Category: Review

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Author: J.K. Rowling
304 pages

Published: November 18, 2016
Reviewed By: Kim
Kim’s Rating: 4 Stars

Description from Amazon:

J.K. Rowling’s screenwriting debut is captured in this edition of the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them screenplay.

When Magizoologist Newt Scamander arrives in New York, he intends his stay to be just a brief stopover. However, when his magical case is misplaced and some of Newt’s fantastic beasts escape, it spells trouble for everyone…

Inspired by the original Hogwarts textbook by Newt Scamander, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplay marks the screenwriting debut of J.K. Rowling, author of the beloved and internationally bestselling Harry Potter books. A feat of imagination and showcasing a cast of remarkable characters and magical creatures, this is epic adventure-packed storytelling at its very best. Whether an existing fan or new to the wizarding world, this is a perfect addition to any film lover or reader’s bookshelf.

The film Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them received its theatrical release on 18th November 2016.

Kim’s Review:

No more scripts for Kim! Seriously, the only thing keeping me from giving this book 5 stars is the fact that it’s not a book, it’s a screenplay. And it drove me nuts! The story was awesome, the characters where fun, the creatures were imaginative, and the artwork was beautiful . . . the format was horrible. Ok, I’m done. I did love the story. It was easy to get into and had all the wonder that belongs in the wizarding world. It wasn’t on the scale that Harry Potter was, but I don’t think it was meant to be. It was a great addition to the saga. My favorite character is Jacob Kowalski. Without him, this book would have been lacking all humor and realism . . . as real as a book about magic can be. And he’s a baker; I love baking. Newt, Tina, and Queenie were also pretty cool! I’d like to petition J.K. Rowling to write a historical book about the Dumbledores. Or a Wizards’ History. I just want to learn more. I’m a historian, so that book that Rita Skeeter wrote about the Dumbledore family fascinated me! And The Half-Blood Prince was my favorite book in the whole series because of all the history that Harry and Dumbledore saw in the Pensive. Fantastic Beasts makes me want those history books even more! If you haven’t read the Harry Potter series, then you probably won’t get this book. But to everyone who has read Harry Potter, then read this book, it’s great!


Bellamy and the Brute

Bellamy and the Brute: A retelling inspired by the story of Beauty and the Beast

Author: Alicia Michaels
344 pages

Published: March 13, 2017
Reviewed By: Kim
Kim’s Rating: 4 Stars

Description from Amazon:

A fresh twist on the classic story of Beauty and the Beast, Bellamy and the Brute proves true love really is blind.

When Bellamy McGuire is offered a summer job babysitting for the wealthy Baldwin family, she’s reluctant to accept. After all, everyone in town knows about the mysterious happenings at the mansion on the hill—including the sudden disappearance of the Baldwin’s eldest son, Tate. The former football star and golden boy of Wellhollow Springs became a hermit at the age of sixteen, and no one has seen or heard from him since. Rumors abound as to why, with whisperings about a strange illness—one that causes deformity and turned him into a real-life monster. Bellamy wants to dismiss these rumors as gossip, but when she’s told that if she takes the job, she must promise to never, ever visit the third floor of the mansion, she begins to wonder if there really is some dark truth hidden there.

Tate’s condition may not be the only secret being kept at Baldwin House. There are gaps in the family’s financial history that don’t add up, and surprising connections with unscrupulous characters. At night there are strange noises, unexplained cold drafts, and the electricity cuts out. And then there are the rose petals on the staircase. The rose petals that no one but Bellamy seems to be able to see. The rose petals that form a trail leading right up to the 3 rd floor, past the portrait of a handsome young man, and down a dark hallway where she promised she would never, ever go…

As Bellamy works to unravel the mysteries of Baldwin House and uncover the truth about Tate, she realizes that she is in way over her head… in more ways than one. Can her bravery and determination help to right the wrongs of the past and free the young man whose story has captured her heart?

Kim’s Review:

Bellamy McGuire needs a summer job and when a babysitting position opens with the town’s richest family, she takes it. She doesn’t let the local rumors of hauntings and the disappearance of the Baldwin’s oldest son, Tate, stop her. But when she gets to the house, and begins to settle into her new position, weird stuff starts happening. Rose petals that no one else can see, an off limit 3rd floor, and parents who are distancing themselves from their kids, can Bellamy survive the summer? Is this job worth it?

So, Bellamy and the Brute is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, so of course I was gonna pick this up! Plus, this cover is amazing, just sayin. I liked this book from the beginning. The characters were likable, the story kept me interested from the start, and Baldwin House fascinated me. The only reason that I gave this book 4 stars instead of 5, is because of the annoying teenage hormones. I love Tate Baldwin. He’s that ideal, bad boy turned good, mysterious guy that all of us dreamed of in high school. But dang, before he turned good, he annoyed the crap out of me. Back and forth, sorry, screw up, sorry again, screw up again, over and over again . . . STOP! Please stop! Time to grow up, kiddies!!! Thankfully, both Tate and Bellamy matured significantly by the end of the book. I have nothing but great feelings about them.  Plus, Max and Emma Baldwin, the kids that Bellamy takes care of, are pretty darn cute. Emma made me giggle! I was also a little worried about yet another retelling of a popular fairy tale, but this one gave a twist that made it more interesting. I wouldn’t even necessarily call this a retelling, I think Beauty and the Beast was just a jumping off point and the author just ran with it. At the risk of dealing with controversial issues, I will say that I greatly appreciated the fact that Bellamy is an African American girl, but the author doesn’t make a big deal about race. If there’s anything that doesn’t matter to me, it’s the race of a character. If I like the character, then I like the character, no matter race, creed, or orientation. But what I can’t stand is when authors make a big deal of those things that should not matter. And the fact that this story took place in Georgia, with several African American characters, but without all the racial troubles every other sentence; I’m tired of authors beating a dead horse with how every book set in the South is surrounded by racial tension. I found it refreshing to read a book with normal teenagers, who don’t care about their race, and a normal story without all the political undertones, that I could just read in the news. If I wanted to read about all that, I’d just turn on the TV. But I don’t want to! I’m reading!

I would definitely recommend this book, but I would caution against younger kids and teens reading it. There are some mature themes, but mature themes handled maturely. It’s a light read, that’s perfect for summer!


Serafina and the Splintered Heart

Author: Robert Beatty
358 pages in Hardback
Published: July 3, 2017

Reviewed By: Kim
Kim’s Rating: 5 Stars

Description from Amazon:

In the highly-anticipated next installment of the Serafina series, Serafina must confront the darkest threat she’s ever encountered at Biltmore Estate. She knows she can face anything with her best friend and closest ally, Braeden Vanderbilt, by her side. But when a sinister force tears them apart, Serafina scrambles to uncover the mystery of her most formidable challenge yet…and about herself and the destiny that awaits her.

Kim’s Review:

This is the third book in the Serafina series. Serafina is the Chief Rat Catcher and Guardian of the Biltmore House in Asheville, NC. After rescuing the children from the Black Cloak in the first book, and protecting the estate from the revenge of the Old Man of the Forest and his Twisted Staff in the second book, Serafina finds herself literally six feet under. She digs herself out of her own grave and finds that everything has changed. Biltmore, once again, is under attack. But can Serafina help, when she is so isolated from her friends? Braeden has been wounded and Waysa has been spending his time chasing a strange creature through the woods. Storm clouds are gathering, floodwaters are rising, and Serafina feels nothing but powerless and alone.

Ok, writing a summary for this book was torture! I hate to sound dramatic, but you have no idea how much more I wanted to write, but couldn’t because I didn’t want to give anything away! This book is full of surprises and plot twists and I was this close to just copying the summary written on the book jacket. If you haven’t read the first two books in this series, then you need to finish up whatever book you are reading now, and then go out and pick up this series. Serafina and Braeden and Waysa and Mr. and Mrs. Vanderbilt and Pa and Gideon and Cedric have all become such good friends. Watching Serafina and Braeden grow and mature has been a source of such pleasure and fun for me. I don’t normally see book characters as real friends, but I couldn’t help but feel that about these people. I used to visit the Biltmore House many times with my parents as a kid, and, unfortunately, I never appreciated it the way I should have. My snobbery got even worse when I began to identify as a preservationist, rather than a restorationist, in college. But after several years of real life and more growing up, I admitted to my husband, who has refused to let me live it down, that I was being unfair to the Biltmore House. Just because something has been so well preserved that it looks like it was restored, does not make it any less important than those sites that are being preserved with what little remains. I took my husband to the Biltmore House about 2 years ago, since he had never been before, and I was newly enchanted! As a kid, it was fun to dream about living in a house like that, but as an adult, my imagination has grown to include historical perspective. And considering that both my husband and I developed a crush on George Vanderbilt after looking at his portrait and learning of the amazing, well-rounded, dapper gentleman that he was . . . don’t judge, ok! I can’t tell if it was reading these books that brought such reality to the Vanderbilts and their house, or if it was visiting Biltmore that drew me so close to Serafina and her story. All I can say is, Robert Beatty captured my imagination in ways that many other books never have. I was truly terrified after reading about the Black Cloak. I was immersed in the history of Biltmore and the Vanderbilts in the Twisted Staff. I grew to love Serafina and Braeden as friends and found myself so proud of how brave and loyal they are to each other and the ones they love in the Splintered Heart. Please read these books. If you have kids, read this series to them. Give these books to the tweens and teens that you know. Go to Biltmore. See the beautiful estate. Drive through the Smokey Mountains. Feel the love that Serafina had for her home. I promise you that you will not be disappointed. And on a personal note, this book spoke to me as someone who has the dirt of NC in her blood. My family owns a tobacco farm in La Grange, NC that has been in our family since before the Revolutionary War. I wish I could put into words how much Biltmore and Serfina’s and the Vanderbilts’ love of their home affected me. There’s something about the land itself that just inspires. I can physically feel it when I step foot on my family’s land. At the risk of sounding even more dramatic, I can feel my blood singing. Mr. Beatty captured that in these books. You can feel the physical love of the land, from the mountain people, from Serafina, from George Vanderbilt. When you go to visit the estate, even if you have no connection to it, you will feel it. There are few places in this world to which I feel such a strong physical connection. The Biltmore Estate is one of those places. Maybe that’s why I love this series so much. Maybe that’s why I have written more in this review than I have for any other book that I’ve read. If I could convey this physical feeling to you, then I would. But the best thing I can do for you is to beg you to read this book, to beg you to go visit Biltmore. And thank you, Mr. Beatty for your wonderful books and I can’t wait to read more of your books!

A book signing where I got to meet Mr. Beatty himself!: