Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Throwback Review: The Thirteenth Tale

A throwback review from March 2014. This remains one of my FAVORITE books! Check it out: 

The Thirteenth Tale is an adult contemporary novel with a classic gothic mystery feel by Diane Setterfield.

Oh. My. Gosh. This book is fantastic!!!

Margaret Lea leads a quiet, book-loving life that all of us bibliophiles would adore – working in a book store and whiling away the hours reading.

Her passion for literature extends to a fascination with non-fiction. She loves letters, journals – anything that ties her to people who are now deceased. Margaret has even written a few minor biographies on lesser known figures.

When she receives a letter from one of the most famous contemporary authors of the day, Vida Winter, she’s floored to discover that Ms. Winter wants her to write her biography.

For years, Vida has given numerous, glittering stories when asked about her life.

Not one of them true.

Apparently now, old and ailing, she wants to finally tell her story.

Unable to deny her curiosity, Margaret joins Vida at her reclusive estate and starts a routine of hearing Vida’s life stories in the library.

The tale is full of madness, strangeness and a gothic mystery that Margaret is enthralled in.

And with the telling Vida and Margaret both find they must equally confront the ghosts of their pasts, and the deep pain lying there…

Oh, my description can’t even do The Thirteenth Tale justice!!! I might as well just give up!

This is now one of my favorite books. Just as the blurbs say on the inside and outside jacket cover – this novel harkens to novels like Jane Eyre and Rebecca in its excellent gothic vibe, yet manages to be a contemporary novel.

Diane Setterfield writes with such a poetical, entrancing language that pulled me in and very quickly started to wrap me up in intrigue, mystery and book-loving wonderfulness.

I loved reading about a character who loved reading as much as I do!

My bibliophile heart was quickly being tugged with lovely, silkily-woven prose and disturbing, eerie tales of the past.

Book magnetism, indeed!!!

The Thirteenth Tale is effective, haunting, and stayed on my thoughts constantly. It’s undeniably addictive and absorbing.

I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED everything about it!!!

Twists, tingles, edge-of-your-seat mystery, emotional, shocking, amazing – PERFECT!

The Thirteenth Tale was stunning in every way – and I will recommend it to EVERYONE!!!

Now, this is a novel with adult, disquieting themes at times – but at its heart is a human mystery, a beautifully written, powerful gothic novel to be adored, relished, and re-read!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Throwback Reviw: Crocodile on the Sandbank


A throwback review from May 2013! Enjoy!

Crocodile on the Sandbank is the first in the humorous historical Amelia Peabody Mystery series by Elizabeth Peters.

Independently wealthy and ready for an adventure, Amelia Peabody, Victorian spinster of thirty-two, embarks on a trip to Egypt.

Armed with all the necessities – unwavering self-confidence, sharp intelligence, and a pointy parasol – Amelia embarks and finds herself utterly enthralled with the landscape and history.

As she is ready to travel to Cairo, though, she ends up rescuing the young and lovely Evelyn Barton-Forbes, a fellow Englishwoman left disgraced and alone – abandoned by the lover that estranged her from her grandfather, ready to end it all.

Well, Amelia certainly can’t have that. Especially when the lady has been so wronged! So, instead of letting the girl go off herself she employs her as a companion and sets off to sail the Nile with her by her side.

The trip is turning decidedly enjoyable.

When they reach an archeological site ran by the Emerson brothers – one sweet and gentlemanly, the other an ogre of a man with a wit to match Amelia’s – their party is halted as a rather absorbing mystery takes place.

It appears that a mummy is haunting the dig.

Amelia is certainly going to stick around to figure that one out.

Crocodile on the Sandbank was originally released back in 1975. If it weren’t for a bookish friend that told me about it, I may have missed this delightful novel! So, I definitely wanted to make sure all of you knew about it! It’s never too late to grab up a copy, after all.

Whenever I hear of a Victorian mystery, I’m there! But when you add a headstrong, clever, unpredictable and hilarious heroine like our Amelia here? Why, you can’t keep me away!!!

The first person narration is just SO fun as we sop up Amelia’s consistently droll, amusing tone. We get enough background and history of the character to very much appreciate her and feel that it’s not too much of a stretch for this woman to be a result of this exhilarating era.

Plus, Evelyn and the Emerson brothers get enough dialogue and story to become fully lively, likable characters themselves! The exotic locales sparkle with just enough detail, the fascination with antiquities buzzes, and the mystery slowly but surely come into light with a mix of curiosity, minor creepiness, and hilarity. I’ll say it again: FUN!!!

I was happily surprised by all the twists and truly pleased with the excellent chemistry that sneaks up and sizzles between Amelia and… Are you kidding?! I’m not gonna give it away!

There are a gazillion books in this series at this point – to be more accurate, about nineteen.

I will enthusiastically be obtaining as many more as I can, as quickly as I can! How about you?

Read Crocodile on the Sandbank, you fool! :)

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Throwback Review: Extraordinary*

A throwback review from July 2012! I hope you all had a wonderful July 4th!!!

Extraordinary* the true story of my fairy godparent, who almost killed me and certainly never made me a princess is a YA urban fantasy humor novel by Adam Selzer.

Straight-A, Shakespeare-lover Jennifer just wants to chill out during her senior year. She’s already been accepted to a college that is of high-standing in Iowa and she’s ready to relax after all the hard work.

Also, she wants to start taking steps toward being the eccentric, cool woman she aspires to be. First step? Color her hair purple. She loves purple. Second step? Finally go to a school dance by getting the relatively cute guy in her Human/Post-Human Alliance group to ask her – and hope that helps her get over her absurdly long crush on Mutual Scrivener whom she hasn’t seen since sixth grade when he mysteriously disappeared with his parent’s overnight.

Pathetic? Yeah.

The next events in Jennifer’s story have been sorely misrepresented by Eileen Codlin’s horrifically inaccurate Born to Be Extraordinary. This is supposedly a portrayal of Jennifer’s soon-to-arrive fairy godmother and how she became a princess.

Princess? Ha ha.

It did not happen like that. First of all, there was no sparkly, kind, frou-frou fairy godmother. He was a sloppy, unkempt, odious little man named Gregory Grue – and he preferred to be called a fairy godmofo.

And he almost killed her. This is the TRUE story of Jennifer’s “magical” senior year…

Extraordinary is truly a hilarious novel, and a breath of fresh air!

This is a wacky, inventive, unpredictable fairy-tale taking place in an alternative, contemporary Iowa setting where vampires are an accepted truth – the principal is one! – and zombies attacked the prom. Then we have Jennifer with her chubby, intellectual, clever, relatable ordinary-ness.

Sadly, the cover of Extraordinary really misrepresents Jennifer. It gives off a more little-kid, Disney movie poster feel with a thin girl with brown hair! Not the case at all! Not only does Jennifer look totally different, but the tone is far more older-teen oriented – and funnier than it looks.

We get hysterical snippets of Born to Be Extraordinary, the false book based on Jennifer’s experiences, which is a satirical, laugh-out-loud terrible idea of a “typical” teen book.

Extraordinary was unique, fast-paced and very, very fun – providing chuckles, hee-haws, giggles, and snorts! It’s imaginative, entertaining, and surprisingly morbid. I really, really liked it!

Adam Selzer creates a story that doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s a story that plays with the clichés and tired plotlines that have been recycled over and over. Plus, the cast of secondary characters are vibrant and amusing as well!

I recommend it for sure!

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Throwback Review: Cleopatra's Moon


Throwback Review from 2012!

Cleopatra's Moon is a YA historical fiction by Vicky Alvear Shecter.

Cleopatra Selene is a princess. She is the only daughter of the revered, intelligent Cleopatra and the Roman General Marcus Antonius. Her people love her and her twin brother Alexandros, as well as their adorable little brother Ptolly. They are the picture of a happy, beautiful family for a people to look up to.

And Cleopatra Selene has every intention of being just as powerful and brilliant a queen as her mother.

But before that day even comes close the Roman ruler, Octavianus, sets out to destroy Cleopatra. At least that is how he is spinning it. Calling her a witch, a whore, and worse. He's determined to turn the people against her as he slowly gains approval for dismantling all that Cleopatra Selene's ever known and loved.

Events turn horrifying, and after experiencing immense loss of life Cleopatra Selene and her brothers are taken to Octavianus's palace in Rome - a place of enemies.

Yet as Cleopatra Selene grows older she has but one goal in sight: regain Egypt's rule and become a queen that would have made her mother proud.

Cleopatra's Moon stunned me. I've always been interested in Cleopatra - as many people have. But I've never heard much about her daughter, or anyone else she left behind after dying. Vicky Alvear Shecter fixes that here. Sure, this is historical fiction - so some characters only exist in our author's mind, and certain events are having to be imagined from a personal perspective we have no real knowledge of - but the basis of the story is truth, and Vicky Alvear Shecter clearly knows her facts!

Thing is though, Cleopatra's Moon is no historical text. This is not a lesson in ancient history. This is a raw, riveting, fascinating, alive telling of Cleopatra Selene and the turbulent time she grew up in. The crackling detail and the characters are riveting and three-dimensional. I was absolutely hooked from start to finish, and every painful moment in the middle.

That's another point to make on Cleopatra's Moon - it's often horrifying. Shecter doesn't shy away from the anguishing, stark representation of the bloody deaths of family members. The brutal overtaking of the kingdom is enough to make you sick to your stomach, but also sit back in awe at Shecter's undeniable skill at effecting our emotions. Because with such realism and honesty in the face of terrors, what can we do but identify with Cleopatra Selene? Especially as she is heartbreakingly young as she witnesses all of this.

Cleopatra's Moon is a disturbing, suspenseful, powerful journey. Reading it puts you right there in the midst of the unimaginable. The mourning, the brutality, the betrayal, the hurt and the fear are all both difficult to read - yet gripping.

I applaud Vicky Alvear Shecter for reminding me of what I love about well-done, respectful historical fiction! This novel is alluring, captivating, romantic, shocking and overwhelming. In the end, I had tears in my eyes! What a beautiful, wonderful book!!!

BONUS REVIEW:
I want to acknowledge that today is Halloween by mentioning another drawing book! Many of us bibliophiles have a creative streak, or know someone who does, and can find good use in do-it-yourself fun. And this one is in keeping with today's holiday. What's it called? Why, it is How to Draw Chiller Monsters, Werewolves, Vampires, and Zombies!

J. David Spurlock is the author and it features the artwork of numerous artists, as well as a foreword by Rob Zombie. This instructional book focuses on many different styles and breaks the steps down into specifics: structure, lighting, perspective, etc. They are pretty creepy, detailed illustrations done by very talented people.

So, if you are interested in nurturing your own talent and learning new tricks, pick up a copy of How to Draw Chiller Monsters, Werewolves, Vampires, and Zombies!

See you guys on Wednesday and have a Happy Halloween!!!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Book Spotlight: Ninth City Burning

This upcoming September, keep your eyes open for this red and orange cover! Ninth City Burning is the first in a new epic science fiction series from the debut novelist J. Patrick Black.

As all best books are, it has a YA and mainstream crossover audience appeal. And if that doesn't whet your appetite enough already, below you'll find an excerpt and some additional info!



Excerpt

The Valentine War, Earth 500 Years Ago
It starts with the world how it used to be, with countries and billions of people living everywhere. Back then there was no such thing as thelemity, and people built houses and machines sort of like they have in settlements today, but all of that changed when the Valentines came.

The reason we call them the Valentines is that the day they first attacked, February 14 on the old Western Calendar, was called “Valentine’s Day”. We still don’t know what the Valentines call themselves, because we’ve never been able to talk to them. We don’t even know what they look like. People had all sorts of different names for them early in the war, but “Valentine” is the one that ended up being the most popular. It used to mean something totally different, but not many people remember that now.

We never saw them coming. All at once cities just started disappearing. A city would be there, everything totally normal, and then it would be gone, nothing but rubble and a cloud of dust. By the time we figured out we were under attack, half the cities in the world had already been destroyed. We tried to fight back, but the Valentines had thelemity, and our strongest weapons were next to useless. They probably would have killed every single person on the planet, except for one thing: It turned out we could use thelemity too.


Cover Copy

Centuries of war with aliens threaten the future of human civilization on earth in this gripping, epic science fiction debut...

We never saw them coming. 

Entire cities disappeared in the blink of an eye, leaving nothing but dust and rubble. When an alien race came to make Earth theirs, they brought with them a weapon we had no way to fight, a universe-altering force known as thelemity. It seemed nothing could stop it—until we discovered we could wield the power too.

Five hundred years later, the Earth is locked in a grinding war of attrition. The talented few capable of bending thelemity to their will are trained in elite military academies, destined for the front lines. Those who refused to support the war have been exiled to the wilds of a ruined Earth.

But the enemy's tactics are changing, and Earth's defenders are about to discover this centuries-old war has only just begun. As a terrible new onslaught looms, heroes will rise from unlikely quarters, and fight back.

Cast of Characters

JAX: A cadet at the Academy and the youngest fontanus in Ninth City. With the ability to harness thelemity, Jax must stand for all citizens during Valentine attacks and act as the only defense between the city and complete destruction. 

NAOMI: The youngest sister in the Ochre family, and a member of the nomadic Walker tribe. Naomi longs to be a scout like her older sister, Rae, but her undiscovered gifts will take her down a different path, far away from the life she knows. 

RAE: The beautiful, impulsive leader of the Ochre family and a scout for the Walker tribe. Rae’s penchant for bravery and lack of fear plunge her into a new world, where her strength will be tested in ways she never imagined. 

TORRO: A factory worker in Settlement 225, which provides supplies and soldiers to the Legion’s war effort. Torro’s uncomplicated life is suddenly disrupted when he finds himself drafted as cannon fodder and shipped away to the horror of the front lines. 

VINNEAS: Procurator of the Academy, responsible for every cadet at the school of Grammar and Rhetoric. Part of being Procurator is being prepared for command in combat, but an unwelcome promotion sends him to active duty sooner than he expects.

IMWAY: The top ranked warrior in the Equites Aspirant, the most elite fighting unit in the Academy. Highly skilled in combat, Imway’s power stems from a suit of armor called ‘equus’ and the ego that comes with it stands the chance of ruining any relationship he has.

KIZABEL: The most sought after Artifex—a creator of artifices—at the Academy. Her most recent project violates many rules, and Kizabel faces expulsion or incarceration if caught. But her project will revolutionize equus design, if she can only get it running.

Together, this unlikely group of allies will face a mysterious enemy and a war that has brought their world to the brink of destruction. 

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Guest Post with Author Catherine Egan!




On June 7th, a new YA fantasy trilogy began with the release of Catherine Egan's Julia Vanishes. It looks to be a promising read! I am honored to have a guest post with the author today!


Maybe it’s a Tree

I first heard the expression “filling the well” – consuming art to fill your own creative reservoirs so they don’t run dry – in an interview with Joss Whedon a few years ago. He was talking about working on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the inspiration for Firefly. He said: “My vacation from Buffy was… two weeks every year, and in that vacation I read, in 14 days, 10 books, my wife and I saw like nine plays, and that’s all we did.”

I love that idea and of course it’s true that art will set your mind alight and feed your creative drive. But when I read that interview, my own life was a far cry from going to the theater or wandering through art galleries. I still read books, but often fell asleep mid-sentence. My days were a blur of diaper changes, carefully prepared meals tossed on the floor (and in my hair), and quelling tantrums at the grocery store. “Filling the well,” it seemed to me, required time and, in some cases, money, neither of which I had.

And yet I was writing – desperately, frantically writing, surrounded by piles of dirty laundry and dirty dishes and just, well, dirt, while little boys crashed around the apartment pretending to be dinosaurs. I fact, I was writing far more consistently than I had during the years when my life was full of adventure and the avid consumption of art.

One of my favorite poets, Lucille Clifton, was asked once why her poems were so short. Her answer: “I have six children, and a memory that can hold about twenty lines until the end of the day.” I love that so much. Her poems are short – and razor sharp, luminous, full of the messiness of life. Amid the busy-ness of living and raising children and losing a husband and illness, she wrote poems that reflected everything her days were full of as well as the wider world’s ugliness and sometime beauty.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of imagining that the boring bits of life, the frustrations of the day, the things that are just necessary, are a distraction from writing, even depleting your inner well. But my experience says otherwise.


If you can spend the time (and money) filling the well, that’s great. But sometimes life is hard and busy, and that doesn’t mean your well will run dry. Maybe it’s a tree, not a well, and if the roots go deep enough the world will give you everything you need. This tree can feed on love and joy, but the wonder of it is that it is fed also by regret and disappointment and failure, the petty feelings and the stupid fight you had about money, the flat tire, the French press in pieces on the floor, the overflowing toilet, your own restlessness that chafes and chafes and won’t allow you any peace. I wouldn’t call it fodder, because it isn’t that, exactly – it’s life – but then what else are we writing about? 


I strongly suggest you all go check out Julia Vanishes!