Coming soon! A brand new From My Bookshelf experience.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Sarton Sundays - a May Sarton Reading Celebration

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This is actually something that I wanted to do three years ago in celebration of May Sarton's centennial birthday, but as often happens with me, life got in the way. I'm hoping to change that this year. I've worked out a reading schedule that I think should allow for me to be able to do this. I want to finally read my way through her main works. I've read everything at one point or another in my life, but I've never really sat down to do a constructive reading of her works. So, beginning next Sunday, I'm going to be hosting Sarton Sunday, a reading celebration of May Sarton's works, in publication order. I would love if others would join in with me!

I have chosen Sundays as a day of refection for me. One thing that I have been struggling with for many years now is finding a balance of time for me versus the time I give others. I certainly don't mind the time that I give to others, but I frequently overextend myself in trying to make time for everyone else and not allowing enough time for me. One thing that Sarton excelled at was forcing time to her will as opposed to letting time take over her life. I need to learn from this. So, I'm hoping to make Sundays "my" day, not planning things unless I really want, making the day productive, and filling it with time that works for me.

So, here's to productive, relaxing, and time-filled Sundays.

Happy reading!

Monday, December 29, 2014

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir by R. A. Dick

 photo 080417348601_SX175_SY250_SCLZZZZZZZ__zpsda9e2b77.jpgThe Ghost and Mrs. Muir
by R. A. Dick
Published by Vintage Books, September 23, 2014
192 Pages • ISBN 978-0804173483 • Hardcover

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To purchase any of the books in this post and help me buy more books, click the links above!

Book description:
The basis for Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s cinematic romance starring Gene Tierney and Rex Harrison.

Burdened by debt after her husband's death, Lucy Muir insists on moving into the very cheap Gull Cottage in the quaint seaside village of Whitecliff, despite multiple warnings that the house is haunted. Upon discovering the rumors to be true, the young widow ends up forming a special companionship with the ghost of handsome former sea captain Daniel Gregg. Through the struggles of supporting her children, seeking out romance from the wrong places, and working to publish the captain's story as a book,
Blood and Swash, Lucy finds in her secret relationship with Captain Gregg a comfort and blossoming love she never could have predicted.

Originally published in 1945, made into a movie in 1947, and later adapted into a television sitcom in 1968, this romantic tale explores how love can develop without boundaries, both in this life and beyond.

With a new foreword by Adriana Trigiani.

Vintage Movie Classics spotlights classic films that have stood the test of time, now rediscovered through the publication of the novels on which they were based.

I received this from a friend for Christmas, and her gift theme this year was books that were the basis for famous movies. It's been years since I've seen the film The Ghost and Mrs Muir (and I didn't even know about the sitcom series from the 60s), and I'll admit up front that I had no idea the movie was based on a book, so I went into the book with no preconceived expectations. Turns out, I love this book!

The story follows Lucy Muir, who strikes out on her own after the death of her husband. Due to a large amount of debt that he left her, and trying to escape the overbearing, constant presence of his family in her life, she decides that all she needs in life for her and her children is a place of their own and solitude for herself. After being shown Gull Cottage in the village of Whitecliff, Lucy decides on the spot that she must live there, even though she is warned very strongly about moving there because the house is haunted. Determined not to let something as simple as a ghost deter her from her dreams of independence, she moves into the house anyway and ends up forming a friendship with the ghost of sea captain Daniel Gregg. Over the course of her life and through multiple struggles, she and Captain Gregg become more than just friends, and ultimately the story grows beyond her story to become their story.

This is a charming and quick read. I finished the book in one reading, and is the perfect book to sit down with a cup of tea on a chilly winter afternoon and enjoy.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Original Sin by Jason Aaron, illustrated by Mike Deodato

 photo 078519069401_SX175_SY250_SCLZZZZZZZ__zps98954785.jpgOriginal Sin
by Jason Aaron, illustrated by Mike Deodato
Published by Marvel Comics on November 18, 2014
392 Pages • ISBN 978-0785190691 • Hardcover

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To purchase any of the books in this post and help me buy more books, click the links above!

Product description:

Who shot the Watcher?

Uatu, the mysterious space-god who's been watching mankind from the moon for as long as we can remember... is dead. Thus begins the greatest murder mystery in Marvel history! As Nick Fury leads the heroes of the Marvel Universe in an investigation, other forces are marshaling and other questions are arising. Why is Black Panther gathering a secret team of his own, including Emma Frost, the Punisher and Dr. Strange? Who is the Unseen? What was stolen from the Watcher's lair? Fury's cosmic manhunt leads to the far corners of the universe and beyond, but just when the Avengers think they've cornered their murderer... everything explodes, unleashing the Marvel Universe's greatest secrets and rocking the heroes to their core! What did the Watcher see? What was the Original Sin?

COLLECTING: Point One 1 (Watcher story), Original Sin 0-8, Original Sins 1-5, Original Sin Annual 1, Original Sin: Secret Avengers Infinite Comic 1-2

After so, so many time travel stories raging throughout the Marvel Universe right now (seriously, check out just about any current Avengers or X-Men title and chances are you'll find yourself in the middle of a time travel story of some sort or another), Original Sin is practically a breath of fresh air. This is just a good, old-fashioned murder mystery (or at least, the Marvel version of one). Uatu the Watcher, he who lives on the Moon and must not interfere with the events going on with the planet Earth yet seems compelled to at every turn, is murdered. What follows is a cosmos-spanning investigation searching for who would be able to commit such a crime. Involving several heroes from across the Marvel Universe, the search is on for Uatu's murderer. However, long forgotten (and unknown) secrets from across the Marvel Universe are revealed and not everyone is happy about the results.

As is often the case with the Marvel events these days, the main story is fairly strong, but the additional material added into the volume I find severely lacking (such as the Original Sins series). If it were up to me, I'd do away with these stories, as they really do nothing to move the main story forward and are nothing more than money makers for Marvel because the completists out there need to buy all the titles! So, for those that don't need to read the other stories and can wait for it, pick up the paperback release of this title which may only include the main series.

Aaron's writing is fairly solid throughout. The way some events are retconned in Original Sin bugs me a little, reminding me a little too much of the Illuminati series where events that have never been revealed before are brought to light just to move future stories along. For some reason, this plot device (that Marvel seems to use way too much sometimes), just rubs me the wrong way. Overall, this plot device is handled fairly well here when all is said and done. Deodato's art is quite good in this series. I haven't been a huge fan of his art in the past, but his style fit this story perfectly and his art seems to be quite a bit stronger than I remember it being.

I'll be curious to see how the events from Original Sin play out in current and upcoming events in the Marvel Universe, particularly Secret Wars. Personally, I haven't been this excited to be a Marvel fan in a long time. I wish that the stories weren't so Avengers-centric, but given the current state of affairs with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I don't think that will be changing anytime soon.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

An Irish Country Doctor by Patrick Taylor

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Title: An Irish Country Doctor
Series: Irish Country Books, Book 1
Author: Patrick Taylor
Copyright: 2008
Pages: 351
ISBN: 9780765319951
Publisher: Forge Books
Twitter: @torbooks
Format: Paperback
Available: January 22, 2008
Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Product description:
Barry Laverty, M.B., can barely find the village of Ballybucklebo on a map when he first sets out to seek gainful employment there, but already he knows that there is nowhere he would rather live than in the emerald hills and dales of Northern Ireland. The proud owner of a spanking-new medical degree and little else in the way of worldly possessions, Barry jumps at the chance to secure a position as an assistant in a small rural practice.

At least until he meets Dr. Fingal Flahertie O’Reilly.

The older physician, whose motto is to never let the patients get the upper hand, has his own way of doing things. At first, Barry can’t decide if the pugnacious O’Reilly is the biggest charlatan he has ever met, or the best teacher he could ever hope for. Through O’Reilly Barry soon gets to know all of the village’s colorful and endearing residents, including:

A malingering Major and his equally hypochondriacal wife;

An unwed servant girl, who refuses to divulge the father of her upcoming baby;

A slightly daft old couple unable to marry for lack of a roof;

And a host of other eccentric characters who make every day an education for the inexperienced young doctor.

Ballybucklebo is long way from Belfast, and Barry is quick to discover that he still has a lot to learn about the quirks and traditions of country life. But with pluck and compassion and only the slightest touch of blarney, he will find out more about life—and love—than he ever imagined back in medical school.

An Irish Country Doctor is a charming and engrossing tale that will captivate readers from the very first page—and leave them yearning to visit the Irish countryside of days gone by.

An Irish Country Doctor is a quick, charming read, even if it is highly predictable. We follow Barry Laverty, a recent medical school graduate, as he assists the local doctor of the small Irish village of Ballybucklebo, the extremely colorful Dr. Fingal Flahertie O'Reilly. As Laverty learns the ropes of small town medicine from Fingal, he learns that sometimes not going by the book can be just what the doctor ordered when it comes to country folk. Filled with quirky characters and both funny and touching moments, I think this would probably be a big hit with book clubs and fans of the Mitford series and such.

Spoilery bits ahead!

Yet, the book proves to be a little too charming and slightly even more predictable as the story goes along, as well as taking too long to drive a point home. For instance, how many times must Laverty need to be shown that quite possibly Fingal's unorthodox doctoring ways work? It's more than you'd think. Each character fits the mold that they need to fit the most, almost to the point where they are caricatures of themselves. Fingal has all the answers. There is, of course, also the predictable love interest for Laverty. Putting this all out like this, it seems like there is not so much to like about the book, but Taylor at least keeps the story amusing throughout, so I was able to let these annoyances be.

Spoilery bits finished!

Chances are highly likely that I will be picking up the next book in the series, An Irish Country Village. This is the perfect series to read when you don't need to think too hard about what you're reading and just need some fluff.

Happy reading!

To purchase any of the books in this post, and help my local Indie bookstore, and help me buy more books, click the links above!

Monday, December 1, 2014

A Night in the Lonesome October by Roger Zelazny, illustrated by Gahan Wilson

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Title: A Night in the Lonesome October
Author: Roger Zelazny, illustrated by Gahan Wilson
Copyright: 2014 (1993)
Pages: 288
ISBN: 9781556525605
Publisher: Chicago Review Press
Twitter: @ChiReviewPress
Format: Paperback
Available: October 1, 2014
Rating: 4/5 stars

Product description:
Loyally accompanying a mysterious knife-wielding gentleman named Jack on his midnight rounds through the murky streets of London, good dog Snuff is busy helping his master collect the grisly ingredients needed for an unearthly rite that will take place not long after the death of the moon. But Snuff and his master are not alone. All manner of participants, both human and not, are gathering with their ancient tools and their animal familiars in preparation for the dread night. It is brave, devoted Snuff who must calculate the patterns of the Game and keep track of the Players—the witch, the mad monk, the vengeful vicar, the Count who sleeps by day, the Good Doctor and the hulking Experiment Man he fashioned from human body parts, and a wild-card American named Larry Talbot—all the while keeping Things at bay and staying a leap ahead of the Great Detective, who knows quite a bit more than he lets on.

Boldly original and wildly entertaining, A Night in the Lonesome October is a darkly sparkling gem, an amalgam of horror, humor, mystery, and fantasy. First published in 1993, it was Zelazny’s last book prior to his untimely death. Many consider it the best of the fantasy master’s novels. It has inspired many fans to read it every year in October, a chapter a day, and served as inspiration for Neil Gaiman’s brilliant story “Only the End of the World Again.”

Somehow over the years, Roger Zelazny has slipped by me. I've been aware of him as an author, I've just never found occasion to read any of his books. When I heard that A Night in the Lonesome October was being released, and knowing that a dear friend is a diehard Zelazny fan, I picked up a copy and suggested that she and I read the book, one chapter a night, through the month of October.

Well, I'll tell you what, I had a lot of trouble sticking to my one chapter a night. I loved this book! Seriously, at the end of my nightly chapter, I wanted so desperately to keep reading, but I restrained myself. I found the whole idea, that numerous literary figures from across the horror spectrum have come together to play the Game, fantastic. Told from the point of view of Jack's familiar, a dog named Snuff, we are lead through the month of October as he tracks down clues as to which side of the Game each of the players are on. I loved this bit, as you try to figure out, along with Snuff, who is going to be pitted against who at the end of the Game. It was also fun seeing how so many literary (and in some cases, historical) characters were woven into this book. The entire story becomes a guessing game as you try to figure out who each of the characters are (some are obvious, some not quite so)and what role they'll play in the Game. I'm not saying what the Game is, as that's half the mystery as it is played out in the book.

Some might consider the next bit a little spoilerish.

If I had one quibble about the book, it's the abrupt end. There is so much build up to the finale of the story, that when it arrives, I was left a little shocked. It may just be that I wanted more of the story, but once the Game comes to an end, it is finished. No further explanation as to what happens to the characters, nothing. The story is just done. For me, it was just a little too unexpected, but I guess it works with the way the book is written, as we're only shown this one month of the character's lives.

End of spoilerish bit.

A Night in the Lonesome October is an immensely clever and entertaining book, a perfect addition to any reading that you may be doing leading up to Halloween. I'm fairly sure this will become a favorite of mine each October.

To purchase any of the books in this post, and help my local Indie bookstore, and help me buy more books, click the links above!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Jackaby by William Ritter

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Title: Jackaby
Author: William Ritter
Copyright: 2014
Pages: 304
ISBN: 9781616203535
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Twitter: @AlgonquinYR
Format: Hardcover
Available: September 16, 2014
Rating: 4/5 stars

Product description:

"Miss Rook, I am not an occultist," Jackaby said. "I have a gift that allows me to see truth where others see the illusion - and there are many illusions. All the world's a stage, as they say, and I seem to have the only seat in the house with a view behind the curtain."

Newly arrived in New Fiddleham, New England, 1892, and in need of a job, Abigail Rook meets R. F. Jackaby, an investigator of the unexplained with a keen eye for the extraordinary - including the ability to see supernatural beings. Abigail has a gift for noticing ordinary but important details, which makes her perfect for the position of Jackaby's assistant. On her first day, Abigail finds herself in the midst of a thrilling case: A serial killer is on the loose. The police are convinced it's an ordinary villain, but Jackaby is certain it's a nonhuman creature, whose existence the police - with the exception of a handsome young detective named Charlie Cane - deny.

Doctor Who meets Sherlock in a debut novel, the first in a series, brimming with cheeky humor and a dose of the macabre.

A book described as Doctor Who meets Sherlock?! Yes, please!


When I started reading Jackaby, I was immediately annoyed. This wasn't just a book written in the same flavor of "Doctor Who meets Sherlock", it is quite clearly the Doctor written as Sherlock. In my mind, Jackaby is so clearly Four written as if he were taking a turn at being Sherlock; it even seems like this could be a lost adventure of the Doctor. He even has his own female companion in Abigail Rook (the Watson to Jackaby's Sherlock). The more I read, the more difficulty I had divorcing myself from this idea. After a couple of chapters, I put the book down, not sure that I would finish it.


Two days later I picked it up again, and immediately found myself annoyed all over again. Yet, I kept reading, and suddenly I found myself at the end of the book and being disappointed that I didn't have more to read! Somewhere along the way, Ritter completely won me over on his characters and story. I still think this could be reworked with very little difficulty into an adventure for the Doctor, but I thoroughly enjoyed it all the same. Eventually I no longer found myself comparing Jackaby to the Sherlock Doctor, and found myself reading him as himself; he developed his own distinct voice and look in my head.

As for the story, this is definitely a whodunit with a supernatural twist. Jackaby has the fortunate (unfortunate) ability to see things and creatures that others can not, and as such offers his services to the police to help solve crimes that fall outside the realm of the normal. Newly arrived in the new world, Abigail Rook is in search of a job, and when she answers an advert for an assistant position with Jackaby, he doesn't know what she's set herself up for. Jackaby takes her with him as he goes to investigate a murder, and in contrast to his ability to see the extraordinary, Abigail notices seemingly ordinary and mundane things, yet Jackaby finds these details important. From here, we are offered a fun and rollicking adventure as Jackaby and Abigail try to unravel the mystery of the killer before he kills again.

When all is said and done, I want a sequel. I want more Jackaby, more Abigail, more of their banter. If you are a fan of Doctor Who or Sherlock, do yourself a favor and pick up Jackaby. I hope you'll be as pleasantly surprised as I was.

To purchase any of the books in this post, and help my local Indie bookstore, and help me buy more books, click the links above!

Friday, November 21, 2014

The Ice Dragon by George R. R. Martin, illustrated by Luis Royo

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Title: The Ice Dragon
Author: George R. R. Martin, illustrated by Luis Royo
Copyright: 2014
Pages: 128
ISBN: 9780765378774
Publisher: Tor Teen
Twitter: @torteen, @GRRMspeaking
Format: Hardcover
Available: October 21, 2014
Rating: 4/5 stars

Product description:
The Ice Dragon is an enchanting tale of courage and sacrifice for young readers and adults by the wildly popular author of the #1 New York Times bestselling Song of Ice and Fire series, George R.R. Martin. Lavish illustrations by acclaimed artist Luis Royo enrich this captivating and heartwarming story of a young girl and her dragon.

In the world of A Song of Ice and Fire the ice dragon was a creature of legend and fear, for no man had ever tamed one. When it flew overhead, it left in its wake desolate cold and frozen land. But Adara was not afraid. For Adara was a winter child, born during the worst freeze that anyone, even the Old Ones, could remember.

Adara could not remember the first time she had seen the ice dragon. It seemed that it had always been in her life, glimpsed from afar as she played in the frigid snow long after the other children had fled the cold. In her fourth year she touched it, and in her fifth year she rode upon its broad, chilled back for the first time. Then, in her seventh year, on a calm summer day, fiery dragons from the North swooped down upon the peaceful farm that was Adara’s home. And only a winter child — and the ice dragon who loved her — could save her world from utter destruction.

This new edition of The Ice Dragon is sure to become a collector’s item for fans of HBO’s megahit Game of Thrones.

So, this is a strange little creature of a book. It is marketed as a YA, but I don't know that it is quite written as a YA. Of course, given that it was written in the 80s originally, when there was no such thing as a YA market, this also makes a little more sense. It seems to dwell somewhere in that nether region between YA and straight up adult fantasy, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. There is one thing that will eternally bug me about YA that is dumbed down for kids, and this is certainly not that. Martin gives us an intelligent and emotional tale of a young girl and her coming of age story as she watches her family and home being torn away from her and she learns the meaning of sacrifice.

Adara, born during one of the harshest freezes that anyone could remember, was as cold and hard as the winter that she was brought into. Her family tried to no avail to get her to melt her cold heart. Her only constant companion was the ice dragon, a rare and terrible creature of power. The only person to ever befriend an ice dragon let alone ride one, Adara looked forward to winter and to every year on her birthday to see the dragon again.

However, when the war in the North finally made its way to her small village and fire-breathing dragons threatened her family and home, Adara's heart finally melts and with the help of the ice dragon, she learns the true meaning of love and sacrifice. While typing this out makes it sound a little on the sentimental side, there really isn't much sentimentality in the telling. Like all of Martin's stories, he is not shy telling about the ravages of war here. There is violence and darkness in this story to be sure, but it is tempered just as equally by the love of Adara and her ice dragon.

The design of the book is beautiful. The illustrations are gorgeous, and the entire book is printed in a blueish tone, giving it a uniquely winter-ish feel. However put this book together did a grand job.

I know there are people out there that are going to be shocked by this story, given at first glance it looks to be a charming tale about a girl and her dragon. It is, but there is so much more to it than that, and really, you should be familiar with Martin's Song Ice and Fire series, and if you are familiar with his writing, you know he can be dark, even when telling a tale such as this, so be warned. This book probably won't be for everyone, but I found it to be a wonderful addition to the Song of Fire and Ice saga.

To purchase any of the books in this post, and help my local Indie bookstore, and help me buy more books, click the links above!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

What I'm #reading now

the little c: update

Well, I wish I had better news as things have taken a little turn for the worst. After having such a glowing report from the doctor last time, the following week I got a call saying that chemo was being postponed for a week as my neutrophil (white blood cell) count had fallen dramatically. After my weekly blood draw this week, it was discovered that those numbers had fallen even more, and now I'm in the danger zone of having almost no immune system (I'm considered neutropenic now). So, no chemo for another two weeks...

As I really shouldn't go anywhere because I need to avoid just about everyone at this point since we're well into cold and flu season, I'll have lots of time for reading at home now!

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Keepers: The Box and the Dragonfly by Ted Sanders, illustrated by Iacopo Bruno

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Title: The Keepers: The Box and the Dragonfly
Series: The Keepers, Book 1
Author: Ted Sanders, illustrated by Iacopo Bruno
Copyright: 2015
Pages: 544
ISBN: 9780062275820
Publisher: Harper
Twitter: @HarperCollins
Format: ARC provided by publisher rep for honest review
Available: March 3, 2015
Rating: 4/5 stars

Product description:
Artifacts. Miseries. Mysteries...

From the moment Horace F. Andrews sees the sign from the bus - a sign with his own name on it - everything changes. The sighting leads him underground to the House of Answers, a hidden warehouse brimming with peculiar devices. But there he finds only questions. What is this curious place? Who are the strange, secretive people who entrust him with a rare and immensely powerful gift? And what is he to do with it?

As he works to master his newfound abilities, Horace quickly discovers that nothing is ordinary anymore. From the sinister thin man lurking around every corner to his encounters with Chloe - a girl who has an astonishing talent of her own - Horace follows a path that puts him in the middle of a centuries-old conflict between two mysterious factions.

Horace's journey leads him and Chloe deep into a place where every decision they make could have disastrous consequences. Most important, it links Horace to the Box of Promises and a future he never saw coming.

With an action-packed blend of fantasy and science fiction, Ted Sanders creates a world where everything is more than it seems and where friendship and loyalty have the greatest power of all.

I was rather excited about this book from the moment I was first told about it. An acquaintance was telling me about the book, and generally she doesn't like children's books, so when she was proving to be excited about it, I thought I should be paying attention to that. And you know what? She was right.

There is so much in this book that I liked. We're immediately introduced to Horace, our hero of the story, who immediately sees a sign that catches his eye, which immediately leads him to his first encounter with a questionable character, which is quickly followed by Horace's discovery of the the House of Answers, which immediately sets Horace on his way to adventure. This all sounds really rushed when I type it out like this, but it works. Sometimes I feel stories are too drawn out to get to the action, and sometimes they are far too rushed, but this one worked perfectly for me to get us into the story. I had an immediate feel for Harry Potter, but only in the sense that there was a very real, very close world of magic that is going on in the background of this story that the general population knows nothing about, and it's been this way for a very long time. Sanders really does a great job of a quick world building that doesn't feel forced, it just is. However, that's about as far as the HP similarities went. Horace is a really smart kid, and he's very methodical and scientific in his thinking, so when he is presented with what seems to be a magical artifact, he goes about exploring it's properties in a very scientific way, even going so far as to discuss some of his thoughts with his science teacher. Here is another something that I particularly liked about the story; there does actually seem to be some science behind the magic and fiction in the story. It makes the entire story feel really grounded for me.

Horace, Chloe (the other hero of our story), their families, and the other characters in the story also feel very real. They have their flaws, their families aren't perfect, they make mistakes. One of the things that I continually was impressed with is Horace's relationship with his family, especially his mother. One thing that I find frequently frustrating about many YA and middle grade books is the constant necessity for the kids to keep things from the adults in the stories. I assume this must be to show that a certain level of independence in a young person is a good thing, but the other thing to remember is that the kids these books are geared at are young, and don't always know best, and sometimes it's OK, even a good thing, to ask for help from the grownups in their lives. Granted, while Horace doesn't reveal everything that is going on in his life with his parents, they still play an important part in his life and he still relies on their advice. To me, this seems like a refreshing turn of events for a YA or middle grade book. On the flip side of that, with Chloe's family and he strained relationship with her father, I feel this is refreshing in its own way, as it shows kids that don't have the ideal family life or have problems at home that there can still be magic in the world and that relying on your friends can be just as important as relying on your family.

While it seems like The Box and the Dragonfly is a large book (clocking in at 544 pages!), it is paced great and never feels like it is slogging along. I read it in two sittings and was partly saddened that I got through it so quickly. Given the age group that the book is geared towards, however, I think it will move along at a great rate and kids won't feel bored reading it at all, nor will they feel like they've got a huge book to plod through.

If I had any complaint at all about the book, it's Sanders' descriptions of his characters. I never felt at any point in the book that I had a clear idea of what any of the characters looked like. While this works to some of the characters advantages and their very nature, it doesn't work for others. Other than a vague idea that Horace is a bigger kid, I have no idea what he looks like. Is he bigger as in taller, broader, or bulkier? Just telling me he's a big kid doesn't really help me put a clear picture of him together in my head. While reading, I kept having more and more differing views of how the characters look. Maybe it's just me, but I feel a more precise description of some of the characters would have gone a long way.

This one "flaw" aside (and honestly, that's not even that big of a deal), Sanders has created quite the fine world in The Box and the Dragonfly. Not one to read much middle grade anymore, I'm pleased to have read two such strong middle grade debuts this year (the other being J. A. White's The Thickety: A Path Begins). Just like that book, I'll definitely be looking forward to continue reading Horace and Chloe's adventures and will be recommending this book to all my friends with young readers!

The Keepers: The Box and the Dragonfly by Ted Sanders will be released on March 3, 2015 from Harper.

To purchase any of the books in this post, and help my local Indie bookstore, and help me buy more books, click the links above!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg

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Title: The Paper Magician
Series: The Paper Magician Series, Book 1
Author: Charlie N. Holmberg
Copyright: 2014
Pages: 224
ISBN: 9781477823835
Publisher: 47North
Twitter: @CNHolmberg
Format: Paperback
Available: September 1, 2014
Rating: 3/5 stars

Product description:
Ceony Twill arrives at the cottage of Magician Emery Thane with a broken heart. Having graduated at the top of her class from the Tagis Praff School for the Magically Inclined, Ceony is assigned an apprenticeship in paper magic despite her dreams of bespelling metal. And once she’s bonded to paper, that will be her only magic... forever.

Yet the spells Ceony learns under the strange yet kind Thane turn out to be more marvelous than she could have ever imagined—animating paper creatures, bringing stories to life via ghostly images, even reading fortunes. But as she discovers these wonders, Ceony also learns of the extraordinary dangers of forbidden magic.

An Excisioner — a practitioner of dark, flesh magic — invades the cottage and rips Thane’s heart from his chest. To save her teacher’s life, Ceony must face the evil magician and embark on an unbelievable adventure that will take her into the chambers of Thane’s still-beating heart — and reveal the very soul of the man.

From the imaginative mind of debut author Charlie N. Holmberg, The Paper Magician is an extraordinary adventure both dark and whimsical that will delight readers of all ages.

There was so, so much potential in The Paper Magician. When I started reading, I was immediately struck by how much this read as if Gail Carriger had taken her hand at writing her version of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. It had Carriger's light-hearted feel, but instead of dealing with an urban fantasy, steampunk world, this is solidly grounded in the world of magic. I found the magic system Holmberg created for her world very original; magicians can manipulate and control man-made materials (paper, glass, metal), and once a magician is bonded to a material, that is the only material that they will be able to work with magically for the rest of their lives.

Where the book started to fall apart for me was almost at the beginning, as we follow Ceony, who has worked her way to the top of her class and was hoping to become a metal magician, but since there is a lack in paper magicians, it is decided for her to be apprenticed to paper magician, Thane. However, within about a chapter, she decides that possibly she was wrong about Thane and paper magic, and seems to already be falling for him. I felt at this point I had missed some chapters; things were proceeding way too quickly to get to the main conflict of the story, and here is where Holmberg redeemed herself for me.

An Excisioner, a magician who can control blood magic (which is also highly illegal), attacks Thane and literally rips the beating heart out of his chest. Despite having almost no practice or accomplishment beyond a basic understanding of paper magic, Ceony folds a paper heart for Thane and places it in his chest, keeping him alive for a short amount of time. What follows here is what impressed me with Holmberg, as Ceony actually enters Thane's heart, where she is privy to his aspects of his life. This is actually something that I have never read the like of before and found it very intriguing. The entire concept was wildly original, at least to me. The entire second half of the book really showed Holmberg's strengths as a writer, but I'm fairly certain the first half of the book would have benefited from being about twice as long.

So, I'm very middle of the road with this book. Holmberg clearly has a grasp on her story and what she wants to tell, she just rushes too quickly to get to the point. I'll be picking up the second book to check it out, but if things are rushed again like they are in the first, I'll probably be stopping there. Like I said, Holmberg shows quite a bit of potential but she needs to work on fleshing out the bits in between the action of her books.

To purchase any of the books in this post, and help my local Indie bookstore, and help me buy more books, click the links above!

the little c: update

Things have been looking very promising. My numbers have been slowly returning to normal, which means the chemo is doing what it's supposed to be, regardless of the effects that it's having on my body. Things have been going along as scheduled until this week, when I found out that my white blood cell count dropped significantly from last week, so the chemo session I was supposed to be starting today was pushed back at least a week until my body recovers, as a round of chemo would probably kill my immune system. **sigh**

On the plus side, I'll have plenty of time to read for the next couple of weekends! Silver lining!!

Happy reading!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Not My Father's Son: A Memoir by Alan Cumming

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Title: Not My Father's Son: A Memoir
Author: Alan Cumming
Copyright: 2014
Pages: 304
ISBN: 9780062225061
Publisher: Dey Street Books
Twitter: @Alancumming, @deystreet
Format: Arc provided from publisher for honest review
Available: October 7, 2014
Rating: 4/5 stars

Product description:
In his unique and engaging voice, the acclaimed actor of stage and screen shares the emotional story of his complicated relationship with his father and the deeply buried family secrets that shaped his life and career.

A beloved star of stage, television, and film—“one of the most fun people in show business” (Time magazine)—Alan Cumming is a successful artist whose diversity and fearlessness is unparalleled. His success masks a painful childhood growing up under the heavy rule of an emotionally and physically abusive father—a relationship that tormented him long into adulthood.

When television producers in the UK approached him to appear on a popular celebrity genealogy show in 2010, Alan enthusiastically agreed. He hoped the show would solve a family mystery involving his maternal grandfather, a celebrated WWII hero who disappeared in the Far East. But as the truth of his family ancestors revealed itself, Alan learned far more than he bargained for about himself, his past, and his own father.

With ribald humor, wit, and incredible insight, Alan seamlessly moves back and forth in time, integrating stories from his childhood in Scotland and his experiences today as a film, television, and theater star. At times suspenseful, deeply moving, and wickedly funny, Not My Father’s Son will make readers laugh even as it breaks their hearts.

Not My Father's Son is a touching, funny, and sometimes disturbing memoir from Alan Cumming. He makes no qualms about the abuse his father inflicted upon him as a child. What he didn't discover until much later in his life, due to a series of events in his life that read almost like a soap opera, is why his father abused him so much. The events that Cumming describes almost seem too bizarre to be taken seriously, and if this were a work of fiction, I'd have doubts as to the level of disbelief the author expects me to suspend. However, these events did happen, and for all the grief and upset that Cumming describes in his memoir, he finally emerges as a healthier and happier person.

The memoir isn't always easy to read, especially if you have trouble reading about child abuse, as Cumming suffered from his fair share. However, he balances these events with witty and downright funny episodes from his life. There's nothing special here, other than an honest look into Alan Cumming's life and the how the man he is today was created.

To purchase any of the books in this post, and help my local Indie bookstore, and help me buy more books, click the links above!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Supernatural Enhancements by Edgar Cantero

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Title: The Supernatural Enhancements
Author: Edgar Cantero
Copyright: 2014
Pages: 368
ISBN: 9780385538152
Publisher: Doubleday
Twitter: @doubledaypub, @punkahoy
Format: Hardcover
Available: August 12, 2014
Rating: 5/5 stars

Product description:
A mesmerizing novel...what begins as a gothic ghost story soon evolves into a wickedly twisted treasure hunt in The Supernatural Enhancements, Edgar Cantero's wholly original, modern-day adventure.

When twentysomething A., the European relative of the Wells family, inherits a beautiful, yet eerie, estate set deep in the woods of Point Bless, Virginia, it comes as a surprise to everyone—including A. himself. After all, he never knew he had a "second cousin, twice removed" in America, much less that his eccentric relative had recently committed suicide by jumping out of the third floor bedroom window—at the same age and in the same way as his father had before him . . .

Together with A.’s companion, Niamh, a mute teenage punk girl from Ireland, they arrive in Virginia and quickly come to feel as if they have inherited much more than just a rambling home and an opulent lifestyle. Axton House is haunted... they know it...but the presence of a ghost is just the first of a series of disturbing secrets they slowly uncover. What led to the suicides? What became of the Axton House butler who fled shortly after his master died? What lurks in the garden maze – and what does the basement vault keep? Even more troubling, what of the rumors in town about a mysterious yearly gathering at Axton House on the night of the winter solstice?

Told vividly through a series of journal entries, cryptic ciphers, recovered security footage, and letters to a distant Aunt Liza, Edgar Cantero has written an absorbing, kinetic and highly original supernatural adventure with classic horror elements that introduces readers to a deviously sly and powerful new voice.

I'm having a difficult time describing how much I enjoyed this book. When I'd read The Girl with All the Gifts, I didn't really think I was going to be reading another book this year that I enjoyed as much. The Supernatural Enhancements has a little bit of everything I love in a great book: slightly paranormal/supernatural premise, a mystery, Gothic in feeling & tone, intriguing characters, perfect pacing, even an eccentric aunt!

I honestly can't go into detail in saying anything about the book without giving much away. The story follows A. (the only name he goes by), who has inherited an estate from an unknown, wealthy relative, he and his mute friend, Niamh, travel to the States to take up residence and try to figure out why he was bequeathed the estate. Told through a series of diary entries, letters, transcripts of video and audio footage, and various other sources (which put me in mind of Marisha Pessl's Night Film, we follow A. and Niamh as they discover more and more clues related to the mysterious history of both his unknown relative, Ambrose Wells, and the estate of Axton House.

I absolutely can't recommend this book enough. This will be the perfect book to curl up on the couch with a hot cuppa and read during the windy, chilled months leading up to winter. Happy reading!

To purchase any of the books in this post, and help my local Indie bookstore, and help me buy more books, click the links above!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Dan Mishkin and Jerzy Drozd discuss their graphic documentary, The Warren Commission Report: A Graphic Investigation into the Kennedy Assassination

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Dan Mishkin (l) and Jerzy Drozd (r) discuss the different ways they presented multiple points of view.

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Dan Mishkin & Jerzy Drozd stopped by Schuler Books this evening to promote the release of their new book, The Warren Commission Report: A Graphic Investigation into the Kennedy Assassination. I thoroughly enjoyed this discussion. These guys clearly did their research when preparing the book. They discussed their storytelling process, how they were able to show multiple points of view from different parties and their various and differing recollections of the assassination. They are also able to tell the story in past tense, present-past tense, and present tense, and while it sounds confusing as hell, it actually works seamlessly. I found the entire talk fascinating. I would definitely like to see more collaborations of this sort between these guys.

To purchase any of the books in this post, and help my local Indie bookstore, and help me buy more books, click the links above!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Peter S. Beagle - need I say more?

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Peter S. Beagle is currently on tour promoting a newly remastered edition of the animated classic based on his noel, The Last Unicorn. Same friends and I were lucky enough to be able to get tickets to his stop in Chicago at the Music Box Theater. Peter was generous enough to sign every single book that we brought to the signing, and took time out to talk to every single person in line. He even recited Dr. Seuss' "Too Many Daves" while he was signing my books! It was a magical evening. He's scheduled to be in Michigan in 2016, and you can believe I'll be there again to see him!

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Peter Beagle signing my books!

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Peter Beagle during the Q&A

To purchase any of the books in this post, and help my local Indie bookstore, and help me buy more books, click the links above!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Thursday, September 25, 2014

WTF, Evolution?!: A Theory of Unintelligible Design by Mara Grunbaum

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Title: WTF, Evolution?!: A Theory of Unintelligible Design
Author: Mara Grunbaum
Copyright: 2014
Pages: 272
ISBN: 9780761180340
Publisher: Workman Publishing Company
Author Website:
Twitter: @maragrunbaum, @wtf_evolution, @WorkmanPub
Format: Paperback (received an advance copy in exchange for a fair review)
Available: October 7, 2014
Rating: 4/5 stars

Product description:
We all have our off days. Why should Evolution be any different? Maybe Evolution got carried away with an idea that was just a little too crazy—like having the Regal Horned Lizard defend itself by shooting three-foot streams of blood from its eyes. Or maybe Evolution ran out of steam (Memo to Evolution: The Irrawaddy Dolphin looks like a prototype that should have been left on the drawing board). Or maybe Evolution was feeling cheeky—a fish with hands? Joke’s on you, Red Handfish! Or maybe Evolution simply goofed up: How else to explain the overgrown teeth of the babirusas that curl backward over their face? Oops.

Mara Grunbaum is a very smart, very funny science writer who celebrates the best—or, really, the worst—of Evolution’s blunders. Here are more than 100 outlandish mammals, reptiles, insects, fish, birds, and other creatures whose very existence leaves us shaking our heads and muttering WTF?! Ms. Grunbaum’s especially brilliant stroke is to personify Evolution as a well-meaning but somewhat oblivious experimenter whose conversations with a skeptical narrator are hilarious.

For almost 4 billion years, Evolution has produced a nonstop parade of inflatable noses, bizarre genitalia, and seriously awkward necks. What a comedian!

This is a clever and funny collection of photographs of some of Nature's more obscure and bizarre creatures of all shapes and sizes, presented as a collection of photographs with accompanying dialogue between an unnamed narrator and Evolution. Evolution, often excited and anxious to show off it's newest creations, is often questioned, much to the reader's delight, by the narrator who is trying to figure out what exactly Evolution had in mind. Separated into chapters such as "Awkward Solutions" and "Half-Assed Attempts", we are presented with a wide array of creatures that does make one wonder what exactly was going on in the evolutionary process.

One of the reasons I enjoyed this book as much as I did is that I was introduced to a variety of animals that I had never heard of before, and while they are presented in a comedic fashion, I found myself researching a little more about them, beyond the humorous information presented in the book. One such creature is the whitemargin stargazer, a fish found in the Indopacific oceans, which I think looks like something that actually belongs Beyond the Wall.

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Mara Grunbaum has done a great job of presenting some of nature's more unique specimens, disguising some very interesting information about them is a humorous format that is both comical and informative. Check out her tumblr at for even more of Evolution's craziness.

WTF, Evolution?!: A Theory of Unintelligible Design by Mara Grunbaum will be available on October 7, 2014, from Workman Publishing Company.

To purchase any of the books in this post, and help my local Indie bookstore, and help me buy more books, click the links above!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Paige Rawl discusses her debut memoir, Positive: A Memoir

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Paige Rawl stopped by Schuler Books earlier this evening to promote the release of her new book, Positive: A Memoir. I was so impressed by this young girl's courage and all that she has overcome in her life living with HIV.

To purchase any of the books in this post, and help my local Indie bookstore, and help me buy more books, click the links above!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin

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Title: A Game of Thrones
Series: A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 1
Author: George R. R. Martin
Narrator: Roy Dotrice
Copyright: 1996
Pages: 831
ISBN: 9780553573404
Publisher: Bantam
Available: January 1, 1996
Rating: 5/5 stars

Not much more I can add to the discussion on this book. I'm surprised by how much I enjoyed listening to it, and am looking forward to listening to the rest in the series.

From what I remember watching the first season of the HBO series, they followed along with the book fairly faithfully. Nothing jumped out as a radical change, so if you're wanting to get into the series through either the books or the show but don't want to commit to the books, I think watching the show will give you the same story in a slightly condensed version.

To purchase any of the books in this post, and help my local Indie bookstore, and help me buy more books, click the links above!

Monday, August 18, 2014

the little c

Hi kids.

Sorry I've been MIA for a while now, but I've had a lot going on lately. After numerous months of testing, last Wednesday I was diagnosed with Lymphoplasmacytic Lymphoma, stage 4. It sounds scary, but in the grand scheme of cancers, it's not considered a Big C, just a little c (according to my oncologist). I'm starting chemo this Wednesday or Thursday, which should go on for about 4 1/2 months, and then my oncologist is convinced that I'll be just fine and it will be totally manageable and I'll probably not have to worry about it anymore. Fingers crossed, right?

I've been reading, but it's been sporadic, and I've slept most weekends away, so there hasn't been a lot of online time right now, so I hope everyone is doing well and reading lots of fabulous books! I'll stop in when I can and leave some updates.

Happy reading, everybody!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Tin Star by Cecil Castellucci

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Title: Tin Star
Author: Cecil Castellucci
Copyright: 2014
Pages: 240
ISBN: 9781596437753
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Author Website:
Twitter: @MacKidsBooks, @misscecil
Format: Hardcover
Available: February 25, 2014
Rating: 4/5 stars

Tula Bane and her family are on their way to settle a new human colony, until she begins to question Brother Blue, the leader of their colonizing cult, who then beats her supposedly to death and leaves her stranded on the Yertina Feray space station, which is basically the ghetto of the galaxy. The only human on the space station, Tula needs to learn very quickly how to navigate the social & political workings of the numerous alien species on the space station, where Tula is considered the lowest of the low, being a human. Eventually she befriends Heckleck and learns how to work the criminal element of the space station to her advantage. As Tula continues to research what happened to the rest of the colonists under Brother Blue, she begins to uncover an intergalactic conspiracy and finds herself soon embroiled right in the middle of it.

Cecil Castellucci has described Tin Star as a retelling of Casablanca, which I completely missed until she pointed it out at a signing that I attended at my local Indie. Regardless, I really enjoyed Tin Star. The writing is solid and the characters are varied and solidly fleshed out. It's very clear that Castellucci has done her research, and the science behind the science fiction is firmly grounded in reality. With the way the book ended, I know that there's got to be at least a second book released eventually, and I'm certain that I'll be picking it up when it is.

To purchase any of the books in this post, and help my local Indie bookstore, and help me buy more books, click the links above!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Thorn Jack: A Night and Nothing Novel by Katherine Harbour

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Title: Thorn Jack: A Night and Nothing Novel
Series: Night and Nothing Novels, Book 1
Author: Katherine Harbour
Copyright: 2014
Pages: 352
ISBN: 9780062286727
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Author Website:
Twitter: @HarperVoyagerUS, @katharbour
Format: Digital copy supplied from Edelweiss for an honest review
Available: June 24, 2014
Rating: DNF

I tried very, very hard to like this book. Really, I did. It seemed like it should be something that I would like, but the more I read, the less I liked. Maybe the prose was just a little too purple for my liking? Maybe the book was just a little too "new adult"? To be honest, I haven't read much in the "new adult" genre (or however it's called - personally, I'm not even entirely sold on the idea of "new adult" being a thing), but I have to think that possibly this is a publishing trend that I'm going to be able to skip.

The story revolves around Finn who, with her father, has moved to a small town in upstate New York after her sister's suicide to attend art school. As she begins to settle in and find her place amongst the eccentrics of the town, Finn finds herself a small group of friends, and finds herself attracted to the mysterious Jack Fata, a member of the richest family in the small town. It would seem that Jack and his family have some ties to the Fae, and that Jack has an infatuation for Finn, but somewhere along this plot thread, I totally lost any momentum in the story. Everything was becoming too muddled in atmospheric situations and random encounters.

I have no doubt that the book will end up doing well. I can tell that for the right crowd, this book is going to be very popular, but it just wasn't working for me. I wouldn't even go so far as to not recommend it to people. The writing is solid, and Harbour clearly has an idea where her story is going. For the right reader, this book will be fantastic.

To purchase any of the books in this post, and help my local Indie bookstore, and help me buy more books, click the links above!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Lost Children of the Far Islands by Emily Raabe

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Title: Lost Children of the Far Islands
Author: Emily Raabe
Copyright: 2014
Pages: 288
ISBN: 9780375870910
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Author Website:
Twitter: @HMHKids, @randomhouse, @ecraabe
Format: Hardcover (provided from publisher for an honest review)
Available: April 8, 2014
Rating: 4/5 stars

As I approached recently to be a part of Emily Raabe's blog tour for her debut middle grade fantasy novel, Lost Children of the Far Islands, I thought I'd like to be a part of the tour, especially after learning what Emily and her husband are doing. From Boulder, CO to Burlington, VT, they are going on a road trip to visit local, independent bookstores and blogging about their adventures. Isn't that a cool idea? I hadn't heard of her book before, so I'm also always looking for new authors to discover as well, so for me, this was a win-win situation; I get to read a new author, and support her in an amazing adventure!

It turns out that Lost Children of the Far Islands is actually a charming book! It follows the adventures of twins Gus & Leo and their younger sister, Ila, who are whisked off to a remote island off the coast of Maine when their mother falls mysteriously ill. On the island, under the guidance of their grandmother, the Morai, the discover that they are actually descendents of the Folk, magical creatures who can change from human form to that of an animal. It also comes to light that their mother is ill because she's been trying to protect them from the Dobhar-chu, the King of the Black Lakes, who will do anything to break free of his prison (where the Morai has been keeping him in check), and return to power.

Steeped in actual mythological lore, Raabe's book is plenty full of magic and adventure, but it's also full of well-polished characters. We get to see the first hand impressions of the children as they begin to become acquainted with their animal forms, and it's clear that Raabe put a lot of research into the marine life that she presents in her story. The kids themselves also act their various ages, and I liked the quirky tightness of their family. Personally, I think this is a great book for kids and highly recommend it for young readers!

To purchase any of the books in this post, and help my local Indie bookstore, and help me buy more books, click the links above!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Bluffton by Matt Phelan

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Title: Bluffton
Author: Matt Phelan
Copyright: 2013
Pages: 240
ISBN: 9780763650797
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Author Website:
Twitter: @candlewick, @MattPhelanDraws
Format: Hardcover
Available: July 23, 2013
Rating: 3/5 stars

Matt Phelan's love letter to Buster Keaton and the summers he spent in Muskegon, MI, as a youngster in the early 1900s, Bluffton is a cute little book, the pictures are charming, but really, for me, this is a one trick pony. There is nothing here that is going to bring me back to this story. Will it be good for kids? Not sure. I don't have kids of my own, so I don't know if this would work for them, but I don't know that the kids around me that I do know what really get to much out of this book. I think this is definitely made more for adults who lived during these times in Muskegon and would like a walk down memory lane. This is definitely not a bad story, just ultimately not for me.

To purchase any of the books in this post, and help my local Indie bookstore, and help me buy more books, click the links above!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Adventures of the Princess and Mr. Whiffle: The Dark of Deep Below by Patrick Rothfuss, illustrated by Nate Taylor

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Title: The Adventures of the Princess and Mr. Whiffle: The Dark of Deep Below
Series: The Adventures of the Princess and Mr. Whiffle, Book 2
Author: Patrick Rothfuss, illustrated by Nate Taylor
Copyright: 2014
Pages: 159
ISBN: 9781596066199
Publisher: Subterranean Press
Author Website:
Artist Website:
Twitter: @PatrickRothfuss, @subpress
Format: Hardcover
Available: November 30, 2013
Rating: 3/5 stars

Continuing the adventures of the Princess and her stuffed bear, Mr. Whiffle, The Dark of Deep Below delves a little more into her life and family dynamic (such as discovering that the Princess does in fact have parents, a trifling fact that seemed to be missing from the first volume). This time around, the Princesses little brother is kidnapped by goblins, and the Princess must decide whether she goes to rescue him or not, because she's really not that sure that she likes having a little brother in the first place. As with the first volume, there are 3 different endings that you can choose from and decide for yourself how you would want the story to end. And yes, these look like children's books, but they ARE NOT FOR CHILDREN. Nope, not at all.

Rothfuss and Taylor have taken their precocious character and her stuffed teddy and given them a longer, more involved story this time around, but somehow it didn't seem to live up to the first story for me. I more or less knew that there was going to be a twist at the end, and while I didn't foresee what exactly it was, knowing it was coming slightly downplayed it for me. Still, this is one of the more unique picture books you'll find out there for adults (seriously, don't read this to your kids!), so it's still worth reading, especially if you enjoyed the first one.

To purchase any of the books in this post, and help my local Indie bookstore, and help me buy more books, click the links above!