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Monday, December 12, 2016

Anne Shirley (with an e) + Rachel McAdams (with one d) [sponsored]

Everything's coming up Anne (with an e).

PBS just released an updated version of Anne of Green Gables, apparently ignoring the fact that the Megan Follows version is the One True Version (though I will still absolutely be watching online when I get the chance -- my station didn't air it?!). Anne is also coming to Netflix (? ! ? !), proving that everyone's favorite redhead is here to stay.

And what's more? A brand new audiobook of Anne of Green Gables, read by everyone's favorite sometimes-redhead, Rachel McAdams, has just been released! If this is not holiday kismet, telling you to buy all of the kindred, bosom friends on your list something appropriately Anne-worthy, and maybe re-indulge in the antics of a certain carrot-y, precocious orphan yourself, I don't know what is.

A lot of you probably already know all about the connection I have to this book, because I've talked about it oh, a time or ten. I don't think I could count on both hands the number of times I've read this book and others in the series; it's one of my most long-standing favorites, and one I know I will continue to reread well into my dotage. But I have yet to listen to it on audiobook, and I really couldn't think of a narrator that would make me more happy than Rachel McAdams, so now seems like the perfect time!

You can check out Rachel talking about the book and the process of recording it in this peek behind the scenes (below), and you can grab a copy of Anne (or any other Audible audiobook!) as part of a free 30-day trial!  They have an insane unmatched selection of audiobooks (including Amy Poehler reading her book, Yes, Please, which is probably a thing you want, because obviously), and they are also Whispersync compatible, meaning that you can switch back and forth from reading the text on Kindle to listening to the audio on your commute! That is pretty handy, if you ask me.

And I do keep saying that I need to up my audiobook game and start using audiobooks as an incentive to clean the house or work out. . . New Year's resolution, perhaps?

Let me know your thoughts on this Anne + Rachel pairing in the comments, and/or who you'd like to see read your favorite classic!
And if you have any audiobook recommendations for me, I'd love to hear them!

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Audible. The opinions and text are all mine.
Start your free 30-day trial of audible here, with a free download of Rachel McAdams reading Anne of Green Gables, OR any other book from their vast selection -- your choice!
Comments submitted may be displayed on other websites owned by the sponsoring brand.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

NOVEMBER 2016 BOOK HAUL (and a little bit December, tbh)

Got a quick peek into my new bookish acquisitions, as well as multiple appearances from a meddling cat. One-take phone vlogs FTW!

Just Another Girl
Six of Crows
Crooked Kingdom
-- box set
Dot Grid Notebook
Baba Yaga

Liz @ Consumed by Books
Bullet Journaling -- want a video on this?

Disclaimer: This is NOT a sponsored video, though a few of these books were sent to me for review consideration purposes.

Monday, December 5, 2016

#NANOWrIMo 2016 wrap-up: Tragedy!!1!

Forgot to share this with you (as you watch, I'm sure you'll understand why my mind is a little elsewhere...), but here is my wrap-up to this year's NaNoWriMo.
For what it's worth.

Check back tomorrow for a brand new book haul, or if you can't wait, it's live now on youtube!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

NaNoWriMo 2016 Check-In, week 3: FAIL.

This week was full of fail, but now it's time to dust that off and move on!
Let me know your motivational tips (& your writing fails!) in the comments!

Buddy me for NaNo: http://nanowrimo.org/participants/bookratmisty

Reminder to back up your WIP!


On the NaNo blog, Jodi Compton gave some tips for actually getting started each day, which so many people (raises hand) struggle with.

The pep talk this week was from Maggie Steifvater, who talked about tackling time and the "impossible" task of NaNo, with tips on how she keeps moving forward in her own projects. Some of these are things I already do and/or have come to embrace (either in this NaNo or in NaNos past). ''m personally trying to embrace #6 this year.
(Also, some old lady hand-fought a bear, apparently.)

Using timers & the "pomodoro method"
Similarly, but more NaNo focused (and a great way to test the waters & see if timer methods are right for you), NaNoWordSprints

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

NaNoWriMo 2016 | Week Two

Here's a look back at week 2 of NaNoWriMo, in which my focus was productivity (sort of).

Reminder to back up your WIP!

Buddy me for NaNo here!

Last week's video

Rachel Aaron's pyramid of productivity (I don't know if she called it that, but I'm calling it that),
and Monica Leonelle on some similar tips, and some added productivity techniques and tools.

From Sandy Hall "All first drafts need to do is exist." She also mentioned this technique of plotting a solid scene in 10 minutes, which may go hand in hand with Rachel Aaron's productivity & word count boost tips. Gonna try to consistently try it out for a week or so, and see what I think!

The pep talk this week was from Alaya Dawn Johnson, who talked about breaking through self-doubt and embracing your unique voice.

Danika Stone on using deadlines to your advantage and self-rewarding.

And lastly, I also mentioned the 3 act / 9 block / 27 chapter structure, which I loosely use to stay on track. This break down the idea of the three acts (with examples).
And here's a video from Kat breaking down how she does the 27 chapters, which is a good representation of the general idea. There are lots of ways of breaking the 27 chapters down, though, with different key points and tips, so if you're interested in this, I'd recommend a quick google!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

NaNoWriMo 2016!

Hey, I'm taking on the craziness of NaNoWriMo again, only this time, I thought I'd add an extra layer of crazy and vlog about it! My hope is that this will a) keep me accountable, and b) help create a community of people who share their inspiration and give each other a boost!

This week's main topic is a general getting to know you/introduction (are you participating? How's it coming, what are you writing, etc?) + writing "surprises" and unexpected moments that have come out of your journey so far!

My WriMo profile: http://nanowrimo.org/participants/bookratmisty

Word count this week: ~ 5000

Some writerly discussions and pep talks I've loved:
Alexander Chee's pep talk on talent vs. work
Susan Dennard on magical cookies and on Heat Mapping and finding your rhythm

Saturday, October 8, 2016


You guys! I TOTALLY forgot to mention the awesome surprise Jane Austen-themed gift that showed up in my mail, from the awesome Beth @ Printcess! I'll show it in October, so keep an eye out for that. =)
But now, onto the rest of what I got in September!

Promo Box #1:
Three Dark Crowns
Gilt Hollow
Wendy Darling

Promo Box #2:
The Young Elites
The Rose Society
The Midnight Star
Young Elites / Penguin Teen tote bag
Young Elites / Penguin Teen mug

Curtsies & Conspiracies
Keep Her
Beautiful Broken Girls

Disclaimer: This is NOT a sponsored video, though many of these books were sent to me for review consideration or promotional purposes.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Favorite Fairy Tales & the Mighty Jack Blog Tour!

Today I'm part of the blog tour for Ben Hatke's Mighty Jack, which I'm sure anyone who's followed this blog for any length of time will know is something that's right up my alley. Not only is it a fairy tale retelling, but it's by the ever-incredible Ben Hatke (you know who I mean) AND we're talking about our favorite tales and adaptations (which is kinda my thing)!

Now, I'm sure for most of the people on this tour, their favorite adaptation is — not coincidentally — also of their favorite original fairy tale, but for me, you don't run across my favorite tales too often. I mean, Cinderella and Snow White are great and all, but I think it's been well-established that I like the weird sh*t. The dark, disturbing, less-common fairy tales are my game, and have been since I was a small child, but even if it's not super dark, my tastes have always tended to the more obscure. The Elves and the Shoemaker, anyone? And while I have yet to find a retelling of that (and though there is a fantastic retelling of my childhood second-favorite fairy tale), my two favorite-of-all-time retellings (because of course there are two, when do I ever pick just one "favorite"?) are indeed of more unusual — and often less. . . happy — source material.
(And again, if you've been around, you can probably guess what they are...)

First up: Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by Jessica Day George. This retells East O' the Sun, West O' the Moon, which is, I suppose, part of the Beauty and the Beast-strain of tale (which is itself descended from the Eros & Psyche myth, if we're honest, and since that is my favorite myth, I suppose I do sort of fall into that category of  "favorites" I mentioned above). The general story is girl (with no name; she is known simply as 'the Lass') ventures out into the cold cold cold at the side of an isbjorn (ice bear), in order to help her family. It follows the basic BatB bullet-points from there, with her eventually realizing that the 'bear' is really a prince under a curse, yada yada, and we'll save for another day the discussion of how creepy and effed up it is that this cycle of stories hinges on a girl falling in love with a bear/beast/creature-she's-forbidden-to-see, etc. etc, — and also how much I love these stories anyway? — because that is neither here nor there.

No, the beauty and the strength of this story, and the reason I adore it so, is the absolute, slavish love that Jessica Day George poured into it. It pulsates from the pages, her passion for Norway and this story; the people and culture and scenery and mythology, the characters and setting and world. The Lass is intriguing and one of my favorite characters, ever, and I love Bear. I love him. I just do.

I felt the cold and the isolation, and the magic and romance of it all, and it is just a book that won me over, head to toe, cover to cover; my thoughts on it are very warm, despite all its blustery coldness.

The second story, and my absolute Favorite of all Favorites, is Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier (shocker). I may have talked about this book a time or twelve.

It's a retelling of The Wild Swans, a disturbing little story that is strangely close to my heart. It's a Hans Christian Andersen tale, so of course it's pretty effed up. (Not that any of them are all that rosy, tbf. But Andersen had issues, man.) It starts slow, and it has some bobbles along the way, but my god, is it ever a powerhouse. I reread this book routinely (pretty much annually, but I'm overdue), and it gives me chills and butterflies every time. Not even kidding.

Marillier captures something with this story, these characters. It's not just that it's a very strong retelling of an interesting (if odd) story, but that she creates a huge, tangible world, an epic romance, characters I could almost reach out and touch, and — just — FEELS.  Feels, man! Her writing is beyond evocative, lush and powerful, and gah! Talking about it makes me want to read it yet again.

It's not perfect, but it is amazing. It also employs an odd little favorite thing of mine: a silent main character. I'm not sure what it is, it's not even something you see often, but I seem to be smitten with silent or semi-mute protagonists. I don't know if there's something to be analyzed in that. . . ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

So there you have my two favorites, but the general list is a long one. I've got fairy tale recommendations for days. Which brings us to my thoughts on Mighty Jack. I find this transition kind of funny, because it's actually a retelling of one of my "problem" fairy tales, Jack and the Beanstalk. Like all kids, I loved this tale as a kid, because it frankly doesn't get much more silly or whimsical than this (in mainstream fairy tales, at least). THAT SAID, even as a kid, Jack really bothered me. REALLY bothered me. I mean, selling the cow for beans is bad enough (you fool!), but repeatedly breaking into a giant's house and stealing his ish is a whole other level — and then Jack has THE NERVE to kill the giant over it! And is considered a hero!
That's messed up.

So Jack and the Beanstalk has never sat right with me, even though I still kinda love it. (It's iconic!)
But a Ben Hatke retelling of the story. . . now that's something I can get behind. Hatke interprets the tale in very clever modern ways, but the smartest thing he's done is to capitalize on the whimsy while also giving Jack a lot of heart. He's not the thoughtless, foolish, selfish boy of the original, but a caring, compassionate and only-sometimes-foolish brother, son, and friend. Circumstances (and beans. Lots of beans) conspire against him to make him seem thoughtless, when really he's trying so hard, and has so much weight on his young shoulders, and it makes for such an engaging and sympathetic take on the character. He's a young kid who genuinely cares for and is trying to protect his overworked mother and autistic sister, and he kinda keeps drawing the short straw— mostly due to magic beans. (Of all kinds. Hand-beans that throw things at you. Beans that explode. Beans that want to eat you...)

One of my favorite things about Hatke's stories is the amazing female characters he creates. I'd imagine it's in large part due to the gaggle of fierce, creative, amazing daughters he has, but whatever the reason, these are the types of stories and characters I longed for (and struggled to find) as a kid. Of course, his characters are great across the board, always; it's one of the things he excels at, and one of the reasons I love his stories so. And he always gets me with those damn quirky, should-be-inanimate characters. Rocks. Robots. An onion/turnip/mandrake thingy that, okay, I don't even know what is this or why, but I love it and I want one.
(But a not-probably-evil one. A Gizmo, not a gremlin.)
And of course, the art is fantastic. The line work is delicate and fantastical, the coloring soft and dreamy, and all of it expressive and clean and beautiful. I've never, in any of Hatke's books, had a single complaint about the art or his ability to craft a story. (And fans of the Zita series might see a familiar face or two...)
Also, it's really funny; did I mention that it was really funny?

And that's probably all I should say, other than: you should definitely pick this up. If you're a fairy tale fan, pick it up. If you're a Ben Hatke fan, pick it up. If you're a comic and graphic novel fan, pick it up. If you have kids (in your classroom; visiting your library; expelled from your uterus), pick it up and read it with them. It has the heart and the art I've come to associate with Ben Hatke, and both of things are all you really need to know to know it's going to be good.
And I'll just be over here, *patiently* waiting for book 2.

...and, err... Sorry for all of the ellipses and parentheses and em-dashes and run-ons... I ramble when I talk about fairy tales and things I like.

Find the rest of the Mighty Jack blog tour stops below; I'd highly recommend checking them out (more fairy tale favorites!); Mighty Jack is in stores now! If you end up reading it, I'd love to know your thoughts!

Miss Print, 9/26

Mighty Jack by Ben Hatke
Get It | Add It
Published September 6th 2016 by First Second
Jack might be the only kid in the world who's dreading summer. But he's got a good reason: summer is when his single mom takes a second job and leaves him at home to watch his autistic kid sister, Maddy. It's a lot of responsibility, and it's boring, too, because Maddy doesn't talk. Ever. But then, one day at the flea market, Maddy does talk—to tell Jack to trade their mom's car for a box of mysterious seeds. It's the best mistake Jack has ever made.

What starts as a normal little garden out back behind the house quickly grows up into a wild, magical jungle with tiny onion babies running amok, huge, pink pumpkins that bite, and, on one moonlit night that changes everything…a dragon.

Ben Hatke is an author and illustrator of graphic novels and picture books. Most notably he is the creator of the Zita the Spacegirl graphic novel series.

He posts art and stories online at:

*All Might Jack artwork shown copyright © Ben Hatke, 2016.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Teaser: Wendy Darling, vol 2: Seas by Colleen Oakes!

I'm back with another post in the Fall Favorite Things blog tour; this time, I'm sharing a snippet of WENDY DARLING, vol 2: Seas by Colleen Oakes!
Colleen's favorite fall thing? "Colleen, like the rest of us, LOVES a good fall read. Let’s be real, there is nothing like sitting in front of the fire place with a glass of hot apple cider reading and an amazing YA book."
Yep, that sounds just about perfect.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments, and check out my other Fall Favorite Things posts here:
Keep Her: http://www.thebookrat.com/2016/09/keep-her-by-leora-krygier-fall-favorite.html
Three Dark Crowns: http://www.thebookrat.com/2016/09/three-dark-reasons-i-cant-wait-to-read.html
Gilt Hollow: [Coming this week!]

WENDY DARLING , vol 2: SEAS by Colleen Oakes
Amazon  |  Goodreads
274 pages; Published September 20th 2016 by Sparkpress
From the author of Queen of Hearts comes the much anticipated sequel to Wendy Darling.

Wendy Darling: Seas finds Wendy and Michael aboard the dreaded Sudden Night, a dangerous behemoth sailed by the infamous Captain Hook and his blood-thirsty crew. In this exotic world of mermaids, spies and pirate-feuds, Wendy finds herself struggling to keep her family above the waves. Hunted by the twisted boy who once stole her heart and struggling to survive in the whimsical Neverland sea, returning home to London now seems like a distant dream - and the betrayals have just begun.

Will Wendy find shelter with Peter's greatest enemy, or is she a pawn in a much darker game, one that could forever alter not only her family's future, but also the soul of Neverland itself?

Monday, September 26, 2016

Three Dark Reasons I Can't Wait to Read Three Dark Crowns

As you'll be finding out soon enough in my September book haul, Kendare Blake's Three Dark Crowns is currently in my hot little hands (well, not currently currently. Because I'm typing this, and that would present some logistical problems..), and I. Am. Excite. Since I can't read it quite yet — gotta finish up Heartless, dontcha know — I thought I'd share with you a few of the reasons I can't wait to dig into this book!

1) 'Tis the Season for dark, atmospheric books. I'm not always a seasonal reader; I have occasional nods to the season in my reading — a beach read here, a wintery book actually read in winter there* — but they tend to be a brief blip in my overall scattershot style of reading. The exception to this is my serious craving for autumnal, atmospheric, vaguely Halloween-appropriate books as soon as cool weather hits. I crave them, and my Fall does not seem complete without them.
I already know Blake can do dark.
I already know Blake can do atmospheric.
Couple that with the synopsis, and this sounds like the perfect Fall read for me!

*But let's be honest, that's mostly so I can fully embrace it and cuddle up with a oversized sweater and giant mug of cocoa, and pretend I'm in a scene from some movie with a thoughtful Reader Girl heroine... Don't act like I'm the only one.

2) Kendare Blake is pretty no holds barred. One of my favorite things about her writing is that she is willing to go there, wherever there is. She'll take you to the dark places, and the gory ones, and the ones that just make you damn uncomfortable. Case in point (for me at least): I will probably never be able to get the image of Athena pulling a freaking feather out of the roof of her mouth. Such a simple thing that made me so weirdly uncomfortable and absolutely fascinated... And that's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to strange and uncomfortable and dark and gory.
I mean. . .

3) Kendare Blake is really good at "brutality meets complexity." 
[So, very slight spoilers a little bit here, but if you haven't already read the fabulous Anna Dressed in Blood, I really don't know what to tell you, but...] Anna rips a freaking guy in half. LITERALLY IN HALF. And you go on to love her anyway, because Anna is kind of amazing. Blake knows how to work the dark and gory — but the reason it works so well, and doesn't just come across as mindless thrills and chills, a throwaway slasher, is because there's some serious substance there. Like, yes, there is the sort of gleeful-splashing-of-blood-on-the-walls element to the stories — there is a level of shock value gore — but it's balanced so perfectly with a real story, characters with depth and humor and general interestingness, that keeps it from ever being a gory schlock-fest.

I used to love horror (books, movies, tv shows, didn't matter) as a kid, but I got over it quite some time ago because the development wasn't there; it started to bore me. Horror and gore don't work on more than a surface level if there's not some real connection to the characters; if you don't care, what's the point? With Blake, you end up caring, AND THEN, you end up in a bit of perpetual terror that the characters you care about are going to meet an untimely and very inglorious end — and that is delightful.

In a story of three sisters destined to (apparently) attempt to tear each other to shreds, there's bound to be both brutality and complexity.

And there you have it! Three of the dark little reasons that Three Dark Crowns is next up on my TBR!
If you've read this one or have been wanting to, I'm definitely curious to hear your thoughts in the comments! And I'm planning an October post about some of my fave autumnal, atmospheric reads, so I'd love you to tell me some of yours!

Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake
416 pages
Published September 20th 2016 by HarperTeen
Every generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born: three queens, all equal heirs to the crown and each possessor of a coveted magic. Mirabella is a fierce elemental, able to spark hungry flames or vicious storms at the snap of her fingers. Katharine is a poisoner, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons without so much as a stomachache. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is said to have the ability to bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of lions.

But becoming the Queen Crowned isn’t solely a matter of royal birth. Each sister has to fight for it. And it’s not just a game of win or lose…it’s life or death. The night the sisters turn sixteen, the battle begins. The last queen standing gets the crown.

If only it was that simple. Katharine is unable to tolerate the weakest poison, and Arsinoe, no matter how hard she tries, can’t make even a weed grow. The two queens have been shamefully faking their powers, taking care to keep each other, the island, and their powerful sister Mirabella none the wiser. But with alliances being formed, betrayals taking shape, and ruthless revenge haunting the queens’ every move, one thing is certain: the last queen standing might not be the strongest…but she may be the darkest.

This post was part of the "Fall Favorite Things" blog tour, in which bloggers are sharing bits about upcoming & newly released books, and the authors of said books are sharing their favorite Fall things. Kendare's? A certain special necklace...
"You may be thinking, it’s just a necklace. Doesn’t really seem badass…Well this is actually the most badass necklace ever because not only does it match the cover of the book (more bookstagrams!), but it is also handmade by an inner city high school student. And the profits from all of the products sold go toward funding that students college education. Pretty badass, am I right? Feel free to check out more of their stuff: The Shine Project."

Keep an eye out for more Fall Favorite Things posts throughout these cool, crisp months!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016


6+2214rdfeBig thanks to all of you for your patience while I was schlepping around for weddings and funerals and internetless house & pet sitting, and then for your patience while I went through and validated* Austen in August giveaway entries. (And also... every time I sat down to pull winners, New Kitten would climb into my lap. THIS CAUSED DELAYS,) I know you're all like, Misty, the giveaways ended days ago, tell us who won already!

Well, since you asked so nicely. . .

Megan S.!

Suzan L.!

Jessica B.!
Brenda M.!

Danielle C.!

Julie R.!
Laura H.!
Grace S.!
Priscilla T.!
Caitlin M.!
Bube P.!
Gabriela S.!
Dina G.!

Emily K.!

Sophia R.!

Jacklin U.!

The winner of Pride & Prejudice: Behind the Scenes will be chosen and announced on the Austen Variations blog.

All winners HAVE been emailed, and have 48 hours to respond with confirmation and/or mailing info to claim their prizes. If they do not, new winners will be chosen.

Thank you SO MUCH to everyone who participated in this year's AIA, to all of the great authors and Janeites who offered up prizes, and all of the readers who spread the word and shared the love!  You guys are what make this madness worth it!
Hope everyone enjoys their prizes, and hope to see you all again next year!!

*Any invalid entries that I found WERE deleted. Same for people clearly trying to scam a giveaway. I'm ruthless, people, don't test me! ;)

Return to the Austen in August Main Page by clicking here for more Janeite goodies!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Trailer Reveal + GIVEAWAY: Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter!

You're probably already at least somewhat familiar with the book Vassa in the Night by now; after all, I've been sporadically pushing it in your faces for a couple of months now. Between my First Impressions, my review (glowing! And oddweirddisturbingdark...), and not one but two haul videos (and a TBR!), I've been sharing this strange, dark little book every chance I get — and now I've got an even BETTER way to share it with you!

It is my great pleasure to get to reveal to you the (gorgeous, eerie) trailer for the book (that music!), which you can check out right now, for the very first time, below!


Along with the trailer, Tor has created teasers featuring everyone's favorite vaguely creepy, fully hilarious animate doll, Erg. Erg is sharing her "little wisdoms," because she cares about you and wants you to succeed, and also she wants you to share your food with her, please.
Here's my favorite (of course I chose the one with a cat), but you can also check out her thoughts on magic and impossible tasks...


Because the people at Tor are so amazing, and because I loved this book and think that you might, too, we're giving you a chance to win a copy of your very own! Now, as I mentioned, I shared this in not one, but two hauls, meaning that I have two copies of this dark little gem! So I'm tossing my second copy into this giveaway as well (since I forgot that I'd intended to include it as a giveaway in my review... oops!), meaning that your chances of winning are automatically doubled!

[Please note my sacrifice in passing along the book in its own amazing custom gift-wrapping... The things I do for you. ;)
Moving on.]

Please note: the copy from me will be the gift-wrapped one on the left; the copy on the right (my copy) is a stand-in for the finished copy provided by Tor. It will not be beat up and, err...well loved as my copy. ;)
To celebrate the release of the trailer & teasers, and the release of the book (today!), the awesome folks at Tor have offered up a finished copy for one lucky TBR reader, and I'm offering up a gift-wrapped (in branded Vassa paper!) ARC to a second lucky reader!
This giveaway is US only, and ends September 27 at 11:59pm EST.
Fill out the Rafflecopter below to enter.
Please do not leave any email addresses or sensitive info in the comments. These will be deleted.
Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter
Get It | Add It
304 pages
Expected publication: September 20th 2016 by Tor Teen
In the enchanted kingdom of Brooklyn, the fashionable people put on cute shoes, go to parties in warehouses, drink on rooftops at sunset, and tell themselves they’ve arrived. A whole lot of Brooklyn is like that now—but not Vassa’s working-class neighborhood.

In Vassa’s neighborhood, where she lives with her stepmother and bickering stepsisters, one might stumble onto magic, but stumbling out again could become an issue. Babs Yagg, the owner of the local convenience store, has a policy of beheading shoplifters—and sometimes innocent shoppers as well. So when Vassa’s stepsister sends her out for light bulbs in the middle of night, she knows it could easily become a suicide mission.

But Vassa has a bit of luck hidden in her pocket, a gift from her dead mother. Erg is a tough-talking wooden doll with sticky fingers, a bottomless stomach, and a ferocious cunning. With Erg’s help, Vassa just might be able to break the witch’s curse and free her Brooklyn neighborhood. But Babs won’t be playing fair. . . .

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter | Review

Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter
Get It | Add It
304 pages
Expected publication: September 20th 2016 by Tor Teen
In the enchanted kingdom of Brooklyn, the fashionable people put on cute shoes, go to parties in warehouses, drink on rooftops at sunset, and tell themselves they’ve arrived. A whole lot of Brooklyn is like that now—but not Vassa’s working-class neighborhood.

In Vassa’s neighborhood, where she lives with her stepmother and bickering stepsisters, one might stumble onto magic, but stumbling out again could become an issue. Babs Yagg, the owner of the local convenience store, has a policy of beheading shoplifters—and sometimes innocent shoppers as well. So when Vassa’s stepsister sends her out for light bulbs in the middle of night, she knows it could easily become a suicide mission.

But Vassa has a bit of luck hidden in her pocket, a gift from her dead mother. Erg is a tough-talking wooden doll with sticky fingers, a bottomless stomach, and a ferocious cunning. With Erg’s help, Vassa just might be able to break the witch’s curse and free her Brooklyn neighborhood. But Babs won’t be playing fair. . . .

Pretty much everyone who knows me knows I love fairy tales, but those that know me well know I really love the weird ones. The odd ones. The disturbing ones. The dark ones—the darker, the better. Any fairy tale that features Baba Yaga is bound to be one of the weird, odd, dark & disturbing ones, and so of course, any fairy tale retelling that takes on Baba Yaga’s stories is one I have to get my hands on. Vassa in the Night, a retelling of Vasilisa the Beautiful (or alternately, Vasilisa the Brave), is one such story, and when it comes to my craving for weird, odd and very, very dark, it delivers.

Now, I’m going to say right off the bat, this story is certainly not for everyone. It’s weird and it’s odd (and somehow those are different things). The nights are getting longer and longer, even though the clock stays the same (weird), and there’s a talking doll who could eat several times her weight in…well, anything (odd). But more than that, it’s an occasionally non-linear story (something some readers struggle to follow or stay engaged in), where nearly everything is off-putting and slightly discordant—or should I say diskordant, because every single ‘dis’ word that has a C in it (and you’d be surprised how many there are), instead has a K—and this is yet another layer of the strange and bizarre and weird and odd that will be found in Vassa’s pages. And yes, though that may not seem like much, it is a symbol of just how thoroughly The Odd pervades this book. It’s written to make you a little uncomfortable, to keep you more than a little unsettled. Plenty of people struggle enough with “weird” books when it’s just the contents that are weird, but when the storytelling itself goes wonky, that’s enough to drive some readers away.

What’s more, it’s disturbing and it’s dark, and yes, those are most definitely separate things, though they certainly go hand in hand. I mean, there’s a dancing store on giant chicken legs (disturbing), surrounded by a fence of heads on spikes (dark). There are glitter nail polish –wearing disembodied hands (disturbing) who wield axes and are bloodthirsty to tear people apart (dark). There is a missing father who has made possibly one of the strangest fey deals in any story I’ve ever read (no spoilers, but…disturbing and odd and weird), and a half sibling who sends her sister to the dancing chicken-legged store at night, knowing it could very well end with her head on a spike (and hoping it will—dark). There are no cookie cutter happy endings here, where resolution is given to each bit of each story line; where the good guys always win and the bad guys always get what’s coming to them, and any real damage done is undone. Vassa’s world is one that is pretty downtrodden and unsettling even before she gets snarled up in Babs’ murderous machinations*, and even if she should prove victorious and manage to survive her very long nights at BY’s, she still has to go back to that small, unhappy world.

But—there is hope. As with any fairy tale worth its salt, there is some small chance of a silver lining, an improvement in one’s lot. And there is the realization of self that only the really good fairy tales possess, that newfound understanding of one’s own power and competency and agency. And all of these things—these weird, odd, disturbing, dark things—are what drew me in and made me love the book. No, it won’t be for everyone, and the lack of perfect resolution may mean that even some readers who were enjoying the book will feel as if the rug has been pulled out from under them by the end, or as if they’ve invested their time for not enough pay off. But for those—like me—who enjoy the surreal and the bizarre, who like their fairy tales dark and their retellings darker, and who appreciate a good Coming Into One’s Own type of story, you may find it doesn’t get much better than Vassa. It’s fantastical and strangely compelling and has a great voice, and it hits a lot of right notes (the thrills! the chills! the funnies and tinglies!).

I’ve seen some people say it was slow, but you all know I’m not the person to ask about a book’s slowness, because I always seem to love them more when they build and burn and luxuriate in setting the scene.** (Though I will definitely agree with those who felt the ending seemed rushed by comparison, because it most definitely did.) Though it doesn’t seem there are plans as of yet for a sequel, I’m hoping there will be, because I would like to fall into Vassa’s world again, to see what becomes of her and some peripheral characters, and also to see if we get any resolution of some of the weirder storylines—but all in all, I find myself heartily recommending it to those who think they are likely to like the weird things I like, and only cautiously recommending it to those who don’t – and fully curious to know the thoughts of any who do end up reading it!

*Claiming for future bad punk band name… Winking smile
** To an extent, because there are definitely some books that my godddddd are too slow. And I can not abide info-dumping, which makes a book insta-slow.

This book hits stores tomorrow, but until then, you can get more of my thoughts + a teaser of the style in my First Impressions video!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Roald Dahl's 100th Birthday Celebration! Esio Trot Excerpt

I'm a big Roald Dahl fan. Always have been, likely always will be. I like his kids stuff; I like his adult stuff. I even know how to correctly pronounce his name... ;)
So when I was asked if I'd like to be part of a big, epic blog tour to celebrate what would have been his hundredth birthday, of course I said yes!
I'm sharing with you an excerpt from Esio Trot, one of the few Dahl books I never got my hands on as a kid (though I have it now, so... we're going to fill that gap in my Dahl catalog)!
Check it out below, and let me know in the comments what your favorite Roald Dahl book is!
(Mine is The Witches. I think. It's so hard to choose!)

Esio Trot p9-23

Mr Hoppy lived in a small flat high up in a tall concrete building. He lived alone. He had always been a lonely man and now that he was retired from work he was more lonely than ever.
There were two loves in Mr Hoppy’s life. One was the flowers he grew on his balcony. They grew in pots and tubs and baskets, and in summer the little balcony became a riot of colour. Mr Hoppy’s second love was a secret he kept entirely to himself.
The balcony immediately below Mr Hoppy’s jutted out a good bit further from the building than his own, so Mr Hoppy always had a fine view of what was going on down there. This balcony belonged to an attractive middle-aged lady called Mrs Silver. Mrs Silver was a widow who also lived alone. And although she didn’t know it, she was the object of Mr Hoppy’s secret love. He had loved her from his balcony for many years, but he was a very shy man and he had never been able to bring himself to give her even the smallest hint of his love.
Every morning, Mr Hoppy and Mrs Silver exchanged polite conversation, the one looking down from above, the other looking up, but that was as far as it ever went. The distance between their balconies might not have been more than a few yards, but to Mr Hoppy it seemed like a million miles. He longed to invite Mrs Silver up for a cup of tea and a biscuit, but every time he was about to form the words on his lips, his courage failed him. As I said, he was a very very shy man.
Oh, if only, he kept telling himself, if only he could do something tremendous like saving her life or rescuing her from a gang of armed thugs, if only he could perform some great feat that would make him a hero in her eyes. If only…
The trouble with Mrs Silver was that she gave all her love to somebody else, and that somebody was a small tortoise named Alfie. Everyday, when Mr Hoppy looked over his balcony and saw Mrs Silver whispering endearments to Alfie and stroking his shell, he felt absurdly jealous. He wouldn’t even have minded becoming a tortoise himself if it meant Mrs. Silver stroking his shell each morning and whispering endearments to him.
Alfie had been with Mrs Silver for years and he lived on her balcony summer and winter. Planks had been placed around the sides of the balcony so that Alfie could walk about without toppling over the edge, and in one corner there was a little house into which Alfie would crawl every night to keep warm.
When the colder weather came along in November, Mrs Silver would fill Alfie’s house with dry hay, and the tortoise would crawl in there and bury himself deep under the hay and go to sleep for months on end without food or water. This is called hibernating.
In early spring, when Alfie felt the warmer weather through his shell, he would wake up and crawl very slowly out of his house onto the balcony. And Mrs Silver would clap her hands with joy and cry out, “Welcome back, my darling one! Oh, how I have missed you!”
It was at times like these that Mr Hoppy wished more than ever that he could change places with Alfie and become a tortoise.
Now we come to a certain bright morning in May when something happened that changed and indeed electrified Mr Hoppy’s life. He was leaning over his balcony rail watching Mrs Silver serving Alfie his breakfast.
“Here’s the heart of lettuce for you, my lovely,” she was saying. “And here’s a slice of fresh tomato and a piece of crispy celery.”
“Good morning, Mrs Silver,” Mr Hoppy said. “Alfie’s looking well this morning.”
“Isn’t he gorgeous!” Mrs Silver said, looking up at him and beaming at him.
“Absolutely gorgeous,” Mr Hoppy said, not meaning it. And now, as he looked down at Mrs Silver’s smiling face gazing up into his own, he thought for the thousandth time how pretty she was, how sweet and gentle and full of kindness, and his heart ached with love.
“I do so wish he would grow a little faster,” Mrs Silver was saying. “Every spring, when he wakes up from his winter sleep, I weigh him on the kitchen scales. And do you know that in all the eleven years I’ve had him he’s not gained more than three ounces! That’s almost nothing!”
“What does he weigh now?” Mr Hoppy asked her.
“Just about thirteen ounces,” Mrs Silver answered. “About as much as a grapefruit.”
“Yes, well, tortoises are very slow growers,” Mr Hoppy said solemnly. “But they can live for a hundred years.”
“I know that,” Mrs Silver said. “But I do so wish he would grow just a little bit bigger. He’s such a tiny wee fellow.”
“He seems just fine as he is,” Mr Hoppy said.
“No, he’s not just fine!” Mrs Silver cried. “Try to think how miserable it must make him feel to be so titchy! Everyone wants to grow up.”
“You really would love him to grow bigger, wouldn’t you?” Mr Hoppy said, and even as he said it his mind suddenly went click and an amazing idea came rushing into his head.
“Of course I would!” Mrs Silver cried. “I’d give anything to make it happen! Why, I’ve seen pictures of giant tortoises that are so huge people can ride on their backs! If Alfie were to see those he’d turn green with envy!”
Mr Hoppy’s mind was spinning like a flywheel. Here, surely, was his big chance! Grab it, he told himself. Grab it quick!
“Mrs Silver,” he said. “I do actually happen to know how to make tortoises grow faster, if that’s what you really want.”
“You do?” she cried. “Oh, please tell me! Am I feeding him the wrong things?”
“I worked in North Africa once,” Mr Hoppy said. “That’s where all these tortoises in England come from, and a bedouin tribesman told me the secret.”
“Tell me!” cried Mrs Silver. “I beg you to tell me, Mr Hoppy! I’ll be your slave for life.”
When he heard the words your slave for life, a little shiver of excitement swept through Mr Hoppy. “Wait there,” he said. “I’ll have to go in and write something down for you.”
In a couple of minutes Mr Hoppy was back on the balcony with a sheet of paper in his hand. “I’m going to lower it to you on a bit of string,” he said, “or it might blow away. Here it comes.”
Mrs Silver caught the paper and held it up in front of her. This is what she read:

Text copyright © Roald Dahl reprinted with permission from Puffin Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House; art copyright © Quentin Blake, reprinted with permission from Penguin Young Readers


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