Thursday, August 14, 2014

Mini Reviews: The Year of Shadows by Claire Legrand and Guitar Notes by Mary Amato

From Goodreads: Olivia Stellatella is having a rough year. Her mother's left; her neglectful father, the maestro of a failing orchestra, has moved her and her grandmother into the city's dark, broken-down concert hall to save money, and her only friend is Igor, an ornery stray cat. Just when she thinks life couldn't get any weirder, she meets four ghosts who haunt the hall. They need Olivia's help; if the hall is torn down, they'll be stuck as ghosts forever, never able to move on. Olivia has to do the impossible for her shadowy new friends: save the concert hall. But helping the dead has powerful consequences for the living; and soon it's not just the concert hall that needs saving. 

My Rating: 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Through the use of music and a loosely defined world of Limbo, Claire Legrand’s The Year of Shadows explores the themes of loss, friendship, and loneliness in a manner suitable for MG readers. Consider for example the protagonist: Olivia. During a time of recession, many tweens will be able to relate to Olivia’s situation of having their parents be stressed about their finances. Although I found The Year of Shadows to be a solid read, I couldn’t help repeatedly comparing it to Legrand’s other novel, The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls, which I thought was more engaging. 

The Year of Shadows was released in August 2013 by Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers. .................................................................................................. 
From Goodreads: Tripp, who plays guitar only for himself, and Lyla, a cellist whose talent has already made her famous but not happy, form an unlikely friendship when they are forced to share a practice room at their high school. 

My Rating: 3.5 hearts for the first 2/3 of the book; 2 hearts for the final 1/3 

Thoughts on the Novel: Like The Year of Shadows, Guitar Notes by Mary Amato was a book that I began without having read the synopsis. A few chapters in, I thought I had figured out what would happen: after exchanging a flurry of letters, Tripp and Lyla would get to know each other better and eventually become a couple. So, it was a pleasant surprise to find out that Tripp and Lyla maintained a platonic relationship throughout the novel. Since I find books that feature a friendship between a guy and a girl without it becoming anything more somewhat lacking in YA, I was enjoying Guitar Notes in spite of the clich├ęd secondary characters and Tripp’s tendency to be overdramatic.

The ending, however, ruined my enjoyment because Amato resorted to something over the top to ensure her main characters would be reunited. In doing so, she also didn’t provide a satisfactory resolution because while most of Guitar Notes took place on a day to day basis from September to November, the last 20% was just a brief summary of the next 4 months.

Guitar Notes was released by EgmontUSA in July 2012.


  1. I thought The Year of Shadows was a lovely book, though it didn't blow me away. There was nothing I disliked, but it wasn't exceptionally memorable either. I did really enjoy the way that Legrand wrote the ghosts' backstories. It was my first of her books, though I've had The Cavendish Home on my TBR for AGES and Winterspell sounds pretty freaking amazing.

  2. The ending of Guitar Notes does sound frustrating in that it rushes through a longer period of time than the entire rest of the book spans. That's too bad, especially since you were enjoying it overall up until then. Thanks for your thoughts Z!

  3. I think I'd like to try out Year of Shadows! At least, I love that cover and I love that it takes on more serious topics than I expect from a MG read. Also really want to try Legrand's previous novel!

    I feel like I can do without Guitar Notes though because it doesn't sound like it would be my kind of thing even if the ending wasn't strange. Hurray for platonic relationships though!

  4. I've been wanting to pick up one of Legrand's MG books, but I wasn't sure which one to start with. Think I'll go with The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls if you found that to be more engaging. If I enjoy it I'll probably buy The Year of Shadows afterwards. :)

  5. I loved CAVENDISH, as I know you did, but I put down YOS a few chapters into it because it didn't quite hold the same kind of magic to me as her first book did, so I'm not entirely surprised to see your reaction. I'll probably still read it at some point, though, so I'm glad you still enjoyed it overall!

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden


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