Book Review & Giveaway: This Dark Endeavor by Kenneth Oppel

Friday, May 27, 2016

Title: This Dark Endeavor (The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein #1)
Author: Kenneth Oppel
Publication Date: August 23, 2011
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Pages: 298
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Bravery, danger, and intense passion. How does obsession begin?

Victor and Konrad are the twin brothers Frankenstein. They are nearly inseparable. Growing up, their lives are filled with imaginary adventures...until the day their adventures turn all too real.

They stumble upon the Dark Library and discover secret books of alchemy and ancient remedies. Father forbids them from ever entering the room again, but when Konrad falls gravely ill, Victor is drawn back to the Dark Library where he uncovers an ancient formula for the Elixir of Life. Victor, along with his beautiful cousin Elizabeth and friend Henry, immediately set out to find a man who was once known for his alchemical works to help them create the formula.

Determined to save Konrad, the three friends scale the highest trees in Strumwald, dive into the deepest lakes, and even make an unthinkable sacrifice in their quest for the elixir’s ingredients. And as if their task was not complicated enough, a new realm of danger—that of illicit love—threatens to end the ordeal in tragedy.

Confession: I have never read Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. I've also never been a huge fan of Frankenstein apart from maybe Young Frankenstein, which I watched way too many times growing up, thanks to my parents. Recently I watched Victor Frankenstein (there's probably a review of that coming soon) and really, really wanted to read more about Frankenstein's story. When I saw the gorgeous cover of This Dark Endeavor and saw that it was a prequel story, I knew I had to read it!

This is the story of Victor and Konrad Frankenstein, along with their cousin, Elizabeth, and good friend, Henry. Although each of these characters is important in their own way, Victor is undoubtedly the star of the show and he is incredible in the strangest way. I knew going in that Victor would be a... unique character. I wasn't disappointed.


Victor is passionate and odd and has just a little bit of darkness in him. He wants what he wants and does not let anything stand in his way. At times I wondered whether he was entirely stable or whether he lacked the ability to truly care about anyone other than himself and sometimes he even made me a little uncomfortable. But despite all of his shortcomings, he was a wonderful character to get to know. His love for his brother could not be doubted, even if he had a strange way of showing it at times.

Elizabeth is the love interest here, if there must be one. Yes, there is something of a love triangle, but I really didn't find that it detracted that much from the story. In fact, I thought it really added to my understanding of Victor as a character. Elizabeth was also a really interesting character to get to know. It seemed as if a bit of Victor's curiosity and passion had also rubbed off on her and she did not always know what to make of her own actions. I honestly cannot wait to get to know more about her in the second book in this duology.

I found the plot to be extremely intriguing. Perhaps some of Victor Frankenstein's backstory is given in the original book, but having never read that, I only have secondhand sources to go by. I knew that something had happened to Victor's brother, but to see Konrad's illness and Victor's determination to save him shed a lot of light on his later life. Admittedly, I don't know much about alchemy, but following along with Victor and Co. as they worked towards creating the Elixir of Life was both informative and exciting!

The setting that was painted by Kenneth Oppel was also really well done! I don't read much gothic fiction, but I definitely felt like he did a wonderful job of placing me into the Frankenstein house in Geneva. As a book worm, my favorite part was obviously the Dark Library!

The one bit I didn't really enjoy (which, unfortunately, was kind of a big part of the story) was the old alchemist who helped Victor create the elixir. I felt that he (along with his cat) was predictable and just a little too eccentric for the story. I feel like if his character could have been toned down just a bit, this would have been a much better read.

Overall I really enjoyed This Dark Endeavor! Although it wasn't a perfect read, I thought it was a fantastic prequel story to the Frankenstein I've grown up with through the movies. I can't wait to read the next one and, perhaps, even read the classic all of this was based on!




Giveaway (US Only)

The first copy of this book I received was not the cover I intended to purchase. Basically, I ended up with an extra copy
(with this cover), which means I get to share a copy with one of you!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Waiting on Wednesday #100: Kingdom of Ash and Briars by Hannah West

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Happy Wednesday, fellow book lovers! This week's "can't wait to read" is:

Kingdom of Ash and Briars
by Hannah West
Publication Date: September 15, 2016
Bristal, an orphaned kitchen maid, lands in a gritty fairy tale gone wrong when she discovers she is an elicromancer with a knack for shape-shifting. An ancient breed of immortal magic beings, elicromancers have been winnowed down to merely two - now three - after centuries of bloody conflict in the realm. Their gifts are fraught with responsibility, and sixteen-year-old Bristal is torn between two paths. Should she vow to seek the good of the world, to protect and serve mortals? Or should she follow the strength of her power, even if it leads to unknown terrors? She draws on her ability to disguise herself as a man to infiltrate a prince's band of soldiers, and masquerades as a fairy godmother to shield a cursed princess, but time is running out. As an army of dark creatures grows closer, Bristal faces a supernatural war. To save the kingdoms, Bristal must find the courage to show her true form.

Building on homages to Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Jane Austen’s Emma and the Chinese legend of Hua Mulan, Hannah West makes a spectacular debut.
You guys know that I love, LOVE retellings! This one crams a ton of fairytales into one book and I cannot wait to get my hands on it!


"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event hosted at Breaking the Spine.

Top Ten Tuesday #97: Books I'm not sure I'd love now

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Today's Topic: 
 Ten Books I'm Not Sure I'd 
Love After Time Has Passed


I read A LOT of not-so-popular books way back when before I was a blogger. Back then I loved almost everything I read! Now I've read so many incredible books that I'm not positive I'd feel the same way if I went back and re-read all of them! These are ten of the books I've enjoyed over the last several years that I'm not sure I'd enjoy as much now.


        

The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin
Children in the Night by Harold Myra
Darkness Before Dawn by J.A. London
Enclave by Ann Aguirre
English Ivy by Catherine Palmer


        

New Moon by Stephenie Meyer
Warrior's Song by Catherine Coulter
Winter Rose by Patricia A. McKillip
A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L'Engle


Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish.

DNF Review: The Crown by Kiera Cass

Monday, May 23, 2016

Title: The Crown (The Selection #5)
Author: Kiera Cass
Publication Date: May 3, 2016
Publisher: HarperTeen

Pages: 279
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Reviews for book 1, book 2, book 3, and book 4

When Eadlyn became the first princess of IllĂ©a to hold her own Selection, she didn’t think she would fall in love with any of her thirty-five suitors. She spent the first few weeks of the competition counting down the days until she could send them all home. But as events at the palace force Eadlyn even further into the spotlight, she realizes that she might not be content remaining alone.

Eadlyn still isn’t sure she’ll find the fairytale ending her parents did twenty years ago. But sometimes the heart has a way of surprising you…and soon Eadlyn must make a choice that feels more impossible—and more important—than she ever imagined.

Before I begin this review I want to say I was totally in love with the original Selection trilogy. Sure, it was mostly romantic fluff, but it was really enjoyable fluff. I was excited when Cass released The Heir. I bought it as soon as it was released and took it on a Caribbean cruise as reading material, but was totally and completely let down by it. I hated Eadlyn and I didn't understand the need for her story in the first place. Maybe you're wondering why I even bothered to review this book if I hated book four so much. In the past I have even discussed why I hate when people review books they don't expect to enjoy. But here's the thing: I wanted this final book to redeem the previous one. I wanted Kiera Cass to change my mind about Eadlyn and blow me away with the last bit of her story, but that did not happen here. In fact, I finally gave up at 50% of the way through.

The Crown picks up immediately after The Heir left off, with America in the hospital and Eadlyn trying to hold everything else together (for some reason). She has let go of several of the boys, directly mirroring the original trilogy, and is insistent upon choosing one of the remaining boys to marry. I will go ahead and tell you there is nothing about this book that I found redeeming (which is obviously why I decided not to continue reading it) so I'm not going to try to sugar coat this review. I actually had a long list of quotes and notes, but I accidentally deleted it, so whoops. I'm just going to wing it!

As with The Heir, there is absolutely no world building to speak of in this book. None. All of the characters remained within the castle walls at all times and honestly I didn't even feel like I could picture any of the rooms in the castle, which is really saying something. I should be able to picture every single nook and cranny of that castle if it's the only location I've seen for two books. Even worse than the lack of a proper world, though, is that these two books are really completely uneccessary. They are literally just The Selection series but with some details tweaked - right down to Eadlyn choosing an Elite to speed things along.

But my absolute biggest issue with these two books remains Eadlyn herself. I couldn't stand her. After The Heir, a lot of people wanted to talk about how Eadlyn had changed, had grown up, become selfless. I don't know what book they were reading, but I must have gotten a defective copy. My Eadlyn was a selfish bitch, at least through the 50% of the book that I made it through. And the thing about it is, I'm not the only one that hates Eadlyn - her entire country hates her too. She cannot figure out why everyone hates her. Part of the problem is that every single person surrounding her is constantly telling her how perfect and amazing and gorgeous and powerful she is. Maybe if someone would knock her down off her high horse, she might actually get a clue.

Other random things that irritated me about The Crown:

  • Why is the cover model's dress so big? She's swimming in it. Could they not afford a tailor? In a series that is known for its gorgeous covers, I was really surprised by this. 
  • Am I to believe that the QUEEN cannot recover from a heart attack (which she had at age 30-something, by the way) in her own rooms? They couldn't roll all their equipment down the hall so she could be comfortable? So the KING could be comfortable instead of sleeping in a chair? 
  • Similarly, the princess/regent doesn't have a nighttime maid who could go get her some coffee? The regent of a country has to go down to the kitchen and make her own coffee?? And I mean, I get it if she wanted to get her own coffee, but she specifically says there's no one who can get it for her because it's nighttime. Give me a freaking break. 
  • Am I the only one who thought Kiera Cass made Henri seem like a total moron? I get it. The kid is from another country and doesn't speak English. (Honestly, it's a little unbelievable that someone who was entering this kind of competition wouldn't speak English to begin with, but whatever.) I pictured him as an idiot because that's how he was written. Not speaking a foreign language doesn't make a person dumb. :/ 
  • Since when can a king just decide to stop being king and hand things over to his kid because he's tired of the job? Isn't Queen Elizabeth like, 90 or something now? Why doesn't she just retire and hand things over to Prince Charles? 
  • The ending. Yes, I asked my friend to spoil it for me and just... what? This seems like a decision that was made solely for shock value. Did Kiera Cass decide this person would win while she was writing this book? Because nothing in The Heir pointed to this. 

In case there was still any doubt in your mind, I hated this book. I hoped for redemption from the final book in this never ending series, but I didn't get it. I don't know what happened to Kiera Cass after The One was written. A friend suggested that perhaps she had been kidnapped and someone was writing in her name. That's the only thing that makes sense, really. Do I still recommend The Selection series? Yes, but stop at book three. 

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