Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Sleeper and the Spindle

The Sleeper and the SpindleAuthor: Neil Gaiman, (artist) Chris Riddell
Info: Bloomsbury Publishing Pic, copyright 2014, 69 pages

A thrillingly reimagined fairy tale from the truly magical combination of author Neil Gaiman and illustrator Chris Riddell - weaving together a sort - of Snow White and an almost Sleeping Beauty with a thread of dark magic, which will hold readers spellbound from start to finish.

On the eve of her wedding, a young queen sets out to rescue a princess from an enchantment.  She casts aside her fine wedding clothes, takes her chain mail and her sword and follows her brave dwarf retainers into he tunnels under the mountain towards the sleeping kingdom.  This queen will decide  her own future - and the princess who needs recusing is not quite what she seems.  Twisting together the familiar and the new, this perfectly delicious, captivating and darkly funny tale shows its creators at the peak of their talents.

~Goodreads Description

Boy do I adore Neil Gaiman.  I really should make my way through his complete library.  He is a master storyteller, even finding ways to make two familiar stories feel brand new.  Imagine Snow White is now ruling a kingdom and, about to get married, is sought out by some dwarves to help stop a sleeping curse that is creeping a little too close for comfort.  And imagine a sleeping beauty trapped in a tower who might not be all she seems to be.  The imagine pure awesomeness and you have a gem of a short story on your hands.

This was a fantastic full-cast audiobook that was only missing the beautiful artwork by Chris Riddell.  So...I also checked out the eBook to enjoy the illustrations.  Had I done my homework, I would have checked them both out at the same time and gone all old school reading and listening together.  My only complaint was that the story was so short.  I was just getting settled into the fun and it was all over.

It's a quick, fun read that you should definitely check out.  In multiple formats.  Be that reader.  You won't be disappointed.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

10 Of My Most Recent 5 Star Reads

Top Ten Of My Recent 5 Star Reads
(Feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish)

So I don't really hand out "5 stars" all willy nilly.  It takes a lot for me to LOVE a book.  I mean...I have to really LOVE it.  So I'm going with ten recent books that got extremely high marks :)

What are some of your recent favorites?

1) Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen
One of her best.  A sweet, emotional, heartbreaking contemporary fiction title.

2) The Day the Crayons Quit by Oliver Jeffers
The reason why everyone, including adults, should pick up a picture book from time to time.

3) The Martian by Andy Weir
A brilliant, funny, terrifying book that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

4) Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys 
One of the best authors of historical teen fiction today.

5) You're Never Weird On the Internet by Felicia Day
A hilarious memoir by a fascinating, genius of a woman.

6) My True Love Gave to Me by Stephanie Perkins
A great short story collection by some of YA's best authors.

7) The Royal We by Heather Cocks 
A light, entertaining read that will probably make you happy not to be royalty.

8) Hellhole by Gina Damico
A hilarious, witty misadventure.

9) Unhooked by Lisa Maxwell
A thrilling new take on the Peter Pan story.

10) The Prom Goer's Interstellar Excursion by Chris McCoy
An alien rockband in space.  Pure awesomeness

Monday, March 28, 2016

Love, Lies, and Spies

Author: Cindy Anstey
Info: Swoon Reads, copyright 2016, 368 pages
Netgalley ARC : Release date April 19, 2016

Juliana Telford is not your average nineteenth-century young lady.  She's much more interested in researching ladybugs than marriage, fashionable dresses, or dances.  So when her father sends her to London for a season, she's determined not to form any attachments.  Instead, she plans to secretly publish their research.

Spencer Northam is not the average young gentleman of leisure he appears.  He is actually a spy for the War Office, and is more focused on acing his first mission than meeting eligible ladies.  Fortunately, Juliana feels the same, and they agree to pretend to fall for each other.  Spencer can finally focus, until he is tasked with observing Juliana's traveling companions...and Juliana herself.

~Goodreads Description

Now this one reminded me of a Jane Austen novel.  And apparently I'm only going to read Regency Era fiction this year :)

Juliana is a scientist.  Not academically trained, mind you, but filled with a passion she shares with her father.  A very tiny passion.  A passion for...ladybugs.  This through me just a little, but I adored how she was of an intellectual mind, not obsessed with seeking out a man - very much like the beloved Elizabeth Bennett.  Wanting to have her family research published, Juliana schemes to stay with her aunt during the London season to gain access to publishing companies in the city.  Unfortunately this means shopping, shopping and more shopping in order to be "presentable".  Before departing for London, while still at the country estate, Juliana as the good fortune of meeting Spencer Northam, a young man with his own secrets.  They decide to use their new friendship to both their advantages and the game is afoot.

There's a lot of inner dialogue that becomes a bit tedious throughout the book, but it is quickly forgotten as you fall in love with both of these characters.  Juliana is strong-willed and quick-witted.  She doesn't buy into the feminine stereotype and wants nothing to do with the institution of marriage (until she meets Mr. Northam of course). Spencer Northam is restless.  He's a young man that is seeking adventure and has found it in a rather uncouth way - espionage.  He is a man of principle with a kind heart and a fierce loyalty.  He is also a man in love.

The romance is believable and adorable.  While both parties have more important things to attend to, they can't deny their connection, and it's one of mutual respect and friendship.  There is enough "mystery" that you want to keep reading to find out what is going to happen and enough "villainy" to make it fun.  Mr. Peybold, an irritating man to say the least, reminded me a bit of John Thorpe in Austen's Northanger Abbey, using manipulations and poor flirting to try to win his way.

Overall, an extremely fun book to read.  For fans of Austen and intrigue.  I can't wait for more by Cindy Anstey.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Happy Easter!

May your day be filled with love, family, faith, and
a giant chocolate bunny for good measure!

Happy Easter!

Let the waters rise
I will stand as the oceans roar
Let the earth shake beneath me
Let the mountains fall
You are God over the storm
And I am Yours

I hear the voice of love
Calling me home
To where I belong
It cripples every fear
And the ones who will kneel
Will walk away healed.

~I Am Yours by Lauren Daigle

Thursday, March 24, 2016


Heartless (Parasol Protectorate, #4)
Author: Gail Carriger
Info: Orbit, copyright 2011, 374 pages

Lady Alexia Maccon, soulless, is at it again, only this time the trouble is not her fault. When a mad ghost threatens the queen, Alexia is on the case, following a trail that leads her deep into her husband's past. Top that off with a sister who has joined the suffragette movement (shocking!), Madame Lefoux's latest mechanical invention, and a plague of zombie porcupines and Alexia barely has time to remember she happens to be eight months pregnant.

Will Alexia manage to determine who is trying to kill Queen Victoria before it is too late? Is it the vampires again or is there a traitor lurking about in wolf's clothing? And what, exactly, has taken up residence in Lord Akeldama's second best closet?

~Goodreads Description

Pregnant Alexia is just as fun as not pregnant Alexia, and thank goodness for that, because Alexia is very, very pregnant.  Not that that's going to get in the way at all.  When a ghost coming precariously close to poltergeist and true "death" threatens the Queen, Alexia immediately jumps into the action seeing as how she is Muhjah, an advisor to Queen Victoria and member of the Shadow Council.  There's also the small matter of a very angry group of vampires who are not especially happy that a preternatural is having a baby with a werewolf and a rather depressed Madame Lefoux who has locked herself away on a new invention.  Alexia has her hands full, to say the least.

No worries folks.  We're almost done with the Parasol Protectorate series :)  I have had SO much fun listening to this gem of a story.  Alexia is a force to be reckoned with, strong, intelligent, and extremely independent.  She uses her brain instead of her feminine wiles to get out of scrapes, and her love of tea is unparalleled.  Sure there's romance, but each volume is really a mystery rolled up into an adventure smothered in Steampunk finery.  The secondary characters are also given much attention, creating a full story and a vibrant world for our heroine to explore (and destroy).

One more to go! (And then there's another series!)

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Graphic Novel Round Up

Full disclosure...I read some of these at the end of 2015, but I'm just getting around to reviewing them.  Oops!  Loved everything on the list though, and I highly recommend each and every one if you're looking for a new series to dive into just for fun.

Descender Vol. 1 by Jeff Lemire, (artist) Dustin Nguyen

One young robot's struggle to stay alive in a universe where all androids have been outlawed and bounty hunters lurk on every planet.  A rip-roaring and heart-felt cosmic odyssey that pits humanity against machine, and world against world.  ~Goodreads Description

Jeff Lemire is one of my favorite graphic novel authors.  He's a master storyteller, and the artwork in Descender is fantastic.  TIM-21 follows in the footsteps of other fictional robots, like Wall-E and the Iron Giant, that tear at your heartstrings.  

The Fade Out #1 by Ed Brubaker (artist) Sean Phillips

An intricate and groundbreaking crime story on a level Brusker and Phillips have never tackled before, THE FADE OUT weaves a tangled web through the underbelly of a 1948 Hollywood....A noir film stuck in endless reshoots.  A writer plagued with nightmares from the war and a dangerous secret.  An up-and-coming starlet's suspicious death.  And a maniacal studio mogul and his security chief' who will do anything to keep the cameras rolling before the Post-War boom days come crashing down.  ~Goodreads Description

The Fade Out reminded me a lot of L.A. Confidential or Black Dahlia.  It really does have the feel of a 1940s Hollywood noir film included a slain starlet and a troubled screenwriter.  There's a nice mystery and plenty of thrills to keep you reading.  Can't wait to get my hands on the next couple of volumes.

Trillium by Jeff Lemire

It's the year 3797, and botanist Nika Temsmith is researching a strange species on a remote science station near the outermost rim of colonized space.

It's the year 1921, and renowned English explorer William Pike leads an expedition into the dense jungles of Peru in search of the fabled "Lost Temple of the Incas," an elusive sanctuary said to have strange healing properties.

Two disparate souls separated by thousands of years and hundreds of millions of miles.  Yet they will fall in love and, as a result, bring about the end of the universe.  ~Goodreads Description

Trillium was a little bit too trippy for my taste.  There is a storyline set in the future.  A storyline set in the past.  And a mystical Incan temple that allows for time travel and randomness.  Liked the artwork, but not the storyline nearly as much as Descender.  Still worth a read.

Giant Days by John Allison, (artist) Lissa Treiman

Susan, Esther, and Daisy started at university three weeks ago and became fast friends.  Now, away from home for the first time, all three want to reinvent themselves.  But in the face of handwringing boys, "personal experimentation," influence, mystery mold, nuchauvinism, and the willful, unwanted intrusion of "academia," they may be lucky just to make it to spring alive.  ~Goodreads Description

Now, this one was quirky fun.  Susan, Esther, and Daisy live in the same dorm and have become fast friends.  Susan is kind of angry, Esther attracts drama, and Daisy is a sheltered homeschooler who is learning how to function in the big, bad world.  Each girl has a distinct personality and are equally flawed, and they are the best part of this series.

Ms. Marvel, Vol. 4: Last Days by G. Willow Wilson, (artist) Adrian Alphona

From the moment Kamala put on her costume, she's been challenged.  But nothing has prepared her for this: the last days of the Marvel Universe.  Lucky she's go the help of Carol "Captain Marvel" Danvers!  Between teaming up with her personal hero to rescue her brother and trying to keep her city from falling into an all-out frenzy, Kamala has barely had time to come to terms with the face that the world is literally collapsing around her.  But the truth will catch up to her, and soon.  When the world is about to end, do you still keep fighting?  Kampala knows the answer.  Let's do this, Jersey City.  ~Goodreads Description

Um, it's Ms. Marvel.  It's the awesome, Muslim, teenage superhero who has enough spunk to save the world.  Or at least she hopes she has enough spunk.  Things are kind of bad for our intrepid hero, and with the help of Captain Marvel, she has to learn that she can't save everyone.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

10 Books I Really Love But Feel Like I Haven't Talked About Enough/In A While

Ten Books I Really Love But Feel Like I Haven't 
Talked About In A While
(Feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish)

I tend to talk about the same books over and over, because when I love a book, or an author, or a character, it's just easy to do.  But as time goes by, and new books filter into my brain, I sometimes forget about ones I really, really liked.  Maybe even loved.  Here are a few that I still hold high affection for and highly recommend in case you're looking for a good read.

1) Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake
"Cas Lowood has inherited an unusual vocation: He kills the dead."

2) I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga
"What if the world's worse serial killer...was your dad?"

3) For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund
"Inspired by Jane Austen's Persuasion, For Darkness Shows the Stars is a breathtaking romance about opening your mind to the future and your heart to the one person you know can break it."

Keturah and Lord Death
4) Keturah and Lord Death by Martine Levitt
Keturah must find er one true love within twenty-four hours or lose her life and her heart to Lord Death."

The Hollow Kingdom (The Hollow Kingdom Trilogy, #1)
5) The Hollow Kingdom by Clare B. Dunkle
"In 19th century England, a powerful sorcerer and King of the Goblins chooses Kate, the elder of two orphan girls recently arrived at their ancestral home, Hallow Hill, to become his bride and queen..."

6) Lemonade Mouth by Mark Peter Hughes
"Poets. Geniuses. Revolutionaries.  The members of the legendary and Lemonade Mouth have been called all of these things."

7) Atlantia by Ally Condie
"For as long as she can remember, Rio has dreamt of the land and sky Above - of life beyond her underwater city of Atlantia."

8) The Avery Shaw Experiment by Kelly Oram
"When Avery Shaw's heart is shattered by her life-long best friend, she chooses to deal with it the only way the knows how - scientifically."

9) Shutter by Courtney Alameda
"Micheline Helsing is a tetrachromat - a girl who sees the auras of the undead in prismatic spectrum.  When a routine ghost hunt goes awry, Micheline and her crew are infected with a curse and are in race against time and some evil monsters to find a cure."

We Were Liars
10) We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
"A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate political boy.
A group of four friends - the Liars - who's friendship turns destructive.
A revoltion. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth."

Thursday, March 17, 2016

These Vicious Masks

Author: Tarun Shanker
Info: Swoon Reads, copyright 2016, 320 pages

Jane Austen meets X-Men in this gripping and adventure-filled paranormal romance set in Victorian London.

England, 1882.  Evelyn is bored with society and its expectations.  So when her beloved sister, Rose, mysteriously vanishes, she ignores her parents and travels to London to find her, accompanied by the dashing Mr. Kent.  But they're not the only ones looking for Rose.  The reclusive, young gentleman Sebastian Braddock is also searching for her, claiming that both sisters have special healing powers.  Evelyn is convinced that Sebastian must be mad, until she discovers that his strange tales of extraordinary people are true -- and that her sister is in graver danger than feared.

~Goodreads Description

Not quite sure "Jane Austen meets X-Men" really works.  That's not quite the vibe I got with this particular story.  Well...maybe a little.  There are people with special powers being chased by someone that wants to abuse said powers.  But there's not a whole lot of development of the powers themselves, more a focus on the mystery of the kidnapped sister.  And there's a bit of pride and a little prejudice, but I wouldn't have picked out either connection on my own.

Evelyn is feisty.  She's not a huge fan of the confines of society, boring balls, and tedious conversations with gentleman who aren't actually interested in listening to her at all.  But she's also extremely stubborn and a little too eager to dive head long into danger.  Not that that's necessarily a bad thing, but sometimes I like my feisty females to be a little more thoughtful and strategic with their actions.

But she's desperate.  Her sister is missing and, as the plot unfolds, she realizes that she could be in mortal danger.  The story is fast-paced and filled with action as Evelyn and her allies move through London discovering more about the powers they posses.

My one pet peeve - there's only one scene with masks.  The title is taken from a conversation that happens briefly, and while I like the argument that people wear figurative masks for each person and situation they meet, it never really worked with this cast of characters and storyline.

Worth a read, but I'm not quite sure I'll continue.  We'll see how long Evelyn sticks with me and if I find myself thinking about her perils as I read this year. (the sign of an excellent book).

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

An Ember in the Ashes

An Ember in the Ashes (An Ember in the Ashes, #1)Author: Sabaa Tahir
Info: Razorbill, copyright 2015, 464 pages

Laia is a slave.  Elias is a soldier.  Neither is free.

Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death.  Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risks he execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.

It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Lai lives with her grandparents and older brother.  The family ekes out an existence in the Empire's impoverished backstreets.  They do not challenge the Empire.  They've seen what happens to those who do.

But when Laia's brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision.  In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire's greatest military academy.

There, Laia meets Elias, the school's finest soldier - and secret, its most unwilling.  Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he's being trained to enforce.  He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined - and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

~Goodreads Description

"Laia is a slave.  Elias is a soldier.  Neither is free" just about sums up this particular story.  Very reminiscent of Ancient Rome, the Scholars are a conquered people enslaved the warrior culture of the Martial Empire.  Lana's mother and father had led the rebellion before being killed, but she fears she lacks their courage and poise.  Elias was raised to be a killing machine, but he fears that he can not become the leader his grandfather hopes despite his overwhelming skill with a blade.  Both characters are searching to find their true selves and unexpectedly form a bond that changes everything.

This felt like a really long book.  "Felt" because in all reality it wasn't too bad.  I chose to tackle the title in the audiobook format because of an accented reader, but twelve discs is a little more than I usually listen to.  The author switches perspectives each chapter between the two protagonists, but unlike many stories that follow a similar structure, she has created almost two very separate stories she's telling at the same time.  Yes, they do intersect and work together in a bigger picture, but the Elias chapters are very much his story, struggling with the mask that forces him to be warrior, and Laia's story, a young girl trying to live up to her family's reputation in the rebellion to save her brother.

The story is extremely well-written and (despite being twelve whole discs!) flows smoothly and quickly even bouncing between two characters.  There were a few instances when conversations and inner dialogue seemed to be repeated, but the character development was enough to create two people you came to care for and worry about.

This will definitely be a book I recommend to my teens.  It's a bit sophisticated (a lot of moving parts) so I wouldn't really recommend to my newbies in the Teen Room, but it's a perfect selection for readers who enjoy just a touch of fantasy and a lot of political intrigue.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

10 Books On My Spring TBR List

Top Ten Books On My Spring TBR List
(Feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish)

I've been waiting patiently for several titles on my "Anticipated Spring Reads of 2016" and "2016 Debut Novels", and some have finally arrived and are making this list as well.

Now fingers crossed I won't get distracted by other shiny, beautiful covers.

What's on your list?

1) The Shadow Queen by C.J. Redline

2) The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig

4) Kill the Boy Band by Goldy Moldavsky

Passenger (Passenger, #1)
5) Passenger by Alexandra Bracken
The Steep and Thorny Way
6) The Steep and Thorny Way by Cat Winters

7) Blackhearts by Nicole Castroman

8) The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater

9) Love, Lies and Spies by Cindy Anstey

A Tyranny of Petticoats: 15 Stories of Belles, Bank Robbers & Other Badass Girls
10) A Tyranny of Petticoats by Jessica Spotswood

Monday, March 14, 2016

A New Hope: The Princess, the Scoundrel, and the Farm Boy

A New Hope: The Princess, the Scoundrel, and the Farm Boy (Star Wars Illustrated Novels #1)Author: Alexandra Bracken
Info: Disney Lucasfilm Press, copyright 2015, 317 pages

The galaxy is at war.

Although the Rebel Alliance has won a few battles against the Empire, hope is fading.  The Empire is about to unveil the greatest weapon the galaxy has ever seen -- the Death Star.  The Rebels' only chance to defeat it now lies in the unlikely hands of a princess, a scoundrel, and a farm boy...

~Goodreads Description

No need to recap this particular story, because it is indeed, a retelling of the infamous movie.  Liberties are taken with conversations and motivations outside of what we see on film, but these liberties are true to character and the story.  Bracken has done an excellent job filling in the character development and showing each of the main protagonists as human, flawed, and hopeful.  This is purely a story of Han, Leia, and Luke.  There are no deep insights into the dark side and the Commander himself (which for this Darth Vader fan was a bit of a let down).

For new fans (this is a kids book...not that it's really juvenile in quality), this is a great introduction to the story.  And the audiobook was fantastic.  Whoever this Marc Thompson fella is, he's fantastic with the voices.  Bracken has thrown in a not of original dialogue from the movie as well which was kind of nice.  There are plenty of sound effects and the voice of C-3PO is spot on.  Just an all around quick and fun listen.

If you're a Star Wars fan, or know of a little Star Wars fan, this is definitely worth a listen.  Can't wait to get my hands on The Empire Strikes Back by Adam Gidwitz!

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