Book Review: Paper Crowns

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Paper Crowns by Mirriam Neal

My Rating: Four Stars

Age Suggestion: 10+

The Book

Ginger has lived in seclusion, with only her aunt Malgarel and her blue cat, Halcyon, to keep her company. Her sheltered, idyllic life is turned upside-down when her home is attacked by messengers from the world of fae. Accompanied by Halcyon (who may or may not be more than just a cat), an irascible wysling named Azrael, and a loyal fire elemental named Salazar, Ginger ventures into the world of fae to bring a ruthless Queen to justice.

My Thoughts

This was a cute, innocent romp into the world of fantasy, and I loved it! It was such fun to read, and left me feeling happy and satisfied. So many books these days tend to drain my emotions or end unsatisfactorily, and this was a nice break from that.

The plot itself is relatively simple, and I mean that as a compliment. It was refreshing to enjoy a story that wasn’t convoluted or incredibly complex (as much as I love that kind of book too), where the plot was a straightforward good vs. evil with a bit of magic thrown in. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with simplicity, nothing wrong with books that don’t attempt to tackle the problems of the world, and rather just give us a good story.

That’s not to say that there weren’t unique elements. I don’t know that I’ve ever before read a fantasy novel where the core group of questers (is that a word…I don’t know…) included a small petulant child and a really cute dog. So that made for some really interesting dynamics in the group as things went along.

The best part of this book was definitely, without a doubt, the dialogue! It’s funny and touching and kept me interested the whole time. And Mirriam is not afraid to layer the sass and bantering on thick! Often I read books that have a little bit of banter and then it’s not enough and I’m left wanting more, maybe because the author was afraid of overdoing it. Paper Crowns has just enough. It’s not forced and it all flows well with the story and the characters. It makes it more realistic too – because even on a dangerous quest, a regular group of people isn’t going to be solemn and single-minded the whole time. There will be little annoyances and quibbles and teasing and laughter. And she captured that so well.

Hal is the best. *tapes my mouth shut* *talks about Hal for twenty minutes, but luckily you can’t understand any of it because there’s tape on my mouth and SPOILERS*

Ginger herself was such a refreshing main character! She was sarcastic and independent without being the kind of stereotypical “tough girl” that gets on my nerves. There was a feminine side to her, a vulnerable side, the side that likes to buy pretty craft paper and fold it into birds and flowers. It was a beautiful balance that I really appreciated.

And the cast of supporting characters was unique and well-rounded, each one adding something to the story. The only one that I didn’t really feel was unique enough was Azrael, even though I loved him, because he and Hal were a little too similar for me. But overall, every character was great, entertaining, with a good role in the story.

*Content Warnings*

No language. Romance has some kissing but is all completely sweet and clean. There is a villain, with some violence including a few deaths and a climactic final battle; a few of the unsavory characters are a bit on the creepy side as well. But nothing is overly graphic at all, and it still retains a very innocent feel. This is a book I will definitely be giving to my younger sisters to read.

Basically, this is the kind of clean, sweet, innocently entertaining book that is so hard to find nowadays; it has high stakes that keep it interesting, but all with a light fairy-taleish feel. Mirriam’s writing is fantastic and I have a feeling this is a book I will often reread! I highly recommend it to anyone who looks fantasy, fairy tales, or just clean, good books. It’s great if you have younger siblings who need book recommendations too!

What do you think? Have you read Paper Crowns? If so, did you like it? If not, will you read it now? Tell me in the comments! 

love, grace

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Heartless: Wonderland As You’ve Never Seen It Before

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Heartless by Marissa Meyer

My Rating: Four And a Half Stars

Age Suggestion: 14+

The Book

Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland and a favorite of the unmarried King, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, she wants to open a shop and create delectable pastries. But for her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for a woman who could be a queen.

At a royal ball where Cath is expected to receive the King’s marriage proposal, she meets handsome and mysterious Jest. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the King and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into a secret courtship.

Cath is determined to choose her own destiny. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.

My Thoughts

I absolutely LOVED this book!! I know some people have mixed feelings on it, and maybe it’s not quite as good as the Lunar Chronicles (which were just…beyond five stars and into the galaxy), but I loved it nonetheless.

I’ve read some reviews where people were upset about how the whole plot is basically Cath trying to avoid marrying the king. I get why they might not like that, but here’s the thing: not every book has to feature female heroines a la Katniss Everdeen and Tris, who go out and do karate and fight the evil government and wear leather jackets and intimidate everyone. This is not an action novel – it’s essentially a romance novel. And I get that people might not have been expecting that after the Lunar Chronicles, but this book isn’t the Lunar Chronicles. It’s a different kind of story, and that’s okay.

One reason I think I didn’t mind the slower pace is because I do really enjoy character-driven stories. And the characters in this story were all very interesting, some very frustrating, and they were enough to keep me invested in the story even when there wasn’t a lot of action going on.

To the people who complained that Cath was whiny: I don’t think she was that whiny, honestly, compared to some female characters I’ve read. (Whiny characters are a huge pet peeve of mine, and she didn’t bother me, which is saying something.) She was genuinely in a very tricky situation, too. She’s being forced to marry someone who will never make her happy – just because it’s not life-threatening doesn’t mean it’s not conflict.

Who was my favorite character, you ask? Jest. Of course. He’s honestly one of my favorite love interests I’ve ever read, fun but serious, unique, charming, and…ugh. So good.

The rest of the cast was so interesting too. I loved Margaret and the Duke…that little subplot was really cute and added so much to the story. Hatta was intriguing as well, and the Raven’s quoting was so great!

Honestly, I think my favorite thing about the book is just the way everything came together at the end and created the Queen of Hearts that we are familiar with. It’s hard to explain without spoiling anything, but the way the details are woven together is SO satisfying.

Satisfying, but in a bit of a heartbroken way. Just be warned…it’s not a happy book, which you probably could have guessed from the subject. I finished reading it at lunch at school and thank goodness I was with friends who even vaguely understood what I was feeling…

*Content Warnings*

No language.

The romance, while pretty much clean, is definitely on the more mature side with quite a bit of kissing, which I think would be better for ages 13-14 or so and up (depending on what you’re comfortable with).

There are some pretty intense action scenes, especially near the end, that might disturb younger readers.

 

Overall, I loved this book! I think that, while different from the Lunar Chronicles, it’s another fabulous read by Marissa Meyer that will definitely make it to my list of favorites for the year. Highly recommended if you like Alice in Wonderland, fantasy, or romance!

What do you think? Have you read Heartless? If so, did you like it? If not, will you read it now? Tell me in the comments! 

love, grace

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