour: The Night Parade by Kathryn Tanquary

The Night Parade
By Kathryn Tanquary
January 1, 2016; Hardcover ISBN 9781492623244

Book Info:
Title: The Night Parade
Author: Kathryn Tanquary
Release Date: January 1, 2016
Publishers: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Praise for The Night Parade:

“Wonder and imagination abound in Tanquary’s debut, a fantasy set in a contemporary Japanese mountain village; filled with respect and admiration for cultural tradition, it evokes both Grimm’s fairy tales and Miyazaki’s films...Vivid details and realistic situations ensure accessibility, and subtle teaching moments are wrapped in wide-eyed enchantment.” –Publishers Weekly STARRED Review

“An entertaining mix of Japanese folklore and teen angst” –School Library Journal

“Highly imaginative, beautifully written and what a wonderful book that talks about becoming true to oneself. While reading this all I could picture was a Miyazaki film in my head, and it was beautiful!”--Teresa Steele, Old Firehouse Books (Fort Collins, CO)

In the shadow of the forest, the Night Parade marches on…
The last thing Saki Yamamoto wants to do for her summer vacation is trade in exciting Tokyo for the antiquated rituals and bad cell reception of her grandmother’s remote mountain village. Preparing for the Obon ceremony is boring. Then the local kids take an interest in Saki, and she sees an opportunity for some fun, even if it means disrespecting her family’s ancestral shrine on a malicious dare.
But as Saki rings the sacred bell, the darkness shifts. A death curse has been invoked…and Saki has three nights to undo it. With the help of three spirit guides and some unexpected friends, Saki must prove her worth- or say goodbye to the world of the living forever.

About the Author:
Kathryn Tanquary is a graduate of Knox College with a B.A. in Creative Writing. She currently resides in Japan as a teacher of English as a Foreign Language.

Social Networking Links: Goodreads  Author's website

Excerpt from The Night Parade:
In the dead of night, she woke to three cold fingers on her neck.
Saki blinked in the darkness. The sliding door was open to the forest. The fingers pressed against her jugular, and bright, thundering panic surged through her body.
The fingers curled down toward her throat.
She tried to open her mouth to scream, but her jaw was locked shut. Her hands groped for her phone under the futon. Before she reached it, she touched her grandfather’s worn-­out charm. The three fingers retracted, leaving her skin cold and bloodless.
“Oh good, you’re awake.” She heard her brother’s voice.
Saki flipped around. Lying on her back, she stared up into a pair of eyes.
It was not her brother.
It knelt next to her on the tatami floor, knees brushing the edge of her pillow. Her brother’s futon was empty, and the blankets were flung around the room. It may have been Jun’s body kneeling there, but whatever stared back at her was not her brother.
The clouds shifted, and light fell through the open door, burning moon-­blue on everything it touched. Her not-­brother’s eyes reflected the light like a will-­o’-­the-­wisp.
“I thought you might sleep through it.” The creature smiled. Her brother’s teeth seemed sharper than usual.
Saki touched her hand to her jaw. It unlocked. Her voice was little more than a whisper. “Sleep through what?”
It leaned over. She stared into its will-­o’-­the-­wisp’s eyes.
“The Night Parade, of course.”
With a single movement, it was standing by the crack in the door. The forest stretched on into the night.
“Get up, get up! We’re late already.”
Saki scrambled to her knees. She pulled a blanket around her shoulders and clutched her phone to her chest.
“W-­what have you done to my brother?”
It rolled her brother’s eyes around the room and licked his teeth. “Impressive, isn’t it?” It opened its arms and looked down at the body it had taken. “Of course, beautiful maidens are traditional, but we must work with what we have, no?”
Saki eyed the backpack in the corner. It was heavy enough to swing in a pinch. “If you touch me, I’ll scream.”
The creature with her brother’s body became very serious. “Oh no, that won’t do any good. They won’t hear you anyway. This is your burden, little one.” It barked out laughter, eyes wide open, reflecting the moon.
“This is crazy. Jun, if you’re playing a joke, it isn’t funny. I’m telling—­”
“Why do you refuse to believe what you observe to be true?” it asked. “I don’t know what sort of game you’re playing at, girl. You invited me here.”
Saki blinked. “What?”
It dropped on her brother’s knee beside her. “Don’t you remember? On hallowed ground, you put your hands to the summoning table. You called out our names. You rang the bell. So we came to you, as we must. Well, I came to you.”
“You’re Kokkuri-­san?”
“No and yes. I am the first of three. The others will be along later.”
“Oh yes. I’m always the first, whether I like it or not. The third you will like very much. Everyone likes him. But the second…” It covered her brother’s mouth as a malevolent glee twinkled in its eyes. “Oh my. I daresay you will not like him at all. Very…scary.” It curled and uncurled her brother’s fingers.
“No,” Saki said. “No. No, no, no, no.” She pulled the blanket over her head and rolled into a ball on the floor. “This is crazy. This is insane. This is not happening. I am asleep and having a dream. When I wake up, it will be over.”
The creature sighed. “Very well. If that is your
final decision…”
Saki waited underneath the blanket. The wind whistled through the cracks of the old house, but after more than five minutes, she heard no sounds of the stranger anywhere. Bit by bit, she peeled back the blanket and peeked over the top.
Her brother slept soundly on a mess of tousled blankets. His face squished against his pillow as he drooled a bit down the side. His eyes were closed and didn’t shine at all in the moonlight. Saki wrapped her blanket around her shoulders as she rose to shut the open door.
On the wooden walkway in full moonlight sat a fox with four tails.

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