Apr 30, 2012

Review: Neversink by Barry Wolverton

book cover of Neversink by Barry WolvertonTitle: Neversink [Amazon|GoodReads]
Author: Barry Wolverton [Website|Twitter|Facebook]
Illustrator: Sam Nielson
Standing: Stand alone novel.
Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy
Published: March 27th, 2012 by Walden Pond Press
Format: Hardcover; 287 pages.
Source: Borrowed from my local library.
Challenge: YA/MG Fantasy Challenge

Birds of the Northerly World

Excerpted from THE WALRUS GUIDE TO LESSER CREATURES, Sixteenth Edition

Puffin: Smallish, squidgy, improbable looking.  Relatively quiet and well-mannered, expect when provoked.  Not to be confused with a penguin, or a parrot, or a cross between a penguin and a parrot.

I would hug this book if it weren't physically impossible for a human and a book about a puffin, a walrus, and a hummingbird to embrace.  It has everything I love about a fantastic middle grade book.  Adventure, fun, wit, illustrations, a dastardly villain, love, friendship, PUFFINS, and of course, a map:

Map of Neversink, Tytonia, and various points of interest by Sam Nielson

Neversink by Barry Wolverton tells the story of an improbable hero, Lockley Puffin, and his adventure that comes full circle.   Neversink is an island populated by auks (a family of fish-eating birds that includes puffins, razorbills, murres, and guillemots) lying off the coast of the mainland, Tytonia, where, if you will forgive the expression, the owls rule the roost.  When the fear arises that the small animals owls consider food are infected with the sickness, one ambitious owl takes it as an opportunity to oust the king and put the auks of Neversink back under the owls’ thumb (yes, I know owls don’t have thumbs, it’s a figure of speech!).  Rozbell, the new owl ruler with a Napoleon complex, enacts a fish tax, indulging in the scrumptious delights that are Lucy Puffin’s fish smidgens.  It would appear, however, that Rozbell’s appetite cannot be quenched (while of course, those around him continue to be quite peckish), and soon the demands upon the auks rise.  Lockley refuses to let such a burden fall upon his people, particularly upon his wife Lucy.  But with a population of birds who have many mottos about not making waves, how will a squidgy puffin, a scholarly walrus, and an excitable hummingbird save the day?

Oh friends, I loved this book.  Barry Wolverton’s writing was so unabashedly clever and full of wit that I found myself constantly smiling and chuckling while reading Neversink.  It’s the type of book that is written perfectly for the intended age, and yet has so many quick references and jokes in it that an adult will most assuredly appreciate them as well.  Taking place before the appearance of humankind on the globe, Neversink is full of funny lines that reference things we know as familiar (like pants), and then reminders that those things don’t exist.  Egbert, our dear walrus, even has some good Beatles and Alice in Wonderland references up his metaphorical sleeve. 

Not only was the writing fun and clever, but the story and characters were as well!  I appreciate it so much when a middle grade author doesn’t shy away from realities such as death.  Barry Wolverton doesn’t make it ghastly or inappropriate, but he doesn’t do the Disney thing and have characters just fall from high places never to be seen again either (I suppose when the bulk of your characters can fly, this tactic would be rather misguided).  His villain, Rozbell, has depth, and isn’t just a mad-bird lusting for power for power’s sake—you can really see how he becomes corrupt, and understand his thought process, even if it’s selfish and cruel.  I love a well-done bad guy!     

And of course I was going to love a book where our hero was a puffin!  Do you remember how excited I was when I brought this one home?  I just love them so much!  Even if they can be rather indignant at times.  It would seem that calling a puffin a penguin, is much akin to calling a Scott English.  Lockley and Lucy were both perfect heroes in my mind because they didn’t set out to be.  They’re scared, they don’t want to make trouble, make things worse, or defy authority, but we all know that everyone can be pushed too far.  When pushed too far, some characters break, but heroes push back. 

In the end we see that like Neversink, not every good story needs a moral.  Some adventures just need to happen.  Sam Nielson’s illustrations are whimsical and perfect for the setting, as mentioned I am a particular fan of the map.

Likelihood that I'll be back for more:  Neversink was such a fantastic debut!  I would love to see other stories from Tytonia (like one involving badgers perhaps?), but will happily check out whatever Barry Wolverton comes up with next.

Recommended for: Anyone who enjoys great middle grade, in particular animal fantasies like Redwall or Legend of the Guardians.  Because apparently some owls are inherently evil.

Real life repercussions of reading this book: The boyfriend said we can dress up our squidgy Wocket as a puffin for Halloween!  What do you think, can he pull it off?

Squidgy Wocket Bunbury in the Stacks Squidgy puffin

Get a second opinion:
Teach Mentor Texts
Gypsy Book Reviews
Good Books and Good Wine

Apr 29, 2012

In My Mailbox (15): A personal statement and then some fun!

So this past week the book blogging community had a pretty caustic atmosphere.  And I stayed out of it.  But then, the weekend rolls around, and I’m faced with a decision that will put me into the argument whether I want to be or not: In My Mailbox: to participate, or not to participate, that is the question.  And here is my answer:

Yes!  I am going to continue to participate in this meme, but I want to clarify why.  First off, I need to say that plagiarism isn’t a ‘little mistake’, it is a crime.  It’s stealing.  The same way walking into a store and taking a shirt off the rack without paying is stealing.  I do not think that we need to forgive and forget this serious issue, I think we need to remember and learn from it.  HOWEVER I also do not think that it is productive to make personal attacks towards those involved, and especially not towards the victims.  I have been embarrassed for quite a few people on both sides of this argument this week, and as someone who is also friendly with people on both sides of this argument (not the embarrassing ones Smile with tongue out), it’s been very uncomfortable.  I do not know Kristi, but I get the impression that she is a lovely, kind, friendly, and caring individual.  Honestly, I haven’t ever reached out to or spoken to her at all, nor has she reached out and spoken to me—and that’s fine!  Yes, these events, which were handled poorly, will affect my opinion of her, but as someone who has no personal experience with Kristi it honestly doesn’t affect me or our relationship in any way. 

I choose to continue to participate in In My Mailbox not as a statement for or against The Story Siren, but because—get this—I do it for me!  In My Mailbox is fun.  It allows me to fangirl, and get oh so excited when I finally get a certain book in my hands, and I love sharing that enthusiasm.  In My Mailbox is the #1 way I am introduced to books I hadn’t seen before, whether they be forthcoming or a hidden gem that’s been around for a lifetime.  In My Mailbox is how I’ve found some new blogs to follow, blogs I love, and bloggers who are wonderful.  It’s how some people have found me.  Yes, I am grateful and happy for the blog traffic I receive each week as a result of IMM.  Maybe the bulk of people only visit in hopes that I will visit their own blogs and bump up their stats, but you know what?  That’s just how some relationships start, and having someone tell me they’re a new follower?  That makes my day. Every. Time. 

So yes, I will continue to participate in In My Mailbox.  No, I do not think plagiarism is a minor issue or okay, but nor do I think Kristi is a horrible or malicious person.  So now that that’s all out there, let’s move on to the fun part, shall we?  Because, quite frankly, my mailbox this week was stuffed full of AWESOME.

In My Mailbox by Bunbury in the Stacks

In my mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi over at The Story Siren in which you share the books you added to your collection in the past week.

Do you love Middle Grade?  I certainly do!  And really, If your answer is no, I feel you may not enjoy life quite well enough.  This week I picked up THREE awesome new and coming MG titles:

book cover of The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy by Nikki Loftinbook cover of The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsenbook cover of Storybound by Marissa Burt

From NetGalley:
The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy by Nikki Loften [Amazon|GoodReads]
If you haven’t seen this one yet, go check it out, because it sounds, well, splendid.  Mysterious Middle Grade boarding school fun, I love the cover, and I want to do a back to back reading of this and The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls.  Thanks Razorbill!

From the library:
The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen [Amazon|GoodReads]
I’ve been pining for this one for some time.  It just sounds so adventurous.  That said, I’m a little wary.  Reviews, from reviewers I trust, have been all over the map on this one.  Some pledged their undying love, some said ‘meh’.  I’m excited to see where I fall, after all, I cannot resist a book when the hero has been frequently compared to Eugenides of The Queen’s Thief.
Storybound by Marissa Burt [Amazon|GoodReads]
Unlike The False Prince, I’ve heard only positive things about Storybound.  Sounds kind of like The Neverending Story gone fairy tale to me, and who could resist that?

But wait! That’s not all.  I also got these lovelies to have and to hold:

book cover of Awkward by Marni Batesbook cover of Of Poseidon by Anna Banksbook cover of Magic Strikes by Ilona Andrews

Won (because sometimes, even I get lucky):
Awkward by Marni Bates [Amazon|GoodReads]
WHY AM I SO AWKWARD?!  The world may never know.  But I’m about to find out why this chick is so awkward, and I’m totally excited for this hilarious, fun YA.  Thanks to the lovely Amy of Tripping Over Books and everyone else involved in this blog tour, I was lucky enough to win a finished copy of Awkward.  YAY!  Awkward happy dancing abounds.
Of Poseidon by Anna Banks [Amazon|GoodReads]
Who wants to take bets on whether or not I can correctly spell Poseidon by the end of reading this book and typing my review?  Anyone?  I won an ARC of this one courtesy of the lovely people at Feiwel and Friends and Erica of The Book Cellar, and I want to thank them both!

Magic Strikes by Ilona Andrews [Amazon|GoodReads]
I’ve had this one on hold at the library for about two months, but it was just not happening.  At least not fast enough.  I had to have it.  I mean, a girl’s gotta get her some Beast Lord when she wants her some Beast Lord.  Amirite or amirite? So I finally broke down and bought this one. So. Worth it.

A Week of Bunburying

I wrapped up my participation in Dewey’s Readathon.
I reviewed the audiobook of Princess Academy by Shannon Hale
I listed my Top Ten Favorite Chicks in Books
I saluted my shorts with a review of Faery Tales and Nightmares by Melissa Mar
I announced that I’m waiting on Envy by Elizabeth Miles
I reviewed the graphic novel Kill Shakespeare Vol. 1
I reviewed *cough* bemoaned The Iron Daughter by Julie Kagawa
I reviewed/fangirled over Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

So let’s have some hugs and love all around, and let me know what you got in your mailbox this week—whether or not you’re still participating in the meme!

Apr 27, 2012

Review: Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

book cover of Code Name Verity by Elizabeth WeinTitle: Code Name Verity [Amazon|GoodReads]
Author: Elizabeth Wein [Website|Twitter]
Standing: Stand alone novel.
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction
Published: May 15th, 2012 by Hyperion Books for Children (first published in the UK February 6th, 2012 by Egmont Press)
Format: Kindle edition; 327 pages.
Source: ARC from publisher via NetGalley.

Oct. 11th, 1943—A British spy plane crashes in Nazi-occupied France. Its pilot and passenger are best friends. One of the girls has a chance at survival. The other has lost the game before it's barely begun.

When “Verity” is arrested by the Gestapo, she's sure she doesn’t stand a chance. As a secret agent captured in enemy territory, she’s living a spy’s worst nightmare. Her Nazi interrogators give her a simple choice: reveal her mission or face a grisly execution.

As she intricately weaves her confession, Verity uncovers her past, how she became friends with the pilot Maddie, and why she left Maddie in the wrecked fuselage of their plane. On each new scrap of paper, Verity battles for her life, confronting her views on courage and failure and her desperate hope to make it home. But will trading her secrets be enough to save her from the enemy?

Harrowing and beautifully written, Elizabeth Wein creates a visceral read of danger, resolve, and survival that shows just how far true friends will go to save each other. Code Name Verity is an outstanding novel that will stick with you long after the last page.

I don’t know how to write this review.  It seems to be a lot like Fight Club.  The first rule of Code Name Verity is you don’t talk about Code Name Verity.  But I shall try.

My feelings toward Code Name Verity are somewhat of a Catch 22.  I would have never heard of this book if I hadn’t seen some amazing reviews, but if I hadn’t read such amazing reviews, I would have approached with an even greater air of mystery and no expectations.  It’s not that I didn’t greatly enjoy Code Name Verity, I did very much and I so hope you read it, it’s that I didn’t fall in love quite as I expected to.  I fell in love a whole other way. When everyone tells you as you start a book to store up on tissues, it kind of make you feel like you missed something when you only tear up briefly in two parts, and shed nary a tear.  I just want to get that confession out of the way.  I found Code Name Verity to be incredibly beautiful and powerful, and yet I feel like it affected me differently than I expected.  I expected tragedy, and yet what I found was daring and hopeful, a fierce friendship to adore.  I just couldn’t find myself distraught over Code Name Verity, because to me it was too inspiring and steadfast to blubber.  In no way am I saying those who have been wrecks upon finishing this book are in any way weak or wrong, I just had a different reaction.  I was pretty happy, and that was why I teared up. 

I first heard of Code Name Verity shortly after devouring Blackout and All Clear by Connie Willis.  I loved that duology very much, and was positively salivating for more historical fiction set in WWII, but not the mainland Europe WWII, WWII as it was experienced in Great Britain.  Needless to say, I pounced on the opportunity to read this book.  And, despite physically taking place in France, Verity’s confessions of operations in Great Britain were exactly what I was looking for. 

I think I’ve grasped on to WWII Great Britain, because for me it is a fear I can understand.  Growing up, we are taught about the horrors of the Holocaust, given amazing books like Number the Stars and The Diary of Anne Frank that are so heartbreaking and frightening, it’s quite frankly beyond my mental capacity to feel like I can truly understand the terror.  It’s just too terrible.  I know it happened, and I feel so strongly about it, and yet, I know I can never really understand.  Reading about the war effort in Great Britain, however, is something I can wrap my head around.  I’m not saying I can fully grasp it in the sense that I’ve ever experienced anything even approaching the blackouts, the Blitz, or attempting to navigate with no street signs, but it’s certainly an easier circumstance to picture yourself in.  It kind of makes you think that most American’s sense of danger during the war effort was laughable in comparison to Great Britain in the same way that most of Great Britain’s sense of danger was laughable in comparison to those living in mainland Europe.  This reality was emphasized through the events of Code Name Verity, and I appreciate so much that this book was able to help me understand the stepping stones of fear that existed in WWII.

But then, the reality is, Code Name Verity isn’t really about WWII.  It’s about women who do what they love and what they are good at, not for the war effort, but because they can and they want to.  It’s about friendship, comradery, and true bravery.  Not the kind of bravery where you think ‘I’m going to do this because it’s the right thing do do’ or ‘it will save so many people’ or ‘I will sacrifice myself’, but the kind of bravery where you don’t even think because in your mind there is no other option.

I came to feel so strongly for both Maddie and Verity through Verity’s writings.  There’s nothing quite like an indignant Scot (do not call one English…I get the same way when people say I’m from the Mid-West), and a girl who loves flying so much that she will risk her life to do it often.  The equation drawn between love and friendship is beautiful and real in a way that makes Code Name Verity one of the most powerful stories of friendship I have ever read.  The entire book you are questioning Verity’s story, wondering how much is real, but you never question her relationship with Maddie.

Code Name Verity was a magnificently written story that managed to exceed my expectations, while simultaneously not meeting them whatsoever.  It wasn’t quite the story I expected, but I think for that I loved it more.

I have told the truth.

Likelihood that I'll be back for more:  Obvs I really want to read the Lion Hunters series since there’ve been quite a few comparisons drawn between the main character and Eugenides of The Queen’s Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner.

Recommended for:
Anyone and everyone who enjoys epistolary novels, historical fiction, or unreliable narrators.  Particularly those who enjoy stories of friendship, true bravery, and Peter Pan.

Please do check out the trailer for Code Name Verity!

Real life repercussions of reading this book:  Before you read this book, I challenge you to make a list of your 10 greatest fears.  Then, once you have read it, do it again and see—what 10 things are you afraid of now?

Get a second opinion:
Janicu’s Book Blog
The Book Smugglers
Chachic’s Book Nook

Apr 26, 2012

Review: The Iron Daughter by Julie Kagawa

Title: The Iron Daughter [Amazon|GoodReads]
Author: Julie Kagawa [Website|Twitter|Facebook]
Standing: Book two in The Iron Fey series.
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Published: July 27th, 2010 by Harlequin Teen
Format: Kindle edition; 361 pages
Source: Borrowed from my local library.
Spoilers!: This review contains spoilers for the first book in the series, The Iron King (reviewed here), so go read that first!

Half Summer faery princess, half human, Meghan has never fit in anywhere. Deserted by the Winter prince she thought loved her, she is prisoner to the Winter faery queen. As war looms between Summer and Winter, Meghan knows that the real danger comes from the Iron Fey, iron-bound faeries that only she and her absent prince have seen. But no one believes her.

Worse, Meghan’s own fey powers have been cut off. She’'s alone in Faery with only her wits for help. Trusting anyone would be foolish. Trusting a seeming traitor could be deadly. But even as she grows a backbone of iron, Meghan can’t help but hear the whispers of longing in her all-too-human heart.
So remember every nice thing I said about Meghan Chase when I reviewed The Iron King?  Well, I take it back.  Somehow that savvy girl with the potential to turn into someone brave and strong instead turned into a simpering, pining, annoyingly naive character I just couldn’t bring myself to care about this time around.  I really think this was a case of the straw that broke the camel’s back.  This was it; the book that made me realize that I really just cannot take one more of these YA romances.  I can’t do it!  It’s not just that it’s a love triangle (but yeah, that’s a big part of it), it’s also that it’s deep intense love with someone you barely know, have spent barely any time with, and yet are willing to give up everything for.  For eternity.  Yeah.  That kind of love.  I can’t do it anymore.  

Maybe I’ve matured a lot in my views of relationships over the past few years.  I’ve been living with the man I want to spend the rest of my life with now for over three years, and I’ve come to understand that love and relationships take work...and they have to be based on something more than some surface attraction and something in common.  I’m not saying that the types of relationships I’m getting sick of in YA couldn’t potentially end up as lasting, but honestly?  Most of them aren’t healthy, and it’s gotten to where it annoys me beyond belief that we’re supposed to swoon over this stuff and think ‘oh how sweet they’ll be together forever’ when they don’t even really know (or care about) what that entails.

I just wanted to slap Meghan so many times in this book.  At the beginning, Ash literally tells her that he’s going to have to treat her a certain way in the Unseelie court.  Then, when he proceeds to do exactly as he said he would, Meghan cries and moans about how he’s betrayed her and lied to her and how could he be so cruel.  She continually doubts his feelings for her, doubts her own feelings for him, and yet--it’s true love people!  Right.  At the end of The Iron King I had also come to believe that Meghan had grown and matured as a person.  That she was no longer worried about things like an embarrassing day in high school that had bothered her at the beginning of her journey.  But then in The Iron Daughter she freaks out about just those types of things proving that she hasn’t really grown at all.

Some other nitpicky things while I’m on a roll: for the love of all that is good stop talking about heartbeats.  I swear, if I had a dollar for everytime Meghan hears/feels Ash’s heartbeat, or Puck’s heartbeat, or her own freakin’ heartbeat, I could pay off a decent amount of my student loans.  Also, I hate hate recapping.  A little I get, it’s fine, it’s usually been a while between books, but excessive recapping is Kagawa’s thing.  I didn’t enjoy Winter’s Passage much because of it, and it had me wanting to put The Iron Daughter down after only 25 pages.  And get this?  She put a huge chuck of Winter’s Passage into The Iron Daughter.  Seriously?!  I get that not everyone had access to the short story, but that’s why you make it something you don’t need to put in the books.  Not something you just put in the book anyway.

If I had read The Iron Daughter two years ago when it came out, I most likely would have loved it.  I wish I did read it then, because Julie Kagawa’s built a really cool world creating an interplay between some classic mythology and her own creations that are unique and quite frankly pretty dang cool.  I do think that aside from my inability to stomach the relationships, The Iron Daughter suffered a bit from second-book syndrome.  It was an okay story, but really seemed a filler plot leading to where we all know the story is going.  Nothing about it was surprising to me as it was in The Iron King, and in the end I was just incredibly disappointed with the whole read.

In the words of Craig Ferguson, I look forward to your comments.

Likelihood that I'll be back for more:  I was really looking forward to this series, but after this I think I’m done.  I just don’t think I can care anymore about The Iron Fey.  I do still want to read The Immortal Rules, but I’m hesitant enough not to have requested the ARC.  I’ll wait to see more reviews, thank you.

Recommended for:  I would still recommend this series to fantasy readers, particularly younger ones, who don’t read so much as me and therefore haven’t become incredibly jaded.

Get a second opinion:
Book Labyrinth
Good Books and Good Wine

Apr 25, 2012

Graphic Novel Review: Kill Shakespeare Vol. 1 by Conor Mcreery and Anthony Del Col

Title: Kill Shakespeare Vol. 1 [Amazon|GoodReads]
Author: Conor McCreery, Anthony Del Col
Art: Andy Belanger (pencils), Ian Herring (inker), Kagan McLeod (covers)
Standing: First in a two-volume series.
Genre: Graphic Novel
Published: November 9th, 2010 by IDW Publishing
Format: Paperback; 148 pages.
Source: Borrowed from my local library.

Hamlet is exiled to England after his father’s untimely death.  On the journey, his ship is attacked, and he washes up on shore at the feet and mercy of Richard III.  Richard claims that Hamlet has been sent to fulfill prophecy as the Shadow King.  He is the only one who can find the wizard, William Shakespeare and kill him.  Others, however, have different ideas about this prophecy.  They believe the Shadow King is to find Shakespeare, but return him to them and deliver them from the evil Richard.  Richard desires to obtain Shakespeare’s quill, which holds vast amounts of power; the people wish to overthrow his tyrannical rule.

So.  I can pretty easily say that this is the worst graphic novel I have ever read.  My boyfriend informs me that I’ve been spoiled.  I only started reading graphic novels about 3 years ago, and in that time I’ve had nothing but the greats to consume--Sandman, Watchmen, Fables, Transmetropolitan, etc.  I only recently started branching out and selecting my own graphic reads beyond what’s been recommended to me.  My first selection was American Vampire, which was very decent if not the love of my life; the second was A Flight of Angels.  I loved it, it was visually the most beautiful graphic novel I’ve read to date, and the story was there to back it up.  To me, Kill Shakespeare failed on both accounts.

What did I expect from Kill Shakespeare?  Well, every little blurb kept screaming at me “THIS IS LIKE FABLES BUT WITH SHAKESPEARE INSTEAD OF FAIRY TALES”.  And I suppose it would be.  If Fables had half-hearted art, no character development, and rushed plot lines.  So needless to say, I had expectations that were a fair bit higher than what was delivered to me.  

Maybe I just don’t know my Shakespeare well enough to appreciate this (though I feel like I know it fairly well), but I found the plot jerked instead of flowed, and didn’t really make a whole lot of sense when it came right down to the details...Hamlet, supposedly the prophesied savior of both sides of a fledgling battle, is more-or-less led around by the nose by the villains, ignoring mounting evidence against them and refusing to throw in with those rebelling against their evil overlord without first being slapped over the head with a frying pan full of ‘you’re batting for the wrong team’ omelets.  I guess this would have been fine if I cared about the story, but I didn’t.  The wizard, William Shakespeare, was mentioned only as slightly more than a legend, and unfortunately there was no real build to back up the evil deeds of Richard III and the unrest of the people rising to rebel.  

If Kill Shakespeare could have been stretched out as a longer series, maybe it would have been stronger.  As is, I feel like they were really pushing to get every major character into six issues of story.  But without some history given, or time to build up to the conflict, it’s hard to illicit any interest.

Likelihood that I'll be back for more:  I have zero interest in reading volume 2.

Recommended for:  There’s a chance that bigger Shakespeare fans who haven’t been ‘spoiled’ by fantastic graphic novels like I have will enjoy this more than I did, but I wouldn’t really recommend this one for anyone.

Real life repercussions of reading this book:  I have a thing against grown ass women wearing pig tails, and this book didn’t help.  You hear me Juliet and 42 year old chick from NCIS?!  If you’re old enough to have a kid with pig tails, you’re too old to wear them.  Braids are okay.

Get a second opinion:
Have you reviewed Kill Shakespeare Vol. 1? Please let me know so that I can include your link here. Would love to present some more positive reactions.

Waiting on Wednesday: Envy by Elizabeth Miles

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event hosted at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcomign releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

  Envy – Elizabeth Miles
  September 4th, 2012 – Simon and Schuster

Spring is here, and the ice is slowly melting in Ascension…revealing the secrets buried beneath.

The Furies are back, and Emily Winters is about to discover that their roots in Ascension are deeper than she ever imagined. With the help of her new friend Drea, she vows to take them down. But it's hard to focus when she's desperate to make up with JD, and to figure out why Crow, a mysterious Ascension High dropout, seems to be shadowing her.

Meanwhile, new girl Skylar McVoy is determined to leave her own dark past behind. So she's thrilled when not only does popular Gabby takes her under her wing, but the stunning and sophisticated Meg offers to give her a major makeover. But everyone knows what happens to the vainest girl of all…

It's tempting to be naughty. But beware: the Furies are always watching, and their power grows stronger by the day.

I thoroughly enjoyed Fury, the first in this series and Elizabeth Miles’s debut, and am very excited for the second installment!  This is the UK cover, which I am using because 1) it matches the cover of Fury and 2) it is significantly better than the GIANT FACE covers that have overtaken the US copies.  What are you waiting on?

Apr 24, 2012

Salute Your Shorts: Faery Tales and Nightmares by Melissa Marr–The non Wicked Lovely edition.

Salute Your Shorts feature image from Bunbury in the Stacks
Salute Your Shorts is a weekly (ish) feature here at Bunbury in the Stacks highlighting and reviewing short stories and novellas. Everyone is welcome to join at any time, just grab the pic above and shoot me a link in the comments so that I can include your post in a roundup.

book cover of Faery Tales and Nightmares by Melissa MarrTitle: Faery Tales and Nightmares [Amazon|GoodReads]
Author: Melissa Marr [Website|Twitter]
Standing: Stand alone anthology, BUT half the stories are in the Wicked Lovely universe (I’ll discuss those stories in a later post).
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal
Published: February 21st, 2012 by HarperCollins
Format:  Hardcover; 418 pages 
Borrowed from my local library.
Challenge: YA/MG Fantasy Challenge

Dangerous promises and beguiling threats swirl together in a dozen stories of enchantments dark and light by New York Times bestselling author Melissa Marr. Uncanny and unexpected creatures appear from behind bushes, rise from beneath the seas, or manifest from seasonal storms to pursue the objects of their attention—with amorous or sinister intent—relentlessly.

From the gentle tones of a storyteller’s cadences to the terror of a blood sacrifice, tales of favorite characters from Marr’s Wicked Lovely novels mix with accounts of new characters for readers to fall in love with...or to fear.

Lush, seductive, and chilling, Melissa Marr’s stories revel in the unseen magic that infuses the world as we know it.

Welcome to the non-Wicked Lovely edition of Salute Your Shorts: Faery Tales and Nightmares!  I’ve decided to split my review of this anthology into two posts so that those of you who haven’t read Melissa Marr’s Wicked Lovely series can know what this book has in store for you, without forcing you to skip the spoilers!  This works out quite well for everyone since of the twelve stories included, six have nothing to do with Wicked Lovely.  That means you can enjoy half this book!  Here’s what we have to offer:

Where Nightmares Walk

This very short story works as somewhat of an introduction into the book, and lets you realize right off the bat that it will indeed be as much about nightmares as about faery tales.  It’s a chilling intro that will make you fear the night.

Winter’s Kiss

This short story evokes the image of a traditional fairy tale, but one you haven’t heard before.  It tells the tale of a princess who has the curse of icy breath, and the snow bear that would see it as a gift.  Winter’s Kiss is charming, beautiful, and a reminder of perspective.


Eliana has been getting weird and uncontrollable headaches.  She loses time—she can’t remember hours of her life.  She’s stopped talking to doctors, they just think she’s crazy, and she’s begun to self medicate with drugs of another sort.  When she ends up in the graveyard with the boy she’s currently seeing, she can’t get her mind off someone something else, and she can’t help feeling as if the statue is watching her.

Transition is a chilling vampire story about the circle of life (or death…or undeath<—see what I did there?) in which Melissa Marr puts her own tale into a fairly traditional (and thus sexy and gory) lore.  This type of story right here is the reason people love vamps, and not the sparkly kind.

Love Struck

Every once in a while, I feel like I get as much out of a short story as I do out of a full-length book.  This is one of those times.  Love Struck was a beautiful love story and fairy tale, about selchies.  Selchies!  I’ve been enamored with Selchies since The Secret of Roan Inish, and have been craving more.  I mean…who wants mermaids when selchies are about, really?  At least you don’t have to question the logistics of their anatomy quite so much… 

Alana is chosen to be the mate of Murrin, who intends to court her, but instead he accidently traps her as has been done for generations.  She holds his Other Skin, is compelled to hide it, and she cannot return it unless he finds it himself.  Alana doesn’t want to break her own rules, she doesn’t want a relationship, and certainly not one with some guy she barely knows.  She’s convinced that it’s the selchie magic drawing her to Murrin, and is deeply torn between wanting to be with him and wanting freedom for both of them.  Love Struck was a beautifully rendered tale, and I adored it.  It was the non-Wicked Lovely story in this collection that I was looking forward to most, and it did not disappoint!

The Art of Waiting

This title made me think of the poem One Art by Elizabeth Bishop.  It’s the story of a small hamlet of a town, that is incased in snow and ice each winter that melts to beauty in the spring.  A man and his daughter come to the town, and the townspeople wait to see if they, like so many others, will leave.

This short is perfect for anyone who lives in a quaint little town and loves it.  It’s hard for people to understand this mentality, but those who live there wouldn’t have it any other way. 

Flesh for Comfort

A disturbing tale about what we are willing to go through for beauty.  A poor girl in a mountain town knows she will never get out.  She is not rich enough, or attractive enough.  But when a mysterious creature offers to make her beautiful, she is tempted, knowing if she were attractive enough she could trade flesh for comfort and escape.

These six stories range in length from about 3 to 60 pages, and are all very worth reading!  I particularly enjoyed Love Struck, and the most disturbing award goes to Flesh for Comfort.  Enjoy!

Top Ten Tuesday: All Time Favorite Book Characters

Top Ten Tuesday button by The Broke and the Bookish
Top Ten Tuesday is a weakly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  They love lists as much as I do, so it's only fair to tip my hat.

Anne Shirley from Anne of Green GablesAnne Shirley from the Anne of Green Gables series by L.M. Montgomery: She has an imagination that would trump most novelists.  She’s incredibly driven, positive, a fierce friend, and loving companion.  Her red hair is the bane of her existence, and she love love loves poufy sleeves.

Laura Ingalls from the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder: Okay, it’s been way too long since I read this series to say in detail why, but so many good memories involved with this one.  Who could deny that any girl growing up on the prairie in the nineteenth century is one tough cookie?  I plan to reread this one soon!

Jo March from Little Women by Louisa May Alcott:  She won’t settle for what everyone else thinks is best for her, she follows her heart, she loves to read and write.  She’s a wonderful friend, daughter, and sister, even though she’s incredibly stubborn and willing to fight.
Matilda from Matilda by Roald Dahl:  Matilda remains one of the kindest most optimistic people despite never really being loved as a kid.  She finds her way to the library, and reads everything.  Not afraid to stand up for others.Emma Watson as Hermione Granger from Harry Potter

Herald Talia from the Heralds of Valdemar series by Mercedes Lackey:  Well, pretty much anyone who becomes a herald is automatically on the ‘really good person’ list, but Talia is incredibly strong for her stature, unfailingly brave, and willing to lose her life for queen and country.

Herald Elspeth from the Mage Winds series by Mercedes Lackey:  Oh Elspeth.  I hated her at first, she was such a brat as a kid, but as an adult?  It’s possible I love her more than Talia.  She wants to do her thing, isn’t hungry for power, and is up for going through some weird and scary stuff to help not only her country, but others she deems worthy.

Lyra Silvertongue from His Dark Materials series by Phillip Pullman:  She’s scrappy, good at spying and climbing, a steadfast friend, and she will walk through hell (and quite a few other places) for the chance to save the world and those she cares about.

Maisie Williams as Arya Stark in Game of ThronesHermione Granger from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling:  She’s a little goody-goody smarty pants who somehow always gets wrapped up in trouble.  She’s not all girly and frail, she stands up for what’s right, and she’s good at what she does because she works hard.

Arya Stark from the A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin: Again, scrappy.  Love this girl.  She holds the right grudges, but is good about finding the opportune moment for things.  She’s smart, resourceful, and completely unconcerned with her nobility while incredibly concerned with her family.

Now see the last spot is hard to fill, there’s so many characters I love, so I’ll just list a few more that could have gone in this spot.  Some I’ve read too recently to put on an ‘all time’ list, but I could certainly see them going there: Lucy Pevensie from Narnia, Eugenides from The Queen’s Thief, Violet Adams from All Men of Genius, Jessica Darling, Sophie Mercer from Hex Hall, Ismae from Grave Mercy, Cameron Post, Puck Connelly from The Scorpio Races, Scarlet, Sophie from Howl’s Moving Castle, Kate Daniels, etc.

Apparently, I’m all about the strong women!  Though Eugenides did sneak in there at the end…

Who are your favorite characters? 

Apr 23, 2012

Audio Review: Princess Academy by Shannon Hale

Title: Princess Academy [Academy|GoodReads]
Author: Shannon Hale [Website|Twitter|Facebook] 
Standing: Stand alone novel.
Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy
Published: November 1st, 2007 by Full Cast Audio (First published January 1st, 2005 by Bloomsbury USA Children’s Books).
Format: Audio; 7 hrs, 30 mins. Read by Laura Credidio
Source: Borrowed from my local library.
Challenge: Award Winning Reads Challenge

Miri lives on a mountain where, for generations, her ancestors have quarried stone and lived a simple life. Then word comes that the king's priests have divined her small village the home of the future princess. In a year's time, the prince himself will come and choose his bride from among the girls of the village. The king's ministers set up an academy on the mountain, and every teenage girl must attend and learn how to become a princess.

Miri soon finds herself confronted with a harsh academy mistress, bitter competition among the girls, and her own conflicting desires to be chosen and win the heart of her childhood best friend. But when bandits seek out the academy to kidnap the future princess, Miri must rally the girls together and use a power unique to the mountain dwellers to save herself and her classmates.
Unfortunately, Princess Academy is one of those books for which my enjoyment suffered because of the format I chose.  Now, I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy Princess Academy, I most certainly did, but I would also almost certainly have enjoyed it more had I read it.  The audiobook of Princess Academy was produced by Full Cast Audio, and like their name, they use a full cast to read their books.  Instead of a book narrated from different perspectives using various narrators (which I am fine with), Princess Academy had a main narrator for the text, and then each character had a different cast member voicing them.  The main narrator, Laura Credidio was fine, but I was uncomfortable with the structure of the dialog.  I’ve never listened to a book like this, and was trying to push myself out of my comfort zone.  It wasn’t terrible, but I’m happy to retreat back to what I know I like.

I think where the full cast structure hit me most, was in my ability to like Miri.  The girl doing her dialog made her come across as very whiny.  As such, I wasn’t really able to root for her the way I normally would such a character.  I did think that most of the other voice actors did a good job, this was just clearly not the format for me.

Princess Academy was a very cute and touching non-traditional fairy tale type story.  It was funny, when I picked it up, I was actually thinking that the premise sounded a bit like the forthcoming book The Selection.  However, Princess Academy panned out nothing like The Bachelor, for which I was quite grateful.  I loved that the academy gave these girls a chance to come into their own, and find meaning and purpose in their lives beyond what they had expected or what was planned out for the girl selected for marriage by the prince.  In fact, the prince was such a menial part of this story, it was very little romance and a lot of girl power!

The girls, Miri in particular, show their ingenuity by applying the facts and information they learn at the academy to better the lives of their townspeople, and their own lives in learning.  The magical element in Princess Academy, quarry speak, is so unique and wonderful I absolutely loved it.  The concept was that workers in the quarry had this method of communicating non-verbally with one another to invoke memories that elicited messages or warnings.  Miri, who has never worked in the quarry, has felt as if she were lacking and not really a part of her community.  With determination and perseverance she is able to better understand and manipulate quarry speak, allowing it to play an important roll throughout the girls’ story.

Princess Academy was a charming story about finding one’s place, following one’s heart, and the power of relationships.  Certainly a recommended read, and surely an enjoyable audiobook for those who don’t mind this unique narrative structure.  Maybe it’s better for kids who might otherwise have a difficult time keeping the characters strait by voice?  I’m not sure.

Likelihood that I'll be back for more: I did like Princess Academy, but I didn’t love it.  I’m planning for my next Shannon Hale read to be The Goose Girl, as that is the book that gets talked about the most highly about the blogosphere.

Recommended for:  People who like this narrative style, anyone who enjoys non-traditional fairy tales and a focus on female relationships, friendship, and family.

Get a second opinion:

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Apr 22, 2012

Readathon Wrap Up!

Hi friends!  Here to report my success/failure with my first 24-Hour Dewey’s Readathon:

I made it to about 2:00 am before giving out.  I could have pushed myself a bit further into the night, I’m sure, but my eye was twitching something awful (still is…combo of strain/allergies?) and the rest of the house was asleep, and I just gave in.  Here are the books I read at least some of yesterday for a total of somewhere around 500 pages:

book cover of Faery Tales and Nightmares by Melissa Marrbook cover of I've Got Your Number by Sophi Kinsellabook cover of Neversink by Barry Wolverton

  • Which hour was most daunting for you?
    18…I didn’t make it past that!
  • Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?
    It’s hard to say since everyone has such different taste.  I suggest reading a genre you like, but especially something with a lot of action and a fast pace, and on the lighter side.  A readathon is no time to slog through some heavy epic like Proust.
  • Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?
    Again, hard to say, this was my first time and I had fun.  I didn’t really participate in mini-challenges, and I’d like to try harder to do so next time.
  • What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?
    I loved being able to see people’s updates through Twitter, it was a great way to encourage each other and interact with other participants.  The gifs also made me happy, though I’ll admit I was singing ‘I’ll Make a Man Out of You’ from Mulan all day as a result.
  • How many books did you read?
    I read at least part of 3 books, only finished on in its entirety, but considering it was a real adult book (I don’t read those often), I’m happy!
  • What were the names of the books you read?
    Faery Tales and Nightmares by Melissa Marr (read several short stories)
    I’ve Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella
    Neversink by Barry Wolverton
  • Which book did you enjoy most?
    I am loving Neversink, I’ll probably finish it off today!
  • Which did you enjoy least?
    I’ve Got Your Number, but that’s not saying I didn’t enjoy it, I did!  Chick-lit is pretty new for me, and this one wasn’t a complete hit for me, whereas I love dark fantasy and middle grade, so the other two were more my ‘thing’.
  • How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time?
    Very!  I’d love to participate again in the fall.  I’d still like to just roll as a participant, but will hopefully participate a bit more in the hourly events.
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