Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Book Reviews: The Steep and Thorny Way

TITLE: The Steep and Thorny Way
AUTHOR: Cat Winters
PUBLISHED: March 8th, 2016
GENRE: Historical Fiction, slight paranormal, slight retelling
PREMISE: In a Hamlet influenced tale set in Oregon in the 1920s, Hanalee goes on the hunt for her father's killer. Who killed him turns out to be more complicated then she thought...
MY REVIEW: Once again, I love Cat Winter's ideas. She comes up with such interesting takes on things that otherwise probably wouldn't work very well. In this case, the idea is a Hamlet retelling set in 1920s Oregon dealing with all the race issues that took place then. You wouldn't think that would work, but Winters' manages it.
The story is creepy and vivid and as always with Winters, you can tell she did her research. I actually think this is my favorite book of hers so far. But she has another one coming out this year that looks awesome, so that could definitely change. As far as a retelling of Hamlet...it is loosely done and takes liberties with the tale. But it's still very good.
If you go into this wanting a straight forward retelling of Hamlet, this might not be your thing. Personally, I don't mind the liberties that much. This is still a very good historical fiction book.
WHO SHOULD READ: Historical fiction fans, Cat Winters fans, Hamlet fans
MY RATING: Four out of Five creepy mysteries

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Thematic Sunday: Captain America Graphic Novels For Beginners

Okay, so when I started making this list after finishing up Superman, I had no idea that whole thing about Hydra was going to happen. I'm...going to ignore it to be honest. If you're a new fan who's just getting into Cap, I suggest you do so as well. My guess is, in a few months, it'll be completely retconned anyway, because this is comics and everyone had a pretty negative reaction to it. For good reason.
For those of you still curious about Captain America, here's a list of places to start with, or story arcs in Captain America that are a good idea to know about. These are all trades, because I personally find reading heroes with as huge a back list as Cap goes much easier when read in trades.

1) Marvel Masterworks: Golden Age Captain America series by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby

If you want to start from the very very beginning, this series of trades is a good way to go. These collect a majority of the early issues of Captain America when the series first started back in the forties.

2) Captain America and the Falcon series by Steve Englehart, Mike Friedrich, and Sal Buscema

The seventies were an interesting time for Captain America. This series introduces Falcon and shows Cap becoming slightly disillusioned with America due to what's happening in the country (it's the seventies, it was a turbulent time for us).

3) Captain America vol. 1: The New Deal by John Nay Reiber

If you're more interested in modern interpretations of Captain America, this series is a good place to start. It deals with the aftermath of 9/11 in the Marvel Universe.

4) Captain America and The Falcon Vol. 1: Two Americas by Christopher J. Priest

Not to be confused with the series above, that was Steve and Sam meeting. In this one they already know each other, and Sam goes rogue (FYI, comics Sam is very different from MCU Sam).

5) Captain America: The Winter Soldier arc by Ed Brubaker

If you've seen the second movie, you know why this is on here.

6) Marvel's Civil War event

If you've seen the third movie, you know why this is on here. Just be warned: things go down very differently in the comics.

7) The Death of Captain America series arc by Ed Brubaker

Yes, like Superman Cap died. Also like Superman, he came back. Comics.

8) Captain America: Reborn series arc by Ed Brubaker

Like I said, he comes back. Because, comics.

9) The Trial of Captain America arc by Ed Brubaker

Bucky goes to trial and things from Cap's past come to light.

10) Captain America vol. 1: Castaway in Dimension Z by Rick Remender

Looking to skip ahead and just catch up on what's happening with present day Cap? This is an excellent place to start.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Book Review: Remembrance

TITLE: Remembrance
Book 7 in the Mediator series
AUTHOR: Meg Cabot
PUBLISHED: February 2nd, 2016
CATEGORY: Adult (though it has a YA crossover appeal because the original series is YA)
GENRE: Urban Fantasy, Ghosts
PREMISE: Susannah and Jesse are now grown up and engaged. Of course, Paul Slater would choose now to come back into Susannah's life.
MY REVIEW: Once upon a time back in high school, I fell in love with the Mediator series. This was the late nineties or so. I had just discovered Princess Diaries and then discovered that Cabot had a whole slew of books out there and from then on, I've been a Cabot fangirl for life. Needless to say, when I heard this was coming out, there were lots of fangirl squees.
As with Royal Wedding, this was a bit predictable, but it was still damn enjoyable as always with Cabot. We got to see what happened to all our favorite characters. This book also came at a good time as I've been dealing with family issues. Cabot's books always put me in a good mood, and this one was no exception.
Seems as though Cabot is continuing this revisit to nostalgia because apparently there's also another book in her Boy series, which is an adult romance series that tells the story via emails, journals, and any sort of paper thing you can think of. I for one, welcome it and am holding out hope for an American Girl sequel. Also, I wouldn't be opposed to a spin-off series about the triplets who were introduced in this book.
WHO SHOULD READ: fans of the Mediator series, Cabot fans
MY RATING: Four and a half out of Five happy fangirl squees

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Book Review: The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making

TITLE: The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making
Book 1 in the Fairyland series
AUTHOR: Catherynne M. Valente
CATEGORY: Childrens/Middle-Grade
GENRE: Fantasy
PREMISE: A girl gets swept off to a fantasy land and has marvelous adventures.
MY REVIEW: I didn't connect as much to this one as much as everyone else apparently did. But to be fair to the author, I think that was mostly me. Picking up this book came at a time when some bad family news happened. So I haven't really been connecting to any of my books these past few weeks (which is also why there's been less posting). I've still been reading, it's just...sort of numb reading if you will.
If I hadn't been in the mood I have been, I suspect I probably would enjoy this one a whole lot more. The world is fun. The writing has a Terry Pratchett sort of feel. There's a lot of meta in it, that you'll likely catch if you read a lot of fantasy. If you have tweens, absolutely give this to them. I suspect it's even better when read in the age group it's aimed at.
So, no I didn't connect much to it. But that was mostly a it's not you, it's me sort of situation. Anyone who's not going through personal issues and who loves imaginative fantasy, will probably enjoy this one a lot.
WHO SHOULD READ: Tweens/Middle-Graders, fantasy fans, Terry Pratchett fans
MY RATING: Four out of Five snarky dragons

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Book Review: Yellow Brick War

TITLE: Yellow Brick War
Book 3 in the Dorothy Must Die series
AUTHOR: Danielle Paige
PUBLISHED: March 15th, 2016
GENRE: Fantasy, Retelling/Classic Book referencing
PREMISE: Amy gets sent back to Kansas and deals with the consequences of being gone while she searches for Dorothy's famous shoes.
MY REVIEW: For some reason I thought this was the last book in this series. Turns out it's not. There's a forth one coming out sometime next year. Which explains the ending, I suppose.
I continue to like this series mostly for the twists the author puts on the Wizard of Oz. That's the strength of it. I also like the character growth that the author does with Amy. Those are the reasons I have stuck to this series despite some of the issues I have with it. While I do like the author tried to give more depth to a previously one-dimensional mean girl, it was a bit sudden and there are a lot of convenient plot devices going on as usual.
But it remains entertaining and fast-paced. I do look forward to the forth, I just hope they don't drag this series on and on like they have with some series in the past. Because there's only so much stretching out of a plot that one can do. As entertaining as this was, it was very much a filler book and not much happened.
WHO SHOULD READ: those that have read the first 3 books, Wizard of Oz fans, Once Upon a Time fans
MY RATING: Three and a half out of Five ruby slippers

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Thematic Sunday: Superman Graphic Novels for Beginners

This week's themed list is a continuation for graphic novels. Now we're moving onto superheroes. The Marvel/DC comics can look intimidating at first because there's just SO MUCH of it. A lot of these heroes have been around since before the fifties, so it can be hard to figure out where to begin. Here's my tip: you don't actually have to start at the beginning. Some gatekeepers will probably try to make you believe you have to have read the entire back catalog of Batman or whoever to fully appreciate them. This is not the case. First, because there are a lot of throwaway issues in Batman/other people, second because honestly a lot of it is no longer in print or just not widely available. Plus, there have been a lot of retcons over the years, so any info from the classic age, may not even be relevant info anymore.
If you have seen the major movies of your superhero of choice, you basically have most of the info you need to get into some of the later superhero comics. For Superman, if you've seen the Christopher Reeve movies, or the nineties cartoon then you have a basic handle on Superman and are ready to jump in. Here are some good jumping on points or at least major story arcs that it's a good idea to know. if you want to talk Superman with someone or become more familiar with this well known hero.

1) Superman Chronicles series by Jerry Siegal

While you don't necessarily have to start at the beginning, if you wish too, pick up the Superman Chronicles. These trades collect all the early Superman Action comics from way back when in helpful chronological order.

2) Showcase presents: Superman Family series

If you were always more into Clark's friends at the Daily Planet then Clark himself, this is a good way to go. These trades collect some series from the Silver Age era that focused on Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane

3) Crisis on Infinite Earths bind-up by Marv Wolfman

One of the first major comic-book crossover events out there. This  restructured a lot of the DC universe. If you're watching The Flash and its story line about multi-universes, this one should be of interest to you.

4) Superman, Man of Steel series by John Byrne

This series took place after the above mentioned Crisis on Infinite Earths event. This took Superman out of the Golden/Silver age and into the more modern version of Superman people might be more familiar with now thanks to shows like Smallville or Lois and Clark.

5) The Death of Superman story arc 

If you were around in the nineties, chances are you actually heard about this event. Yes, Superman died. It was a thing. But spoiler alert: he came back. Because it's comics and it's Superman. But this is a pretty big event in the Superman story line.

6) Superman: The Death of Clark Kent by Dan Jurgens

Perhaps not a good jumping on point, but an arc that is good for the character of Clark Kent. 

7) Superman: The Wedding and Beyond by Dan Jurgens

Don't know about you, but my favorite part of Superman is Lois Lane. This arc was basically a long celebration of that relationship and it was fabulous. 

8) Superman Action Comics 1: Superman and the Men of Steel by Grant Morrison

Looking to just skip all the old canon and just jump into the New 52 stuff? Then this is probably a good starting point.

9) Superman: H'el on Earth story arc by Grant Morrison

This was a pretty big arc for the New 52 Superman. 

Superman Vol. 1: Before Truth by Gene Luen Yang

The start of the current run of Superman. Just be warned: DC is doing another reboot this year. So don't get comfortable.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Book Review: On the Edge of Gone

TITLE: On the Edge of Gone
AUTHOR: Corinne Duyvis
PUBLISHED: March 8th, 2016
GENRE: Dystopian
PREMISE: A comet heads towards Earth and everyone is fighting to get on ships in order to be saved. Denise and her family struggle to secure their place on one of the ships.
MY REVIEW: Otherbound was one of my favorite books awhile back, so I was pleased to hear that Duyvis had another book coming. This is very different from Otherbound. That was fantasy/parallel worlds, this was dystopian. Yet again, an author proves that this genre is not as dead as people are claiming. It is totally possible to do unique dystopians still. The only thing this and Otherbound have in common is the diversity. Once again, Duyvis shows that it is incredibly easy to have diversity in books. I hope more authors take notes. I will say that this one is slower then most dystopians. There's not a revolution or anything happening like that. It's mostly survival and a character study. There's also some pointed commentary as with most dystopians. This is more character study focused. A lot of it actually reminded me a bit of Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer. Which is good as I liked that series quite a bit.
If you're looking for a slower paced dystopian, this one is definitely a book to pick up. Once again, I loved what Duyvis did here. I hope we see another book from her soon.
WHO SHOULD READ: Corinne Duyvis fans, dystopian fans, Life As We Knew It fans
MY RATING: Four out of Five comets

Friday, May 13, 2016

Book Review: Rebel of the Sands

TITLE: Rebel of the Sands
Book 1 in a new series
AUTHOR: Alwyn Hamilton
GENRE: Fantasy
PUBLISHED: March 8th, 2016
PREMISE: In the land of Miraji, a young girl gets caught up in revolution when she comes across a mysterious man in a sharp shooting contest.
MY REVIEW: I admit it: I picked this one up mostly due to the cover. I mean look at that thing. It's gorgeous. It's even prettier in person because the gold is all shiny. Seriously, kudos to the cover artist. Unfortunately the book itself...doesn't live up to the cover or how awesome the premise: a fantasy-western sounded.
The writing is competent entertainment wise. The author has lots of action happening, the setting is vividly described. This is a very fast-paced book. It's just, as with most of these things lately, the details make it fall apart. The world-building is shaky to say the least, the characters are...okay. They get you interested, but they don't feel very developed. The romance was out of nowhere and honestly a little lack luster.
This was a competent book. It was just a very paint-by-numbers sort of book. The only thing that set it apart from all of the other fantasy YA books out there was the western-fantasy aspect of it. Other then that setting...this was a very typical YA adventure book. It's not a bad book. It's just nothing really to rave about either. It's a decent enough debut, but ultimately that's all it is: decent enough.
WHO SHOULD READ: those looking for light fantasy adventure
MY RATING: Three and a half out of Five shrugs

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Reading Through the Classics: A Room of One's Own

TITLE: A Room of One's Own
AUTHOR: Virginia Woolf
CATEGORY: Non-Fiction
GENRE: Essays
PREMISE: Essays written by Virginia Woolf based on a series of lectures she gave about female writers and fiction.
MY THOUGHTS: One of the many holes in my education was that we had never read Virginia Woolf. I thought I'd finally rectify that this year with one of her short ones: A Room of One's Own. Mostly because it was short and it was an essay. I've been getting into essays lately and I figured it would be a good introduction to her writing style.
While I don't know if this is like her other books yet, I do know this was definitely an interesting read. Some of the thoughts in it are a tad dated, because it was written back in the twenties. But I can't help but draw parallels between this and the current on-going discussion among the book/fandom community at large about the need for more diversity. All Woolf is basically saying in this is that female writers should be given the same opportunities as male writers. That's literally all the discussion about representation and plea for more diversity is. It's sad to me that it's been over eighty years since this essay and we're STILL having these conversations.
I will say a lot of this wanders. Woolf does some metaphorical things that...I don't particularly get, I'll be honest. I don't know if that's me or her writing. But this does what essays should do: gets her point across and makes you think. She takes a bit to get the point. But she does get there. And it is sadly still a very relavant point.
WHO SHOULD READ: Virginia Woolf fans, essay fans, feminists

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Book Review: A Criminal Magic

TITLE: A Criminal Magic
AUTHOR: Lee Kelly
PUBLISHED: February 2016
GENRE: Historical Fantasy
PREMISE: In the 1920s, magic is outlawed in the US, but that doesn't stop people from using it...
MY REVIEW: I actually enjoyed this book quite a bit. Judging from the mixed reviews, I'm one of the few people that did. C'est la vie. But I do understand why it might not have clicked for some people. It is very slow. The romance is also...not the best. But it also didn't turn out happily ever after either, which I think would have been ten times worse then the insta-love so I'm actually kind of okay with it.
What makes this book for me, was the world building and character studies. The world building in this is great. The author recently announced this has been optioned for a possible TV series, and I totally see why. It would make for a great visual spectacle and I can see it doing well as a mini-series. I also adore this author's writing.
This is just one of those books that is not going to be for everyone. I say it's definitely worth a check out at the library to see if it's for you. I do hope the TV series happens(and that they don't white-wash it, but it's Hollywood so....).
WHO SHOULD READ: Night Circus fans, historical fantasy fans
MY RATING: Four out of Five taverns

Friday, May 6, 2016

Book Review: The Rose Society

TITLE: The Rose Society
Book 2 in the Young Elites series
AUTHOR: Marie Lu
PUBLISHED: October 2015
GENRE: Fantasy
PREMISE: Adelina and her sister go on the search for other Elites while things brew in their kingdom...
MY REVIEW: Much as I adore fantasy trilogies, a lot of them tend to go predictable routes. YA fantasy trilogies are no exception. This trilogy however...surprised me. In a good way. The author took this in directions I was not expecting and this trilogy is so much better for it.
Because as much as I liked The Young Elites....I thought it was predictable. It had a lot of things I was used to seeing in YA, so I was looking forward to the second book, but not expecting much. I really should have known better. Lu surprised me with the Legend Trilogy and how that ended. She did the same here with this second book.
I will warn, the first half of this is slow. But then the second part happens and the payoff is great. I cannot wait for the third book. Authors, THIS is how you do good twists.
WHO SHOULD READ: those that read the first book, Legend Trilogy fans, Red Queen Trilogy fans
MY RATING: Four and a half out of Five jaw drops

Monday, May 2, 2016

Book Review: Mosquitoland

TITLE: Mosquitoland
AUTHOR: David Arnold
PUBLISHED: March 2015
GENRE: Realistic Fiction, Drama
PREMISE: A girl goes on a bus trip to get home to her sick mother and meets a variety of characters along the way.
MY REVIEW: Here's the thing about this book: I like the intent of it, more then I like the actual book. The intent of it is a great idea. I love road trip type of stories. You get to see lots of varieties of people in them usually, and this book definitely had a variety of characters. There even was a heartfelt story to it.
It's just...a lot of it was farfetched and I don't think the author handled certain aspects well. Like so many things happened in this book that I've NEVER seen happen on Greyhound trips and I live in the Midwest, so I've taken quite a few bus trips. Most of them are boring and people usually keep to themselves. There are also some things in it that made me raise my eyebrow a lot and side-eye the author as well, I could also tell a lot of the time, that some of the main characters' opinions weren't hers, but the authors. Considering a lot of those opinions included some pretty judgmental things, I wasn't wild about that.
The story does wrap up okay, and the writing is decent. But ultimately...it's just okay. The book felt more like a middle-grade book then a YA book and a large part of that was amateurish writing. Decent writing, but I could still tell this was a first book.
WHO SHOULD READ: John Green fans, realistic fiction fans, fans of road trip stories
MY RATING: Three out of Five greyhound buses

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Looking Ahead: May 2016 Books On My Radar

Here are all the books in May that I plan on reading at some point or another:

May 1rst:

Lois Lane Book 2: Double Down by Gwenda Bond

More Lois Lane! Woohoo!

May 3rd:

Traitor Angels by Anne Blankman

The summary on this makes me wary, but I wound up loving Blankman's other series, Prisoner of Night and Fog, so I'm hoping this one is another pleasant surprise.

The May Queen Murders by Sarah Jude

Me and my paranormal tendencies strike again.

Trials of Apollo Book 1: The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan

I'm sure everyone and their mother knows about this book. I probably don't need to explain why I'm looking forward to this one.

If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo

I've heard many good things about this one and I'm just so happy more books with trans characters are finally starting to get written in YA.

May 10th:

Everland by Wendy Spinale

Peter Pan retelling. I'm a sucker for these.

May 15th:

Perfect Liars by Kimberly Reid

This one sounds like a bit like the AKA books by Robin Benway. If it's half as enjoyable as that, it should be fun.

May 17th:

Roses and Rot by Kat Howard

Adult gothic looking book that was blurbed by Neil Gaiman so I have to give it a look.

Devil and the Bluebird by Jennifer Mason-Black

Tale dealing with the devil at the crossroads? Sign me up.

The Crown's Game Book 1 by Evelyn Skye

This one has been getting lots of buzz on the YAsphere. I was going to read it regardless because it's historical fantasy and that's my jam.

Places No One Knows  by Brenna Yovanoff

I adore Yovanoff's books. They deserve more love. This one looks just as imaginative as her other books.

Summer Days and Summer Nights by various authors (edited by Stephanie Perkins

Anthology of love stories set during summertime. I've heard good things about the winter collection that I also still need to read.

May 24rth:

Stranje House Book 2: Exile For Dreamers by Kathleen Baldwin

The first Stranje House book was good silly fun. I expect more of the same from the second.

Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee

Historical fiction novel about a girl from Chinatown dealing with the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.

The Cage Book 2: The Hunt by Megan Shephard

The Cage was a quiet release last year, and like Shephard's other series, The Madman's Daughter, this series deserves more love.

Fifth Wave Book 3: The Last Star by Rick Yancey

I really liked The Fifth Wave when it came out (I've yet to bother with the movie). The second book was a bit of a sloth though. So I'm wary about this third book, but I'm in it this far, I might as well finish.

May 31rst:

The Inside of Out by Jenn Marie Thorne

Another promising looking LGBTQA book.