[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] Persephone, stuck in boarding school

Book Review: My Ex From Hell by Tellulah Darling

exfromhellI don’t always read YA books, but when I do, they usually have something to do with Greek mythology. So when I saw this book’s premise, I had to give it a read:

When, in the middle of a revenge prank, Sophie ends up kissing a handsome stranger, sparks fly and she gets flashes of a past life as a Greek goddess. Oh, and the guy she’s kissing may or may not be her ex from her time being a prisoner in Hades, the Greek underworld. Oh, and the Olympus Powers That Be may want her dead.

Just another day in boarding school. Continue reading

[Advance Book Review] Taste of Darkness by Maria V. Snyder

(Healer #3)

Taste of Darkness (Healer, #3)This book starts off right where the last one left off. Which is good news if you remember who was dying on the last couple of pages of Touch of Power. 

We dive straight back into the world of the Fifteen Realms and the whole everyone-wants-to-kill Avry thing. And by “everyone,” I mean “four or so armies.” Avry’s beloved Kerrick is missing (again), Prince Rayne wants to use her as bait (again), she can’t stop dreaming about evil psychopath King Tohon, her sister is still missing, and the deadly plague is back.

Remember how I gave A Touch of Power, the first book in this series, an ecstatic, all-five canary rating? Then do you remember the three, somewhat apologetic canaries on my review for book two, Scent of Magic?

I loved the first book. The second left me lukewarm. And after a couple days sitting on my reader response to Taste of Darkness, I have finally figured out what went wrong with this third and final novel in the Healer trilogy.

Where the first book gave us a single plot and an impossible romantic subplot that somehow worked. Then the second book started splitting up the story into several plots. And here, the subplots have officially taken over, New Feline World Order style, taking Taste of Darkness away from that single-plot paradigm that made us fall in love with Avry to an epic fantasy set-up condensed into one tiny book. It’s a novel full of sidequests. And the characters are rewarded for those sidequests with unexpected video-game-level-convenient bounties that just happen to be what they need to solve their other problems.

But I kinda think that’s something that just happens when you leave six major villains to be taken down over the course of one, short book.  The buildup to each encounter just…isn’t satisfying enough. And then, many side quests later, the story ends with an anticlimactic final battle and final sacrifice. Don’t worry, I won’t spoil it.

For those who love the second book in the series for flipping between being in Avry’s head half the time, and then following Kerrick around for the other half, good news! This book does it again. For all of us who thought it was annoying and distracting, bad news! This book does it again.

And this kinda carries over to the rest of the book, too. It’s a book for the fan – if you enjoyed books 1 and 2, you’ll appreciate the merry band getting together, the romance, Avry’s brave (if foolhardy) decisions that keep getting her in trouble, and, well, stuff.

And if you haven’t read any of these books, go back and check out A Touch of Power (Healer 1) by Maria V. Snyder because it is all sorts of fun.

Book for review provided by Harlequin MIRA.
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[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.

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[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] Beautiful Creatures – again

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl

With the movie just out and TV spots flashing across the screen every five commercials, I couldn’t resist getting the book. Meg posted a Beautiful Creatures review a couple months back, so, since I agree with her on almost all the points, I’m gonna do my best to add some new couple of cents in this post.

So, Ethan is a small-town guy, desperately bored with his small town life in backwater Georgia. Then, one day, in an inversion of the usual paranormal romance trope, a new girl comes to town. Lena’s different – maybe even dangerous – with dark rumors swirling around her. And Ethan can’t help but be drawn to her.

She tells him that they can’t be together because they’re from two different worlds, and it’s not until he’s way in over his head that he discovers that she means that in the most literal sense of the word. Continue reading