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Monday, January 31, 2011

CLOSED Monday Blues Buster: CSN Stores GIVEAWAY!

Alright, kittens, I know some of you are disappointed that you didn't win anything this weekend in the Winter Wonderland event.  But you know there's always something new and shiny around the corner here at Book Rat, and this fine Monday morning is no exception.  You all know by now that I am a big fan of CSN stores because they have great prices and an insane selection on everything from kitchen canisters to laptop messenger bags.  (<--- which I almost bought last time I was on.  Got a laptop sleeve instead.  It's purty...)

Ogio - 10906.441 - Messenger Neoprene Laptop Sleeve in Twigsnberries

Isn't it great?  Anywhoodle, now it's your turn to get something great from CSN stores!  1 lucky winner will receive a $65 gift certificate to use in any of CSNs 200+ online stores!  It's kind of incredible.  But be prepared to lose a few hours browsing, because you will feel the need to click on everything.  Fair warning...

So, to enter, just leave a comment with your email address.  +1 extra entry for leaving me a link to one of the products you particularly like  (this doesn't mean you have to buy it; I just want to see what all you guys are checking out!  Gotta expand my wishlist somehow... ;p )
Must be a follower
Ends 2/13

ps. "anywhoodle" is going to be my new favorite word.  It just came out, and it feels...right.  It feels right, kittens.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Coming Attractions: Fairy Tale Fortnight + Answers and Winnahs!

Wordle: FTF
You may have noticed a few fairy tale elements slip-sliding their way into our winter festivities.  What can I say, these fairy tale tidbits are just so eager to share themselves with you that a few slipped through...

I think that little smattering of fairy dust goes rather nicely with the glitter of the ice and snow, don't you?

Polish up your glass slippers and fluff up your ball gowns, because you definitely want to make it to this party.  Ashley and I have all kinds of good stuff cooking up for you, from author appearances to fab guest posts, tons of reviews and maybe a giveaway or two...  ;p

To be a part of Fairy Tale Fortnight with a guest post or giveaway, or just to weigh in and possible be quoted during the event, check out this form. =D

I want to thank you all for stopping by during Winter Wonderland!  It's been a fun (if hectic) weekend, and I loved sharing some wintery goodness with you!  I want to give a BIG THANKS to everyone who participated by filling out the questionnaire or voicing their opinions in the comments.

Also, HUGE THANKS to Elie for her giveaway, Mrs DeRaps for her giveaway, kjovus for his guest post (his first gp ever!), and Jessica Day George for her amazing post on writing Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow!
Thanks, guys!

For those of you who were wondering, here are the answers to the Cover Game:
  1. Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater
  2. Heart's Blood by Julier Marillier
  3. The Girl with Glass Feet by 
  4. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
  5. Let it Snow by John Green, Lauren Myracle and Maureen Johnson
  6. The Golden Compass by Phillip Pullman
  7. Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by Jessica Day George
  8. Wintersmith by Terry Pratchett
  9. Singer by Jean Thesman (I was amazed how many of you got this!)
  10. Ice by Sarah Beth Durst
Here's what they look like in full view:

Fun, fun!

Now on to the bit you really want to hear: the winnahs!

The winner of Elie's giveaway for a signed copy of The Snowball Effect is...
(I swear, you are the luckiest person.  Random.org lurves you)

The winner of Mrs. DeRaps giveaway for a signed copy of Trapped is...
(quite lucky, as there were a LOT of entries in this, considering it was only up for less than 2 days...)

The winner of my Winter Warm-up Cover Game giveaway is...
(You're getting Let It Snow - you guessed correctly! - and a little extra surprise, too!)

Congrats everyone!!!
And thanks again for participating.

I want to leave you with one last quote from this weekend.  It comes from Ashley, who perfectly stated my favorite thing about winter:

"My favorite thing about winter is the feeling. It's hard to explain, but there is something really special about standing out in the snow, while it's snowing. Especially those really big flakes you can catch on your tongue that fall softly but thickly. And, if it happens to be a beautiful, crisp night with the stars popping out... Wonderful. Love it! :)"

*all winners selected using Random.org.  Congrats, everyone!

Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman

Odd and the Frost Giants
by Neil Gaiman

from Goodreads:
After the death of his father, Odd's life has been stuck in a downward spiral. However, his luck begins to change after he frees a trapped bear in the woods. Discovering that the bear is actually a Norse god, twelve-year-old Odd embarks on a perilous quest to save the other gods from evil frost giants.

First  off, I have to thank my Goodreads buddy, Bill, who sent this to me when he saw it was on my wishlist.  Thanks, Bill!

Odd and the Frost Giants was a weird one for me.  Sometimes there are those books that you really enjoy reading as an adult, and wish you could have read when you were a kid because you would have loved it even more.  And sometimes there are those books that you were just kind of meh about as an adult, but have a sneaking suspicion you would have loved it as a kid.  Odd and the Frost Giants was the latter for me.  I liked it well enough, and thought it was cute, but the little spark I saw in it never really caught.  At the same time, though, there were multiple times when I was reading (and this is a very short, quick read) that I thought "I would have loved this as a kid."  But the kid magic just didn't translate as an adult.

I think there were 2 reasons it would have been a favorite as a child: 1 - it centers around mythological characters.  I loved mythology as a kid, but was kind of starved for it.  There weren't any cool retellings or books based on gods when I was a kid (Where were you, Percy Jackson?  Where were you?).  The tiny Joseph Campbell in me would have eaten this up.

The 2nd reason, though, is one I think is more universally relatable: the style was just too simple.  When you're a kid, you're imagination is so crazy and ready to go that you can create an entire world out of the meagerest of ingredients.  There have been countless times that I've remembered a book or a movie or an event as larger than life, so epic and memorable and insanely complete, only to revisit it as an adult and realize that it's really pretty simple and plain.  Like going back to your huge school with the massive desks and endless staircases, only to see that it's all practically miniature-sized.

That puts me in a weird spot writing this review.  It's not that the book is poorly written, or that Gaiman didn't flesh it out as he should have.  What he gave is completely appropriate for the audience, and the proper audience, I think, would appreciate it and love it.  But I'm no longer the myth-starved 9 year old who would love this book, and unfortunately (for me) it left me wanting...but knowing all the while that in the right setting, at the right time, this would have taken over my imagination completely.

So is this a really weird recommendation for a book, or do you get it?  I do think people should read it, but more than that, I think people should give it to any kid that it would remotely appeal to: myth/history/adventure buffs, fairy tale and underdog story enthusiasts, reluctant readers and boys especially -- I think this book could be a really good fit for so many kids, and I wish I  could have been a kid when I read it.

Here's my "ice world" excerpt of Odd and the Frost Giants.

Beat the Freeze: Freeze

Beat the Freeze, Tip 3: Freeze.

Just embrace it already.  Winter's not going anywhere before it's good and ready, and we all know that.  No matter how much you cry and whine and bust your ass on the slippery sidewalk, it's here to stay.  So you know what they say: when in Rome...

I mean, think about all the good stuff.  Fires. Rib-sticking comfort food and warm drinks. Forts and snowball fights.  Snow days.

Everybody loves snow days.  Kristen and Velvet use them as an excuse to use their fireplaces; Mrs DeRaps says: "My all-time favorite aspect of winter is the occasional snow day! It is so thrilling to wake up (or be woken up with a phone call) to hear that school has been called off. I usually act like a big kid on these days--playing in the snow and drinking hot chocolate. It's so fun. "

And then there's the snow itself.  Liz likes "how white and pristine the snow is before it gets dirty."  Kjovus looks forward to "fresh fallen snow, perfect for snow angels. The grey clouds and white ground. Crystal trees. My very fave thing. I love to shovel snow at 4 or 5 in the morning when there is no tracks anywher, long before the snow plows have driven by and the snow is falling. It is quiet and peaceful."  He also likes the opportunity to "play games, READ WAY MORE THAN I DO IN THE SUMMER --and  my wife likes to bake in the winter - keeps her hands busy."

And lastly, I think Momo nailed it when she said she likes the  "the nostalgic feeling of last winter; every year when winter rolls around, there's always the feel of last winter that comes back to me in whiffs and I find myself missing last winter and hoping this winter will be the same."

Can it get anymore peaceful and idyllic than that?

I suggest:
Embracing it:

  • A big stack of your best comfort food and slow cooker recipes
  • a large selection of your favorite warm drinks: coffee, cocoa, tea, hot cider, toddies...
  • mittens, scarves, fuzzy-lined books, skis, snowboards, sleds, cute pea coats -- all the accoutrements of winter
  • a stack of your all-time favorite books (see suggestions)
  • a pile of board games
  • family and friends
Poison Study (Study, #1)number9dreamThe Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time Sunshine
The Name of the Wind (Kingkiller Chronicle, #1)KindredI Capture the Castle (Vintage Classics)Daughter of the Forest  (The Sevenwaters Trilogy, #1)
The Knife of Never Letting Go (Chaos Walking, #1)Wildwood Dancing (Wildwood, #1)Sun and Moon, Ice and SnowEmma, Volume 1
Pride and PrejudicePersuasionPreying For Mercy (Mercedes Thompson, #1-3)Alanna: The First Adventure (Song of the Lioness, #1)

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

Shiver (The Wolves of Mercy Falls, #1)
by Maggie Stiefvater

from Goodreads:
the cold.
Grace has spent years watching the wolves in the woods behind her house. One yellow-eyed wolf—her wolf—watches back. He feels deeply familiar to her, but she doesn't know why.
the heat.
Sam has lived two lives. As a wolf, he keeps the silent company of the girl he loves. And then, for a short time each year, he is human, never daring to talk to Grace...until now.
the shiver.
For Grace and Sam, love has always been kept at a distance. But once it's spoken, it cannot be denied. Sam must fight to stay human—and Grace must fight to keep him—even if it means taking on the scars of the past, the fragility of the present, and the impossibility of the future.

This came out shortly after I joined the blogging world, so naturally I first saw it on someone's blog.  I fell. in. love. with the cover, and thought the premise sounded pretty interesting, and it became one of those I-need-this-now books.  When it came in for me a week early at the library, I proudly waved it in my the faces of my bookclub members, none of whom had heard of it (yet), but all of whom wanted it (this was the genesis of my bookclub nickname, "book whore" -- which was texted so much that my phone began to recognize whore as the natural follow-up to the word book, and would suggest it.  Did you mean  book whore?  Thank you, phone.)

I read it pretty eagerly (ooh, so pretty!  Oh, look, the font is blue!  Isn't that just ingenius?), but my excitement started to fizzle pretty quickly.  Now, I didn't count it a total loss like some people I know, but it certainly didn't live up, shall we say, and there were really only 2 big reasons:
1.) Why?
2.) The characters.

In the first place, I couldn't ever really get past the question of the weather turning people to wolves thing.  That's a   b i g   leap to make, so I needed something really solid and cool to back it up and make me say "Yeah, okay, I'm so there!"  That didn't really happen for me.

But bigger by far than this was the characterization.  The characters, the ones really responsible for holding the book, especially when there's such a huge question in the plotting, were really wooden for me.  I loved Sam (though some have compared him to a middle aged woman), and I was willing to set aside any inconsistencies in his life + his personality (like where's this kid who spends his life as a wolf learning German poetry?  I know, I know, he works in a bookstore, but these questions still persist).  But when it came to the rest of the characters -- even Grace, the MAIN character -- I felt they were cardboard stock characters.  There really wasn't anything dynamic about them.  They never really grew or changed, I could predict every move they made and thought they had, and they really read more like caricatures than characters.

And I'm not sure why this is.  Maggie Stiefvater's not really a bad writer.  She was able to keep me in the story and keep me going, even when I was rolling my eyes or getting really frustrated.  And I know every book doesn't have to wow you, and am not even opposed to fluff.  I like a good fluff book now and again.  But I guess for fluff to work, you have to like the characters, and think that the author liked the characters; not that she was just playing fill in the blanks.  In the end, it left me feeling a little meh.  I didn't love or hate it; I would read the second one, and even own it, but I'm not singing its praises, either.  I just wanted more care than I got.

And no, I'm not going to get off on a tangent, but WTF was with the parents?  Seriously.  Come on.

I love this stop-motion trailer, and I LOVE the music they composed for it:

Ode to the Frozen North: a guest post from Jessica Day George

~*~* guest post *~*~
~*~*~* by *~*~*~
~*~*~ Jessica Day George~*~*~

Ode to the Frozen North

I love Norway.  I love the fjords and the mountains, the sea and the forests.  I love the music, and the history, and the magnificent folk tales about trolls and princesses and clever youngest sons who go off to seek their fortune.  This is unusual because my family are indeed of sturdy Viking stock . . . directly from Copenhagen.  Yet somehow it was Norway that always appealed to me.
I had decided to be a writer when I was eleven years old, mostly to avoid becoming a bitter elementary school teacher, like Mrs. Edgeley, the bane of my fifth grade existence.  As the Norway mania descended on me in my teens, I also decided I would go to Norway, and write books set there.  But where to begin? My parents not going along with the exchange student plan, I endlessly perused guide books, histories, and novels, and decided it would be best to pre-plot the books I would one day write, and fill in the details after I had actually been there.  Perhaps, I decided after some deliberation, I would start with my favorite fairy tale of all time, East o’ the Sun, West o’ the Moon, that strange, purely Norwegian mixture of Beauty and the Beast and the Greek myth of Cupid and Psyche.  No sooner had I decided this than I stumbled upon P. J. Lynch’s magnificently illustrated version of the story, featuring an auburn-haired beauty looking for her lost love in terrifying northern lands, surrounded by gruesome trolls and wizened hags.  I found this picture book to be so wrenchingly lovely, so rich in color and detail, that I vowed that I would work doubly hard to bring the story to life with words, in hopes of coming even marginally close to Lynch’s version.
Inspired, I studied Norwegian and German fairy tales in college, and took four years of Norwegian.  I took Old Norse, and learned to translate the sagas and journals of my Viking ancestors.  I studied the history and art of Scandinavia, and saved scraps of paper and old notebooks on which I scrawled notes about this future book.  Other books that I had planned to set in Norway were cast aside.  This would be the Big One.  It would be THE Norway Book.
And then it came time to actually write it.  I was a college graduate with a minor in Scandinavian Studies.  I had a book (Dragon Slippers) being published by Bloomsbury, and the editor wanted to see what else I had.  I had written six other fantasy novels, but none of them were good enough for my editor, I decided.  It was time to write The Norway Book.
I have never been so tense.  I paced the floor in between each paragraph.  Friends, family, housekeeping and personal hygiene flew out of the window, and copious amounts of licorice of all colors were consumed.  
But it was all worth it.  I lived in that palace of ice.  I could taste it, like rotting meat beneath a thin veneer of frost.  I could feel the cool slick carvings with my hands.   I could smell the polar bear’s fur, and Rollo the wolf’s.  I heard the winter wind howling outside the window of the woodcutter’s hut, and knew what it would feel like knifing through a crack in the thin walls.  I went and cleaned my contacts, convinced that there was grit in them, when the West Wind blew the Lass as far as he could go.  I felt myself growing faint as I described the Lass being carried by the North Wind, and had to rest my head on the table next to my laptop.  I emailed my Old Norse professor some questions, and then plunged on without waiting for an answer, there was such a sense of urgency as I wrote.  I had to get the story out, had to get it right on the first try or . . .
What?  I don’t know.  Perhaps the trolls would have come and taken my firstborn if I hadn’t gotten it right.  All I know was that I wrote faster and faster, moved by the power of all my years of preparation, until at last my tale was ended, and I flopped in my chair like a damp rag.  I sent it to my editor, she suggested some changes, some of which I took, most of them small, things that had nagged at me as well.  But to other, bigger changes, I simply said,
This is my Norway Book.  It begins in the dark and the cold, travels the world around, and comes home to golden sunshine.  It’s as old as the hills, as new as I could make it, and it is finished.  
At last.

Jessica Day George is the author of a number of middle grade and YA books, including Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow, one of my all-time favorite fairy tale retellings.

She has graciously agreed to be a part of the upcoming Fairy Tale Fortnight event, where I will be discussing 2 of her other books, Princess of the Midnight Ball and Princess of Glass.
I'm going to be interviewing Jessica, so if you have any questions for her, please leave them in the comments.
And make sure you check back during Fairy Tale Fortnight for all the great goings-on [spoiler: there will be a JDG giveaway!]
Until then, you can catch her at http://www.jessicadaygeorge.com/
Also, make sure to check out my "ice world" excerpt of Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow!

Ice World: Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow

This ice world brought to you by Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow, by Jessica Day George:

The roar of the north wind blasted the snowdrift into a million sharp, cold diamonds, and the lass fell down and down, into a crevice of blue ice and white snow.  Rollo landed heavily atop her, knocking the breath from both their bodies.
The north wind howled down the crevice, smashing the lass against a jagged wall of ice.  She struck her head, and all went dark.

When she awoke, the lass found herself in  a snow cave sitting propped up by a chunk of ice.  A pool of water as gray as steel reflected dim light onto the roof of the cave, and a walrus was lying beside the pool only a few paces away.  It was big, and brown, and had long yellow tusks....
The lass realized that she was covered in the white parka, and various other items of clothing had been spread over her,  She wasn't sure if Rollo or the north wind was responsible, but she was grateful all the same.  It was very, very cold.
Riding the south wind had dampened her clothes and now they were frozen stiff.  She stood up and quickly undressed, then yanked on the first things she could get her hands on.  In the end, she had a nightgown on over an outer shift, but she didn't care.  There were layers of skirts and vests over that, and then the white parka.  Besides, there was no one here to see her but Rollo and the walrus, and the walrus had not returned.
The north wind arrived before the walrus did.  A great whirl of icy particles whipped into the cave and tore at the lass's clothes and hair.  Before she could protest, it lifter her off her feet and carried her out of the cave, with Roll and her pack as well.  The wind dropped her just outside, near the water, and then pulled back.
Looking around, the lass felt her jaw fall open.  She was not on solid ground.  She was on a large sheet of ice and hard-packed snow, floating in a sea of other sheets of ice, mountains of ice, pillars of ice.  That hadn't been a little pond inside the snow cave earlier; it had been the sea coming through a hole in the floor.

Make sure to check out my review of Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow
and this awesome guest post from author Jessica Day George!

Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by Jessica Day George (updated)

Even though I reviewed this last year, I knew I wanted to share it with you for Winter Wonderland.  It's one of those stories that captured my heart, and that I wanted to reread as soon as I was finished with it.  When I think of winter and ice, I think of this story.  But I thought this love for it kind of grew on me all stealthy-like, but when I look back at this review, I realize that's not the case.  I was a smitten kitten right from the beginning.  What really made me realize this, though, was the realization that Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow was the first vlogged teaser I'd ever done for you guys.  Hell, it was the first vlog of any kind I ever did.  And I remember now thinking as I was reading that I needed to share it with you, needed to read it to you and connect with you through it, beyond the old Teaser Tuesday format.  And here we are, nearly a year later, with vlogs making up a nice chunk of the content on BR, and it's all stemming from this one book.
Pretty impressive, I think.
But if that's not a high enough recommendation for you, let me put it like this: I think this may be one of the few "definitive" fairy tale retellings for me; one that I use as the yard stick to measure all the others against.  And most fall short by comparison...

Anywho, here is Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow:

The lass leads a lonely life.  She lives in a remote little Norwegian village that is blanketed by a strange, never-ending winter.  Her mother refused to name her, and she is largely disregarded by all but her father and her beloved eldest brother, Hans Peter, who seems to the lass to be hiding a deep pain.  But when the lass is blessed with the strange ability to be able to speak to animals, her life begins to change.  People of all kinds seek her out for help -- and then, so does an isbjorn, a massive polar bear with a trouble and a loneliness of his own.  When the isbjorn promises the lass that her family will be wealthy if she will agree to live with him in a remote castle for a year, the lass agrees and finds herself in a strange palace of green ice, waited on by even stranger servants.  But the plush surroundings mask a dark secret, and soon the lass must decide to risk everything she has ever wanted for something she never knew she could have, and embark on a fantastic and daunting journey that has the potential to change the world in which she lives in this well-wrought retelling of the tale "East of the Sun, West of the Moon".

It's hard to write about something when it's either very bad or very good, so this will be a (fairly) short review:

There is very little I didn't love about this story.

Something to understand about me: I am a tabber.  I have a crazy amount of those little post-it flags in just about every color, and as I'm reading I tab things I like or want to be able to find again.  There are no tabs in this book -- I flew through it too fast, and was too absorbed to reach for the tabs.

Jessica Day George followed her passion and chose to study Norway, and that passion shows.  She crafts a story that is layered and has depth beyond what is generally seen in a fairy tale or retelling.  The traditional elements are there: the downtrodden heroine who, it turns out, has some pluck; the rags to riches; the fantastic element; the danger and tension; the family dynamics, good and bad, and the sort of "karmic" balance -- everything works together to create one of the strongest retellings I've ever read.  George's love of Norway and fairy tales help her create a rich and believable base for a story that shines and flows beautifully.  Things are well developed and rich.  It is very visual and alive, and thoroughly enjoyable.  The romance-aspect was enjoyable and not at all creepy, which I was initially worried about.

The only drawback for me was that, compared to the rest of the story, the end felt a little rushed and underdeveloped.  It wasn't a complete bust by any means, but after so much layering and depth, I would have liked to see that followed through to the conclusion; an opportunity to pack in a bit more oomph was missed, but this should not at all keep you from picking up a copy.  Now.

The "Beauty and the Beast"-esque story that is "East of the Sun, West of the Moon" has captured many writer's pens lately, but I have trouble believing that any of the other retellings will top George's.

And here's the infamous "first vlog".  Yes, it's awful. And it doesn't sync up.  And my hair is wet in it. But it stands for some real book love, so I can't hate it.

CLOSED Winter Wonderland Giveaway: Winter Warm-up Package

Yesterday, I posted a Winter Cover Guessing Game.  Today, for the final giveaway of Winter Wonderland, 1 person will win their choice of book from that game.
The catch?  I haven't revealed the titles yet...

Here's the picture again:

Someone will win one of these books -- the choice of book is theirs.
It's up to you if you play the game or not, you don't have to play to enter.  But you DO have to tell me which book you want.  (You also get some extra goodies to help you beat the winter chill...)

  1. You've either got to be confident that you are choosing a book you know, OR
  2. You've got to just go for it, and pick a cover, 1-10, and get a surprise book!

I know it's kind of silly, but it's also kind of fun, and I like to shake things up.
To enter:
Fill out this form!
Ends TONIGHT @ 8:59 pm, eastern time (winners revealed at 9 -- hurry, hurry!!!)

IMM: January

Here's my IMM for January.
In My Mailbox is hosted by Kristi @ The Story Siren.  But you already knew that, didn't you... ;p

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Ice World: East

This ice world brought to you by

Everything about the place was sharp and biting and bright and hostile.  The snow on the ground had the texture of broken glass, brittle and sharp edged.  It had been blown bu the wind into shallow, undulating ridges that reminded me of Tuki's skin.  There were occasional formations of ice that resembled smaller versions of the pinnacles in the ice forest Malmo and I had traveled through, but these looked like actual daggers piercing up from the ground, as though they would cut you if you brushed against them.
I took of my makeshift claws and strapped on my skis.  The hard, ridged  snow was slick, and I was able to travel swiftly over it.  The ice daggers broke under my skis, though I took care to avoid the larger ones.  I headed directly north....
The journey was grueling -- the constant knifelike wind nearly drove me mad.  My senses went numb.  I moved my legs forward and kept my eyes trained on the horizon.  After seven days I got my first glimpse of the ice palace.  I first spotted it as a piercing glimmer.  The late-winter sun had just dawned for its fleeting daily visit, and sent light reflecting off the palace's sheer ice walls and slender glassy towers.
The palace lay directly north of me, and I was still a long, long distance from it, but as I slogged forward, and day followed day, I began to see how vast and splendid it truly was.  It stood so tall and shimmering on the snowy plain that it could be seen for miles and miles.  One morning, I emerged from my tent after a fitful night's sleep.  The glare of the sunlight off the palace was so intense that  I only just turned my eyes away in time to avoid doing them damage.  From then on I had to be vigilant about averting my eyes, even with my ivory goggles on.
In the cave I thought about how I was going to get inside the glittering palace.  Being fairly close, I saw how enormous it was, perhaps three times the size of the tallest church in Andalsnes.
When I had come within a quarter mile of my destination, I found a small icy cave, barely as tall as me, in the side of a hill.  I dug out the snow inside so I could get deeper into the cave.  It faced south, away from the ice palace, and I made myself a snug little camp, sheltered from the relentless wind....
I was down to my last packet of smoked seal meat.  I made a small fire, ate a little of the meat, and soon after slept, no closer to a plan than before.
I awoke to the sound of bells.

Ice Study by Maria V. Snyder

Ice Study
by Maria V. Snyder

I don't have a picture to show you of Ice Study because it's not a published hardcopy book.  But I can show you my favorite covers to the series (above).  Aren't they beeyouteefull?  So moody.   Anywho, Ice Study is an ongoing companion story to the Study series (also known as the Yelena Zaltana series), serialized by Maria V. Snyder in her newsletters.  It follows Yelena and Valek into  the bitterly cold northern country as they seek to rescue Yelena's brother, Leif, and track down the Ice Moon, a dangerous artifact that is wanted by the group who hold Yelena's brother hostage.

Because this is an ongoing story that has yet to be completed, it's hard to really review, but I can talk a little about it with you.  First, though, I have to say the Study series is one of my all-time favorites (along with nearly everyone in my bookclub -- in fact, I think it's probably unanimous), and if you haven't read it yet, I'd highly suggest you pick it up.

As for Ice Study, it's pretty much what you'd expect it to be if you've read the series.  It's not crucial to the story by any means, but it is nice if you can't get enough of Yelena (and Valek.  Ohhh, Valek.)  But if you haven't read the series, it's just going to be confusing and probably not all that impressive.  It's certainly supplementary, and not meant to be read on its own.

Though I think it does suffer from some of the things serializations like this often suffer from (like the sort of repetitiveness you get when something is serialized and the writer has to smooth out the beginnings and endings of each segment to make them stand along), I have to say that one thing Snyder is excellent for is sticking to her characters.  Within the first paragraph, you know you are back in Yelena's head, and you can rely on that.  Every time Valek slides out of the shadows or melts back into them, you can rely on him to act like and think like and be like Valek.  She knows them inside and out, and so reading Ice Study, even if it's nowhere near the "gotta have it" level of the rest of the series, is sort of like coming home.  It's not crucial to the story, but it expands Yelena's world and experiences just that little bit more, and that's nice.

And who's to say?  The story's not finished yet; it very well could turn into a "gotta have it" story...

Read it for free here.


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