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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

April Book Haul, part 1

Though April may not have been quite as crazy as March, I still managed to get a tidy little stockpile going... Here is the first half of that pile, featuring most of my review books and unsolicited copies for the month. There are definitely some in this stack that intrigue me, or that I can't wait to dig into, so let me know what you think of them - any you're looking forward to or have read?

The Resurrectionist | E.B. Hudspeth
A Matter of Days | Amber Kizer
Icons | Margaret Stohl
Openly Straight | Bill Konigsberg
School Spirits | Rachel Hawkins

Review: SCHOOL SPIRITS by Rachel Hawkins

School Spirits by Rachel Hawkins
Get It | Add It
Supernatural/Paranormal, 304 pages
Expected publication: May 14th 2013 by Disney-Hyperion
Fifteen-year-old Izzy Brannick was trained to fight monsters. For centuries, her family has hunted magical creatures. But when Izzy’s older sister vanishes without a trace while on a job, Izzy's mom decides they need to take a break.

Izzy and her mom move to a new town, but they soon discover it’s not as normal as it appears. A series of hauntings has been plaguing the local high school, and Izzy is determined to prove her worth and investigate. But assuming the guise of an average teenager is easier said than done. For a tough girl who's always been on her own, it’s strange to suddenly make friends and maybe even have a crush.

Can Izzy trust her new friends to help find the secret behind the hauntings before more people get hurt?

Rachel Hawkins' delightful spin-off brings the same wit and charm as the New York Times best-selling Hex Hall series. Get ready for more magic, mystery and romance!

School Spirits is the first in a spin-off series from the Hex Hall books. And though I own the Hex Hall series, I was worried when this showed up in my mail that I wouldn't be able to read it, since I haven't actually read Hex Hall even a little bit. Being completely buried in books right now, and heading into what is inevitably my busiest month of the year, combined with the fact that I haven't read HH, I figured the best thing would be to set this on a shelf and let it languish for a bit while I responsibly go about the things I need to get done...which is why I opened up to the first page "just to see" and then proceeded to finish it.
[Don't look at me like that, I know I'm not the only one who does this.]

Since I haven't read HH, I guess I can't talk about how School Spirits compares to that, but I can certainly say that it makes me more eager to read it. Though this may not go down in history as the most memorable or most original book I've read, it was pure fun throughout, and I think I may come to find Hawkins' style a perfect funk-breaker. There are those authors or works that I always recommend when someone tells me they're in a reading rut (or when I, myself, am) because their breezy, effortless style doesn't make you work at enjoying reading. These types of books make a great break when you're stalled in something that you just can't seem to finish, because they remind you that reading can be fun; an author can be have a sense of humor; a book can be quick and light and exactly what you needed to jumpstart you when you're in a slump. I have a list of such books to use as go-to recommendations, which includes things like Kiersten White's Paranormalcy, Jana Oliver's The Demon Trapper's Daughter. I have a feeling School Spirits will be added to that list.

That's the type of book School Spirits was. It's begging to be on "beach reads*" lists, or "curling up in a hammock with the sun on your face reads" lists or "OMG I'm done with finals, give me something fun!!1" lists. It was breezy and cute (not cutesy), with just the right amount of fluff to it to make it quick and compulsively engaging, but keep it from being a throwaway. The story is pretty standard paranormal fare, but Izzy - and a number of the other characters - are so engaging that they make the story shine. Hawkins has done a really good job of setting up the series, giving us all the basics to dive into the world, engaging characters to lead us through it, and enough mystery and openness to keep us coming back for those unanswered questions. And because two - at least - of those questions are pretty big ones, I have a feeling that the tension in this series is going to build quite nicely, and make each book stronger than the last. (At least, I can hope!)

So if you're in a rut and in need of a funk-breaker, or just love a good damn fun book, School Spirits might be just the one to pick up. And if you're like me, and still have Hex Hall sitting on your shelves, unread, then you may just want to have a summertime Rachel Hawkins binge...

*In fact, I've been wanting to do the Beach Reads thing again this year, so even though it's April and this is probably a little wishful/jinxful of me, we're going to go ahead and slap a Beach Reads button on this one.  ^_^

Looking for more beach reads? *click*

Monday, April 29, 2013


I keep seeing all these neat trailers and thinking to myself, "Oh, I gotta remember to share that!" and then I inevitably forget. But this one I actually remembered (and by "remembered", I mean I pasted a link into a draft post, so that I would eventually see it and post it...), so I thought I'd share it with you.  It's for Sally Gardner's Maggot Moon, and the trailer is kinda dark and grim, with moody violin music and quirky illustrations (rat cameo!).  I actually hadn't heard of this book at all until I came across the trailer, but I was a fan of Gardner's I, Coriander, so I'm intrigued!

Check it out below, and let me know what you think!

Friday, April 26, 2013

#FridayReads: The Savage Blue by Zoraida Córdova

I'm reading a little bit of everything at the moment, but the one I think I'm going to go with - and the one I chose for this weekend's #fridayreads is THE SAVAGE BLUE by Zoraida Córdova!
PLEASE NOTE: This is a sequel (though I wouldn't consider this especially spoiler-y), AND I'm reading from an ARC, so things may change in the final version.
Share your weekend picks on Twitter with the hashtag #fridayreads, and if you do a vlog, link it as a video response!

A storm is coming... 
The ocean is a vicious place. Deeper and darker than Tristan could have imagined. Beneath its calm blue surface, an ancient battle is churning —and no one is safe.
In the quest for the Sea Throne, Tristan has already watched one good friend die. Now he must lead the rest on a dangerous voyage in search of the trident that will make him king. But while Tristan chases his destiny, the dark forces racing against him are getting stronger, and the sea witch of his nightmares is getting closer. 
Battling sea dragons and savage creatures of the deep, Tristan needs his friends' support. But they each have their secrets, and a betrayal will force Tristan to choose between his crown and his best friend Layla — the only girl he's ever loved.

Friday Face Off: The Space Between

So, who noticed Misty forgot it was Friday last Friday? And who wants Misty to never speak of herself in the 3rd person, ever, ever again? *raises hand*
Yeah, so I just totally forgot there was a weekend last weekend. This may be because there was a crazystupid event at work in which every person in the known universe traipsed through with their screaming children and crazy eyes. Or maybe I'm getting senile in my old age, whatever. Either way, I've remembered it's Friday this time, so. Onto this week's Face Off!
I've shown the US and UK versions of Brenna Yovanoff's books on Face Off before (mostly because the US versions are soooooooooo gorgeous that I want to shove them in everyone's faces. Look: shiny!). But I recently came across this cover re-do for the US paperback of Yovanoff's The Space Between, and lo! a Face Off was born...  Though I feel like I would normally be drawn to this cover, that the designers would mess with the lovely synergy going on between the original covers of Brenna's books makes me kinda fronwy-faced.  But maybe if you're not as obsessed with her books as I am, you won't be as bothered by the break in tradition? So let me know, which piques your interest? Which would you reach for?
Which one did it better?

Last Week(ish) on FFO: The UK and US versions of  the second book in Sarah J. Maas' Throne of Glass series, Crown of Midnight, went head to head in a battle of details and styling, and like the first time around, the UK won. And this is a rare instance where I have to disagree; with Throne of Glass, it was a no-contest UK win, but this time, with little tweaks like bringing the image forward and coloring the background, make the cover as a whole feel more rich and complete. (Though they are both, as vitajayne said, bad ass!)
Winner --------->

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Better World Books Haul [March books, part 3 of 3]

Alrighty, we're finally down to the last little bit of books I got in March - this time, we're taking a look at what I got from Better World Books, which is kinda funny, 'cause I just placed another order from them... (only to get an email the next day telling me that everything I ordered was now 40% off... dammit!)
If you want to catch up on the rest of the books I got in March, or any of my other hauls, this playlist is a good way to kill a day...
Anyway, we'll be (finally) moving on to the things I've gotten in April, but until then...

Impulse & Initiative  (has since been reprinted as "To Conquer Mr Darcy") | Abigail Reynolds
The Man Who Loved Pride & Prejudice | Abigail Reynolds
Sass & Serendipity | Jennifer Ziegler
Ruby Slippers, Golden Tears | Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling, ed.
Black Thorn, White Rose | Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling, ed.
Sirens and Other Daemon Lovers |  Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling, ed.
The Mists of Avalon | Marion Zimmer Bradley

all from http://www.betterworldbooks.com/

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

FLASH GIVEAWAY: Looking for Alaska by John Green [World Book Night]

If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you probably already know I'm a giver for World Book Night again this year! While I'll be giving most of my 20 copies away in my community, I of course can't resist sharing a few with you guys.

My hope, since this is to promote reading among reluctant readers, is that if one of you book-loving people wins, you'll share your copy around and push it on new readers in turn, so this is sort of my investment in you. A fun Pay-It-Forward type of deal. (Though of course, you're free to do what you want with it if you win.)

This year, I'm giving away 3 copies to my followers: one here, one on Facebook, and one on Twitter (so make sure you enter through those, too, for an added chance of winning!). Each giveaway is US only, and lasts only one day!!
To enter through the blogness, just fill out the Rafflecopter below!!

Looking For Alaska by John Green
Get It | Add It
Before. Miles "Pudge" Halter's whole existence has been one big nonevent, and his obsession with famous last words has only made him crave the "Great Perhaps" (François Rabelais, poet) even more. Then he heads off to the sometimes crazy, possibly unstable, and anything-but-boring world of Culver Creek Boarding School, and his life becomes the opposite of safe. Because down the hall is Alaska Young. The gorgeous, clever, funny, sexy, self-destructive, screwed-up, and utterly fascinating Alaska Young, who is an event unto herself. She pulls Pudge into her world, launches him into the Great Perhaps, and steals his heart.

After. Nothing is ever the same.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, April 22, 2013

Fairy Tale Festival ~ guest post from Kate Wolford, editor of BEYOND THE GLASS SLIPPER

Seems the fairy tale goodies never end... (and really, why should they?)
Back in Fairy Tale Fortnight, I had a guest post from Megan Engelhardt, one of the authors of Wolves & Witches, a set of fairy tale retellings recently released by World Weaver Press.  (You can find her piece, "Snow Day Stories" here.)
Today, I'm back with some more fairy tale lovin' from World Weaver Press - this time, from Kate Wolford, editor of Beyond the Glass Slipper, a collection that looks at ten lesser-known fairy tales, curated and annotated by Wolford. Kate is chatting with us about some of the...unlikely inspiration she found in non-fairy tale television, while pulling together this collection.
Take it away, Kate!

 Getting any writing project done is mostly about hard work, but inspiration does play a role. I pull ideas and enthusiasm from books, of course. Yet music and television play a major role in my creative process as well.
     Three television shows that inspired me while I was writing Beyond the Glass Slipper are in my mind as I write this post. Dexter,Breaking Bad and Lewis are not at all about fairy tales, but each has, in its own way, a dark, dream-like quality that puts me in mind of terrifying forests or horrible witches or dank, dark caverns filled with treasure or doom. In the case of all three, I "binge" watched them while writing BTGS.
     Dexter is the Showtime series about a vigilante serial killer, Dexter (Michael C. Hall), who uses his considerable skills as a blood analyst to track down evil doers who have evaded justice. Then he kills them, rather efficiently, and disposes of them in the sea.
     The show is far past its heyday, but obsessively watching Dexter's early seasons kept me focused on the importance of keeping words and ideas moving, and it reminded me that atmosphere matters, even though what I was writing was non-fiction. The show is always focused on loneliness and confusion, and watching it helped me probe character motivation when I was analyzing the fairy tales in BTSG. Plus, when it literally comes to voice, Michael C. Hall has the most beautiful one I have ever laid ears on. Just hearing him narrate an episode is listening to a kind of magic.
   Next, you might be wondering,  "How could a show about a meth cook in New Mexico inspire anything?" AMC's Breaking Bad isn't for everyone. It's violent and ugly and there are no real heroes. Drug use is very much not glamorized in the series. But the protagonist, Walter White (Bryan Cranston), is a kind of mad sorcerer. His dark magic with chemistry plunges him into twisty stories that make the watcher feel as confused as Hansel and Gretel on the all-important third morning in the forest.
     Walter White was once an almost-lovable schlubby high-school chemistry hero. The series will end this summer, and I'm just waiting for him to get his comeuppance. Walter is like Bluebeard (without the many wives). He's a very bad man, but you can't look away.
     Lewis is not in the same league as Dexter and Breaking Bad, both of which, at their peak, were superbly well-executed series. But it's so very beautiful. Set in Oxford, England, it really does seem too beautiful a place for anything bad, or even real, to happen. Yet, horrible murders take place there on a distressingly regular basis. Our two heroes, Robbie Lewis (Kevin Whately) and James Hathaway (Laurence Fox) are lonely, smart, determined policemen who nab their killer every time, even though they may wish they didn't have to. 
     The City of Oxford is like some deceptively gorgeous kingdom in a fairy tale. Beneath the charm and sophistication lurk the very worst sorts of crime. I'd watch an episode of Lewis (which had now probably ended as a series), and think: I want to be good at what I do, just like Lewis and Hathaway. I want to solve the puzzle of how to explain the fairy tale.
     And after all, in every fairy tale, isn't there some sort of crime?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Bookshelf Scavenger Hunt

I was tagged in the "Bookshelf Scavenger Hunt," which, yay! I've been wanting to do this one, so here goes! Also, it was REALLY EFFING WINDY in SE Michigan today...

Original Tag: http://youtu.be/PyjzwQXMyRc
I was tagged by BookswithDylan: http://youtu.be/_mPYS-BrPro

Things to find!:
• Find an author's name or title with the letter Z in it
• Find a classic
• Find a book with a key on it
• Find something on your bookshelf that's not a book
• Find the oldest book on your shelf
• Find a book with a girl on the cover
• Find a book that has an animal in it
• Find a book with a male protagonist
• Find a book with only words on it
• Find a book with illustrations in it
• Find a book with gold lettering
• Find a diary (true or fictional)
• Find a book written by someone with a common name (like Smith)
• Find a book that has a closeup of something on it
• Find a book on your shelf that takes place in the earliest time period
• Find a hardcover book without a jacket
• Find a teal/turquoise colored book
• Find a book with stars on it
• Find a non-YA book

Books Mentioned or Shown:
The Vicious Deep | Zoraida Córdova
Works of Jane Austen
The Archived | Victoria Schawb
The Key to the Golden Firebird | Maureen Johnson
Hungry Hill | Daphne du Maurier
Little Women | Louisa May Alcott
Leaves of Grass | Walt Whitman
Vessel | Sarah Beth Durst
Life of Pi | Yann Martel
Beautiful Creatures | Kami Garcia, Margaret Stohl
The Replacement | Brenna Yovanoff
The Girl Who Played with Fire | Steig Larrson
Crewel | Gennifer Albin
Shine | Lauren Myracle
The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy | Douglas Adams
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian | Sherman Alexie
The Pillow Book of Cordelia Kenn | Aiden Chambers
I Capture the Castle | Dodie Smith
The Diviners | Libba Bray
The Pearl of the Soul of the World | Meredith Ann Pierce
The Virgin Earth | Philippa Gregory
Zan Gah series | Allan Richard Shickman
Daughter of the Forest | Juliet Marillier
Flavia de Luce series | Alan Bradley
(Red Herring Without Mustard shown)
The Adoration of Jenna Fox | Mary E. Pearson
Revived | Cat Patrick
For Darkness Shows the Stars | Diana Peterfreund
Three by Vonnegut | Kurt Vonnegut

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Grimm Diaries Prequels ~ guest review from Random Jordan (a belated FTF post)

So...In all of the Fairy Tale Fortnight madness, it seems almost inevitable that something go missing and not get posted. (Or, as last year, get eaten by a hungry Blogger.)  This is probably aided a bit by the fact that I use Post It flags in the early stages of scheduling. Much as I love them, and as much as it's the only way I can schedule - I need to see it all laid out - occasionally they fail me. (It's ok, Post Its, I still love you!)

This year is no different, and it seems Bonnie and I managed to lose to very lovely posts from Random Jordan in the shuffle. But it's never too late for fairy tale talk, right? So today, I have a guest review of Cameron Jace's Grimm Diaries Prequels, while Bonnie is hosting an awesome post about the evolution of fairy tales, which you should totally check out! (And if you want more Grimm Diaries, check out Bonnie's FTF excerpt of them!)

I’ll be the first one to admit that I’m a sucker for any kind of fairy tale re-telling, re-imagination, or just a look at the expanded universe of a fairy tale. This is probably why my kindle is littered with Andrew Lang’s books, all of the Wizard of Oz books, and a variety of modern fairy tales, which include the most reasons ones I’ve come across by Cameron Jace. These are a collection of short stories pulled together to create the prequel tales to a series Jace is releasing called ‘The Grimm Diaries’, which will start with Snow White Sorrow.
Each tale tends to focus on different major fairy tale characters including Cinderella, sleeping beauty, red riding hood, the evil witch from a few tales, beauty and the best, and many more. The premise based around each of these ‘diaries’ is that these are the fairy tale characters essentially telling their version of the story, since the Brothers Grimm had actually fabricated much of their history to lead away from the fact that most of the characters are immortal beings with exceptional powers (in some cases) in our world.
My particular focus will be on one of the diaries, the fourth one in fact, which is told by Little Red Riding Hood. Most people tend to just mention the first one, as it is a good opener to the rest of the series and also involves the main character of the first actual book, Snow White. But considering my background with Red Riding Hood and the particularly interesting tale to be told with this Red Riding Hood, I’ll start with this story and bleed into some of the others.
The Grimm Diaries Prequel #4 is called Ladle Rat Rotten Hut and although the name doesn’t exactly make much sense at first, you come to realize why it is called that as you read the story. The story tells just like a diary, with this one in particular starting with ‘dear diary’ considering it is technically written by a pre-teen girl. The writing holds true to a little girl too, from the very beginning she is referring to noises by how they sound with ‘tick-tick-ticking’ and keeps up this rhythm, which is rather reminiscent of the famous repetition occurring in the Red Riding Hood tale when she has dialogue with the wolf, as well as a common 3-3-3 theme in thousands of fairy tales, where things will repeat in threes.
And this is where the true beauty of the tale manages to show up too. Just by reading this single story, anyone who knows their origins and many versions of the same fairy tale can tell that Jace had done his homework. He brings mention to the golden hood which then later becomes red, in reference to the fact that Little Red Riding Hood was originally thought to be Little Golden Hood with her magical hooded cloak that protected her from the wolf. Further similar references soon appear as well as ones crafted by the author the most prominent of which I refuse to giveaway since it is rather crucial to the story, but let’s just say the red cloak and Red Riding Hood actually has a rather important job in the world, which explains why she’s an immortal.
Her tale mostly follows along the same story, with a wolf and the girl traveling through the woods on her own. But you discover soon that her reason for seeing her grandmother is more than just bringing her food and drink.
As for the name of the story? Well, during the course of the tale Red Riding Hood remembers and speaks with a language that is unique to only certain people. And her name in this language is Ladle Rat Rotten Hut, which means in English ‘Little Red Riding Hood’. She continually laments how everyone around her thinks her name is ridiculous.
The most interesting aspect of this story though was actually the method of interweaving Red Riding Hood with the Hansel and Gretel twins being saved from the witch. How was this done? Well first Red Riding Hood meets twins in town, and then when she gets to her grandmother’s she discovers the wolf in her grandmother’s bed, but he was bound there by her grandmother who was a terrible witch and had just eaten the twins Red Riding Hood met earlier!
This was definitely a far different and interesting twist on the story, and managed to weave other fairy tales into it, which is significantly more interesting and what I had been doing with my own series.
The other stories don’t all have quite so many twists and turns as this one did, and some of them actually focused on only parts of the stories of a character being told. Like the one involving Cinderella, called Ashes to Ashes, Cinder to Cinder, which is told by a granddaughter of the Grimm Brothers.
Regardless the unique atmosphere and combination of the various fairy tales and folklore makes this series a particularly fun one to pick up. Anyone who loves fairy tales will love these stories, so long as they have an open mind about those fairy tales. The only thing I could have asked for more with them was some diversity and variation in the characters, many of them still hold to the mostly straight white characters and there are tons of fairy tales that offer massive interpretations for diversity.
Regardless, the entire set of prequels is definitely worth a look considering how cheap they are, and how quick a read they can be. They can even be a great read for parents with children, so long as you look out for some of the darker stories. So get out there and enjoy some of those ‘wants pawn term’ (Once upon a time) stories!
Random Jordan is a self-proclaimed folklorist and frequent writer of all fashion of fiction with a particular focus of weaving LGBT themes into fairy tales, like their debut novel, The Real Folktale Blues, following Red Riding Hood in her adventures as a bounty hunter.   

Monday, April 15, 2013

Book Chat: Awesome Design Elements!

Continuing in the tradition of some of some of our favorite book chats on design, this month we're talking about the awesome surprising design elements that are popping up more and more in books. I forgot to address it in the video, but something that may be interesting to note - these memorable design elements MAY be a way to keep people buying physical books. Thoughts?

Link up your Chats as a video response, and/or you can link up blog and vlog posts on the linky, so everyone can check them out and get in on the conversation:

Also, basically every time I say "font" I mean text, or something similar... =D

Anna Dressed in Blood: http://amzn.to/11bGjnZ
The Thorn and the Blossom: http://amzn.to/10YGkLm
Shiver: http://amzn.to/17CrBej
The Complete Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: http://amzn.to/YYw883
Unspoken: http://amzn.to/MGMABL
Boundless: http://amzn.to/156HbzC
Mist: http://amzn.to/16Z2Urg
Frost: http://amzn.to/16Z2Urg
Sunshine: http://amzn.to/LTjdzG
The Space Between: http://amzn.to/WFgrlO
Shattered Souls: http://amzn.to/12RUQZU
The Thirteenth Tale: http://amzn.to/RYexqe
Lovecraft Middle School: http://amzn.to/YfC33o
Penguin Clothbound Classics: http://amzn.to/O79hQD
Harbinger: http://amzn.to/17fRNbK
Burn Bright: http://amzn.to/11jurBb
Sweetly: http://amzn.to/T7cUWm

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Part 2 of the March Book Haul (March was a good month...)

If you've seen the first part of my March haul (or the first part of the REST of my March haul, since I'd had a haul in the beginning of the month...), you'll know March as a good month for me and a bad month for the weight limits of my bookshelves... Here's part 2 of that endless haul.
You can catch up on the rest of my recent hauls (or not so recent, if you want) here.

Thanks for watching, and let me know what you think of the books I got, and if you've gotten anything cool lately, let me know!

The Disenchantments | Nina LaCour(for Liz)
Keeping the Castle | Patrice Kindl
Graffiti Moon | Cath Crowley
Unspoken | Sarah Rees Brennan
Teacher's Pest | Charles Gilman
Being Henry David | Cal Armistead
Outside the Spotlight | Sophie Weeks
Breadcrumbs | Anne Ursu

Also Mentioned:
Liz @ Consumed By Books
A Little Wanting Song (aka Chasing Charlie Duskin) | Cath Crowley

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Spies & Prejudice excerpt [#FridayReads]

In case you missed it, or in case you don't follow me on the youtubes, this week's Friday Reads vlog & excerpt comes from SPIES AND PREJUDICE by Talia Vance, a super fun Jane Austen meets Veronica Mars mash-up!
If you want to vote for S&P for this month's vlog review, go here.

Get It | Add It
"Fields' Rule #1: Don't fall for the enemy.

Berry Fields is not looking for a boyfriend. She's busy trailing cheaters and liars in her job as a private investigator, collecting evidence of the affairs she's sure all men commit. And thanks to a pepper spray incident during an eighth grade game of spin the bottle, the guys at her school are not exactly lining up to date her, either.

So when arrogant—and gorgeous—Tanner Halston rolls into town and calls her "nothing amazing," it's no loss for Berry. She'll forget him in no time. She's more concerned with the questions surfacing about her mother's death.

But why does Tanner seem to pop up everywhere in her investigation, always getting in her way? Is he trying to stop her from discovering the truth, or protecting her from an unknown threat? And why can't Berry remember to hate him when he looks into her eyes?

With a playful nod to Jane Austen, Spies and Prejudice will captivate readers as love and espionage collide."

Friday, April 12, 2013

Friday Face Off: Crown of Midnight

We've actually had a Face Off with the first book in Sarah J. Maas' Throne of Glass series, in which the UK cover won, hands down. Now that the second book, Crown of Midnight is about to come out (well, this summer, anyway), I noticed that the US publishers must have agreed - the US version of Crown has adopted the stylized look of the UK original, and the second books have the same basic cover art in both the US and UK - though they're styled very different.
Below are what the US and UK teams did with the same cover art - which would you reach for? Do the subtle changes in cropping, font and coloration draw you more toward one or the other?
Which one did it better?

Last Week on FFO: The original and spanking-new upcoming cover of Jessica Day George's fantastic Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow went head to head, and though a number of you loved the heightened fantasy of the new cover, most of us were purists. The clean, unfettered, intriguing original one, but either way, you should pick up this book!
Winner --------->

Thursday, April 11, 2013

March Book Haul (1 of 3ish...)

So... I got a lot of books in March, which is evidenced by the fact that I already had a haul or two IN March, and have had a ton of stuff waiting around to be shown. This video, in fact, has been recorded for a few weeks, and I just haven't had the time to edit it. So this is part 1 of 3 (maybe 4), but I don't want to bury you in book hauls, so the other few videos will be spaced over the next week or so.
Let me know what you think of the books I got, and if you've gotten any awesome ones lately, link up your haul as a response so I can come check it out!

Unearthly | Cynthia Hand
Hallowed | Cynthia Hand
Boundless | Cynthia Hand
Spies & Prejudice | Talia Vance
The Rose Throne | Mette Ivie Harrison  [review]
First Impressions: A Tale of Less Pride and Prejudice | Alexa Adams
Second Glances: A Tale of Less P&P Continues | Alexa Adams
Loki's Wolves | K.L. Armstrong & M. A. Marr
A Corner of White | Jaclyn Moriarty

Team Epic Reads and their #TeaTime chats
Renee @ Nehomas2

Fairy Tale Fortnight (and then some) WINNERS!

First, I want to thank you all for joining me for another Fairy Tale Fortnight. I hope you all enjoyed yourself, and I hope you all found some awesome new tales to read and love.
But let's get to what you're really here for - you wanna know if you won something. Below are the winners for all of the giveaways that went up on The Book Rat. There were additional giveaways on A Backwards Story, so if you didn't win anything here, check with Bonnie!

*Please note: There were a lot of entrants in FTF, so it's bound to happen that some of you have the same names. In a couple of cases where I noticed it, I left a last initial (and in one case, where winners even had the same last initial, I left another letter), but if you happen to see "your" name on here and aren't sure if you've won, check your email - I have emailed every single winner, and if you haven't gotten a winner notification from me, then sorry, it wasn't "your" name... Better luck next time!

And the winners are...

FTF Giveaway Hop (winner's choice)

The Princess Curse prize pack

Titan Magic
Holly W!

The Faerie Guardian:

My Cover-Crop Game mystery pack

Lunar Chronicles prize pack

Armored Hearts + $10 Amazon card
Jaime H!

The Rose Throne
Bookish in a Box! 

Hero's Guide prize pack
Maria S!

Awake: a Fairytale

and Awake + Views from the Tower pack

Wolves and Witches

Greta & the Goblin King

First Frost
Rachel S!

and in non-FTF winner news, I had a few giveaways just prior to Fairy Tale Fortnight, and here are those winners!

Being Henry David
Jaime A!

Second Glances

Outside the Spotlight
Holly Le!

Monday, April 8, 2013

March Rewind + April TBR (& Stack of Five!)

Hey guys! I know these are up super late; I had them recorded at the end of March, but because of Fairy Tale Fortnight, I hadn't had a chance to edit it until now. So here's what I read in March, and what I thought of it!  Below that, you can check out my TBR for this month, and though I normally keep my Stack of Five video separate (and youtube-only), which means no voting on the blog, this month they're combined, so feel free to weigh in!

The Swan Kingdom* | Zoe Marriot [review]
The Rose Throne | Mette Ivie Harrison [review]
First Frost | Liz DeJesus [review]
What Would Mr Darcy Do? | Abigail Reynolds
Escorted | Claire Kent

*There are totally copies of this in the bargain bin right now, btw.

Also Mentioned: Allison @ The Allure of Books

As I mentioned above, because of the madness that was FTF, I combined my TBR and Stack of Five this month, so you can vote on ANY of the books shown in this TBR as the one I will be doing a video review of.

As always, thanks for watching, and if you have your own TBR or Stack of Five you want me to watch, leave it as a response on youtube! =)

Fractured |Teri Terry
The Hero's Guide to Storming the Castle | Christopher Healy
The Secret of Ella & Micah | Jessica Sorensen
A Corner of White | Jaclyn Moriarty
Spies & Prejudice | Talia Vance
First Impressions: a Tale of Less Pride and Prejudice | Alexa Adams

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Review: FIRST FROST by Liz DeJesus

First Frost by Lis DeJesus
Get It | Add It
Contemporary Fantast / Fairy Tales274 pages
Published June 22nd 2012 by Musa Publishing
Fairytales aren’t real…yeah…that’s exactly what Bianca thought. She was wrong.

For generations, the Frost family has run the Museum of Magical and Rare Artifacts, handing down guardianship from mother to daughter, always keeping their secrets to “family only.”

Gathered within museum’s walls is a collection dedicated to the Grimm fairy tales and to the rare items the family has acquired: Cinderella’s glass slipper, Snow White’s poisoned apple, the evil queen’s magic mirror, Sleeping Beauty’s enchanted spinning wheel…

Seventeen-year-old Bianca Frost wants none of it, dreaming instead of a career in art or photography or…well, anything except working in the family’s museum. She knows the items in the glass display cases are fakes because, of course, magic doesn’t really exist.

She’s about to find out how wrong she is.

I think, before I begin, that I need to warn you of just how nit-picky I can be. And that a good chunk of this review is going to be me nitpicking. Which is probably not fair, because I enjoyed First Frost well enough, but the nit-picky things are the things that stay with me, so there you go.  But I'm going to start with the positives, because there were positives - this is not a hated-it, why-did-I-read-this? review at all, so I don't want you guys to leave with that impression.
So first, the good:

There are some really, really cool concepts in First Frost, like the idea of "Happily ever after" being a typo (actually, fairy tale characters lived in a different world, called Everafter, so the sentence should read "happily IN Everafter"), or the idea that the Grimm brothers wrote the fairy tales as warnings, because people in our world were having issues with creatures and witches from Everafter - people being cursed, children going missing, etc. Thus, the tales give you the basics of Everafter magic, so you know what to look for and how to protect yourself, but they leave out key elements so people in our world can't take advantage of the magics and use them in bad ways themselves. And of course, the fairy tale museum and all of its artifacts is a great concept, and done in a fun way. I especially liked the applications that some of the artifacts can be put to (their own story-related powers, essentially), and the fact that the museum itself came about as a result of the Great Depression, when Bianca's grandfather decided to showcase his family's magical wares out of necessity. Things like this are nice real-world touches that root a story, and I always appreciate that.

I also thought that there was a fun, light tone to the story that worked. Bianca's best friend, Ming, is super fun, and I really enjoyed the camaraderie between the two. They really did interact like people who have known each other for ever, and who will always be there for each other, while also always giving each other grief. There's humor in their interactions that, when DeJesus got it right, she really nailed. There were times, too, when the villains of the story were perfectly villainous, saying or doing something perfectly evil, obsessive and dark, but with this little undercurrent of sympathy - the reader has the knowledge, however slight, that they weren't always this way, and probably didn't intend for things to turn out as they did. (Of course, there were also times when I found the villains too over-the-top for my tastes, and the magics of both sides a little too easy. I want balance in all things, so if you're going to lob fireballs, I need to know that you really have to work at it, or there's some huge drawback to spellcasting, etc. A "natural" approach to magic (it just happens) doesn't work for me unless it has some major side-effects, or something.)

First Frost was a very quick read, and for the most part, remained engaging throughout. But it also felt like a first pass, or the work of a young writer, which is where my nit-picking comes in.

As you probably know by now, sometimes my inner editor comes out, and she just won't shut the hell up. So even while this was enjoyable, Editor Misty was saying things like:
Why would hide in a hollow tree from a strange man, only to decide moments later (when he asks where you are in a singsong voice), that he's probably safe, and to go ahead and come out? Don't you know that a) singsong voice always means creep, and b) stranger danger? And why bother hiding to immediately crawl back out of that hiding spot, into the hands of the person you hid from? Why? Oh, you figured it was something else chasing you, and not the strange men on horseback... Wait, what? The strangers on horseback are not the ones chasing you?
So, your mother has just told your father - who you've thought was missing or absentee since your childhood - was actually turned into a bear, and you say "When did this happen?" Not, what? Not, how is that even possible? Not, what are you on? AND THEN, when she says "Don't you remember when your father went missing?" you say "I meant was it during the day? At night?" because somehow that's the key piece of info in the your father's been turned into a bear discussion...
It's silly little non-incidents like this - which don't seem like much, until they're piled all together - that break my connection to the story and characters. I talk a lot about ease in storytelling, and how I never want things to be too easy.  This is true not just of the tension and struggles of the story, but also how a character reacts to things. I need characters to react more naturally to huge scenarios - and though sometimes in a crisis, you may burst out with the stupidest thing you've ever said, in general, a person's natural reaction to something paradigm-changing is to be incredulous, questioning, hesitant, scared and/or angry first. They may come around, and they may even come around quickly if they have no choice, but there should at least be a moment in there that is full of "WTF?/This isn't happening!"

Another thing: I said that Mette Ivie Harrison's writing is sometimes missing the connective tissue; if that's the case, then I think Liz DeJesus' writing suffers from too much connective tissue.  I sometimes felt like scenes and/or dialogue was throw-away - like it's what the author needed to work through to get where she was going, but then which should have been left on the cutting room floor. Readers don't need every single link, every useless succession of events or unnecessary bits of dialogue, to get where you want them to go. Don't "Canadian Film Festival"* us; if the import of a scene  or a bit of dialogue is that it isn't important ("I don't mean to cause you any harm - so I won't. The end."), then don't bother.

Actually, I take that back. It's not that it suffered from too much connective tissue, but that it was in the wrong places. So we would have scenes that seemed overly-long and pointless, with the type of unnatural conversation that usually gets edited out, but then there would be bigger things happening with no real urgency to them. I don't know what you do when your mom is kidnapped by an evil witch and you need to break into another world to get her back, but when this happens to my mom, I generally don't go to work like everything's fine for a few days, hire a handyman for quick home repairs, or veg out in front of the tv with my bestie.  These are things I wanted to tighten in edit. I wanted so badly to say "Leave the window broken, close the shop, find the book and get a move on! This is a crisis situation, the day-to-day can wait."

Ugh. And now I've spent more time than intended on the nit-picky things, and I know I'm going to leave you guys with a negative impression of this book. Can we just say, I have no control over Editor Misty and her endless desire to red-pen, and I never know when she's going to come out, but that doesn't mean you won't enjoy First Frost, which at its core is a light, fun book with some really cool fairy tale concepts? Can we just leave it at that?

Click here to go back to the Fairy Tale Fortnight Main Page,
where you can access the schedule! Or go here to get involved!
Credit to these awesome Deviants for our button [ 12 & 3]!

*This is a reference to Family Guy, and not a reflection on Canadian films, FYI.

Embracing the WEIRD - Misty's favorite strange tales [vlog]

For my last vlog of FTF, we're talking WEIRD.

There are lots of really bizarre, strange, wacko fairy tales out there, but here are the first 3 that always come to my mind when discussing the stranger side of fairy tales. Definitely let me know your favorite weird tales in the comments - and if you don't have any or know any, a) let me know what you think of the ones I talked about, and b) pick up a copy of Grimm's or Andersen's, Perrault's or Basile's, or just about any fairy tale collection, and open to, oh...any page. Bet you'll find one... ;)

Click here to go back to the Fairy Tale Fortnight Main Page,
where you can access the schedule! Or go here to get involved!
Credit to these awesome Deviants for our button [ 12 & 3]!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Spotlight on: Upcoming Fairy Tales!!

Well, another Fairy Tale Fortnight is coming to an end, which is sad, I know.
But that doesn't mean the fairy tale loving has to stop - there are so many good fairy tale retellings and fairy tale-esque stories coming out to grab and read and stockpile for next year!  Bonnie and I have shown you a few, and had authors mention a few in interviews, too. (I also noticed that people are trying to talk Chloe Jacobs into writing the Little Red/Beast mash-up mentioned casually in her interview... lol!)

Bonnie and I decided to end FTF with a fairy tale send-off to prepare you for the rest of this year. [And yes, I do have a few more posts coming tomorrow (Sunday is the new Saturday!), so don't worry. I'm not quite done!]  Here are some of the upcoming or recently released books Bonnie's looking forward to getting her hands on in 2013, and below are some of mine. Let me know your fairy tale finds and wishlist-ers in the comments!

And make sure to keep an eye out for my reviews of the first two upcoming books, Beauty and The Hero's Guide to Storming the Castle, in May!

(There are links to each book's Goodreads and Amazon page, so you can add them to your to-read piles and wishlists!)













Click here to go back to the Fairy Tale Fortnight Main Page,
where you can access the schedule! Or go here to get involved!
Credit to these awesome Deviants for our button [ 12 & 3]!

Friday, April 5, 2013

VESSEL by Sarah Beth Durst [review]

Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst
Get It | Add It
424 pages
Published September 11th 2012 by Margaret K. McElderry
Liyana has trained her entire life to be the vessel of a goddess. She will dance and summon her tribe's deity, who will inhabit Liyana's body and use magic to bring rain to the desert. But when the dance ends, Liyana is still there. Her tribe is furious--and sure that it is Liyana's fault. Abandoned by her tribe, Liyana expects to die in the desert. Until a boy walks out of the dust in search of her.

Korbyn is a god inside his vessel, and a trickster god at that. He tells Liyana that five other gods are missing, and they set off across the desert in search of the other vessels. The desert tribes cannot survive without the magic of their gods. But the journey is dangerous, even with a god’s help. And not everyone is willing to believe the trickster god’s tale.

The closer she grows to Korbyn, the less Liyana wants to disappear to make way for her goddess. But she has no choice--she must die for her tribe to live. Unless a trickster god can help her to trick fate--or a human girl can muster some magic of her own.

Okay, so what had happened was, I wrote a very glowing review of this last year after I read it, and apparently somewhere along the line, it got deleted. Couldn't tell you when, as it was around the holidays that it would have gone up (and who can focus on anything except yummy turkey dinners (mmm, gravy!*), ugly holiday sweaters and family dramz around the holidays?); all I know is that I went to link to it for something a few weeks ago and noticed it was no more. =/ (Fortunately I still had my vlogged mini-review of it & best of 2012, where it easily made the list. But still. frowny face)
[*But seriously, though? I am a gravy MASTER. So full of yumz, you want to pour that shiz on everything.]

I was going to try to rewrite it right then, but then I realized that, though it's not a fairy tale retelling, it has a strong folklore and mythology basis and style to it that actually makes it a really good fit for FTF!
And here we are.
So though it's now been months since I read this, and I'm sure I was dazzlingly witty the first time around, I'm just going to give you guys a quick  rundown of why I think this book is awesomesauce, and you should pick it up.

I have to start, of course, with the world building, which is such a stunner that I'm pretty sure it will be what comes to mind first for just about everybody. It was so amazingly strong, detailed and unique; I think Durst really did a knockout job of creating a world that felt complete and utterly fascinating. It manages to be both realistic and completely fantastical; because Durst really built the world from the ground up, history and all, there's a really strong foundation that the story is rooted in, which allows the more fantastical elements to kind of play on top of that. Its strong real-world basis - a culture which felt really believable, with authentic customs, superstitions and interactions and a strong folkloric feel - just lures you right in, and makes you see everything that's going on, and the layering of the mythos on top of that was flawless. And the truly amazing thing, is that all of this fantastic world-building is done with almost no info-dumping. Everything about it just feels so utterly natural - from the first page, you're immediately plunged into this world that just feels right, and you don't even have to think about it. There's no overly-detailed infodump, and there's no confusion - just a beautifully realized world to immerse yourself in. The religion and fantasy elements Durst has created are unique and executed really well, and I think even if I hadn't connected to the characters, I still would have loved this book on the strength of the world alone.

But I did love the characters! The main character, Liyana, is easily one of my absolute fave female leads of recent memory. The same is true of the male lead, Korbyn. I defy you not to love Liyana and Korbyn. But it's not just them - I like even the not-likable characters. All of their interactions; their individual strengths and weaknesses; the way they related to their worlds, religions, clans and each other; they way they fit as pieces in the larger puzzle - all of it worked brilliantly for me. There's a perfect amount of different types of tension (a ticking clock, looming war, romantic tension and the kind that comes when clashing personalities have to work together), and it made for a really compelling reading experience that I could feel. I love it when a book makes me physically feel something.

There was a slight bobble at the end, when things began to feel a little more rushed or just...not as strong as the rest of an otherwise extremely strong book, I guess?  But I still endorse it wholeheartedly; it ticks all of my boxes for a stand-out, reread-worthy fantasy:
  • Compelling world building with a believable real-world basis ✓
  • Believable, intelligently conceived and carried-out mythology and history  ✓
  • Thoughtfulness and complexity  ✓
  • Unique "visual" elements, like sandwolves (ie, they are literally sand-wolves - they show up in sandstorms, and howl in the howling wind!) and flying glass serpents  ✓
  • Strong, intelligent, competent female lead  ✓
  • Intriguing male lead (who happens to be a trickster god!)  ✓
  • a "love" story (dare I say, a triangle, even) that is complex and lacking in foregone conclusions  ✓
  • Memorable-ness  ✓
  • and tension, tension, glorious TENSION  ✓
Durst gets stronger with every book, in my opinion, and has become one of my top authors to watch. In fact, you should stop reading this, and start reading Vessel. Now.

Click here to go back to the Fairy Tale Fortnight Main Page,
where you can access the schedule! Or go here to get involved!
Credit to these awesome Deviants for our button [ 12 & 3]!

Spotlight on: Karen Hallion's FAB fairy tale-inspired art!!

You guys may have seen in my most recent book haul that I received some Karen Hallion cards for my birthday (thanks Ksenia!!); I am so in love with Karen's clever mash-ups - and even more so because many of them involve fairy tales!  Because I think more people need to discover her (and, you know, get her t-shirts on Threadless, and stuff), I thought I'd do a little spotlight on some of her fairy tale work!

If you like what you see, make sure you help support her! Check her out on Etsy and Deviant Art, follow her on Facebook, twitter and tumblr - basically, stalk Karen just as much as I do... ;)

She has a whole series of fairy tale heroines meeting The Doctor.  Here are the two I have, followed by some more of my favorites:

She also has a series of steampunk princesses:

And I cannot even TELL you how enamored I am of this bookpage series:

And there is so much more!! Her designs are routinely turned into shirts on sites like Threadless, QwerTee and TeeFury, and you can also buy awesome prints and things directly from Karen through Etsy and support her awesome art (and I would highly suggest you do)!!

Click here to go back to the Fairy Tale Fortnight Main Page,
where you can access the schedule! Or go here to get involved!
Credit to these awesome Deviants for our button [ 12 & 3]!


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