Monday, June 30, 2014

Tuesday Tomorrow

The Care and Management of Lies by Jacqueline Winspear
Published by: Harper
Publication Date: July 1st, 2014
Format: Hardcover, 336 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"The New York Times bestselling author of the Maisie Dobbs series turns her prodigious talents to this World War I standalone novel, a lyrical drama of love struggling to survive in a damaged, fractured world.

By July 1914, the ties between Kezia Marchant and Thea Brissenden, friends since girlhood, have become strained—by Thea’s passionate embrace of women’s suffrage, and by the imminent marriage of Kezia to Thea’s brother, Tom, who runs the family farm. When Kezia and Tom wed just a month before war is declared between Britain and Germany, Thea’s gift to Kezia is a book on household management—a veiled criticism of the bride’s prosaic life to come. Yet when Tom enlists to fight for his country and Thea is drawn reluctantly onto the battlefield, the farm becomes Kezia’s responsibility. Each must find a way to endure the ensuing cataclysm and turmoil.

As Tom marches to the front lines, and Kezia battles to keep her ordered life from unraveling, they hide their despair in letters and cards filled with stories woven to bring comfort. Even Tom’s fellow soldiers in the trenches enter and find solace in the dream world of Kezia’s mouth-watering, albeit imaginary meals. But will well-intended lies and self-deception be of use when they come face to face with the enemy?

Published to coincide with the centennial of the Great War, The Care and Management of Lies paints a poignant picture of love and friendship strained by the pain of separation and the brutal chaos of battle. Ultimately, it raises profound questions about conflict, belief, and love that echo in our own time."

Ok, so this week... well, apparently almost every book I want to read this summer comes out this week, crazy I know... but onto The Care and Management of Lies. So excited the Winspear is writing a book not part of her Maisie Dobbs series, second, how cool is it that it's release coincides with the centennial of WWI.

The Visitors by Sally Beauman
Published by: Harper
Publication Date: July 1st, 2014
Format: Hardcover, 544 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Based on a true story of discovery, The Visitors is New York Times bestselling author Sally Beauman’s brilliant recreation of the hunt for Tutankhamun’s tomb in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings—a dazzling blend of fact and fiction that brings to life a lost world of exploration, adventure, and danger, and the audacious men willing to sacrifice everything to find a lost treasure.

In 1922, when eleven year-old Lucy is sent to Egypt to recuperate from typhoid, she meets Frances, the daughter of an American archaeologist. The friendship draws the impressionable young girl into the thrilling world of Lord Carnarvon and Howard Carter, who are searching for the tomb of boy pharaoh Tutankhamun in the Valley of the Kings.

A haunting tale of love and loss, The Visitors retells the legendary story of Carter and Carnarvon’s hunt and their historical discovery, witnessed through the eyes of a vulnerable child whose fate becomes entangled in their dramatic quest. As events unfold, Lucy will discover the lengths some people will go to fulfill their deepest desires—and the lies that become the foundation of their lives.

Intensely atmospheric, The Visitors recalls the decadence of Egypt’s aristocratic colonial society, and illuminates the obsessive, daring men willing to risk everything—even their sanity—to claim a piece of the ancient past. As fascinating today as it was nearly a century ago, the search for King Tut’s tomb is made vivid and immediate in Sally Beauman’s skilled hands. A dazzling feat of imagination, The Visitors is a majestic work of historical fiction."

Egypt! Egypt Egypt Egypt!

The Four Graces by D.E. Stevenson
Published by: Sourcebooks Landmark
Publication Date: July 1st, 2014
Format: Paperback, 256 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Little Women meets World War II in this heartwarming story from beloved author D.E. Stevenson.

Mr. Grace is vicar of a country parish in World War II England. Blessed with four grown-up daughters, three of whom live at home, he has constant help tending to his regular duties and responsibilities toward the war effort.

Liz, Sal, and Tilly Grace have more than enough to keep them busy, but their responsibilities are put on hold when they're tempted with potential suitors. Reminiscent of Little Women, The Four Graces showcases Stevenson's talent for capturing love, family, and the humor and delight found in everyday life."

Have I ever mentioned how much I love Sourcebooks? Well, if I haven't, I seriously do. So that's your nugget of information for the day.

Grace Against the Clock by Julie Hyzy
Published by: Berkley
Publication Date: July 1st, 2014
Format: Paperback, 304 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"When Marshfield Manor hosts a charity event, Grace Wheaton, the mansion’s curator and manager, is happy to lend a helping hand—until a killer makes an unwanted donation…

With the town clock in desperate need of repair, local lawyer Joyce Swedburg and her ex-husband, Dr. Leland Keay, are trying to put their differences aside to organize a benefit at Marshfield Manor to raise money to restore the beautiful timepiece. While Grace appreciates the opportunity to support such a good cause, the tension between the unhappy exes is giving her the urge to put both of the organizers in time out.

But after Leland collapses on stage during the festivities, poisoned, Grace suspects there was more going on behind the scenes. Now, she’s in a race to catch a ticked off murderer, and, if she’s going to prevent anyone else from getting hurt, every second will count…"

Huh, another book with "Grace" in the title... also, this is for my mom who loves Julie Hyzy.

The Actress by Amy Sohn
Published by: Simon and Schuster
Publication Date: July 1st, 2014
Format: Hardcover, 352 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"A talented young actress. A leading man. A sexy secret. The role of a lifetime.

In this big, juicy literary novel from bestselling author Amy Sohn, an ambitious young actress discovers that every marriage is a mystery, and that sometimes the greatest performances don’t take place on screen.

When Hollywood heartthrob Steven Weller pulls Maddy Freed out of obscurity for a starring part in his newest, Oscar-worthy film, she feels her career roaring onto the express track. Steven’s professional attention soon turns personal as they are thrown together amid Europe’s Old World charm, and Maddy allows herself to tumble headlong into a fairytale romance with the world’s most eligible bachelor. She knows there’s no truth to the gay rumors that have followed him for years.

Yet what is it that Steven sees in Maddy that he has not seen in his string of past girlfriends? Steven tells her he is drawn to her stunning gift as an actress—her ability to inhabit a character so seamlessly, so convincingly, that it is nearly impossible to tell she is playing a role—a compliment that becomes more ominous as their marriage progresses. Ultimately, as Maddy’s own happiness and success grow intertwined with her new husband’s, she cannot afford to ask too many questions about Steven’s complicated past. But can she ignore her inner voice, and her instincts about her own worth?

Set in a tantalizing world of glamour and scandal, of red carpets and ruthless competition, of scheming agents and the prying eye of the press, The Actress is a romantic, sophisticated page-turner about the price of ambition, the treachery of love, and the roles we all play."

Could this be the book of the summer?

Bloodshifted by Cassie Alexander
Published by: St. Martin's Paperbacks
Publication Date: July 1st, 2014
Format: Hardcover, 304 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Ambushed. Blindfolded. Kidnapped by vampires. Edie Spence must race against time to save herself and her baby—from the nightmare that flows through her veins…

As a nurse in the hospital’s secret Y4 ward, Edie has seen her share of daytimers. Once-ordinary humans who’ve tasted vampire blood, daytimers are doomed to serve their nighttime masters. Forever. And now Edie has to face something even more horrifying: she’s become one too…

Abducted by the vampire Raven, Edie is taken to the catacombs beneath the Catacombs, an ironically-named L.A. night club that supplies fresh blood and other favors for its vampire Masters. Edie has no intention of swapping her nurse’s uniform for a cocktail dress—not when her newborn infant needs her. But if she and Asher—her shapeshifter fiancé—can’t figure out a way to bleed Raven’s power, they may never get out of this plasma-soaked pleasure palace…undead or alive."

Yes, I will keep posting about this series until I start reading it and have finally gone pro or con with it...

A Vision in Velvet by Juliet Blackwell
Published by: Signet
Publication Date: July 1st, 2014
Format: Paperback, 336 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Lily Ivory hopes to score some great vintage fashions when she buys an antique trunk full of old clothes. But she may have gotten more than she bargained for.

As soon as Lily opens the trunk, she feels strange vibrations emanating from a mysterious velvet cloak. When she tries it on, Lily sees awful visions from the past. And when the antiques dealer who sold her the cape is killed, Lily suspects a supernatural force might be behind his death.

Then Lily’s familiar, Oscar the potbellied pig, disappears. Lily will do anything to get him back—including battling the spirit of a powerful witch reaching out from the past. But even with the aid of her grandmother, unmasking a killer and saving Oscar might be more than one well-intentioned sorceress can handle."

Witches, San Francisco... what's not to love? And yes, I did like Charmed.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Book Review - Leigh Bardugo's Siege and Storm

Siege and Storm (The Grisha Book 2) by Leigh Bardugo
Published by: Henry Holt and Co.
Publication Date: June 4th, 2013
Format: Hardcover, 448 Pages
Rating: ★★★★★
To Buy

Alina and Mal barely escaped the Darkling in the fold of nothingness that divides Ravka. Alina wrested back control of her power from the Darkling, but not before a deadly price was paid. Hiding out half way around the world Alina is haunted by what happened and the choices she has made. Sickening, she longs to use her powers and the ill gotten amplifier, but it is too risky. She has turned her back on Ravka, hoping for a new life with Mal and that the rumors of the Darkling's continued existence are a lie. But they can not hide forever. The Darkling finds them across the true sea. He has plans for Alina and disturbing new powers of his own.

Instead of taking his captives back to Ravka, the Darkling takes them far north on the hunt for another creature out of fairy tale and myth. A second forbidden amplifier for Alina's powers. Though little does the Darkling know that there are other people who also have plans for Alina. Plans that she can't ignore. Alina can no longer turn her back on her country's suffering as the Grisha are ostracized and the country is divided. She agrees to return and lead the second army in the place of the Darkling with the sole purpose of his downfall. Yet are her new powers and believed divinity a match for the Darkling? Or does she need more power in order to succeed? Does she in fact desire more power?

In the battle of good versus evil there always comes a time when the wiser action is to run. To regroup and come back hopefully stronger then before. While necessary, this can sometimes lead to boring storytelling. The suffering, the privations, the hardships, the hope of news that perhaps the luck of the enemy is running out. These stories are never my favorite. The driving force is fear and it can therefore lead to too many tropes. After the epic showdown in the fold between Alina and the Darkling, I was sure that this book would follow this tried and tested path and be the bridge book till the final showdown. I was happily surprised.

By having the Darkling force them out of hiding almost immediately, the story opened up new vistas. Alina and Mal could go on the offensive while preparing a strong defense. Yet what I most loved was that the forces of light regrouped in Os Alta. I really wasn't ready to part with this courtly life. It was a Russian Fairy Tale Palace that housed Hogwarts. I was despondent that I wouldn't get to walk the corridors of the Little Palace once more, thankfully I was saved from mopery. I not only got an a-typical middle book, but one that delivered all I could hope for and a little more (*cough* pirates *cough*).

For all her avoidance of tropes, Bardugo isn't immune to them. Seriously, I want to know why when girls are the protagonists of books that they always have two boys vying for their attention? I mean seriously. It's not like this is a new trope, it's been around as long as storytelling has been, and you know what, it kind of gets on my nerves. Yes, there's an element of wish fulfilment here. Who doesn't want an escape, to sink into a book and become one with the heroine and be loved and lusted after from one and all? But there's this other, darker side to me that's saying, but is that realistic? Maybe we've been fed these fairy tales too long and need to break free.

Can't a girl just have one guy? One person to be true to? Or none at all? Especially since this is YA, aren't we just giving young girls unrealistic expectations of not just finding mister right, but having a mister wrong there too wanting you? Or maybe the bitter little cat lady is showing through my carefully constructed veneer and I should just embrace that Alina gets Nathan Fillion and Blake Ritson fighting over her. Oh, I've cast Nathan Fillion as Mal and Blake Ritson as the Darkling in my version of Siege and Storm, just FYI. I know you all want Blake Ritson as a bizarre apparition showing up in your bed chamber no matter how you fall on this trope...

Far from the tropes of men and women, Bardugo has tapped into the vein of Russian folktales and brought out what modernization and progress mean to our shared past. In Siege and Storm the words of the Darkling that the time of the Grisha is coming to a close is not only explored by expanded on. There is this interesting dynamic of past versus future, with the old ways dying off. The future doesn't belong to Tsar's and magic and fairy tales, but to iron and steel and guns. Yes, we see glimpses that perhaps, just maybe, there could be a world where they could coexist, feeding each other, but that seems like the true fairy tale.

Yet what strikes me most is that while Ravka might possibly be saved by these modern military advancements, their only true hope lies with Alina. Alina isn't a creature of the modern world, she is of the old world. She is of the time when maps still bared legends that said beyond here there be monsters. She thinks in fairy stories of the too too clever fox. The third amplifier she seeks is that of the fire bird, a creature of myth that isn't just in one or two stories, but in every story of Ravka. A fairy tale holds the key to the future, and that is a world that I want to live in. A world where stories are real.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Book Review - Leigh Bardugo's Shadow and Bone

Shadow and Bone (The Grisha Book 1) by Leigh Bardugo
Published by: Henry Holt and Co.
Publication Date: June 5th, 2012
Format: Hardcover, 368 Pages
Rating: ★★★★
To Buy

Alina and Mal only have each other. Orphaned in the wars they grew up looking to each other for everything. Now they are in the first army together, Mal's a tracker and Alina's a cartographer. But little does Mal know Alina's true feelings for him. The way her heart thumps when he's near or how she worries that they might be parted. Their parting is near at hand. The land of Ravka is divided by a darkness, a nothing. The capital is cut off from the ports and the country has been vulnerable for hundreds of years while creatures roam the blackness killing those who try to cross. Mal and Alina are about to attempt the crossing with their units; only everything goes wrong. The evil creatures with their blind eyes attack and it looks as if they are both going to die, but then a light as bright as the sun shines out and cuts the creatures down. Little does Alina realize that the light emanated from her.

Being called before the leader of the second army, the Darkling, Alina thinks that for some reason she is in trouble, but doesn't know why she is brought before the Grisha. The Grisha are masters of the small science, innate abilities in them that classify them as Corporalki, Etheralki, or Materialki, with powers ranging from stopping a human heart to metallurgy. Summoning the Sun means that Alina is a Etheralki who somehow avoided detection. Finding out that she isn't in trouble but is in fact what their country has been praying for since the arrival of this dark rift puts pressure beyond measure on Alina. Not only is she trying to forget being separated from Mal, but dealing with the cosseted little world of backbiting Grishas, all while she's trying come to gripes with a power she never knew she had and hoping that it's all a big mistake or joke. Yet what if the Darkling has a different purpose in mind for Alina's powers the banishing the darkness? Will she be able to withstand his magnetism and the allure of life at court?

I remember reading a review about Shadow and Bone wherein they said it was dark, Russian, and left a vivid impression on me of a girl wandering a desolate landscape of evil shadows. Now that I've read the book I wonder if the reviewer had actually bothered to pick it up because this isn't some Russian Dorthy Gale lost in the wilderness, but the reviewer I guess could be said to have done their job because it did make me pick it up. And you know what? I wasn't disappointed that the only thing the reviewer really got right was the Russian and the darkness because it was a fun fast read. There's nothing overly original or revolutionary in this book, it is too obviously like other books then like itself to be called first rate literature. The plot set up is typical YA in structure, outcast has an ability they never knew they had and can save everyone... sounds familiar right? It's Tamora Pierce meets Buffy meets Harry Potter meets The Hunger Games meets The Neverending Story meets on and on and on. But somehow Bardugo makes it work more for her then against her. Even if Mal is too obviously Nathan Fillion in Firefly, name and all, it just works. Plus, I've a habit of wanting Nathan Fillion in all my books, so here I didn't even have to make an effort!

The real reason this book works more then it fails is that it was fun having a different setting then usual. YA literature tends to break down into a few distinct categories; post apocalyptic society, fairy tale re-tellings, or fantasy world. You rarely get to see re-imagings of past time periods but with fantastical elements, their are of course exceptions to this rule like Robin LaFevers' His Fair Assassin Series, but Russia, Russia is rarely tackled. Yet, with all things there are the parts that work and the parts that don't. I was enthralled with the court life and how Bardugo took a simple coat and was able to hint at the culture, but also was able to break down that culture with the use of colors and the distinctions in the threading. It was the little things, the details that she got just right. But she also got some big things quite wrong. Sometimes the place names or wordings, well, it was kind of overly kitschy or bang your head dumb. Kind of a when in doubt add a "ki" or a "nik" to the end of the word worldbuilding. No, I'm sorry, that doesn't make it Russian. Also Tsibeya for Siberia... not really feeling that. Funny spellings, no. The worst is Fjerda, which I'm taking to be Norway, because of the Fjords that the country is noted for. The problem I have with this is every time I see the word Fjerda or Fjerdian, the way it sounds in my head is like the Swedish Chef trying to talk, so it's the land of Børk Børk Børk.

But it's the subtler undertones of Mother Russia that coheres the book versus the more absurd elements (Børk). The mirroring of the political situation of Russia at the beginning of the last century was spot on. Strip out all the Grishas and the magic, take out an evil nothing and what have we got? We have a country with a widening gap between the haves and the have nots. The King is just a figurehead that no one respects and has a mysterious religious leader as counsel. The power of the country resides in the army and out of this a megalomaniac leader will take the country's reigns for his own will. So the Darkling is Stalin or Lenin, with the Apparat as Rasputin. I would not be the least bit surprised to see the Tsar and his family hurried into a cellar in the next book so that they can never be a threat to the Darkling ever again. Yet by seeing this through a filter of fiction and fantasy it somehow makes it more real then less real. When we travel with Alina from her life of drudgery in the army to her life of splendor in the Little Palace, we get to see in stark relief the widening gap between the haves and the have nots. Sometimes it takes another medium to filter events for us to get at the truth of something, and that is what Leigh Bardugo has done in Shadow and Bone. It might not be perfect, but it is memorable and echoes down the ages to our shared history.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Tuesday Tomorrow

Spirit Animals Book 4: Fire and Ice by Shannon Hale
Published by: Scholastic Inc.
Publication Date: June 24th, 2014
Format: Hardcover, 192 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"The adventure continues in this fourth book in the New York Times bestselling series.

Strange things are happening at the frozen edge of the world. Conor, Abeke, Meilin, and Rollan have crisscrossed Erdas in their quest to stop the ruthless Conquerors. Only the four of them, supported by the gifts of their legendary spirit animals, have the power to defeat an evil takeover.

While chasing down a lead in the cold North, the heroes arrive at a quiet village where not everything is as it seems. Rooting the truth out of this deceptively beautiful place won't be easy-and the team is already out of time.

The Conquerors are right behind them."

Seriously, I love Shannon Hale so much that I'm going to read all the previous books in this series by other authors just so I can read hers! Of course, they're written by other fabulous authors, so that doesn't hurt...

Secrets of the Manor: Beth's Story, 1914 by Adele Whitby
Published by: Simon Spotlight
Publication Date: June 24th, 2014
Format: Paperback, 160 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Find out what secrets lurk within the walls of Chatswood Manor in this in this first book of a historical fiction mystery series that explores a family’s secrets throughout generations.

The Chatswood family tree has many branches—and even more secrets. It’s the summer of 1914 in England, and Beth Etheridge, great-granddaughter of the original Elizabeth Chatswood, can’t wait for her twelfth birthday to arrive. That’s when she’ll receive her family’s heirloom “Elizabeth” necklace: one half of a heart encrusted with beautiful sapphires. (The companion necklace, encrusted with rubies, will be given to Beth’s American cousin and pen pal, Kate, later in the series.) But when family from France visits Chatswood Manor for the occasion and another family heirloom goes missing, Beth finds herself on a quest to clear the name of her lady’s maid and friend, Shannon. Her search for answers leads her to a hidden diary with clues to a much larger family mystery that dates back generations. What secrets are hidden away in Chatswood Manor?"

This is a new series that is basically Downton Abbey for 8-12 year olds. How excited am I to read this? Oh, very very much thank you! Ring for Carson to bring in your copy!

Chu's First Day of School by Neil Gaiman
Published by: HarperCollins
Publication Date: June 24th, 2014
Format: Hardcover, 32 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"A brand-new picture book adventure about the New York Times bestselling panda named Chu from Newbery Medal-winning author Neil Gaiman and acclaimed illustrator Adam Rex!

Chu, the adorable panda with a great big sneeze, is heading off for his first day of school, and he's nervous. He hopes the other boys and girls will be nice. Will they like him? What will happen at school? And will Chu do what he does best?

Chu's First Day of School is a perfect read-aloud story about the universal experience of starting school."

Ok, so yes, I did find the first book lame, but then again, I'm not the target 4-8 year olds, so I'm all for this book if it will convert young readers to Gaiman... though I'd wait till they were older to introduce them to American Gods...

Angelica's Smile by Andrea Camilleri
Published by: Penguin Books
Publication Date: June 24th, 2014
Format: Paperback, 304 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"The seventeenth installment of the beloved New York Times bestselling series that boasts more than 600,000 books in print.

The last four books in Andrea Camilleri’s Inspector Montalbano series have leapfrogged their way up the New York Times bestseller list, perfectly positioning Angelica’s Smile to ascend to even greater heights.

A rash of burglaries has got Inspector Salvo Montalbano stumped. The criminals are so brazen that their leader, the anonymous Mr. Z, starts sending the Sicilian inspector menacing letters. Among those burgled is the young and beautiful Angelica Cosulich, who reminds the inspector of the love-interest in Ludovico Ariosto’s chivalric romance, Orlando Furioso. Besotted by Angelica’s charms, Montalbano imagines himself back in the medieval world of jousts and battles. But when one of the burglars turns up dead, Montalbano must snap out of his fantasy and unmask his challenger."

Love this series, but not loving this cover art... just ick. Usually they are so awesome.

The Killing: Uncommon Denominator by Karen Dionne
Published by: Titan Books
Publication Date: June 24th, 2014
Format: Paperback, 320 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"When firefighters respond to a suspected meth explosion at a trailer park, they discover a man’s body, unburned but with terrible head wounds. Meanwhile, another man is discovered in a shipping container at the Port of Seattle, shot execution-style. For Homicide Detective Sarah Linden, two cases soon become one, and she must unravel a complex web of addiction, greed, and betrayal to reveal the killer."

Ok, yes I'm interesting in this, yes I'm kind of addicted to The Killing... but not getting to watch Joel Kinnaman... maybe he'd come by and read it to me?

Friday, June 20, 2014

Book Review - Marissa Meyer's Cress

Cress (The Lunar Chronicles Book 3) by Marissa Meyer
Published by: Feiwel and Friends
Publication Date: February 4th, 2014
Format: Hardcover, 560 Pages
Rating: ★★★★★
To Buy

Cress has spent most of her life in a small satellite looking down on Earth. Gently circling the planet as a shell spying for the Lunars... that's the only apparent use she is, being a shell means she is devoid of magic and is repulsive to her own people. But all that time alone with all that computer equipment has made her into a wicked hacker with romantic tendencies. She dreams of one day being rescued by the people on the planet she has fallen in love with. In fact, lately there is one person in particular that she would really like to be rescued by, Captain Carswell Thorne, Cinder's accomplice in escaping the Commonwealth Prison.

Cinder. Cress has taken an interest in her. She helped Cinder to warn the Emperor Kai that the Lunar Queen Levana was planning on murdering him after they marry and she became Empress. Because of this help Cinder sees Cress as another ally in her fight against Luna and the Queen in order to get back the throne that is rightfully hers and stop Kai's wedding. Therefore Cress is to be rescued from her satellite prison by the dashing Thorne! Cress is living her fantasy for real. Only things don't go quite to plan when her Lunar handler Cybil arrives unexpectedly. The result is that Thorne and Cress are falling out of the heavens on a collision course with Earth, while Scarlet is captured by Cybil, and Cinder is left with Cybil's pilot as well as an injured Wolf. Cinder decides that the time has come to return to Earth and seek out Dr. Erland, who revealed so much of her own secret past to her. In one way or another everyone is headed to northern Africa... though for Cress and Thorne it will be a far more dangerous journey through the heart of the desert, that's if they survive making their way through Earth's atmosphere without burning up... but Cinder's plan of stopping Kai's wedding is still firmly in place... it's just changed a little.

One of my first memories of school relates to Rapunzel. I was in nursery school at Saint Andrew's about a block away from my house. I was four years old and my favorite television show was Shelley Duval's Faerie Tale Theatre. What I liked so much about the show was that it wasn't the sanitized Fairy Tales that the books I had at home depicted. These weren't all happily ever afters. The "Little Mermaid" episode which aired when I was much older is to me the epitome of how this show stuck to the original versions. Poor Pam Dawber from Mork and Mindy died because her love didn't love her.

But at this time I was obsessed with Rapunzel. It had so many things that fascinated me. I wanted Rapunzel's hair (this was around the time it was deemed that because I chewed my hair that it was going to be short till I could behave, these enforced haircuts lasted until about 4th grade and I was never to have that rope of hair). Then there was the tower in which she was trapped, I kind of wanted to live there, and then the prince, rather dubious in my opinion in that he never tried to rescue her but visited all the time (enough times to get her pregnant) but more realistic, because, well, it's a girlfriend you only have to deal with when you want to. But what I loved was the fact that the prince is then blinded and wanders alone in the desert, revenge for his behavior AND just the kind of macabre thing to capture the imagination of a young Wednesday Addams in the making. I always thought of how horrid it would be to not only be blinded, but to have the grains of sand working their way into your eyes and irritating them more. As you can see, I really thought a lot about this story. Rapunzel is just so weird and odd and yet, everything about it made it unforgettable.

Back to why this relates to school. I remember one day spending all this time drawing this picture of Rapunzel in her tower letting down her hair and I raised my hand to ask the teacher a question. My question was if she could spell Rapunzel for me so I could put it on my picture so that everyone would know what it was even if they hadn't heard the story. Firstly she didn't know the story, and secondly, she could obviously not spell it. She spelt it wrong on my drawing, something I can never forgive. I remember sitting there at the little table and I know I had an arched eyebrow on my face. I couldn't believe that someone didn't know this awesome story. This was my first experience with the ignorance of adults, and in particular, educators, wherein it felt like I had to explain everything to them. I've had many great teachers in my life, but I can easily say the ignorant far outweigh the awesome.

Of course you're now thinking, ok, she's a little too attached to a girl named for, basically, lettuce, and this relates to this new interpretation how? Because Marissa Meyer nailed it! That little four year old me that has never died was fist pumping the air. Marissa got it! She totally got the story, the twists, the turns, the dark, the funny, the everything! This was it! This was the story I loved brought into a new form but keeping ahold of me in the same way that that episode of Faerie Tale Theatre did all those years ago. I loved Thorne as the "prince" he has the right "ladies man" douche bag personality, that gets redeemed through his suffering. Oh, and Cress, Cress was so wonderful as the naive princess in the tower not wanting do die before experiencing her first kiss. When the book opened on her in that little satellite going around the earth, my breath was taken away with how perfect of a modernization of the tower this was. The isolation yet coupling that with intelligence and knowledge, gave me a heroine I could really route for.

Yet in a series it isn't how the one book succeeds, but in how it succeeds in connection with the whole arc. How Cress tied into the ongoing plot while adding depth to the story made me sqwee with joy. All these little things tying together, the realization that the louche Thorne introduced in the second book would turn out to be Cress's prince. I came to realize that Marissa has really been playing an amazing long game with an impeccably plotted series. All these weird little things are tying together in ways I couldn't have imagined. Scarlet left me cold, but coming into this installment, everything in Scarlet was important, I kind of view it now as the second book was just a glut of prologue to get us to this amazing next chapter.

Everything came together. All the characters were important and Marissa balanced them all perfectly so that unlike in Scarlet, I wasn't just wanting waiting for Cinder to reappear, but I was interested in all their fates and how they were able to work as a team to pull of an amazing heist. Plus there's just little gems that you wouldn't get unless you're a dork, like me, and obviously Marissa, are... for example, did you know that in some of the versions of the tale instead of rapunzel the father gets rampion from the witch's garden? Which happens to be the make of Thorne's ship! Ok, I have to stop my giddy gushing. I was just so pleasantly surprised that now I don't know how I shall be able to wait till the final volume comes out next year. The hint we had of the Princess Winter, like a crazy Cheshire Cat/Alice/Snow White mash up... now please.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Book Review - Marissa Meyer's Scarlet

Scarlet (The Lunar Chronicles Book 2) by Marissa Meyer
Published by: Feiwel and Friends
Publication Date: February 5th, 2013
Format: Hardcover, 464 Pages
Rating: ★★
To Buy

Scarlet Benoit’s Grandmother has been missing for awhile. Yet no one seems to be willing to help. So Scarlet is not only filled with worry and no leads, but she also has to keep the family farm running in her Grandmother's absence. Yet her Grandmother's past and her connection to the Lunar Cyborg girl Cinder, who is on all the news feeds, not just for the commotion at Emperor Kai's gala, but then for her subsequent escape from prison, might just be the reason behind everything. While Scarlet sympathizes with poor Cinder, if Scarlet could find any link, no matter how tenuous, any information to find her Grandmother, she would use it. Enter Wolf. He is a street fighter, and he has a lead. Scarlet's Grandmother is being held in Paris and he will help Scarlet get there. While trusting Wolf might be a horrible mistake, it's a risk Scarlet is willing to take.

Scarlet picks up mere days after the events of Cinder, though refocusing on Scarlet Benoit, the granddaughter of a lady who has some connection to Cinder's shrouded past and now relocating the focus of the story to France. I have spent a year pining for this book to come out. Leaving me hanging on a cliff was not the nicest thing for Marissa to do, but seeing as I was still expectantly waiting a year later shows the power of her world building. Therefore I think this book became too built up in my head. After that long of a wait and then having to search for quite a long period of time at Barnes and Noble to actually find a copy of the book (what stupid bookstore only gets two copies and then hides them on the bottom shelf near the door I ask you) I was, I don't know, expecting something just as unique and wonderful as Cinder was and in the end I was thoroughly disappointed. I really should start a list of books that were better than the first, because really, I think I almost set myself up for these falls with unrealistic expectations... but then authors like Mary Robinette Kowal and Laini Taylor have raised the bar so high for second outings that this book really had to be something wonderful to measure up, instead I felt like I was slogging through just to get to the end.

My main problem was all the unnecessary shit that was thrown in. New settings, new characters and new creatures. I admire Marissa for expanding her world, but there was some magic in the Eastern Commonwealth that was not only lacking in France, but made France boring. How can you make France boring you ask? By having it not be futuristic. By having me feel like if I where to get on a plane and go there RIGHT NOW I could be in Scarlet's world. Cinder's world was a flight of fancy, an easy to imagine possible future, yet France was just France. Yet France being just France wasn't nearly as boring as Scarlet and Wolf. I'm sorry, but they where boring. Scarlet was flat and two dimensional. I didn't care if she found her grandmother or not. As for Wolf, whatever. He reminded me of Tom from Being Human with his old fashioned manners and, well, the wolf bit, but unlike Tom, Wolf was just a dull dull character whose attraction to Scarlet seemed to be a plot contrivance than actually real attraction. They needed to be relegated to the background. The book came alive when Cinder was around, so by making Scarlet and Wolf just people who forward Cinder's story would have sat far better with me than having to excruciatingly journey with them across France while we where to be rooting for them with their false chemistry. Though the "wolves" is what really put the nail in the coffin for me. Really, "werewolves?" After much thinking, ok, having wolves in thrall to the Lunars does make a bit of sense because in mythology werewolves are governed by the moon... but there's just too much shit populating this world. Lunars, cyborgs, viruses, world wars, plagues... enough already. NO MORE. This world is full enough. Stop it.

The big thing though that was totally unsatisfactory to me was the handling of the "Little Red Riding Hood" story. With Cinder it was a totally new and fresh spin. Cinderella as a cyborg... she doesn't leave a shoe behind but her old foot!?! How cool is that? Very is my answer.  Here... well... um, it was like almost every retelling I've read of "Little Red Riding Hood" in years. The Big Bad Wolf that is just misunderstood and reforms and falls for the girl... isn't that the Fables comics? Or Sisters Red? This was just predictable and done before. Also, stop switching up how Scarlet refers to her Grandmother, Grand-mere... I'm assuming she is actually talking in French the whole time, so then Grand-mere is what, doubly French? And that stupid red hoodie! Ug, it was just a crutch so that if you weren't already being beaten over the head with Red Riding Hood imagery, let's just mention it over and over. There was one thing that Marissa nailed with regards to the original story. The "reveal" when Red Riding Hood realizes her grandmother isn't her grandmother (what big eyes, you get the idea) is so awesomely cool that I realize this book could have been as good as Cinder. So extra demerits... I now know how awesome you could be so this sub-par effort pisses me off more.

One good thing, everything Cinder. The book was mildly redeemed by the fact that Cinder was around and her story remained interesting... even if it veered ever closer to Firefly land, at least she was there to buoy up the book... if not, do I dare suggest that I don't think I would have finished it and might have even violently thrown it across the room? Yes I do suggest that. The cover is ugly anyway, wouldn't have been a loss.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Tuesday Tomorrow

Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo
Published by: Henry Holt and Co.
Publication Date: June 17th, 2014
Format: Hardcover, 432 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"The capital has fallen. The Darkling rules Ravka from his shadow throne.

Now the nation's fate rests with a broken Sun Summoner, a disgraced tracker, and the shattered remnants of a once-great magical army.

Deep in an ancient network of tunnels and caverns, a weakened Alina must submit to the dubious protection of the Apparat and the zealots who worship her as a Saint. Yet her plans lie elsewhere, with the hunt for the elusive firebird and the hope that an outlaw prince still survives.

Alina will have to forge new alliances and put aside old rivalries as she and Mal race to find the last of Morozova's amplifiers. But as she begins to unravel the Darkling's secrets, she reveals a past that will forever alter her understanding of the bond they share and the power she wields. The firebird is the one thing that stands between Ravka and destruction—and claiming it could cost Alina the very future she’s fighting for.

Ruin and Rising is the thrilling final installment in Leigh Bardugo's Grisha Trilogy."

Oh, it's so hard picking which book to read first this week... but I have a feeling Ruin and Rising shall win...

The Long Mars by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter
Published by: Harper
Publication Date: June 17th, 2014
Format: Hardcover, 368 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"The third novel in Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter’s “Long Earth” series, which Io9 calls “a brilliant science fiction collaboration.”

2040-2045: In the years after the cataclysmic Yellowstone eruption there is massive economic dislocation as populations flee Datum Earth to myriad Long Earth worlds. Sally, Joshua, and Lobsang are all involved in this perilous rescue work when, out of the blue, Sally is contacted by her long-vanished father and inventor of the original Stepper device, Willis Linsay. He tells her he is planning a fantastic voyage across the Long Mars and wants her to accompany him. But Sally soon learns that Willis has an ulterior motive for his request...

Meanwhile U. S. Navy Commander Maggie Kauffman has embarked on an incredible journey of her own, leading an expedition to the outer limits of the far Long Earth.

For Joshua, the crisis he faces is much closer to home. He becomes embroiled in the plight of the Next: the super-bright post-humans who are beginning to emerge from their “long childhood” in the community called Happy Landings, located deep in the Long Earth. Ignorance and fear have caused “normal” human society to turn against the Next. A dramatic showdown seems inevitable..."

While there's a part of me super excited to read this right away, there's also a part of me that's not sure... the first book was amazing, the second was kind of meh... plus Mars, really?

The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith aka J.K. Rowling
Published by: Mulholland Books
Publication Date: June 17th, 2014
Format: Hardcover, 464 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"When novelist Owen Quine goes missing, his wife calls in private detective Cormoran Strike. At first, Mrs. Quine just thinks her husband has gone off by himself for a few days-as he has done before-and she wants Strike to find him and bring him home.

But as Strike investigates, it becomes clear that there is more to Quine's disappearance than his wife realizes. The novelist has just completed a manuscript featuring poisonous pen-portraits of almost everyone he knows. If the novel were to be published, it would ruin lives-meaning that there are a lot of people who might want him silenced.

When Quine is found brutally murdered under bizarre circumstances, it becomes a race against time to understand the motivation of a ruthless killer, a killer unlike any Strike has encountered before... A compulsively readable crime novel with twists at every turn, THE SILKWORM is the second in the highly acclaimed series featuring Cormoran Strike and his determined young assistant, Robin Ellacott."

So I should probably get around to reading the first one now right?

Friday, June 13, 2014

Book Review - Marissa Meyer's Cinder

Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles Book 1) by Marissa Meyer
Published by: Feiwel and Friends
Publication Date: January 3rd, 2012
Format: Hardcover, 400 Pages
Rating: ★★★★
To Buy

Cinder is the only source of income for her family. Her adoptive father died and she is left with a step-mother who hates her and two step-sisters. Worst of all is that being a cyborg, she is not just a second class citizen in her home, but is viewed as a second class citizen by all the residents of New Beijing. Yet she is lucky in that her deformities are easy to conceal with clothes and her job of a mechanic means that she can wear gloves to hide her hands, the most obvious sign of what she is. Yet one day everything changes. Prince Kai comes to her stall in the market to ask her to repair his robot. All the world is in love with Kai, yet Cinder feels an instant connection. She can't wait to go home and tell her sister Peony and her best friend Iko, who is a robot. That night though, Peony contracts the plague. The scourge of the world that could wipe out humanity. Cinder's step-mother blames Cinder and volunteers her for medical research. Not to save Peony, but to destroy Cinder.

Yet Cinder is surprisingly resilient to the plague. She might be a hope for a cure. Also, there's the added benefit that she must be constantly at the palace for the research, and if she gets to see more of Kai, that is all right by her. Yet the political machinery she is being drawn into is dangerous. The Lunars, people from the moon whom the earth greatly distrusts, want to form a marriage alliance with Kai. In return the Lunars will give the world a cure for the plague. It is what the world needs more than anything, an end to the suffering. But can two people falling in love put aside their dreams and do what must be done for the world?

I am a sucker for retellings of fairy tales. After all, fairy tales are the building blocks of what stories are. The adversity, the handsome prince, the happily ever after... though sometimes not in the darkest of tales. Cinderella was never one of my favorites. My mother would probably site the fact that when the mice appeared the first time I saw the movie I started crying uncontrollably and had to be removed from the theatre. In all fairness, I don't remember this and remember more the Jungle Book tantrum of my brother that made me never know the ending for over ten years. That all said, there are really two kinds of retellings, those that just flesh out the story more but keep it similar in feel to the original, or those who throw everything out the window and go for something fresh and new. Cinder threw everything out the window. We have strange beings from the moon, we have cyborgs, we have a post apocalyptic world that has the feeling of Bladerunner and Firefly. We have a princess that is very un-princess like. We have the start of a series that looks very promising and then pissed me off greatly by ending on a cliffhanger. The fact that it pissed me off shows that I was invested enough in the characters that I didn't want to book to end.

The world building is fabulous. There's political intrigue, new space age mechanics, new terminology, yet never are you overwhelmed by this. Everything flows naturally from the strong and vibrant characters of Kai and Cinder. You feel their pain and joy. The fact that I almost lost it and started crying when something happened to Iko, who is a robot mind you, that just goes to show that every character, human and otherwise is suffused with this wonderful life. Never once was I pulled out of the world that was made and now I wait, rather petulantly, for the next installment. The ball that is the end of Cinderella really is a launching platform for the rest of the epic story to come for Cinder. Sometimes when the fairy tale says "happily ever after" it is really just the beginning.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Book Review - Laini Taylor's Dreams of Gods and Monsters

Dreams of Gods and Monsters (Daughter of Smoke and Bone Book 3) by Laini Taylor
Published by: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: April 8th, 2014
Format: Hardcover, 624 Pages
Rating: ★★
To Buy

The war between the Seraphim and the Chimera has come to Earth. Cunningly arriving in a guise to lull humanity into submission Karou and Akiva know that their only chance to succeed against these "angels" led by Jael is to return to Eretz and convince the Misbegotten Seraphim to ally themselves with the few remaining Chimera in an attempt to destroy Jael and bring peace to the two worlds. The fact that Jael brings a warning to the Vatican of the "beasts" and "monsters" that have been warring with them makes it even more imperative that the outcasts lead by Karou abandon the hideout in Morroco, which is soon found and studiously dissected by scientists, and escape through the tear in the dimensions. But aligning the previously combative forces looks like it might be harder then Karou and Akiva thought. If they can't pull off a compromise how will they destroy Jael and get a chance at making a future together? Going against their natures a plan is hatched that will at least save Earth and lure the fight back to the one dimension. Hopefully they can defeat the enemy on the land that has been soaked with their blood for many a year, if not, at least they have saved Earth. Yet their destinies might already be written in the stars.

What the godstars was that? In all seriousness, there is always a problem with final books in a series that have been predominately about the battle of good versus evil. Because the final installment will always be the final showdown. I don't really want to read about battles, which is the fatal flaw in The Hunger Games series when Mockingjay basically became a post apocalyptic version of The Hurt Locker. Dreams of Gods and Monsters nicely sidesteps this by focusing on the main characters who are peripheral to the battles because they are involved in other schemes, but quickly falls of a cliff. You really need to watch your footing in perilous denouements, a cliff or quicksand could be there waiting to smother all your hopes for a satisfying conclusion. The fact that, while sometimes rambling, I liked where the book was going until about the last thirty pages makes the ending even more of a betrayal. Yes, you can't make everyone happy, I get that, but still, I was hoping for something more.

Because my issues with this final book occur in the final pages I don't think that my talking about spoilers will be that surprising, because my need for discourse with my issues is greater then my need for silence, but I will therefore just warn you that spoilers are ahead. So you have been warned. Spoilers. So you're not reading anymore unless you want to know why I was so disappointed? Good. I shall continue my rant. The last few chapters don't give us a denouement they give us a beginning. Instead of being successful, reaching the end of their battles, and getting a happily ever after, we get this amorphous ending that is both unsatisfying and puzzling. Yes life is complicated, yes endings aren't necessarily tied up with a bow, but that doesn't mean you introduce tons of new stuff that no one gets, not even the characters, with twenty pages left and call it a day. I cry FOWL! As an author the worst thing you can do is give us a beginning instead of an ending. There's different kinds of endings, you can have some lack of closure, you can make it not happy for everyone, but you can't give us something that doesn't even make sense to the characters in the book. I was left wondering if there is going to be a spin off series, like many YA series are doing now, because this isn't an ending. I don't know how many times I can say this in regard to this book. Starting something new and different without giving closure first makes me want to burn this book a little.

Ok, let me break it down more. Akiva's people, the Stelians, they've always been mysterious and doing whatever they do, so it does make sense that they finally arrive and explain to Akiva that he needs some training, whatever, I'm cool with this. But then to have this mystic vision wherein this outside force, a force we've just learned of fairly recently in this book, will be defeated by everyone in the room becoming gods, aka the godstars? Gorram it, what the hell is this about? And trust me, Karou and Akiva and just as mystified as you and me! It's like the book became an entirely different book. The humor goes away and we are left with this idea that somehow they will all become stars? What, like at the end of Stardust where when they die they become stars? But that doesn't seem to be what this book is saying. They have a big battle ahead, a battle we don't understand or know about, but it's coming, here's a tacky epilogue with the characters still not knowing what's going on but at least Karou and Akiva get some action in some semblance of a happily ever after. How could this satiate anyone?

This also negates the wonderful worldbuilding that this series was known for up until this point which still has many previous questions unanswered. By adding in this unnecessary and convoluted worldbuilding with the Stelians and their weird dimension punching more questions are asked rather then answered. It is almost like Laini Taylor was going, "Oh shit, I forgot everything about Akiva and his people, what do I do?" Followed by a glut of information that will lead to a WTF reveal with an ending that no one, not even the characters get. I seriously cannot state it enough. The characters don't know what's going on so how can I!?! But the most annoying fact is, until the Stelians take Akiva down into that little cave, Laini had set up the perfect ending. Everyone was where I thought they should be. Even Liraz and Ziri were perfect, and of course Zuzana and Mik were more then perfect, and then vomit. I was hoping for them rebuilding their world, bringing their people together, learning more about how exactly the magic works, not getting ready for some big battle that I couldn't care less about because I just learned about it. This series connected with me, even if I never really liked Akiva and had some issues, but the fact that Laini made me even care about characters that I don't really like I felt they deserved more then this. And it's not that I deserved more, it was ok if unsatisfying, I just felt that these characters I have loved so much were just worthy of so much more, and not becoming some nebulous gods in some epic battle for the worlds.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Tuesday Tomorrow

Bliss House by Laura Benedict
Published by: Pegasus
Publication Date: June 10th, 2014
Format: Hardcover, 400 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Death never did come quietly for Bliss House . . . and now a mother and daughter have become entwined in the secrets hidden within its walls.

Amidst the lush farmland and orchards in Old Gate, Virginia, stands the magnificent Bliss House. Built in 1878 as a country retreat, Bliss House is impressive, historic, and inexplicably mysterious. Decades of strange occurrences, disappearances and deaths have plagued the house, yet it remains vibrant. And very much alive.

Rainey Bliss Adams desperately needed a new start when she and her daughter Ariel relocated from St. Louis to Old Gate and settled into the house where the Bliss family had lived for over a century. Rainey’s husband had been killed in a freak explosion that left her 14 year-old daughter Ariel scarred and disfigured.

At the grand housewarming party, Bliss House begins to reveal itself again. Ariel sees haunting visions: the ghost of her father, and the ghost of a woman being pushed to her death off of an upper floor balcony, beneath an exquisite dome of painted stars. And then there is a death the night of the party. Who is the murderer in the midst of this small town? And who killed the woman in Ariel's visions? But Bliss House is loath to reveal its secrets, as are the good folks of Old Gate."

Ohhh, this sounds like a story worthy of Shirley Jackson... speaking of which...

Shirley: A Novel by Susan Scarf Merrell
Published by: Blue Rider Press
Publication Date: June 10th, 2014
Format: Paerback, 288 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"A fictional young couple spends a year at Bennington in 1964 with novelist Shirley Jackson and her husband in this captivating psychological thriller."

Shirley Jackson has now reached the stage where she can be a "fictional" character in a novel, much like the Nicola Upson Josephine Tey books, speaking of which...

The Death of Lucy Kyte by Nicola Upson
Published by: Bourbon Street Books
Publication Date: June 10th, 2014
Format: Hardcover, 368 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"In this atmospheric, intriguing historical mystery brimming with psychological tension, an unexpected inheritance plunges beloved British mystery author Josephine Tey into a disturbing puzzle of dark secrets eerily connecting the present and the past.

When Josephine Tey unexpectedly inherits Red Barn Cottage from her estranged godmother, the will stipulates that she must personally claim the house in the Suffolk countryside. But Josephine is not the only benefactor—a woman named Lucy Kyte is also in Hester’s will.

Sorting through the artifacts of her godmother’s life, Josephine is intrigued by an infamous death committed on the cottage’s grounds a century before. Yet this old crime—dubbed the Red Barn murder—still seems to haunt the tight-knit village and its remote inhabitants. Is it just superstition, or is there a very real threat that is frightening the locals? Could the truth be related to the mysterious Lucy Kyte, who no one in the village admits to knowing?

With a palpable sense of evil thickening around her, Josephine must untangle historic tragedy from present danger and prevent a deadly cycle from beginning once more."

Oh, more Josephine Tey, crime solver!

Sidney Chambers and The Problem of Evil by James Runcie
Published by: Bloomsbury USA
Publication Date: June 10th, 2014
Format: Paperback, 304 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Our favorite clerical detective is back with four longer mysteries in which Canon Sidney Chambers attempts to stop a serial killer with a grievance against the clergy; investigates the disappearance of a famous painting after a distracting display of nudity by a French girl in an art gallery; uncovers the fact that an “accidental” drowning on a film shoot may have been something more sinister; and discovers the reasons behind the theft of a baby from a hospital just before Christmas 1963.

In the meantime, Sidney wrestles with the problem of evil, attempts to fulfill the demands of his faithful Labrador, Dickens, and contemplates, as always, the nature of love."

Time to get in on this series before it's adapted for tv!

Scott Pilgrim 5: Scott Pilgrim vs. The Universe by Bryan Lee O'Malley
Published by: Oni Press
Publication Date: June 10th, 2014
Format: Hardcover, 192 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"The penultimate Scott Pilgrim full-color hardcover edition is here! There are many questions in Scott Pilgrim's terrible little life. First of all, why did he have to turn twenty-four? Secondly, why do robots keep trying to kill him? And why is Sex Bob-omb falling apart? Why is Ramona acting so weird? And finally, why won't these brilliant and deadly Japanese twins leave him alone? Scott Pilgrim will find the answers to these questions... or die trying! Featuring exclusive bonus content and previously unpublished extras you won't find anywhere else in the Universe!"

Am I excited to have all the Scott Pilgrim comics in hardcover and full color? HECK YEAH! In fact, I've been waiting to have them all before doing a re-read. So here's to one step closer!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Book Review - Laini Taylor's Days of Blood and Starlight

Days of Blood and Starlight (Daughter of Smoke and Bone Book 2) by Laini Taylor
Published by: William Morrow
Publication Date: November 6th, 2012
Format: Hardcover, 528 Pages
Rating: ★★★★★
To Buy

"Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love and dared to imagine a world free of bloodshed and war. This is not that world."

Karou's homeland has been destroyed. The man she loved in another life, in another body, destroyed it because of her death. Akiva never thought, never even dared to hope that he would one day be with her again. His destruction of her people has sealed his fate and his chance at happiness. A happiness he never expected is lost yet again to him by his own hands. The monsters have all been destroyed by the Seraphim. There are only a few holdouts of Chimera hidden here and there in Eretz, and the Seraphim are flushing them out.

Yet there is hope... Karou. Her name literally means hope. Little did she realize that in spending two lives in the company of Brimstone she has been able to learn the art of resurrection, the secret to the Chimera's ability to thwart the enemy. Of course helping the Chimera means she must ally herself with the man who was her intended, Thiago. Oh, and he is the one who happened to have her executed the first time around. Going by the theory the enemy of my enemy is my friend, she agrees to be Thiago's resurrectionist, in the hope that this will save her people by creating a rebel band of Chimera.

But will a band of rebels be able to thwart the might of the empire? Or is it in Akiva and Karou's old dream of creating a new world that a future for Eretz might be found? Either way, the Seraphim and the Chimera must come together, must be willing to see past the war that has consumed their lives, or in the case of the Chimera, multiple lives, and look to what comes next.

For some time now I have had several friends who where verging on the insistence level of drug pushers to read Daughter of Smoke and Bone. I mean, every single time I talked to or emailed them, it would end with, "by the way... have you read it yet?" The day the second book came out the amount of texts I got might have been able to crash my data plan. Needless to say, as soon as I had the time I agreed I would finally read it. After the harsh semester of school I had I spent quite literally all of December sick and under a blanket somewhere. Now the "best" part about being sick is that you are literally incapable of doing anything other than lounging... which means reading! Ah December... I might not have been able to speak without hacking up a lung, but you passed in a haze of crisp fonts and snowy white pages. I devoured Daughter of Smoke and Bone quite quickly. I was intrigued by the world. There where things I loved, and there where things I raised my eyebrows at, angels, really? But I was sold enough to need to pick up the next volume immediately... or in this case, send someone forth to get me said volume because you aren't allowed to drive a car when on a codeine based cough syrup.

What the first book hadn't prepared me for was the awesomeness of the second book. By reading blurbs and snatches of reviews the second book seemed to veer very much into the war of otherworldy creatures category with Karou playing Frankenstein... which seemed, well, I'll say it, I thought it would be lame. I thought taking Karou out of this wonderful little world she lived in in Prague with her lovely diminutive if occasionally violent friend Zuzana was a mistake. No more sketchbooks and art school and evil exes. It was rewriting everything the first book was and giving us a map of another world. Side note, I usually love books with maps of other worlds, I just wasn't expecting this series to go that way. I think that's why I loved Days of Blood and Starlight, it went where I didn't think it would go and brought me along for an amazing ride, thankfully I didn't have to be in a beat up truck in Morocco for real.

Yet it is the believability of the world building that has made the narrative work. Laini has created a beautiful and brutal world, but it has humor in it. The surest way to get complicity is to make someone laugh. Zuzana was my entry into this world of monsters. She was so funny and her connection to Karou made a character who might not be completely relatable, I mean Karou is a monster resurrected into the body of a blue haired teenager with amazing drawing skills, real and likable. Their quippy emails and how Monty Python is used to bring levity yet also hint at the truths behind the words made me love this book all the more. Add in magic, a trio of mismatched angels, a mysterious island and some very wicked Guerilla tactics,  and I am not only beyond excited for the next installment, I want it now!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Book Review - Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Daughter of Smoke and Bone (Daughter of Smoke and Bone Book 1) by Laini Taylor
Published by: Little Brown
Publication Date: September 27th, 2011
Format: Hardcover, 432 Pages
Rating: ★★★
To Buy

"Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love. It did not end well."

Karou might be just as she seems, a gifted art student in Prague. Yet the fantastical beasts that she fills her sketchbooks with aren't a figment of her imagination. They are her family. And like most family, they sometimes have favors to ask of her that take her away from the normal life she is trying to live. A life that is about to end. All over the world black hand prints are appearing on doors, burned into the wood by winged strangers. One day it is the door Karou takes to visit her family. She is cut off from them, she doesn't know if they are alive or dead. What will she do if she is cut off from all that she knows?

Yet what of the winged strangers? One of them, Akiva, sees Karou and cannot believe his eyes. She looks just like his lost love. But she is dead and gone. Their love was forbidden. Two star crossed lovers on different sides of an otherworldly war. There can not be a connection between the two women. Yet Akiva's heart is telling him differently. Could Karou be his lost love? Could she love him again in this new life once she knows the whole truth?

If someone had said to me that I would become enamoured with a book series about "devils" and "angels" I would have laughed. Angels to me have never seemed the stuff of literature, more the stuff of Sunday School. Yet there are angels out there that have fascinated me... Loki and Bartleby in Dogma, Balthamos and Baruch in Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials series for example. So, add to this many of my friends clamouring that I must read this book now, which increased a hundred fold once the second book came out, I caved and fell in love with this world.

What I adored was the world building. The seamless twining of reality and fantasy. Prague was the perfect choice in it's character to couple it with an imaginary land. The history and the Gothic feel of the city make it totally believable that you might accidentally stumble upon a chimera walking down a twisty back alley. Or a winged creature might descend from the skies and accost you. There's a part of me that wishes I had been raised in that little office of Brimstone's where wishes were made, literally. Add to Taylor's creatures and continents this elaborate currency of wishes and their effectiveness, and it's so alive and real that I really thought I might be able to barter some teeth for a scuppy or a shing to give myself really cool colored hair like Karou...

Though, I did have a hard time after becoming so invested in Karou's life as it revolved around Prague, that when we are pulled out of that life and into her previous life as Madrigal I was so jarred that I didn't really take to her previous life. Having already read the second book, I know that there is a merging of the two halves of herself that takes place that then makes everything make sense, but at this point in Daughter of Smoke and Bone was when my love for it wavered. I needed to know the full history of Akiva and Karou's previous life when she was Madrigal, but at the same time, this fearless warrior that was Madrigal, was so different from Karou, that my heart hardened a little towards her. Madrigal is what Karou would have been/was in a different world. A "person" I just didn't take to. Thankfully this was rectified in the second book, which is one of the most amazing books I have read in a long time.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Tuesday Tomorrow

That Summer by Lauren Willig
Published by: St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: June 3rd, 2014
Format: Hardcover, 352 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
" 2009: When Julia Conley hears that she has inherited a house outside London from an unknown great-aunt, she assumes it’s a joke. She hasn't been back to England since the car crash that killed her mother when she was six, an event she remembers only in her nightmares. But when she arrives at Herne Hill to sort through the house—with the help of her cousin Natasha and sexy antiques dealer Nicholas—bits of memory start coming back. And then she discovers a pre-Raphaelite painting, hidden behind the false back of an old wardrobe, and a window onto the house's shrouded history begins to open...

1849: Imogen Grantham has spent nearly a decade trapped in a loveless marriage to a much older man, Arthur. The one bright spot in her life is her step-daughter, Evie, a high-spirited sixteen year old who is the closest thing to a child Imogen hopes to have. But everything changes when three young painters come to see Arthur's collection of medieval artifacts, including Gavin Thorne, a quiet man with the unsettling ability to read Imogen better than anyone ever has. When Arthur hires Gavin to paint her portrait, none of them can guess what the hands of fate have set in motion.

From modern-day England to the early days of the Preraphaelite movement, Lauren Willig's That Summer takes readers on an un-put-downable journey through a mysterious old house, a hidden love affair, and one woman’s search for the truth about her past—and herself."

I think by now you will have realized that this is your mandatory reading for this summer, right?

A Barricade in Hell by Jaime Lee Moyer
Published by: Tor Books
Publication Date: June 3rd, 2014
Format: Hardcover, 336 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"In Jaime Lee Moyer's Barricade in Hell, Delia Martin has been gifted (or some would say cursed) with the ability to peer across to the other side. Since childhood, her constant companions have been ghosts. She used her powers and the help of those ghosts to defeat a twisted serial killer terrorizing her beloved San Francisco. Now it's 1917—the threshold of a modern age—and Delia lives a peaceful life with Police Captain Gabe Ryan.

That peace shatters when a strange young girl starts haunting their lives and threatens Gabe. Delia tries to discover what this ghost wants as she becomes entangled in the mystery surrounding a charismatic evangelist who preaches pacifism and an end to war. But as young people begin to disappear, and audiences display a loyalty and fervor not attributable to simple persuasion, that message of peace reveals a hidden dark side.

As Delia discovers the truth, she faces a choice—take a terrible risk to save her city, or chance losing everything?"

Looks so good, also love the cover art correlation to the first book. LOVE a unified look!

Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King
Published by: Scribner
Publication Date: June 3rd, 2014
Format: Hardcover, 448 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"In a mega-stakes, high-suspense race against time, three of the most unlikely and winning heroes Stephen King has ever created try to stop a lone killer from blowing up thousands.

In the frigid pre-dawn hours, in a distressed Midwestern city, hundreds of desperate unemployed folks are lined up for a spot at a job fair. Without warning, a lone driver plows through the crowd in a stolen Mercedes, running over the innocent, backing up, and charging again. Eight people are killed; fifteen are wounded. The killer escapes.

In another part of town, months later, a retired cop named Bill Hodges is still haunted by the unsolved crime. When he gets a crazed letter from someone who self-identifies as the “perk” and threatens an even more diabolical attack, Hodges wakes up from his depressed and vacant retirement, hell-bent on preventing another tragedy.

Brady Hartfield lives with his alcoholic mother in the house where he was born. He loved the feel of death under the wheels of the Mercedes, and he wants that rush again. Only Bill Hodges, with a couple of highly unlikely allies, can apprehend the killer before he strikes again. And they have no time to lose, because Brady’s next mission, if it succeeds, will kill or maim thousands.

Mr. Mercedes is a war between good and evil, from the master of suspense whose insight into the mind of this obsessed, insane killer is chilling and unforgettable."

Stephen King equals a good summer read!

My New Friend is So Fun! by Mo Willems
Published by: Disney-Hyperion
Publication Date: June 3rd, 2014
Format: Hardcover, 64 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Gerald is careful. Piggie is not.
Piggie cannot help smiling. Gerald can.
Gerald worries so that Piggie does not have to.

Gerald and Piggie are best friends.

In My New Friend Is So Fun!, Piggie has found a new friend! But is Gerald ready to share?"

I adore Piggy and Elephant!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

YA Summer Series

Summer is that time of year when it becomes fashionable to read. Everyone has to have a nice big thick beach read for when they fall asleep to the lapping of the waves. While I personally believe that reading is fashionable all year long, I won't go so far as to say I am immune to this silly season and yearn for different types of books. Summer is the fun books, the series, the non-scholarly Olde English texts that are "improving" literature and have language you have to wade through (though I did spend one summer devouring Austen and another E.M. Forster). I want to curl up on my side porch and sway in the breeze on my porch swing while delving into Stephen King or re-reading all of Harry Potter. I have spent innumerable days and evenings just falling into another world while the cicadas sing and the lightning bugs slowly come out one after another. Angling my book just so so that I can catch the lights inside the house and read for a few more minutes before having to forsake my warm bower and go back into the chill house and reality.

While contemplating what I wanted to feature this summer on my blog I realized that the time had come to just revel in summer. To think back to devouring Harry Potter during these sultry months and try to recapture that joy. Today there are YA book series popping up like mushrooms after a rain and I have gotten woefully behind. With Cassandra Clare's Mortal Instruments Series coming to a close, as well as many other series having their final or penultimate book coming out I figured this summer I would revel in YA. Devote the whole of summer to YA Series that I have been meaning to pick up or to pick up again. To make the beach read of this summer the YA book series. I hope you will join me in curling up in a warm place, letting the sun shine down on you and catching up with a new or favorite series.

And now, a giveaway...

The Prize:
A lovely hardcover copy of the first book in Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl's The Caster Chronicles, Beautiful Creatures.

The Rules:
1. Open to EVERYONE (for clarification, this means international too), just because you haven't been following me all along doesn't mean you don't matter, you just get more entries if you prove you love me by following.

2. Please make sure I have a way to contact you if your name is drawn, either your blogger profile or a link to your website/blog or you could even include your email address with your comment(s) or email me directly.

3. Contest ends Sunday, August 31st at 11:59PM CST (Yes, I know it's a holiday weekend, so be sure to get your entries in early!)

4. How to enter: Just comment in the space below!

5. And for those addicted to getting extra entries:

  • +1 for answering the question: What is your favorite summer read?
  • +2 for becoming a follower
  • +10 if you are already a follower
  • +10 for each time you advertise this contest - blog post, sidebar, twitter (please @eliza_lefebvre), etc. (but you only get credit for the first post on each social media plateform, so tweet all you like, and I thank you for it, but you'll only get the +10 once). Also please leave a link! There's also a handy code on the side for your blog/website sidebars!
  • +25 if you comment on any of the posts during the YA Summer Series Celebration, with something other than "I hope I win" or a variation thereof.
Good luck!

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