Monday, December 31, 2012

Review: The Princess Curse by Merrie Haskell

Twelve princesses suffer from a puzzling (if silly) curse, and anyone who ends it will win a reward. Reveka, a sharp-witted and irreverent apprentice herbalist, wants that reward. But her investigations lead to deeper mysteries and a daunting choice—will she break the curse at the peril of her own soul?

      The Princess Curse is a gem. And yes. This will be a raving post. A perfect book to finish the year on!
          I could go on an on about these characters, but for your sakes I will keep it brief...ish. Reveka is only thirteen, but demonstrates the maturity of those who have dealt primarily with adults their whole lives.. In fact, often times she was more mature than the adults around her, demonstrating her true character by staying true to what she believed and being willing to sacrifice for those she loved. Her age provided a perfect perspective for the plot. There was an interesting dynamic between Reveka and her father, an irritation/adoration type of thing, but his motives were seamless. At first I suspected Minhas (a former cowherd) of being a hero of the story, and in a way he is. But he's not the stereotypical hero type, and he's much better because of that. And Dragos was perfect, as a character. His strengths and flaws gave him a visible depth. His past is incredibly intriguing.
Characters: 5 Stars
         This plot is a remix of Twelve Dancing Princesses and Beauty and the Beast. The Twleve Dancing princesses portion would be fairly standard, except it doesn't take place from the perspective of the princesses. Rather, they are under a curse, shrouded in mystery from which countless have fallen into a comatose state. But breaking this curse is only the half the plot. The rest is even better, but if I tell you, it would be a bit of a spoiler.
Plot: 5 Stars
          I found this book in the library's junior fiction section, but it can easily be enjoyed by all ages. Merrie Haskell does a marvelous job of keeping the fairy tales' classic feel while introducing  her own flair and sense of style. Reveka's engaging matter-of-fact manner mixed with the creative worlds Merrie Haskell paints make this book a definite re-read.
Style: 5 Stars

Rating: 5 Stars
Source: Library
Genre: Fantasy
Junior/YA Fiction

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas!
     Or happy, whatever else you celebrate! Unless you kill puppies. 
I am writing from the midst of a winter storm with snow finally here to stay. Merry Christmas! And I have a book suggestion for you.
      Asking me to choose a favorite Christmas book, or indeed, any book, would be like asking me to choose a favorite limb. Nope. Can't be done. But I do have some I prefer.

In the city of the dead,
a dreamer awakens....
      Young Babak has a magnificent gift: He can dream the future. Mitra, his brave older sister, is sworn to protect him. For them to survive living on the streets, she must do whatever is necessary -- including using her brother's talent for profit.
When Babak is asked to dream for a powerful Magus, he receives a mysterious vision of two stars dancing in the night. Determined to solve this prophetic riddle, the Magus takes the boy and his sister on an arduous journey across the desert. What they discover will change the world in a way that no dream could ever predict... 

        But what makes Alphabet of DreamsChristmasy? I enjoyed it because it provided another perspective on the nativity story. The nativity is only a very small part of this book and not the focus. But it follows a young girl as she tries to survive and care for her brother in a largely uncivilized world and shows how the birth of a savior affected everyone. The world did not stand still, but the impact was made in individual lives.
        Here's wishing a happy, hopeful season and a better new year. This is one of my favorite Christmas songs, and the artwork is beautiful. Enjoy~

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Book Review: Princess of the Silver Woods by Jessica Day George

Princess of the Silver Woods  is the third and last book in the Twelve Dancing Princesses series by Jessica Day George that began with Princess of the Midnight Ball and Princess of Glass.

      When Petunia, the youngest of King Gregor's twelve dancing daughters, is invited to visit an elderly friend in the neighboring country of Westfalin, she welcomes the change of scenery. But in order to reach Westfalin, Petunia must pass through a forest where strange two-legged wolves are rumored to exist. Wolves intent on redistributing the wealth of the noble citizens who have entered their territory. 
       But the bandit-wolves prove more rakishly handsome than truly dangerous, and it's not until Petunia reaches her destination that she realizes the kindly grandmother she has been summoned to visit is really an enemy bent on restoring an age-old curse. The stories of Red Riding Hood and Robin Hood get a twist as Petunia and her many sisters take on bandits, grannies, and the new King Under Stone to end their family curse once and for all.

      To start with, I loved that Princess Petunia was short. Yay for kickbutt, short heroines! Despite how kick-butt she is, she is only sixteen, and Jessica Day George did a very good job of showing her youth while still keeping her mature enough to deal with the circumstances. I did feel that most of the other sisters blurred together, but it was fun to see them again after getting to know them so well in the other books. Oliver (head of the bandits) didn't seem as much of a romantic hero as he could have been, but I really liked how straight his priorities were.
Characters: 3.5 Stars
      I have such a soft spot for fairy tale retellings, and this book was no exception. Throughout the series there has been one overarching evil that was never quite defeated. The plot only thickened in the Princess of the Silver Woods, as the new King Under Stone returned to haunt the princesses. I must admit that at some points the story felt very repetitive, but overall, the new version of Robin Hood and Little Red Riding Hood kept things interesting.
Plot: 3.5 Stars
      This book was a nice mix between romance and action. Each moved at its own pace, and neither overpowered the other. I appreciated the lack of excessive angst that infects so many romances and enjoyed reading a story where dangerous choices to protect those you love were a part of everyday life.
Style: 4 Stars  

Rating: 3.7 Stars
Source: Amazon
Genre: Fantasy
YA Fiction

Note: Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow is my absolute favorite of Jessica Day George's books. Seriously, guys, check it out. So good!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Interview & Giveaway: Amy Joy Lutchen

      Born in Chicago, Illinois, a few days prior to watching her first movie, at a drive-in theater. Yes, drive-in theater. And yes, her mother believed she was possessed by the devil after said first movie.
      Grew up in the Chicagoland area and graduated from the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, where she simply became a number, but decided it was a good number.
      Loves cooking (mostly candy-cooking), gardening (putting holes in the ground for perennials, DONE!), designing and constructing jewelry (everything from silversmithing to lampworking), and living with her wonderful husband, two children, black Labrador, and frog—and maybe even the chipmunk family that likes to destroy her aforementioned perennials.
      Also hopes that you enjoy her writings, and won’t criticize her for her aversion of eating things in multiples of three.

Favorite reads? 
      Stephen King and Dr. Seuss. Mad genius I tell ya.

Inspirations for the book? 
      Yes, some really crappy, bad stuff that was happening in my life, and past tragic events that were forcing me into a very dark place. Once I gathered the courage to face all these things and began writing them down, these horrible events morphed into something magical and inspiring: the land of Renhala! It has transformed my life and I am in such a better place right now. I can’t stop!
      Writing is extremely therapeutic and I say to anyone needing an outlet for angst, try WRITING! I say prove me wrong that any literary jam session is not going to help . . . Seriously, write it down! See what happens.

Did you know you wanted to be an author when you were little? 
      Honestly, nope. Unfortunately while in 3rd grade, I had a very persuasive teacher tell me she thought I would make an excellent accountant. You teachers out there know how influential you are, right? I strived for that for the next fourteen years…but now I’m happy, post Renhala.

Any Pet Peeves?
      When people use a pen/marker then set it down without putting the cap back on!! There are people who can’t afford such luxuries and you’re all letting your writing utensils dry out?

Chocolate or Peanut Butter? 
      What is this you speak of? I don’t understand the “or,” only “and.”

The weirdest thing you've ever done? 
      The weirdest thing I ever did was probably the time I dressed up as an Easter bunny for a 7-Eleven, but the dressing up is not the best part! You see, there was a child—probably about eight—that was hiding with a friend of his down an aisle, flipping me the middle finger.
      So, I had my mother (who was not dressed up as a bunny rabbit) corner them and make them sit on my lap. Let’s just say that our one-sided conversation probably scarred them for life.

Is there a soundtrack to the book/Favorite music? 
      When it comes to music, I’m really all over the place. My dad was in a 50’s & 60’s band while I was growing up and I came to love me some oldies. But “Enjoy the Silence” by Depeche Mode is bound to be playing at some point, and oh! The Cure, anything by The Cure. And just simply for theme (karma) Justin Timberlake’s “What Goes Aound Comes Around.”

Do you need anything to write?
       Starbucks Earl Gray Tea lattes, and my endless supply of post-it notes and little tiny notebooks (especially if they have glitter on them).

How long do you write on any average day?
      I don’t measure in units of time. I measure in Starbucks Earl Gray tea lattes. Let me say I am of super-titanium-kryptonite member status.

Give us the number one reason to read your book.
      I triple-dog dare you to! In seriousness, it is like no other book you’ve read. I like to think it is unique, making it very memorable, for who else has deadly, white bunny rabbits with talons in their books?

Author Info:

      Kailey Rooke, timid accountant, dedicated to philanthropic work, finds herself spiraling into a deep depression after she suffers a horrifyingly odd and humiliating assault, to only discover more of these freakish assaults occurring across the globe.
      A chance discovery leads Kailey to a meeting with elderly Gunthreon, actual master of persuasion. Gunthreon, who seems to know too much of Kailey's history for her liking, opens Kailey's eyes to a coexisting realm she never knew existed: Renhala, while entrusting her with the knowledge of her newfound power as karmelean, serving as a beacon for karma from the Higher Ones. Kailey slowly starts revealing new talents, and Gunthreon is fascinated with what she starts achieving.
      She soon discovers that Renhala is in danger, and this danger has been leaking into her own realm. As she uncovers secrets within herself, and toughens up, she fuses with an unlikely band of fellow travelers (including a dragon, woodsprite, six-hundred-pound greble, her faithful female canine companion, and a "giver"), balances the egos of two very strong males, deals with her sexy and flirtatious best friend’s “issues,” and finds the courage to master a new deadly weapon.
      On her mission to save Renhala, Kailey will find herself running from life-threatening disasters, such as greble Tartarin, who likes to remind Kailey that when he catches her, he plans on eating her brains with ice cream; she'll run from the deadly meeples: small cute bunnies with talons and an undeniable thirst for imposing self-destruction on others. Kailey will also run into the possibility that a centuries-old Renhalan rumor is true, that advanced technology existing in Kailey's realm shortens all life spans.
      As blood is shed and puzzles near completion, Kailey pulls from deep within herself, conjuring up mystical qualities that enable her to astonish as once predicted at her birth, but despite the newfound strength, Kailey will discover that monsters not only come in ugly packages, but can be easily disguised as those she has come to love and trust.

(Ends 1/19)
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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Interview & Giveaway: N. R. Allen

    I grew up in a small town called Dooms, VA. I typically don't post pictures of myself. Instead, I usually use a picture of a mountain range in South Dakota, at twilight, when the sky's turning colors and the moon is just starting to glow.

Favorite reads? 
   Watchers by Dean R. Koontz and The Stand by Stephen King

Inspirations for the book? 
   My writing process is a little strange. I usually get an image in my head and I build the book around it. For this, my young son put on a sentimental necklace and the story grew from there.

Did you know you wanted to be an author when you were little? 
   Ever since I learned to put words together, I wanted to be a writer.

Pet Peeves?
   I'm fairly easy-going. But I hate the sound of nails on chalkboard.

Chocolate or Peanut Butter? 
   Both, preferably with ice cream

The weirdest thing you've ever done? 
   Can't actually write that one, but it involved a mailbox, a college friend, and the police. Theft wasn't involved and neither was vandalism.

Is there a soundtrack to the book/Favorite music? 
   Cruxshadows for the beginning and Muse for the end.

Do you need anything to write? 
   Music. When I zone out and can no longer hear the music, I know I've gotten into the story.

How long do you write on any average day? 
   Several hours.

Give us the number one reason to read your book. 
   It's different and it's about being different.

Author Info:
 My website can be found here.

   Something strange is happening in Returning City, something dangerous. 
Gabriel has never questioned things before. He knows that because he is a revenant like everyone else, he has to fight the not-family and hurt them to keep his own family safe. He has never questioned that the sky is always dark or that hungry things watch him from the forest.

But in Returning City, everyone has secrets.

   Gabriel grew up believing that he was the same as everyone else. But now, things are changing. He begins to see strange, monstrous creatures instead of the people he has always known. Struggling to protect his family, Gabriel must turn to a mysterious stranger, but is she only helping him for her own dark purposes?

   In order to survive, Gabriel has to become more than he has ever been, and he will have to go against all he has ever known. Soon Gabriel will realize that something dangerous waits for him—his past—and that past holds a secret deadlier than anything he could ever imagine.

(Ends 1/18)
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Monday, December 10, 2012

Gift Card Giveaway Hop

Merry Christmas!!!!
*Twinkle* *Twinkle**Twinkle*
Happy Holidays!
Sorry for the long period of MIA over November. NaNoWriMo swamped all of my time, but hopefully I should be back with regular posting now.

         On a completely different note: it's December! And that means happiness and gift-giving and scrounging the house for spare change to assist with the gift-giving! Yay!
         I know how nasty it can be to pull dust bunnies off of couch-cushion quarters, so as part of the Gift Card Giveaway hop I will be giving away a $10 Amazon gift-card (alternately, if you live somewhere where Amazon isn't- Gasp!- you can choose a book of up to $10 from the Book Depository).
$10 Amazon Gift Card

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Check out the rest of the giveaways!