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Saturday, June 30, 2012

If You Love to Re-EE-ead!

I love all of the clever, creative ways people have been getting books and reading out there. Everything from Julian Smith's "I'm reading a book!" or La Shea Delaney & Annabelle Quezada's "Bitches in Bookshops",  to the number of creative videos put out by bookshops and libraries to promote reading - I love it all.
This one was posted to Facebook by a friend of mine, and once again, I am just tickled.
So of course I had to share it with you.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Friday Face Off: Unspoken vs. The Book of Lost Things

Of course the following two covers are by no means cover twins, but I can't see Sarah Rees Brennan's Unspoken without thinking of John Connolly's The Book of Lost Things. The colors and the silhouettes, the filigree and the feel of both makes them sort of look like they could be two covers in a series, two stages in the same story. But which would you reach for on the shelves? Which makes you most curious about the story inside?
Which one did it better?

Last Week on FFO: The paperback versions and hardcover versions of both the US and UK copies for Philip Reeve's Fever Crumb went head to head, and just like the covers, the votes were all over the place. In the end, though, most of you preferred the US paperback more (even though it looks like Enclave, which I guess could be a Face Off in itself...). Most of you were also really put off by the UK covers - especially the skull...what was that?
Winnah ------>

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Coming Attraction: Paper Valentine

Ya'll, no joke, I have a serious fangirly crush on Brenna Yovanoff's writing. Like, I'm thinking about asking her writing to move in with me. We can start as friends, as roomies, and then maybe one day, something about the font will change, or just the right word will be used, and one thing will lead to another and before you know it, we'll have little half-text, half-human babies.
Her books just - they're what I want. And that's a strong statement to make for someone who only has 2 books to date (and some short stories and a bunch of well-written, awesome blog posts). But for real. Her books just satisfy* me, always.
*Does italicizing 'satisfy' make it seem dirty, given the context of everything else I said? Hmm. OH WELL. ;)

Um. But my point is, I'm suuuuuper looking forward to Paper Valentine, her next book which doesn't come out until next year. Because they're trying to kill me.  But the cover has been released, so that makes it all a little more real (yay!), and also means I can finally share my rabid need for it with you (so you can be rabid too. Rabies!)
I think it's kind of neat that this cover is sort of a combo of her first 2 book's covers - even though they're not a series. It has the moody stormy-and-gloom of The Replacement, and the intricate red/silver of The Space Between.
Check it out:
 + =

Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff
368 pages
Expected publication: January 8th 2013 by Razorbill
PAPER VALENTINE, in which a girl haunted by the troubled ghost of her best friend finds herself sucked into a darkly mesmerizing string of murders, in which a serial killer who leaves a paper-heart 'valentine' on his victims' bodies draws ever closer.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

CLOSED Giveaway: The Duff by Kody Keplinger

So, you read my review of Kody Keplinger's The Duff yesterday, and now you're thinking to yourself, Gee, I wanna read that... 
The Duff by Kody Keplinger
Contemporary, 343 pages
Published April 5th 2012 by Hodder Children's Books (first published September 7th 2010)
Seventeen-year-old Bianca Piper is cynical and loyal, and she doesn’t think she’s the prettiest of her friends by a long shot. She’s also way too smart to fall for the charms of man-slut and slimy school hottie Wesley Rush. In fact, Bianca hates him. And when he nicknames her “Duffy,” she throws her Coke in his face.

But things aren’t so great at home right now. Desperate for a distraction, Bianca ends up kissing Wesley. And likes it. Eager for escape, she throws herself into a closeted enemies-with-benefits relationship with Wesley.

Until it all goes horribly awry. It turns out that Wesley isn’t such a bad listener, and his life is pretty screwed up, too. Suddenly Bianca realizes with absolute horror that she’s falling for the guy she thought she hated more than anyone.

Thanks to the awesome people at Hachette UK, I have a copy of Kody Keplinger's The Duff to give away to one lucky winner!
Fill out the Rafflecopter form below
Since this has just recently been released in Europe, this is open to UK/Euro residents only!!
Ends July 7th!
Good luck!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Review: The Duff by Kody Keplinger

The Duff by Kody Keplinger
Amazon | Goodreads
343 pages
Published April 5th 2012 by Hodder Children's Books - UK (first published September 7th 2010, US)
Seventeen-year-old Bianca Piper is cynical and loyal, and she doesn’t think she’s the prettiest of her friends by a long shot. She’s also way too smart to fall for the charms of man-slut and slimy school hottie Wesley Rush. In fact, Bianca hates him. And when he nicknames her “Duffy,” she throws her Coke in his face.

But things aren’t so great at home right now. Desperate for a distraction, Bianca ends up kissing Wesley. And likes it. Eager for escape, she throws herself into a closeted enemies-with-benefits relationship with Wesley.

Until it all goes horribly awry. It turns out that Wesley isn’t such a bad listener, and his life is pretty screwed up, too. Suddenly Bianca realizes with absolute horror that she’s falling for the guy she thought she hated more than anyone.

This book took me by surprise. I went into it expecting to like it - it was one of the very few contemporary novels of last year that I actually actively wanted, the reviews were just that good. But even though I expected to enjoy it and get something out of it, I didn't expect for it to keep me up all night. I didn't expect for it to be the type of book that I wanted to just flip back to the beginning and start again once I'd finished. I didn't expect it to make me uncomfortable and empathetic, and cringey and butterfly-stomached.
But where to begin?

If you watched my May Rewind video, you'll know that I was a bitter bitch in high school. (And if you went to high school with me, well, you already knew that. Sorry.) Reading Bianca made me so uncomfortable because she is a bitter bitch and I could relate. She's so bitter and hurting and unsure-but-pretending-she's-fine. She's so me, she's so us, that it was hard to read at times. We're all thankful to leave high school for a reason, right? We're so ready to leave our high school emotions and our high school selves behind, and reading Bianca brought that back. Her complete shock at being called a "DUFF" (Designated Ugly Fat Friend) by Wesley, and the way it worms into her brain, on top of all of the other, normal crappy teenage stuff she has to go through, just felt so true and so achingly pitch-perfect that it made it difficult to read at times. Everything she does is a front, and you just want so badly to get at the real Bianca, the smart, sassy, potentially-confident girl woman you know is in there, underneath all of her acid-tongued bitchiness. She's sometimes downright unlikable as a narrator because of it, and maybe more so because you can relate, and that's scary.

But the beautiful thing about her is that she grows. And that godawful jackass that is Wesley grows, and before you know it, she's not such a bitter bitch, and he's not such a godawful jackass anymore. These are dynamic characters, my friends, and man, I love it when that happens. There's such a great reversal of characters, and they had such believable emotions and reactions, that I couldn't help but love this and be impressed by it. And honestly, the fact that it made me so uncomfortable (that I identified with it the way I did) says a lot about Keplinger's talent for characterization and authenticity, and I appreciate that. It also just has a great gut-feel. If you think about this, you know what I mean. There are those books that just make you physically feel something; your reaction is visceral, whether it be butterflies or tension or a pounding heart, or whatever. That type of reaction is a big deal to me (and most readers, I think).

This may be potentially... triggering, I guess, for some. Not in a serious trauma way, but Bianca's self-destructiveness (and really, Wesley's, too) may make others feel uncomfortable in a way completely different from my relating to Bitchy Bianca. The mindlessness of what Bianca does may bother some people, too, but it felt very realistic and painful to me, and 1000x accurate. And I think the way it's all presented ended up working for me, and will probably work well for most people - though those who are sexytimes-squeamish should probably pick up a different book.

But if that doesn't bother you, and you're willing to be made a bit uncomfortable, I can't think of a better book to do it; I talk about douchebags and bitches in YA and how that can be really risky, but in this case, it's not glorified. Everything's muddied and hard and feels much more real for it. And despite the fact that Bianca goes for Wesley (despite the obvious OH HELLS NO factor) and eventually falls for him, she doesn't take his shit and she doesn't lick his boots, and that makes a hell of a difference in how receptive I'll be. His douchebaggery is used to show how someone's thoughtless actions can really change your view of yourself and your confidence. And Bianca's closed-off bitchiness shows how easy it is to shelter yourself so well that you deprive yourself of anything good.  What makes it so great - and something I know I will reread - is that they both had these issues, these self-destructive tendencies, failings, etc., that made them work together. They were really good complements to each other, and without each other, they probably would have went on as they were.

Which brings me to my middle-of-the-book/night realization: this book is SO retold Pride and Prejudice. I don't remember when I realized this, and I don't know if it's been commented on before, but seriously - this is an ultra-modern, pared-down P&P. We've got the vivacious and stubborn girl, the rich, handsome, aloof and assholey guy, and then all of this glorious tension and misunderstanding, leading up to the realization that they're perfect for each other. It's a story that never gets old, that works on every level - it's my favorite story for a reason. And The Duff definitely uses that. I was so, so very pleasantly surprised by this layer, I think I actually cackle-giggled when it hit me. But the less said about that, the better...

So really, if you haven't already, and I haven't convinced you, what more can I say to get you to pick this up? It's funny. It's quick. It's dynamic. It's very modern while avoiding some of the pitfalls of contemporary. It's relatable and somehow still universal. Mostly, though, I just liked the way it made me feel. Like, physically feel. The good and the bad, the uncomfortable and the exhilarating, it's a book you feel while you read, and that's huge to me.  The biggest compliment I can pay it is that I know I will reread it, and this I will reread. Absolutely, without a doubt.

TBR Tuesday: Size 12 and Ready to Rock

TBR Tuesday: Showcasing all the books that are currently staring at you from your "Why aren't you reading me?" pile....

On my TBR
Size 12 and Ready to Rock by Meg Cabot
304 pages
Expected publication: July 10th 2012 by William Morrow Paperbacks
Summer break . . . and the livin' ain't easy

Just because the students at New York College have flown the coop doesn't mean assistant residence hall director Heather Wells can relax. Fischer Hall is busier than ever, filled with squealing thirteen- and fourteen-year-old girls attending the first ever Tania Trace Teen Rock Camp, hosted by pop sensation Tania Trace herself--who just happens to be newly married to Heather's ex-boyfriend, heartthrob Jordan Cartwright. But the real headache begins when the producer of a reality TV show starring Tania winds up dead . . . and it's clear that the star was the intended victim.

Grant Cartwright, head of Cartwright Records, wants to keep his daughter-in-law (and his highest-earning performer) alive. So he hires his oldest son, black sheep of the family and private investigator Cooper Cartwright--who just happens to be Heather's "new" fiancE. Heather should leave the detecting to Cooper. But with a dorm full of hysterical mini-divas-in-training, she can't help but get involved. And after Tania shares a really shocking secret with her, "this" reality suddenly becomes more dangerously real than anyone ever anticipated.

This is a little different from my normal TBR Tuesday. I just got this book randomly in the mail (surprise!), but I haven't read the rest of the series. I'm pretty sure I own a copy of book 1, Size 12 is Not Fat, so when I saw this, I was like, Cool, book two! 

Um, no...This is book 4. So I've been asking everyone who reads and loves Meg Cabot (I know there are many of you), if you've read this series - is it one I can jump into? The synopsis is really cute and sounds like a lot of fun, so I'd like to be able to just pick it up and go without having to go back and track down the three books prior. So, what are your thoughts on this, my bookishly awesome friends? Can I solve some mysteries with size-12 Heather whenever I should choose, or is this something that needs to be read chronologically?

Also, what's lurking in your TBR mountain this week?

Monday, June 25, 2012

Book Haul #3 in the Insane Spending Spree (Book Closeouts #2)

I hope you guys REALLY like book hauls and endless lists of books, because there are 2 more* coming (though I'm going to hold off on posting them until after my monthly TBR/Rewind stuffs). And after THAT, I think I'm finally going to (try to) tackle a BOOKSHELF TOUR!!!
That's gonna be a process...

*You know, after this initial 3...June is the #shutupandtakemymoney month, apparently...

Anywhoodle, links to all of the books below, and thanks for watching/rating subbing!!

[Time in ( ) takes you to that book in the video!]
(0:52) Shatter Me: http://amzn.to/sJ1LIf
(1:39) Sweet Venom: http://amzn.to/MQI6cw
(2:01) Illegal: http://amzn.to/LmiXCt
(2:43) Die For Me: http://amzn.to/LwwuvE
(3:13) The Faerie Ring: http://amzn.to/LMeJa2
(3:38) The Den of Shadows Quartet: http://amzn.to/KJeqPG
which includes:
- In the Forests of the Night: http://amzn.to/NtE2MC
- Shattered Mirror: http://amzn.to/LmiBf5
- Demon in My View: http://amzn.to/LMeD2g
- Midnight Predator: http://amzn.to/MN2nxP
(4:16) The Princess Curse: http://amzn.to/MN2fyA
(5:14) Warped: http://amzn.to/KJeoY3
(6:08) Prada & Prejudice: http://amzn.to/KzpsCi
(6:46) Enthusiasm: http://amzn.to/KJem2p
(7:08) I Was Jane Austen's Best Friend: http://amzn.to/MwG3rW
(7:46) The Georges and the Jewels: http://amzn.to/MwG4w0

Also Mentioned:

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Friday Face Off: Fever Crumb

Alrighty, so this is going up a day late (oops! - why don't you guys attack me on Twitter when I forget FFO?), but I'm making up for it with a dual-vote!
I was chatting with Cameron from bookmovieguy the other day on youtube for my 2nd crazy book haul of the week about the covers for Philip Reeve's Fever Crumb, and he mentioned one I hadn't seen. Of course, my FFO-sense went off, so I tracked that cover down (and another one) and thought we'd put it to a vote-like thing. Below you'll find the US hardcover and paperback, and the UK hardcover and paperback versions for Fever Crumb. Since we've got such an abundance of very different images, I thought it'd be fun to do a dual vote: vote for your favorite US and favorite UK version, and then tell me which you prefer over all. So...
Which one(s) did it better?


Last Week on FFO: The original and paperback version of the Shatter Me cover went head to head, with the paperback's abstract eye just b a r e l y managing to eke out a win. Most of you found the design appealing, but confusing, and thought the original cover probably fit the story better - though that wasn't enough to keep you from choosing the eye as a winner.
Winnah ------>

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Book Haul #2 in the WoC (Week of Crazy...)

Here is book haul #2 for the Week of Crazy (Week of Insane Spending, Week of SO MANY BOOKS - it goes by many names). The 3rd (maybe 4th) haul(s) will be up as soon as the rest of the books get here...like I don't have enough, right? I think I've blown my budget for the year...

Anywho, links to all of the books can be found below so you can find out more if you're so inclined. Thanks for watching/rating/subbing!!

[Time in parentheses will take you to that book in the video. :) ]
(0:30) Crewel: http://amzn.to/HvF6gK
(1:50) The Hero's Guide to Saving the Kingdom: http://amzn.to/xJNSjM
(3:18) Quirk Books: http://quirkbooks.com/
(3:54) Everneath: http://amzn.to/soi3tE
(4:56) Mirror, Mirror: http://amzn.to/MNY0AU
(5:18) Hereville: http://amzn.to/NeRDax
(5:42) For Darkness Shows the Stars: http://amzn.to/MEahr8
(7:08) Bloodhound: http://amzn.to/MEadI3
(7:39) Fever Crumb: http://amzn.to/LmKuIr
(9:06) Shadow and Bone: http://amzn.to/yow3hb
(10:10) Of Poseidon: http://amzn.to/NeRfsN
(10:15) Struck: http://amzn.to/Ktq6Wg
(10:52) Behemoth: http://amzn.to/MNXQcC
(11:15) A Touch Mortal: http://amzn.to/MNXRxs

Also mentioned:
Liz @ Consumed by Books: http://consumedbybooks.blogspot.com/
The Vicious Deep: http://amzn.to/rrj86d
A Bad Case of the Stripes: http://amzn.to/MNXKBX

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

CLOSED Giveaway: Dead Reckoning by Mercedes Lackey and Rosemary Edghill

Dead Reckoning 
by Rosemary Edghill and Mercedes Lackey
In Stores Now!
336 pages
Published June 5th 2012 by Bloomsbury USA
Jett is a girl disguised as a boy, living as a gambler in the old West as she searches for her long-lost brother. Honoria Gibbons is a smart, self-sufficient young woman who also happens to be a fabulous inventor. Both young women travel the prairie alone – until they are brought together by a zombie invasion! As Jett and Honoria investigate, they soon learn that these zombies aren’t rising from the dead of their own accord … but who would want an undead army? And why? This gunslinging, hair-raising, zombie western mashup is perfect for fans of Cowboys vs. Aliens and Pride & Prejudice & Zombies.

Thanks to the awesome people at Bloomsbury, I have a finished copy of Dead Reckoning to give away to 1 lucky winner!
Fill out the form below to enter.
US only
Ends 6/27/12

Make sure you leave Rosemary and Mercedes some love on their [Zombies & Muffins] guest post!!
Good luck!!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

TBR Tuesday: Struck

TBR Tuesday: Showcasing all the books that are currently staring at you from your "Why aren't you reading me?" pile....

On my TBR

Struck by Jennifer Bosworth
373 pages
Published May 8th 2012 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux BYR
Mia Price is a lightning addict. She’s survived countless strikes, but her craving to connect to the energy in storms endangers her life and the lives of those around her.

Los Angeles, where lightning rarely strikes, is one of the few places Mia feels safe from her addiction. But when an earthquake devastates the city, her haven is transformed into a minefield of chaos and danger. The beaches become massive tent cities. Downtown is a crumbling wasteland, where a traveling party moves to a different empty building each night, the revelers drawn to the destruction by a force they cannot deny. Two warring cults rise to power, and both see Mia as the key to their opposing doomsday prophecies. They believe she has a connection to the freak electrical storm that caused the quake, and to the far more devastating storm that is yet to come.

Mia wants to trust the enigmatic and alluring Jeremy when he promises to protect her, but she fears he isn’t who he claims to be. In the end, the passion and power that brought them together could be their downfall. When the final disaster strikes, Mia must risk unleashing the full horror of her strength to save the people she loves, or lose everything.

I just went to a Fierce Reads signing. And it was awesome. I'll talk more about it soon, but until then, I just want to say I picked up a signed copy of Struck (eep!) and had my fortune told by Jennifer Bosworth, and yeah, I can't wait to read this. 
Except that I have no idea when I'll actually be able to...But it's sitting pretty on my shelves, so - #score!
Also, remember when I showed you the trailer for this? No? Well, then here you go:

What's staring at you beseechingly from your TBR pile?

Muffins & Zombies ~ Dead Reckoning Blog Tour

Today I'm very happy to share with you some zombies and muffins, some zombie-muffins, maybe... or just a really great guest post from Rosemary Edghill and Mercedes Lackey, authors of Dead Reckoning (which you may recall I gave a HELLS YEAH I want to read this in a recent Coming Attractions post...)
This one is still firmly entrenched on my wishlist - maybe even more so after some of the buzz words in this guest post (zombie horde. bacon. Auto-Tachypode...)
But I'll let Rosemary and Mercedes convince you ~

Why [Not] Muffins (from Rosemary)
Cuisine of the Western Frontier. What did Jett and Gibbons eat? How did they cook it? {Okay, the original topic suggested was “muffins”. This is really the “why NOT muffins”? post….}

In a fantasy novel, you can rely on convenient inns. In an SF novel, you can reply on high-level food storage and preservation technology. In a lot of historicals, you can rely on the fact the action takes place in a city. In the “wild” West of 1867….

You’d better like beans.

There was a LOT of West, and most of it was (to Anglo and Colonial eyes) empty and unsettled, as well as being pretty much desert. If you wanted to eat, you’d better bring dinner with you. But oh noes! Food preservation techniques are still in their infancy, and they really haven’t figured out that whole “botulism” thing yet. There’s also the matter of how much it all weighs. In DEAD RECKONING, Gibbons travels with a kettle, a griddle, and sacks of flour and beans in her Auto-Tachypode. Jett, on the other hand, travels with coffee, corn meal, and a fletch of bacon in her saddlebags. Coffee, biscuits (or tortillas), bacon, and beans were the menu the west was won on: portable, durable, palatable, and mobile. On a cattle drive (where the menu was naturally supplemented by beef and surprisingly by doughnuts) or in a bunkhouse, the menu was nearly the same. Milk came from cans (there were few milk cows on the frontier), and so did fruits and vegetables (peaches and tomatoes were the earliest items to be successfully canned). It wouldn’t be until the Transcontinental Railroad linked San Francisco and Boston XX years later (in 18XX) that the Western menu -- as well as the West itself -- would really open up.

As a history geek, how people lived in the past and why they lived that way fascinates me. But of course, you may be here for the zombies….

Why Zombies? (from Mercedes)
Actually I don’t really care for zombies as portrayed in the movies all that much. Mindless rotting evil just doesn’t appeal that much to me—I’m not alone, it seems that most women prefer their horror to come in the form of vampires, while most men prefer zombies. So it was kind of out of character for me to write a book where zombies are the main menace.

But when Rosemary and I were looking at various possibilities for our Threat, we decided early on we wanted to do something with classic movie monsters, and zombies in the Old West seemed like an unlikely (and thus interesting) mix. The problem with doing the other classic movie monsters—the vampire, the werewolf, and so forth—is that you by necessity have some of the focus taken off your heroes and put on your villain, and we wanted all the focus to be on Jett, Gibbons, and White Fox since this was (we hoped) going to be the first book of a series. But with a zombie horde, your villain is faceless and without a personality, so you can put all of the emphasis on the good guys.

Additionally, Jett would have an advantage in recognizing and combating zombies that she wouldn’t have with any other supernatural villain—being born and raised around New Orleans, she would be very familiar with voodoo and voodoo traditions. So we could pretty much cut to the chase and get to the action without having our heroes spend a lot of time scratching their heads and trying to figure out what was going on.

Which, when you are dealing with a zombie horde, is pretty important!

Zombies and Muffins. Need I say more?
Make sure you go ENTER TO WIN a copy of Dead Reckoning!! (Ends 6/27)

Dead Reckoning by Rosemary Edghill and Mercedes Lackey
In Stores Now!
Amazon | Goodreads
336 pages
Published June 5th 2012 by Bloomsbury USA
Jett is a girl disguised as a boy, living as a gambler in the old West as she searches for her long-lost brother. Honoria Gibbons is a smart, self-sufficient young woman who also happens to be a fabulous inventor. Both young women travel the prairie alone – until they are brought together by a zombie invasion! As Jett and Honoria investigate, they soon learn that these zombies aren’t rising from the dead of their own accord … but who would want an undead army? And why? This gunslinging, hair-raising, zombie western mashup is perfect for fans of Cowboys vs. Aliens and Pride & Prejudice & Zombies.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Book Closeouts Book Haul #1!

Hi! As I explain in the video, I went a little crazy these last couple weeks, so this is Haul #1, with 2 more to follow over the next week or so... (once everything gets here). I'd love to hear your thoughts/comments/questions on the books! =D
Thanks for watching/commenting/subbing/being awesome!

[Time in parentheses indicates that book in the video!]
(0:59) The Dark and Hollow Places: http://amzn.to/Lhh12v
(1:34) Guardian of the Gate: http://amzn.to/MmMY7n
(1:47) A Drowned Maiden's Hair: http://amzn.to/KwdjCN
(2:15) Silver Phoenix: http://amzn.to/NHWwPf
(2:50) Dash and Lily's Book of Dares: http://amzn.to/MmMEFv
(3:18) Would-Be Witch: http://amzn.to/MmMA8V
(3:36) The Old Country: http://amzn.to/I6SHAJ
(4:00) Warrior Princess: http://amzn.to/M6LOiP
(4:23) The Swan Maiden: http://amzn.to/K3Y7qL
(4:52) Glimmerglass: http://amzn.to/NHVYJi
& Shadowspell: http://amzn.to/Kwd2j2
& Siren Song: http://amzn.to/MmMjmm
(6:08) Damosel: http://amzn.to/MmMe23
(6:29) Deathless: http://amzn.to/MmMb6c
(6:58) The Poison Apples: http://amzn.to/M7KObh

CLOSED Interview & Giveaway from Liz DeJesus, author of First Frost

I know Fairy Tale Fortnight is over for the year, but that doesn't mean the fairy tale goodies have to stop, right?

That's what I thought... So today I have some goodies for you from Liz DeJesus, author of the upcoming First Frost, the story of a girl named Bianca who works in a museum filled with fairy tale artifacts. It's coming out on the 22nd from Musa Publishing, but at the end of the interview, a couple of you are going to get a chance to get your hands on it, as well as some other goodies!

Now on to the interview!

Welcome to The Book Rat, Liz! And thanks for answering our questions from this year's FTF! Now, down to business:
What do you make of the resurgence in popularity for fairy tales? (Once Upon a Time, Grimm, Mirror Mirror, Snow White and the Huntsmen, all within a very short time)? Do you see it as a trend that will sort of peter out, or is it just getting started?
I think it’s just getting started. But I don’t really consider it a resurgence, because you’ve always had authors that have their own take on fairy tales, for example:

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
Zel by Donna Jo Napoli
Kissing the Witch by Emma Donoghue
The Rose and the Beast by Francesca Lia Block
Into the Woods (the Broadway musical)
Fables by Bill Willingham (a comic book series)
Transformations by Anne Sexton (poetry)

Some of these books have been around for a long, long time. With the internet, Twitter, Facebook and the media in general people are finally starting to take notice. And I think every year there will be a different popular princess, this year Snow White seems to be the ‘It’ girl. Last year it was Red Riding Hood, and a few years ago it was all about Alice in Wonderland. So it really varies. But yeah…fairy tales are here to stay. ☺

What impact do you think fairy tales have on society (especially with the same tales popping up in various forms in every society)?
Hopefully I’m answering this question correctly. I think fairy tales will continue to resonate all around the world for years to come. They all share the same quality, believe in magic. Belief. Believe in whimsy. Dreams. True love. That there are things worth fighting for.

I think we all need fairy tales in order to survive the day to day crappiness of our lives. You turn on the news and someone got murdered, children getting kidnapped, the economy sucks, people are losing their jobs, and don’t even get me started on the war in the middle east. Fairy tales offer everyone a safe place to escape…even if it’s for a few minutes.

Book in a Tweet: Your fairy tale in 140 characters or less?
Bianca and her mother run a fairy tale themed museum. Bianca thinks that fairy tales aren’t real. She's about to find out how wrong she is.

Favorite fairy tale: Snow White

Most underrated fairy tale? The Three Heads of the Well. It’s one of my favorite fairy tales, because the princess actually goes and tries to find herself. She doesn’t need her father, or a prince to tell her who she is and/or what she’s capable of. Plus, her natural kindness towards others helps her along the way.

Most overrated fairy tale? Probably… Goldilocks and the Three Bears.

If a genie granted you 3 wishes, what would they be?
1. That my whole family be happy
2. Enough wealth to share with my family.
3. The library from the Disney movie Beauty and the Beast. (Oh yeah, don’t say you didn’t drool a little every time you watched that part of the movie. LOL)

Best way to read fairy tales? (ie location, snacks, etc) The perfect place for me to read a fairy tale would be in the park, underneath a tree, on a beautiful sunny day. ☺ It kinda gives me the feeling that something magical could happen.

If one of your books was being turned into a movie and you could cast 1 character, which character would you cast and who would play them?

Definitely Bianca Frost. And she would be played by Sarah Hyland (from Modern Family). She’s how I picture Bianca in my head. Plus, Bianca is a bit of a smart ass and Sarah Hyland has excellent comedic timing.

Thanks so much for stopping by, Liz! And for offering up some goodies for readers of TBR!  And speaking of...

*** GIVEAWAY ***
Liz has offered up two First Frost prize packs! Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below!
Ends 6/25/12.

Up for grabs:
1 Grand Prize winner will receive:
  • a $10 gift certificate to Musa Publishing, 
  • a copy of Penumbra magazine 
  • a copy of First Frost.
Second Winner will receive:

  • a $5 gift certificate to Musa Publishing 
  • a free copy of First Frost.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Austen in August Read Along Info & Sign-Up!

Click here to be taken to the Austen in August Main Page!
Fab button artwork c/o Antique Fashionista!
Why don't I own this copy?

Well, the voting is over, and as predicted, PERSUASION is going to be this year's read! I don't know about you, but I am ready to get my Wentworth on me!! Ahem.
Now, I know a lot of you who've read this are already ready to start talking about The Letter, but not everyone has read this yet - plus we've still got almost 2 months to go! For now, we're just signing up and lacing our bonnets a little tighter in anticipation...

Before I get down to sign-ups, though: this year I thought it would be fun to have other people host spin-off discussions - like, "Let's discuss the crazy mess that is the Eliot family" or, you know, The Letter), so if you're interested in hosting a spin-off mini-discussion, or giveaway, or anything Persuasion-related, email me! I'll be hosting my own spin-off in the form of a "viewing party" - so grab some popcorn, sit back and watch a film adaptation or two of Persuasion, and then come over and discuss the pros and cons with me! (And seriously - if you haven't seen the newer version: RupertPenryJonesOkay*?)
*Fair Warning: that last one is not from Persuasion, and is totally NSFW... =D
I am fully open to ideas, so if you have something you want to see end up on the discussion questions, or some other amazing thing, let me know!

Now, on to the nitty gritty:

  • Official sign-ups will be open until the August 1st, so that people have time to read the book before Austen in August begins on the 15th. After that, no links can be added to the linky, but participants are still welcome to comment, read Persuasion and join in! Sign ups have been re-opened for easier tracking! All are welcome! =)
  • Participants are asked to sign up on the linky below. The link you leave can be to your blog or vlog, or if you don't have one, you can just leave a comment.
  • The complete discussion questions will be posted on August 1st so that you have time to prepare your posts. There will be 2 sets: posts about the first set should go up during week 1 (August 15-23), and the second set during week 2 (August 24-31). There will be linkies up on the 15th and 24th to share your portion of the discussion.
  • Participants are not confined to the discussion questions. They are a jumping off point - discussion starters - so feel free to be as free-wheeling as you'd like!
  • Don't have a copy?  Don't worry - there are plenty of places you can read it online for free, like Project Gutenberg or the Republic of Pemberley! Or you can  download a free audiobook of it here!
  • Feel free to post/share the Read Along button (above) or the Austen in August button (below)!

Click here to be taken to the Austen in August Main Page!
Fab button artwork c/o Antique Fashionista!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Book Chat: Under-Rated and Under-Known Books

Hi, welcome to the June Book Chat! This month we're talking about those books YOU love, that no one else seems to love or know about. Feel free to do a video response, blog post, or just leave your thoughts in the comments!

Thanks for watching/rating/subbing!

[The time in () indicates at which point that book is found in the video]
(0:30) I Capture the Castle: http://amzn.to/IzlDkG
(1:00) Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow: http://amzn.to/g1wNnE
(1:30) Alanna: The First Adventure: http://amzn.to/HIFhXn
(from the Song of the Lioness series)
(2:35) We Have Always Lived in the Castle: http://amzn.to/IRDAsd
(4:00) Kindred: http://amzn.to/OSqBZf
(5:35) An Old-Fashioned Girl: http://amzn.to/LLSQI7
(6:15) Castle Waiting: http://amzn.to/zyXhFx
(6:49) Madapple: http://amzn.to/LSf7Gw

Link up your Book Chat vlogs and blogs here:

Friday Face Off: Shatter Me

You may have seen the redesign for Tahereh Mafi's Shatter Me already, but if not, allow me to present to you: this Face Off. The first is the original hardcover copy, and the second graces the to-be-released paperback edition. Personally, I'm a little torn on which I like more. On the one hand, the hardback cover is a  "typical pretty girl in dress" cover, but at the same time it's sort of fierce and somehow suits the storyline (I think. I haven't read it, so who knows.) The paperback cover is striking, to be sure, but maybe a little more... abstract? I don't know that it necessarily tells me all that much about the story, neat as the image is.
So I'm torn, but I'm curious what you guys think. Judging solely on the cover (and tagline therein) - whether you've read the story or not - which would you reach for? Which works for you?
Which one did it better?
(as always, click for more detail)

Last Week on FFO: The strikingly different covers for the US and UK versions of Rachel Hartman's Seraphina went head to head in a surprising cover-reversal battle - the US turned out an art cover and the UK, a pretty-girl cover... The gloriously detailed woodcut of the US version won the day by a longshot, to which I give an exultant AMEN. Such a fantastic cover. And such a fantastic book... =D
Winnah ----->

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

DNF Review: Belles by Jen Calonita

Belles by Jen Calonita
Amazon | Goodreads
356 pages
Published April 10th 2012 by Poppy
Fifteen-year-old Isabelle Scott loves her life by the boardwalk on the supposed wrong side of the tracks in North Carolina. But when tragedy strikes, a social worker sends her to live with a long-lost uncle and his preppy privileged family. Isabelle is taken away from everything she’s ever known, and, unfortunately, inserting her into the glamorous lifestyle of Emerald Cove doesn’t go so well. Her cousin Mirabelle Monroe isn’t thrilled to share her life with an outsider, and, in addition to dealing with all the rumors and backstabbing that lurk beneath their classmates’ Southern charm, a secret is unfolding that will change both girls’ lives forever.

PLEASE NOTE: This is a DNF (did not finish) review. That means I did not finish this book. If reviews of half-finished books bother you, please look elsewhere. For the rest of you, I am going to try to explain why I didn't feel the need to finish this.

Alright, I feel like this can be pretty brief, actually. There are times when I put something on the DNF shelf because they are horribly written/edited, or because I hate the characters/plot/world/etc. Sometimes I  DNF things because they are indescribably boring, confusing, or just personally irritating.

Belles wasn't really any of those things. Or, at least not so much of any one of those things that that's the reason I finally put it down. I put it down because I just. didn't. care.  I didn't. I went into this expecting equal parts Southern charm and gossipy family drama, and - though I think maybe they were supposed to be there - I never really got them. Instead, I got a bland story that I'm pretty sure I knew every plot point of loooong before I even hit the 25 page mark (though I guess I can't confirm this, as I didn't keep reading. But I'm pretty sure.). I felt like I was reading an afterschool special. [Think about that. Does that sound in any way appealing?] There was no truth or life in the characters, which, by the 150-page mark (when I gave up, thereabouts), I would have expected someone to come alive.

There was nothing that set this apart and made me want to pick it up, and I didn't really like any of the characters. I didn't dislike them either, though, so I was left feeling so lukewarm that I found myself reading a page or two and then putting it down again. It was becoming a timesuck, and I don't allow myself to finish timesuck books anymore. Life is too short.

The writing and characterization felt really shallow to me. There was nothing beyond the surface - sometimes I'm not even sure there was surface.  I didn't feel passion or love in the writing. The injection of a little liveliness and a little more thought could have potentially done wonders; I mean, there were characters named Isabelle and Mirabelle, Hayden and Brayden, for gods sake . . . What the eff is that? If you can't even be bothered to distinguish your characters a bit, how am I supposed to? (Beyond, that is, the good girl/bad girl/poor girl/rich girl scenario that could not be more obvious - seriously. Read 10 pages and I guarantee you'll know who's who with no trouble.)

Now, this is getting a lot of love on Goodreads, I've noticed. So maybe something happens in the last 1/2 of the book that totally makes up for the lack of anything remarkable in the first 1/2. Or maybe it's just not my type of book, but everyone else will love it. I dunno. But I don't think so. I think younger crowds will forgive its simplicity, maybe even like it, but anyone who's read this type of book before and is looking for something - anything - more substantial will move on from this pretty quickly.

Sure does have a pretty cover, though.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Submit your questions to Dear Janeite!

As I was putting together my Austen in August invitation post, I was mulling over some of the things I wanted to do this year. One of the things I had fun with in the past was a set of "Dear Jane" letters where participants wrote letters addressed to Jane, telling her all of the things they wanted her to know, or wished they could share.
I loved seeing everyone's letters, and thought about bringing back the Dear Jane letters this year, but then I thought, wouldn't it be nice to take it to the next level and put a fun twist on things?

So this year, I'm going to be doing an advice segment called "Dear Janeite". Basically, it's like Dear Abby - you'll submit your questions via a form (anonymously or with some clever tag like Lovelorn in Laredo, or whatever), and I - by the powers of Jane - will answer them.
Or, um, my alter-ego, Janeite, will. She will dispense advice for the situation, using examples and quotes from Jane to guide you. Or something. Hopefully.

Anyway, I thought it could be a super-fun segment, and I think potentially a good discussion starter, as you can all chime in with your own advice when I post them.
But to make this work, I need you. My goal is to have lots of Dear Janeite letters sent in so that I have enough to pick from to make this work. I won't likely be able to answer everybody's, and I'm sure some of them will be very similar, so I can answer them together. But regardless, I can't do this without your letters.

So, I've created a submission form, and I'm going to post it below, and then after a time, in my sidebar as well, so that you have easy access to post questions.
What I'd need from you is:
  • A brief, one to two paragraph letter, with a specific problem or question for Janeite to solve
  • One problem per Janeite letter - you're free to "send in" multiple letters, but please send them separately
  • Tell your friends! If you have a Janeite friend or just someone with a quirky sense of humor, ask them to submit a question! The more, the merrier.
  • Have fun with it! Don't be afraid to be a bit cheeky... ;)
  • All you have to do is fill out the form!
Can't wait to see what problems you throw my, er... Janeite's way!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Austen in August Invitation!!

UPDATE: You can sign up for this year's Read Along of Persuasion here!!


It's time to talk to you about Jane!!
I know some of you have probably been popping by in the last week or so, looking for Jane Austen goodies. And you were probably startled to find that there were none. But there's a reason for that - Jane in June is moving!
Just to August, and just for this year, because I love my Jane in June. But June is always crazy for me, and I didn't have quite enough time to prepare this year. I didn't want to give you guys a Jane-dud, so instead of scrapping the idea altogether, we're just going to wrap up the summer with Jane instead!

If you're familiar with my past Jane in June events, you'll know that it's wall-to-wall Jane: reviews, giveaways, games, guest posts, author interviews - Jane and Jane and Jane some more. Just the way we all like it, right? (If you're not familiar where have you been you can check out the first year's schedule here, and last year's here, which I fondly call Jane in June: 2Fast, 2Furious.)
And YOU are invited to participate!

The Deets:
  1. This year's event will run from August 15th-31st. Stop by any day during that time for some Janey goodness.
  2. Everyone is welcome to participate. You can just read and comment if you'd like, but I will also be welcoming guest posts - want to review an adaptation of Jane's work? Share your Top 5 MOJ (Moments of Jane)? Discuss why Bingley is better than Bertram or Wickham is better than Wentworth*? I'd love to host your awesome post! You can email me here with what you'd like to do and I'll reserve a spot for you!**
  3. Maybe you're not the guest posting type, but you still want to be involved? Or maybe you just want to sponsor a giveaway of your favorite piece of Janey goodness. Email me! There's room for all kinds of involvement in Austen in August.
  4. There will also be a linky up on the first day, as always, if you're not the guest-posting type or have last minute posts you want to share. :)
  5. Once again I will be hosting an Austen Read Along to coincide with the event. That will get it's own introductory post once everything is finalized, but until then, please vote in the poll below to help decide what we'll be reading this year! [Pride and Prejudice is not on the list. Why? That's what we read last year!]
  6. Are you an Austenite author who wants to be involved? EMAIL ME! I'd love to have you involved!
  7. Feel free to share the Austen in August button (above) or share the event/read along with other Janeites! (and thank you if you do!)
So by now, you should know what you have to do (say it with me) email me! If you want to be involved, if you have questions or suggestions, if you're an author and you want in - feel free to shoot me a line. :)

Before I let you go, I just want to give a BIG THANKS to Masha at Antique Fashionista, who graciously allowed me to use her fabulous artwork for this year's event button and read along button!  You may remember Masha from Jane in Junes past, where she has offered up some of my favorite pieces of Janeness ever created - in fact, my absolute favorite, Anne at the seaside in Lyme, is the basis for this year's button!
Thanks, Masha!!

So please vote, email me, gather your stack of Jane-books, and prepare for Jane in June III ~ Austen in August: Rise of the Janeites... ;P

*Please note, you write a "Wickham > Wentworth" post at your own risk...
**Please, serious guest posters only. If you know you are the type to back out at the last minute, please don't sign up. And it doesn't matter to me if you don't have a blog or have never written a guest post, or even if you're not quite sure what you want to write, you are still welcome to be a guest poster - but poorly edited/unreadable  posts will be discarded, whether you are an author, blogger or Jane's most devoted Janeite.

Now, PLEASE VOTE on which book you think we should discuss for the Read Along this year! The poll ends in 1 week so vote quickly and spread the word!!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Friday Face Off: Seraphina

When a friend from the UK recently posted Seraphina as to-read on Goodreads, I noticed something: the UK cover. (I know you're saying, well, yeah, but I tend to look into these things, and this time I was just so captivated by my cover - and the story inside - that I didn't.) Now, I always say on FFO that it's about the cover not the story - anyone can have an opinion on a cover without having read the book, and it's a judgement on whether the cover art is effective, whether it makes you want to pick up the book or walk on by.  I also try to never give my opinion beforehand, lest I bias you. But I'm going to deviate a touch from that in saying that, having read it, I do see where they're going with the UK cover, but it is not my Seraphina cover. I just...no. But that didn't bias you, right? Right?!

So in keeping with that, I'll keep my opinions to myself and let these two covers duke it out. Which one makes you curious about the story inside? Which one would you reach for on the shelves?
Which one did it better?
(I would highly recommend clicking each to see it in greater detail)

Last Week on FFO: The hardback and paperback covers of Gabrielle Zevin's All These Things I've Done went head to head (or head to chocolate heart...) in what was a much closer race than I was anticipating. The anti-face-cover sentiment did when out in the end, but Anya's edgy hairstyle gave that chocolate & countdown list cover a run for its money.
Winnah ----->

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Trailer: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

A lot of times I like to just show you a trailer (book, tv show or movie), tell you how much I want to read/see said thing, and then ask if you are excited for it.  But this time... this time I have things to say. So go ahead, watch this trailer, tell me what you think and if you want to see it, etc. But after the trailer, if you're interested, I have some thoughts to share...

Alright. So maybe you've read the book, and maybe you haven't. Either way, we all know that movies never live up, right?
Sure, but we still expect them to.
In this case, having read the book (and if you watch my various vlogs, you'll know how I feel about this book), I really think I'm going to have to separate myself from the book when I see this.

Because I WILL be seeing this. And am eager for it. I think the trailer is f*cking phenomenal - as a coming of age movie. It looks warm and charming and quirky - all things I love. The characters seem good, the actors outstanding. It looks like it will be funny and inviting, maybe even memorable if we're lucky.

But I couldn't help but notice a few changes that are going to be key. I don't want to spoil things for people who haven't read the book, but it looks to me as if they are going to present everything as Charlie just being a writer, just being sort of anecdotal, and maybe do away with the epistolary ('Dear friend') structure. I couldn't tell you why, but this sort of breaks my heart. I know it would have been near impossible to pull off the letters. I know that. But somehow, turning everything into 'charming little stories Charlie will write one day' just doesn't work for me. It lessens it somehow.  

It also somehow takes away some of Charlie's naivete and cluelessness, which I think the book hinges on - it's what makes the end so startling, and so very, very heartbreaking. Charlie can't be too aware, and the reader/viewer can't be too aware, too soon.

So, I guess what I'm saying is, I'm anxious and a little confused in the feelings-area. It looks great and I'm ready to watch it right now, but it doesn't look like my Perks of Being a Wallflower.

And isn't that what it always comes down to in the book v. movie debate?

So what do you think?

*On a side note, I love that they made use of the book's iconic color. =)

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Coming Attraction: The Archived

I sometimes make this little noise. It's somewhere between a squeak and guinea pig chittering. It means 'Misty is so excited, the powers of actual speech failed her'. I made that noise when I opened up my to-read shelf on Goodreads and saw that Victoria Schwab's next release now has a cover! I fell in love with Schwab's writing when I read the awesomeness that is The Near Witch, and have been eagerly awaiting her next book ever since. So of course I couldn't wait to share it with you.=)

The Archived by Victoria Schwab
Expected publication: January 2013 by Hyperion
Imagine a place where the dead rest on shelves like books.

Each body has a story to tell, a life seen in pictures that only Librarians can read. The dead are called Histories, and the vast realm in which they rest is the Archive.

Da first brought Mackenzie Bishop here four years ago, when she was twelve years old, frightened but determined to prove herself. Now Da is dead, and Mac has grown into what he once was, a ruthless Keeper, tasked with stopping often-violent Histories from waking up and getting out. Because of her job, she lies to the people she loves, and she knows fear for what it is: a useful tool for staying alive.

Being a Keeper isn't just dangerous—it's a constant reminder of those Mac has lost. Da's death was hard enough, but now her little brother is gone too. Mac starts to wonder about the boundary between living and dying, sleeping and waking. In the Archive, the dead must never be disturbed. And yet, someone is deliberately altering Histories, erasing essential chapters. Unless Mac can piece together what remains, the Archive itself might crumble and fall.

In this haunting, richly imagined novel, Victoria Schwab reveals the thin lines between past and present, love and pain, trust and deceit, unbearable loss and hard-won redemption.

June TBR Vlog + linky

These are the books I plan to read in June. I think from now on, to keep myself from overshooting and/or feeling boxed in, I'm going to give 4-5 books for my monthly TBR and if (hopefully when) I finish them, I will be free to read whatever suits my fancy. Here's to hoping I stick to that plan...

(0:30) A Witch in Winter: http://amzn.to/xSp6gY
(0:48) Because it is My Blood: http://amzn.to/IAziVM
(1:10) Lies, Knives and Girls in Red Dresses: http://amzn.to/ImzyY3
(1:27) Burn Bright: http://www.burnbright.com.au/
(2:02) Dancing at the Chance: http://amzn.to/FPBRVs
(2:38) Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy: The Last Man in the World: http://amzn.to/KsAtef

The Maybe Books
[ie the Austen in August stack, pt 1]
starts at 3:54
Midnight in Austenland: http://amzn.to/yzCWD0
Darcy and Fitzwilliam: http://amzn.to/KvR6Wp
Jane Austen Made Me Do It: http://amzn.to/pCpjlE

What are you planning to read this month? Link up your own TBR vlog or blog for June here:

Monday, June 4, 2012

May Rewind Vlog + Linky!

Because of the amount of awesome things I read in May, I had to split this video into 2 parts. (Also, sorry that it's going up late-ish.)
Can't wait to hear about what you read in May, so make sure to link up your blog/vlog posts on the linky below so I (and everyone else) can check it out.
And if you have thoughts on what I read or what I had to say about it (or the fact that I was a bitter bitch in high school), feel free to let me know in the comments! ;)

Make sure to stop back by tomorrow for my June TBR!!  And if you have ideas or topics you want to see on my monthly Book Chat (which is moving to the 15th), PLEASE let me know in the comments!


Slated: http://amzn.to/ISwS4F
Belles: http://amzn.to/HHMGnY
Revived: http://amzn.to/JXDnUJ
Seraphina: http://amzn.to/zqiexC
The Drowned Cities: http://amzn.to/IoORD5

Shadow and Bone: http://amzn.to/yow3hb
(aka The Gathering Dark in the UK)
The Duff: http://amzn.to/HFXTpE
Purity: http://amzn.to/KqGq5g
A Witch in Winter: http://amzn.to/xSp6gY
Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy: the Last Man in the World: http://amzn.to/KsAtef
Zombie Tarot: http://amzn.to/Kneuml

Link up your May Rewind/Wrap-Up videos here:

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Review: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Shadow and Bone (US)/The Gathering Dark (UK) by Leigh Bardugo
Amazon | Goodreads
Fantasy, 368 pages
Expected publication: June 5th 2012 by Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.
Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.
Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha…and the secrets of her heart.

I've mentioned before that I was excited for this one (I mean - the title alone...). But I also just read an excellent fantasy maybe a week or so before this, so it sort of had a lot to live up to, on top of the hype. That always makes me a little wary. And I think, in this case, deservedly so; at least, in the beginning. For a good chunk of the beginning, I was hesitant and not completely sold. It's not that I ever wanted to put it down, exactly, but there was a sameness to it; a typical YA, unoriginal feel that had me worried for what the rest of the book would hold. And this lasted for awhile, and had me questioning whether I was going to find this one a throwaway in the end: quick and enjoyable enough, but forgettable and predictable. Fortunately, there came a point where that changed and it didn't fall back on formula (or at least, not entirely.) It had a strength of its own and went to the places I was hoping it would go eventually, even if not always fully.

The characters were interesting to me, and what kept me hanging on in the beginning, though oddly enough, they started out much the same. They would come into the story as sort of somewhat fleshed-out stock characters, and just when I would get worried that that's all there was to them, they'd show me they weren't. They had dimensions and personalities and little bits to set them apart and make you care, but it was just something you had to be patient for.  (I know not everyone will be patient, but I want to reiterate that the story is not unenjoyable before they start to stand apart from the crowd. It's always engaging enough to keep you going, but it takes awhile to sort of step into its own.) I am a big fan of explorations of the type of belief and fervor that lead people to do bad things in the name of good, and this aspect of some characters really heightened things for me. Belief and fervor, and the murkiness of right and wrong is what could set this book apart, and was one of the things I got from it that I wasn't expecting. [pleased face]

And - at the risk of being very repetitive - the world-building was much of the same. It was good, and enough to keep me engaged and visualizing it, but it started out with a sameness, feeling a touch lackluster and flat, and then becoming something more as the story grew. Bardugo seems to like finding a balance between originality and stock, and sort of building off of that. It works, it's serviceable, but something that doesn't catch me or impress me right off the bat isn't something I'm necessarily going to rave about as I do the world-building or characters or plot of some other books of a similar nature. But as I said, those all come around in the end.

I would have liked the nuances that were there to be explored more fully, though. In a story about light and dark, I want to really explore the shadows. This, for me, is where the wow factor comes in. The nuances and explorations were there and were touched on more than I'd dared hope after the way the story began, but less than I could have wish for. Part of this I'm sure is me being a little hyper-critical because I saw the potential for some heartier fare. Whenever I see that potential, whenever it's so close, I just want to keep pushing, and that sometimes lets me down more than if the potential had never been there to begin with.

But there was some exploration there, and Bardugo did ultimately build up some of the gray areas that I wanted to linger over, and I'm grateful for that. If this were really an unoriginal, "typical" YA, that wouldn't have happened, and the fact that it did at all gives me hope for the rest of the series and her growth as a storyteller. For those of you that are unsure you want to start a series with this sort of back-and-forth type review, let me mention 2 things:
1) I rated it 4 stars on Goodreads, so it's not like I didn't enjoy it by any means. (In fact, I'm going to a Fierce Reads signing so I can get mine all fancied up.)
2) This would work quite nicely as a standalone with the future left open, I think. Personally, I'm curious to see where it's going, as it is the start to a series, but I think you could easily read it and leave it as is, with some threads hanging and possibilites endless; it's a well-rounded enough ending to leave you feeling satisfied. But as I intend to read the next book, I'm hoping (fingers crossed) that the murky gray areas, the vagaries of belief, fanaticism, control and power,  etc., will be capitalized on, as I think that's the only thing that would make me want it to be a series rather than an open-ended stand-alone.

[And on a side note, if you are the type to be bothered by an author taking liberties with a culture or language, I'd suggest checking out Tatiana's review before picking this one up. This did not bother me the least little bit (well, except the female names not ending in female forms and v.v.) but I can understand why it would maybe work under someone's skin, especially if they have ties to that culture (in this case, Russian). So, worth checking out.]


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