The Week in Review (or Why I Sort of Reverted Back Into a Hermit This Week)

After a strong run of blogging, I have fallen prey to two weeks of intense work stuff and preparing (feverishly) to go to NEW YORK (screaming inside-in a good way) next week. But in between freaking out and scrambling around the store, I did find a few books to read, and some tv to watch.

I won’t bore you with descriptions of all the chocolates/chocolate treats I made [for work] this week, or maybe . . . nah, I’ll get distracted if I start with chocolate.

What I read/started reading (all pictures and links are from Goodreads):

I read the first one of these as an ARC, and then was bummed to find out it was a series, and that I had to wait for the next one. They are borderline MG/YA ghost hunting/paranormal mysteries that are surprisingly well written. (Why surprisingly? Look at the cover).
The first one was creepier (so far), but I love the ghost hunting team of the mysterious Lockwood, the talented ghost-sensitive Lucy, and the smart but hardly personable George.

Being Mortal by Atul Gawande

I picked this up randomly, and it is fascinating so far. As the regulars at the store where I work are mainly seniors, this book is one they have been buzzing about. Gawande tackles tough topics with wisdom and good sense, and he isn’t afraid to call people out. That being said, this book isn’t ranty, but gentle. He looks at both sides of the medicine debate, as well as end of life care, in an easy to follow fashion.

Expiration Day by Willam Campbell Powell

A great premise: People on earth are no longer fertile, so a tech company bio-engineered robots to act/think/look like kids to stop riots. The catch is that these robots have an “expiration day,” after their eighteenth year.

I am still only about a third into this. It is a little boring for me, and skews middle grade in the characters/depth, but the plot is interesting enough to keep me going.
Link
Link
As for these two: I just started The Darkest Minds, so all I can say is that the writing draws me in. I finished The Intergalactic Adventures of Queen Bea, but I am still digesting it, and plan on writing a full review.

In the non-reading, non-work world (small part), I managed to get ten pages of writing logged, which is really good for two weeks of crazy. My current project (post-apoc parody/adventure) is still going strong, and I have very good feelings about it. But I have to be careful, and nurse that enthusiasm to the end of the book.

Pippin is cautiously optimistic for me.

When I wasn’t writing, I was finally able to catch up with/finish The Flash Season 1, which was excellent. That finale . . .

^Me, seriously impressed by the finale.

Sacrifice, emotions, courage, bad decisions, *so many emotions,* consequences Time Travel, paradoxes, black holes . . . but no spoilers here, you’ll have to watch it yourself. However, I have been really impressed with Flash overall, (especially since it is on CW!), and you should definitely check it out if you’re into superheroes. 

In that same vein, I finally got around to watching the Legends of Tomorrow trailer (CW spinoff of both Arrow and The Flash) and it looks epic, and cheesy, and epically cheesy. AND RORY WILLIAMS IS A TIME LORD. I am not kidding (hence the all caps).

Okay, so maybe he’s Rip Hunter, time traveller (but we all know what that really means). But it is still Arthur Darvill in a cool coat playing mentor to a strange group of heroes (there is time travel!). I am in. Unfortunately, it doesn’t premiere until next year. But it is up there with Captain America: Civil War and Agent Carter Season 2 for me (excitement level).
You can’t fool me, Rory. 
I still have to catch up on Arrow S3 (more than halfway through). It has had its ups and downs, but I still am really enjoying it.
I must say that DC has thrown the gauntlet for the superhero shows. I still haven’t watched MARVEL and Netflix’s Daredevil (high on my to-watch list), but I have heard a lot of good things. In my opinion, MARVEL still wins in movies, but DC is ahead in television (at least for now).

So that was a fraction of my week. How about you? Did you find any interesting books? Did you start any new ones. Do you watch superhero shows, or are you 100% done with superheroes in general. If you are a Whovian, what do you think about Arthur Darvill’s newest role, and will you watch Legends of Tomorrow?

I am off to BEA next week, so my blogging will probably be nil, but I’ll be back after that (hopefully with pictures and adventures!) with books and thoughts to share.
Cheers!
R

Top 10 Fictional Worlds I’d Like to Visit (Top 10 Tuesday) (with reasons, gifs, footnotes, and theories as to why I’d leave)

It’s Tuesday, which means it’s time for Top 10 Tuesday with The Broke and The Bookish. For instructions on how to participate, click here.

Usually there is a theme for the list, but this week is a freebie, which means that we have all picked our own topic. My topic: The Top 10 Fictional Worlds I’d Like to Visit (with reasons, gifs, footnotes, and theories as to why I’d leave)

1. Middle Earth (from The Silmarillion, The Hobbit, and LOTR)

Image Credit

As soon as my feet touched that fantastical grass, I’d be off.
The Shire, Mirkwood, Rivendell, Lorien, and Rohan would be top of my must-see list.
Elves, dwarves, hobbits, food, the clothes, roughing it Fellowship style . . . why would you ever leave?

Image Credit

I have a theory: Basically, it would be like high school, where everyone in Middle Earth would be the “cool kids table,” and I’d be that person who everyone felt kind of bad for, but still didn’t let sit with them (you know the one, the one trying so hard to be all elvish and awesome, and failing miserably).

That, or I’d get eaten by a spider when I was in Mirkwood.

2. The Enchanted Forest (from the Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia Wrede)

Artist: Peetasokka Image Credit

If I survived Mirkwood, I think a kindlier, more whimsical magic forest might be in order. Dealing with Dragons was (still is) one of my favorite fantasy novels, and it still cracks me up. Cimorene is a kindred spirit, and I would love to help her make buckets of cherries jubilee for the dragons. After that, I would do some exploring, and hopefully not run into any annoying wizards. I’d be sure to carry spray bottles of soapy water with lemon though, as a precaution . . .
.
Being polite, sensible, and not prone to eating random plants, I would probably get along just fine in this world. In the end, I’d probably leave because I’d want to see my family.

Image Credit

3. The alternate 1914 of Leviathan (Scott Westerfeld)

It’s Clankers (they use machines) versus Darwinists (genetic manipulation) on the brink of World War I. Though there were parts of these books I didn’t enjoy so much, I did love the crazy alternate world. It would be fascinating to explore! I would like to travel the world and compare it to actual 1914. I would probably end up leaving because I’d miss my writing and my books. As much as I like writing by hand, I’ll take my laptop back, thank you very much.

4. Camelot (Gerald Morris edition)

Image Credit
Knights, picking flowers?* I am a King Arthur devotee, in all seriousness. I write retellings, I will read almost anything Arthurian, and I have a passionate love/hate relationship with the stories themselves. That being said, Le Morte d’Arthur is incredibly depressing.** Gerald Morris took all that pathos and ran over it, with scissors and a crazy grin (metaphorically). His knights go on pointless quests, take vows of silence where all they do is talk, and stumble in and out of the Otherworld at random. It is hilarious, and yet it somehow manages to stay true to the spirit of the beloved stories. Also, his version is a little kinder to the ladies. I would probably stick it out here until I was cursed by wandering Fair Folk, or swallowed by an enchanted castle, or something. If I survived that, I’d probably head somewhere a little more “modern” next.

5. Early 1800’s England-a la Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell (Susanna Clarke)

Image Credit

I sat here in a crisis of indecision over including this or Jane Austen’s 19th century, only to realize that they were basically the same. But JS & MN has magic. As an American of average looks who is too fond of books and lacks sufficient funds, I doubt I’d have much chance at society (unless my book hopping came with magical powers?). Maybe I would just try to get a job as a servant? Perhaps I could pretend to be an heiress . . .

I would love to snoop on Strange and Norrell (though they’d probably discover me, non-magical person that I am). Assuming I didn’t get tired of the mud or my inferior social status (or someone found out I was a fraud), I would explore this version of England until I felt too restricted (or until I got on the fairies’ bad side, whatever happened first).

6. New Pacifica (Diana Peterfreund’s Across a Star-Swept Sea***)

Image Credit

The islands of New Pacifica, Albion and Galatea, are stand-ins for London and Paris during the French Revolution. Across a Star-Swept Sea is a retelling of/tribute to one of my favorite novels, The Scarlet Pimpernel. Throw in crazy futuristic elements (the sea minks, the fashion, the tech), class unrest (they have good reasons), and a fascinating future world, and it is definitely a place I’d like to visit. The main thing I didn’t like about the novel was the teen romance,**** but if I was exploring the islands, that would be a non-issue. And I really want to see all those lushly described island locations . . . (Pimpernel is a far superior novel, but I don’t fancy visiting the actual French Revolution!).

 I’d fully intend on turning smuggler and helping to spirit people away from certain death. Which is how I’d end up leaving (what does happen if you die in a fantasy world?)

7. The Unwelcome Stranger (which is actually a ship in 1712 [seventeen twelvety] alternate timeline Earth)

Image Credit

Which brings me to piracy. Long before I understood the moral implications, I really wanted to be a pirate. It was one of my favorite things to play/pretend as a kid (after wood elves!). When I was a teenager, I discovered Tanith Lee’s wonderfully strange pirate fantasy, Piratica. The pirates drink coffee (instead of rum), some of them are actually traveling players, and they really only rob other pirates (and follow silly treasure maps). In other words, it’s all the fun of Treasure Island with none of the serious danger (or scurvy, which is more of a deterrent). I would happily take up with Art and her (mostly) daring crew of ne’er do wells. Always a restless wanderer myself, I’d sail their way until I remembered how badly I wanted an awesome horse.

8. That obscure Caribbean Island from Walter Farley’s Island Stallion

I read everything with horses on the cover when I was younger. I always wanted a horse like the Black Stallion, or Black Beauty, or even the Chincoteague ponies. I would visit the Island and camp out until I got a really awesome horse (which I would somehow manage to smuggle back). If I couldn’t keep the horse, I’d leave, heartbroken.

9. Discworld from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld Series

They made a play in Chicago!

I confess that I haven’t read every one, but if I had to pick, I’d join up with the Monstrous Regiment ladies, disguised as a man, naturally. Or I would try to have coffee with Death. Or maybe I would just explore the glorious, ridiculous world and talk to its inhabitants. Regardless, Discworld is full of adventure, satire, looniness, and general chaos. I think I would end up leaving because it made me exhausted (or overstimulated)!

10. Harry Potter’s England

I’d want a job at Flourish and Blotts, or failing that, Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes. I am not above sneaking into Hogwarts. My top priority would be the library! If I had the great good fortune to arrive and find I had wizardly gifts, I would be transported with delight. If not, I’m sure I could still have plenty of fun. One of the best parts of HP is the fabulous alternate world, existing right under Muggle noses. Diagon Alley almost holds more appeal than Hogwarts, if I’m honest, and I’d love to catch a professional Quidditch match. I think I would leave eventually, and maybe start back at Middle Earth?

Image Credit

Honorable Mentions: Narnia! (Chronicles of Narnia), New Beijing (Lunar Chronicles), Namid (Others Series), London Below (Neverwhere), The Well of Lost Plots (Thursday Next Series), I could go on forever. There were so many places that I’d want to go that I just went for variety in the end. 

It was hard to pick 10. However, I noticed that a lot of my favorite books weren’t represented (I wouldn’t really like to live in most of them, I suppose). As much as I love books like Rot & Ruin, The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray, or The Count of Monte Cristo, I am not ashamed to admit that I’d far rather read about a lot of things than live them!

What about you? Are there any fictional worlds you’d love to visit? Do you think you’d actually give up the real one for them (if you could)? How do you think you’d fit into your world choice? Tell me in the comments 🙂

Footnotes: 
*Actually from the soul-destroying (but hilarious) musical Camelot. Lancelot’s disbelief seemed to fit here.
**I prefer the Celtic tales-less drama
***The companion novel, For Darkness Shows the Stars, is a retelling of Persuasion! I read these despite my dislike (loathing) for the author’s other series. ‘Nuff said, I’ll keep it to myself.
****Despite the fact that it’s in essence, a drippy (but not unbelievable) teen romance. I knew that going into it. It says a lot for the book that I liked it anyway.

Book Review: Thorn by Intisar Khanani

The artist is Jenny from Seedlings Design

I stumbled across Thorn on Goodreads and the gorgeous cover art caught my eye. When I realized that it was a retelling of The Goose Girl and written by indie author* Intisar Khanani, I purchased a copy. 

The cover is even more beautiful up close. However, like the best fairytales, the beauty of Thorn isn’t just skin deep.

Princess Alyrra is the ignored and neglected princess of a backwater kingdom. Her only friends are the servants and a playful wind. Still, she is content enough until the powerful neighboring King of Menaiya shows up with a startling proposition: he intends to bring Alyrra home as a bride for his son Kestrin.

Alyrra has no idea why a powerful prince would want someone like her for a bride, but it doesn’t matter, as she has no choice. Or so she thinks. When a sudden betrayal turns Alyrra’s life inside out, the princess must choose between doing (what seems like) the right thing, or pursuing the life she makes for herself.

Thorn is a beautifully written book, and a thoughtful take on The Goose Girl. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone, but if you’ve read the original fairytale, you should be familiar with the basic plot. There was so much I enjoyed about it, but here’s a quick 5 reasons you should buy a copy:

1. Alyrra was very different from your average YA fairytale heroine. Accustomed to both abuse and hard work, she relishes the position of a lowly goose girl. The hard work is fulfilling to her, and she has chosen it for herself, which makes it better than her life as a “useless” princess. Her character arc and development was logical and well done, and I love how her hidden strengths bloomed and truly made an impact on the plot.

2. The “romance,” is much more mature and believable than most YA novels. Kestrin and Alyrra’s relationship was slow-burning, and fraught with (understandable) conflict and deception. Where it ends, in particular, was realistic and a bit messy, not tied in a perfect bow, and it made a lot of sense.

3. The writing. I cannot say this strongly enough: Intisar Khanani has a gift for language. Her prose is elegant and descriptive without being flowery. It immerses you in her world.

4. The serious plot elements are well-handled and thought out, not just thrown in for pathos or shock value. Some truly terrible things happen to these characters! Khanani touches on topics from physical abuse to murder, The characters have to deal with these things, and they retain both baggage and scars that influence them and those around them.

5. The characters. Even the “villains” were nuanced, with histories and motives that helped you understand them, even if they deserved their fates. Characters grew, changed, and had to deal with real consequences from both action and inaction. Kestrin was an interesting foil for Alyrra, and a complicated character in his own right. However, none of the characters were just throwaway or fillers.

I only had one real complaint: It was too short! I would have loved to read more about this world and its people, and I want to know more about the mentioned Fair Folk. There were so many elements hinted at in the story that, while not bearing on the plot, intrigued me.

In summary: 4.5 out of 5 stars. This was a brilliant Goose Girl retelling from an author to watch. I will definitely be reading her other books.

Have I convinced you yet? Here is a link to her books so you know where to buy them. I ordered mine through the indie bookstore store where I work (and I plan on stocking a copy). Have you discovered any fabulous indie authors that we should check out? Sound off in the comments.

Footnotes:
*Thorn was self-published. I don’t just buy any book, self-published or otherwise, but I strongly believe in supporting the brave, independent people who take their own path. On top of that, this book is very good, which makes it even more deserving.

Top 10 Authors I’d Like to Meet (Top 10 Tuesday)

It’s that time of the week again: Top 10 Tuesday with The Broke and The Bookish. This week’s theme is Top 10 Authors you want to meet. 

Seeing as I live in the backend of nowhere, I haven’t met a lot of big time or international authors. On the other hand, I have a bunch of Michigan author meetings. Regardless, most of the authors I really want to meet are dead, which is slightly more backend of nowhere than West Michigan.

Well duh

I’m still waiting on the TARDIS, so while the Doctor is off saving the universe, I’ll just content myself with a list of living authors I want to meet.
 If any of you have read previous top 10s of mine, you can probably name at least two of them. So I’ll start with one that is not Neil Gaiman or Robin McKinley (though their inclusion is inevitable):

1. Matthew Pearl

If you can’t actually time travel, there are a few authors that make you feel like you can. Matthew Pearl is one of them. I love his historical fiction. I’m reading The Last Bookaneer right now and it’s really good. I am so impressed with his ability to incorporate historical figures and events into his story without changing or contradicting them. The Dante Club is my favorite.

2. Erik Larson

Larson is Pearl’s nonfiction equivalent. Erik Larson writes about history like it’s a first-rate thriller, weaving events together in a way that only a master of research and words can do. With my keen interest in the past, I love any book that makes you feel there, and Larson’s books always do. I would love to learn about all of the things he’s researched for his books. (My favorite is Devil in the White City)

3. J. K. Rowling

Do I have to explain? Is there a reader/writer out there who wouldn’t like to pick Rowling’s brain? Frankly, I’d like to know more about her rejection letters, some of the responses she got from publishers, and why she kept plugging on. I know she’s under a lot of popular pressure now that she’s crazy famous, and it would be interesting to know if she ever misses anonymity.

This is an awesome Zelda cosplay, btw

Naturally, my favorite is Harry Potter.

4. Marissa Meyer

When I randomly picked up Cinder (confession, it was the cover) and saw that it was a cyborg Cinderella, it was a rare insta-buy moment for me. I hadn’t heard anything about it, but you can’t get more up my alley than a cyborg, fairytales, and space combo. The anime influences were a bonus. I’d like to meet Marissa because we like a lot of the same things, and she seems like such a cool person, so open and fun. I’m not sure which one of the Lunar Chronicles I like best, but I am very excited about Winter, and I can’t wait to see what Meyer comes up with next.
Awesome picture credit here

I envy every one of you that lives in a major city, because you’ve probably had a chance to meet Neil Gaiman. Honestly, I’d rather have tea and chat with him than most authors. He is fabulous on the radio, so funny and engaging. I love his novels, and I would be honored to “talk shop” with him. But I’d settle for just meeting him and telling him what an impact his words have had on me (I’m sure that gets old, but what can you do?).

This picture is epic
Jonathan Maberry convinced me to read not one, but 5+ zombie novels. I liked every one of them. That was a major accomplishment. The mixture of action, thrills, philosophy, humor, heart, and wonderful characters in his novels got me (even though I don’t care for zombies). I would like to hear more about why Maberry likes zombies (who knows, he might convince me?), his thoughts on real-world Bushido and samurai history, and I’m not sure if I want to thank him or curse him for Tom Imura.* 
Even if you are a very casual Robin McKinley reader, I dare you to not enjoy her blog. She is a fabulous writer, and her wry sense of humor is in full force on her blog. 
As for her novels, there isn’t much I haven’t already said: I love them. They are lifelong favorites, and I’d love to tell her that in person. My favorite is still The Hero and the Crown, although Chalice is a close second.

8. Susanna Clarke

Susanna Clarke, of course, wrote one of my all-time favorite novels, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. If no one has convinced you to read it, then read this lovely BBC article and reconsider. Susanna Clarke is funny and smart, well read, loves magicians, and is very interested in history. Why wouldn’t I want to meet her?

For more of his work click here

9. D. M. Cornish

Though he is currently in between projects (I think), I love the layered world of Cornish’s Monster Blood Tattoo series.

In addition to writing a fantasy series with a rich world and fascinating characters, D. M. Cornish can draw. The series ( a bit like Oliver Twist with monster hunters and the moors of a Bronte novel) is completely illustrated by Cornish. Which is awesome.

I don’t really know much about Megan Whalen Turner besides the basics. What I do know is that she wrote one of my favorite series in the history of the world: The Queen’s Thief series. I love her characters, her writing style, and again, her love of history. I’d like to sit down and get all the details on the series, the characters, and her inspiration. 

So that’s all for this week. Did you have any of the same authors, or have you met any of them? Which authors would you like to meet and why?

Cheers!
Footnotes:
*