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Pearl Sister: A Review

Book four of the Seven Sisters series, Pearl Sister, is the next book for me to review. Similar to the third book, Shadow Sister, this is the second of two books that I feel neutral about. However, I think I enjoyed this one a smidge more.

This is also the first book that explores a main character who falls into the LGBTQ+ community. In this book, it starts off as CeCe questioning her sexuality and is later confirmed that she and a secondary character are romantically involved.

Disclaimer

As per usual, I enter this disclaimer in the event you may not have read my previous reviews for the series.

While this series does involve each character finding their birth family, I do not believe that it was the author’s intent to diminish adopted families. Having read the series, I interpreted it as each daughter being given the choice to find their birth families if they so choose. With each daughter choosing to investigate their history

Update from Original Review and Secondary Disclaimer

When I posted my original review for this book, I did not realize that a term to describe the native groups in Australia was considered a bit problematic. I will apologize for not knowing at the time and have fixed the mistake here. This is the same review as it was written, but with proper changes when referring to Australia’s native individuals.

I apologize for the error I made and will be more mindful in the future.

Synopsis

Pearl Sister focuses on the fourth daughter of the D’Aplièse family, Celaeno, or CeCe as she goes by in the book. Starting off during Shadow Sisters to explain why she left Star in England, CeCe decides to look into her family. While she has felt like she doesn’t quite fit in in the family, with Star being the sister she was closest to, readers get to see her come out of her shell. As she travels to Sydney, Australia to follow the clues Pa Salt left her, she finds herself in Thailand where see meets some backpackers, including a young man named Ace, and with some help from him and others along the way, she is able to find out more about her family and herself.

A hundred years earlier, we get to see the story of Kitty McBride, the woman that CeCe is given the task of looking into. Kitty is the daughter of a clergyman, who finds her fate intertwined with the twin sons of a wealthy family that works with pearls. While there, she also finds herself intertwined with some of the Australian native individuals.

As CeCe discovers more about her family history, she rediscovers her creative passions and begins to discover more about herself and who she loves.

Positives

What I really enjoyed about this book was the setting and CeCe’s journey. Because I didn’t particularly like where her story ended in Shadow Sister, it was nice to see some of what was going on with CeCe during that time at the beginning of this story. And seeing her come into her own person, it was nice to see how that unfolded.

It was also nice to see how this book broke the formula a little bit. Star did a little bit too with how it approached Mouse and Orlando and who Star ended up getting with, but I liked what they did with CeCe’s a bit more. Since CeCe’s story is one of self-discovery, seeing her questioning her sexuality and her feelings for Chrissie come to light. The two get along really well, both as friends and as partners, and it was nice how Chrissie to help explain the native culture and history to CeCe.

I also enjoyed the parts in Australia alongside some of it’s history. Elements of Kitty’s story was interesting too. How her story intertwines with CeCe is different, but in a good way.

CeCe is also one of two or three sisters I kind of relate to. Tiggy being another, which I’ll get into in my review for Moon Sister, and Star possibly being the third (the only reason I’m hesitant to say I relate to Star is because I more so enjoyed the book/writing aesthetic of Shadow Sister’s setting and side characters as someone who is an avid book lover and writer). I relate to CeCe’s desire for self-discovery and creativity as a writer and occasional artist myself.

Critiques

I suppose my biggest critique with Pearl Sister is Kitty’s story. While the formula for the historical parts isn’t bad, I just didn’t find Kitty’s part as interesting. While I did enjoy aspects of it, like the mother that Kitty ends up helping and the approach to conflicts at the time, the romance subplot in it, wasn’t that compelling. I do think the use of the twins was a neat touch, I just didn’t like the execution.

The part in Thailand, though having a point, wasn’t all that memorable after reading. While certain details there were necessary, some readers do feel like it stayed around a bit too long. I can kind of agree, as I would have liked to get to Australia. However, I can see what areas of it were necessary. Mainly some character developing and investigating for CeCe’s journey.

I will also include the term used to describe Australia’s native individuals. I cannot confirm or deny any malice on Lucinda Riley’s part (much like with terms used in the next book), so I will not pass judgement until I know for sure. I won’t condone it either. I merely cannot speak for Lucinda Riley with her passing last year and the fact I found out out how problematic it was until recently.

Conclusion

I enjoyed how this story broke the mold in some areas and enjoyed CeCe’s growth. However, some duller elements and terminology did effect my enjoyment of the book. I would give this book a six and a half out of ten depending on the day since despite my neutral feelings towards it, I do enjoy it more than Shadow Sister.

Reflection: A Twisted Tale

The Twisted Tales series is a series that takes beloved Disney classics and gives it a spin with a single question. It currently has twelve books out ranging from several princess movies like Aladdin, Frozen, and the Little Mermaid (among others) as well as other Disney movies like Alice and Wonderland and Peter Pan, and has a thirteenth novel based on the 2009 Princess and the Frog movie coming out in September. They are an interesting what if type story on Disney movies, and I don’t believe they plan on stopping anytime soon (there isn’t anything expected after Almost There, but I’m sure the series will continue after Almost There, and I have heard a rumors about a Pinocchio book).

of the twelve books currently published, I have read three of them: Go the Distance (What if Meg Had to Become a Greek God?), What Once was Mine (What if Rapunzel’s Mother Drank a Potion from the Wrong Flower?), and the topic of this review, Reflection (What if Mulan Had to Travel to the Underworld?). I also have A Whole New World (Aladdin), Part of Your World (The Little Mermaid), Tale as Old as Time (Beauty and the Beast), and Almost There (Princess and the Frog) on my To-Read list.

Out of the three I’ve read, I’d say Reflection is my favorite. Not only because it’s based on one of my favorite Disney movies and my favorite Disney princess, but because I found it the more interesting of the three. However, I do love how Go the Distance explores the Hades-Persephone dynamic. It’s a lighter toned take on the myth, and fits the tone Disney would probably take with it, had they done so.

Synopsis

Picking up after the battle with the Huns, Shang is mortally wounded. The only way to save him is if “Ping” goes to the underworld, Diyu, to bring his soul back. While King Yama, the king of Diyu, is not willing to release Shang’s soul without a fight, Mulan is on limited time. With help from ShiShi, Shang’s great lion guardian, she goes deeper into Diyu to find Shang, and with the secret that she is actually a woman slowly coming to light, trust is called into question.

Will Mulan be able to save Shang? Will trust be restored? Will everyone get out in one piece, or will they be lost in Diyu forever?

Positives

The concept of this story was really interesting to me. Shang being mortally wounded instead of Mulan is an interesting spin on the fight in the mountain. And her going to Diyu to save Shang is a concept that I feel works and adds a nice extended fantasy element to the story.

While I am not as knowledgeable about Chinese mythology and folklore, I do think there is accuracy in Reflection. However, I’m sure anyone more familiar with Chinese folklore and mythology can confirm how accurate exactly better than I could. The most I know is aspects of Journey to the West, which is a well known tale and was what Dragon Ball took inspiration from (which, fun fact, has a character named King Yemma in it’s sequel series, who appears to be inspired by King Yama, who makes an appearance here).

I also like how when Shang learns that Ping is a woman named Mulan, I did like how it wasn’t immediately resolved. There was time to reflect on the trust that was broken and there was some work involved when forgiving Mulan. Because while I know Mulan’s reasons for lying were honorable, being for her father’s well being and safety, the bond Shang and the other soldiers had with Ping would certainly be called into question when it’s revealed that Ping isn’t actually Ping. So not glossing over it was good.

I also kind of liked how it addressed the Great Stone Dragon bit from the beginning of the movie. As I’m sure you may know, assuming you’ve seen the 1998 animated movie, The Fa family has a stone dragon on their property, referred to as the Great Stone Dragon by the ancestors. And when asked to awaken him, Mushu accidently breaks the statue.

In Reflection ShiShi, who is Shang’s family (animal) guardian, was familiar with the Fa family and their family guardian. Which just so happened to be the Great Stone Dragon. This gets brought up because ShiShi is perplexed by the small size of Mushu and expecting the Fa family’s guardian to be bigger and fiercer.

Critiques

It has been a while since I have read the book, so I can’t remember if I had any flaws upon my initial read, unlike some books I’ve recently reviewed. However, I do plan on rereading it so I can log it on Goodreads, so I may find something I missed. That said, I wouldn’t say it was flawless. If I had to think of anything, it might have felt a bit formulaic. It took chances and explored some interesting concepts, though.

Conclusion

I would give this book an eighty five percent. Out of the Twisted Tales stories I’ve read, this was probably one of the better ones. At least in my opinion. It was a neat way to approach Mulan’s story. It was interesting to see how they addressed the underworld aspect with elements from Chinese lore.

It was also cool to see how they addressed Mulan’s whole secret and the revelation that Ping was, in fact, a woman. As well as addressing one or two elements from the 1998 movie that never really got much discussion. And while maybe not a perfect story, if you enjoy Mulan, I would certainly say it is worth the read.

Alpha and Omega by Patricia Briggs: A Review

What if I told you Urban Fantasy was my guilty pleasure genre? If you’ve read my post on two of Patricia Briggs’ works (https://the-little-library.org/2022/04/17/alpha-and-omega-a-guilty-pleasure-read-and-why-i-prefer-this-series-to-mercy-thompson/) you might not be surprised. If you haven’t, you jus might. When it comes to what I read, books will typically fall into one of several categories: Fantasy, Fiction, Historical Fiction, occasionally Romance and Mystery, Graphic Novels/Comics, Nonfiction, and Autobiographies/Biographies/Memoirs. There may be the occasional exception like the YA books (fiction and nonfiction), classics, and the even less often Western.

Urban Fantasy, which I would consider a subgenre of Fantasy, isn’t a genre I typically read. Maybe it’s the reputation they have (ex. cliché), the genre not appealing to me, or both. Whichever the case may be, Urban Fantasy hasn’t appealed to me.

And while I can’t entirely explain why Patricia Briggs’ Alpha and Omega series caught my eye, it did. My curiosity for the series started back in 2018 with the release of the fifth book in the series, Burn Bright, was released. I was working at the library when it was returned, and while the cover art caught my eye, the synopsis pulled me in. But since it was the fifth book (which coincidently happened with I discovered the Seven Sisters series as well), I decided to start from the beginning. That ended up being Cry Wolf, since that is the first book. However, when I realized there was a novella, Alpha and Omega, that kicked off the series, I read it.

Where to Read Alpha and Omega

Because Alpha and Omega is a novella, it doesn’t have it’s own book. Rather, it was included in a couple of compilation book. The first time I read it, I believe it was through On the Prowl which was a collection of short stories and novellas by several authors. However, it’s also in Patricia Briggs’ Shifting Shadows, an omnibus of shorts that collects a good amount of her short stories and novellas for both the Mercy Thompson and Alpha and Omega series.

Alpha and Omega is also included in the hardcover copy of Cry Wolf, which is what I own. However where you can get a hard cover copy can be tricky sometimes. This is mostly due to the fact that the hardcover copy is no longer published (the same could be said for the rest of the series, at least in bookstores like Barnes and Noble). That said, you may find it on places like Amazon and eBay, among other online sites. Just know that depending on the site and condition, it can get a little pricey. I believe when I bought it off Amazon, it was anywhere between $40-$60, and was much higher prior to me purchasing it. When I checked recently, there are copies being sold for roughly $65-$70 before shipping costs or tax.

However, even if you can’t get the hardcover copy of Cry Wolf, there are alternative options. So if you’d rather get it else where and save a few bucks, I would recommend Shifting Shadows. It has Alpha and Omega as well as other short stories in the Mercy Thompson Universe (the universe that the Mercy Thompson and Alpha and Omega series take place in). That way, if you choose to read either or both series, you have the option to read the tie in short stories as you progress.

The only novels that aren’t included are the graphic novels, Homecoming and Hopcross Jilly (Mercy Thompson), Unappreciated Gifts (Both) which can be found in A Fantastic Holiday Season: The Gift of Stories, Asil and the Not Date (Alpha and Omega) which can be found in Fantastic Hope, and Dating Terrors (Alpha and Omega), which can be found in Heroic Hearts.

Disclaimer

Though it does not go into heavy detail, this novella does mention, it does cover some sensitive topics. Mostly mentions of one or two types of abuse towards Anna.

Synopsis

Onto the actual review. Alpha and Omega, as previously stated, is the prelude to the series. Or Book 0.5 when/if you’re using Goodreads for series order.

When disappearances have been going on involving the werewolf pack in Chicago, “submissive” Anna puts in a call to Bram Cornick, the head of the North American werewolves, with information. He agrees to send out his son Charles to meet up with her and investigate.

When Charles arrives, he finds out an array of things in regards to Leo’s pack. For instance, Leo has been forcing people to Change (become a werewolf), which goes against the law of consent they have when it comes to werewolves, which is how Anna became one. Charles also finds out that Leo is sending away or getting rid of members who don’t submit to the pack, which includes the werewolf that went missing.

However, what perks his curiosity is Anna. Thought to be a submissive, the lowest member of the pack, she had gone through abuse at the hands of the pack Alpha and that she had been “passed around”. Both of which are egregious on their own, especially with how several members of the pack talk to/about her in his presence, but even more so when Charles Brother Wolf (the term to describe their werewolf half), decides that Anna is who he wants to be with.

This leads to Charles’ mission to become one of correcting Leo and his pack as well as a mission to safely extract Anna from them. Ultimately leading to Anna joining Charles’ pack and becoming his partner. As well as finding out that Anna isn’t a submissive, but actually and Omega, a werewolf known for their soothing nature and abilities.

Positives

What I enjoyed about this novella was how it set up the world. Because while it does take place in the Mercy Thompson universe, this story is it’s own thing. This sets up the world enough to give us an idea what to expect with Charles and Anna and where their relationship will go.

It also sets up its universe without feeling too expository. Readers get a general gist of laws, what to do when it comes to Changing non-werewolves, and the dangers of child birth in couples that are both werewolves.

It also doesn’t end with them falling instantly in love like some Urban Fantasies may do. Because while Charles and Anna do end up together, Charles does make his stance clear on wanting to slowly and surely get into a relationship. He did end up revealing that his werewolf side has chosen Anna, but he didn’t want to rush a relationship. And given what she had gone through, I think is a good way to set up how he doesn’t want to treat Anna like her previous pack did and give her respect and space.

Critiques

Of course, as much as I enjoy this series, that doesn’t mean it is without fault. My critiques with this story have to do with accessibility and cliché.

Though a bit out of it’s control, this novella isn’t the easiest to get your hands on. I have seen comments/reviews saying how they didn’t know about it at first or had to go out of there way to read it. And while I would say it is a necessary read to understand how Anna ended up with Charles, I do admit that this should have been marketed a little more frequently. It could be it’s own short, standalone, novel. Yes, this may only clock in at about seventy or so pages, depending on the print of the collection, but I have seen books marketed for adult audiences with a hundred or so pages, so it wouldn’t be that unheard of. Alternatively, it could have been included in the paperback copies. Because while the Mass Market copy’s dimensions are 4.18 x 0.87 x 6.73 inches (according to Amazon) and might not be able to handle the extra pages, the dimensions could be adjusted to do so.

As far as clichés, there are genre typical clichés that you will find in this series (as well as the Mercy Thompson series). Like Charles kind of being the dark and brooding type and Anna being your average everyday girl before becoming a werewolf. The fact that this series, and the Mercy Thompson series, explores creatures like werewolves, vampires, the fae, and the like could also be seen as a cliché as well as Anna being a sort of damsel in distress. None of these hindered the story enough for me to hate this series, but they are there.

The one thing I think this series does differently than some Urban Fantasies, Mercy Thompson included, is how Anna isn’t seen as this overly tough as nails type of leading lady. She’s more soft spoken and introverted, with her previous pack being a big part of the reason why.

Conclusion

Overall, I would probably give Alpha and Omega a seven out of ten. It does fall into some of the typical Urban Fantasy clichés/tropes that are common in the genre and nay be hard to access, but it does have a good set up for what’s to come.

If you choose to read this novella, I would recommend it. It might not be one hundred percent necessary to understand the plot of Cry Wolf onwards, but it does explain some of what the books don’t really address out of statements and conversations. Mostly in regards to Anna’s past pack and how she came to Charles’.

Shadow Sister: A Review

Back to reviewing this series by Lucinda Riley. Took a little break from reviewing the series since I had a few other projects in the works and I didn’t have the motivation to pick it back up. But now that I do, I’m here to discuss Shadow Sister, one of two books I would consider somewhere in the middle in terms of enjoyment, but one that I did enjoy aspects of.

General Disclaimer

While this series does involve each character finding their birth family, I do not believe that it was the author’s intent to diminish adopted families. Having read the series, I interpreted it as each daughter being given the choice to find their birth families if they so choose. With each daughter choosing to investigate their history.

Synopsis

The Shadow Sister is book three of the series and focuses on Asterope “Star” D’Aplièse, the third sister of Pa Salts (adopted) children. After the death of Pa Salt, Star and CeCe end up in England. As she investigates Flora and meets new people who will have a connection to her and her birth family, she opens herself to love and distances herself from CeCe.

Meanwhile, Flora MacNichol’s story of independence, schemes, and finding out what it means to love. Things take an unusual turn when Flora starts working as a hostess for Alice Keppel and she finds herself pulled into more than she bargained for in regards to love and her family. Including meeting a man she finds herself intrigued by.

Positives

What I enjoyed about it was it’s focus on more book and writer themes/backdrops. I am a bit of a reader and writer myself, so that was a nice touch of personality. The setting was nice too since it felt quaint and comfortable. I also liked Orlando and how he owned a book shop. Though I might not have liked certain reactions later on in the book, I did like Orlando’s character. And on a personal note, as someone who has a history of seizures, I related to him in that regard. Mouse was also an interesting character once readers got to know his story.

Flora’s story was pretty nice to. While maybe a little formulaic, I did like her character and story. I also enjoyed how she looked up to Beatrice Potter (well known children’s author and illustrator) and I believe the two did end up meeting.

Critiques

I think my biggest critique with this book was with how Star and CeCe’s personal connection becomes distant. While I was fine with them growing apart, with both characters needing to grow into their own people, I felt like there wasn’t as much communication before that point.

For me, it felt like Star wasn’t as attentive to CeCe’s feelings at times. She left CeCe to do her own thing, which was understandable in some ways, but I did feel like there wasn’t much communication between the two once Star got going with her investigating. And while CeCe was looking into some art related schooling, from what I recall, we dodn’t get to see much of her perspective on the situation. At least not until she leaves the letter for Star explaining why she left.

While I would want their relationship not to evolve and grow, it just felt like there wasn’t much communication between the two to the point where I felt bad when CeCe left Star the way she did.

Conclusion

Overall, I would give this story a six and a half out of ten. I enjoyed the setting, Flora’s story, and the side characters introduced. However, I wasn’t the biggest fan of how Star and CeCe had a falling out, and that hindered that for me a little bit.