December 31, 2015

Sometimes you fall a little bit in love with a character, i.e., Luke is hot and I'm mad that he's fictional

The last post of 2015! Today's post includes 2 reviews, a preview, and a promise of what's to come in 2016. Here we go!

I was very kindly sent a copy of Survivors: Secrets by the author, Violet Cross, for review a little earlier this year. (Stay tuned in 2016 for more requested reviews.) The book takes place in post apocalyptic England amid a group of teens and early 20 somethings who are struggling to survive (hence the title, yes?). However, the apocalypse wasn't due to a freak catastrophe of nature...or maybe it was exactly that because it turns out that humankind had tried to augment and alter DNA in order to create something 'better'. The result of their meddling was a group of superhumans who called themselves Divines. If you wanted to survive you had to keep your head down and choose your loyalties carefully as our main character, Lacey, learns the hard way. It's not all about scraping to get by, however. There's also a dash of romance. (Luke is hot. Did I mention that?) If you're a fan of the Divergent series then you'll probably like this one as they both feature strong female leads who are thrust into a world that is less than ideal. This is the first in the series so I highly recommend you strike while the iron is hot. (I should also mention that this is probably rated PG-13 for coarse language, violence, and scenes of a sexual nature so keep that in mind if you care about those sorts of things.)

A few weeks ago I reviewed Heart of Tin and I mentioned how I thought I'd probably enjoy The Straw King more. I was absolutely right. When I watched the film for the first time all those years ago, it was the Scarecrow that stole my heart. His was the story that I found most interesting and when he received his brains I cried tears of joy. The way that Danielle Paige has written Scare (even that nickname hurts my heart), he has been made into a monster. The Straw King gives the reader a glimpse into what the 'gifts' of the Wizard mean to each of the Ozians who received them. For Tin, his heart must surely have been created so that he could do all in his power to win over Dorothy and make her happy. For Lion, he was given his courage so that he could stand up for himself and others even if that meant that blood had to be shed. And then there's Scare. His brains were given to him so that he could attain true wisdom and to him there is nothing more important than learning everything. He struggles with empathy and doing what is 'right'. Seeing his thought processes it's easy to see how these 'gifts' have corrupted these characters much as Dorothy's shoes have clearly corrupted her. There's a lesson here which Spider-Man's uncle explained quite succinctly, "With great power, comes great responsibility." The trouble here is that the Wizard gave them these powers and then they were left to their own devices to wield them as they chose without guidance. Some might argue that is what we all must do as we travel through life and that's true I guess. That's cold comfort to me, however, as I watch one of my favorite characters get warped into a villain. ;'-(

I'm currently reading After Alice by Gregory Maguire. I thought I knew what this story was going to be about but it turns out I had no clue. My mom clued me into this one and I actually picked it up thinking she might read it over Christmas...and here I am reading it on New Year's. Thus far, I can say that it's about Ada who is briefly mentioned as a friend of Alice's in Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. It's also one of those books that makes one feel like a dullard so keep that in mind and maybe have a dictionary to hand. I'll let you know a little more in my next post. ;-D

And now the promise. In the next few days I hope to post my yearly roundup of all the books that I read in 2015...and maybe a little surprise. Today's post goes up on a Thursday but I'll be back to my regular Friday posting by next week. I hope you all had an ultra awesome year and that I'll see you again in 2016! HAPPY NEW YEAR AND HAPPY READING!


**If you're interested in buying any of these books or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books. Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

December 25, 2015

Author Interview: Louise Herman

A little something different today, guys. Louise Herman very kindly supplied me with the following interview and book blurbs for her two YA Fantasy series, The Orcus Games and Split Blood. Please enjoy and MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Background

I’m a teacher of Computing and a keen fantasy movie fan from the leafy suburbs of North London. I absolutely adore any film from Guillermo del Toro (especially Pan’s Labyrinth, Devil’s Backbone and Cronos), love listening to music (I especially enjoy listening to Bjork, Daft Punk and Royal Blood),  and am a big 80s fantasy film fan (with my favourite’s including Labyrinth, Big Trouble in Little China and Blade Runner). I also have a big passion for Anime and am slightly obsessed by the genius director, Hayao Miyazaki for his work on Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke and Howl’s Moving Castle. From an early age, I had always had a passion for writing stories, which would take the reader to different fantasy worlds and realms. With a little confidence and the ease of publishing novels on the internet, I have now self-published five fantasy stories to date.

What were you like at school?

It's funny because now I'm a teacher I can finally see how hard it is gaining a student's attention and maintaining it for an hour! I was an average student at school, who prioritise social matters over education and with hindsight, that may not have been the best idea because although I obtained good grades in the three subjects I enjoyed (English, Spanish and Media Studies), I flunked the rest and had to retake Maths at college. I finally realised that my education was more important when I left my peers at school (they stayed on for Sixth form) and went to college, where I gain invaluable experience and found my independence.

Were you good at English?

I loved literature and would often offer to read (and act out) the Shakespeare plays we were studying in class. I found the old English language, the powerful stories and the way Shakespeare would set the scene, to make the reader feel like they were in the story, amazing. One of my favourite plays by Shakespeare was, 'A Midsummer’s Night Dream' and it was the enchanting story, affairs of the heart and magical settings that ignited my passion for writing. Unfortunately, although I had great ideas for storylines, characters and worlds, my grammar and punctuation has always been my 'Achilles heel' which is why I invest in a proof-reader and editor for all my published work.

What made you decide to sit down and actually start something?

I have always had a vivid imagination and had written short fantasy stories, for my own pleasure, in my teenage years. However, it was not until my English teacher told me she enjoyed one of my stories that I started to take it more seriously. I researched competitions and writing challenges but unfortunately, without the aid of the internet, it was a little harder, than it is now, to gain the information I needed, so my college and university work took presidency and I put my writing passion to one side until I had more time (and resources) to concentrate on it fully.

So far I have written five YA Fantasy books to date:

The Orcus Games: Blood Moon (Book 1)

Guilty until you survive all zones…The Orcus Games is ready to put you on trial…

The lives of a witch and wizard couple, a new vampire and a rogue Lycan intertwine in three magical tales of love, loss and revenge.

The Craft – When witch and wizard couple, Heather and Phoenix make that fatal mistake on that, ‘Blood Moon’ night, they never thought they would be forced to working with a loner Lycan but…is he the only one who saw the, ‘accidental’ fatal act?

The Clan – Ardan would do anything for his wife and daughter but he could not protect them from the new blood thirsty life that was about to be bestowed onto them but what happens when he risks his immortal life for them?

The Pack – Caleb was always the Lycan that wanted more! With constant schemes and risky deals, to increase the potential of a better lifestyle, he thought his latest underground deal was the perfect idea, until he loses more than just his money…

The first book in the prequel to the, ‘Split Blood’ series, this novella is a mind-blowing magical tale of belonging, sacrifice and revenge…The Orcus Games: Blood Moon will drag you, kicking and screaming, on this deadly journey with the ill-fated prisoners.


The Orcus Games: Mistress V (Book 2)

The Underworld as no fury like Mistress V scorned…

Mistress V had it all…looks, power within the vampire clan and men at her disposal but she wanted more. She wanted Ardan, to be precise. He was unlike any other vampire she had turned before and she wanted him, needed him and was determined to do anything to get him…

Frustrated by his lack of interest and constant rejection, Mistress V is dealt another blow as Ardan is accused of a crime and is thrown into The Orcus Games, leaving her to watch her obsession fight for his life, whilst witnessing a second by second account of his budding friendship with fellow vampire contestant, Luan.

Unable to admit defeat, Mistress V plots and plans ways of getting to her man before it was too late but with every minute he is in the show, he grows closer to Luan, enraging Mistress V, leaving her to become more erratic and mentally disturbed, which has disastrous results…

The Prequel to the, ‘Split Blood’ series, this novella is a deliciously dark tale of power, lust and obsession…The Orcus Games: Mistress V will leave you licking your lips, thirsty for more…


The Orcus Games: New Awakening (Book 3)

You can run but you can’t hide…

Escaping The Orcus Games, each of the fugitive’s dreams of a happy reunion with loved ones are short lived as they each find out there is a bounty on each of their lives. Ardan finally accepts his new life as a vampire and enlists the help of Cathal, the vampire leader of the district, to help him make a proposal to the Elders so he can live…but what ulterior motives does Cathal have?

Heather and Phoenix return to their coven, only to find they have moved. After much searching, they find their circle and are reunited with their daughters. They beg their coven to hide them but why is the Grand Witch so reluctant to agree with the plan?

And with Mistress V agreeing to marry Cathal, have the damned foursome finally found peace and safety? Or is there one more ‘hurricane’ coming to destroy all they hold dear? 

The last book in the prequel to the, ‘Split Blood’ series, this novella is an enticing end to a tantalising fantasy trilogy…The Orcus Games: New Awakening gives you the electrifying conclusion, with a seductive surprise, to keep your blood flowing for another possible bite…


Split Blood: The Ancient Codex – Part One (Book 1)


When Faith’s mother starts organising the second stage of her arranged marriage to wizard, Damien, Faith knew she needed to escape, so she used her school as a place to retreat. Throughout her after school duties, she meets the intense, alluring Rohan, who changes her life forever. With his ice cold skin, transfixing eyes and enchanting voice, Rohan took hold of Faith’s heart and soul as soon as they looked at each other.

She knew it was wrong. They were from two different circles and if the Elder’s found out, the consequences would be catastrophic for all involved, but the more time they spent together, the stronger they’re love grew, until one day someone sees them and they are forced to go on the run together.

Will their love be strong enough to combat their conflicting mythical needs? And what will they do when Faith is dealt a life threatening blow that forces her to make a heart-breaking decision?

INTENSELY PASSIONATE WITH EXTRAORDINARY TWISTS AND TURNS, SPLIT BLOOD IS A LOVE STORY WITH A DARK MYTHICAL DIFFERENCE.


Split Blood: Rise of the Wolf (Book 2)

‘You are the oil to my fire and no one will ever extinguish us’ Enya said as she stroked the scar, which reminds him of his horrific childhood.

Lowell was always the outcast in his pack. Coming from a poor, abusive background, the only attention he knew was when his father used him in illegal Lycan fights. He never knew what love was until he met werewolf, Enya. Experiencing a similar, isolated upbringing, Enya was the glue that helped Lowell stick together. She was intoxicating to him and he was her addiction. With every second they spent together, they gave each other the rush they needed – Unfortunately, this union was not to last as the rules of the Aliis World clearly state that Lycan’s are forbidden to communicate, let alone be romantically involved with werewolves.

So what happens when Lycan, Lowell tries to fight his attraction for lower class werewolf, Enya? And can they escape the wrath of vengeful witch, Raven when she finds out Lowell is partly to blame for her sister, Faith’s disappearance?

SEVERELY THOUGHT PROVOKING WITH A STING OF ROMANCE, SPLIT BLOOD: RISE OF THE WOLF IS A DELICATE TALE OF LOVE, LOSS AND VENGEANCE WITH A BITE.


What are you working on at the minute?

I am currently working on the third book in the 'Split Blood' series, which will be published on Amazon and Smashwords by April 2016.

What’s it about?

It concentrates on Raven (Faith's Wiccan sister) and her fight to get her family back. Raven's character also changes due to the trials and tribulations she encounters on her journey and we also meet new magical beings and say goodbye to some favourites. With lots more magic, lust and revenge, 'Split Blood 3' promises to continue the emotional rollercoaster ride further into the 'Split Blood' world.

Give us an insight into your main character.

In the previous two books, Raven has been a minor character, who has always been there for her older sister, Faith. Happy to find out her new magically heritage, Raven tried to show her reluctant sister the benefits of their new life as she grew in power but Faith was not interested in the magic classes and her history as Raven was. Unfortunately, Faith felt suffocated from the endless rules and her curiosity led to her running away, leaving the Coven to deal with the consequences of Faith's illegal choice. This emotional departure left a scar on Raven, who struggles to cope with life without her sister and things get much worse when her parents are taken to the Underworld for questioning about their part in their daughter's detrimental rule breaking. Alone, distraught and unable to deal with some members of her Coven turning against her, Raven becomes obsessed with finding her family, by any means necessary - with disastrous results...

Which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead character from your most recent book?

I love the film, 'Mirror, Mirror' and thought Lily Collins was very good as the lead character. I think she would make a great Raven because she has a very fearless, determined attitude in the film, which Raven has in the third book of the 'Split Blood' series as her whole world becomes consumed with finding her family, which has a devastatingly dark effect on her mind and powers.

For more information, please go to: www.louisehermanauthor.com


December 18, 2015

What does it mean to be human?

Oddly enough, when I came up with the title of this blog I was really only thinking about the second book that I read this past week but it actually applies to both in a strange way.

Some of you might recall that I started reading a series which was a retelling of The Wizard of Oz with Dorothy as a villain. The last novella that I read (a prequel) concerned how Dorothy ended up back in Oz and how she came to be worse than all of the witches combined. This time around I learned about the Tin Woodman in Heart of Tin. I have to admit that I didn't find as much enjoyment in this book as I have in most of the others. I'm not sure if it's because I finished up The Lunar Chronicles and it kinda blew this series out of the water or if I just didn't care for the Tin Woodman's storyline as much. (In point of fact, I think it's a combination of the two.) This book is fairly straightforward. We see just how far Tin is willing to go to win over the heart of his one true love, Dorothy. I'm trying to come up with a delicate way of describing his preoccupation with Dorothy who is a teenager but all I can come up with is icky. The best part of Heart of Tin is that we get a few tantalizing glimpses of the schemes that Scarecrow and Glinda are cooking up behind Dorothy's back. I have a feeling that his story, The Straw King, is going to be a doozy. (Don't worry, I've already placed it on hold at the library.)

The next book that I read over the last week was Sophie's World: A Novel About the History of Philosophy by Jostein Gaarder. It's an international bestseller which for some reason I had never heard of until suddenly I found it on my library holds list (I don't remember placing it there but I guess one night I was cruising the library website half asleep). It's translated into English from Norwegian so that might be why it caught my eye (Remember my obsession with Swedish translations? I'm branching out.) or it could be because it's a book on philosophy. I had little to no knowledge about the great philosophers of the past or even what it meant to be a philosopher. I can happily say that is no longer the case. Not only did I learn about it but I experienced what it means to think philosophically...and I may have had an existential crisis as a result. The book starts out with Sophie who discovers a letter in her mailbox asking her questions such as "Who are you?".  It snowballs into packets of lecture notes and suddenly she finds herself enrolled in a philosophy course with a professor who prefers to remain hidden. I don't want to give any more away because it's better to experience it for yourself. I guarantee you'll be scratching your head and asking "Who am I?" by the end.

And now a tantalizing little teaser! I was recently contacted by a publishing company, History of the World, which is interested in creating educational books for children. Of course, I'm on board with that! The book they're starting off with is called The Amazing History of Technology and from the sample I was sent I can tell that this is a winner. It's full of beautifully illustrated scenes from history which chart the history of technology through the ages (I mean duh look at the title. I doubt it was going to be about hairstyles.). Each illustration is accompanied with the name of the creator and/or the name of the device along with the year it was created. This would be a fantastic gift for either the educators (hello, teaching aid!) or the tiny information absorbers in your life (that's children if you were confused). And for the techno geeks among you, it's accompanied by an educational app. Maybe you were looking for the perfect stocking stuffer. If so, you're welcome. ;-)

You can go here to order it

By the way, this is my 200th post. *confetti falls from the ceiling*

December 16, 2015

Holy cheeseballs, it's a competition!

Yes, this is a mid-week posting and no it's not a book review. Instead I come bringing good tidings and joy, dear readers. *sleigh bells ring in the distance*


Australian author of Bird of Chaos, Susie Mander, has extended an exclusive invitation to her book promotion where you could win a $100 Amazon Gift Card. I would like to extend this invitation to you. Yes, you! Enter before January 10, 2016 to take advantage of this great opportunity to win a truly awesome prize!

Susie Mander is an Australian-based author and mother of one. She has been published in Australian Doctor, the Hills Shire Times and the District Reporter, and was recently shortlisted for the AlburyCity Short Story Award. Bird of Chaos is her first fantasy novel. It follows the story of Princess Verne Golding the Third who has to decide whether or not to initiate a coup against her mother, a cruel and manipulative woman who blights the young Verne’s life and threatens not only her future reign but the survival of their kingdom.

To celebrate the anniversary of the publication of Bird of Chaos (as well as Christmas!) Susie Mander is giving away a $100 Amazon Gift Card to one lucky winner.

“I am really excited about the opportunity to give back to readers,” Mander says. “I think this is a great prize because you can spend it on whatever you like and it comes just in time for the festive season.”

 Click here to enter now before time runs out!

December 11, 2015

A trip to Narnia

As you know, I'm a big fan of children's literature. I'm also a big fan of C. S. Lewis, an English author, who is well-known for his series, The Chronicles of Narnia. C. S. Lewis captured and continues to capture the imagination of anyone who makes a trip into the fantastical world that is Narnia. Most people know about The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe because of the Disney movie of the same name. (The same could be said of Prince Caspian and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader as well.) It's been labeled as controversial by some for it's religious themes as well as it's discussion of race and gender. It broke the mold in a lot of ways to what was traditionally seen as a children's book. The entire series spans 7 books and has been adapted for radio and theater as well as film.  Let's get right into it!

Depending upon who you ask, the series begins with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe OR it begins with The Magician's Nephew. I prefer to begin with The Magician's Nephew as it's technically the prequel (although written second to last) and sets up the creation of Narnia (the lamppost!). It follows Digory and Polly as they are forcefully transported to Narnia by Digory's not-so-nice aka totally evil uncle, Before they reach Narnia, however, the reach other lands in other realms and on one of these they meet Jadis who is Evil. (The capitalization is definitely warranted and she's worth mentioning as you'll see later in the series.) This is also the book that introduces the reader to Aslan, the lion.

Next is the one I think most people are familiar with: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. In this book, we are introduced to the Pevensie children: Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy. We're also meeting Digory again except now he's much older and a Professor. We travel to Narnia which is now fully formed (and through a rather unique portal which I don't want to spoil for the uninitiated) and a battle of good vs evil ensues against the White Witch (hello Jadis!). The children discover that they are worth sterner stuff than they had imagined and Aslan rewards them with something a little snazzier than a plaque. This should definitely be categorized as coming-of-age.

I bet you think that Prince Caspian is the next book in the series. Well, you're wrong! It's The Horse and His Boy. This book follows two Narnians (the horses) on a journey back to their homeland with outsiders (two children) who are running away from their lives. This story is quite different from the rest of the series as it takes place during the Golden Age of Narnia (it is difficult not to be spoiler-y isn't it?). It focuses on Shasta, Bree, Aravis, and Hwin. If nothing else, C.S. Lewis was a master at names.

Following The Horse and His Boy is Prince Caspian. By this time, the Pevensie children have returned to our world and a short time has passed. They often think of Narnia but for Peter and Susan it is less and less like a real place. Then BOOM they are suddenly thrust back into Narnia as a cry for help is sounded by Caspian. 1000 years have passed in Narnia and Aslan is missing. The people are in dire need of help and it's up to the Pevensies and their new friend, Caspian, to save everyone.

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is a favorite of mine because it introduces a character which goes through such a transformation that to meet him at the start is to hardly recognize him by the finish. This is Eustace Scrubb. Eustace and his two cousins, Edmund and Lucy Pevensie, find themselves in Narnia and on a boat in the ocean. There's a surprise awaiting them aboard the ship in the form of an old friend (hello spoiler, my old friend) and it's discovered that he and his crew are on an epic quest. It's very nearly a pirate's tale, ya'll. The ending still manages to bring me to tears.

We are again on an adventure with Eustace in The Silver Chair but this time he's accompanied by his new friend, Jill Pole. They are called to Narnia by Aslan to help Caspian, now an old man, find his son. They are aided by Puddleglum who is a Marsh-Wiggle and if you don't grit your teeth he might drive you crazy.

Here we are at the end with The Last Battle which is just as the name suggests. There is a final battle of good vs evil. Jill and Eustace return to help Narnia which is under seige by Shift, an ape, who tricks a donkey into impersonating Aslan (I just read that back and trust me it makes sense if you read the book). By the end of the book you see the true meaning behind everything that has gone before and Aslan is revealed as his true self.


Whew! That was just the books! Now onto the film adaptations. There are two that I'd like to mention. (I'm discussing two different series not individual films.) The first was done by the BBC and was actually a miniseries that ran in 3 installments from 1988-1990. The first covered The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, the second was Prince Caspian and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and the third was The Silver Chair. This is one of those things that was so bad that it's good. It was low budget and pretty corny but for some reason I LOVED IT. I felt drawn in exactly as I had been in the books and the characterization was pretty spot on. (Puddleglum especially was excellent.) If you haven't seen this, I highly recommend giving it a try. The other series I'd like to mention is the one done by Disney. Thus far, they've done The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Prince Caspian, and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Much like the BBC miniseries, they stuck very close to the original books which I really appreciated. It's visually stunning and the soundtracks are beautiful. Also, James McAvoy is Mr. Tumnus. COME ON! Guys, this is a no-brainer.

I did say this was one of my favorites

December 4, 2015

Do you podcast?

Is podcast a verb or just a noun? I have no idea but I do know that after reading Welcome to Night Vale by Jeffrey Cranor and Joseph Fink that I'm likely to check out their podcast of the same name. (If you're interested in checking out the podcast before reading the book then you can go here and start from the beginning.) I had heard about this podcast and the book through the devoted community on Twitter and Tumblr. (I listened to a bit of the podcast but I have a problem committing to podcasts so I picked up the book instead.) It was strange right off of the bat but it was a good kind of strange. Anyone who has read a really intense sci-fi novel will understand the feeling that they have somehow missed a step and landed someplace entirely new. That's what this book is like. I get now why there is such a passionate fandom surrounding this desert community and its inhabitants. Where else could you read about a place where it's perfectly natural to open doors with a blood offering? If your son was a shapeshifter would you just shrug and say he was trying to find himself? Are those helicopters above your house a nuisance or a comfort? For the citizens of Night Vale the answers to these questions are no-brainers. The two main characters, Diane and Jackie, are two polar opposites who suddenly find themselves working toward the same goal.: King City. It's a weird tale of self-discovery and what it truly means to belong. ALL HAIL THE GLOW CLOUD.

**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books. Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

November 27, 2015

A case of reading withdrawal

I know what some of you are saying. "How on earth could you have reading withdrawal when you have so many books on your TRL?" Well, I'm talking about that feeling after you've read a really excellent series and you know that it's finished and you're filled with despair. (Harry Potter anyone?) That's the withdrawal that I refer to in today's post. Now on with the review!

Just to catch you up on the first part of The Lunar Chronicles series:
Cinder: Prejudice, Plague, and a Prince + Witches, Oh My!
Scarlet: A book series that should be made into film
Cress: When you read a book about a place you've just visited OR I love England
Fairest: Exercising Positivity

As you can see, I very much enjoyed The Lunar Chronicles. It has everything. I'm talking adventure, dystopia, romance, comedy, political upheaval, mutants, heroines, mental health issues, racial misunderstanding, and SO MUCH MORE. (No, this isn't a commercial.) The final book in the series, Winter, was a whopper at over 800 pages (Harry Potter anyone?) and Meyer covered a lot of ground. Not only did she have the gargantuan task of fleshing out the character of Winter as she had done with the first 3 (4 if you count Fairest) but she also had to tie it all together to bring a conclusion to the overarching struggle of the series. Will Levana succeed in marrying Kai and becoming Empress of the Eastern Commonwealth? Do Thorne and Cress have a chance at a happily ever after? Can Scarlet be saved from Winter's menagerie? Will Winter's Lunar sickness ultimately result in her complete break from reality? GO READ WINTER TO FIND OUT!

UPDATE: I just found out that Meyer is coming out with a collection of short stories set in the world of The Lunar Chronicles and the cover has been revealed today. You can click here to see the cover of Stars Above!

UPDATE DEUX: I just looked back through my posts and I already knew about Stars Above...I just completely forgot about it. ;-/

November 20, 2015

When preteens attack!

Sometimes I forget how I heard about certain books and why they made it onto my TRL (To Read List) but a lot of the time I just see a blurb about a book somewhere and it peaks my interest. That's what happened with The Witches: Salem, 1692 by Stacy Schiff. As the title suggests, it's about the witch trials that occurred in Salem during the year of 1692. I've actually visited Salem and read up a bit on the subject but Schiff covered the start of the accusations through to the far-reaching consequences of the trials into present day. She touched on the justice system, political climate of the Americas (Massachusetts specifically), and the cultural/religious climate of the area. The belief in witches was nothing new or novel to the people of Salem. At this point, there had been other cases of witchcraft that resulted in trials, convictions, and deaths in others parts of the world. However, the volume of accused which ballooned in the year 1692 and the paranoia that gripped the people of Salem was so extreme that we're still talking about it today. What I found most intriguing about the book was the aspect of gender roles and how that most likely played a leading role in the affair. Preteen girls and women were the primary accusers (and women the accused). This group had no voice in society and yet they were able to completely blind the rest of the community into believing that they saw visions, wrestled with specters, and signed pacts with the devil. They pointed fingers at innocent people and everyone stopped and listened to them. Why was this? Why did their opinions suddenly matter? Why were much of the women accused on the fringes of society? There are a lot of questions which we may never have the answer to because documentation is sparse (much was lost or intentionally altered). We can only theorize and rationalize to the best of our ability. The occult and the manifestation of it on people is so fascinating to me. I really enjoyed this book (the bibliography is AWESOME). If you're as curious about this topic as I am and you want to look at it from a variety of angles then I recommend you give The Witches: Salem, 1692 a shot.

November 16, 2015

Newly Released: Things From Other Worlds

I'm going to periodically feature newly released books. These are self-published books which I've agreed to lend a helping hand. I'll include cover art, synopses, excerpts, author bios, and purchasing links. If you're interested, I encourage you to take the leap and give them a shot. So here we go! :-)



BOOK INFORMATION

TITLE – Things from Other Worlds
AUTHOR – Anne E. Johnson
GENRE – Children’s literature / science fiction
PUBLICATION DATE – October, 2015
LENGTH (Pages/# Words) - 84 pages
PUBLISHER – Anne E. Johnson
COVER ARTIST – James for GoOnWrite.com


BOOK SYNOPSIS

Many strange things wait inside these pages. There's a fuzzy ball of kindness, camped out on a grumpy man's porch. A chewed piece of gum with a mind of its own. A smart Alec who actually stands in line twice when they're handing out brains. A girl who isn't afraid when all the plants in her neighborhood come to life.

This collection of 15 science fiction and fantasy stories for kids by award-winning author Anne E. Johnson is perfect for ages 8-12, or anyone with a child's heart.

EXCERPT

THE CRUSTY-HEARTED MAN (Excerpt from Story No. 15 in Things from Other Worlds)
Outside our town, a few miles from where Jimbo’s gas station used to be, an old man lived all by himself. Everybody knew he was there, but nobody actually knew him. He’d show up a few times a year to buy canned goods at Ruth & Bobby’s, but that was it. Not a soul, not even the oldest soul in town, could remember a time when that man hadn’t been around. He must have been two hundred years old. Some said more like three hundred. 
Truth was, he’d been out of touch with people for so long that nobody could remember his name. 
He couldn’t even remember his own name. Folks said that a crust had grown over his heart. 
The heart’s a funny organ, though. It’s tougher than you’d think, and can survive through pretty much anything. It’s like a tulip bulb. No matter how icy and long the winter is, that little bulb stays alive under the frozen ground until it’s time to shoot up a new sprout, green and full of life.
But for some especially frosty people, there’s rarely enough sunshine to wake up their hearts. It takes something spectacular, maybe even something from another world. I’ll tell you what happened to this old, old man, and you’ll see what I mean. 
Nobody wanted to have anything to do with him. Flies and grubs and spiders occasionally tiptoed into the walls of his house, but most were never heard from again. The younger raccoons and rabbits only touched his front stoop on a dare because their parents warned them not to. 
“Get away!” the old man would scream hoarsely while shaking a frying pan above his head. 
Every living creature, from human on down to bedbug, knew enough to keep off the old man’s property. But that knowledge had not been broadcast across space. So, when an alien landed in a clearing in the woods one late winter afternoon, it didn’t realize what it was up against. It was scared and a little woozy after a rough landing, although it wasn’t afraid. It had been brought up to assume that all beings will do right by each other when given the chance. Poor little thing. 
I bet you think an alien is a spindly sort that looks like it’s made of green plastic. Well, not this one. It was furry. Oh, so furry. Picture fur as thick as a polar bear’s and as soft as a mink’s. Now double how thick and soft it is. Now color it blue-green. This deep, soft, dark fur was all over its body, which was short and wide. The alien, standing, came up just past your knees, but was too wide to get your arms around.
It had two giant tangerine-orange toenails on each of its four feet. Its eyes, too, were the color of tangerines, but twice as big. They were very close together in its head, and surrounded by fur, giving it a very intense look. Your average human would probably describe this alien as “the cutest thing I’ve ever seen,” and make a sound that went something like “Awwww.” 
Well, this little alien was in need of shelter and food. It didn’t know the plants and animals of our planet, so it shuffled right by some perfectly edible berries and nuts. But it recognized a building when it saw one. And so it approached the old man’s house in the middle of the woods, with hope in its heart but nothing in its belly. 
“MMMnnnyonggg,” it called out from the yard. Nothing stirred in the house, but several woodchucks and foxes gathered to watch from a safe distance. The alien trundled up the front steps. Once it caught its fur on the rotting wood, but freed itself like a real trooper. Inside the house, the old man heard a nasal howl. 
“MMMnnnyonggg!” 
He assumed it was a wolf or an injured bear. “Durn thing’s up on the porch,” said the crusty-hearted man as he pulled his frying pan down from its nail. “I’ll teach ╩╝em whose house this is.” 
The old man shoved the front door open so hard it smacked against the rotten siding. A few shingles crumbled and fell. The woodland creatures watching the show skittered deeper into the shadows, fearing what would come next. 
But the alien didn’t move. It didn’t know it was supposed to be afraid of the sound of wood smacking wood, or the sight of a two-legged earthling holding a round metal object. It assumed this was either a way to say “hello,” or else a communication device telling the whole planet about its arrival. Those were the only options that made sense to the alien. Widening its eyes and puffing up its fur, it tried to look as friendly as possible.
For his part, the old man was so puzzled that he forgot to swing the pan. “You’re not a bear,” he accused the blue-green furry thing. “You’re sure not a wolf. What are you? Gorilla?”
The alien didn’t know what the word “gorilla” meant, but it enjoyed the sound, so it waddled a little closer to the cool-talking human.
“GGgggrrrrill,” said the alien, trying to fit in.
The old man just snorted and slammed the door, leaving the alien alone on the porch.




AUTHOR BIO

As the author of dozens of published short stories, Anne E. Johnson has won writing prizes for both children's and adults' short fiction. Her short fiction for kids has appeared in FrostFire Worlds, Wee Tales, Jack & Jill, Young Explorer’s Adventure Guide, Rainbow Rumpus, and elsewhere. Her stories for adults can be found in Alternate Hilarities, The Future Fire, Liquid Imagination, and SpeckLit. For a complete list of her published stories, please visit AnneEJohnson.com. She also writes science fiction novels, including the humorous Webrid Chronicles series. To give back to the writing and children’s lit community, Anne is a volunteer story judge at RateYourStory and writes a weekly column called Kid Lit Insider for EatSleepWrite.net. Anne grew up in Wisconsin but moved to New York City over 20 years ago. She now lives in Brooklyn with her husband, playwright Ken Munch.

AUTHOR FOLLOW LINKS


BUY & TBR LINKS

This Event has been Organized & Hosted by: 33c16-mini2bbutton

November 13, 2015

I do believe in fairies! I do! I do!

Have you ever wondered where that eraser you swear you left on the kitchen table disappeared to? Do you always seem to be replacing safety pins and you have no idea where they all go? You're not completely batty! According to Mary Norton, author of The Borrowers, your house is probably home to tiny people who are simply 'borrowing' all of these items. Most people are aware of this story because they saw the movie of the same name starring John Goodman, Jim Broadbent, and Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy to my fellow Potterheads). However, I'd like to give a shoutout to The Secret World of Arrietty which is a FANTASTIC movie that was adapted to the screen by Hayao Miyazaki (!!). I don't think that either version is completely faithful to the book but I also don't think it matters. They capture the idea of what it would be like to discover tiny people living below your floorboards, behind the clock, under the stove...you get the idea. It's a fun story and it captures the imagination as all good children's books (or any books for that matter) should. (Also, the soundtrack to The Secret World of Arrietty is one of my favorites.)

Let's talk about Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie. I couldn't believe that up until this year I had never read this book. I knew the story, of course, but I had never actually read it. I remedied that and I am so glad that I did. Also, I'm glad that the version that I picked up included a biography of Barrie and the Llewelyn Davies family. I always think it's interesting to read about the history behind the writing of a book and how that shaped the characters, storyline, etc. For those unaware, Peter Pan is the story of a little boy who doesn't want to grow into a man. He's acquired a sort of mythology over the years and serves as an emblem for all that is carefree imagination. However, there is a darker side to the story. He's unable to truly feel and his memory is so poor that he is likely to forget you from one moment to the next. It's chilling if you examine it too closely. The illustrations in the edition which I have are stunning and really lent to the overall  feel of the story. (I recommend that when purchasing any book with illustrations that you examine them closely because crappy illustrations can seriously dampen the effect of a good book.) When talking film adaptations, I was torn between the animated Disney version and the live action film with Jason Isaacs and Jeremy Sumter. I like them both for a variety of reasons. The Disney version is pure nostalgia for me. I find myself humming 'following the leader' more often that I care to admit. The live action is visually striking and shows the vulnerable side of Peter which I think is important. I think it says something about the versatility and longevity of a book if it's continually being adapted to film and the stage. I highly recommend you read this children's classic if you get an opportunity.

** If you're interested in a book like the ones reviewed above, you can click here. This will re-direct you to The Book Deposity which is a website which offers free shipping worldwide. Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following this link. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

November 6, 2015

Searching for utopia...and zombies?

On a flight back from the UK a few months ago, I watched Tomorrowland starring George Clooney and Britt Robertson. I absolutely LOVED it. I loved it so much, in fact, that when I discovered a prequel to the film was written I snatched it up immediately. The book is Before Tomorrowland by Jeff Jensen, Brad Bird, Jonathan Case, and Damon Lindelof. The basic premise is to set up the world that is already constructed in the film. The best part about the storyline was how famous figures from the past were incorporated. Imagine Nikola Tesla, Howard Hughes, Albert Einstein, and Amelia Earhart all working together in a super secret organization where the technology of the 1930s far exceeds that of today. If that wasn't impetus enough to go out and read this book then I don't know how I can convince you. (Except maybe you'll get excited about the fact that at the back of the hardcover edition there's a short color comic that is referenced throughout the book for extra immersion.) Also, go watch the film because I don't think it got nearly enough praise.

You might have wondered what was going on with the title of this blog post or maybe you never even notice the titles at all. If that's the case, I'm pretty upset because I spend quite a lot of time trying to be creative and/or witty when creating them. In actuality, I probably spend too much time working on them. Well, wonder no longer. 

The other book that I read this week (I'm lying because I actually read 4 books this week but the other two will be reviewed in later posts because I'm sneaky.) was Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith. I've had this book languishing on my shelves since it came out several years ago but when I saw the trailer for the upcoming movie I knew it was time to give it the attention it was due. As you're well aware by now, faithful reader, I'm a huge Jane Austen fan and so I was interested to see how zombies would be incorporated into the narrative. I was not disappointed. Most of the essentials remained the same but the ones that were changed were so funny and fit so well with the new adaptation that I didn't mind in the least. This version's Elizabeth Bennet is a warrior for the Crown in the fight against the unmentionables. Her sole goal is to eradicate as many of Satan's creatures as she can and so she is even more forthright than Austen's original if you can believe it. There was gore, baudy humor, and fights in defense of honor. It was a fun read and I think if you're a fan of Austen you should see what it's all about and if you're not a fan of Austen this might be your doorway into the sublime.

October 30, 2015

Just one more page

There are some books that even after you have read the last page you hope in vain for 'just one more page'. Sometimes this is because it's an amazing series and all you have to do is go pick up the next installment. At other times, it's a standalone novel but there are many other books which make up that author's body of work to satisfy you indefinitely. However, this is not always the case.

I just finished The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories by Marina Keegan and it blew me away. For those unfamiliar with the story behind this book, Marina Keegan was a promising young writer who tragically lost her life shortly after graduating from Yale. This book was compiled by her family and a few of her professors and classmates in her honor. The book includes poignant pieces about what it means to be a part of something bigger, what it means to let yourself feel, and above all what it means to be a part of humanity itself. There are essays, short stories, and nonfiction pieces which showcase what a gifted writer Keegan was. Her writing practically exudes her lust for life and it is impossible to read this and not feel like the world could be a better place if only we looked for the beauty that is already there. When you read this you are struck by the realization that no matter how much you wish for 'just one more page' you'll have to content yourself with these meager few. This is a book you don't want to miss out on, guys. 10/10

October 23, 2015

I read a graphic novel...and I liked it

I've been binge-watching BookTube (YouTube videos for book lovers full of reviews, book hauls, etc) which of course means I've added a ton of books to my TRL (To-Read-List for any newbies to the blog. Hey there!). As I've mentioned before, I'm not a big fan of graphic novels. However, I saw a review of one which peaked my interest and...I actually liked it! It's Emily Carroll's Through the Woods which contains 5 short horror stories which range from a tale of 3 sisters left in their cabin in the woods to a pair of best friends mixed up in the occult. The illustrations are really beautiful and I especially liked the color scheme which relied heavily on blacks and reds. The stories
fall into the category of 'gothic horror' and I don't recommend reading them by flashlight under your bedcovers at night (unless you're feeling especially brave).
Excerpt from the book's Amazon page

I also read a really fun book by British YouTubers Dan Howell (danisnotonfire) and Phil Lester (AmazingPhil) called The Amazing Book is Not on Fire. The talk of the town on this book is how lovely it smells. I'm going to have to call 'bull' on that one as I found the smell to be off-putting. I wasn't at all impressed with the smell but I was impressed with the use of mixed media which ran the gamut from collages to excerpts of their text messages with one another. If you're a fan of their YouTube channels, it's a really fun ride but I think that even for those uninitiated into the fold it's a silly, smile-inducing book. Edit: I also listened to the audiobook and it was FANTASTIC. Unlike any audiobook I've ever listened to because there were two authors and they often went 'off script' and just chatted with one another. A really unique experience that I encourage you all to give a whirl.

Finally, I read The 40s: The Story of a Decade which has made me want to subscribe to The New Yorker so it definitely did its job. It's a collection of pieces from that illustrious publication during the 1940s when it underwent the change from witty, humorist magazine to political, correspondence magazine. From profiles to poetry to politics, The New Yorker broke down barriers and contributed some truly revolutionary writings that left an indelible mark on the history of journalism. I was especially moved by the essay on Hiroshima which focused on a handful of survivors of the atomic bomb. The entire collection was fascinating for its time capsule like quality but it was also a fine sampling of excellent writing. I'd also like to point out that I heard about this book on the New York Public Library's homepage on a blog post entitled "The Blacklist: What is Red Reading?". Turns out James Spader is currently reading this book and it sounded so intriguing that I decided to give it a shot. I'm so glad that I did!

October 16, 2015

Be glad and help others

You might recall an earlier post I made about children's classics and their film adaptations. This is the next part in that series. :-)

One of my favorite films growing up (and still to this day much to my mother's chagrin) was Pollyanna starring the magnificent Hayley Mills (remember the original Parent Trap?). The story of a young girl orphaned and sent to live with an aunt she had never met (and who was less than thrilled to be taking her in) who brought happiness to an entire town captivated my imagination and never failed to make me cry both tears of anguish and happiness. Yes, I realize that I sound like a TV special but I am being completely sincere. The book that the film was based on was written in 1913 by Eleanor H. Porter and was an instant bestseller that generated so much success that several sequels were penned (the majority by different authors). One of the major plot points in the story was completely changed for the film version but I don't think that it took too much away from the overall storyline (you'll have to read the book to know what I mean mwahaha). The book's positive message to "be glad" is one that I think anyone regardless of their age can appreciate and embrace.

I next turned to The Rescuers by Margery Sharp which I think most people won't realize was a book before it was adapted by Disney into a film. Firstly, the illustrations which were done by Garth Williams (he also did Stuart Little and Charlotte's Web) are fantastic. They portray Bernard and Miss Bianca very differently from the movie version because their characters are almost entirely different. In fact, everything apart from there being talking mice who form a secret society that help humans was changed. Bianca is portrayed as a rather vacuous female content with her lot in life but Bernard makes her see herself in a slightly different light. The movie is the exact opposite where Bernard is full of timidity and it is Bianca that draws him out of his shell and shows him what he is truly made of. The film is about the rescue mission of an orphan girl named Penny from a truly horrific woman (who reminds me of Miss Hannigan from the musical Annie) while the book is about the rescue of a Norwegian poet from an impenetrable castle. The essential feeling of the two storylines is the same but if I had to choose between the two I'd probably go for the movie on this one (but you should still check out the beautiful illustrations).

How are you guys liking this series? Do you have any children's classics and their movies that you think I should read, watch, and review? I was thinking about doing the same for adult classics but I want to get your opinion. Comments are always appreciated! XD

October 9, 2015

My love affair with Dickens

I thought it was time that I come clean about my adoration of Charles Dickens. It all started with Nicholas Nickleby and it definitely snowballed from there. However, that wasn't my first foray into all things Dickensian. Like many people, it was compulsory to read Great Expectations while in school but I don't think that's the way to lead someone down the path of Dickens admirer. At least it wasn't for me. I know that Dickens is an acquired taste and for many of you reading this your interest in any of his novels is minimal at best. But I hope you'll hear me out as I gush about my favorite Dickens novel, A Tale of Two Cities. Yes, it's his most famous work. That is for a very good reason. It's absolutely phenomenal. The story is told before and during the French Revolution and focuses on a key group of characters who one instantly feels are real. Your heart aches for Dr. Manette, you stand a little straighter with Darnay, and you are filled with hope for the future by Carton. A story of loss, love, and liberty; A Tale of Two Cities can't be beat.

I call this my 'Classic English Shelf'. Obviously I'm very imaginative.
**If you're interested in a book by the man himself, you can click here. This will re-direct you to AbeBooks. This is one of my favorite websites for purchasing used books. Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following this link. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

October 2, 2015

Gotta love a good thought experiment!

Some books that you read make you question everything. Alan Weisman's The World Without Us is definitely one of those books. The book seeks to answer the question 'What would happen to the world if humans were to disappear?' I've read books that look at it from the flip side of the coin where humans have destroyed the planet to such a degree that humanity can no longer be sustained. It was interesting to look at the reverse. Weisman looked at the issue from a variety of viewpoints. He looked at the evolution of humans and their impact on the megafauna and megaflora of the planet. His point there was that although much of the animals and plants were eradicated by us, variations of these have survived into present day. Therefore, if humanity were to disappear nature would find a way to carry on and maybe another kind of humanity would take our place. He also looked at the damage we have done through chemical processes (I'm talking nuclear) and whether or not the planet's remaining inhabitants could survive. He went to a variety of places where it was as close to being primeval as possible (Kingman Reef) and also those places which were irrevocably changed by us (Chernobyl). He spoke to scientists of all disciplines (many of which sound like amazing careers that I need to look into immediately). It was a thoroughly researched and thought provoking read and I encourage anyone interested in conservancy and ecology to go and give this book a shot.

Because I just couldn't help myself I grabbed another Phryne Fisher mystery, Raisins and Almonds. (I realized after starting it that I definitely went out of order as I missed a lot of backstory so I do encourage you if you're reading the series to continue with Flying Too High after Cocaine Blues.) This time Phryne has taken a new lover by the name of Simon Abrahams and his father hires her to absolve a woman of murder. The entire affair is mixed up with the Jewish culture of Australia (and the rest of the world actually). Greenwood even included a Yiddish dictionary at the back of the book as it was used liberally throughout the story. I have to be honest here...I didn't find this one as entertaining as the first of the series. The characters weren't nearly as vivid and the mystery itself was pretty dull. However, learning about the Jewish culture was very interesting so I'm going to let it pass with a solid C.

**If you're interested in a book like the ones I've reviewed here, you can click here. This will re-direct you to AbeBooks. This is one of my favorite websites for purchasing used books. Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following this link. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

September 25, 2015

Two unusual detectives and the blogger who loved them

I'm a great lover of mystery novels. (If you randomly search throughout this blog you'll see that I'm a great lover of many different genres but I digress.) I was recently turned onto an Australian television program entitled Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries (if you're a fan of mystery programs then you should check it out on Netflix) and when I discovered that it was based on a series of novels I immediately started looking for them at the library. The first book in the series by Kerry Greenwood is Cocaine Blues and it introduces the reader to Phryne Fisher, a most unusual choice for a detective. She's brash, fearless, wealthy, and (if you didn't catch on) a woman. The series is set in late 1920s Melbourne, Australia and features an interesting assortment of main characters which include but are not limited to working class taxi drivers, a dutiful maid, a stolid detective inspector, and Phryne at the center of it all. In the first book of the series, Phryne manages to solve 3 crimes (only two of which feature the illegal substance mentioned in the title of the book). A young girl is given a back alley abortion that nearly kills her by a man that the police have yet to pin down, a woman seems to be a victim of poisoning by her husband, and the cocaine trade is rampant in Melbourne and the King of Snow is at the heart of it all. Picture an attractive young woman sailing onto a crime scene bedecked in the latest fashion of 1920s London carrying a small pistol in a tiny purse who effortlessly solves crimes while simultaneously beguiling all of the attractive men (and women) in the vicinity. So why aren't you reading this series already?!

Continuing my foray into mysteries, I returned to one of my favorite mystery writers (and detectives). Rex Stout, creator of Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin *swoon*, This has been a favorite of mine ever since I discovered the A&E series with Timothy Hutton *swoon*. (Maybe I should start a blog where I review television series and movies. hahaha) Death Times Three includes 3 novellas featuring the famous armchair detective Nero Wolfe and his assistant Archie Goodwin. All of the Nero Wolfe mysteries take place in Manhattan through the 1930-70s. The first in this compilation, Bitter End, starts out with contaminated liver pate and continues with the search for a murderer. Following after that is Frame-Up For Murder where Archie is entreated by a beautiful young woman to help her brother save his fashion business only for the waters to be muddied by an ill-timed death. It closes with Assault on a Brownstone which is singular as Wolfe's sanctuary is beset with Treasury officials and Archie meets someone who gets the jump on him. It's a quick, fun read and if you love mysteries it will whet your appetite for longer works from Stout. You won't regret it, I promise.

**If you're interested in a books like the ones I've reviewed here, you can click here. This will re-direct you to AbeBooks. This is one of my favorite websites for purchasing used books. Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following this link. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

September 18, 2015

Children's Classics (and their movie adaptations) Part One

Longtime readers of the blog may have picked up on the fact that I absolutely adore classic literature. I'm a big fan of Dickens and Austen especially. However, there are a lot of children's classics which I haven't really touched upon here and since I have a hankering to read them...HERE WE GO!

The first one on the list is Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. Now this is a book which I first read back in middle school and I do believe I reread at least twice since then. I picked up a used hardcover copy a few years back at one of my local libraries for $0.25 (it's gorgeous and I love it) but until this past week I haven't stopped to reread this delightful little tome. The story centers on the March family which consists of Marmee (Mother), Father (away at the war at the beginning), Meg (eldest), Jo, Beth, and Amy (youngest). Each of the characters has a distinct (and at times rather exaggerated) personality. From the outset, it is clear that the reader is meant to favor Jo. Her character is the most fleshed out and tangible. She is outspoken and her biggest regret is that they weren't all born as boys. They are a close knit family group that is rounded out by their housekeeper and their neighbors next door who consist of a boy Jo's age and his grandfather. The story runs from their childhood into their adulthood and covers everything from petty sibling arguments to childbirth to death. Louisa May Alcott continued the series with Little Men and Jo's Boys which are excellent reads but not as great as Little Women in my opinion. The book was adapted to film in 1995 and included such actors as Winona Ryder, Claire Danes, Kirsten Dunst, Susan Sarandon, and Christian Bale. The script stayed pretty close to the storyline of the book but I found the casting of some of the characters to be a bit off. For example, I think that the girl who played Meg would have done better as Beth and Christian Bale was not AT ALL what I pictured as Laurie. Otherwise, it was alright but if I had seen it first I don't think I would have been inspired to read the novel that it was adapted from.

Moving on from there, I finally read The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I want to start with the film review for this one because it's truly in my top 5 favorite films of all time. The movie came out in 1993 and is the reason why I have wanted to ramble across the Yorkshire moors (which I finally did this summer!). The script includes lines which are directly lifted from the novel and is almost entirely faithful to the storyline. It is absolutely fantastic and I highly recommend it. Now for the book! It features a little girl named Mary Lennox who is orphaned and sent to live with an uncle who she has never met named Archibald Craven. Mary's childhood up until this point has been rather lonesome, grim, and without affection. As a result, she is a morose and not at all agreeable child. The house is large, foreboding, and empty apart from the servants as Mr. Craven frequently travels. They're situated out on the Yorkshire moors which to the little girl appears barren and desolate. At first, you think that Mary's life has not improved one iota...and then she starts exploring the gardens. She learns that there is a garden that is hidden and which no one has been inside for 10 years since Mrs. Craven died. Through seemingly magical circumstances, she locates the key and finds her way inside only to discover that the garden is not entirely dead. She enlists the help of a boy that lives on the moors named Dickon who tames animals and over time helps to tame her as well. They decide they are going to bring the garden back to life. This isn't the only mystery of the novel either...and I'm not going to tell you anymore because you need to read it and then watch the film. GO, GO, GO!


September 11, 2015

Exercising Positivity

I just figured out that Levana is the Evil Queen and Winter is Snow White. *mind blown* Now I have no idea if you guys have or have not already reached this conclusion and so I don't know if this is a spoiler...hold on I'm going to see if this is a well-known fact or not..okay it doesn't seem like it's totally a spoiler but it makes sense if you read the title of the book (Fairest just in case you've forgotten) and remember the saying that the Evil Queen would say when looking into her enchanted mirror. The real point I was trying to make is that I completely forgot that these were fairytales with a twist and then when it hit me I was truly shocked. Also, I'm obsessed with this series and so to discover that Winter isn't technically the last book (she's written a short story compilation called Stars Above full of secrets!) made me quite happy. I know there are some of you that aren't really into young adult lit and I totally get that. It's not for everyone and honestly I don't like all of the genres myself. However, when there's relatable characters with interesting storylines in a world that is fascinating you're bound to enjoy it. In this story, you find out just what Levana looks like without her glamour and why she's seemingly without feelings. There are moments of fleeting happiness in the previous books in this series and if you're looking for that here you're going to be disappointed. That shouldn't stop you from reading it though because there's a lot of backstory that I have a feeling will definitely play a part in Winter (why isn't it out yet?!).

And then there was the reason I titled this post "Exercising Positivity". I just finished reading Louise Pentland's Life With A Sprinkle of Glitter. If you're not hugely into YouTube or lifestyle/beauty blogging then you probably have no idea who Louise is. Her online identity is (aptly named) Sprinkleofglitter and she's great. Her book is exactly like her. It's a collection of silly, sweet, heartwarming, British-y goodness. I bought my copy when I visited the United Kingdom a few weeks ago because they have it in hardcover and it is GORGEOUS. There are chapters on everything from body positivity to crafts to practicing kindness. It's definitely a feel good book that I can see myself picking up and perusing when I'm feeling a bit low (or when I want to make a sweet treat for a social gathering). It's a quick read and Louise's brand of humor is really up my street (if you don't like it when someone laughs at their own jokes you might want to stay away). Did I mention that it's a really gorgeous book? I'm talking full-color layouts on every single page, people.

September 4, 2015

Remembering 16

Firstly, The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Short Stories was written while Susanna Clarke was still working on Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell which I just found out took her 10 years to complete...so I guess I won't hold my breath on her next novel. Secondly, this was a great short story compilation, ya'll. This was especially great if you are thinking of reading Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell but you're not sure if you want to commit yourself to such an epic length book. This will definitely give you a taste of her narrative style as well as the world that she has created (Faerie! Also other places!). Honestly, I can't say enough good things about this author. I am super excited to see what else she comes up with but as I said a few sentences ago she does like to take her time (and she's also been ill so don't be too hard on her). Go check this book out!

Now onto why I titled this post 'Remembering 16': To Hear the Ocean Sigh by Bryant A. Loney (who is only 18!). I was sent a copy of the book by the publisher, Verona Booksellers, a few months ago and I've just finished reading it. This is the story of an 'every man' named Jay Murchison who is just trying to get through his sophomore year of high school (and become popular in the process). There's typical teenage angst about what it means to be 'popular' but embedded within that is the question of what it means to be authentic to oneself. I found the book to be at times poignant (the reason behind the title kinda blew my mind a little bit) and pedantic (I don't need to know every single move that Jay makes throughout his day especially when it's a mundane everyday activity). If you're a fan of John Green style young adult novels you'll most likely enjoy this one.

Sticking to the young adult theme, I'm about to be caught up with the Lunar Chronicles series because I've just picked up Fairest: Levana's Story. Each of the previous books in the series focused on different characters from fairytales with a twist. This one is all about the villain of the series, Levana. I'm excited to learn the backstory of the one character that so far has seemed pretty one-sided. On with the reading!