Review: Happily || Chauncey Rogers

Author : Chauncey Rogers
Genre : MG / YA Fairy-tale retelling
No. of Pages : 299
Publisher : Independently published
Published on: April 3, 2018
My Rating : ★★★★ / 5

synopsis

If the shoe fits, wear it.
If it doesn’t, 
make it.

Laure is a teenage street urchin just trying to get away. Where the rest of the world sees an enchanting love story, Laure sees royal incompetence and an opportunity to exploit it. She’ll have wealth and a way out of a life she detests if she can only manage to hoodwink the royal family and survive to tell the tale.

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I’ll be honest, I was a little skeptical when I first saw that HAPPILY is YET another Cinderella retelling. I had felt the same way about Geekerella which I read last year, and it had pleasantly surprised me (← sly plug of my review) Now, history has repeated itself with this book. While Geekerella is a straightforward modern retelling, Happily by Chauncey Rogers is an entirely fresh take with original characters.

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When it’s announced that ANYONE who fits into the glass shoes can marry the prince, surely the ugly stepsisters couldn’t be the only ones scheming, in the ENTIRE kingdom?

That’s where our protagonist Laure comes in. Laure is a poor street urchin living off whatever she steals on that day and she realises that the simple task of getting into those shoes can be her ticket out of poverty, and hopefully this kingdom that she hates so much. She decides to grab the chance by any means. Life is not so simple and straightforward of course. Luc, a poor, young merchant, is out for Laure looking for revenge for upsetting his business (…his cart. read the book, you’ll know what I mean 😀 ) and thereby leaving his family hungry. Our girl Laure is smart, she convinces him to team up with her and help her fit into the glass slipper and and get to the throne so that both of them get what they want. This sets off an entertaining chain of (mis)adventures involving looted riches, bandits, fights, a rival kingdom and much more! I enjoyed Laure’s biting snark and her cynical world view. Luc, in contrast, was a friendly, warm, precious bean who could bring upon a change of heart on someone like Laure even.

Has it ever bothered you that, in the original fairy tale, the prince could have just identified the girl he danced with by her face rather than her foot size? yeah, that little plot hole is tied up in this book, I really liked that. 😀

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There wasn’t much I didn’t like about the book but while it was nice to read about the kingdom and its quaint markets, the horse carriages, its merchants, the palace etc, I didn’t really get a “feel” of it, you know what I mean? I wasn’t really “transported” to Éclatant. Other than that, the setting of a kingdom struggling under an incompetent king was perfect for the story.

If I had to be reaaaally unfair, I’d say this: the ending was too perfect, too happy for me. I know…that’s a new low, even for me especially seeing how it’s a fairytale retelling and the book is titled Happily for Hades’ sake. It’s not the book ok? it’s just me that’s a sucker for heart breaks and tragic endings.

If you like your heart getting all gooey and hot chocolate-warm, you should definitely read this book. Like I mentioned earlier, Happily is a wonderfully fresh take on Cinderella with a generous dash of originality.

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Thank a tonne to the author for entrusting me with a copy of his book for my honest opinion.

Happily releases on April 3, 2018 (one day before my birthday, just saying 😀 )

You can buy the book on Amazon here — Happily By Chauncey Rogers (this is not an affiliate link)

About The Author:

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Chauncey Rogers was born in Arizona, and since then has hopped back and forth between the mid-western and western United States. He married in 2012 while attending school in Utah. His favorite movie since he was three is Jurassic Park, and he wishes very badly that Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster were real, though he doesn’t believe in them as much as he used to.
In March 2017, he published his first novel, Home To Roost. In October 2017, he published Cleaving Souls.
He currently lives in Kansas City with his wife and two children.
Author website: http://chaunceyrogers.com
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Does this book sound like something you would like to check out?
Do let me know in the comments! 🙂
~ Mathangi
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Review : The Empty Grave || Jonathan Stroud

Author : Jonathan Stroud
Genre : YA/Supernatural/Thriller
No. of Pages : 448
Publisher : Disney-Hyperion
My Rating : ★★★★★ out of 5

Any number of hyperboles I use to state how perfect the fifth and final installment of the Lockwood and Co series was, would be only an understatement; that’s how perfect I thought it was. For those unfamiliar with this series, Lockwood and co is set in a version of London, England plagued by ghosts and an unspecified time period (and I think that adds to the charm of it) This country-level haunting is called the Problem.

In this world, children with psychic abilities known as Talents are the only line of defense against the ghosts as they are the only ones that can see ghosts. Adults are pretty much useless and helpless. Kids with a strong psychic ability go on to become “Agents” and work for psychic investigation agencies run by adults. Anthony Lockwood, of course, does not trust the adults. At the age of 15, he starts his own psychic investigation agency which comprises of exactly 2 employees excluding himself. Lockwood is the charming,  charismatic leader of the gang with enough recklessness to jump into dangerous situations with his coat flapping and the stylish rapier swinging by his side.

George Cubbins, the researcher – means he ploughs through the archives researching every single detail about the haunting before going on a case and helps keep the team alive during their ghost-hunts. He’s also obsessed with finding the root-cause of the Problem and possibly solve it. Which ensues a lot of crazy experiments.

Lucy Carlyle – a Talented agent with a rare psychic gift that lets her ‘connect’ with ghosts. This ability slowly grows and develops with age, so we actually get to see how she deals with it through the length of the series.

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And of course, there’s the hero of the show – the snarky, sassy, evil spirit that is trapped in a jar, whom we endearingly call the Skull. The Skull is sort of Lucy’s personal confidant (shhh that’s how it is. don’t let her tell you otherwise) because she is the only one that can talk to/hear him. The whole series is narrated through Lucy’s perspective and she’s a textbook example of an unreliable narrator.

Since the Lockwood and Co is a psychic investigation agency, there’s a lot of fun Sherlock-style investigations, exciting chases, gruesome murders (now I got your attention, didn’t I? *wink) The world-building in this series is AMAZING; the types of ghosts, the abilities of the agents – their strengths, limitations these are explored extremely well. It’s got a ton of chillingly scary/creepy moments which made me wonder why these books are categorized under Middle grade and it’s perfectly balanced out by delightfully dry, british humour.

Book #4 The Creeping Shadow had ended with a heart-stopping cliffhanger which shook the entire foundation of what we were led to believe in the past books. So the expectations I had for the fifth book shot so high they may have escaped earth’s gravity and into the outer space….(Listen, I never claimed to be good at hyperboles)

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I spent a whole year in the painful anticipation of character deaths and pain and more pain from the fifth book; but Mr.Stroud has managed to spring a whole lot of delightful surprises both character development wise (looking at you, Quill Kipps) and plot-wise and has given the ending we deserved. Basically, The Empty Grave was like getting a box of carefully picked out, personalised presents when you were expecting to be given the Pandora’s box. The only tears that were shed were that of happiness (which was the exact opposite of what happened with Ptolemy’s Gate, so one can hardly blame me for having such low expectations)

Most of the loose-ends were tied up perfectly in the book and some left deliciously dangling, open for interpretation. As much as I would love another Lockwood book, I think TEG was the perfect finale to end things for this particular story arc. But obviously, we need more short stories from this world. There’s a lot of case stories that are crying out to be told, like what exactly happened at Mrs.Barrett’s Tomb?? We need to know!!

Speaking of character development, can we talk about Lockwood? and how he ventured out of the shell he’d carefully constructed around his feelings and let out his emotions that were bottled up for YEARS? He still has some ways to go, but this was a good start.
Lockwood and Lucy’s relationship is  so, so great because it’s the kind of stuff entirely built on a solid foundation of mutual trust and admiration (when you are ready to jump off buildings hand in hand, you know it can’t get better than that) it was about time Lockwood let Lucy in on a personal, emotional level too. I love it so much because their relationship works both in a romantic and a platonic way (which is may be why I wasn’t big on shipping them.) I absolutely loved how Mr.Stroud has treated their relationship;in a very subtle way but it speaks VOLUMES. There was ample material in this book for neutral, non-shippers like me to turn into Locklyle trash. That’s all I’ll say.

This is a  bitter-sweet situation because I’m sad the four-year journey with this series has come to an end and I’m going to miss the agonising hiatuses, making up headcanons, staying up reading meta theories on tumblr and most of all, the wonderful kids of Lockwood and Co. But I’m also glad to have been a part of this journey right from the start.

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It’s been over a month since I finished the book, I’m obviously still high on it. If I’d written this review as soon as I finished, it would have just been incoherent screaming in all uppercase letters about how much I loved everything. (not that it’s much coherent now. I don’t want to give out any spoilers) Thank you, Jonathan Stroud for giving me one of my most favourite YA series of all time.

Recently Lockwood and Co has been optioned to be made into TV Series and I couldn’t be happier about it!! It warrants its own post with lots of gushing, may be I’ll make one once we get more info on this. For now, here’s the news article announcing the same.

If you are looking for a perfect Halloween read, Lockwood and co is THE series you should be picking up.

Happy Reading!!

~ Mathangi.

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Lockwood and Co 5 is coming soon!!

Imagine realizing you haven’t *ever* talked about your most favourite book series on your *book* blog? What idiocy is that? I’m going to remedy that, one post at a time.

I present to you, Lockwood and Co by the master story-teller, and creator of the mighty Bartimaeus – Jonathan Stroud.

Lockwood and Co is a supernatural, thriller series set in London that is plagued by ghosts. Ghosts as a central concept is not exactly new in literature, but the catch here is that only kids can actually see these ghosts (which range from harmless to extremely violent. These are broadly classified into three types of ghosts, I’ll get to that later) which means adults are completely useless and powerless against ghosts and protecting the city falls entirely on the delicate shoulders of actual children.

Although, Adults being adults, they get into running Psychic investigation agencies which is basically employing children with Talent and bossing them around, and generally staying out of danger.

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This brings me to our titular character Anthony Lockwood who, when all of 15, started his own agency Lockwood and Co because he does not trust adults. With his two employees Lucy Carlyle (our narrator) and George Cubbins (the smart one™), we have a Golden trio in our hands.

Over the span of 4 books, we have seen some brilliant plot twists and fantastic character developments. Jonathan Stroud’s writing is an uncanny combination of dark, chillingly scary, and sometimes ridiculously funny. The fourth book, The Creeping Shadow ended in a truly jaw-dropping cliffhanger that left me like this for days….

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Which is why I!! cannot!!! wait for the fifth book!!! the year long wait has been so agonising, I jumped in joy when I saw Mr Stroud post this on Twitter

The official release is on September 12 which is only but a month away!

Until then I can gaze at the beauty that is The Empty Grave through posts like this

Yes! and the first chapter of The Empty Grave is available on Jonathan Stroud’s official website here – http://www.jonathanstroud.com/

Well, I thought a tiny glimpse of the new book will give me strength to hold on…but no. I’ll say no more. *clutches bridge of the nose and takes deep breaths*


I think this is the only on-going YA series I have followed from the very beginning and the only one I truly care about too; that is an amazing feat because I lose interest very quickly.

If you like tea, sarcasm, and ancient ghosts set against the backdrop of a rainy, foggy London, this series is absolutely for you! Go read it and thank me later! 😀

Edit: Cover image taken from Twitter profile of Katherine Woodfine

~ Mathangi

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Review : A Series of Unfortunate Events – #2 The Reptile Room || Lemony Snicket

Author : Lemony Snicket
Genre : Middle Grade / YA
No. of Pages : 192
Publisher : Scholastic, Inc.

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If you read my thoughts on the first book The Bad Beginning , you’d know that it was both a bit more and a bit less than I’d expected. More creepy and less than what I had envisioned (hey I know it’s unfair of me to impose my ‘envisionings’ on the author but I had to say what I had to say) Anyway, I didn’t let the bad beginning (*wink wink) get to me and proceeded with the second book, The Reptile Room. I’m glad to report that I liked this one much better!

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I was creeped out by the title of the book right off the bat. I’m very scared of reptiles (ALL reptiles) and a whole room full of reptiles would mean me running very fast in the opposite direction. I was worried thinking what is Olaf going to do this time? Is he going to lock the children in a room full of snakes, venomous lizards and such until they crack?

My fears were allayed when I started reading because there was no Olaf – at least not in the first half of the book. Following the bitter events at Olaf’s place, the Baudelaires were moved to another distant relative’s care but this time they lucked out. They were to live with Uncle Monty also known as Dr. Montgomery Montgomery, a Herpetologist. Uncle Monty has an impressive collection of exotic reptiles, a huge stack of books; more importantly, he’s really nice to the kids. For a while, life is all good.

Dr. Monty is the cool uncle you wish you had. He makes deliiish Coconut cream cakes, gives the kids a free rein to read his books and play with his reptiles. It was good to see the Baudelaire children happy (despite the creepy narrator’s repeated assurances that this will not last. why does he do that?!)

Uncle Monty plans a trip to the Peru to find new kinds of snakes and plans to take the children along. Naturally, they are all excited. Klaus reads up on the snakes, Violet helps in making the snake traps, even baby Sunny helps. Problems begin when Dr.Monty’s assistant mysteriously stops showing up to work. One day a new guy by the name of ‘Stephano’ arrives and announces that he is the new assistant for Dr. Monty. You can probably guess who that is. The kids, too, recognize him and try to point out to Uncle Monty (who has, of course heard of the notorious Count Olaf) but they fail because he’s cleverly concealed his tell-tale eye shaped tattoo on his ankle. Bad things happen fast after he arrives.

I felt like the atmosphere and tone of this book was different from the first one. It was an easy world to get into and I think reading about the Baudelaires in a comfy home definitely helped the cause. I liked the kind Uncle Monty and his quirky affection for reptiles.

The story itself had interesting elements, like made up exotic animals such as Alaskan Cow Lizard – which apparently gives delicious milk (I’m not sure I’d be a fan of lizard milk though – to each their own I guess?); The Incredibly Dead Viper – a viper which ends up becoming Sunny’s best friend and playmate (friendship blooms even in the strangest of cirumstances, eh?)

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Mr.Poe. Ok, I get it he means well and all that. But that man never listens to what the children have to say. I find it very unsettling the way he completely dismisses whatever they say. WHAT. EVER. I MEAN. It’s frustrating. His character doesn’t add anything to the story and yet, he’s there in every book. Why?!

Overall, I enjoyed reading this book. It feels like I’m finally getting a feel of how these stories go, so I’m gonna start on the next book as soon as I can!

My Rating : ★★★★ out of 5.

~ Mathangi,

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Review : A Series of Unfortunate Events – #1 Bad Beginning || Lemony Snicket

 

Author : Lemony Snicket
Genre : Middle Grade
No. of Pages : 176
Publisher :  Scholastic, Inc.

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When I saw a bunch of ASOUE books at the Book fair, I couldn’t resist buying them. I know they are children’s book but I hadn’t read them as a kid. I saw beautiful matching hardcovers and I. couldn’t. resist. even though only not all books in the series were available.

The title and the synopsis totally got me. Since I’m basically an incarnation of the Grinch, I don’t enjoy happy endings and I do like to watch a character suffer in a book. So you say there’s a whole series dedicated to bad things happening to the main characters? SIGN ME UP. This is how I was hooked.

If you, like me, are new to this series, the first book The Bad Beginning begins with the three Baudelaire children enjoying a cloudy, gloomy day at the beach when they get the news of their parents’ death from Mr. Poe, their family friend. Their mansion has burned down and they literally have nothing left. Now these are kids, the eldest girl, Violet only being 14, middle child Klaus 12, and an infant baby girl Sunny.

According to their parents’ will they are to live with the nearest living relative until Violet is 18 and inherits their money. Seems logical enough so far. Except, the nearest living relative turns out to be a psychopathic Count Olaf whom these kids have never even seen before.

From this point onward everything goes down the Cinderella-style-child-abuse rabbit hole minus the fairy godmother and prince charming. It is made very clear that Olaf will do anything to get his hands on the Baudelaire riches.

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The kids are grief-stricken from their parents’ death, alone and very scared. but they are smart and smart enough to take care of themselves even in the most dire situations. Klaus, the bookworm, has read extensively from his parents’ library and knows a lot of things. Violet, is an innovative inventor and can anything out of things available at hand. Even the infant Sunny is useful with her sharp teeth and her proclivity to bite things.

Which is probably a good thing because, the adults in this book are no good. Be it the completely oblivious, mumbling mess that this Mr. Poe, or his opportunistic wife, or the sweet-but-stupid neighbour Justice Strauss (how did she become a judge?!?!), any one whom you might think is likely to help the kids, they don’t. Count Olaf is just THAT crafty and the kids THAT unfortunate.

Lemony Snicket does not simplify the language too much, he has peppered the book with big words along with their meanings, which I think will help younger readers. Some may argue that this may be spoon-feeding and eliminates the need for kids to pick up a dictionary though. That makes sense too, although it’s an argument for another day.

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Count Olaf. I know, I know, he’s the villain, we’re meant to dislike him. But that guy is proper trash. I HATED how arrogant he was, walking about the place with his lackeys, crafting ideas to bring down the kids.

I thought he was vile when he made the kids clean the toilet with a toothbrush and cook a feast for his actor friends. And then he goes to the length of blackmailing Violet into marrying him so that he can inherit her property. or he tries and fails; but the point stands that she was only fourteen. This being a children’s book, it really didn’t need to have a character with paedophilic propensities.

As much I like reading about suffering, the unfortunate situations the kids got into did feel forced at some point or the other. Like they written just for the author’s kicks. And may be also for people who enjoy that sort of thing, but it turns out it was more than I could enjoy. But I’m not going to abandon the series just yet; in fact I have definitely planned to read the other books when I can. May be I’ll love it more as the series goes on. May be I won’t. Let’s find out shall we? 🙂

My Rating : ★★★ out of 5.

~ Mathangi.

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