Audiobook PSA: How To Train Your Dragon

Seriously, pay attention, because I am about to do y’all a HUGE public service. Like audiobooks, hate audiobooks, like middle grade, hate middle grade, doesn’t matter, because I have something you need to listen to, and by gum, you will like it.

How To Train Your Dragon is an audiobook. Here’s what you need to know: Continue Reading →

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Cover Love #69

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Nicolette’s awful stepsisters call her “Mechanica” to demean her, but the nickname fits: she learned to be an inventor at her mother’s knee. Her mom is gone now, though, and the Steps have pushed her into a life of dreary servitude. When she discovers a secret workshop in the cellar on her sixteenth birthday—and befriends Jules, a tiny magical metal horse—Nicolette starts to imagine a new life for herself. And the timing may be perfect: There’s a technological exposition and a royal ball on the horizon. Determined to invent her own happily-ever-after, Mechanica seeks to wow the prince and eager entrepreneurs alike.

Dang, yo. Yes, the synopsis sounds reeeeally close to Cinder, but look at that cover! Gosh. My personal points of interest are as follows:

1. Pretty dress. REALLY pretty dress. I want it.

2. She’s wearing a tiara! Gotta love a tiara. Also, glass slipper!

3. I actually really love the overall art style here. I’m not well-versed in the different styles, but it’s like Cinder‘s almost-photo, almost-illustration type. (I know, fail on the description. I really know nothing.)

4. Look at the colors. Aren’t they lovely? It’s soothing and enchanted and will look beautiful on my shelf.

5. GEARS. I’m very fond of the gears on the bridge. Without them, this cover would seem like a pretty but average fantasy cover, but with the gears and other mechanical doodads, now we have a better idea of what we’re dealing with.

6. Look at the pretty (but slightly ominous) castle!

7. Man, even the font has the right mix of industrial parts and whismy. What a beaut.

Honestly, this cover is so pretty that I’d consider getting the book even if the story itself stunk—not that I think it will, but that just goes to show how much I love the cover.

Your turn! Tell me how much you love (or don’t love—gasp!) this cover.

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How I Choose A Book – Then and Now

This week’s discussion is inspired by my inability to choose a book to read over the weekend. Send help.

THEN

Back in the day, long before I knew what a blog was or that I could have one of my own, my selection methods were simple. Every three weeks or so, my mom would shove us all in the family minivan and we would truck on down to the local library. Once there, I would literally walk every aisle in the Juvenile and Young Adult sections and look at every shelf. I relied on pretty spines and interesting titles to catch my eye. Once I was caught, I would check out the cover and then read the synopsis on the back or inside flap. If the book sounded interesting and seemed to avoid things I didn’t like, into the bag it went. I found some great books that way. Tamora Pierce, Suzanne Collins’ Gregor books, Megan Whalen Turner’s The Thief, and Nancy Springer’s Rowan Hood series were all books that caught me with their titles and spines and reeled me in with their covers and descriptions.

If I bothered to hunt down a specific book, it would be for one of two reasons—either it was a reread/continuing series book or it was from CBD. Sometimes when trolling the shelves, I would find myself in the mood for a certain book, in which case I would look it up on the computer and see if it was available. Bing bang done. Sometimes I would be in the mood for a certain book but also curious as to whether that author had ever continued the story. This is how I devoured all of the Dear America books my library branch had to offer; every time I came in, I would search for their general location and then snoop around until I found one I hadn’t read yet. And sometimes I would come prepared with my marked-up copy of Christian Book Distributors, a privately owned Christian fiction company that sends out a catalog every month or so. When we received out copy, I would sit down and read every single description of every single book. The ones I liked I marked with a circled 1 (to differentiate from the marks my mom and sisters made) and then searched for at the library. My hunts weren’t always successful, but it was a nice way for my mother to allow me access to all kinds of stories without worrying about objectionable content.

In those days, it was not uncommon for me to check out dozens of books at one time. I knew our library’s checked book maximum limit was 50 because it was a number I reached again and again. I would bring my books home, sort them into piles (kids vs. adult vs. nonfiction vs. comic collections, new vs. rereads, singles vs. series, mysteries vs. romance), and alternate between piles until all the books were either read or tossed aside.

NOW

Now my method is far less loosey-goosey. If I go to the library now, it’s to pick up an audiobook for my commute. I don’t have times to troll the aisles and find lost gems. I wish I did. Instead, my searching is done online. I scour Edelweiss catalogs and Twitter announcements. I peek at your reviews and Wishlist Wednesdays. I have naive non-blogger friends give me recommendations in the foolish hope that I’ll have time to read something just for fun. Everything I find gets dumped into my Goodreads to-read shelf, and there they sit.

My reading life is dominated by ARCs (Advanced Reading Copies). This is both good and bad. I love my ARCs. Whether digital or physical, ARCs are really just baby books, and they hold some amazing stories. Pretty much everything I’ve read and reviewed on this blog has come from an ARC. The main negative to ARCs in my opinion is the deadline. While print ARCs can technically sit forever and NetGalley Kindle ARCs never expire, Edelweiss ARCs do. And guess which I have the most of? So when I read, I organize by archive date and release date. Stories being archived the soonest get first dibs on my time, though I am willing to rearrange books that expire within a week of each other and I am quick to DNF (Did Not Finish). Digital ARCs get priority but are also more easily tossed aside. Physical ARCs take a little longer to get to but are also easier to connect with. Within both categories, I rely on my old skills and try to pick books that interest me, regardless of their archive date. If it’s a certain book’s turn to be read but I’m not feeling it, I’ll either pass it over for another story or read a certain amount of pages and then dump it.

It’s interesting to see how much I still rely on the physical aspects of a book. Though what I read when depends on chronology and deadlines, those books wouldn’t get on my list at all if I weren’t reeled in by a cool title, a pretty cover, a intriguing synopsis. Right now, all my methods are failing me. I have eight September physical ARCs to read. All of my eARCs are completed, which means I can then attack this stack in whatever order I please, and I’m scared. What if I pick the wrong one for my current mood? What if I don’t connect? They’re all so pretty! What I’ve decided to do is try something completely new. I’m going to read my remaining physical ARCs by size. My hope is that I can quickly gulp down the smaller ARCs and then will feel so pleased at my productivity that I can then slow down and luxuriate in the longer stories.

Wish me luck!

Now it’s your turn. Tell me, how do you choose what to read? Have your methods changed over the years? How and why? Is there another method you’d like to try?

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SUMMERFALL Teaser Blast

As I’ve discussed before, I decline almost all promotional blasts and such that come my way. It’s not my thing, and I’m very protective of this little portion of cyberspace that I’ve carved out for myself. However, on rare occasions, I will say yes, either to promote a series that I love or to help out an author that I appreciate and trust. This is one of those times.

Rinka is a faery, passionate and powerful, determined to maintain the tenuous peace between faeries and humans.

Alban Somerhart is a human, a reluctant king trapped in an arranged marriage, desperate to prevent war.

Their love could save the kingdom of Cane . . . or shatter it forever.

In this captivating novella, prequel to the upcoming Winterspell, Claire Legrand weaves a story of magic, political intrigue, and forbidden love that sets the stage for the rise of a wicked queen and the journey of a human girl named Clara . . .

Summerfall is the prequel novella to Claire Legrand’s Nutcracker retelling, Winterspell, as you just read. The novella came out August 26th, and you can pick up an e-copy at any of these fine retailers: amazon | barnes & noble | books-a-million | ibookstore 

Winterspell isn’t out until September 30th, but you can preorder a copy in all the same places. Until then, Claire Legrand has a giveaway just for you!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

You can also follow Claire at her various social media accounts: site | blog | twitter | facebook | instagram | pinterest | goodreads (and you totally should, if only to see her absolutely adorable puppy, Odin.)

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Review: JACKABY by William Ritter

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

Doctor Who meets Sherlock in William Ritter’s debut novel, which features a detective of the paranormal as seen through the eyes of his adventurous and intelligent assistant in a tale brimming with cheeky humor and a dose of the macabre.

Sigh. Siggghhhhhhhhh. Sometimes after a book like this, sighing is the only thing I can do. It’s the only thing I want to do, because heaven only knows that apathetic reviews are the hardest reviews to write.

“Apathetic?” you may ask. “But Shae! Doctor Who meets Sherlock! That’s YOU!” I know. I KNOW. And, as far as comparisons go, those two really aren’t so bad. There are elements of both shows in Jackaby; unfortunately, those elements failed to coalesce into something great for me. Continue Reading →

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THE BEST DAY OF THE YEAR

IT’S THE MOST WONDERFUL TIIIIIIIIME OF THE YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEAR!

That’s right, it’s MY BIRTHDAY!!

There is absolutely no reason whatsoever other than 1) it’s my birthday, and I’M EXCITED, 2) I wanted an excuse not to write a “real” post for today, 3) I’m narcissistic, and 4) IT’S MY BIRTHDAY AND I’M EXCITED!

See you all next week! *swims in presents and cake*

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Cover Love #68

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Twelve-year-old Sunny lives in Nigeria, but she was born American. Her features are African, but she’s albino. She’s a terrific athlete, but can’t go out into the sun to play soccer. There seems to be no place where she fits. And then she discovers something amazing—she is a “free agent,” with latent magical power. Soon she’s part of a quartet of magic students, studying the visible and invisible, learning to change reality. But will it be enough to help them when they are asked to catch a career criminal who knows magic too?

Oh Penguin, your designers make my heart and eyes very happy. I love this. I love the fonts, and I love that the African-American protagonist is the focal point of the cover. No whitewashing here! I love that she looks how she is described—twelve years old, African, albino, magical. I especially love the colors. They’re bright and eye-catching without being obnoxious, smoothed into living, organic shapes that (in my opinion) work well with the promised magic. Also, she’s holding a knife. I’m a sucker for knives on a cover.

Have you read this book? Is it as good as it looks? What do you think of the cover?

 

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Mini Reviews: BLAZE and I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER

Today on the blog, I give quick reviews of books I read over the summer. Be warned, they are ranty to the max. Also, some spoilers ahead.

Blaze is tired of spending her life on the sidelines, drawing comics and feeling invisible. She’s desperate for soccer star Mark to notice her. And when her BFF texts Mark a photo of Blaze in sexy lingerie, it definitely gets his attention. After a hot date in the back of her minivan, Blaze is flying high, but suddenly Mark’s feelings seem to have been blasted by a freeze-ray gun, and he dumps her. Blaze gets her revenge by posting a comic strip featuring uber-villain Mark the Shark. Mark then retaliates by posting her “sext” photo, and, overnight, Blaze goes from Super Virgin Girl to Super Slut. That life on the sidelines is looking pretty good right about now…

Ah, Blaze. You tried so hard and still managed to make me so grumpy. For much of the story, I had fun. I liked Blaze’s attitude and her talent at drawing comics and her determination to count the most cows. I especially loved the nerdery that permeated every page. All the chatter about comics and superheroes made me so happy.

However, all that had changed by the end precisely because nothing changed. My main issue was that (in my opinion) the characters experienced zero growth. None. Nada. By the end of the book, Mark is still a jerk, Dad is still a jerk, Mom is still overworked and acting jerky, Blaze’s friends are still a jerk, Comic Book Guy is still a jerk, and Catherine Wiggins is still being bullied. Blaze has a changed perspective, but what good will it do her when literally everyone around her is still the same and the only person she’s bothered to call out is Mark and Dad? GIRL, YOUR FRIENDS ARE STILL MAJOR JERKS AND NOW YOU WANT TO DATE A SNOBBY NERD BOY. LOOK AT YOUR LIFE. LOOK AT YOUR CHOICES.

For real, I cannot possibly consider Comic Book Boy as a valid romantic alternative. He falls victim to the classic nerd boy blunders by testing Blaze’s nerd cred by asking her a bunch of super-specific comic book questions. Listen, jerkface, even if she couldn’t answer a single one of those questions, that doesn’t make her a poser fan. IF SHE LIKES THE THINGS, SHE’S A FAN, CAPISCE? And Blaze, by joining in Comic Book Boy’s haughty mockery of customers, you are contributing to the elitist drivel perpetuated by the very fanboys that so angered you. Also, talk about bad customer service.

I also had a big problem with how this book treated Cathy Wiggins, the school’s resident “slut.” After Blaze herself is unfairly maligned, she finds a sympathetic soul in Wiggins, who confides that she is—despite the rumors—a virgin. Blaze is rocked by the injustice of Wiggins’ situation, and… does absolutely nothing about it. Absolutely. Nothing. Blaze goes on to have a Hollywood-worthy confrontation with her father and reclaim her own self-worth, and that’s fab. But there’s zero indication that anything changes for Wiggins, who has been suffering under the same pariah status as Blaze since middle school. MIDDLE SCHOOL. Say “it gets better” all you want, Blaze, but I won’t believe you until you actively work to make it better for other people rather than just worrying about yourself. So much for girl power and self-respect.

I purposely chose to make this a mini-review to limit the ranting that I could do, so I’m stopping here. It’s a pity that such a fun-looking book ended up being so rage-inducing.

Buy The Book Now at The Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide

John Wayne Cleaver is dangerous, and he knows it. He’s spent his life doing his best not to live up to his potential. He’s obsessed with serial killers, but really doesn’t want to become one. So for his own sake, and the safety of those around him, he lives by rigid rules he’s written for himself, practicing normal life as if it were a private religion that could save him from damnation. Dead bodies are normal to John. He likes them, actually. They don’t demand or expect the empathy he’s unable to offer. Perhaps that’s what gives him the objectivity to recognize that there’s something different about the body the police have just found behind the Wash-n-Dry Laundromat—and to appreciate what that difference means. Now, for the first time, John has to confront a danger outside himself, a threat he can’t control, a menace to everything and everyone he would love, if only he could.

John Wayne Cleaver is one mixed-up kid. He’s the son and nephew of morticians and grew up around dead bodies. He’s tied to serial killers through names (John Wayne Gacy, the tool cleaver, and the Son of Sam—John’s dad name is Sam), and he’s obsessed with their “craft.” More than anything, John is worried that he’ll become a serial killer.

This book is craaaaaazyyyyyyyyy. Dan Wells has clearly done his research. The depictions of serial killers and sociopathology are so on point, I nearly squealed out loud while reading. I LOVE it when I can trust the text to know what it’s talking about, especially when it concerns a subject that interests me. Everything from the steps to properly embalm a body to the psychology of a killing spree was laid out with precision and—dare I say it—charm. I was certainly entertained. I Am not a Serial Killer is a story in the tradition of Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope. John isn’t the most likable protagonist, nor even a character you want to succeed, but you can’t help rooting for him.

I think this book would have been just about perfect for me if it hadn’t been for the twist. [SPOILER]Halfway through, we find out that the serial killer in question is actually a paranormal creature. That’s right. This hardcore murder mystery thriller just took a sharp right turn into fairytales. Rather than pitting John against a wily old human serial killer, our main character goes toe to toe with an ancient beast who replaces his dying parts with those of his victims’—a sort of self-made Frankenstein’s monster. What am I supposed to do with that?[END SPOILER]

Without that twist, I think this book would have been a four or even five star. With it, I’m left vacillating between a two and a three, and I will proceed with caution when reading the sequels.

Buy The Book Now at The Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide

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Top 10 Tuesday – Books People Have Been Bugging You To Read

Man, I have so many of these. SO MANY. Like, “1200+ books on the TBR” level SO MANY. This is both the great benefit and great curse of having so many blogger friends. Y’all are bubbly and enthusiastic, and I get a ton of great recommendations, but that also means I’m DROWNING in books I want to read. For this list, I ended up just tossing up the first recommendations I thought of off the top of my head, as these are all recs I’ve received multiple times. Continue Reading →

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