Monday, October 29, 2012

My review of Grave Mercy featured on Bookshop Talk

Bookshop Talk, a fantastic blog run by Jessica Day George, Amy Finnegan, and Kim Thacker, features reviews that people send in of their favorite books.

Today, they posted my review of Grave Mercy, one of my favorite reads of the year. You can read the review here, or use the link below. (Two reviews in a row - it's so exciting!)

Check it out! Links lead to my reviews on Bookshop Talk.

Cover Crazy: Handbook for Dragon Slayers

Cover Crazy is a weekly meme hosted by The Book Worms on Mondays. The idea is to showcase a beautiful book cover each week.

This week, I'm crazy about...
Handbook for Dragon Slayers, by Merrie Haskell

I love the colors and the illustration style in this cover. It's detailed, but not cluttered or distracting. I would say more, but I'd just be repeating myself. I would definitely pick this cover off a bookstore shelf, and plan to do so when it comes out!

Want to know more about Handbook for Dragon Slayers?
This doesn't have an official description yet, but I am hoping it's a combination of:
That by itself is enough to make me excited. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

My review of The Hero's Guide To Saving Your Kingdom Featured on Bookshop Talk

Bookshop Talk, a fantastic blog run by Jessica Day George, Amy Finnegan, and Kim Thacker, features reviews that people send in of their favorite books.

Yesterday, they posted my review of The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom, a MG read that I absolutely loved. You can read the review here, or use the link below.

Check it out! Links lead to my reviews on Bookshop Talk.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Fairy Tale Readathon Wrap-Up


All in all, I finished six novels in the six days of the readathon, which was exactly my target.

I also read Rapunzel's Revenge and Calamity Jack as an extra treat at the very end of the readathon. I love these books and it was the perfect end to the readathon.

I didn't end up reading any more of my Tales from Grimm and Andersen book, which I had kind of expected but hoped I'd be wrong about. I think it's time to put it away for now. I read most of it, and I have been working through the stories since last August. I'm willing to say I got through it.

I also did not read The Near Witch, because I chose to read In a Glass Grimmly instead, since it was based on fairy tales rather than just having a fairy tale-esque feel.

Additionally, I wrote a discussion post on Fairy Tales and Disney, about how the Disney versions of classic fairy tale characters are now many people's only versions of those characters.

I didn't keep track of the hours I spent reading, but I read a total of 2,106 pages. The shortest books were Rapunzel's Revenge and Calamity Jack, each 144 pages. The shortest novel-length book was In A Glass Grimmly, at 252 pages, and the longest was Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow, at 336 pages.

I tried to comment on the blogs of everyone else participating in the readathon,  to cheer them on, but even if I missed your blog (whoops), Congratulations!

Happy reading to everyone,

Monday, October 22, 2012

Discussion: Fairy Tales and Disney

Cinderella. Snow White. Sleeping Beauty. The Little Mermaid. Beauty and the Beast.

Yes, these are the titles of some of the most well-known and most beloved fairy tales, but reading these names, most people's minds will skip over the original stories to land firmly on the images of the Disney Princesses.

Now, I must disclaim: I love Disney movies, especially the classic animated Disney. I could gush for hours about the old animations, the music, the stories, and how they have shaped American culture since Snow White was released in 1937. However, I feel that in the case of fairy tales, Disney has become too ingrained in our minds.

Even non-princess tales have been affected by Disneyification. Say "Robin Hood" to many young adults, and they will think of the cheerful animated fox from their childhoods. Say "Peter Pan" and everyone will think of the green-capped, orange-haired boy from the movie. Same with, Pinocchio, Alice in Wonderland, and The Jungle Book. However much I love the animated renditions of these stories, there is another - original - version that seems to so often get forgotten.

Another side effect of Disneyification is that the Disney version of the character seems to be the standard version of the character. Dressing up as Snow White? Where are the puff sleeves and yellow skirt? Doodling the Little Mermaid? Red hair, purple shell-bra, and green tail are absolute musts. Even Alice in Wonderland is never seen without her standard blue dress and white apron (although in that case I know that the original illustrations are a heavy influence as well).

That is why I love those tales that have not yet been transformed by Disney. I can’t get enough of The Goose Girl, East of the Sun, West of the Moon, The Twelve Dancing Princesses, Rumplestilskin, and so many others. They don’t have set character images in my – and everyone else’s – minds.

It is my hope that someday “Beauty and the Beast” can call to mind Robin McKinley’s Beauty as well as Disney’s Belle. I wish that people will be able to think of Shannon Hale’s Rapunzel’s Revenge as well as Disney’s Tangled. And it would be my dream come true if people would acknowledge the original fairy tales when they begin humming Someday My Prince Will Come or Part of Your World. Although with all the wonderful times that Disney movies have given us, I suppose I can’t complain.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Fairy Tale Readathon Updates


DAY ONE (October 17)

Beginning the readathon: Tonight (night of Oct 16-17), I am starting Sisters Red. I don't really want to stay up late tonight to finish it, since I have to be awake for the rest of the week, but I am going to try to make a dent. I expect my best reading days will be Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

4pm: I just finished Sisters Red, which was a great read and a perfect start to this readathon. I am very excited to read Sweetly, but next I am going to start on an old favorite - Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow. I loved Sun and Moon last time I read it (links to my review from way back in 2010), and I am looking forward to diving back into this beautiful retelling.

Later: I just finished Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow in the wee hours of the night tonight (and I am falling asleep as write this). It was lovely and beautiful, just as I had remembered. Tomorrow I won't have much time for reading, but I am going to begin A Tale Dark and Grimm and see how far I get. Dark and Grimm is one of the shorter books I'm reading this week, so I might be able to finish it in one night, but if not, I will at least have begun it. I know very little about Dark and Grimm, other than it's a retelling and in a narrative style I think I will love.

DAY TWO (October 18)

Today was a great day, but I got literally zero reading done. I was at school from 8am until 9:30pm, and when I got home, I had enough energy to eat dinner, do my homework, write this update, and fall into bed. Tomorrow I will have more time to read.

Well, maybe I can read just one chapter... or three.

DAY THREE (October 19)

I finished A Tale Dark and Grimm, which was great, but it was also a surprisingly packed evening, with very little time for reading. Tomorrow I will try to save more time for this readathon. However, despite the fact that the last two nights I haven't had much time to read, I am really enjoying this readathon. I can't wait for the next three days.

DAY FOUR (October 20)

I spent today not reading much - yet again. I finished the first half of Sweetly, but put it aside to hang out with my brother. What can I say? Family trumps even readathoning.

DAY FIVE (October 21)

Today I finally got back into the reading mood and not only finished Sweetly (which was excellent) but also started In A Glass Grimmly, which wasn't on my original readathon TBR, but when I finished A Tale Dark and Grimm, I had to run out and immediately buy the next volume.

Tomorrow is the last day of the readathon! Good luck, everyone!

DAY SIX (October 22)

I finished In A Glass Grimmly late last night, and I really liked it. I enjoyed the narrator's comments even more in the second book, although I preferred the story of A Tale Dark and Grimm. Today I would like to begin the Sisters Grimm books I have set aside. I don't know if I will have time to finish even the first book, since I won't be able to stay up all night (or at least, I shouldn't stay up all night). Nevertheless, I am excited to race to the finish line.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Friday Face-Off: On the Ground

Friday Face-Off is a weekly feature hosted by Misty at The Book Rat

This week's FFO features two covers showing girls lying on the surrounded by vegetation:  Cursed, by Jennifer L. Armentrout, and The Goddess Inheritance, by Aimee Carter.

Both covers are beautiful, but I find myself leaning toward The Goddess Inheritance more than Cursed. I think it's the green eyeshadow on the Cursed cover that turns me off. I do really like the bright green in the leaves and the way her hair and her jacket complement each other. I've already discussed my thoughts on The Goddess Inheritance cover in my Cover Crazy. (I don't mean to feature this series so much. It's just a coincidence.)

But now it's your turn to choose...
Which cover did it better?

Leave your thoughts in the comments!

On last week's FFO: The cover for Venom won against it's masked competitor, Remembrance. And excitingly, Venom's author, Fiona Paul, stopped by to comment! Natasha wins the prize for being the one voter on this FFO. Thanks, Natasha.

As usual, you are still welcome to comment with your thoughts on old FFOs, and I will update this page accordingly.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Review: Kat, Incorrigible

By Stephanie Burgis
Series: The Unladylike Adventures of Kat Stephenson #1
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published April 5th 2011 by Atheneum
Age Recommendation: Middle Grade

Summary (from Goodreads):
Katherine Ann Stephenson has just discovered that she's inherited her mother's magical talents, and despite Stepmama's stern objections, she's determined to learn how to use them. But with her eldest sister Elissa's intended fiancé, the sinister Sir Neville, showing a dangerous interest in Kat's magical potential; her other sister, Angeline, wreaking romantic havoc with her own witchcraft; and a highwayman lurking in the forest, even Kat's reckless heroism will be tested to the upmost. If she can learn to control her new powers, will Kat be able to rescue her family and win her sisters their true love?

Kat, Incorrigible was a delightful middle grade adventure that both follows the tropes of and slyly pokes fun at your average Regency-era historical fantasy. The plot was light and fun, but what really made Kat, Incorrigible special was Kat herself. She is the most fun and spunkiest of heroines, and a joy to read about.

From the very first page, I knew that I would like Kat. Little did I know how much I would like all of the other characters too. When I started reading, I got Angeline and Elissa a little confused, but it was soon sorted out because of their distinct and enjoyable characters. Both were wonderful, but the other characters were almost as fun. From poor besotted Fredrick Carlyle to the formidable Lady Fotherington.

The pace is even, quick enough to keep a middle-grade reader's attention easily, but not rushed and certainly not lacking in character depth or plot details. Every scene brought up some fresh situation for Kat to wriggle into (however unintentionally).

The magical elements were not fully explained, but they fit into the world unobtrusively. I hope that the magical aspect of Kat's world is expanded in the second book, but I was perfectly happy with what I got in this volume.

Overall Thoughts: Kat, Incorrigible was lots of fun. I found myself reaching for the book even when I should have been thinking about other things. I would definitely recommend this to any middle grade girl looking for a spunky heroine and a good time.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Fairy Tale Readathon


For the next week, I will be participating in the Fairy Tale Readathon hosted by Debz Bookshelf. I am really excited and I have a whole bunch of books I want to read. My list is a little bit ambitious, but that is the fun of readathons. My TBR for this readathon is:

  1. Sisters Red, by Jackson Pearce
  2. Sweetly, by Jackson Pearce
  3. Sisters Grimm (series), by Michael Buckley
  4. Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow, by Jessica Day George
  5. The Near Witch, by Victoria Schwab
  6. A Tale Dark and Grimm, by Adam Gidwitz

Also, I have been slowly making my way through my copy of Tales from Grimm and Andersen for a little more than a year. I want to make a lot of progress in that book as well during this readathon. I can't wait to begin!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Cover Crazy: The Elite

Cover Crazy is a weekly meme hosted by The Book Worms on Mondays. The idea is to showcase a beautiful book cover each week.

This week, I'm crazy about...
The Elite, by Kiera Cass

Am I so very predictable, cover design department of Harper Teen? Apparently so.

We need some more illustrated covers coming out, people! But for now, I am actually enjoying the continuing pretty-dress trend.

Read my review of The Selection!

I don't know if I want to spend my money on this fluff, but I did like The Selection well enough and I actually like the covers for this series a lot more than I should.

Want to know more about The Elite?
Thirty-five girls came to the palace to compete in the Selection. All but six have been sent home. And only one will get to marry Prince Maxon and be crowned princess of Illea.

America still isn’t sure where her heart lies. When she’s with Maxon, she’s swept up in their new and breathless romance, and can’t dream of being with anyone else. But whenever she sees Aspen standing guard around the palace, and is overcome with memories of the life they planned to share. With the group narrowed down to the Elite, the other girls are even more determined to win Maxon over—and time is running out for America to decide.

Just when America is sure she’s made her choice, a devastating loss makes her question everything again. And while she’s struggling to imagine her future, the violent rebels that are determined to overthrow the monarchy are growing stronger and their plans could destroy her chance at any kind of happy ending.

(Look at all that fluffy nonsense. It's so dramatic that it's ridiculous. I can't wait.)

Friday, October 12, 2012

Friday Face-Off: Masked

Friday Face-Off is a weekly feature hosted by Misty at The Book Rat

This week's FFO compares two masked women looking back at the reader: Remembrance, by Michelle Madow, and Venom, by Fiona Paul.

I prefer the cover for Venom because it looks more professionally done and the colors work really well together. I also like that the mask and the text match because they both use the same swirly pattern. The cover for Remembrance looks much more photoshopped, and the background and lighting don't really seem to fit together.

But now it's your turn to choose...
Which cover did it better?

Leave your thoughts in the comments!

On last week's FFO: The Alchemy of Forever won against Counting Backwards, with one vote (yet again). Thanks to M.A.D. for the one vote of the week.

[EDIT: The vote is now tied between the two covers, with each receiving one vote.]

As usual, you are still welcome to comment with your thoughts on old FFOs, and I will update this page accordingly.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

DNF Review: The Kill Order

by James Dashner
Series: The Maze Runner 0.5
Hardcover, 327 pages
Published August 14th 2012 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Age Recommendation: Young Adult

Summary (from Goodreads):
Before WICKED was formed, before the Glade was built, before Thomas entered the Maze, sun flares hit the earth and mankind fell to disease.

Mark and Trina were there when it happened, and they survived. But surviving the sun flares was easy compared to what came next. Now a disease of rage and lunacy races across the eastern United States, and there’s something suspicious about its origin. Worse yet, it’s mutating, and all evidence suggests that it will bring humanity to its knees.

Mark and Trina are convinced there’s a way to save those left living from descending into madness. And they’re determined to find it—if they can stay alive. Because in this new, devastated world, every life has a price. And to some, you’re worth more dead than alive.

I went into The Kill Order expecting to love it. I let my brother pick it up first (I was in the middle of a few other books at the time) and he really enjoyed it. I dove into the first couple of chapters, and, although I liked what I was reading, I had to put it down. And then I didn't feel like picking it back up. At first, I thought it was too much despair and dystopia to read The Kill Order and Insurgent at the same time (which I was), but once I finished Insurgent, I still hesitated to pick it up every night. I found myself turning to audiobooks or choosing to read only a chapter or two in a sitting. I eventually came to realize that even by itself, there was just too much doom and death and not nearly enough hope to keep me reading. I kept at it for about two weeks nevertheless, but even after that extraordinary amount of time for a book only 327 pages long, I only managed to make it a little past halfway.

Now that I'm looking back, I kind of don't get why I didn't like it. I loved the Maze Runner trilogy, even the crazy world-is-falling-apart Death Cure ("so mindblowing that I couldn't get my thoughts together enough to write a coherent review"). I just couldn't connect to the characters and get myself to care. Even at halfway it seemed pretty obvious that everyone was going to die and the world was going fall apart even more than it already had. And if that was all, why was I bothering to struggle thorough it? The story seemed so hopeless. There was no redeeming glimmer of light for me to cling onto and cheer the characters toward.

BUT if you think you would like The Kill Order, do not let this review dissuade you from reading it! As I said, my brother (who, it should be noted, was far less excited than I) loved it, and I am sure that in a different frame of mind, I would have liked it just as much. For now, however, I will reluctantly put The Kill Order aside.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Mini-Review: Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales

 by Nathan Hale
Series: Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales
Hardcover, 128 pages
Published August 1st 2012 by Harry N. Abrams
Age Recommendation: Late Elementary, Middle Grade

Summary (from Goodreads):
Nathan Hale, the author’s historical namesake, was America’s first spy, a Revolutionary War hero who famously said “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country” before being hanged by the British. In the Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales series, author Nathan Hale channels his namesake to present history’s roughest, toughest, and craziest stories in the graphic novel format.

One Dead Spy tackles the story of Hale himself, who was an officer and spy for the American rebels during the Revolutionary War. Author Hale highlights the unusual, gruesome, and just plain unbelievable truth of historical Nathan Hale—from his early unlucky days at Yale to his later unlucky days as an officer—and America during the Revolutionary War.

Since the release of Rapunzel's Revenge back in 2008, I have been a steadfast follower of illustrator Nathan Hale's blog, Space Station Nathan. When I heard he was writing a new historical graphic novel series inspired by his webcomic about Lewis and Clark (and the Bottle of Thunder!), I put it on my auto-buy list. When they came out, my brother and I got both books and spent the evening with them in our hands, swapping books when we had both finished the ones we were reading. Although we were both significantly out of the intended age range, we loved them.

Reading these books are a delightful way to spend an afternoon, whether you are learning about the events for the first time or have already taken more history classes than you care to count.

They present the historical material in a very digestible and entertaining way, and include a surprising amount of detail. There are also fantastic illustrations in the cartoon-y style shown on the two covers. The dialogue is informal with plenty of asides and jokes to break up the history. (Swedish swearing! Anacondas!)

Overall Thoughts: These books will easily keep kids interested, and I will happily pass along copies to my younger friends and cousins, as well as keeping copies for myself (to reread and reread and reread). Overall, a huge success from Nathan Hale. I can't wait for the next installments.


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