Z is for Zielin, Lara

The Waiting Sky by Lara Zielin

Book 26 in A to Z challenge

Yay! We made it through the alphabet. To top the awesome month off, here is a random book I found at the library. I actually was going for a different author as I looked for potential books online before going to the local small library, but when I saw this one, it had my attention and I decided to read it instead.

About the Book: One summer chasing tornadoes could finally change Jane's life for the better

Seventeen-year-old Jane McAllister can't quite admit her mother's alcoholism is spiraling dangerously out of control until she drives drunk, nearly killing them and Jane's best friend.

Jane has only one place to turn: her older brother Ethan, who left the problems at home years ago for college. A summer with him and his tornado-chasing buddies may just provide the time and space Jane needs to figure out her life and whether it still includes her mother. But she struggles with her anger at Ethan for leaving home and feels guilty--is she also abandoning her mom just when she needs Jane most? The carefree trip turned journey of self-discovery quickly becomes more than Jane bargained for, especially when the devilishly handsome Max steps into the picture.

My review: I didn't know what to expect from the book other than tornadoes and I was pleasantly surprised. In fact, I managed to read the book in just a couple of days, reading most of it on one of my days off. Okay, I partly hurried because it was due back the 24th and I also had to read Uglies by the 24th, but the book made it easy to accomplish. 

After an incident caused by her mom's drinking, Jane gets the courage to take a summer away from home, to gain some distance though she's determined it will be short term because her mother needs her. She has spent years being the one keeping them going, working hard and doing whatever she can to help her mother out. So naturally, the way to get away is to go chase tornadoes. Well, it's more her older brother happens to chase tornadoes and she likes taking pictures so spends the summer working for his crew as their photographer. From there we get tornadoes, cute boy from rival chaser team and drama. 

Yep, basically it's this:

It's like the movie Twister, but a young adult book version. Instead of the issues with divorce, the engagement to other woman and love triangle we get brother/sister dynamics, mom's drinking issues, bet with other chase team, struggle in their chase team between brothers, and of course a romance with a guy from the other chase team. And even though the one guy in the book says he hates the movie, this is totally similar to Twister. I would image the author at least liked the movie (I liked it actually).  The brother's chase team even has a device they are creating which will help detect information about tornadoes in attempt to create better warning systems and help save more lives. So, it's definitely like the movie except...

No cow.

 Overall, it was a good book. Plus, it has a great cover and title. While I questioned a couple things within the book, like the device they were using dealing with pollution in the atmosphere around tornadoes, it didn't distract me from the main story, which was about Jane and trying to come to terms with her life. The romance was cute, though I guess I should expect some romance in most of these YA books, had some great moments but also had some drama. I recommend this for anyone wanting to check out a young adult book with storm chasing and dealing with contemporary issues such as family drama and alcoholism. It is a good read.

Reviewed by:
Dawn Embers

Y is for Yaoi

Yaoi - manga and anime

Books 25 in http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com/p/a-to-z-challenge-sign-uplist-2014.html

Since I write a fair amount of m/m, I have also come to appreciate Yaoi and Shouned-ai manga along with the animated versions. It's a very different form of story telling, the images and text compared to a novel, but I find them enjoyable once I figure out what the heck is going on, lol. But first I must add due to the nature of the images found in Yaoi:

Okay, better. Yes, Yaoi does get graphic and there are pictures. So it pretty much puts the Graphic in Graphic Novels, lol. And to be honest, I sometimes skim over the sexual images because that's not what I'm reading the story for, plus you don't need to stare at it much to know what is going on so they are easy to skim. What I read for is the plot and what puts the boys together. As a writer of boy/boy stories, it's nice to see what is already out there and while there aren't a ton of gay young adult or even adult books (there are some though), a fair amount exists in the world of manga.

It took me a while to get used to reading them. First off, the free manga sites like to slow my computer down. So, that doesn't help, but also... there are lots of pages and when I first tried, I didn't know the read right to left, or the whole how to interpret story through small bits of writing on top of images. But I'm getting better at it.

Then there is the trick. Fan art is fun and can show different series I'd never heard of before. But most of the time, an image of two boys kissing may not actually exist in the manga. Have to figure out if someone is posting an image from the manga, or if they are just doing fan art, as I have been tricked before.

If looking for less graphic, try searching Shounen-ai instead of Yaoi, but I'll be honest, some intermix cause I've seen some graphic content listed under the lighter one that could totally have been called Yaoi.

Also, like some romance (from what I've read on other blogs) at times in Yaoi the question of consent gets a little questionable. I'm not a big fan of force and then the whole "if they like it, it's okay," cause well... No. Don't do that. I'd like to see more where the conflict isn't "OMG how can I do stuff with a guy" and see more that are okay with being gay but other issues arise. Only on occasion does the questionable consent work and some suffering is involved in that, like in Junjou Romantica. But enough of rambles, here are my favorite Yaoi that I've read so far.

Junjou Romantica (both manga and the animated version)

My favorite is the first pairing, the "Junjou Romantica" one. While the other two stories are okay, the confusion and innocence of the main character as he tries to come to terms with his romance with another male was by far the best. It's one of the few times where I don't get too bothered by the consent question, because at the very beginning it's not romance, but near the end, we see him saying he wants to be the guy's special someone. And Usami does struggle later with his actions from the beginning, so that was good to see. However, it does get a little old with him taking control all the time. One of my favorite ones, in the animated version and in the manga, was when Misaki tries to do the moves. He may have no idea what he is doing, but he tries. That was a big moment for him and one of my favorites. Followed close by the conversation in the Ferris wheel.  Such a cute couple. Though I need to finish reading the manga cause I wonder if the brother ever finds out what his little brother and his best friend have been up to all those years... hehe

Monochrome Factor (animated version, haven't read the manga yet)

This one is more obscure. I have a friend who works in the gaming industry and goes to many anime conventions and he'd never heard of it. The Yaoi in the anime version is also minimal. Just kissing so it's far less graphic as it doesn't get sexual, though there is violence because the main character has to fight shadow demons. Though at times I understood Akira's struggles when Shirgone kept professing love for him. He's never sure how he feels and has to deal with that long with demons attacking, being part shadow and not knowing much about his own future. He also has some awesome friends to help along the way as they fight the growing darkness that threatens their world. I've also heard the boy/boy factor was amped up for the animated version, so it may not be the same with the manga. In fact, I wish there was more of the animated show cause I liked Akira. And this is probably the only thing I've ever attempted writing fanfiction for, because I want more story. Should read the manga, I suppose.

Other yaoi manga that I've enjoyed includes:
Gokujou no Koibito
Hey, Class President
Cello Mellow
Love Neko

Special mention for Black Butler and Betrayal Knows My Name, both ones I need to finish that may not quite qualify as yaoi (depending who is doing the defining) but are awesome.

Reviewed by:
Dawn Embers

X is for Three Weeks with Lady X

Three Weeks with Lady X by Eloisa James

Book 24 in A to Z challenge

Three weeks with Lady X is a historical romance by Eloisa James and, I admit, was chosen because the character Lady X would fit this challenge. The other choice would have been Xenophon - but I decided you all would thank me if I skip the obscure Greek philosopher from 430 BC for some more modern regency romance.

I admit I dreaded it. I had read another book by Eloisa James and had hated it - so I did not relish a repeat. But then I told myself: Get on with it. To my own surprise, I loved it. Enough so that by now I have read the other six books in that series.

So, what is it about? Three Weeks with Lady X is the last in a long series called the Desperate Duchesses. It is the story of the illegitimate son of a Duke who decides he needs to marry - and Lady India, who specializes in bringing unsuitable houses, and Dukes, up to scratch. And whilst she tried to turn him into a man who would be welcome in the highest houses even though his birth is questionable, she... well, you can guess it.

As yet, that sounds like a fairly standard historic romance without anything special to it. What is special is the characters. They are not fragile little flowers - or stupid aristocrats who we are told are highly intelligent but who fall into one stupidity after another. They have wit and honour, humour and a fine sense of being alive. What the author manages is to create characters we can laugh with, we can understand, even from our 21st century perspective - but without letting them lose their regency life.

There are some historical inaccuracies - that is why it is called fiction, not a documentary. But overall she manages to show us the small practicalities of life, through the eyes of loveable, and loving, characters. These books are a welcome change for those who want to laugh, not cringe, when they read a regency novel - aware that what they are reading is some light entertainment, without being stupid. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Reviewed by:
Christine Blackthorn


W is for The Way of Kings

The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

Book 23 in A to Z challenge

Roshar is a world of stone and storms. Uncanny tempests of incredible power sweep across the rocky terrain so frequently that they have shaped ecology and civilization alike. Animals hide in shells, trees pull in branches, and grass retracts into the soiless ground. Cities are built only where the topography offers shelter.

It has been centuries since the fall of the ten consecrated orders known as the Knights Radiant, but their Shardblades and Shardplate remain: mystical swords and suits of armor that transform ordinary men into near-invincible warriors. Men trade kingdoms for Shardblades. Wars were fought for them, and won by them.

One such war rages on a ruined landscape called the Shattered Plains. There, Kaladin, who traded his medical apprenticeship for a spear to protect his little brother, has been reduced to slavery. In a war that makes no sense, where ten armies fight separately against a single foe, he struggles to save his men and to fathom the leaders who consider them expendable.


The Way of Kings is an interesting novel, in that its more than just a novel. Clocking in at just over 1,000 pages, it consists of 75 chapters, 9 short stories in the form of interludes, and a book worth of full-page illustrations throughout. It follows the stories of several characters in a fully-imagined and interesting world. The story is primarily about Kaladin, a soldier turned slave who is sold to Bridge Four, a bridge crew with a bad history. People are put on Bridge Four as punishment, and tend not to last very long.

The novel also follows Shallan Davar, a woman seeking to study under a heretic in an attempt to save her family, and Dalinar Kholin, a high prince on the Shattered Plains whose story sets up much of what appears to be the overarching story of the series.

Sanderson is not afraid to throw in more viewpoint characters, and some of them are just as interesting as the protagonists. The prelude is from the point of view of a Knight 5,000 years before the book. The prologue after it is from that of a Shin assassin wielding a shardblade and mysterious powers that affect gravity. The interludes, as well, introduce new viewpoint characters. Using throwaway viewpoints like this is something that can get out of hand (as it did in The Wheel of Time), but for the first book it was a useful tool for setting the stage, defining the scope and making the world feel real. I do hope it tones down a little, though, and sticks to the four main characters of the first book, Kaladin, Shallan, Dalinar and Szeth, the Shin assassin.

Sanderson, known well for his magic systems and worldbuilding, does not disappoint. The level of detail in this world is amazing (and sometimes annoying), and, as always, you can be sure the worlds various magic systems are all grounded in rules and logic.

Overall, The Way of Kings is a pretty great start to what promises to be a truly epic series that I know Ill have to have on my shelf. The second book, Words of Radiance, is out now, and I think Im going to go read it now.

Reviewed by:
Addison Smith

V is for Voltaire


Book 22 in A to Z challenge

Voltaire, or Franis-Marie Arouet, was a 18th century writer and philosopher best known for his sharp wit and contributions to the Enlightenment. His works are distinguished through their defence of the freedom of religion, freedom of speech and his support for the separation of church and state. His best known fictional work is Candide which was even made into a musical by Leonard Bernstein.

Candide is a satire about a young man, who, indoctrinated by his tutor, sees this world as perfect and has to live through a wide range of ever more outrageous, and funny, circumstances which seemingly challenge that view. Through robbery, murder, inquisition, betrayal, loss of love he has to find more and more contrived ways to justify how this world, and the narrow-minded selfishness in it, fits with his world view of perfection.

Candide is a clever parody, an attack on the core of the prevalent philosophical thinking as displayed by Leibnitz, who assures us that this must be the best of all worlds as God could not have created anything but. With laughter, sharp wit and, on occasion, a healthy shock, we follow through this satirical view of what it means to be willing to question everything. In the end we are, just as Candide, left with no proscribed philosophy which tells us what is right or wrong - but with a laughing admission that nothing can be taken for granted without giving it some rational thought.

Candide is a book for those who just want to laugh, and cry, whilst emerging themselves a little into the way the 17th century thought and wrote - and a book for those wanting to take a deeper look at the enlightenment and the source of our modern thinking. With its brevity it is a quick sojourn into a world we have almost forgotten but which has shaped our norms and constitutional perceptions.

Reviewed by:
Christine Blackthorn


U is for Uglies

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

Book 21 in A to Z challenge

I've had this book a long time. Many years and several people have recommended it. Well, I picked a fun time to read it because I had only a few days (after rushing Z so I could get it back to the library before it was due) to read all 400+ pages. My sister loved the whole series so I'd been meaning to read it for a while but having to rush made me worry a little because I wasn't sure how quick I could get through while enjoying reading it. I read it in 2 days.

About the book: Everybody gets to be supermodel gorgeous. What could be wrong with that?

Tally is about to turn sixteen, and she can't wait. Not for her license - for turning pretty. In Tally's world, your sixteenth birthday brings an operation that turns you from a repellent ugly into a stunningly attractive pretty and catapults you into a high-tech paradise where your only job is to have a really great time. In just a few weeks Tally will be there.

But Tally's new friend Shay isn't sure she wants to be pretty. She'd rather risk life on the outside. When Shay runs away, Tally learns about a whole new side of the pretty world and it isn't very pretty. The authorities offer Tally the worst choice she can imagine: find her friend and turn her in, or never turn pretty at all.

The choice Tally makes changes her world forever...

 My Review: Definitely a good book. I wasn't sure on where things were headed for a good part of it and I am okay with that. The whole world and concept was interesting with the operations at age sixteen, with both of them along with the characters keeping my attention. Though I will admit on occasion it was hard with the main character, but I think in ways that was helpful. Many of us writers worry about our readers liking the main character even when they had to make bad/tough decisions. And when it comes to promises to two different friends, there was no great choice for Tally to make. She had a long standing friend who became pretty first that she made a promise to, then she had her new friend Shay, who she made a counter promise too, which messes things up and that's just the beginning. Tally spends the book digging herself into a pretty big mess and while it's hard at time to root for a bit of deceptions, it's understandable in many ways.

It had quite a few surprises. I didn't expect the romance and in many ways Tally didn't expect it either. David made for an interesting character, once we got to know him a bit more. I'm glad it wasn't her, him and some other guy. The female friend made for a better angle, in my mind, when it came to conflict and it was much appreciated change of pace. Frienship had a very important role in the story, in fact.

I had to rush read this but I still feel that it didn't affect my experience of the story overall. Reading 300 pages in a single day isn't the most I've done in the last few years, but it made me want to keep reading, which helped. I don't often plan when I'll read sequels as I have so much to read, but I think I'll be finding book 2 some time this summer so that I can find out what happens next. I need to know!

This is a great book for people who read young adult novels or some who haven't quite checked them out because certain media coverage makes them leery. It has an interesting twist on the concept of beauty, self-esteem and what happens in a world where plastic surgery is normal.

Reviewed by:
Dawn Embers

T is for Tamora Pierce

Tamora Pierce, Author

Books 20 in A to Z Challenge

Instead of doing a regular book review. This time me and my sister are teaming up to talk about an author who influenced our reading as teens. As siblings we may have fought often and didn't have much in common, but when it came to books like those written by Tamora Pierce, we both had to read more. So, today we both reflect on this amazing author and her books we shared growing up.


The first Tamora Pierce book I ever read was Alanna’s First Adventure. I was in the 1st or 2nd grade and it started a life long love of both young adult fantasy and a following of an author one could only call: mentorial. The progression of each Tamora Pierce book I read can outline the way information was provided to me and the discovery and growth of technology in the late 90’s and early 2000’s.

For the Lioness Quartet, in which a young girl pretends to be her twin brother in order to train to be a Knight, I discovered each one in the aisle of my revered local elementary school’s library. I would read them during the after school program and it took me a long time because I was just learning to read. These were the first chapter books I ever read.

Then I graduated to the Immortals series (those brought a young woman who could speak to and take the shapes of animals) and book fairs. I would go every year in my schools library looking to see if there was a new Tamora Pierce book I had not read for me to purchase. It was so exciting. I never knew if I was going to go home with the prized possession of a new book.

By the time I started about Keladry and her fight for those smaller than her and her quest for Knighthood I was learning the power of Google. I discovered Tamora Pierces homepage where she listed future books (which I followed like it was a sacred prophecy) and it was a miracle. I could look up when  a new book was coming out and just go to Barnes and Noble to get it. After that I never missed a release date. Every Adventure of Tris, Sandry, Briar and Daja and they learned to control their ambient magic and train their students. I followed Bekka in the slums of the Lower City as she became a Provost’s Dog. But the one thing I miss the most is that excitement of going to the book fair… hoping that there would be that one new book. It’s a feeling of such innocent excitement that could never be replicated and in someway always knowing absolutely everything about the things you love can take away the joy. And in some way it can increase it. You can count down the days to the next book. You can dress up as your favorite character and show up the midnight of the release date. All that matter’s in the end is the sound of the spine of the book cracking when you turn that first page… or, if you are using an ereader, the button click I suppose.


I don't quite remember exactly when I found my first book by Tamora Pierce, though like my sister I started with Alanna. Girl with purple eyes, cat familiar and who wanted to become a knight to the point she pretended to be a boy? It had me hooked from the start. I want to say it was jr high, but I can't quite remember for sure but it was around that time or maybe 6th grade where I started reading female main character fantasy stories (including Juniper Game, Juniper and Wise Child though I thought Juniper came before Wise Child but that's a different rant).

Along with adoring Alanna (the first two books in particular out of that series), I also discovered the Immortals series. I've always been a fan of characters who have a connection to animals, whether magic or not, so this character grabbed my attention. I loved the concepts presented in the book and still today remember certain parts of the story, even a little of the romance. Though compared to shape-shifting, which meant not having clothes when returning to human form, I'm pretty sure I never had to endure anything quite as embarrassing even though growing up I never understood the courtship and relationships that many of my peers focused on. The wild magic presented in this series was interesting to me as well, along with the different character dynamics. Plus, the small place being able to fight thanks to the help of animals was just plain cool to me. I even considered taking parts of the story for policy debate to use in a negative file on anthropomorphism, but didn't get the chance.

However, unlike my sister, those are the only two series I have read, so far. I have a lot of catching up to do as during my teen years I got distracted by school, John Grisham, Dragonlance and the start of The Wheel of Time series. But what my sister didn't mention was something else we both experienced in relation to this topic. Thanks to her searching, she found a neat little conference held in Colorado (as not many conferences were in our state of Wyoming) that was geared towards women in fantasy, called Sirens. We both went and had the honor of meeting Tamora Pierce. I'm not a squeal type fangirl but I did a little inward, along with yay for first writing conference since I know write novels as well. Having Alanna's first book signed by the author was a great moment and seeing my sister get to meet someone she looked up to, well that made it even better.

How we found the books, where we finished or kept going, all that may vary. But these two sisters, and co-bloggers, both can agree on at least one thing. Tamora Pierce books are awesome, definite must reads for YA fantasy lovers and beyond.

S is for Sayer, Dorothy L

Dorothy L Sayer, Author

Book 19 in A to Z challenge

Dorothy L Sayers was one of the first women to receive a degree from Oxford - and then went on to write a series of detective novels which would become classics. She created a series of novels around the eccentric, and brilliant, accidental detective Lord Peter Wimsey - and later, the woman he tried to convince to marry him, Harriet Vane.

The books are a charming insight into England between and during the World Wars, an enchanting collection of who-dun-its with wit and sophistication - and towards the end surprising levels of romance.

What makes these books so fascinating - and engaging - are the levels of intelligence and culture interwoven with the characters. It is a window into the mind, and life, of deeply clever, and highly educated characters - in which the author never pretends to hide that high level of sophistication like a dirty secret. And still we are caught at every moment trying to figure out who did the dirty deed.

The series slips from pure intellectual enjoyment into something more emotionally engaging when the romance is introduced in Strong Poison. We fall in love with the detective a little here - because he falls in love with a woman whose life and existence had been unconventional at least.

Harriet Vane is an author of detective stories who is accused of killing her lover. Lord Peter Wimsey tries to save her from the gallows - and spends the next few cases, and years, trying to convince her to marry him.

The books, whilst written in the 1920s and 1930s, then were revived and developed further by a modern English writer, Jill Patton Walsh. So there are still new books, and new bodies, to be found today.

These books are not for the lowest common denominator, they are not for those scared of learning - but they are an utter joy for those who love to follow witty and intelligent characters. The emotions are believable and the characters utterly engaging. Within the books the reader can have a glimpse into a world long past, a society changed by two world wars - and fall in love a little bit.

Reviewed by:
Christine Blackthorn


R is for Revolt, She Said

Revolt, She Said by Julia Kristeva

Book 18 in A to Z Challenge

About the book: "May '68 in France expressed a fundamental version of freedom: not freedom to succeed, but freedom to revolt. Political revolutions ultimately betray revolt because they cease to question themselves. Revolt, as I understand it--psychic revolt, analytic revolt, artistic revolt--refers to a permanent state of questioning, of transformations, an endless probing of appearances." In this book, Julia Kristeva extends the definition of revolt beyond politics per se. Kristeva sees revolt as a state of permanent questioning and transformation, of change that characterizes psychic life and, in the best cases, art. For her, revolt is not simply about rejection and destruction--it is a necessary process of renewal and regeneration.

This is a sort of mid-read review as I haven't finished for it's not the easiest read. I take it a few pages a day in order to let Kristeva's words sink in. This also isn't fiction. So, it's different than most of the books we've reviewed so far this month. This book is definitely not for everyone. For me, I found it very interesting.

I've had a mild fascination with Kristeva ever since I found sections from her book Powers of Horror about abject while working on a policy debate file. It'd started off as me reading De Sade and trying to write a sado-masachism file or at least a response to another team's based on some of their evidence but once I found the information about abjection, I decided that was a better route to take.  It started with De Sade and lead to research on jouissance and that lead to a focus on abjection. Not all would find that interesting, but for me, I want to know more.

I picked Revolt, She Said because it starts with an R and unlike Power of Horror (which I do own and would like to read some day) it is only around 139 pages in length. It's more of a question/answer type of book, an intellectual interview as someone asks questions and Kristeva provides answers. Even though it's just text, at time you can hear the tone changes and attitude that some questions evoked. This made it all the better to read, though the discussions held my interest either way.

However, the 139 pages is one of the slower reads of the month, but not because of boredom by any means of the imagination. (The Floating Islands is in second place on slowness but that review won't be till May.) This is a book with deep answers and language that is intense that I had to savor a couple pages at a time. I found every answer fascinating and will need to read more. Hope to get Powers of Horror read in the future (though it's much longer than 139 pages with similar language and fascination).

It's not a book for everyone but if you have an interest in psychoanalysis, revolution, France and Julia Kristeva, it's a must read. 

Reviewed by:
Dawn Embers

Q is for Qamar, Amjed

Amjed Qamar, Author

Book 17 in  A to Z Challenge

About the Book: Nazia doesn't mind when her friends tease and call her a good beti, a dutiful daughter. Growing up in a working-class family in Karachi, Pakistan, Nazia knows that obedience is the least she can give to her mother, who has spent years saving and preparing for her dowry. But every daughter must grow up, and for fourteen-year-old Nazia that day arrives suddenly when her father gets into an accident at work, and her family finds themselves without money for rent or food.

Being the beti that she is, Nazia drops out of school to help her mother clean houses, all the while wondering when she managed to lose control of her life that had been full of friends and school. Working as a maid is a shameful obligation that could be detrimental to her future -- after all, no one wants a housekeeper for a daughter-in-law. As Nazia finds herself growing up much too quickly, the lessons of hardship that seem unbearable turn out to be a lot more liberating than she ever imagined.

 My Review: This is a quick read that I found in the library when trying to find a book for day Q and I'm glad that I did. I like reading a variety of books and young adult in particular because we get to see the struggles the YA character has to go through as they are trying to figure out life. Nazia is no different. She goes through a lot in her young teen years as things go from bad, after her father's accident, to worse. It's one thing after the other but she and her mother work hard in order to survive.

Though the description of the book focuses on the main character being a good daughter, it just starts there and the story moves past that point early on. And I liked that. Nazia is going through tough transitions during a tough time in her families life. She has her own way of rebelling based on her world and cultures. It reminded me of my own little rebellions as a teen. I didn't do a lot of yelling or anything like that. As a pre-teen my rebellion was hanging out with a guy my parents said I couldn't be friends with and I wrote an essay about their banning me from being his friend was against my Constitutional rights. So, that was my "rebellion" stage. Nazia has her own.

I read the book in basically a day, my day off from work. It's short but has an interesting story and a character that made me want to keep reading to find out what she was going to do. Though I didn't always understand some of the words or phrases, there is a dictionary added in back for those that don't know them. I recommend people try the book out. Just don't expect it focusing on just being good and dutiful, cause that will disappoint. Expect a little rebellion and see how Nazia fights against the hard times that life can bring.

Reviewed by:
Dawn Embers

P is for Paranormalcy

Paranormalcy by Kiersten White

Book 16 in A to Z Challenge

About the book: Evie's always thought of herself as a normal teenager, even though she works for the International Paranormal Containment Agency, her ex-boyfriend is a faerie, she's falling for a shape-shifter, and she's the only person who can see through paranormals' glamours.

But Evie's about to realize that she may very well be at the center of a dark faerie prophecy promising destruction to all paranormal creatures.

So much for normal.

My Review:
I got this book back when it first came out. I heard about it online, back then I was constantly on twitter, and even purchased a hard cover copy (I rarely ever buy those) because the release date was around the time of my birthday and I like books as presents. But I didn't get around to actually reading till middle of 2013. First thing that comes to mind right away is, like many, how much I liked the cover. It's just as beautiful in person.

Now for the story. It's an interesting one. I have some issues with the paranormal romance stories with the girl main character and the possibilities of love triangles torn between boys, at least one of which has to have a bad boy complex. So, I am always a bit nervous when I start reading some of the popular paranormal YA books in the past few years. However, I liked this one. The main character didn't make me want to throw my book, which is always a plus. She's interesting, different, has a little spunk to here and has a whole lot of conflict in trying to figure out her own self along with the mysterious attacks that start to happen on the organization she has called home. 

It had very different characters. The dark boy ex-bf, faerie was bordline questionable with my aversion to the trend in paranormal romance, but so far I'm not annoyed with how things are going though we'll have to wait and see what the sequel is like. I did like the other boy, Lend, though not very keen on his name. It was believable to see her interest in him grow in the short time before disaster, and even during those hard times. And the story had a few unexpected twists as well.

Looking for an upbeat, sometimes silly (in how the character picks to "swear") and close to but not deep in the common trends of paranormal romance young adult book? Look no further. This is a book to check out, or at least admire. Now to find a copy of Supernaturally.

Reviewed by:
Dawn Embers

O is for The Others

The Others by Anne Bishop

Book 15 in A to Z Challenge

The Others is the new fantasy series by Anne Bishop, the author of the Black Jewels and Tir Alainn series. It is in nature and form very different from any of the other books by this author but it holds the same quality of the other books - an amazing depth and skill of world building and characters who lure, trap and hold the reader without ever letting him go.

Written in Red is the first of the books in this series and tells the story of a young woman named Meg, a Cassandra Sangue, a human who is held in benevolent ownership by other humans because they can, ostensibly, not be left to look after themselves. If Meg’s skin is cut she tells prophecies, prophecies which can be highly lucrative. She has spent all her life in a private facility which sells those prophecies. She has been bred for it.

When she escapes she takes refuge with the Others, the original inhabitants of the world whose shape-shifter, vampire or elemental nature makes them the dominant power on Earth. Humans are food for the Others.

The book is an interesting mix of telling the story of how Meg learns to live in freedom and how the Others engage with her on the canvas of the larger power struggle between humans and Others. It is a fascinating representation of humanity as wasteful, self-centred, destructive race in the shadow of this powerful force of the Others whose harmony with the earth is a stark contrast to the image humanity presents. And still, whilst we follow Meg in finding her feet in this new world, follow the attempts, both physical and political, her owner makes to recapture her, it is both humans and others we get to know and sympathize with.

This is a fascinating fantasy novel which has incredible depth, both philosophically and emotionally. The reader is caught in the story, the fear and mystery, the adventure and threat, and is unable not to feel with them.

Reviewed by:
Christine Blackthorn


N is for Nancy Drew

 I couldn't help myself. That and I haven't finished reading the book that I had originally planned for this day. Took me till a couple days ago to remember I used to read Nancy Drew and that it'd work for this blog post.

Book 14 in A to Z Challenge

Nancy Drew by Carolyn Keene

About the Series: The Nancy Drew Mystery Stories was the long-running "main" Nancy Drew series, published between 1930 and 2003. Initially, titles were published by Grosset & Dunlap, but with #57 (1979) publication switched to Simon & Schuster. Some people consider these first 56 to be the original series and consider the Simon & Schuster series to be an entirely different series. The first 56 are considered to be the "classic" Nancy Drew books. In 2003, the series was discontinued, and a new, more contemporary series (Nancy Drew Girl Detective) was created in its place.

It also included a section of stories set in college, with Nancy moving on yet still finding herself in the detective situations.

I have never been very big on either mystery or horror (I used to read RL Stine when I was a pre-teen), but I remember the days when I was younger and I loved Nancy Drew (and the occasional Hardy Boys as well). I still have some of the Nancy Drew books too, in storage somewhere. I have the yellow hard covered copies. I remember reading ones like The Old Clock and the Hidden Staircase. I remember the college books, but I also think I might have missed some of the series at one point or another. It was many years ago.

Characters: Nancy, of course, was awesome. She had spunk, tended to get in trouble on a regular basis, and even though she was just "a girl" there was so much she was capable of, including solving weird and sometimes creepy mysteries. Her father was an important character, which is good because now some end up with missing parents to add tension, but he didn't hinder her actions. It was a good relation, that I remember at least. And of course there was Ned, the boyfriend. I don't remember paying a lot of attention to Ned but I knew I liked that his character wasn't around. It wasn't a big focus, there was no worry about whether she liked him or some other guy (though college might have changed that as I didn't get very far on those) and no paranormal bad buy complex. Ned was a nice guy and helped when he could. But the focus was Nancy.

The college stories were a bit different. They weren't bad but it just wasn't quite the classic that the beginning of the Nancy Drew world created. 

I didn't care much for the movie attempts though. They aren't bad, which was the risk because often times movies get pretty bad in comparison. However, the movies still can't compare to the book. I might some day go back and read the whole series over again. That would be interesting to see how they are years later.

I recommend the books to youth and adults alike, in particular the first section of the series, but I particularly remember them from my pre-teen years and the awesomeness that is was back then. Read. Enjoy.

Reviewed by:
Dawn Embers

M is for McGuire, Seanan

Seanan McGuire, Author

Book 13 in A to Z challenge

October Daye is a changeling (half fae) knight who has just woken from fourteen years as a fish in a San Francisco pond. She wakes to a daughter who wants nothing to do with her anymore, a life she cannot recognize anymore, cell phones small enough to lose — and a murdered friend.

In search for the murderer, and a way to remove the death spell which snapped around her the moment her friend was killed, October Day reconnects with old friends and enemies, has to re-evaluate old relationships and make new ones. In the end it is her ingenuity, her honour and loyalty in the face of bone deep heartache which draws the reader into her life.

The October Daye novels are a travel through celtic mythology and urban fantasy, their heroine not a cool, disassociated and disenchanted sex symbol but a normal woman (or as normal as it gets for a half fae who serves as a knight on a fae court and has spent the last decade and a half as a fish). Somewhere between car chases through San Francisco, magically appearing dresses and pointy ears you will fall in love with this heroine - that is if you are not laughing tears.

This is an urban fantasy accessible to both mature young adults and adults alike but I believe it is us adults which will truly appreciate the depth and humour of the story.

Reviewed by:
Christine Blackthorn

L is for Lisa Mantchev

Lisa Mantchev, Author

Book 12 in  A to Z challenge

I bought this book several years ago but it wasn't until this month that I was able to finish reading (I started it last month). I'm a fan of theater and have read Shakespeare plays, which is what drew me to this book. Plus the cover is pretty. 

About the Book: 
Welcome to the Théâtre Illuminata, where the actors of every play ever written can be found behind the curtain. They were born to play their parts, and are bound to the Théâtre by The Book—an ancient and magical tome of scripts. Bertie is not one of them, but they are her family—and she is about to lose them all and the only home she has ever known.

My Review:  Overall, I liked the book. It's very different, to say the least. In the world of the book there is there theatre, where everyone lives and this mysterious outside world that we don't get much about in this book, though book 2 will show more of that I assume by the description.

It also has a very interesting cast of characters. There is the main character, Beatrice, who often goes by Bertie. Then many other prominent characters from a variety of plays. Everywhere from Pirates, to chorus girls, to Ophelia, tempests and fairies. I liked Bertie. She was a fun main character with a quirky personality and isn't afraid to let herself shine even when she struggles. However, the fairies (Peasblossom, Moth, Cobweb and Mustardseed) stole the show on more than one occasion. They were hilarious. Then there is the pirate who is often there trying to help Bertie though sometimes he steps on some toes in trying to do what he thinks she needs. Then there is the distracting one, for me.

I understand the character comes from a play. While I have never actually read that particular play (I tended towards ones like Hamlet), I can understand that the character's name was that way for a reason. But I couldn't help myself. When I saw "Ariel" that often lead to me picturing:

Yeah. And the Little Mermaid is even one of the plays in the theatre, so it's not just the name but well, okay for the most part it's that his name is Ariel and the only Ariel I can imagine now thanks to Disney is from the little Mermaid. Though the mermaid is cute and nice, Ariel in this book is well a jerk.  He is where the book went astray for me. While the conflict made me want to keep reading even though at times I wasn't sure what was going on or where the book would head, to be honest I did not find him a viable love interest. And the book talks about the love triangle, I'd heard about it before even buying the book. Plus the sequel, from what it says on Goodreads, is focused on the love triangle... but for most of book 1, he's got very little going for him. The end helps a tiny bit but nope, still don't like that factor.

But I still will have to read book 2. Overall, it's an interesting book that is great for people who love plays and want to see what a story might be like if there was a magic theatre where all the characters of different plays (such as Shakespeare and many others) lived.  Even with the slight annoyance in love triangle, it was an entertaining read and an enjoyable book.

Reviewed by:
Dawn Embers

K is for King, Stephen

Stephen King, Author

Book 11 in A to Z challenge

The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.

Thus begins the story of Roland Deschain, the gunslinger, and what many consider the magnum opus of Stephen King. The story follows Roland as he treks across the desert in slow chase of the Man in Black, and taunts the reader with hints of a world much bigger than this single story. The setting is a world that has moved on, a post-apocalyptic wasteland of isolated pockets of civilization where scarcity is driven hard into the reader. Scarcity of food, life, humanity. The walking dead, a boy from our own world and creatures of myth populate the world, and nail down a message that seems to permeate the entire story. This world is broken. It is a place where worlds can be seen through open doors, and time is inconsistent at best, and at the center of it all is the Dark Tower.

I can't really complain about King's writing. He aggravates me with his tangents, but keeps me glued to every word, no matter how many pages it takes. His prose perfectly captures the feeling of this world, and the people who inhabit it. People do awful things--Roland does awful things--and you understand. As he kills dozens, you know that this is what must be. As he chooses his own quest over saving the life of another, you understand. Anyone can write about a man drowning a puppy. King can make you sympathize and forgive.

I will issue a bit of warning regarding the rest of the series. King doesn't seem to have planned the series out in advance, or even each book as he wrote it, and it does show. You may spend a hundred pages on something that will never matter to the story, but you will probably enjoy reading it.

This was a solid start to a series filled with ups and downs, and at a mere 300 pages, it's worth adding to your to-read list.

Reviewed by:
Addison Smith

J is for Jasper Fforde

Jasper Fforde, Author

Book 10 in A to Z challenge

Jasper Fforde writes a series of fantasy books about an alternative reality in which a human agency polices the world of books, a reality in which book characters exist, time and reality are mutable and the literary is often more real than every day life. Meet Thursday Next, one of those agents policing text, who is tasked with the retrieval of Jane Eyre who has been kidnapped from her novel.

Across books and realities, with the aid of many well loved literary characters and a father who has been erased from history, Thursday Next hunts for the missing heroine with whimsy, wit and a phlegmatic disposition we are never certain is true or pretend. The climax of the Eyre Affair both leaves you laughing and wanting more - fortunately there are other books to follow that first.

This book is for any book lover with a sense of humour and the ability to simply disband belief and be taken on the roller coaster of craziness and familiarity which is the book world. This book defies traditional age rating though I believe that the lovers of the classics will fall into it faster, and more completely, than others.

Reviewed by:
Christine Blackthorn

I is for If I Stay

If I Stay by Gayle Forman

Another book I blame on my sister. Should have known after reading Before I Fall to expect such, plus the description kind of gives the huge hint that it's not a happy book. Did it stop me from reading it at work despite having worn makeup that day... nope. (I don't recommend that, even if it's "waterproof" mascara.) But on to the review...

Book 9 in A to Z challenge

About the book: Mia had everything: a loving family, a gorgeous, admiring boyfriend, and a bright future full of music and full of choices. In an instant, almost all of that is taken from her. Caught between life and death, between a happy past and an unknowable future, Mia spends one critical day contemplating the only decision she has left. It is the most important decision she'll ever make.

My review:    Wow.

That sums it up. It's amazing, heart wrenching and overall, a fantastic read. While I went in knowing about the sad factor, it does state caught between life in death in the description and the car crash is at the very first chapter of the book, I didn't quite know how drawn into the story I would be or what to expect in the writing overall. I was not disappointed.

I've wondered how to approach stories that deal often with flashbacks or require times in the past brought up to make up the story. This is kind of like that because we get to experience the love story and the different moments in her life in small bits, during her day as she tries to make the decision to stay or leave. While at times, the approach feels jumpy and hard to really latch onto the story, this book in particular shows how it can work very well.

While I'm not a big fan of contemporary or sad, I watch comedy tv shows and movies for a reason, I very much appreciated this book and have the sequel now on my to-read list. I recommend If I Stay to many readers, YA and beyond. It's a great read and shows a growing love that stands out despite the darkest of times.

And if you're curious about book 2 review, check out my sister's review of it that we posted on this blog back in August, 2011. Where She Went book review

Reviewed by:
Dawn Embers

H is for Holocaust MG books

Middle Grade books involving the Holocaust

Books 8 in A to Z challenge

While an unexpected topic, I have come across a few and figured it would work for the H post in this challenge. I have read 3 middle grade books involving the Holocaust over the years, starting way back as a pre-teen and finally having read another last year from a familiar author. Each has a different angle and narration but all showcase the dark time in history.

The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

About the Book: In 1942, with Nazis occupying Holland, a thirteen-year-old Jewish girl and her family fled their home in Amsterdam and went into hiding. For the next two years, until their whereabouts were betrayed to the Gestapo, they and another family lived cloistered in the "Secret Annexe" of an old office building. Cut off from the outside world, they faced hunger, boredom, the constant cruelties of living in confined quarters, and the ever-present threat of discovery and death.

In her diary Anne Frank recorded vivid impressions of her experiences during this period. By turns thoughtful, moving, and amusing, her account offers a fascinating commentary on human courage and frailty and a compelling self-portrait of a sensitive and spirited young woman whose promise was tragically cut short.

My Review: I read this one a long long time ago. Not the longest of the three but still, anything more than 10 years ago was long for me. But I do remember parts of the book. And it's obvious why this is a classic and how people can rave about how the tragic tale showcased not only the time period but the nature of the human spirit. It is a great book, one I would recommend for others. Even as an assigned book in school, I had no problems back then reading it.

I remember the hope found in the story and the real life existence exposed through the words of the diary. It was a real glimpse at another life, the things she had to worry about during the days in the attic and trying to continue despite the dangers and threats. I wonder how many haven't already read this since even in small town Wyoming, it was part of the reading curriculum.

Number the Stars by Lois Lowry

About the book: Ten-year-old Annemarie Johansen and her best friend Ellen Rosen often think of life before the war. It's now 1943 and their life in Copenhagen is filled with school, food shortages, and the Nazi soldiers marching through town. When the Jews of Denmark are "relocated," Ellen moves in with the Johansens and pretends to be one of the family. Soon Annemarie is asked to go on a dangerous mission to save Ellen's life.

My Review: This is the one that I read last summer. I went to the library for the other book in same series as The Giver but my library didn't hate that one. I found this book instead and decided to give it a read. It's an interesting story focused on a little girl who has a great personality and much courage. This story looks at the risks others took during the Holocaust to help those being targeted all while looking at it through the lens of someone very young.

It's a good, short read. Any readers interested in different fictional perspectives around the time in history, along with fans of the author (though this doesn't quite reach the same shelf for me as The Giver did), should consider reading this one.

Escape from Warsaw by Ian Serraillier (also known as The Silver Sword)

About the book: In 1942 Warsaw, World War II is raging, and people live in fear from day to day. Ruth, Bronia, and Edek have to fend for themselves when both of their parents are taken by the Nazis. Can they survive? A gripping story based on true accounts.

My Review:
I read this when I was young, pre-teen range though I can't remember exact years.

I don't remember the exact details that happen in the story since I read it so long ago. In fact, it also was hard to even find a description online for this part of the review because Goodreads didn't have anything on what it's about. I do remember the story gripping my attention and not letting go. I really liked the three characters and worried throughout the book, wondering if they would survive. Each rise in the tension made me tense and worry. It's a good book and while not as well known compared to some, it's one I recommend for anyone interested in the time period. The intense escape will keep you reading till the very end. And that fact that it has stuck in my memory over the years is a good sign too.

I haven't asked questions for most of the reviews, but I'm going to do an old method for this blog.

Do you recommend any other Holocaust books for young readers?
Have you read any of these three?

G is for Golon, Anne

Anne Golon, Author (also known as Sergeanne Golon)

Book 7 in A to Z challenge

Anne Golon is a historical romance author of French descent who wrote a series of book around the character Angeligue and her life in 17th century France and Canada. She is the daughter of an impoverished French noble who is traded away in marriage for the price of a mine. She is terrified and shocked when she meets her new husband, Joffrey de Peyrac, the Duke of Toulouse, whose face is disfigured by a horrific scar and whose sharp whit and intelligence mock her. But besides being a proud and influential nobleman, Peyrac is also one of the foremost scientist, troubadour and renown lover of his time.

Angelique falls in love with him after a well planned, and well executed, seduction of body and mind and all seems well - but this is when the wider political influences intrude. Joffrey de Peyrac is burnt as a witch by the young Louis IVX and Angelique, pregnant with his second son, now has to make her life, and protect her children, alone.

Over the next two decades, and 13 books, we follow her through the thieves court of Paris and the royal court of Versailles, through the dangers of the Mediterranean and middle east to the wilds of Canada. We see her love a King and a beggar, enchant a sultan and a pirate, she leads a rebellion and becomes one of the most successful traders in France. And we see her find something she thought she had lost …

These books are rich in detail and texture, written in the more lyrical style of earlier times. The historical detail is fascinating and the author managed to interweave historical truth and happenings with her fictional heroine letting us see a world full of danger and love, loyalty and betrayal.

This is a book for historical romance lovers who like the depth and historical detail, who can revel in their own sensual appreciation of characters and intricacies of action, without losing their attention span. For me, these were the books that made me love historical romance. I was nine and found them in my great-grandmother’s bookshelves - and have never put them down again. At the age of nine, I was caught by the adventure and the strong female character - today I appreciate the male characters we are handed and just cannot help falling in love with.

Reviewed by:
Christine Blackthorn

F is for Frost, Jeaniene

Jeaniene Frost, Author

Book 6 in A to Z challenge

Jeaniene Frost created an urban fantasy series around a half-vampire, Cat Crawfield, who first independently, and then under the aegis of the government, hunts vampires. We meet her as a young woman when she, under the tutelage of an older vampire, Bones, gets involved in tracking down a vampiric flesh trader. In the course of this book we learn much about her, about the way her mother was raped by a vampire resulting in her death and how her grandparents are unable to see in her anything other than a stain on the family’s honour. We see her honour and her loyalty - but also her blind stubbornness and obedience she, as yet, still has to learn to outgrow. In the end she makes a rash, but noble sacrifice which sets up the rest of the series.

Over the course of the series we follow her through a wide range of cases and a turbulent personal life. Bones, her original tutor and later husband, is a powerful vampire in his own right and through him, and his vampire family, she becomes embroiled in the machinations of the supernatural world. This brings her again and again into conflict with her human employer, a secret government agency which is tasked with hunting down vampires and other supernaturals.

We follow her through her interactions with characters borrowed from medieval Europe, Ancient Egypt and voodoo New Orleans all while struggling with the challenges of modern life. It’s a joyful romp across cultures and countries with a sassy attitude and erotic sensuality. Any urban fantasy lover who likes their characters with some sensuality and brains will love this series.

Reviewed by:
Christine Blackthorn

E is for The Eye of the World

The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan

Book 5 in A to Z challenge

Slight cheat. I read this book before even moving to Oregon, so 2 years ago and that was the second time since I first read it back when I was in high school. I planned to review it and book 2 of the Wheel of Time series in one post but haven't finished re-reading The Great Hunt, so that review can happen some other time. For now, let's look at the first book of the series (not counting book 0 that was a later published prequel).

About the Book: The Wheel of Time turns and Ages come and go, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth returns again. In the Third Age, an Age of Prophecy, the World and Time themselves hang in the balance. What was, what will be, and what is, may yet fall under the Shadow.

This is one of those not for everyone type series. Epic fantasy can be that way in general, though, I've noticed. And while I haven't gotten very far, either times I've tried to read the books, I like what I've read so far. That's evident in book 1 in particular because even the second time reading it, I ended up reading about 300 or so pages in a single night. I rarely ever do that anymore. I would even say this (along with Dragonlance) are in part what peeked my interest to write back in high school, even though I am not yet ready to tackle epic fantasy. One day, one day...

Back to the book. It uses many expected elements of fantasy, ones that are now listed as cliche, with the prophesies, chosen one, farmer boy becoming something much greater, etc, but they all work in this case. It also tackles multiple points of view, though thankfully for this first book, those are limited and easy to tell when it's changing.

I could go into the awesome characters (there are some I don't like too but that's often how it goes with having multiple main characters) but that would take up too much space. Epic series doesn't make for the shortest book reviews, especially a 15 book one. The basics of book 1, however, are finding out why the fate of their group has been combined and who will become the Dragon Reborn. Written in an amazing world with worldbuilding that I can't even fathom, the story is a wondrous tale from life changing attack on home village to exciting battle against evil in hoping to triumph in the name of the light. It is long but easy to get caught up in and I definitely recommend at least this first book. Even if you don't read the rest, it still has a form of conclusion that works without knowing what else happens with the prophesy and the fate of the world. But if you want to know what happens next, there are many books to read.

I need to get back to reading book 2. One day, maybe, I'll have read the whole series.

Review by:
Dawn Embers

D is for Daily Science Fiction

For fun, since I'm trying to submit more fiction, I decided to do one review on a short fiction publisher. Daily Science Fiction (aka DSF) is a daily sci-fi publisher, as the name suggests, and I get the stories right in my email inbox.

Day 4 in A to Z challenge

About the Publication: "Original Science Fiction and Fantasy every weekday. Welcome to Daily Science Fiction, an online magazine of science fiction short stories. We publish "science fiction" in the broad sense of the word: This includes sci-fi, fantasy, slipstream-- whatever you'd likely find in the science fiction section of your local bookstore. Our stories are mostly short short fiction (flash fiction) each Monday through Thursday, hopefully the right length to read on a coffee break, over lunch, or as a bedtime tale. Friday's weekend stories are longer."


There are a couple of features about DSF that make it great for readers who like science fiction (obviously if you don't, umm don't read their stories). One is that due to the nature of the name, there are many stories published. It's not quite every single day but close enough that one can accept the title. This means there are chances for many different authors to get published, which is always great (for us writers). And that allows for variety (which readers can appreciate).

This does mean that not every story is going to match the same reader's personal taste. I'll admit sometimes the stories I get end up deleted before I get half way through them. I try but just some sci-fi and me don't get along. Others, I really really like. Personal taste plays a big part but that's the good part about getting them in email. If I don't want to read more, I don't have to do much aside from click on the little trash can image.

This also allows for some playing with formatting that some publishers would be weary to take on. I've seen a couple of stories where they don't look like what one expects from a story. This can be anything from letters, dictation to machine or even a space tech support transcript. Can be very interesting to see what approach different authors take with their writing. The site also has the stories categorized, which is convenient if you are looking for a quick sci-fi read, since they have quite a collection available at this point.

One story that caught my attention recently is The Folds of War by Marcus Gallagher-Jones. It had an interesting set of characters and premise. I stumbled for a second over the Nee-Chan because I'm in the U.S. and only see it in Manga and such but since I've started reading those too I got over that quick. From there, I was hooked because I have a recent interest in paper cranes. I made a couple images with them, so I wanted to see what the story would lead to and I wasn't disappointed. While I didn't quite expect how it would go, it all made sense. Overall, it was a good, quick read.

Anyone who likes science fiction, short in particular, should check out the Daily Science Fiction web site and sign up to get stories emailed to them. If you don't want the emails, then save the link to your favorites and peruse at your convenience. And enjoy the plethora of sci-fi the publisher has to offer.

Reviewed by:
Dawn Embers

C is for Cesco, Federica de

Federica de Cesco, Author

Day 3 in A to Z challenge

Federica de Cesco is a Swiss author of mainly young adult novels. The majority of her novels are available in only in French or German but some are also available in English. Her books held a high popularity in the 1990s and 2000s in the non-English speaking world, in part because they address historical and social problems from the viewpoint of teenage main characters.

One of the books translated into English is the Prince of Mexico, a teenage Romeo and Juliet story between two Aztec royals on the background of the Spanish invasion of Mexico in 1518. What grips the attention of the reader with such power is the rich detail, the colourful relief of Aztec life, cultural and social, that is created by the author. We follow the two main characters through their forbidden love, are immersed in their personal headache and danger, seeing the larger picture with the looming threat through their eyes. But though they do not understand the mounting horror awaiting in their future, we, seeing it through a historical lens, are caught. This dichotomy creates a deep tension, pulling the reader along first word to last.

This is a young adult book with an age range given at 14. I myself read it when I was 10 for first time and remember finding it hard going - though even then I could not put it down.

Reviewed by:
Christine Blackthorn

B is for Briggs, Patricia

Patricia Briggs, Author

Day 2 in A to Z challenge

Patricia Briggs is an American author best known for her urban fantasy series about a car mechanic, Mercy Thompson, who shifts into a coyote in her off time and various other characters, and spin-offs, situated in the very intricate, and fascinating, world she creates. Before, she wrote a set of more traditional fantasy novels centered around a shape-shifting mercenary, Aralorn, a Raven mage and a set of books related to a mage with dragon blood, Ward of Hurog.

All of these series have a strange appeal based on the depth and humour of the characters - but the Mercy Thompson series is, for a reason, one of the most popular urban fantasy series out there. It is a tale somewhere between an unlikely Cinderella story and a supernatural thriller with touches of the Lord of the Rings and a benevolent version of the Godfather. At every turn of the page it will leave you smiling and short of breath in anticipation what might happen next. What is so enchanting about the series is the deep loyalty, intelligence, stubbornness and whimsy displayed by not only the main character, Mercy Thompson, but by the richness of the other characters.

These books have a potential to snag the attention, and hold it, of a wide range of readers from young adult to mature readers and though most would argue that its main readership would be female I know enough men who wait with gleeful anticipation for every new book coming out. 

Reviewed by: 
Christine Blackthorn 

A is for Ash

Ash by Malinda Lo

I had this book a while, long while but didn't read it until now. Will admit I was a bit hesitant after finding out there is a second book that is more of a prequel to this one because then I didn't know which to read first. But I finally picked up Ash and started reading. Here is my review and it works great for Day 1 of A to Z blog challenge and bloggers.

About the Book: Cinderella retold

In the wake of her father's death, Ash is left at the mercy of her cruel stepmother. Consumed with grief, her only joy comes by the light of the dying hearth fire, rereading the fairy tales her mother once told her. In her dreams, someday the fairies will steal her away, as they are said to do. When she meets the dark and dangerous fairy Sidhean, she believes that her wish may be granted.

The day that Ash meets Kaisa, the King's Huntress, her heart begins to change. Instead of chasing fairies, Ash learns to hunt with Kaisa. Though their friendship is as delicate as a new bloom, it reawakens Ash's capacity for love-and her desire to live. But Sidhean has already claimed Ash for his own, and she must make a choice between fairy tale dreams and true love.

My Review:  I think the line on the cover of my book says it pretty well when it says "It's not the fairy tale you remember." Which is both true and slightly off at the same time. There are many aspects of the book, throughout the whole book, that are reminiscent of the Cinderella tale that we all should know by now (as most retelling stories have some of the similar features). Her father dies, as one would expect and she's left to her stepmother who also has two girls. She works for them and falls asleep by the fire and is fond of books. There is even a masquerade. But among the familiar are also very unfamiliar factors. Such as the existence of the fairies, the huntress and the fact that it's not about her and the prince. And it all works.

One thing I liked in particular about the book is that even though Ash is torn between a male fairy and the female huntress in the story, there isn't a big deal made over sexual orientation in the world. Pretty early in the book she sees two girls who kiss, for example, and it's not a big deal. It just happens. There is no question about it or how she feels. She doesn't worry about what liking the huntress means either. It's a part of life and nothing more. 

Also, while there is a love triangle and mister fairy has a few negative points due to the creepy factor (you'll notice if you read the book) there is a reason behind the triangle and it's not one of those annoying types. To me, the annoying type is the "I can't decide" and "they are both so hot" ones. It's also told in third person instead of first, which helps in some ways but even in first person, it wouldn't reach that annoying factor because Ash isn't focused on how hot one of them is or the other. The love that happens in the story is built up slow and is subtle. I like subtle. 

Anyone looking for an interesting, fantasy retelling of Cinderella should check out this book, whether having read the prequel or not. Ash is a pleasant read that while a tad slow in beginning has a creative twist to the classic tale that will keep you reading to find out how it will end.

Reviewed by Dawn Embers

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