Sunday, August 31, 2014

It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini - Review

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Fifteen-year-old Craig gets into Manhattan's Executive Pre-Professional High School and faces incredible levels of stress during his first year. It becomes so unbearable that he contemplates committing suicide but checks himself into a mental institution. While there he meets many others attempting to work through their issues and he begins to examine the source of his own anxiety.

The author, Ned Vizzini, actually spent some time in a psychiatric facility as a young man and the authenticity and emotion behind the words on the page are palpable. The majority of the story takes place at the hospital and the characters Craig encounters are all fully formed and realistic. It offers the opportunity to get into the Craig's head, and other patients through the brain maps he creates (which I expect are much cooler than the one on the cover). It's jarring to listen to the story while knowing the fate of the author before reading this remarkable novel.

I highly recommend Ned Vizzini's thought-provoking and bittersweet story.

I listened to this book on playaway from August 28 - 30, 2014 and my review is also on Goodreads.

Sunday Funday

Most exciting news of the week: Lots of yard sales this Labor Day weekend!  I picked some of the best sounding ones to see if I could come across any astounding deals that I would need to get and I found some good ones!

Second most exciting news of the week: I won another Goodreads First Reads Giveaway!

Naturally, I'll start off with the books I found for great prices at the yard sales!  I found a copy of The Cat Who Could Read Backwards by Lilian Jackson Braun,

Little Bee by Chris Cleave,

and The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory.

I wasn't sure that I would go back to The Cat Who books (I've only read #2 and #7), but I did prefer the tone of the second book so I figured I'd go back and see how it began with The Cat Who Could Read Backwards.  I also wasn't sure if I would go back to The Cousins' War, but The Red Queen was only a quarter and I am interested in that time period.

During the yard sale madness, I stopped by the local college bookstore (which includes a regular bookstore as well as the course books) and I found a book that I've had my eyes on for a while, Mrs Hudson's Diaries: A View from the Landing at 221B by Barry Cryer & Bob Cryer.  Although the ratings aren't the best, I still thought I'd give it a shot as I love Sherlock Holmes.

I found a few dvds at the yard sales, too!  I found Arrested Development Seasons 2 and 3 and I can't wait rewatch the rest of the series!  I also stumbled across Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade, which I have been meaning to watch for some time now.

As for the Goodreads Giveaway, I was one of ten lucky winners out of 2,661 entrants to win both In the Window Room by Steven J. Carroll and it's sequel, A Prince of Earth!

Now here's some completely random good news:  I went to my favorite Chinese place again and I received a what seems to be a completely normal fortune cookie.  This is news because the previous two times I had eaten there I received mildly sinister fortunes both times.  The first fortune said, "Don't forget you are always on our minds." and the second said, "Act like a role model. The younger is watching."  I mean, what kind of fortunes are those, and who exactly is watching me?!  So this time around, I was wondering what would be in store for me.  I was thinking I would get one like, "We are still watching you." Turns out though I got a relatively normal cookie, "You are born with the "sixth sense" and superb insight."  That, in my opinion, is relatively normal...unless the cookie people are referring to the "I see dead people" variety of the sixth sense.

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Liebster Award Pt. 2

I can't believe it, but I've been nominated again for the Liebster Award.  This time I would like to thank Lady Bee at Let Books Bee for the nomination!

Since I've already been nominated and answered questions and nominated others that way, I believe this time I'll just be answering the questions from Lady Bee.

Here we go:

1. There's a fire in your room! You only have time to grab one book and make a run for the door.  Which is it?

I have several books that have been in my family for a long time so I would definitely choose one of those.  I'm not 100% which one at this point, though.  However, I think The Prattler: A Story Book for Boys and Girls, edited by Uncle Herbert may be up near the top.

2. Say, you get to interview any author, either alive or dead, who would it be?

I'm tempted to say the Bronte sisters - that would be an amazing opportunity!

3.  A new Twilight spin-off will be made!  Love it or hate it?  Why?

I'm not that much of a fan of Twilight (namely Bella) so I'd be much more likely to hate it than anything.  However, if it focused on Jasper in his earlier days (best part of the series), I might kind of like it.

4. A cheesy romance novel or a toe-curling horror story? 

A toe-curling horror story any day of the week!

5. Pure, milk, or white chocolate?  Why?

I much prefer the smooth sweetness of milk chocolate to dark or white.

6. Honestly, do you reply to every review request you get?

I try to reply to all of them, but sometimes with my busy schedule it can be difficult.

7. Did you ever stop reading a book because it was "too much?"

If our definition of "too much" is the same, then yes, I have.  Two recent examples: Fallen by Lauren Kate and Crescendo (Hush, Hush #2) by Becca Fitzpatrick.  I'm sorry but they just weren't for me.

8. What's the worst book you have ever read?  

Aside from the two I mentioned above, I absolutely hated Gossip Girl by Cecily von Ziegesar. It was recommended to me a few time so I thought I would look into it (and I've never seen an episode of the show).  I couldn't even make it three chapters before I gave up on it.  That's another pretty recent example although I do have many more.

9. What book do you want to see as a movie?  Which actor should play the main character?

Based on what I'm reading now, I would absolutely love to see a Throne of Glass movie!  I'm not sure about casting for Celaena, but I think Chaol could be played by a younger Jensen Ackles or Bradley James with darker hair.

10. What do you like the most about blogging so far?

I love getting the chance to share some of my favorite stories with fellow bookworms!

11. Have you learned anything since you started your blog?  If so, what did you learn?

I learned about the Liebster Award - it's a great way to spread the word about newer book blogs! :)

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Every Day by David Levithan - Review

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Every day A wakes up in a different body, different life. There's no warning as to who and where A will wake up. A has made peace with that because there's nothing he can do to change it and he has no answers as to why it happens. A tries not to interfere in the lives he shares which means not getting noticed and to never get too attached to his many "families" and "friends". This is all well and good until he wakes up as Justin, the boyfriend of Rhiannon. A realizes he wants to spend the rest of his life, every day, with Rhiannon. A takes a big chance and tells Rhiannon his story and hopes she will believe him and hopes for a future relationship between them.

David Levithan is a captivating storyteller when it comes to complex and unique contemporary YA. He raises many excellent questions about (same)love, self-identity, masculinity and femininity, and use of personal pronouns. We are also treated to a diverse cast (partly due to the nature of A).

A's story is beautiful and transformative, but I found myself wishing to know more about the technical details of A's life. I really wanted to know the specifics on the how and the why aspects of the character. I found it hard to accept that A just didn't really question it and had made peace with what happens to him every single day. I mean, what is he, how is it possible, are there more people like him, what exactly happens to the people he inhabits before, during, and after, and why doesn't he seem to wake up in other countries? The entire bit with Nathan and the preacher, especially, could have gone much further into this territory with the "you are not alone" aspect.

Also I found myself upset and not in the tugging on the heart-strings way, but more in the "are you kidding me?!" way at how (view spoiler) Maybe that was just me, though.

Overall, I fell in love with this David Levithan's storytelling skills all over again in Every Day, even though there were so many aspects I would have loved to explore regarding A.

I listened to this book from August 25 - 27, 2014 and my review is also available on Goodreads.

Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson - Review

Snow Crash

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Actual rating 4.5 stars

Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson is absolutely fantastic! If you like Cyberpunk or Dystopia, sword fights, skateboarding, virtual reality, high-speed/ high-stakes pizza delivery, mythology, and epic characters, you should really look into this one! I highly, highly recommend this novel!

Hiro Protagonist, the greatest sword fighter in the world and the Metaverse, is a hacker-extraordinaire and pizza deliverer for the Mafia-owned Uncle Enzo's CosaNostra Pizza Inc., in a future where the country has broken down into corporate-franchise city-states. Hiro and a young Kourier called Y.T. get pulled headlong into a dangerous mystery revolving around a designer drug called Snow Crash and Sumerian culture, and face what could potentially mean an information apocalypse.

I enjoyed reading both Hiro and Y.T. in this novel as both are spectacularly written characters, but to tell the truth Y.T. easily steals the show. That's how you write a strong and awesome teen girl and that's coming from someone who reads a lot of YA - so take note!

I also enjoyed just how bizarre the future is here with the franchlettes and burbclaves, but now that I think about it, it doesn't feel that farfetched after all. It actually seems plausible in the way the author has presented it. The world-building is pretty spectacular and the details make the story!

The only reason I'm taking it down half a star to 4.5 is because at times following the mythology aspect was a bit difficult for me to keep track of while listening to the audiobook. I found myself rewinding a little more than I should have been.

I can't wait to read more by Neal Stephenson!

I listened to this from August 10 - 26, 2014 and my review is also on Goodreads.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Liebster Award

The Liebster Award is a tag meant to spread the word about about great blogs.  Here are the rules:

1. Link and thank the blogger who nominated you.

2. Answer the 11 questions your nominator gives you.

3. Tag 11 other bloggers who have 200 or less followers.

4. Ask the 11 bloggers you have nominated 11 questions and let them know you nominated them.

My thanks go out to Brittany from Space Between the Spines for nominating me - don't forget to stop by her blog!

Here are the bloggers I nominate for the Liebster Award:

1. Tanya at A Book Paradise
2. Ashley at Books to the Tea
3. Emily at Emily Etc.
4. Marie at Marie Loves Books
5. Saloni at My Fantabulous Bookshelf
6. Patty at Patty's Book Corner
7. Jillyn at Bitches n Prose
8. Ellen at Random Smiles
9. Jessica at The Psychotic Nerd
10. Sarah at Total Teen Fiction
11. Larry at It's Either Sadness or Euphoria...

The following are my answers to Brittany's questions.

1. If you could date one character from a book, who would it be and why?

I'm going to use my answer from my Mid-Year Book Freakout and go with Atticus O'Sullivan from The Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne.

2. You're stranded on a desert island and are only given three books for entertainment.  What are they?

The Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling, the Lord of the Rings by J. R.R. Tolkien, and the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher (Does that count? :) )

3. What is your favorite movie adaptation of a book?

There are so many but I can't get enough of the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings movies (plus what has been released of The Hobbit so far), I also love To Kill a Mockingbird, and the 1951 version of A Christmas Carol with Alastair Sim as Scrooge.

4. What was your favorite children's book?

When I was little I was completely obsessed with Corduroy by Don Freeman.

5. What is one genre you usually don't read but have enjoyed in the past?

I'm going to go with romance on this one.  I'm okay with the genre if it's used in conjunction with something else and used relatively sparingly and without to much sap.  Then again there are stories I have enjoyed that are more primarily romance, like The Fault In Our Stars by John Green.

6. What is your favorite classic book?

It's always hard for me to narrow it down to just one so here are a few: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy  by Douglas Adams, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Dracula by Bram Stoker, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle, and Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte (never been a decent movie adaptation in my opinion).

7. If you could have one book that releases in the next year early, which would it be?

Winter (The Lunar Chronicles #4) by Marissa Meyer

8. What was one book series that left you disappointed?

I loved the way the Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld began, but I was really disappointed by Specials (Uglies #3) and I don't even want to talk about the completely unnecessary fourth installment.

9. What's your favorite "lesser known" author?

Currently that would be Anne-Rae Vasquez.  I've also really enjoyed Cristin Terrill and Trent Reedy.

10. What's a book that you love, but no one else really knows about?

Doubt by Anne-Rae Vasquez, The Elect by Elle Todd, and Through Wolf's Eyes by Jane Lindskold - all of these series openers need more love!

11. [Here I've been asked to spread the blogging love by visiting three of my fellow nominees' blogs, following them, and leave one comment on each.]

I followed and commented on posts from sleeps with notebooks, Time Turning Reads, and A Perfection Called Books!

As for the 11 questions I would like to ask the bloggers I have nominated, I think I would like them to answer the same questions I answered above.

Spread the word!

Top Ten Books I Really Want To Read But Don't Own Yet

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature created by The Broke and the Bookish.  This week the category is the books you want to read but just don't have yet.  I could easily go on and on with this list, but here are the ones I really, really want now. :)

1. Crown of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

I'm only halfway through Throne of Glass and I can say that I already need book two!

2. The Treatment by Suzanne Young

I loved The Program and must continue the ride with Sloane and James, especially after that ending.

3. The Shadow Throne by Jennifer A. Nielsen

The first two installments of The Ascendance Trilogy were absolutely brilliant and I can't wait to see how the story wraps up.

4. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Still can't believe I haven't gotten around to this one yet...and that needs to be fixed soon!

5. Rebel Heart by Moira Young

Blood Red Road, the first installment in this series, is an absolutely brilliant post-apocalyptic novel and I'm really looking forward to continuing Saba's journey.

6. Unhinged by A. G. Howard

I greatly enjoyed the darkly reimagined Wonderland so I'm eager to dive back into this world.

7. Red Rising by Pierce Brown

I've heard so many good things about this and it sounds like it's right up my alley. I need to see if it lives up to the hype!

8. Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett

Pratchett is amazing and Moist von Lipwig is one of my favorite Discworld characters.  I'm looking forward to this one!

9. The Diviners by Libba Bray

The premise sounds awesome - and look at that cover!

10. Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor

Brilliant series!  I can't believe I haven't finished this one several times over yet....maybe it's because I just don't want to leave Taylor's fantastic characters.

So that's my list - what about yours? Do we share any titles? :)

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Sunday Funday

Most exciting news of the week: I won and received two new books and that's always awesome!  Through the Goodreads Giveaways First Reads Program I won a copy of The War of the Sidhe: Dawn Arising by Annalise Josephine Sullivan (sounds very interesting)

The War of the Sidhe: Dawn Arising

and Renegade by J. A. Souders (doesn't it look great!)

Renegade (The Elysium Chronicles, #1)

through an Author Q & A hosted by one of my favorite Goodreads groups David Estes Fans and YA Book Lovers Unite!

Second most exciting news of the week: I have the entire weekend off from work which hardly ever happens so yesterday I went to the nearest Der Dutchman Restaurant and then Barnes and Noble.  By the way, Der Dutchman makes some excellent pies and I can't recommend their Rhubarb Crumb mouth is starting to water just thinking about it!  Anyways, I purchased two new books Hunted by Kevin Hearne (The Iron Druid Chronicles #6 - I can't get enough of this series)

Hunted (The Iron Druid Chronicles, #6)

and Dead Things by Stephen Blackmoore (it's been recommended to me so many times I figure it's time to see what the fuss is about!) with fantastic cover art by Chris McGrath, as usual.  McGrath is one of my favorite contemporary fantasy illustrators and this is no exception!

Dead Things (Eric Carter #1)

Yesterday, I also wore one of my favorite tee's which looks like this:

I love watching Doctor Who and since season eight kicked off last night what better opportunity to wear it.  I got quite a few comments on it, too!  Unfortunately, I don't get BBC America on my tv, so it will probably be a while until I can actually watch it.

I also made it to Ollies and Goodwill this week and got some deals!  (It's like I'm addicted, I know!) :)

I walked away with
 The Future of Us by Jay AsherProxy (Proxy, #1) by Alex LondonThe Different Girl by Gordon DahlquistOut of the Easy by Ruta SepetysThe Perils of Sherlock Holmes  Short Stories by Loren D. EstlemanCarter Beats the Devil by Glen David GoldSilverFin (Young Bond, #1) by Charlie HigsonFrom the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. KonigsburgEnna Burning (The Books of Bayern, #2) by Shannon HaleSound Bender by Lin Oliver,Homecoming (Tillerman Cycle, #1) by Cynthia VoigtDevil May Care (James Bond, #36) by Sebastian FaulksOne for the Money (Stephanie Plum, #1) by Janet Evanovich.

I'm really looking forward to all of them, but I've really got my sights set on Proxy, Out of the Easy, and Devil May Care.  I've also read Jeeves and the Wedding Bells by Sebastian Faulks (author of Devil May Care in this group of books) and he really captured the tone and style of the original P. G. Wodehouse stories, so I'm interested to see what he makes of Ian Fleming/ James Bond.

Since last week, I've had the chance to finish up several stories including Blast of the Dragon's Fury (Andy Smithson #1) by L. R. W. Smith (Mermin, not Merlin), Penny Palabras Season One: It's Later Than You Think by James B. Willard (a deliciously dark urban-fantasy graphic novel), A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (I will read anything this author cares to write!), Shimmer by Claudette Melanson (a short little fairy tale), and The Book Without Words by Avi (a fable with potential).

I'm currently working on Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass, #1)

and I'm loving it!  I'm hoping to finish it today since I have the rest of the day to myself.  I can't wait to see what happens!  Like the cover says, if you enjoy Game of Thrones and The Hunger Games, you'll love it!

I'm also still listening to Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson on audio cassette and it's still fantastic.  If you like Cyberpunk or Dystopia, sword fights, skateboarding, virtual reality, high-speed/ high-stakes pizza delivery, mythology, and epic characters, you should really look into this one!

In other book related news, I love, love, love the Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees performance at Diagon Alley in Universal Orlando.  If you haven't watched it and you are obsessed with anything Harry Potter related like I am, do yourself a favor and go watch it! Someday, I hope to actually go to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando...if only it were a little closer.

Since I brought up Doctor Who earlier I thought I would mention that most of what I've been watching this past week, when I've had the time that is is Doctor Who!  I've been rewatching my dvds lately and I'm currently working on series four.  I would say David Tennant is my favorite actor to play the character and I'm also excited to see what Peter Capaldi does with the character.  As for live tv, I'm also liking Extant with Halle Berry and Under the Dome.  It nearly lost me but with the newest twist these last couple of episodes it successfully recaptured my attention.

Now off to find lunch and continue with Throne of Glass!  Have a great weekend!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

2014 Mid-Year Book Freakout

I've noticed some of my favorite book bloggers are participating in the 2014 Mid-Year Book Freakout survey and although it's past mid-year now I'd still like to throw in my two cents.  So here we go - on to the survey!

1. Best book you've read so far in 2014.

2. Best sequel you've read so far in 2014.

3. New release you haven't read yet, but want to.

Downfall by Rob Thurman - I love the Cal Leandros series!

4. Most anticipated release for the second half of the year.

Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater - the third installment of The Raven Cycle!

5. Biggest disappointment.

6. Biggest surprise.

I was most surprised by how much I fell in love with Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell.

7. Favourite new author. (Debut or new to you)

Anne-RaeVasquez, Cristin Terrill, and Trent Reedy

8. Newest fictional crush.

Probably the same as the answer to question nine - Atticus O'Sullivan from The Iron Druid Chronicles

9. Newest favourite character.

Atticus O'Sullivan from Kevin Hearne's series The Iron Druid Chronicles - he's all around awesome!

10. Book that made you cry.

Most recently? Then that would be A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness.

11. Book that made you happy.

All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill, the first three books (the ones I've read so far) of The Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne, and Doctor Who: Summer Falls and Other Stories by James Goss, Melody Malone, and Justin Richards.

12. Favourite book to film adaptation you saw this year. 

Divergent and The Fault in Our Stars were both very good - we'll see what I say after Gone Girl and The Maze Runner are released!
13. Favourite review you've written this year.

14. Most beautiful book you've bought so far this year (or received)

15. What books do you need to read by the end of the year?

To keep the list short: All of them! :)

Friday, August 22, 2014

Friday Flicks - Night of the Living Dead: Resurrection & It Happened Tomorrow

This week I got to watch two movies - one was absolutely horrible and the other was awesome!

I'll start off with the horrible one first.  It's called Night of the Living Dead: Resurrection and if possible I would give it zero stars, even though I only watched the last half hour.  Thinking back on it I'm actually surprised I watched a full thirty minutes...

Night of the Living Dead: Resurrection (2012) Poster

It's set in 2012, also the year it was released, and does it's own thing with George A. Romero's classic.  For all intents and purposes, that means that the action takes place in Wales.  Very cheap photography, sound, and makeup effects, along with cheesy dialog and poor acting.  When I say cheap, I mean it looks and sounds like it could have been made with someone's phone.  Now that I think about it, I probably only made it through those thirty minutes because I was so stunned that something so bad could be made.

In the name of sanity, avoid this movie at all costs.  Of course, the only thing it really did for me was make me really want to watch a good zombie show like The Walking Dead. The Season 4 dvd release date is only 4 days away!  I can't wait!

Now, I saved the best movie for last!  It's called It Happened Tomorrow.  It was released in 1944 and stars Dick Powell as the lead, Larry.

It Happened Tomorrow (1944) Poster

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I just happened to be right yard sale at the right time and picked up this gem!  I had never heard of it before, but the summary on the back of the box caught my eye right away.  An ambitious turn-of-the-(previous)-century newspaper reporter, Larry, would do anything to get the scoop on his competition and learn the news before it happens.  He tells an older, retiring newspaperman this and later the old man slips him a newspaper, but he cautions Larry about using it.  Larry doesn't think anything of it until he looks at it the next day and realizes that it is that day's paper - it couldn't be but it is!  In other words, the old man gave him tomorrow's newspaper today.  It's just what Larry's always wanted, especially to help him get ahead in the cutthroat newspaper field - he'll have everything he needs to know 24 hours in advance.  However, it turns out for Larry that this foreknowledge causes a lot of problems!

I don't know if anyone has ever watched  the tv show called Early Edition starring Kyle Chandler, which is a really fantastic show by the way,  but it actually appears to be based on this movie!  I didn't realize that when I started watching It Happened Tomorrow, but there are so many references I spotted and that made me really happy to notice them!

Early Edition (1996) Poster

Both It Happened Tomorrow (and Early Edition for that matter) come with the highest recommendations from me!  If you like Early Edition,  great tv shows like Quantum LeapJourneyman, or Tru Calling, fantasy/ sci-fi comedies, classic movies starring brilliant actors, you should really give It Happened Tomorrow a chance!  Happy watching!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Penny Palabras Season One: It's Later Than You Think by James B. Willard - Review

Penny Palabras Season One: It's Later Than You Think (TPB)

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I received a free ecopy of this graphic novel from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Penny can see the paranormal, which most cannot, and she knows that most things are not what they seem. She is currently tormented by a malevolent creature called the Straw Man and she desperately needs to figure out how to stop him from doing any more damage. As he continues to gain power while she looks for a solution, she starts seeing more and more ghosts, her nightmares won't let her sleep, her family and friends can't understand, and demons come to call.

Season One includes the first six episodes plus a short segue. This graphic novel is definitely worth the read if you enjoy urban-fantasy with a noir undertone. I really like the art throughout and how Penny is drawn made me think of Ellen Page. By the way, Season One also includes developmental concept art which was interesting to compare to the final designs. As a Doctor Who fan, I also couldn't help but hear the Doctor's wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey speech from Blink while the Librarian was attempting to explain the time (and other things) she has left to Penny. When it came to the Librarian, I also couldn't help but think of Giles from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. As for the spectacular revolver, I couldn't help but think of the Colt from Supernatural. These shows are some of my all-time favorites, so I was pleased to be able to connect to them through this graphic novel.

I usually like being successfully dropped right smack dab in the middle of the action, but here I felt like I was missing just a little too much. This is the only reason I'm dropping the rating down to four stars rather than five.

Overall, I really enjoyed the paranormal adventures of Penny Palabras and I can't wait to see what will happen next!

I read this from August 19 -20, 2014 and my review can also be found on Goodreads.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness - Review

A Monster Calls

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An ancient, wild monster shows up at 12:07 a.m., but it isn't the monster Conor's been expecting. He's been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he's had every night since his mother started her cancer treatments. This particular monster, however, wants the most dangerous thing from Conor - the truth.

In the heartbreakingly beautiful A Monster Calls, Conor is forced to come to terms with his grief and anger at his mother's illness, family relationships, and the bullying he faces at school. He is forced to be honest with himself on very weighty issues and the truth is not an easy thing for him to say aloud, let alone accept. It's very easy to relate to Conor, at least on one level, because everyone has had similar thoughts or experiences in life. As the end of the story draws near, while sad, there is still a glimmer of hope. Although part of me wants to know more, I love the way Ness chooses to end the story.

I was incredibly impressed with the author's Chaos Walking: A Trilogy, which I still recommend regularly, so I've been keeping my eyes on his other works. I actually listened to the audiobook on playaway, so I missed out on the illustrations aside from what's on the cover which I do think captures the tone well. The audiobook, to my delight, is narrated by Jason Isaacs and he does an absolutely fantastic job of bringing the story to life. At the very end, the listener is also treated to an interview between Jason Isaacs and Patrick Ness. I must look into Siobhan Dowd.

As with the Chaos Walking trilogy, I will be recommending A Monster Calls to anyone and everyone. I plan on reading anything Ness cares to write!

I read this on August 20, 2014 and my review can also be found on Goodreads.

Blast of the Dragon's Fury (Andy Smithson #1) by L. R. W. Lee - Review

Blast of the Dragon's Fury by L.R.W. Lee

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I received a free ecopy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Andy Smithson, an average video-game loving ten-year-old, finds himself mysteriously transported to a (parallel?) fantasy world called Oomaldee in order to break a 500 year curse. Andy has the adventure of his life while in Oomaldee, a Camelot-esque kingdom, makes new friends, takes a daring journey, faces danger around every corner, and learns a lot about himself in the process.

I love the concept behind this middle-grade story. I think it would be most appreciated by its target audience (8-12 years old) for it's sense of humor and adventure. The story also teaches moral lessons (see: the inneru, etc., as well as the author's link to discussion questions) and we see Andy grow as a character over the course of his adventure. We also get some interesting supporting characters. For example, the King dresses like Steve Jobs and we don't really know if he's good or bad. We also have Mermin, cousin of Merlin. He has a speech impediment something like the Priest from The Princess Bride, but not quite so extreme.

Then, there's Alden with his neon-green hair, which marks him as an outsider. He makes an excellent companion to Andy, but I really wish he had more moments to shine in his own right. There are also a lot of fart jokes - a lot of fart jokes.

As for the curse, I don't think it sounds all that bad - the King and Mermin seem to be immortal, they just can't leave the castle and there's also incredibly thick fog which can only be cut by cow farts. Their people are also safe. Doesn't sound that bad to me - could have been so much worse considering the rest of the story line, which could get kind of violent.

I also enjoyed the setting, but I want to know more about it. Is it a parallel world, another dimension, in the future, in the past? What/where/when exactly does it exist? There are so many references to real and fantasy people, places, and creatures that it makes me wonder. Also the language - the Knights we meet say "dude" - usually Knights don't say things like that, so it really makes me wonder.

Overall, I enjoyed this sword and sorcery fantasy story and I may be back to see what happens in the second book. However, I would recommend it to younger middle-grade fantasy fans, as long as they don't mind obvious moral lessons with their adventure.

I read this book from August 10 - 19, 2014 and my review is also available on Goodreads.