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Monday, October 27, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Halloween Books


It's been ages and ages since I did a Top Ten Tuesday (apparently not since I had a baby...over a year ago). I'm finally getting around to it and I forgot how much I love coming up with lists! This week is Top Ten Books To Read To Get In The Halloween Spirit.  I'm not much of a scary book person, but here are some books that scare my socks off!

For a bit of classic scary:

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
Seriously, one of the creepiest books ever.  Plus, there are a few retellings of it now that can give you an update on the creepiness.

The Murder at the Vicerage by Agatha Christie
Just finished listening to the audio of this one - there's a reason Agatha Christie is the queen of mysteries.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
One of the best horror books ever, in my not-very-well-read-in-horror opinion.  And again, there are tons of retellings and spin-offs to enjoy.

The Woman in White by Wilkie CollinsAn excellent classic book with mystery and suspense round every corner. 

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
This book is so weird and creepy, it will definitely get you in the mood for some frightening good times.  Several retellings of this one too, including The Turning by Francine Prose

For some more modern frights:

The Lynburn Legacy series by Sarah Rees Brennan
I swear with each book, the story gets more and more disturbing.

The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab
This book gave me delicious shivers.

The Forest of Hands and Teeth series by Carrie Ryan
Just looking at these covers gives me the willies!

Coraline by Neil Gaiman
Buttons!  The book made me fear buttons.  That's seriously creepy.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Bod lives in a graveyard, that ought to get you in the mood for some scary fun!

What are your favorite Halloween books? (But not too scary, cause I'm a wimp!)

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Sunday, October 26, 2014

My Bookish Birthday Gift

Just wanted to show this beauty off. Does my husband know me or what? (There might have been some strong hints, but still :)




Love feeding my Tolkien obsession!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Book Review: Lady Thief by A.C. Gaughen

Lady Thief by A.C. Gaughen
Publisher: Walker Children's
Publication date: February 2014
Pages: 320
Source: E-book from NetGalley
For: Review
Series: Scarlet, Book 2
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0802736149/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0802736149&linkCode=as2&tag=rambofalibr-20&linkId=MZ4VNE4IRTXCQGBX
Summary from goodreads: *Spoilers are inevitable for the first book*
Scarlet’s true identity has been revealed, but her future is uncertain. Her forced marriage to Lord Gisbourne threatens Robin and Scarlet’s love, and as the royal court descends upon Nottingham for the appointment of a new Sheriff, the people of Nottingham hope that Prince John will appoint their beloved Robin Hood. But Prince John has different plans for Nottingham that revolve around a fateful secret from Scarlet’s past even she isn’t yet aware of. Forced to participate at court alongside her ruthless husband, Scarlet must bide her time and act the part of a noblewoman—a worthy sacrifice if it means helping Robin’s cause and a chance at a future with the man she loves.
Things I Liked:
I enjoyed seeing how Scarlet manages to still be tough and fight back even when injured and in a very restricted position.  I think she's an interesting and unique person, one with many very apparent flaws that I still seem to like.  The story was a little bit thin and slow, but I wanted to know the outcome all the same.  It seemed very much a battle they were unable to win.  The author manages to make the ending both happy and horrifying at the same time.  Win but still lose.

Things I Didn't Like:
I have to admit, I spent much of this book not being interested at all.  It felt like nothing ever happened, Scarlet was doing and saying the same things over and over.  The ending was quite fast and exciting, but pretty much everything before was dull, slow, and very thin on plot as I mentioned above.  It was a drag to read it, even if I liked hearing about Scarlet and the way she could fight back despite her situation.  I'll probably continue to read the series, but with less enthusiasm.

Read-alikes:
The Outlaws of Sherwood by Robin McKinley (which I still haven't read!  ACH!)

BOOK CONTENT RATINGS:
s-factor: !
some

mrg-factor: X
mostly kissing

v-factor: ->->
some rather brutal scenes

Overall rating: ***

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Book Review: The Demon's Surrender by Sarah Rees Brennan

The Demon's Surrender by Sarah Rees Brennan
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication date: June 2011
Pages: 400
Source: I think I bought it :)
For: Fun
Series: Demon's Lexicon, Book 3

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1416963839/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=1416963839&linkCode=as2&tag=rambofalibr-20&linkId=4IPTAVOCFAW3GRR6
Summary from goodreads: *Spoilers are inevitable for the first two books*
The Goblin Market has always been the center of Sin’s world. But now the Market is at war with the magicians, and Sin’s place is in danger. Thrown out of the Market she loves, Sin is thrown together with brothers Nick and Alan—whom she’s always despised.

Alan has been marked by a magician and is being tortured so that the magicians can get to Nick. As Sin watches Alan struggle to protect the demon brother he loves, she begins to see him in a new light—but she and Mae are locked in a fierce rivalry over who will inherit the leadership of the Goblin Market, and a decisive battle with the Aventurine Circle is looming. Mae’s brother, Jamie, is holed up with the magicians, his loyalties in question. And Nick—well, who knows what a demon might do to save his brother? How far will Nick go to save Alan—and what will it cost them all?
Things I Liked:
Glad I finally finished off this series!  It's been patiently waiting on my shelf forever (apparently 3 years).  I should have reread the first two, but let's be honest, it wasn't going to happen.  I was pretty well able to pick up what I needed, and the main characters had really stuck with me.  Mainly, I couldn't quite recall what happened to Mae and Jamie.  It was a pretty interesting conclusion, not entirely what I expected.  I liked hearing from Sin, though I thought she was a little too removed from some of the action for me to completely understand and enjoy the story.  There were some flaws that I was a little bit confused about and details that didn't quite make sense, but I do love Brennan's writing style and her descriptions, not to mention her very interesting characters. 

Things I Didn't Like:
There were a few things that really bothered me during the story.  I was annoyed about what seemed like a super obvious solution to what happened to Alan that no one even mentioned.  I think if it had been addressed as a what if, I might have been ok, but it never came up.  Maybe just me.  Also, what in the world happened in the end?  I think maybe I missed something, but didn't quite follow what happened with the demons in the end.  It seemed like maybe the author kind of couldn't quite figure out how it would work, so fudged it a little bit.  Again, this might just be me.  I did enjoy it, but thought the ending was a little lacking.

Read-alikes:
It's a pretty unique series, I think

BOOK CONTENT RATINGS:
s-factor: !@
a number of them

mrg-factor: XX 
mainly sensuality

v-factor: ->->
ah, those demons (and magicians, and everyone else too)

Overall rating: ***

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Monday, October 13, 2014

Book Review: Evertrue by Brodi Ashton

Evertrue by Brodi Ashton
Publisher: HarperCollins Children's Books
Publication date: January 2014
Pages: 368
Source: E-book from Library
For: Fun
Series: Everneath, Book 3
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/006207119X/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=006207119X&linkCode=as2&tag=rambofalibr-20&linkId=D47ZC7UURQPG7R6E
Summary from goodreads: *Spoilers are inevitable for the first two books*
Now that Nikki has rescued Jack, all she wants is to be with him and graduate high school. But Cole tricked Nikki into feeding off him, and she’s begun the process of turning into an Everliving herself... which means she must feed on a Forfeit soon — or die.

Terrified for her survival, Nikki and Jack begin a desperate attempt to reverse the process using any means possible. Even Cole, who they expected to fight them at every turn, has become an unlikely ally — but how long can it last? Nikki needs to feed on Cole to survive, Cole needs Nikki to gain the throne in the Everneath, Jack needs Nikki because she is everything to him — and together, they must travel back to the Underworld to undo Nikki’s fate and make her mortal once more. But Cole isn’t the only one with plans for Nikki: the Queen has not forgotten Nikki’s treachery, and she wants her destroyed for good. Will Nikki be forced to spend eternity in the Underworld, or does she have what it takes to bring down the Everneath once and for all?
Things I Liked:
I enjoyed reading the conclusion to this series.  I like what Ashton has done with the Persephone myth and how she's created her own mythology in the Everneath.  I found this book had plenty of surprises and twists just as the other two did.  I spent much of the second book being annoyed and feeling like it was a time waste, only to have a new perspective at the end.  This one not so much.  I do remember thinking we don't see enough of Nikki's family and what happens with them.  I was intrigued by Cole throughout, though I'm still not sure what to make of him.

Things I Didn't Like:
This one was more interesting than the second book, but I found some of the brooding and worrying made for slow reading.  There were definitely lulls and highlights in the book, so it had some pacing issues for me.  Otherwise, it felt like a nice easy read.

Read-alikes:
Some other Persephone retellings:
Abandon by Meg Cabot
The Goddess Test by Aimee Carter
Radiant Darkness by Emily Whitman

 
BOOK CONTENT RATINGS:
s-factor: !
a very few

mrg-factor: X
mostly intense emotional things rather than "scenes"

v-factor: ->
some fighting

Overall rating: *** 

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Book Review: Untold by Sarah Rees Brennan

Untold by Sarah Rees Brennan
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Publication date: September 2013
Pages: 384
Source: E-book from Library
For: Fun!
Series: Lynburn Legacy, Book 2

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0375871047/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0375871047&linkCode=as2&tag=rambofalibr-20&linkId=G7TDQ3MMNW5VUM2J
Summary from goodreads: *Spoilers are inevitable for the first book*
On the surface, Sorry-in-the-Vale is a sleepy English town. But Kami Glass knows the truth. Sorry-in-the-Vale is full of magic. In the old days, the Lynburn family ruled with fear, terrifying the people into submission in order to kill for blood and power. Now the Lynburns are back, and Rob Lynburn is gathering sorcerers so that the town can return to the old ways.

But Rob and his followers aren’t the only sorcerers in town. A decision must be made: pay the blood sacrifice, or fight. For Kami, this means more than just choosing between good and evil. With her link to Jared Lynburn severed, she’s now free to love anyone she chooses. But who should that be?
Things I Liked:
Ah, still love this story.  I love Kami especially and her interactions with other characters.  She is so real and also just so funny.  It makes the book so much more fun to read when you can laugh every few pages despite dire things happening to characters.  The plot itself was pretty good, but secondary for me to the characters.  And the writing is fabulous.  Can't get enough of those descriptions!

Things I Didn't Like:
I didn't care much for the plot or the villains and their villainy.  I felt pretty meh about what was happening to the town.  But, as I said, this is about characters for me.

Read-alikes:
Has a Gothic feel, kind of like Daphne Du Maurier books

BOOK CONTENT RATINGS:
s-factor: !@
some, a few f-bombs

mrg-factor: none
though they all have the feels

v-factor: ->->
mostly just terrifying stuff, but some fighting

Overall rating: ****

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Monday, October 6, 2014

Book Review: Vortex by S.J. Kincaid

Vortex by S.J. Kincaid
Publisher: Katherine Tegan Books
Publication date: July 2013
Pages: 400
Source: E-book from Library
For: Fun
Series: Insignia, Book 2

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0062093037/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0062093037&linkCode=as2&tag=rambofalibr-20&linkId=3JREUFFVMAF4IJ2L
Summary from goodreads: *Spoilers are inevitable for the first book*
The impossible was just the beginning. Now in their second year as superhuman government weapons-in-training at the Pentagonal Spire, Tom Raines and his friends are mid-level cadets in the elite combat corps known as the Intrasolar Forces. But as training intensifies and a moment arrives that could make or break his entire career, Tom’s loyalties are again put to the test.

Encouraged to betray his ideals and friendships for the sake of his country, Tom is convinced there must be another way. And the more aware he becomes of the corruption surrounding him, the more determined he becomes to fight it, even if he sabotages his own future in the process.

Drawn into a power struggle more dramatic than he has ever faced before, Tom stays a hyperintelligent step ahead of everyone, like the exceptional gamer he is—or so he believes. But when he learns that he and his friends have unwittingly made the most grievous error imaginable, Tom must find a way to outwit an enemy so nefarious that victory seems hopeless. Will his idealism and bravado cost him everything—and everyone that matters to him?
Things I Liked:
I still love the concept and enjoy seeing what new crazy sci-fi tech will pop up next.  Plus, the story is full of action and adventure and crazy twists and turns.  It's been a while since I read this one too, so the details are vague to me now, but I remember being sufficiently surprised by many things that happened.  It's a big book, but it kept me reading to the end. 

Things I Didn't Like:
I think it kind of suffered from middle book syndrome.  Not a whole lot actually happened, though there was a lot of running around and trying to make decisions.  Menacing things and people appear, but it didn't seem to move forward plot-wise.  Anyway, I'm invested enough to keep reading the next book.

Read-alikes:
Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
Epic by Connor Kostick
Heir Apparent by Vivian Vande Velde

BOOK CONTENT RATINGS:
s-factor: !
some

mrg-factor: none


v-factor: ->->->
some intense stuff at times

Overall rating: ****

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Monday, September 15, 2014

Book Review: Cress by Marissa Meyer

Cress by Marissa Meyer
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Publication date: February 2014
Pages: 560
Source: Purchased
For: Fun
Series: Lunar Chronicles, Book 3

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0312642970/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0312642970&linkCode=as2&tag=rambofalibr-20&linkId=3YXBECWOP3XQFPSZ
Summary from goodreads: *Spoilers are inevitable for Cinder and Scarlet*
Cinder and Captain Thorne are fugitives on the run, now with Scarlet and Wolf in tow. Together, they’re plotting to overthrow Queen Levana and her army.

Their best hope lies with Cress, a girl imprisoned on a satellite since childhood who's only ever had her netscreens as company. All that screen time has made Cress an excellent hacker. Unfortunately, she’s just received orders from Levana to track down Cinder and her handsome accomplice.

When a daring rescue of Cress goes awry, the group is separated. Cress finally has her freedom, but it comes at a high price. Meanwhile, Queen Levana will let nothing prevent her marriage to Emperor Kai. Cress, Scarlet, and Cinder may not have signed up to save the world, but they may be the only hope the world has.

Things I Liked:
This series just gets better and better.  I can't seem to get the stories and characters out of my head.  I love, love, love the fairy tale aspects Meyer squeezes in.  It seems ridiculous to imagine a sci-fi/space version of Rapunzel, but Meyer does it perfectly.  I loved the other parts of the story just as much.  The fight against Queen Levana is engrossing and I love that all the stories weave together with characters from before, but also new perspectives and characters.  Pitch perfect and exciting enough to keep me wanting the next installment.  Which is apparently going to be the story of Queen Levana (Fairest)!

Things I Didn't Like:
Honestly, I'm not sure I can think of anything.  Except that I want the next book now!

Read-alikes:
Start with Cinder by Marissa Meyer
Some other fairy tale retellings, though this is pretty original

BOOK CONTENT RATINGS:
s-factor: !
maybe a handful

mrg-factor: none

v-factor: ->->
some fighting

Overall rating: *****

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Monday, September 8, 2014

Book Review: The Runaway King by Jennifer A. Nielsen

The Runaway King by Jennifer A. Nielsen
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Publication date: March 2013
Pages: 352
Source: Purchased
For: Fun
Series: The Ascendance Trilogy, Book 2

Summary from goodreads: *Spoilers are inevitable for the first book, The False Prince*
Just weeks after Jaron has taken the throne, an assassination attempt forces him into a deadly situation. Rumors of a coming war are winding their way between the castle walls, and Jaron feels the pressure quietly mounting within Carthya. Soon, it becomes clear that deserting the kingdom may be his only hope of saving it. But the further Jaron is forced to run from his identity, the more he wonders if it is possible to go too far. Will he ever be able to return home again? Or will he have to sacrifice his own life in order to save his kingdom?  
Things I Liked:
I'm still a fan of Jeron.  He's a character that is difficult to forget - brash, full of himself, but also full of heart and who wants to do what's best for everyone.  I liked the plot and the interesting places it took us.  I enjoyed the scenes with the pirates and found the conclusion of Jeron's difficulties interesting, if not entirely believable.  Overall, I enjoyed reading this installment, though not as much as the first book. (On a totally unrelated note, I bought this book when I met the author - she was super inspiring to hear speak, I think.  Really wonderful with the younger kids who came!)

Things I Didn't Like:
As I said, this one did not entertain nor surprise me quite as well as that first book did.  I thought some of the characters changes did not seem plausible.  Admittedly, it's been a while since I read this, so I'm not remembering all I felt, but I do remember being a bit disappointed.

Read-alikes:
A bit like Ranger's Apprentice series by John Flanagan

BOOK CONTENT RATINGS:
s-factor: none

mrg-factor: none

v-factor: ->
some fighting

Overall rating: ***

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Monday, August 25, 2014

Book Review: The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani

The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication date: May 2013
Pages: 512
Source: Review copy from publisher
For: Review
Series: The School for Good and Evil, Book 1

Summary from goodreads:
The first kidnappings happened two hundred years before. Some years it was two boys taken, some years two girls, sometimes one of each. But if at first the choices seemed random, soon the pattern became clear. One was always beautiful and good, the child every parent wanted as their own. The other was homely and odd, an outcast from birth. An opposing pair, plucked from youth and spirited away.

This year, best friends Sophie and Agatha are about to discover where all the lost children go: the fabled School for Good & Evil, where ordinary boys and girls are trained to be fairy tale heroes and villains. As the most beautiful girl in Gavaldon, Sophie has dreamed of being kidnapped into an enchanted world her whole life. With her pink dresses, glass slippers, and devotion to good deeds, she knows she’ll earn top marks at the School for Good and graduate a storybook princess. Meanwhile Agatha, with her shapeless black frocks, wicked pet cat, and dislike of nearly everyone, seems a natural fit for the School for Evil.

But when the two girls are swept into the Endless Woods, they find their fortunes reversed—Sophie’s dumped in the School for Evil to take Uglification, Death Curses, and Henchmen Training, while Agatha finds herself in the School For Good, thrust amongst handsome princes and fair maidens for classes in Princess Etiquette and Animal Communication.. But what if the mistake is actually the first clue to discovering who Sophie and Agatha really are…?
Things I Liked:
I loved the story idea - a storyteller who steals children and takes them to a school for good or a school for evil.  Then the storybooks show up later.  Also, I enjoyed seeing both Amelia and Sophie show both good and evil sides.  The mix up was quite fun.  I also loved the clever ways that they dealt with the mix up, particularly Sophie's ingenuity.  It was a great fairy tale background kind of story and I really got into it.

Things I Didn't Like:
It was a bit heavy-handed in its message at times (looks do not make someone good or evil).  I felt like that one whacked you over the head a lot.  Also, a bit predictable (or so I thought).  Until the ending, which seemed to come completely out of left field in the last five pages or so and left me totally confused and rather disappointed.  Not sure I'll get around to a sequel any time soon.

Read-alikes:
I haven't read them yet, but it reminds me of Shannon Hale's new series Ever After High

BOOK CONTENT RATINGS:
s-factor: none
that I recall

mrg-factor: none
some kissing

v-factor: none
though it was a bit intense in parts

Overall rating: *** (until the ending, which dropped it to **)

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Classic Double Challenge Link-Up for August & September

Sign up for the Classic Double Challenge.

Link up with any reviews/thought posts you've done or will do in August or September (or really any time, it doesn't matter)! I finished Second Star, a retelling of Peter Pan, and I managed to start Peter Pan, but haven't gotten very far.  Anybody out there working on this challenge still?  Hopefully you are still reading retellings and their originals, even if you aren't doing it for my challenge!
 

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Book Review: Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
Publisher: Philomel
Publication date: March 2011
Pages: 352
Source: ARC from publisher
For: Review

Summary from goodreads:
Lina is just like any other fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941. She paints, she draws, she gets crushes on boys. Until one night when Soviet officers barge into her home, tearing her family from the comfortable life they've known. Separated from her father, forced onto a crowded and dirty train car, Lina, her mother, and her young brother slowly make their way north, crossing the Arctic Circle, to a work camp in the coldest reaches of Siberia. Here they are forced, under Stalin's orders, to dig for beets and fight for their lives under the cruelest of conditions.

Lina finds solace in her art, meticulously--and at great risk--documenting events by drawing, hoping these messages will make their way to her father's prison camp to let him know they are still alive. It is a long and harrowing journey, spanning years and covering 6,500 miles, but it is through incredible strength, love, and hope that Lina ultimately survives.
Things I Liked:
This was such a unique view of WWII and something I know nothing about.  It really never ceases to amaze me how horrible humanity can be and also how resilient humans can be.  We can do such cruel things to one another and then justify it.  We can also survive in such dreadful circumstances and some can even be so positive about it.  It's at once heart-wrenching and hopeful to read such stories of survival.  I wish I knew more about the Lithuanians who were taken from their homes and sent so far away.  There is so much that people will never know about.

Things I Didn't Like:
I kind of expected this to blow me away, and I really was impressed and loved it, but I found it a bit more simplistic in style and a bit less gripping in story than I expected.  Obviously, this is a fault of my own expectations.  Still very much worth the read.

Read-alikes:
Reminded me of The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom

BOOK CONTENT RATINGS:
s-factor: !
a very few

mrg-factor: X
a little bit of implied stuff

v-factor: ->
there are some cruel things that happen

Overall rating: ****

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Lord of the Rings Read-Along, Part 6


Questions from Jenni Elyse's blog.
See Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5.

1. Has your favorite character changed in The Return of the King? If yes, why?
Well, since I was pretty vague throughout in my favorites, not really.  I still adore Aragorn and SAM FOREVER.  Also, Eowyn and Faramir. 

2. Which is your favorite book of the series? Why?
I'm afraid I love them all!  I do love the ending though, since it is so bittersweet.

3. Do you like how the series ended? Why?
Yes!  I think it shows just enough of what happened after the great events that you can feel satisfied.  I also love how Frodo tells Sam that he won't *always* feel torn in two.  After devouring the appendices (actually I didn't read them this time, but previously) right near the very end of Appendix B, it mentions that in legend, Sam eventually passed over into the West as well, after his wife died.  Makes sense to me - as he was a ringbearer too.

4. If you could change one thing about the ending what would it be and why?
I would have liked to have more of Aragorn and Arwen and, Eowyn and Faramir.  Even the appendices don't fill my need for more romance in these books! I did also always feel sad that they came home to the Shire and found it all in ruins.  So sad that they wanted to protect it and it still was hurt.

5. Were there any changes in The Return of the King movie that you liked or disliked?
I think they should have had some of what went on in the Shire.  It kind of made Sam's vision in Galadriel's mirror pointless (though, I guess it was Frodo's vision in the movie).

6. What was your favorite moment in Book 6?
Pretty much anything having to do with Eowyn and Faramir was my favorite.  I did love the moment with Arwen and Frodo.  I had forgotten about that!  They even sneaked something of it into the movies (albeit, it was in Fellowship).

7. Which death affected you the most?
I have to say Theoden's was the most epic.  He really went out with a bang. (Also, I agree with Kami that his death scene with Eowyn in the movie was so much more touching than the book.)

8. Why do you think Frodo didn’t want to kill Saruman and Wormtongue, even after all the destruction and heartache they caused in the Shire?
You know, I think Tolkien really was trying to put his pacifist ideals into Frodo.  Almost throughout his time in the books, he doesn't want to hurt or kill anyone, but especially so after his meeting up with Gollum.  It's just most obvious in this instance.  I think it's very noble and it's also very different from pretty much how anyone else would react, except perhaps Gandalf.  It shows an interesting value for life, even when it seems like it isn't what people deserve.

9. If you were in Frodo’s place, would you have done the same thing? (See previous question.)
Yeah, probably not.  I would have been more vindictive, I think.  Then again, having someone's death on your hands would be rather uncomfortable.

10. If JRR Tolkien were still alive and wrote a sequel to The Lord of the Rings, which character would you want to see the most and why?
Hello, let's have more romance!  I think Faramir and Eowyn need their own series.  For those aching for a bit more Aragorn and Arwen, there are a few pages in Appendix A :)

Thanks so much for hosting such a fabulous read-along, Kami and Jenni Elyse!  It was lovely to devour this series again.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

On Retellings: A Guest Post by Jessica Lawson

I'm happy to welcome Jessica Lawson, author of The Actual and Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher to my blog today!  She's planning to tell us more about retellings and some rules to follow if you plan to write one!
 
Rules for Retellings/Reimaginings
 
Recycled stories are popular nowadays (just take a look at this epic chart of 162 YA retellings). Authors vary widely in their approach, from Gail Carson Levine’s Ella Enchanted (a take on the Cinderella fairy tale) to Seth Grahame-Smith’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (which is pretty much what the title implies—a zombie-fied version of Jane Austen’s classic Pride and Prejudice). My own debut middle grade novel, The Actual & Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher, is a retelling/origin story mix, with old/new characters blending with old/new plot elements…and with the original tale’s author (a young Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain) thrown in as a happenstance observer.
All this to say, there are lots of ways to go about creating a new version of something that’s already been written. Fiction, by nature, is open to interpretation and there aren’t too many true instances of “you can never do that!” Still, if you’re thinking of writing your own story based on an already-established tale, there are a few things that you may want to keep in mind:

Three Rules for Retellings/Reimaginings
1. First, you should love the original work as written and have respect for the author. Basically, retell the story because you love it, not because you loathe it. In my opinion, a retelling shouldn’t be undertaken in order to “fix” something that the original author did wrong, but rather to bring fresh attention and a new perspective to a well-loved tale.

I love Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer exactly as written. I love the story so much that I found myself thinking of its characters often, and eventually that emotional closeness to the story prompted me to revisit the world I loved so well.

2. There must be at least one large twist. But the twist should be a playful/thoughtful/deliberate one that has meaning within the original elements, not just a random item. In the words of Mark Twain, “know the facts and then distort them as you please.” Know why you’re changing a key element of the story and be confident in your reasoning. A version of Charlotte’s Web in space? That’s fine! But you need to be able to justify the twist being necessary in order to bring something new to the context of the original. Utilize the twist to strengthen your version of the story and let it inform your plot and characters. Choose your twist deliberately and with attention to the plot/characters of the original.

3. Keep the heart of the original in mind and try your best to honor it. Even if you’re retelling Cinderella to make the wicked stepmother character the heroine and her stepdaughter a horrible conniving brat, the basic idea is the same—one person is unfairly treated and must find their own journey to happily-ever-after, while the baddie gets punished.

While my own retelling of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer alters personalities and changes plot elements, the themes of learning what it means to grow up and struggling with losing pieces of childhood are still there and are recognizable.

Happy writing and reading! And if you haven’t read a retelling lately, my blog hostess Melissa’s own Classic Double Challenge is a wonderful way to get motivated.

Thank you so much, Melissa!

Jessica Lawson’s debut middle grade novel, The Actual & Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher is available now. You can visit her at http://jessicalawsonbooks.com and on twitter

Thanks for the post, Jessica!  I've always wanted to write a retelling and now I have some lovely guidelines (for if I eeeeever get around to it).  You can check out my review of Jessica's book, The Actual & Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Monday, July 21, 2014

Book Review: Speaking from Among the Bones AND The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches by Alan Bradley

Speaking from Among the Bones by Alan Bradley
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication date: January 2013
Pages: 400
Source: Library
For: Fun
Series: Flavia de Luce, Book 5

The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches by Alan Bradley
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication date: January 2014
Pages: 336
Source: e-book from NetGalley
For: Review
Series: Flavia de Luce, Book 6


Summaries (sort of):
Flavia is the budding chemist and sneaky sleuth wrapped into an 11-year-old package.  She's obsessed with solving the crimes that appear in her small town of Bishop's Lacey, and they just keep coming.  In Speaking from Among the Bones, the town is digging up St. Tancred, but they discover a different body instead.  In The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches, Harriet (Flavia's mother) is coming home, but even before she's arrived, there are mysterious messages from strangers and Flavia must figure out what may have happened to Harriet.

Things I Liked about Both:
I just really enjoy reading these books (or listening to them on audio, thanks to narrator Jane Entwistle).  Flavia is a lot of fun, eager to please and trying to figure out where she fits in the world and her family.  But I love her unique way of assessing things and figuring out the mysteries.  The books all tended to follow a very regular pattern, until the last one which kind of sent us on a different path.  I'd really like more Flavia books in the future, especially as we might learn more about Harriet in them!

Things I Didn't Like:
Sometimes, I just had to raise my eyebrows at the way things conveniently happened or how Flavia knew something so obscure or random.  Still, I just get some plain, old-fashioned pleasure out of these stories.

Read-alikes:
Start with The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
Reminds me of The Agency series by Y.S. Lee

BOOK CONTENT RATINGS:
s-factor: !

maybe one or two
mrg-factor:none

v-factor: none
usually a murder involved though not explicitly described

Overall rating: ****

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Lord of the Rings Read-Along, Part 5

Question on Kami's Library Thoughts.
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.

I've been trying to come up with something to say about the discussion question (basically, we can talk about some kind of theme from this book).  I loved seeing all the responses so far and they all made me think even more about the book.  What I decided to focus on was the idea of sacrificing all in order to do some small good.  Throughout this book in particular, but in other ones as well, characters make the choice to do something that seems like it will fail and they will die, but knowing that full well and still choosing to do it.  Pretty much every time I read those kinds of things, I feel like my heart swells and I have all the feels going on.  Here are some examples:

-Rohan riding to the aid of Gondor - Theoden as well as Eowyn and Merry all assume this will be their last act
-The seige of Gondor - pretty much the entire time, the people assume this is the end, but they will still make a stand
-Faramir going out to defend Osgiliath - everyone knows this is a suicide mission and there is no point, but he goes because his father asks him to go
-The march to the Black Gates - all of the people know from the start that their chance of survival is miniscule.  I love the part where Aragorn sees that some of his people are overwhelmed by fear and he offers them the option of still maintaining their honor, but not having to face something they are not able to.  Pippin, right near the end of the book, says he's going to go out with a fight. 
-Obviously, Frodo and Sam feel like they are on a doomed mission from the first, but they just keep going.  And yet Sam always has such a positive outlook on it.

I just feel like the kind of courage it requires to make the choice consciously to fight even knowing you will fail or die is something inspiring.  It always makes me wonder what kinds of choices I would make if I experienced those kinds of odds and knew it was a choice between making a stand and dying or running away.

And since I've mentioned how very obsessed I've been with Lord of the Rings (see this tribute for some proof), I decided I'd post a bit of my fan art. I'm not super creative, so most of this is just me copying stuff from the movies. 


I had a Legolas obsession (movie Legolas, of course)


I loved the jewelry from the movie - some seriously beautiful pieces

And, of course, Eowyn!


If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

New and Upcoming Retellings

It's been ages since I last did a New and Upcoming Retellings post, which means there are LOTS of retellings that have come out and that are announced. Here's what I've been able to gather. I'd love to hear about any that you have heard about! See my previous retellings posts and my master list of classic retellings and fairy tale retellings. (My thanks to Bonnie at A Backwards Story for blogging about many of the fairy tale retellings coming out.  She's got some fabulous lists and reviews of fairy tale retellings on her site.  Check it out!)

Already released:

Gorgeous by Paul Rednick, released April 2013, a contemporary retelling of Cinderella


A Midsummer Night's Scream by R.L. Stine, released July 2013, a retelling of A Midsummer Night's Dream by Shakespeare


Gris Grimly's Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, illustrated by Gris Grimly, released August 2013, creepily retells Frankenstein by Mary Shelley


Will in Scarlet by Matthew Cody, released October 2013, retelling Robin Hood


Roses by G.R. Mannering, released November 2013, retelling Beauty and the Beast


Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge, released January 2014, retelling Beauty and the Beast (and apparently some Greek mythology too)


Splintered by A.G. Howard came out over a year ago, but the sequel Unhinged released in January 2014 and the third title, Ensnared, is coming in January 2015, all of them retelling Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll


Exposure by Kim Askew and Amy Helmes came out in January 2013, retelling Macbeth by Shakespeare.  Anyone But You published on January 2014 retelling Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare (I mentioned their Tempestuous in a previous New and Upcoming Retellings post)


Such Sweet Sorrow by Jenny Trout, released February 2014, retelling Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare (and, apparently, Hamlet by Shakespeare)


The Glass Casket by McCormick Templeman, released February 2014, retelling Snow White and various other fairy tales


While Beauty Slept by Elizabeth Blackwell, released February 2014, retelling Sleeping Beauty


Wayfarer by Lili St. Crow, released March 2014, retelling Cinderella


The Mirk and Midnight Hour by Jane Nickerson, released March 2014, retelling Tam Lin


A Phantom Enchantment by Eve Marie Mont, released March 2014, retelling The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux





Second Star by Alyssa Scheinmel, released May 2014, retelling Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie


Cinderella's Dress by Shonna Slayton, released June 2014, retelling Cinderella


The Stepsister's Tale by Tracey Barrett, released June 2014, retelling Cinderella

Not Yet Released:

Wild by Alex Mallory, coming July 2014, retelling Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs


Alias Hook by Lisa Jensen, coming July 2014, retelling Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie


Frostborn by Lou Anders, first in a new series called Thrones and Bones, coming August 2014, based on Norse mythology and folklore


Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth, finally coming to the US in September 2014, retelling Rapunzel


Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer, coming September 2014, retelling Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath


Egg and Spoon by Gregory Maguire, coming September 2014 (I think?), featuring Baba Yaga of Russian folklore fame


Stray by Elissa Sussmann, coming October 2014, more of a fairy-tale-esque story featuring fairy godmothers


Stitching Snow by R.C. Lewis, coming October 2014, retelling Snow White


Exquisite Captive by Heather Demetrios, coming October 2014, inspired by The Arabian Nights


Princess of Thorns by Stacey Jay, coming December 2014, retelling Sleeping Beauty


Crown Of Ice by Vicki Weavil, coming December 2014, retelling The Snow Queen


Fairest by Marissa Meyer, coming January 2015, retelling Snow White (the queen's backstory anyway)

Love, Lucy by April Lindner, coming January 2015, retelling A Room with a View by E.M. Forster


Dearest by Alethea Kontis, coming February 2015, retelling The Wild Swans and Goose Girl

Any you can think of I missed? What are you most excited for?

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage
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