Size Doesn’t Matter (10): Mini Reviews from a Lazy Blogger

Size Doesn’t Matter (10): Mini Reviews from a Lazy BloggerThe Spirit Rebellion by Rachel Aaron
Series: The Legend of Eli Monpress #2
Published by Orbit on February 24, 2012
Genres: Fantasy, Adventure
Pages: 379
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
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Eli Monpress is brilliant. He's incorrigible. And he's a thief.

He's also still at large, which drives Miranda Lyonette crazy. While she's been kicked out of the Spirit Court, Eli's had plenty of time to plan his next adventure. But now the tables have turned, because Miranda has a new job -- and an opportunity to capture a certain thief.

Things are about to get exciting for Eli. He's picked a winner for his newest heist. His target: the Duke of Gaol's famous "thief-proof" citadel. Eli knows Gaol is a trap, but what's life without challenges? Except the Duke is one of the wealthiest men in the world, a wizard who rules his duchy with an iron fist, and an obsessive perfectionist with only one hobby: Eli.

It seems that everyone is hunting for Eli Monpress.

It wouldn’t surprise me if The Spirit Rebellion were the weakest in the series. There’s a lot of set up for coming books, with the plot seeming to come second to that maneuvering.  As such, The Spirit Rebellion lacked that page-turning, can’t-put-it-down thing.

That said, even the weakest Rachel Aaron novel is absurdly good and clever and funny and not to be missed. She writes great characters, sassy dialog, and fun action scenes. Once the plot did kick in, the last hundred pages were unputdownable. It’s not the best showdown Aaron’s written, but I will always love her unique flair for resolutions. There’s something unpredictable in Aaron’s works that I love, something that very much doesn’t align with typical tropes. In most fantasy, it’s about how the main character is the best and most powerful, but Aaron lets all of the characters shine.

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Size Doesn’t Matter (10): Mini Reviews from a Lazy BloggerThe Rules for Stealing Stars by Corey Ann Haydu
Published by Katherine Tegen on September 29, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Magical Realism
Pages: 336
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
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In the tradition of Sharon Creech and Wendy Mass, Corey Ann Haydu's sparkling middle grade debut is a sister story with a twist of magic, a swirl of darkness, and a whole lot of hope.

Silly is used to feeling left out. Her three older sisters think she's too little for most things—especially when it comes to dealing with their mother's unpredictable moods and outbursts. This summer, Silly feels more alone than ever when her sisters keep whispering and sneaking away to their rooms together, returning with signs that something mysterious is afoot: sporting sunburned cheeks smudged with glitter and gold hair that looks like tinsel.

When Silly is brought into her sisters' world, the truth is more exciting than she ever imagined. The sisters have discovered a magical place that gives them what they truly need: an escape from the complications of their home life. But there are dark truths there, too. Silly hopes the magic will be the secret to saving their family, but she's soon forced to wonder if it could tear them apart.

Though I’ve read all of Haydu’s books, I really wasn’t sure what to expect from Rules for Stealing Stars. All of her other books (OCD Love Story, Life by Committee, Making Pretty) are YA and incredibly intense. Middle grade also isn’t generally my favorite thing, but, when I love them, they do tend to get pretty dark. Haydu’s talent shines bright in Rules for Stealing Stars, which is as intense as I would have expected.

Haydu novels hit at the pain, but Rules for Stealing Stars is less of a visceral sort of gutpunch. It’s sleepier and sadder, less in your face. Rules for a Stealing Stars is about a family falling apart because of grief, and the tone really fits the story perfectly. There’s something slow and contemplative about this book, even though I actually read it quickly. This may be my favorite Haydu book so far, writing-wise, because it’s truly beautiful in a simple way that fits the youthful narrator.

In some ways, Rules for a Stealing Stars is about Silly’s (short for Priscilla) mom, who has a drinking problem and some other ones less easily identifiable. Silly and her three older sisters, Eleanor and Astrid and Marla, all vary with their mother’s whims. A good day is one where their mom leaves the house and smiles; a bad day is when their mom gets angry or violent or they find her passed out somewhere. They’ve come to the house in New Hampshire, where they spend their summers, in an effort to help the mom through a bad patch, but it’s not working. As the mom gets worse, everyone in the family reacts with their own coping mechanisms, withdrawing from others.

Eleanor and Astrid have been doing something secret in their room, and they finally let Silly in on the secret: the closets are magical. With Eleanor’s closet, they can go into a diorama like Mary Poppins can go into a sidewalk drawing. The magical realism element draws on the Twelve Dancing Princesses and serves as a beautiful metaphor for running away from the hard stuff. The bits in the closets are stunningly done.

Rules for Stealing Stars is lovely, dreamy, and sad. Corey Ann Haydu’s got something special, and you should try her books if you haven’t already.

Size Doesn’t Matter (10): Mini Reviews from a Lazy BloggerThe Spirit Eater by Rachel Aaron
Series: The Legend of Eli Monpress #3
Published by Orbit on February 24, 2012
Genres: Fantasy, Adventure
Pages: 386
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
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With the pressure on after his success in Gaol, Eli Monpress, professional thief and degenerate, decides it's time to lie low for a bit. Taking up residence in a tiny seaside village, Eli and his companions seize the chance for some fun and relaxation.

Nico, however, is finding it a bit hard. Plagued by a demon's voice in her head and feeling powerless, she only sees herself as a burden. Everyone's holiday comes to an untimely close, though, when Pele arrives to beg Eli's help for finding her missing father.

But there are larger plans afoot than even Eli can see, and the real danger, and the solution, may lie with one of his own and her forgotten past.

If only Nico could remember whose side she's on.

Things are really ramping up now. I’m hard-pressed to say whether The Spirit Eater is the best of the series so far or whether that’s still the first. They’re so different that it’s sort of hard to judge. The Spirit Thief wins for humor and fun, but The Spirit Eater wins for intensity.

Up to now, each book has involved a difficult theft in which Eli and company faced a rogue wizard and emerged victorious. There was a formula, a good one, but a formula nonetheless. In The Spirit Eater, there’s no heist, at least not be Eli View Spoiler ».

I’ve praised the fact that Eli doesn’t feel the need to upstage his compatriots, and that has never been more true. The series may center on lovable rogue Eli Monpress, but this volume of the series belongs to Nico and Josef. Eli’s there, but he’s honestly not that helpful most of the time. He’s clearly going to have to face Benehime at some point, so it’s not like Eli’s pointless in his own series, but this book wasn’t about him. I really like that. Everyone has their own part to play, and they support one another as they take their turns. Eli is willing to take a turn as the sidekick and to trust in his companions for aid.

In The Spirit Eater, we get to learn way more about demonseeds, but there’s so much more to know. They just get creepier tbh. I’m also very intrigued by Tesset and I’m hoping that we haven’t seen the last of him. Plus, the ending had a couple of amazing revelations: View Spoiler »! Rachel Aaron is so good at plot things.

The last two books of the series are supposed to be super intense, but I’m going to take a brief break since I need to read some other things in the meantime.

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