REVIEW: Serafina and the Splintered Heart by Robert Beatty (+ Giveaway)

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Title: Serafina and the Splintered Heart
Author: Robert Beatty
Format: ARC, 355 pages
Publication: July 4th 2017 by Disney Hyperion
Source: Publisher (thank you Sharon Keefauver and Disney Hyperion!)
Genre: Fiction—Fantasy, Gothic, Historical, Mystery
Other classifications: Middle Grade

Goodreads | Amazon | IndieBound | Fully Booked

Synopsis

The storms are coming. . . .

Something has happened to Serafina. She has awoken into a darkness she does not understand, scarred from a terrible battle, only to find that life at Biltmore Estate has changed in unimaginable ways. Old friends do unthinkable things and enemies seem all around.

A mysterious threat moves towards Biltmore, a force without a name, bringing with it violent storms and flooding that stands to uproot everything in its path. Serafina must uncover the truth about what has happened to her and find a way to harness her strange new powers before it’s too late.

With only days to achieve the impossible, Serafina fights to reclaim herself as the guardian of Biltmore, friend of Braeden, daughter of her pa, and heroine of the Blue Ridge Mountains and all the folk and creatures that call them home.

Review

I received a review copy from the publisher which in no way swayed my opinion about the work.

Serafina and the Splintered Heart is the third and seemingly final installmentat least for nowin Robert Beatty’s middle-grade mystery series and it delivers.

The book opens with Serafina waking up in a darkness so complete even her eyes, which normally can see just fine at night, cannot pierce. She returns to Biltmore Estate, trying to piece together her memory of the night she was attacked, but everything she witnesses along the way doesn’t add up. The moon is on the wrong phase. Storms are brewing. She stumbles upon a grotesque-looking creature in the forest. And then there’s the sorcerer. But all these are nothing to what she discovers upon arriving at the great house. With a plot like that of The Splintered Heart, writing a reviewwhich is tricky enough by virtue of it being a series finaleis no easy fit. But let me tell you: Beatty once again hits all the marks. His latest is enchanting, atmospheric, and deeply satisfying.

“They watched the stars and the planets sliding slowly over their heads, marking time so precisely that it was barely perceptible, like a great, celestial clock, keeping the time of their inner lives, showing them that out there in the world everything was always changing, but here in the center of the world, where they were lying side by side, everything would always remain the same.”

It’s always bittersweet to come to the conclusion of a story, especially one that spans through three books. But the beauty of the Serafina series lies ultimately on the journey: character development after character development. In The Splintered Heart, the main characters are further thrown into hard situations, both physically and emotionally, and the author gets to show the complexity of each of them. Serafina has come a long way from the lonely, friendless girl who is constantly suspicious of people in the first book. She’s been struggling to belong, searching for herself, and trying to make sense of the world around her for a while now that it’s heartening to see where she ends up as the final act draws to a resolution. There is Braeden, genteel, affectionate, and quick to trust. Witnessing how he grapples with loss and betrayal is absolutely interesting. He and the progress of his arc bag all the waffles! There is Waysa, too, who was introduced in the previous installment. Here, he gets a solid characterization and story line, with Beatty weaving in Cherokee culture in what I think is a carefully researched representation. And there is one more whom I wish I could talk about but, alas, I would rather not spoil you. So I will leave it at this: unlikely alliance, if written well, is one of my favorite tropes, and the author did just that.

“What do you do when you realize you are the monster in your own story?”

The Splintered Heart continues to reinforce positive messages on family, friendship, and bravery. It also gives each of its characters a good amount of agency which clearly affirms that actions have consequences and we are responsible for them, that we are not our past mistakes and we have the capacity for recovery and growth. But I like that Beatty didn’t go for formulaic, an easy trap for series such as this. There are no rehashing of scenes even as the novel revisits themes and reintroduces characters. Instead, it goes full circle. It concludes in a manner that is emotionally rewarding but just loose enough to allow for future sequel(s).

“She’d spent her whole life hiding, but now she just wanted one person, any person, to know she was there.”

Of course, I’d be remiss not to comment on the setting, which plays a huge part in the narrative. I am no expert in history but the author does a wonderful job in crafting a distinct atmosphere set in the backdrop of the opulence of Gilded-Age Biltmore Estate and the rugged beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains. And this is true for all the Serafina books. Albeit, The Splintered Heart is less eerie, but no less rich in details.

With a mystery that will have you racing along with the MC, Serafina and the Splintered Heart is vastly imaginative and utterly enjoyable. This series will certainly be a staple in MG lists.

4.0 out of 5

Author

Robert Beatty 01
Robert Beatty lives in the mountains of Asheville, North Carolina, with his wife and three daughters. He writes full-time now, but in his past lives he was one of the pioneers of cloud computing, the founder/CEO of Plex Systems, the co-founder of Beatty Robotics, and the CTO and chairman of Narrative magazine.

Twitter | Website

Giveaway:

The giveaway, which ends July 31st, is very simple. You just head over to Twitter, follow me @mielsnickey and retweet this:

The prize pack includes one (1) signed finished copy of Serafina and the Splintered Heart, one (1) poster, one (1) journal, and one (1) enamel pin.

Blogger’s note: You can read my reviews of Serafina and the Black Cloak (Book 1) and Serafina and the Twisted Staff (Book 2) here and here, respectively.

Have you read this one yet? Have I convinced you to check out the series? What are some of your favorite MG titles? Or, you know, your recent read. Sound off in the comments below!

You can also stalk follow me elsewhere! On Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Goodreads, and Bloglovin.

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Unmissable Weekly: July 23, 2017

Bookish and Awesome’s weekly round-up of buzz-worthy news from around the bookternet in bite size. Click on the links to be directed to the full articles.

To All the Boys I've Loved Before 02 via

On the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death, the Bank of England has unveiled a new banknote featuring the beloved author.

The Telegraph notes that Austen “will be the only woman – apart from the Queen – to be featured on an English bank note, following the withdrawal of the old £5 notes, which featured Elizabeth Fry, in May.” (The five-pound note now features Winston Churchill.)

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single Austenite in possession of a good fortune must also be in want of an Austen tenner.

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X-Men: Apocalypse actress Lana Condor has signed on to star in To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before alongside John Corbett. The film, based on the novel by Jenny Han, is being directed by Susan Johnson and was written by Sofia Alvarez. Production on the film, which is also being produced by Awesomeness and Overbrook Entertainment, has begun in Vancouver.

Ladies and gentlemen, Lana Condor is your Lara Jean!

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“It’s been a real joy to move into writing for young readers, especially as my royalties from this project go to Room to Read, a nonprofit working in literacy and girls’ education across communities in Asia and Africa. The Lotterys series has raised more than $100,000 so far.”

Emma Donoghue is my Hero of the Week!

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A campaign to promote Northern Ireland to Game of Thrones fans isn’t settling for guided tours and tacky souvenirs. Tourism Ireland has debuted its latest Game of Thrones tribute: a giant woven tapestry that highlights every episode in the series in meticulous detail. And with every new episode, the tapestry will grow… reaching 250 feet in length by the end of the show.

Wow. I mean. WOW.

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Unmissable Weekly: July 16, 2017

Bookish and Awesome’s weekly round-up of buzz-worthy news from around the bookternet in bite size. Click on the links to be directed to the full articles.

A WRINKLE IN TIME via

Chaos Walking, starring Tom Holland and Daisy Ridley, is set to hit theaters March 1, 2019.

Doug Liman is directing the post-apocalyptic thriller, an adaptation of the best-selling YA novel by Patrick Ness, for Lionsgate.

The film adaptation of Patrick Ness’ Chaos Walking gets a release date!

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HBO has optioned sci-fi fantasy novel Who Fears Death to develop as a series, with George R.R. Martin attached to executive produce, according to the book’s author Nnedi Okorafo.

It appears HBO is gearing up for its next huge fantasy series. Congratulations Nnedi Okorafo! This sounds really interesting and timely.

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“Have a wander through the sci-fi and fantasy section of your local bookstore: How many of these books’ authors are female? Yet these are where the big movie ideas come from.” Well, actually, quite a lot of the authors are female (and many of them already have sold the film/TV rights to their books). Fiction from J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter), Margaret Atwood (The Handmaid’s Tale), and Diana Gabaldon (Outlander) has inspired some of the most popular film and television of recent years, but there are countless others who fly slightly more under the radar just waiting for their stories to become the next big thing. Here are 27 female authors who rule sci-fi and fantasy right now.

Shocker.

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Two key elements convinced DuVernay that Wrinkle, with its script by Oscar winner Jennifer Lee (Frozen), was worth investigating when Disney proposed the idea. “The first image [I had in my head] was to place a brown girl in that role of Meg, a girl traveling to different planets and encountering beings and situations that I’d never seen a girl of color in,” she explains. “All of those scenes struck my fancy, and then it was also something that [Disney VP of production] Tendo Nagenda said to me, which I’ll never forget. One of the things that really made me want to read it was when he said, ‘Ava, imagine what you would do with the worlds.’ Worlds! ‘Planets no one’s ever seen or heard of,’ he said. There aren’t any other black women who have been invited to imagine what other planets in the universe might look and feel like. I was interested in that and in a heroine that looked like the girls I grew up with.”

EW shared an exclusive first look at Disney’s A Wrinkle in Time! The film is set to hit theaters March 9, 2018.

You can also stalk follow me elsewhere! On Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Goodreads, and Bloglovin.

Unmissable Weekly: July 9, 2017

Bookish and Awesome’s weekly round-up of buzz-worthy news from around the bookternet in bite size. Click on the links to be directed to the full articles.

The Lightning Thief 01via

Percy Jackson has fought all manners of monsters, but his latest adventure sees him adapted for the stage in The Lightning Thief, a musical based on (and named for) the first book in author Rick Riordan’s best-selling series. Now EW has your exclusive first listen to the full cast album, which will be going on sale July 7.

“The gods are real. Like the Greek gods. Like the ones you learned about but weren’t paying attention to. Well, they don’t pay attention to you, either, especially if you’re their kid.” This is transporting me back to 2013, that September I got OBSESSED with the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series!

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As publishers, we connect your story with readers everywhere.

We want books to reflect everyone in our society, and to publish the stories which aren’t often told.

That’s why through WriteNow we want to find, mentor and publish new writers from communities under-represented on the nation’s bookshelves. This includes writers from BAME (Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic) or LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer) communities, writers who have a disability, or come from a socio-economically marginalised background.

Get published. Write NOW. (Props to Penguin Random House UK for this programme!)

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An unpublished picture book by Maurice Sendak, author of Where the Wild Things Are, has been found hidden deep in his archives, five years after his death – somewhat like a little boy lost in the jungle after being sent to his room with no supper.

The new book will be published in autumn 2018, a posthumous release for an author regarded as one of the most influential picture-book creators of the last 50 years.

And Maurice Sendak joins the ranks of children’s authors with a book discovered posthumously in a drawer.

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The final two seasons of Game of Thrones are set to be shorter than previous installments of the series—down from the usual 10 episodes to 7 for the seventh season, and 6 for the eighth. But that doesn’t mean that we’ll necessarily be getting any less of the show. We already know that three of Season 7’s episodes run longer than an hour, and at this weekend’s Con of Thrones, sound designer Paula Fairfield told the crowd that the Powers That Be might make all six episodes of Season 8 feature-length.

It seems we are getting a full season’s worth of Game of Thrones for both seasons 7 and 8, after all.

You can also stalk follow me elsewhere! On Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Goodreads, and Bloglovin.

REVIEW: Serafina and the Twisted Staff by Robert Beatty

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Title: Serafina and the Twisted Staff
Author: Robert Beatty
Format: ARC, 370 pages
Publication: July 12th 2016 by Disney Hyperion
Source: Publisher (thank you Sharon Keefauver and Disney Hyperion!)
Genre: Fiction—Fantasy, Gothic, Historical, Mystery
Other classifications: Middle Grade

Goodreads | Amazon | IndieBound | Fully Booked

Synopsis

Serafina’s defeat of the Man in the Black Cloak has brought her out of the shadows and into the daylight realm of her home, Biltmore Estate. Every night she visits her mother in the forest, eager to learn the ways of the catamount. But Serafina finds herself caught between her two worlds: she’s too wild for Biltmore’s beautifully dressed ladies and formal customs, and too human to fully join her kin.

Late one night, Serafina encounters a strange and terrifying figure in the forest, and is attacked by the vicious wolfhounds that seem to be under his control. Even worse, she’s convinced that the stranger was not alone, that he has sent his accomplice into Biltmore in disguise.

Someone is wreaking havoc at the estate. A mysterious series of attacks test Serafina’s role as Biltmore’s protector, culminating in a tragedy that tears Serafina’s best friend and only ally, Braeden Vanderbilt, from her side. Heartbroken, she flees.

Deep in the forest, Serafina comes face-to-face with the evil infecting Biltmore—and discovers its reach is far greater than she’d ever imagined. All the humans and creatures of the Blue Ridge Mountains are in terrible danger. For Serafina to defeat this new evil before it engulfs her beloved home, she must search deep inside herself and embrace the destiny that has always awaited her.

Review

I received a review copy from the publisher which in no way swayed my opinion about the work.

NOTE: This review contains spoilers for Serafina and the Black Cloak.

Compellingly readable and exceedingly satisfying, Serafina and the Twisted Staff is a delightful sequel to its predecessor.

The novel picks up three weeks after the events in The Black Cloak. Serafina’s existence is now known to the folks of Biltmore Estate. Her pa is teaching her table etiquette and her momma the ways of the catamount. But the arrival of a mysterious evil force threatens Serafina’s newly found peace in her home. A near-fatal encounter in the forest. A series of puzzling attacks in Biltmore. Two strangers. One returning character. She can’t join her momma and half-siblings because she’s too human to survive in the wilds and she can’t possibly stay in the estate after a tragic accident that separates her from her only ally and friend, Braeden Vanderbilt. But she’s Serafina, Chief Rat Catcher of Biltmore Estate and Guardian of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and she’s ready to fight for her home and the humans and creatures in it. There’s quite a lot to unpack from Serafina and the Twisted Staff. For one, there’s a distinct growth in characters, themes and storytelling as the author further examines friendship, family, self-discovery, bravery and what these all mean to twelve-year-old Serafina. For another, it’s a 370 pages of running and plotting and fighting for and against animals.

“The wolves of the pack stuck together. They fought together. That’s what a family was. That’s what it meant to be kin. You didn’t give up on that.”

I command Beatty for managing to write a fast-paced, action-packed narrative while at the same time have his heroine’s different relationships with other characters be a central and overt part of the book. The mother and daughter bond is fleshed out more in the little airtime they get together. Serafina’s friendship with Braeden flourishes but also hits a roadblock. The author introduces a cast of new characters, three of whom Serafina befriends. There’s Lady Rowena Fox-Pemberton, visiting and staying in the estate indefinitely, and Essie Walker, a servant to the Vanderbilts. The former is obviously a foil to Serafina, with her snooty English conduct, and the latter is a nice, uncomplicated friendship that balances things out. And I like how the novel presents the reader with various faces of girl power through them: Serafina is fierce, loyal and will fight tooth and claw for those she loves; Lady Rowena is cunning, subverting conventional expectations time and again; and Essie is the quiet, modest kind. The third new friendship is with a feral boy, whom Serafina meets the night she is attacked by the strange bearded man and his wolfhounds in the forest, and whom I only wish we got to see more of.

“She wanted to belong. She wanted to belong more than anything.”

Another overarching themes in Serafina and the Twisted Staff are identity and sense of belongingness. Serafina’s constant struggle to bridge the gap between her two worlds and find who she is and who she can become is something readers will surely identify with, irrespective of age and gender. Although, it sometimes felt dangerously leaning towards YA territory in certain scenes (then again, I have an uncorrected copy). And you don’t need to know your history to appreciate Biltmore Estate and its lavish rooms. The author does incredibly well in setting up the scenery with expansive brush strokes, grounding it in historical accuracy but also taking artistic license here and there. Just as capable he is in pulling off the turn of events leading up to the reveal. I was utterly fooled.

“As she tried to envision her future, she realized there were many paths, many different ways to go, and part of growing up, part of living, was choosing which paths to follow.”

Immensely entertaining and positively imaginative, Serafina and the Twisted Staff is a win for middle grade fiction.

4.0 out of 5

Author

Robert Beatty 01

Robert Beatty lives in the mountains of Asheville, North Carolina, with his wife and three daughters. He writes full-time now, but in his past lives he was one of the pioneers of cloud computing, the founder/CEO of Plex Systems, the co-founder of Beatty Robotics, and the CTO and chairman of Narrative magazine.

Twitter | Website

Have you read this one? Have I convinced you to check it out? Are you into MG? What are some of your recent MG reads? Or your favorite ones? Throw ’em recommendations to me!

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Unmissable Weekly: July 2, 2017

Bookish and Awesome’s weekly round-up of buzz-worthy news from around the bookternet in bite size. Click on the links to be directed to the full articles.

Harry Potter 04via

Universal Pictures has won an auction for screen rights to The Cruel Prince, the new fantasy novel by The Spiderwick Chronicles author Holly Black. Michael De Luca will produce through his Michael De Luca Productions banner. The novel, which will be published in January by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, is the kick off to a fantasy novel series the author is calling Folk of the Air.

And this doesn’t even come out until January next year! Congratulations, Holly Black! You had me at Pan’s Labyrinth.

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A group of Planned Parenthood volunteers donning red cloaks and white bonnets gathered to protest Tuesday at the Capitol in Washington, D.C.

The crowd was channeling “The Handmaid’s Tale” in opposition to the Senate’s proposed healthcare bill.

“It’s a healthcare bill with no health care.”

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The critically acclaimed and Falkner Award-winning novel explores the American Dream as experienced by Jende Jonga, a Cameroonian immigrant who came to the United States in the hope of providing a better life for his wife Neni and their six-year-old son. In 2007, Jende gets hired as a chauffeur for Clark Edwards, a senior executive at Lehman Brothers, while Neni gets a temporary job working for Clark’s wife Cindy at their summer home in the Hamptons. However, as the financial world deals with Lehman Brother’s collapse, both Jongas do everything in their power to keep Jende’s job, even at the cost of their own marriage.

Imbolo Mbue’s debut Behold the Dreamers is the new Oprah Book Club pick.

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Twenty years after Harry first ventured into the world with the initial publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, we’re still wondering what the phenomenon has really meant for kids books and the publishing world at large, and where we would be without it. “Harry Potter” sparked a furor that seemed totally unprecedented in the world of children’s literature. The books themselves, though ― not much about them was totally unprecedented.

An extensive look on what J. K. Rowling and the Harry Potter series did for middle grade and young adult fiction.

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Monthly Bookish Awesomeness: June 2017

In which I recap what went down in the last four weeks here and outside the blog.

Y’all, Bookworms Unite! is returning for its third year in July 16th! Woohoo! One of our lovely hosts, Inah @ The Bibliophile Confessions, shared the deets, with a handy Beginner’s Guide infographic for those of you who are going for the first time. (Because, clearly, I have to say the most virginy thing.)

June had been both slow and fleeting. I turned one month in my new job—working with adorable, brilliant kids is so rewarding! I feel more settled in the blog.  I’ve reconnected with the publishing, no longer unaware of new releases and forthcoming titles. I saw Wonder Woman. And I spent a ridiculous amount of time on Froy’s Instagram one lazy morning.

Books I Read

The Serpent King 01Serafina and the Black Cloak 01Duplicity

Other Stuff I Posted

Book Birthdays

Here Lies Daniel Tate 01   Bad Romance 01   Our Dark Duet 01   The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue 01

Happy book birthday to Here Lies Daniel Tate (Simon & Schuster), Bad Romance (Henry Colt & Co. BFYR), Our Dark Duet (Greenwillow Books), You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me: A Memoir (Little, Brown and Company), and The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue (Katherine Tegen Books), which all found a place in the shelves this month!

Book Radar

Serafina and the Splintered Heart 01   The Art of Starving 01   Because You Love to Hate Me 01

New month. New books. Serafina and the Splintered Heart (4th, Disney Hyperion), The Art of Starving (11th, HarperTeen) (!!!), and Because You Love to Hate Me: 13 Tales of Villainy (11th, Bloomsbury USA Childrens) will all be out in the wild in July!

Gold Star

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Rainbow everything! This month’s Gold Star goes to all things Pride.

Epic Reads’ 72 must-read YA books featuring gay protagonists 15 creatives on the meaning of pride (“for me ‘Pride’ embodies our defiance of those who seek to shame us”)  25 recent works that have shaped the L.G.B.T.Q. literary genre over the last two decades Caleb Roehrig on writing yourself • 10 swoonworthy YA quotesOn maybe deleting Grindr and joining a book clubFinding queer POC books

Around the Interwebs

What books did you acquire this month? Are there specific titles you’re most looking forward to in July? What was your last read? Any recent discovered gem(s) in the music or film department? Also, WILL I SEE YOU IN JULY 16TH? Grab your favorite cup and let’s talk!

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