Monday, November 25, 2013

City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare (Mortal Instruments, #2)

"To draw something is to try to capture it forever," Jocelyn had said, sitting on the floor with a paintbrush dripping cadmium blue onto her jeans. "If you really love something, you never try to keep it the way it is forever. You have to let it be free to change."

[Click here to read my review of book 1: City of Bones]

I ordered City of Ashes almost immediately after finishing its predecessor. I really enjoyed the first book and was eager to find out what would happen in the sophomore addition to the series.

Since Clary and Jace found out that they are actually siblings, things have been tense between the two of them. Both are doing their best to deny their feelings for each other and that means they're doing their best to shy away from even the smallest contact.

Simon, on the other hand, is becoming both more bold and more withdrawn. Venturing into Clary's world means finding himself in a place where he is virtually powerless and, more often than not, a liability. But Clary's his best friend, and if he wants a part in her new life he has to find a way to fit himself inside of that, even if that means throwing himself headfirst into danger.

As things heat up between these three, as well as the rest of the Shadowhunter world, Valentine returns to New York City in order to pick up where he left off with his two children. He's not done with them and he'll do anything to draw them to his side of the battle, even that means showing them why he's not the kind of person they want as their enemy.

I really wanted to like City of Ashes. I tried to defend it against the people who had already read it and told me to stop while I was ahead. I tried to defend it against myself, saying this was just a little step back--the next chapter will be better. I just couldn't do it.

As much as the action and Cassandra Clare's lovely writing style had me hooked, I just could not bring myself to really enjoy this book. A lot of that can be attributed to Jace and Clary's I-can't-love-you-because-you're-my-sibling angst. I just cannot sympathize and the longer it goes on, the more uncomfortable it makes me feel.

Beyond that, it seems like this book really just brings the romance aspect of the Jace-Clary-Simon love triangle into focus and pushes the Shadowhunter war to the back burner, which I do not like at all. I'm all for a little romance, don't get me wrong, but making their awkward angst a priority instead of the battle is just frustrating. I want to hear more about what Valentine is planning, not listen to Jace moan about Clary avoiding him.

Even in that, I am interested in finding out what the third book has in store. There are some hints in this book that make me think there may be some resolution to a few of the problems I had, but I'm still on the fence about whether or not that means I'll read it. After all, I've been trying to teach myself not to read books I don't like just because I feel like I have to. There are too many good books I need to read.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

"Look," Luke went on. "In all the years I've known him, there's always been exactly one place Simon wanted to be, and he's always fought like hell to make sure he got there and stayed there." 
"Where's that?"
"Wherever you were," said Luke.

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Titan's Curse by Rick Riordan (Percy Jackson & the Olympians, #3)

"In each case, your loved ones have been used to lure you into Kronos's traps. Your fatal flaw is personal loyalty, percy. You do not know when it is time to cut your losses. To save a friend, you would sacrifice the world. In a hero of the prophecy, that is very, very dangerous." 
I balled my fists. "That's not a flaw. Just because I want to help my friends-" 
"The most dangerous flaws are those which are good in moderation," she said. "Evil is easy to fight. Lack of wisdom . . . that is very hard indeed."

I swear, the further I get in this series, the more addicting it becomes.

In the third installment of the Percy Jackson & the Olympians series, The Titans Curse starts off with Thalia, Annabeth, and Thalia answering yet another call for help from Grover, who has put his search for Pan on hold while the satyrs go on high alert in search of half-bloods. It turns out that Grover has found two young half-bloods of unknown parentage, but they aren't the only ones who have discovered the di Angelo siblings. A monster attacks the school and the demigods and satyr are pitted against an enemy they're not sure they can handle.

When Annabeth is taken in the battle, Percy immediately volunteers to lead the quest in search of her. He's eager to help his best friend and terrified of losing her.

There are more things going on than just Annabeth's kidnapping, though. Other demigods have been disappearing and now Artemis is involved. She sends her hunters to Camp Half-Blood, causing an uproar among the campers, who have no love to spare for the girls. When Artemis too goes missing, all Hades breaks loose.

However, when the quest commissioned, Percy is overlooked in favor of Thalia, Grover, and three of Artemis's hunters. Percy isn't usually one to break the rules, but with Annabeth's life on the line, all bets are off. It might just be up to him to break out of camp and create a quest of his own.

I am consistently impressed with authors who can track the progression of the ages of their heroes and heroines in tales like this and keep them accurate. One of the many things I keep finding myself admiring about this book series is how I can see the growth and maturity of each character continue to progress as time goes by and these heroes/heroines experience more of what their danger-riddled life has to offer. However, that's certainly not the only thing I admire about Percy Jackson & the Olympians.

Once again, Rick Riordan has offered the reader a new look at the ancient Greek myths, presenting gods and goddesses as they might have become in our day and myths that translate into wonderful stories for our favorite demigods to navigate.

In The Titan's Curse, Riordan draws the reader into another action-packed adventure filled with rich mythology, angry gods, and new obstacles at every turn. He creates a stunning world that draws you in and holds you captive even after the final page has been turned.

Not many books can give me a reading hangover (where the reader has trouble starting a new book because he/she can't get the last one off the brain), because of how much I read, but these books certainly do. If that isn't reason enough as to why you should pick up this book, I don't know what is.

Rating: ★★★★★

"Percy, as much as I want you to come home"--she sighed like she was mad at herself--"as much as I want you to be safe, I want you to understand something. You need to do whatever you think you have to do." 
I stared at her. "What do you mean?"
"I mean, do you really, deep down, believe that you have to save her? Do you think it's the right thing to do? Because I know one thing about you, Percy. Your heart is always in the right place. Listen to it."

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

GNW: The Adventures of Superhero Girl by Faith Erin Hicks

It appears I have become absolutely addicted to the wonderful works of Faith Erin Hicks and I am so okay with that.

The Adventures of Superhero Girl is a story about a girl who has decided to fight crime in her Canadian college town. Written in a comic strip format and originally showcased online, this graphic novel follows our heroine as she deals with day-to-day life as a superhero: fighting ninjas, kicking ass, living under the shadow of her perfect super heroic older brother, and all sorts of skeptics who are more than willing to give their opinion on how she ought to do things (whether she wants to hear them or not).

Infused with the witty humor we've come to expect and love from Hicks, The Adventures of Superhero Girl is also a lovely insight into growing up and finding your path in life, all mixed in with the greatness of fighting crime.

I'm not at all surprised that I loved this graphic novel. Not only do I adore Faith Erin Hicks's writing style and artwork, but I desperately adore superheroes (DC Comics nerd, right here). So when I heard she had created this particular comic, I was more than a little eager to get my hands on it. It didn't disappoint.

As I mentioned above, I love her humor. That, added to a realistic but whimsical look at life through the eyes of a disillusioned twenty-something, is exactly what you receive when you open up this volume. I adored everything about it and hopefully we'll see more of Superhero Girl in the future!

Rating: ★★★★☆

Monday, November 18, 2013

Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman [Illustrated by Skottie Young]

"We have come to your planet from a world very far away," said the people in the disc.
I call them people, but they were a bit green and rather glob by and they looked very grumpy indeed.
"Now, as a representative of your species, we demand that you give us ownership of the whole planet. We are going to remodel it."
"I jolly well won't," I said.

I first heard about Fortunately, the Milk when I went to go see Neil Gaiman at the Majestic Theatre in Dallas. He spoke a little about the book and its preparations, then announced that he would read from it, though that wasn't something he had previously planned to do that night. He claimed the theatre was so beautiful that it merited a second reading (as he had read from The Ocean at the End of the Lane just an hour earlier).

I immediately fell in love with what little of it I had the opportunity to hear and knew I would have to set out to buy it the moment it was out for readers to get their hands on. And that was exactly what I did.

When their father goes out to get his children some milk for their cereal, the young siblings assume that he is taking his sweet time because he ran into an old friend and had forgotten the time, as he was apt to do. However, upon his return, their father his a strange tale for them. He hadn't just gotten caught up with an old friend, he had traveled through time and space, fought wumpires and kept volcanoes from erupting, all while traveling with a very clever dinosaur and doing his best to keep the milk safe. The children roll their eyes at their father's tall tale when it begins, but it isn't long before he's sucked them into the story of how he saved the world and nearly ended it, but fortunately managed to deliver the milk.

Neil Gaiman is one hell of a creator and this whimsical and adventurous children's book is no exception. He weaves his way through a masterful tale that will have you hooked from beginning to end and keep you laughing along the way.

The illustrations riddled throughout the pages add to the story in ways that cannot be described. They perfectly compliment the text and add that next level of adventure and excitement to the page that needs to be experienced visually. Skottie Young and Neil Gaiman were a perfect team up on this venture and I hope to see them work together again in the future.

All in all, this was a lovely book and I would recommend it to readers of all ages. In fact, as soon as I finished it, I immediately purchased a copy for my nieces and nephew and it will absolutely be one of those books that will be a common theme in this year's Christmas presents. I hope they make an appearance in yours as well!

I was out at the end of the plank, facing certain death, when a rope ladder hit my shoulder and deep booming voice shouted, "Quickly! Climb up the rope ladder!"

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Emilie & the Hollow World by Martha Wells

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"You should go back to the ship," Daniel told her, his tone bearing an unfortunate resemblance to the way Emilie's brothers spoke to her. 
Seth and Cobbier and Mikel were all protesting to Charter that they should stay together and Emilie knew there wasn't time to argue. She said to Daniel, "You mistake me for someone you have the right to order around."

Emilie & the Hollow World was one of those books that I picked up randomly at the library. I was perusing the "New" section and this one's cover jumped out at me. Boy, am I glad it did.

Emilie & the Hollow World  begins when Emilie runs away from the home she lives in with her aunt and uncle, who are unkind and stifling. She plans to run away to the girls school where her cousin is and see if she can live with her. Only, when Emilie tries to stow away on the ship that will take her there, she ends up on  another ship- one that is headed into the depths of the earth.

Soon, Emilie finds herself under the care of Miss Marlende, an adventuress who has commissioned this ship and its sorcerer to help her reach the Hollow World in search of her father, who made it there a few months earlier, only to have his ship fail before they could return. Now Miss Marlende and her crew are in search of her father, but there are many dangers standing in their way. It's up to Emilie to find the courage within herself to face the many obstacles standing in their way, and maybe even save the day.

Emilie & the Hollow World is essentially Treasure Island with a female protagonist and a little steampunk science fiction thrown in for good measure. How could I not adore it? Emilie is a fun and smart heroine who finds herself thrust into a situation she could never have imagine and yet doesn't think twice about stepping up to the plate. She's the perfect heroine for young girls who love adventure and are tired of not getting to see women take part in the action. (And she's not the only woman who doesn't shy away from danger and capable of handling it, she's just the youngest of them.)

If you're looking for a fun adventure novel with a twist of fantasy, this is definitely the book for you. I was thrilled to get my hands on it and I'm sure you will be too!

Rating: ★★★★☆

Kenar broke it off, shook his head, and smiled down at her, though the smile was a little wry. "When you get back to your own world, will you really be content to sit meekly in a school after this?"
Miss Marlende, engrossed with her spyglass again, snorted. "Whatever she does, I doubt she'll do it meekly." 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

GNW: Zombies Calling by Faith Erin Hicks

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Joss has two obsessions: England and zombies. She wears her Union flag shirt nearly every day, uses British slang, and has wallpapered her room with the Union flag as well. As for zombies, she watches zombie movies like they will save her life--and it this case, they just might.

Because of her obsession, when Joss goes out for snacks and ends up being ambushed by zombies, her friends don't believe her harrowing tale of escape. They think she is making it up or cracking under the pressure of her student loans. It isn't until each of them in turn are attacked that they turn to her in hopes of finding out just how to survive this seeming zombie apocalypse.

Joss is ready, though. Her years of avidly watching zombie movies have left her with "The Rules," a list compiled of all the zombie movie tropes (ie. the heroine goes from being meek to badass in the face of danger, you die if you have sex, someone sacrifices his or her self to save the others, etc.) If they stick to the rules, she promises, they will survive.

I had the lovely opportunity to attend Teen Book Con in Austin, Texas earlier this year. Faith Erin Hicks happened to be there and I sat in on the panel (see my coverage of that panel here). During that panel, when asked about where she draws inspiration, Hicks referred to Zombies Calling, telling us that she had always wondered why people in zombie movies never seemed to have heard of zombies or seen a zombie move. She used that question and made it into a graphic novel, toying with what would happen if her heroine had seen plenty of zombie movies and how that would affect her reaction to a sort of zombie apocalypse scenario.

It's a short graphic novel and was over almost as soon as it started, but I really enjoyed it. I'm a big fan of Faith Erin Hick's artistic style and couldn't help falling in love with this story right along with it. It's a fun explorative tale about three college students battling zombies. What's not to like?

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Monday, November 11, 2013

Gustav Gloom and the Nightmare Vault by Adam-Troy Castro (Gustav Gloom, #2) [Illustrated by Kristen Margiotta]

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"Who am I?" he roared, in tones so fearsome Fernie wondered why he'd ever bothered to use a gong. "You come into my house, scare my friends, chase away my family, and dare ask who I am? You could not possibly be so stupid!
My name's Gustav Gloom. Grandson of Lemuel Gloom, son of Hans, almost the son of Penelope, protector of this house and of my friends. If you're looking for anything inside these walls, you need to negotiate with ME."

[Click here to see my review of book 1: Gustav Gloom and the People Taker]

After reading the first book in this lovely gothic children's series, I had to get my hands on the sequels. I searched the bookstore in Paris where I'd bought the first one: nothing. I searched through each of the bookstores I normally frequent and still couldn't find anything. That's the wonderful thing about online shopping, though. You can almost always find what you need. I found this book and it's sequel on the Book Depository and ordered them as soon as possible.

The second book of the Gustav Gloom series begins just a few weeks after Fernie What's narrow escape from the clutches of the People Taker. Her family has been spending a great deal of time with Gustav, bringing over new foods he's never tried and generally giving him the pleasure of their human company. It's at one of these little picnics in the front of his yard that Fernie first spots the ice cream man.

After Aunt Mellifluous warns her against the ice cream man, Fernie grows suspicious, but it isn't until the man shows up in her house while her father's away that she and her sister, Pearlie, realize what danger they're in. It turns out, the ice cream man is a shadow eater named October who is searching for something called the Nightmare Vault. The trouble is, no one but he happens to know anything about this Nightmare Vault.

It's up to Fernie and Gustav to find out where the Nightmare Vault is and find it before October can. It's  the only way to stop him from destroying everyone either of them care about. But as the search becomes more frantic, the two children discover that the Nightmare Vault is more dangerous than they could have anticipated and that it very well might be the reason Gustav's parents are no longer with him.

I cannot get over how much I am loving this dark children's series. It's everything I hoped it would be: exciting, fun, scary, and filled to the brim with imaginative adventures and the kind of bravery that comes when someone you love is in terrible danger.

Once again, we get to run along with Gustav and Fernie through the Gloom mansion, discovering new rooms, strange creatures, and even a house inside the house. I especially enjoyed getting to learn quite  bit more about Gustav Gloom and how he came to be the only human living in a house filled with shadows.

I can't wait to read more of this lovely series and hope it continues for many books to come. I'll absolutely follow it until its end. You should do the same.

Rating: ★★★★★

She pounded on the door, screaming, "Gustav! I'm in trouble here!" 
"Yes," October said. "You are."
The black tendrils were now fewer than three feet from Fernie, and she couldn't have run in another direction even if she'd wanted to; they'd formed a cage around the two front steps to the Gloom house and blocked every other possible direction. 
"You should have cooperated," October said as the tendrils closed in. 
Fernie pounded on the door. "Please, please, please! Somebody let me in! I'm a friend of this house!"
The doors opened.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Vivian Versus the Apocalypse by Katie Coyle

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"Hey, man," says Peter after a moment. "I know I'm just going by what I'm seeing here, but what you're describing is a Viv I don't know yet. The Viv I know- and again, not an expert, because I only officially met her within the last five minutes- is a sledgehammer-wielding badass. She's the only person I've met in the last two months who's said, 'I don't know what's going on here; let's find out.' You know it's a lot easier not to try, right? It's a lot easier to just curl up in a ball and let the world end."

I ordered Vivian Versus the Apocalypse after hearing the fabulous reviews by people like Sanne who reviewed it and couldn't stop raving about just how wonderful the book was. (Here's a link to her Youtube review: Vivian Versus the Apocalypse by Katie Coyle.) Of course, I had to get my hands on it and, once I did, it quickly moved to the front of my "to be read" list.

In Katie Coyle's debut novel, we are introduced to a society where many believe the end of the world is rapidly approaching. The members of the Church of America, followers of the Book of Frick, have been told a set date that they will be raptured and that, just a few short months later, the world will come to an end. Vivian Apple never believed any of this was even remotely possible. She thought her parents were insane for believing it could possibly be true. But then the day of the Rapture comes and there are two holes in the ceiling above her parents' bedroom. They're gone.

Suddenly thrust into a world that is spiraling into chaos, Vivian is lost and deeply confused. Hundreds of people have gone missing, including the parents of her best friend and countless other members of her neighborhood. Vivian still thinks all of this is fishy, though. Faced with a world that seems on the brink of collapse, Vivian sets out in search of answers.

Flanked by Harp and a new friend named Peter, she sets out across country to California, where she believes she might find the family she so recently lost. It's only a hunch, but she has nothing to lose. After all, if she's wrong about the apocalypse, she'll die in a few months anyway. Together the three teenagers set off on a road trip that very well might claim their lives.

As mentioned before, I heard a great deal about this book before I managed to get my hands on it. Let me tell you right now: it is absolutely worth the hype.

In Vivian Versus the Apocalypse, Katie Coyle sets up this amazing novel about finding yourself and believing yourself while setting it up in this near-dystopian America that is slowly killing itself. It's a story about friendship and beating the odds, while still managing to be a social commentary on the dangers of the kind of fanaticism that makes you forget that the people around you are just as worthy of life as yourself. And though the author set it up to be open to a sequel, I honestly am not sure whether I want one, because I'm not sure it can surpass the first.

There's so much about this book that I loved that I hardly know where to start. I don't often come across books that I want to reread as soon as I finish, but this one would definitely count as one of those. I cannot praise it enough.

If you haven't read Vivian Versus the Apocalypse yet, you need to find it and dive in as soon as possible. Kudos to you, Katie Coyle, for creating such a stunning first novel. I hope I get the chance to read plenty more from you in the future.

Rating: ~★★★★★ ~

"The way we live our lives is not sustainable. I don't just mean recycling and turning off the faucet while brushing your teeth. I mean the way we treat each other. The way we pick and choose whose lives are important, who we actually treat as human. There is nobody on this Earth whose life is not of value."

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

GNW: Batman & Robin: White Knight vs. Dark Knight

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Being Batman has never been easy. Neither has being a member of his team. After the launch of Batman Inc., Dick Grayson has taken over the role of Gotham's Dark Knight while Bruce works in stopping overseas threats. At Dick's side is Damian Wayne, Bruce's only biological son and the newest Boy Wonder.

Though Bruce isn't the same Batman anymore, Gotham hasn't changed much at all. There's still plenty to keep the Dynamic Duo busy. Psychopaths have never been in short supply in their line of work and this line-up is enough to throw the two for a loop. Whether it's Bruce's not-so-stable ex, the White Knight who wants to cleanse Gotham of the bloodlines of Arkham inmates, or even Jason Todd, former ward to Bruce Wayne and the second person to carry the title of Robin.

Though Damian and Dick have worked together for a while now, they still have plenty to learn, both about each other and themselves. They may not have the same senses of humor or even be brothers by blood, but they're family and that has to be enough.

Dick Grayson and Damian Wayne as the Dynamic Duo was a genius stroke on the move of the writers after the "death" of Bruce Wayne. They're a fun combination all around. I mean, how can you not fall in love with a surly Robin and almost playful Batman? Though he was Bruce's first ward, Dick Grayson is far from being the same person his surrogate father is and it shows- whether that's in his one-liners or his fighting style. He's still the badass we've come to associate with Batman, still giving the right tribute to the name, while adding his own little twist to the role itself.

As for Damian, he's one of those little buggers that you love to hate when you're first introduced to him.  He's rough around the edges and it takes a great deal of restraint for the kid to keep from killing his enemies. After all, he was raised by the League of Assassins. However, the longer you're exposed to him, the more you get to see that he's actually a good kid. He's just an eleven year-old with a traumatizing past and a debilitating sense of humor. Working with Dick Grayson does him well. The two even each other out and he trusts his surrogate brother in a way he doesn't trust anyone else. When he's struggling against the war within him, Dick always trusts him and is there to help steer him in the right direction when he needs it.

All in all, the point is, this was a lovely graphic novel and I really enjoyed getting to read it. It's full of all the typical adventures of Batman & Robin, but with the style and grace that I've come to adore with these writers.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Merch Monday: The Book Depository

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I figured that, in today's Merch Monday, I should explain my affiliation with The Book Depository. I'm sure y'all have noticed the links in the sidebar as well as the newly added "Buy it" icons on each post (which would have started showing up ages ago if I had figured out how to work them a little sooner).

The Book Depository, as you may have guessed, is an online bookseller. They carry all sorts of books at highly reasonable prices, and the best part is: they have free shipping worldwide. I don't know about you, but I love ordering my books online and that offer is too good to pass up.

While Amazon is a good site for getting multiple books (Thank God for Free Super Shipper Saving), The Book Depository is the absolute best place to go if you're just looking for a single title or two. Free shipping and those low prices are just too good to pass up!

I found out about the Book Depository via some of the awesome Booktubers (Youtubers whose focus is mainly on the reviewing and promoting of books) I follow. Most of them are also affiliates and, when I realized I could become an affiliate by adding some awesome links on this blog, I jumped in headfirst. Why not get the chance to earn a little commission by promoting the things I love?

So go check out, because you won't regret it (though your wallet might, if you're anything like me) and find that book you can curl up while sipping on some coffee. Winter's coming and you'll need all the reading material you can get your hands on. And click on one of those lovely links to take you there, because each purchase you make gives me a bit of commission . . . and we all know I already spent most of my paycheck on books anyway.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Introducing Mitchell

 Apparently, I'm the newest addition to Novel Attraction. My name is Mitchell Barker. I'm Kirsten's brother. 

Kirsten messaged me about three months ago asking if I would like to write blog posts on here once a month, and I, of course, said "Why not?" So it goes. Though I know you haven't been expecting me, I still apologize for the delay (if to no one else, then at least to my sister). Part of the reason it took me so long to start was that I have been unsure of what to write, but that can only account for about a week of my tardiness. Mostly, I have just been lazy, but now I'm here and I'm determined to spout my ideas to you at least once a month. 
My job on Novel Attraction is to write reviews of books and the movies created from them. I want to give a fair review of each by themselves, then give my opinion of how good the adaptation is. Hopefully, this will be helpful and entertaining. 

Another idea was for me to write my reviews of books that some deem "chick-lit". My sister thought it would be interesting for a guy to give his unbiased review of books that publishers aim to sell to women. Many people put down reading such books just because they are about something as feminine as romance (heavy sarcasm there). Sometimes they are disregarded just because they're written by a woman. I have enjoyed many a book from this pseudo-genre and wouldn't mind sharing my reviews of them. 

From now on, I will be alternating between the two topics: one month I will write about a book-to-movie adaptation and the next month I would write about a "chick-lit" novel. 

Let us know what you think and if you have any other ideas. I'm looking forward to writing some reviews on my sister's lovely site and I hope you continue to read her reviews after trudging through mine each month. 

So there y'all have it: Mitchell, my baby brother, will be writing on the blog once a month. These posts will go up on the last Friday of each month and will alternate between movie adaptations and "chick-lit" reviews.

I can't help but comment on the fact that I am especially excited about working with Mitchell on the "chick-lit" articles. We discussed it in length while trying to figure out what he would want to write on this blog and it was almost scrapped. After all, he pointed out, wouldn't that be drawing attention to the fact that people still think there is such a thing as "chick-lit?" 

However, sometimes we need to draw awareness to this sort of thing. The fact that men and women dismiss literary masterpieces like Jane Austen or the Brontë sisters based on the fact that they have strong romantic themes and are written by women is revolting. It's yet another sad sign of the outdated gender stereotypes that plague our society and keep us hiding behind our ignorance.

That's a post for another day, I suppose. The point is that I'm deeply excited that my wonderful brother is joining me in writing about the books we both cherish. It promises to be a fun and slightly chaotic journey.

Welcome to Novel Attraction, Mitchell!