[Book Review] Why rich fairy godfathers really are too good to be true

Book Review: Strands of Bronze and Gold by Jane Nickerson

This book is so far off my usual beaten reading path that I can’t even. But it caught my eye both for the cover (yeah, yeah, I know) and for the blurb. The book bills itself as a retelling of the Bluebeard fairy tale.bronze-and-gold

Now, I couldn’t recall what the Bluebeard story was about (Was it the Grimm story in which the hero has to whittle a key out of a finger or – ?) but if there’s anything I love more than pretty covers, it’s retellings of classic stories. So I got myself the book.

Turns out, Bluebeard is a French folktale by Charles Perrault: Girl forced to marry rich nobleman. Discovers rich nobleman keeps the corpses of his wives in the basement. Nobleman tries to kill girl. Girl’s family kills nobleman. Girl inherits big.

You know, the stuff Disney movies are made of. Or Lifetime movies.

The story takes this framework, shakes it out, and modernizes it for the pre-Civil War U.S. South. It also ramps up the creepy factor.

In this version, spirited red-head Sophie has left her humble home and siblings to live with her insanely-rich and super-generous plantation-owning godfather, Monsieur Bernard de Cressac. Once Sophie arrives at his Mississippi estate, the 17-year-old is lavished with everything she could wish and wants for nothing. But since this is a book, we know that’s not what’s going to happen. Because who gets their happily ever after on page 2? Continue reading

[Book Review] There’s a zombie inside us all, and it wants out

Parasite by Mira Grant

Parasite (Parasitology, #1)

Talk about a perfect Halloween read! I sat down on October 31st to read this, and just blazed through it. Next time I looked up, it was hours later, long after dark, and I had zombies on my brain. Zombies. Zommbbbiiiieeeees!

Enter Sally, a survivor of a horrific crash who wakes up with no memory of her life before the car accident. (YES! Amnesia plots are my favorite.) She’s a miracle survivor, so for the last six years, as she’s slowly re-learned who her family is, who she is, and even how to speak, she’s been a bit of a natural science experiment for the company whose medical breakthrough (a living tapeworm-like implant that fixes your body) made her survival possible.

But the company (and the government for whom her father works) are keeping secrets, and as people start collapsing from a mysterious sleeping sickness – and saying her name! – Sal finds herself caught right in the middle of it.

I’m no zombie fan. Never. But this wasn’t really a zombie story. It was a speculative (medical?) suspense thriller full of corporate machinations, amnesia, and…a side-plot of zombie apocalypse. Mira Grant is a master of suspense, putting me on the edge of my seat in anticipation that just built and built as Sal navigates her life, her turbulent relationship with who people tell her she used to be, and all the medical tests she has to take. The take on zombies is also novel and intriguing. It’s medicine run amok, humans overreaching, the guilty in denial, and a moral question of whether the zombie cure is worse than murder. Continue reading

[Book Review] Shiver, or how one girl’s wolf obsession turns uncreepy when wolf becomes a boy

Shiver (The Wolves of Mercy Falls, #1)

Hey, an angsty teen romance I didn’t hate. What? Whaaat?

I keep swinging between two emotional extremes when it comes to this book. On the one hand, Shiver is so cute! It is sweet, and cute, and full of purple prose and sad lyrics and little poems. And cute.

On the other hand, it’s so stupid. Oh the inexplicable plot holes. Oh the silly beginning. Oh how you want to grab the characters and shake them till they do something™ about the obvious story devices being put into play. Oh how you want Sam to stop making up little sad song lyrics. Oh the crazy annoying ending.  Continue reading

[Book Review] Crimson Crown and the book review that wasn’t

Note from the desk of CanaryTheFirst: I was browsing ancient drafts in the depths of our reading coal mines when I came across this review from theothercanary. It’s about time for it to see the light of day!

Book review: The Crimson Crown by Cinda Williams Chima

The Crimson Crown (Seven Realms, #4)I started reading this book, but abandoned it for meatier tales like Dresden. When I finally got back to it, I thought that’d I’d made it at least halfway through. Imagine my horror to reopen it on my Nook to discover that I was on the paltry page 68. Out of 448. I almost abandoned it again in favor of rereading Behemoth for the zillionth time.

EDIT: I wrote that much as an intro while I was still reading the book. Then on page 240, I did abandon the book to read Behemoth again. And Cold Days. And Beautiful Creatures. And Deadline. And a whole schlew of nonfiction goodies. And upon trying to return to this book, I simply couldn’t make myself do it.

Based on the stellar ratings on GoodReads, I’m among a small minority who did not utterly and completely love this book. I can see why so many love the Seven Realms stories. I did too. You can read my reviews of past books here:

But as far as the Crimson Crown goes, it’s time for me to declare this book a dead canary.

[Advanced Book Review] Battle Magic by Tamora Pierce

Battle Magic by Tamora Pierce

Release date: September 24, 2013

Battle Magic (Circle Reforged, #3)There are just a couple days left before Battle Magic comes out! We got a bit of a tease about what happens in this book in Will of the Empress (2005) and Melting Stones (2007), both of which happen chronologically after Battle Magic. But now we get all those blanks filled in. When nature mages Briar, Rosethorn, and Evvy stop by the emperor’s summer palace as honored guests, they discover the Emperor’s plans to invade a neighboring country. In a race against time, the three mages have to figure out a way to escape the cruel Emperor’s court to warn their friends and allies of the impending attack.

We get wit, brutal tragedy, adventure, and fantastical creatures. Alongside the compelling characters and fun callbacks to previous books, we also get one of the emotionally heaviest books to date. Like, mass graves and a torture scene sort of heavy. Then again, Pierce has never shied away from intensity in her YA, and each subsequent book has pushed the envelope just a bit more. If you love this series (especially the last two books), this is a good addition. If the last couple books made you uncomfortable, then so will this one.

Speaking of books, Battle Magic is the third novel in the third series in the “Circle” universe. For those of you who haven’t read the books, here’s what you should know and more than you ever thought to needed to know. (If you’ve read the books, skip down!) Continue reading

[Book Watching] Upcoming Movies – New Divergent trailer

The official Divergent trailer has hit the internet last week, and the canaries are all a-twitter. Set to hit the big screen in March 2014, we still have a bit of a wait, made only slightly more bearable by the upcoming October 2013 release of the Allegiant, the third book in Veronica Roth’s Divergent series.

The trailer has that Hunger Games/Distopian vibe, so I look forward to seeing what director Neil Burger will bring to the table. You might recognize his name from his fantasy-real-world crossover thrillers like Limitless and The Illusionist. The cast features the largely unknown lead actress Shailene Woodley as Tris, Kate Winslet as the ruthless Jeanine Matthews, and Theo James as Four, everyone’s favorite love interest.

More to the point, I want to see how the book’s impossible premise – all people are just one specific personality – plays out in the movie medium. Veronica Roth will also be speaking at this year’s National Book Festival, so I look forward to hearing about her upcoming novel and the movie.

Related posts:

[Book Review] An agent and an assassin go time traveling

The Reluctant Assassin (W.A.R.P., #1)

Chevie is seventeen and already an FBI agent – except ever since a mission went disastrously awry, the FBI has done its best to bury their not-very-legal underage agents program, and Chevie along with it. Now Chevie’s been banished to London, assigned to babysit an old house with a weird steampunk-looking pod.

Two hundred years away and into the past, Riley finds himself clutching a knife, with Garrick, his master, urging Riley to make his first kill as his assassin apprentice. Except, Riley’s first kill goes terribly awry, and he is suddenly on a collusion course with Chevie and her modern reality.

Take a pinch of time travel, a dash of two words colliding, a secret government program, and two spunky character. Then add a murderous villain obsessed with a betrayal, a gang of angry rams, and a conspiracy that goes back to the future and forward to the past. And it’s up to Riley and Chevie to team up and stop all the crazy. Continue reading

[Book Review] The Host, or the trials and tribulations of the victorious alien invader

The Host by Stephenie Meyer

The Host! A book I had absolutely no interest in reading but kinda liked anyway.

How did that happen? Well, see,  a few days ago, Meg and me, we were looking through upcoming movie releases. And our conversation went something like this:

Me: We should read The Host
Meg: I have been working on the unicorn demon story
  ug
  I know
  When does it come out?
Me: March, I think.
Meg: I call not dibs
\o/

While the real takeaway message of this conversation is “What unicorn demon story?”, I did fold to the inevitable and grabbed the 1,152 page paperback in preparation of the movie version of The Host coming out March 29. Whatzit about? Well, in the near, near future… Continue reading

[Advanced Book Review] Pantomime by Laura Lam

Pantomime by Laura Lam

Publication date: Feb 5 2013

I can’t even talk about this book. Every time I try to write this review, I immediately go into fits of sputtering rage. The whole story hinges on a single twist, one that, if revealed, ruins the gut punch of the book. But the twist is also what makes the such an unexpected and utter joy to read. I have never read a hero like that presented in Pantomime. And it’s left me positively aching for more.

This is where I would talk about the book, but I pretty much can’t. No plot, no characters, nothing. I’ve never been so utterly vexed by a review before. I’ve also never felt so compelled to not talk about a twist in a story before, because I can’t stand the idea of ruining it for even one person. (Except Canary the First, who never gets the privilege of spoiler warnings.) So I’m just going to drop the official blurb in here so that I don’t slip up and reveal anything myself: Continue reading

[Small Chirp] Shoving our YA heroes out of the nest

A few mid-novel thoughts on Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor

“You are a Leopard Person only by the will of the Supreme Creator, and as we all know, She isn’t very concerned with Her own creations.” (Akata Witch, 96)

Akata Witch (Akata Witch, #1)This post will contain only a few, mild (and out-of-context) spoilers for the book.

I am halfway through Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor, a YA novel I am co-reading with the lovely lady McLicious over at comp lit and mediaphilia. When I started reading it, I wasn’t sure what to expect – I know precious little about Nigerian folklore, and only a little bit more about the culture and political situation in the country.  So far, the things that have really caught my eye (and imagination) are the small details woven into the narrative that are different from what I’ve come to expect from the YA adventure. Continue reading