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! :-)


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


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.


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. 
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.


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 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 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.



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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 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.