I love love love to read short stories (the literary ones from college are my favorites!), but I don't think that I've ever reviewed an anthology. Since I was so intrigued by the authors and the premise of Beyond the Pale, I figured that I would give it a shot.
I have to be honest and say that I skipped some of the stories for various reasons. I know that Jim Butcher is everyone else's favorite here at Bibliophilia, Please, but I am yet to read The Dresden Files. (Before you string me, I bought them on Kindle and Audible, so Storm Front will be happening soon.) I also skipped Frost Child by Gillian Philip because I wasn't in the mood for fairies at the time. Jan Yolen's A Knot of Toads and Nancy & Belle Holder's The Adventures of Lightning Merriemouse-Jones were both passed over, as I could get into them. That being said, these stories will not factor into my overall rating of the book.
Hooves and the Hovel of Abdel Jameela Saladin Ahmed
When I took classes on Middle Eastern history, I had to read One Thousand and One Nights because a culture's fairy tales are important to their history. (If you want an in depth conversation on this, I'm down for it later.) Hooves and the Hovel of Abdel Jameela is very like the stories that Scheherazade told.
Hooves and the Hovel of Abdel Jameela was a fairy tale without a true villain, and I never felt any danger for the main character. However, I was engaged and creeped out through the end and will happily read more stories from Ahmed. 3.5/5 Stars
The Children of the Shark God Peter S. Beagle
I was a die hard fan of The Last Unicorn growing up, so I had the highest expectations of this story in regard to the rest of the collection. Thankfully, The Children of the Shark God is a story that I could walk away from and return to later because I got distracted despite the story's brevity.
The Children of the Shark God a typical "god" story where no mortal can know or understand his/her ways. What struck me as funny is that the Shark God was not the character in the story that loved unconditionally. That's not really a spoiler as gods tend to act like assholes in mythology, but it was something interesting to read.
I'm impatient, so I did get a little bored because nothing really happened except the exploration of the family dynamics between the Shark God's mortal wife, children, and himself. Of course their are supernatural/paranormal elements because, hello? God? The writing was good and I persevered. 3/5 Stars
Misery Heather Brewer
Misery was my favorite story in Beyond the Pale and resonated most strongly with me. Misery reminded me so much of depression. You can't remember life before it or how you got there, much like the characters living in the town of Misery. The eyes of the neighbors have the only colors in a world of black, white, and gray. That was pretty fucking profound. If that's not misery, nothing is. And, of course, Misery loves company.
After reading the story, I looked up the author to see what she says about the story, and I was right. I mean, there really wasn't anything else that it could've been about. 4/5 Stars
Shadow Children Heather Brewer
I was unable to sleep one night, so I pulled out the anthology and read Shadow Children
It's about the scary shadows that creep in the dark, and needless to say, there was no going back to sleep for me. 3.5/5 Stars
Red Run Kami Garcia
Red Run is the prefect example of what a short story should be like. I was on the edge of my seat, anxious to see what would happen next. Excellent ghost story! 4/5 Stars
Pale Rider Nancy Holder
Pale Rider is a bit more dystopian than paranormal at first. The world has pretty much ended, and Dana is scrambling to survive with her friends. Then Alex shows up and changes everything.
There are quite a few things that I found to be inconsistent with the story, and I was scratching my head in confusion by the end. 2.5/5 Stars
South Gillian Philip
South was a bit confusing to me at first because of the narration of the story. However, I knew exactly what the story would essentially be about as soon as I read about the water, ice, and penguins. That's how you know I read far too much urban fantasy. 3.5/5 Stars
I know my reviews were very short, but so were the stories. I did the best I could to avoid spoiling your enjoyment. That being said, I liked what I did read in Beyond the Pale, and I found some new (to me) authors that I'll be reading. If an author can successfully execute a short story, then I am very interested in seeing what they can do with a novel.
- 3.5/5 Stars -
To satisfy FTC guidelines, I am disclosing that I received an advance digital copy of the book from the editor in exchange for an honest review. ...more
Fairy tale retellings are some of my favorite things to read, and I'm pretty sure that middle grade versions of these are the best. That being said, The Wishing Spell did not disappoint. Many childhood favorite fairy tales are prominent in the so-called Land of Stories, and the book was a fun way to find out what happened to the main characters of those stories after their happily ever afters.
The basis of The Wishing Spell is Alex and Conner Bailey being trapped in the Land of Stories and they are travelling the land looking for ingredients for the Wishing Spell in order to get back home. They are as different as day and night - Alex is a brainiac loner who is the model child and student, and Conner is a bit of a slacker with a lot of friends - and forced to work together in order to get home. Unfortunately, it's not the easiest task and to make things more difficult, they are not the only ones looking for the necessary items.
The twins were fun to read about, but it was the side characters from the Land of Stories that stole the show. Goldilocks is a wanted criminal who has been on the lam for years since the bear incident. Little Red Riding Hood is a spoiled queen who fawns over and is in love with the one man she cannot have. The Evil Queen (Snow White's stepmother) had a bit more backstory that really kept me on my toes, and there's not much that I like more than a villain with some depth.
At first I was a little leery of Colfer voicing his own novel until I remembered that he's also an actor and singer. (I don't watch Glee, so that wasn't at the forefront of my mind.) I didn't really like his voice at first, but he really was best for the novel because he sounds like a child himself. There is also something special about an author reading his or her own work because they know the nuances of the language and each character best.
The Wishing Spell was a really cute book, and I'll probably continue with the series. There is nothing like cleansing the palate with a middle grade fairy story after all of the dystopia and science fiction novels that I read.
I absolutely adore fairy tales and happily ever after stories, so Just Ella was the perfect book to feed my interest. Just Ella is about Princess Ariella, who wants to be more than just a princess in a castle. She was curious about the world outside of the walls and was always trying to sneak away to see how her servants or the common people lived. She reminded me of two Disney princesses: Ariel from The Little Mermaid and Cinderella from her namesake film. I suppose that may have been an intentional reminder as Ariella's name is a portmanteau. Not that it really matters - she prefers "just Ella".
I loved the interactions between Ariella and her family a lot in Just Ella. In a lot of stories about teenage girls, you don't see a lot of positive familial relationships because too much of the story focuses on the romance. Yes, her parents were fairly strict, but it was obvious that they did what they did in order to protect her. Additionally, her quarreling with her sisters was very realistic and never too mean.
Another positive aspect of the novel was the love interest, Gavin. He was always a perfect gentleman and never seemed condescending about it. (It often happens in books that the love interest lies or does other less than noble things for the heroine's "own good". I see that as very condescending.) His feelings read as being very genuine, and I liked his personality.
The one thing that I had a problem with was the fact that Ariella was very naive. Now, I realize that she was a young girl, but there are some instances where she has no idea what's what. For instance, if you're a young girl (especially a princess), you don't want to be running around by yourself in the woods if you've only been outside a few times. Going into the water by yourself when you don't know how to swim - she's all alone - is also a terrible idea. This was just a minor issue, but enough of one that it was noticeable.
Just Ella is a very sweet book and deserves all the hype that it's been receiving lately for being a good, clean read. I enjoyed reading a fairy tale romance that I know will be something that my daughter could read, too. If you enjoy fairy tales and/or clean romances, I recommend Just Ella.
- 3.5/5 Stars -
To satisfy FTC guidelines, I am disclosing that I received a copy of the novel from the author through Book Blast Tours in exchange for an unbiased review. It has in no way affected the outcome. All expressed opinions are awesome, honest, and courtesy of me. ...more
I'm typing sentences, deleting them, and attempting to write more. I don't know what to really say except that Burning Girls left me speechless. I staI'm typing sentences, deleting them, and attempting to write more. I don't know what to really say except that Burning Girls left me speechless. I started reading the story without reading any reviews or the words italicized at the start. It was on Tor.Com - what else did I need to know?
What I found in Burning Girls was a striking mixture of witchcraft, Judaic mythology, fairy tale, history, and feminism. The more I read, the more I was sucked in by the writing of Veronica Schanoes. She weaved the above-mentioned elements into her world flawlessly and held me helplessly ensnared in it. By the time I reached the end, my skin crawled and was covered with chill bumps.
Veronica Schanoes' Burning Girls is a story you should put aside an hour for, and she is definitely a writer whose future works I will be impatiently waiting to read....more
I am a long-time fan of Robin McKinley's work, ever since I was in middle school, and I've read quite a few of her novels. (Most of them multiple timeI am a long-time fan of Robin McKinley's work, ever since I was in middle school, and I've read quite a few of her novels. (Most of them multiple times, and we're not going to talk about The Hero and the Crown.) When I started Shadows, I had my heart set on the world-building or characters to rival those beloved reads. Instead, I got a story which, if I had to wrap it up with ony one word, is "meh".
Maggie, the main character, has been living with her mom and brother since her father died. She is a sweet and somewhat mature teenager - except for the minor fact that she hated her new stepfather, thought he was creepy, and broadcast those feelings spectacularly. However, she wasn't a bad kid, and her sense of loyalty and responsibility that drove her actions throughout the novel. The supporting characters were Maggie's family - Mom, Val, and brother Ran; Takahiro and Jill, her best friends; Mongo, her feisty rescue dog; and Casimir, the droolworthy Oldworld guy who happens to be working at her favorite restaurant. The best character Hix, but I'm not going to spoil that for you. Each of the characters had a lot of potential, but their relationships with one another lacked depth (except for Hix). A prime example was when Maggie kissed a person in the novel, and he was suddenly her boyfriend within seconds. No explanation, conversation, etc. - just a sudden relationship on the next level.
As for the world in Shadows, it was almost like a US, Britain and Canada all mixed together. I could never really wrap my mind around where the book was set. The world was different from our own (the various countries were called things like Newworld, Oldworld, Farworld, Midworld, etc.), but it was close enough that it can be called an alternate reality. Alternate to which place? I have no idea, but I digress. Newworld, where Shadows is set has given up all magic, and the government changes people's genetics so no magicians can pop up. Oldworld and other countries still depend on magic, so crossing the borders between them requires paperwork and the kind of stripping that would make the TSA proud. There are silverbugs and cobeys that mess things up everywhere, and each location handles them in their own way. The world was interesting, and I kept turning the pages to learn more about it, but I finished the book with nearly as many questions as I started with. I couldn't wrap my mind around Shadows. It was fascinating, but it left me scratching my head.
Another thing about Shadows that stood out to me was the lack of tension. Even the battles, government shenanigans, and the climax never really had me at the edge of my seat. I don't know if it was because I didn't connect with the characters, was confused about what was going on, or just never felt a sense of danger for the characters. I guess this is just a thing that sucks about me as a reader - too much or too little tension really affects my enjoyment of a book.
Though I did not enjoy Shadows as much as I hoped, there is no denying that McKinley is an exceptionally gifted writer. The world and characters were imaginative, and I know there are many fans of her work that will eat this one up. It was a fast read, and I'm sure I will give it another chance in the future to see if what was standing in the way of my full enjoyment of the story was me.
*To satisfy FTC guidelines, I am disclosing that I received an advance copy of the book briefly for reviewing purposes through Around the World ARC Tours in exchange for an honest review. The book was likely provided to the tour by the publisher or author, which has in no way affected the outcome of my review. All opinions expressed are rambling, honest, and completely my own....more
I picked up this book as a part of the Magnificently Magic Read-A-Thon* both because it was a book I had been wanting to read and because of how perfectly it fit the criteria. Being as it weighs in at 228 pages and is assuredly lower middle grade might have had something to do with choosing it.
Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King is the first book in The Guardians series. It takes place after The Man in the Moon, which is the first book in the picture book companion series, The Guardians of Childhood, also written by William Joyce. (It's a quick read, and I recommend that you read it first.) The Nightmare King, Pitch, escapes his imprisonment after the inadvertent actions of a moonbeam releases an elfish boy made of light encased in a dagger in Pitch's heart. This sets of a chain of events that is the focus of this.
I'm not sure if I've ever said this on the blog, but I have a special place in my heart for middle grade novels. There is rarely any gore, minimal depressive events (before you say anything, I believe Harry Potter 5-7 is YA), and a lovely, magical sense of fun whether there is literal magic or not. Nicholas St. North gives us just that. Joyce & Geringer brilliantly draw the reader into the story, while setting up the world in the novel for the entire series. Where the picture book, The Man in the Moon introduced the reader to Mim, AKA Tsar Lunar, in this novel we meet Nicholas St. North (Santa, perhaps?), Ombric the Wizard, and Katherine, a little foundling girl in Ombric's care. Nightlight, a character and friend of Mim's in The Man in the Moon, makes a reappearance in this novel. The first half of the story is mostly devoted to world-building (which is rich), but the action is exciting once it comes.
This would be a fantastic story for fans of fairy tales or reimaginings, and I highly recommend this book for reluctant readers. There are illustrations scattered throughout the book, and the pacing is gripping and fast enough to hold on to those frustratingly short attention spans. There is also the film adaptation, The Rise of the Guardians, that can be used as a tool to bring readers to Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King and vice versa.
*I hand write most of my reviews before I type them up and put them on the blog. Yes, I wrote this review three months ago. I will neither confirm nor deny whether there are any other, older reviews in my notebook.
You know that feeling you get sometimes when you start a book, that it will be impossible to put down? My friends, Poison was just that. The world-building was rich, the characters were lovable, and the writing was perfect for readers of all ages.
Kyra was one of the Master Trio of Potioners, and a highly respected citizen of the Kingdom of Mohr. Princess Ariana, the heir to the throne, is her best friend and the reason that she is on the run. Apparently it is frowned upon to try to murder a princess, even if she's your best friend. The story begins three months after the attempted assasination with Kyra starving and desperate. She is willing to do whatever it takes to kill Ariana because she thinks that she will save the kingdom by doing so. She's also one of those characters that wants to protect everyone she loves, and while doing that, closes everyone out. Yes, Kyra is a person guilty of the whole "I'm doing it to keep you safe" silliness. She also believes in doing what she thinks is the right thing, even at a personal cost. Kyra does end up growing a lot in Poison.
As much as I loved Kyra (which is a lot), there was still enough of my heart to spread around to other characters. Fred was a good-natured, handsome young man that Kyra met on the run. From him she learned how important it was to be responsible to the people who care about her and to not close herself off from them. Rosie was a Katzenheim pig (which is a punchline for a joke in Mohr), who came to Kyra from Arlo, the King of Criminals. Rosie was the key to finding the hidden away Princess Ariana and - let's just face it - adorable. I almost want a pet pig myself now. (Almost.) As for Princess Ariana, she is not a typical princess, and I probably would be friends with her myself. She won me over wtih the underwear that she made "Kitty" (her nickname for Kyra) for her birthday. Ariana knows that "Kitty" takes herself too seriously and can't resist tweaking her nose a little from time to time. Trust me when I say the book is worth reading for how that plays out alone. It's still awesome on other levels, but that... *snickers*
The world-building in Poison is sound, but fairly typical of humorous fantasy adventures. There is almost always going to be the serious character who gets zinged by his/her funnier companions. Blunders, trouble, and other silliness will happen, and it will be a lot of fun. (It did in Poison, and it was.) Where the book surprised me though was with some of the twists. I did not see what I thought of as the main one coming (you can email if you want to know which one I'm talking about) because it never occurred to me to be expecting one. This is a trick that most authors' use only results in me being pissed at their shenanigans, but Zinn was successful in pleasing me and making my jaw drop a little. (It is a rare thing to surprise me in a book.) There was no sleight of hand or trickery - just really good writing.
The pacing of Poison is fast. The book grabbed me and did not let go until I finished. Or vice versa. I kept wanting more and more out of the story and had loads of questions - why did Kyra try to kill Ariana? who was Kyra engaged to? Why was that pig so damn cute? With each answer, I wanted to know even more. I could not step away from this novel until I was done. I'm already considering a reread because I made my journey with Kyra much too quickly.
Poison is a fantastic YA debut that I think will be around for many years to come. The book is a great crossover for middle grade, as well as adult readers. It is a funny, smart, and fast-paced novel that I plan on putting into everyone's hands. I recommend that you go find yourself a copy of this book immediately.
To satisfy FTC guidelines, I am disclosing that I received a copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. It has in no way affected the outcome. All opinions expressed are rambling, honest, and completely my own. ...more