Monday, December 16, 2013

Cold Spell by Jackson Pearce (Fairytale Retellings, #4)

"You think the fact that you love Kai means you'll win?"
"No," I saw slowly. "I think the fact that I love Kai means I'll fight for him."

[Click here to check out my review of book 1: Sisters Red, book 2: Sweetly, and book 3: Fathomless]

I adore fairytales and modern retellings that fit the old legends and make them even better are hard to come by. If you're looking for a good series that fits that criteria -- look no further.

After falling in love with each of the books in this series, one after the other, I was admittedly a little upset when I found out that this would be the last of the series. After all, I had all these ideas about how I wanted a final showdown to take place (and I cannot be the only one who was already beginning to ship Scarlett and Ansel, though they technically hadn't met). However, Jackson Pearce hadn't let me down thus far, so I knew I would be pleased however it turned out. I tore into it as soon as my preordered copy arrived in the mail.

When we first meet Kai and Ginny, they're skipping class to sit up on the roof of their apartment building and talk about their future. Kai, a extremely gifted musician, will be going to New York for a music program and Ginny intends to follow him. Extremely devoted to her young love, Ginny doesn't have much of a plan for her future. All she knows is that it absolutely involves Kai. Both look forward to the time away in the summer, especially Ginny, who is always happy to get out from under the loathing eye of Grandma Dalia, Kai's grandmother.

Grandma Dalia has hated Ginny since the day she and her family moved into their apartment building. She didn't like Kai playing with a girl and seemed to take every precaution to keep them away from each other, but even that couldn't stop the two from falling in love. Grandma Dalia loves her grandson and only him. She has dedicated her life to keeping him safe from the beasts and the dangers that she knows are lurking just around the corner. Most of all, she yearns to keep him safe from the snow queen.

Both teens have always assumed that these delusions were just a part of who Grandma Dalia was, that she was missing a few marbles. Ginny, though, always wondered if maybe there was a bit of truth to her words. What if there really was a real danger out there?

It seems her suspicions are confirmed when Kai disappears with a girl whom Ginny can only assume is the snow queen Grandma Dalia had warned them about. Now it's up to her to save the only love she's ever known and the only person she can't live without.

I may not have gotten the exact ending I was hoping for, but Jackson Pearce gifted her readers with exactly the kind of stunning end to a great story that we were all hoping for. Cold Spell ties up the story told within the series in the masterful way that only she could. Every character was complex and unique, while the story itself kept me glued to the pages.

Cold Spell is a chilling conclusion to a stunning tale that will leave the reader feeling satisfied, yet wishing they could continue reading anyway. I fell in love with it and can't wait to recommend it and its predecessors to as many readers as I can coax into reading them. Definitely the perfect holiday pick for your last minute Christmas shopping.

Rating: ★★★★★

She's already figured out what she does--she steals boys. But right now, I can do everything. If Mora can steal boys, I can bring them back.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

GNW: Me & My Brothers, Vol. 1 by Hari Tokeino

I picked up the first volume of Me & My Brothers while perusing the graphic novel shelves of the Teen section at my local library. They have quite a bit of manga (pronounced: mah-nga), so I've been trying to find some new series' to check out. I picked this one up after a few failed attempts at finding something I like and didn't even read it until it was a day overdue. (Sorry, librarians!)

When fourteen year-old Sakura's grandmother dies, she's all alone. The old woman was the only family she had- or so she thought. When she comes home to a house full of boys, she quickly learns that she has had four step-brothers the entire time and now they're here to take care of her. After the death of their mother, most of them had been split up between relatives, but these boys are more than ready to come back together for their baby sister. That is, if she'll have them.

Remember, manga is read from right to left.
Filled with family drama and adorable sibling relationships, I really enjoyed Me & My Brothers. As much as I love manga, I do have quite a hard time dealing with the inherent sexism particularly displayed in shoujo (manga written specifically for heterosexual women--see what I mean?). Therefore, I tend to lean more heavily toward the ones where the sexism is a little more subtle so I can enjoy the story and the artwork more fully.

I love Sakura and her brothers. Her brothers are protective and do everything they can to make their baby sister happy and she tries her best to do the same for them. They're all doing their best to become a family after having been torn apart so long ago and each has to figure out exactly what that looks like for them.

I definitely enjoyed the first volume and have already picked up volumes 2 and 3 from the library. I definitely recommend this one to manga readers as well as those who would like to dabble in the genre. (Also, for those of you who have read or watched Fruits Basket, you'll notice that Kyo and Ayame seem to have practical dopplegangers in the form of two of her brothers, which greatly amused me.)

Rating: ★★★★☆

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

"Fear can't hurt you," she said. "When it washes over you, give it no power. It's a make with no venom. Remember that. That knowledge can save you."

I really like Maureen Johnson.

I mean, what's not to like? She's a great author with 10+ books under her belt, a fabulous sense of humor, and she's unafraid to fight for what she believes in (in particular, the dreaded boy books vs. girl books conversation--one I too find particularly irksome because it's an old system based off archaic gender stereotypes . . . sorry, back to the review).

That being said, I was eager to pick up her newest series, which I've heard quite a lot about from other fans. The only problem was that it's about ghosts. If you know me, you know I don't do ghosts. The whole idea just creeps me the hell out, so I was a little nervous to dive in.

Rory is a seventeen year old girl from the outskirts of New Orleans, Louisiana. When she's relocated to a London boarding school for her senior year, she's excited. She sees it as an adventure that, while scary, will provide her with new friends and opportunities. However, her arrival is dampened by the news reports that someone has mimicked the first Jack the Ripper murder on the anniversary of the original murder.

When the second murder is also mimicked, all chaos breaks loose. The police can't find anything on the CCTV cameras, even the ones that are pointed directly at the scene of the murder, and there are no leads on the case. That is, until Rory runs right into someone at the scene of one of the murders just minutes after it's been committed. But for some reason, she seems to be the only one who can see him.

It looks like Jack the Ripper's back, but why? And how can anyone stop a murderer that they can't see?

I had never heard that much about Jack the Ripper before reading this novel. I knew he was a particularly brutal murderer from the late 1800s and that he had never been captured. Honestly, I think it made this book that much more interesting, getting to hear all the details for the first time from this perspective (though I've already started purchasing non-fiction accounts of Jack the Ripper, because this has absolutely piqued my interest).

Maureen has created a chilling novel that managed to keep me both terrified and eager to read more. I feel like I fell in love with every good character and cowered in fear from each of the bad ones, specifically our main villain. The entire novel was beautifully written and had every element I could have hoped for. I couldn't stop talking about it while I was reading it and leant it to a coworker the day I finished it.

The Name of the Star is the perfect spooky read for those who love mystery and being a little creeped out, without being so scared you want to cry. After all, I do live by myself. I can only handle so much. Though, word to the wise, try to ignore your cat while reading. They have a tendency to stare behind you at at the most terrifying moments and make you afraid to turn around and see what they're looking at.

Rating: ★★★★★

It's not that I'm extremely brave--I think I just forgot myself for a minute. Maybe that's what bravery is. You forget you're in trouble when you see someone else in danger. Or maybe there is a limit to how afraid you can get, and I'd hit it.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Into the Woods by Lyn Gardner [Illustrated by Mini Grey]

"I'm frightened, Storm. I am frightened fo Dr. DeWilde, of Mother Collops, of the mountains, of everything."
"Well, I'm sorry, Aurora," snapped Storm, "but you're just going to have to get used to being frightened. We're going to save Any, even if it kills us."

 I picked up Into the Woods because the cover caught my eye while I was perusing the local library. I picked it up, turned it over, and after reading the back, added it to my stack of books I was checking out that day. I thought it looked deeply interesting, but I still wasn't sure I would find the time to read it. After all, it was a rather large book and, though it looked good, I didn't think I'd have much time to read it. (As much as I adore reading, I only have so much time in which to do it, so I try not to get stuck on larger books that will take me so much longer to get through.)

However, this one kept screaming at me from my shelf, so once I finished City of Ashes, I decided to follow it up with a middle grade novel that I would almost certainly enjoy.

Storm Eden is nearly in her teens when she and her sisters become almost orphans. Their mother died after giving birth to the youngest Eden girl, Any, and their father soon abandoned them afterwards. Aurora, the eldest of the three, takes over. After all, it wasn't like her parents did much to take care of them before that. Aurora has long been in charge of the house, the cooking, and even Storm's education.

On her deathbed, Storm's mother presented her with a tin pipe. It hung on a chain that kept it around her neck and Storm listened in rapt attention as her mother cautioned her to use the pipe well and keep her sisters safe. At first, Storm is enchanted with the idea that the pipe is something special, but it isn't long before the doubt creeps in and she feels cheated, wondering if her mother was laughing at her by playing such a strange joke.

But when Dr. DeWilde, a menacing older man with a pack of wolves at his disposal, arrives at the girls' home in search of the pipe, Storm is quick to realize that there's more to the story that what her mother told her. Soon the girls are on the run in search of safety. When Dr. DeWilde gets his hands on Any, though, it soon becomes apparent that only Storm has the gumption and the fire necessary to save them all from Dr. DeWilde's evil schemes.

Into the Woods is a wonderful mashup of fairytales mixed up with an entirely new story, bringing with it a freshness and excitement that I was totally unprepared for. I really did love everything about this. Storm is a wonderful heroine, but then so are Aurora and Any. In an age where many take the easy route in making cookie-cutter heroines, I really appreciated having that contrast in each of them. (Aurora gets to be girly and scared, but still loyal and protective. Storm gets to be brave and the plucky tomboy, while still appreciating her sister's more feminine tendencies.) They all make mistakes and they all have their own brand of heroism, but they're in this together and each sister will do anything to protect the others.

The story itself was fabulous and kept me guessing the whole way through. It's whimsical, yet dark, and kept me engrossed from page one. And of course, the little dashes of illustration sprinkled throughout only heightened my enjoyment. Mini Grey does a fabulous job at giving us these lovely illustrations that let us peer into the story in another way without overwhelming us.

Altogether, it's a very well done book and definitely one I'll be introducing to my nieces and nephews once they're a tad older and able to handle longer books like this. It's a wonderful story for all ages and one I'd suggested adding to your Christmas list before you close this page!

Rating: ★★★★★

"Leave?" said Aurorora, staring wildly at Storm. "Leave, and let you face Mother Collops alone? What kind of sister do you think I am? I will never, ever abandon you. Whatever the circumstances. I'd die first!"

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

GNW: Smile by Raina Telgemeier

Sixth grade isn't known for being an easy time in anyone's life. In Raina's case, that is especially true. When she knocks out her very permanent two front teeth while running with some friends, she is whisked into a nightmarish sequence of visits to the dentist, orthodontist, periodontist, and all those other "dentists" who can help her get her mouth back to normal.

In Smile, Raina Telgemeier takes us back to that awkward stage in her life where dental drama wasn't the only drama in her life and worrying about her teeth was simply added to worrying about boys and whether or not she was wearing the right clothes.

Smile is an autobiographical graphic novel in which Raina tells her story and draws us all back to a time when awkwardness was our overwhelming concern and nothing ever seemed to go the way we expected.

After falling in love with Drama, I was more than a little excited when I spotted Smile on the shelf of my local B&N. I snatched it up immediately and fell in love almost as quickly. As a girl who spent nearly four years of her life in braces and took a couple of trips to the periodontist, this graphic novel really drew me back to that time and gave me the chance to laugh at all those dental disasters I thought I would never make it through. 

Smile was a wonderful story about growing up and growing into your awkwardness, bringing the reader back to a time where the worst thing that could happen was that you looked a little geeky. I really enjoyed it from beginning to end. Whether you're just entering this awkward stage yourself or those years are long behind you, I'd absolutely suggest picking up this lovely graphic novel. You won't be sorry.

Rating: ★★★★

Monday, December 2, 2013

Merch Monday: DFTBA Records

You'd better believe this awesome
"Books turn Muggles into Wizards"
sweatshirt is on my Christmas list!
I proudly identify myself as a nerdfighter. "What's that?" you ask? Well it's not about fighting nerds. Nerdfighters, or members of nerdfighteria, are what fans of John and Hank Green (aka. the vlogbrothers) call themselves. We are made of awesome and exist to decrease world suck.

DFTBA Records is an offshoot of what the vlogbrothers do on a daily basis. It's a place where many awesome content creators on Youtube have gathered together to sell their wares, making them more readily available to their fans and to the public in general. Their merchandise ranges anywhere from t-shirts and hoodies to iPhone cases, posters, and even original music. And, of couse, any place where nerds are gathered (and also led by a bestselling author *cough* John Green *cough*), there is bound to be plenty of chatter about books--which brings us to why it's being featured on my blog today.

An iPhone case covered in
The Fault in Our Stars book
references? Yes, please.
I've been ordering merch from DFTBA Records for years now and I couldn't be more pleased with what they have to offer. Leave it to the lovely book nerds and booktubers to create awesome merch that this book junkie can't wait to get her hands on.

To date, my favorite bookish purchase from the site has to be my "Why buy anything else when you could be buying books?" shirt. I've received various compliments on it from other likeminded individuals--including the librarian at my local library and the girl who works and my local comic bookstore.

A fan of the Great Gatsby? This one
might just be the right fit for you.
In closing, let me go ahead and remind you: today is Cyber Monday! It's time to get your shop on and DFTBA Records is offering $3 shipping on all purchases made today. It's time for you to hit that up. (I know I already have.)

**Disclaimer: I am not being paid or otherwise compensated for promoting this business or any other I choose to represent on Merch Mondays. I am simply sharing the things that bring me joy in hopes they'll bring you joy as well.