Archive | adult fiction

Review: A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC by V.E. Schwab

Kell is one of the last Travelers—rare magicians who choose a parallel universe to visit.

Grey London is dirty, boring, lacks magic, ruled by mad King George. Red London is where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire. White London is ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne. People fight to control magic, and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. Once there was Black London—but no one speaks of that now.

Officially, Kell is the Red Traveler, personal ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London, carrying the monthly correspondences between royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell smuggles for those willing to pay for even a glimpse of a world they’ll never see. This dangerous hobby sets him up for accidental treason. Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs afoul of Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a dangerous enemy, then forces him to another world for her ‘proper adventure’.

But perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, Kell and Lila will first need to stay alive—trickier than they hoped.

I feel like I’ve been waiting to read this book forever. ADSOM came out in February, but I’ve been making grabby hands since Ms. Schwab first mentioned her work in progress (then dubbed “Pirates, Thieves, and Sadist Kings”) on Twitter. Everyone I follow seemed to love it, so the longer I had to wait for my library hold to come in, the more nervous I became. What if I was the black sheep?

Guys. I am so not the black sheep. THIS BOOK ROCKS.

I’m a white sheep, hooray!

Continue Reading →

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Review: THE GHOSTS OF HEAVEN by Marcus Sedgwick

A bold, genre-bending epic that chronicles madness, obsession, and creation, from the Paleolithic era through the Witch Hunts and into the space-bound future.

Four linked stories boldly chronicle madness, obsession, and creation through the ages. Beginning with the cave-drawings of a young girl on the brink of creating the earliest form of writing, Sedgwick traverses history, plunging into the seventeenth century witch hunts and a 1920s insane asylum where a mad poet’s obsession with spirals seems to be about to unhinge the world of the doctor trying to save him. Sedgwick moves beyond the boundaries of historical fiction and into the future in the book’s final section, set upon a spaceship voyaging to settle another world for the first time. Merging Sedgwick’s gift for suspense with science- and historical-fiction, Ghosts of Heaven is a tale is worthy of intense obsession.

I picked up this book knowing it would be outside my comfort zone. I’ve never read one of Mr. Sedgwick’s books before, and I was eager to see how we got along, but very little about the description promised a tailor-made Shae experience. Linked short stories? One of which is about a witch hunt? (Oh no.) The description reeked of mysticism (not my favorite), but the possibility of history and science being linked was too intriguing to pass up. Also, I’m a sucker for a pretty cover, and LOOK AT THAT BEAUTY. Continue Reading →

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Cover Love #58

CoverLove1

Kell is one of the last Travelers—magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel universes—as such, he can choose where he lands.

There’s Grey London, dirty and boring, without any magic, ruled by a mad King George. Then there’s Red London, where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire. White London, ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne—a place where people fight to control magic, and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. And once upon a time, there was Black London…but no one speaks of that now.

Officially, Kell is the Red Traveler, personal ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London, carrying the monthly correspondences between the royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they’ll never see—a dangerous hobby, and one that has set him up for accidental treason. Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs afoul of Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations, who first robs him, then saves him from a dangerous enemy, and then forces him to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure.

But perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, Kell and Lila will first need to stay alive—and that is proving trickier than they hoped.

Usually I stick to YA and MG titles for Cover Love since that’s the primary focus of my blog, but HA! Fat chance this week. I’ve bene waiting two weeks until all the BEA madness was over so I could squeal over the cover for Victoria Schwab’s newest adventure. GAH. It’s everything I love. It has RED and BLACK. It’s minimalistic. It has MAPS (maps of London, no less). It alludes to the parallel universes within the book itself. It’s just… yes. Yes to aaaaaaaaaaaall of that.

Yes, yes I did. Don’t be afraid of the love.

What do you think of this cover? Do you adore it as much as I do? Are you excited for the book? DO YOU HAVE A SECRET STASH OF ARCS TO SHARE WITH ME?!

 

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Review: THE DEAD IN THEIR VAULTED ARCHES by Alan Bradley

On a spring morning in 1951, eleven-year-old chemist and aspiring detective Flavia de Luce gathers with her family at the railway station, awaiting the return of her long-lost mother, Harriet. Yet upon the train’s arrival in the English village of Bishop’s Lacey, Flavia is approached by a tall stranger who whispers a cryptic message into her ear. Moments later, he is dead, mysteriously pushed under the train by someone in the crowd. Who was this man, what did his words mean, and why were they intended for Flavia?

Back home at Buckshaw, the de Luces’ crumbling estate, Flavia puts her sleuthing skills to the test. Following a trail of clues sparked by the discovery of a reel of film stashed away in the attic, she unravels the deepest secrets of the de Luce clan, involving none other than Winston Churchill himself. Surrounded by family, friends, and a famous pathologist from the Home Office—and making spectacular use of Harriet’s beloved Gypsy Moth plane, Blithe Spirit—Flavia will do anything, even take to the skies, to land a killer.

This is the end, the last of the Flavia de Luce adventures. I’ve adored her since I first picked up the green-jacketed Sweetness on a lark and fell in love with our irrepressible chemist. This book, to my relief, was classic Flavia, containing all the elements I yearned for save one. Continue Reading →

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Review: VICIOUS by V.E. Schwab

A masterful, twisted tale of ambition, jealousy, betrayal, and
superpowers, set in a near-future world.

Victor and Eli started out as college roommates—brilliant, arrogant, lonely boys who recognized the same sharpness and ambition in each other. In their senior year, a shared research interest in adrenaline, near-death experiences, and seemingly supernatural events reveals an intriguing possibility: that under the right conditions, someone could develop extraordinary abilities. But when their thesis moves from the academic to the experimental, things go horribly wrong.

Ten years later, Victor breaks out of prison, determined to catch up to his old friend (now foe), aided by a young girl whose reserved nature obscures a stunning ability. Meanwhile, Eli is on a mission to eradicate every other super-powered person that he can find—aside from his sidekick, an enigmatic woman with an unbreakable will.

Armed with terrible power on both sides, driven by the memory of betrayal and loss, the archnemeses have set a course for revenge—but who will be left alive at the end?

I have no idea how to start this review. I hope that if I keep typing, the right words will come. Vicious is a book that deserves the right words. It’s an adult book, certainly not my normal fare, but I knew from the moment I heard about it that I had to read this book. V.E. Schwab – elsewhere known as Victoria Schwab, author of The Archived and The Near Witch – has taken the ordinary superhero tale of good vs. evil, turned it on its head, and emptied out all its pockets. I can’t claim the title of superhero aficionado (my knowledge is limited to movies), but I think I can safely state that this ain’t yo momma’s superhero story. Continue Reading →

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Review: MARGOT by Jillian Cantor

In the spring of 1959, The Diary of Anne Frank has just come to the silver screen to great acclaim, and a young woman named Margie Franklin is working in Philadelphia as a secretary at a Jewish law firm. On the surface she lives a quiet life, but Margie has a secret: a life she once lived, a past and a religion she has denied, and a family and a country she left behind.

Margie Franklin is really Margot Frank, older sister of Anne, who did not die in Bergen-Belsen as reported, but who instead escaped the Nazis for America. But now, as her sister becomes a global icon, Margie’s carefully constructed American life begins to fall apart. A new relationship threatens to overtake the young love that sustained her during the war, and her past and present begin to collide. Margie is forced to come to terms with Margot, with the people she loved, and with a life swept up into the course of history.

It wasn’t until after I received my digital copy of Margot from Penguin that I realized it was adult, not YA as Edelweiss had labeled it. Apparently, if you choose the 14-18 age filter, it hones in on the “18” part of “18 and older.” I was worried, for while the synopsis sounded interesting, I don’t read adult books. My blog focuses on MG and YA books, and with all the books I have waiting to be reviewed, surely I didn’t have time to be sidetracked. However, even if by accident, request it I had, so read it I must.

Sometimes, the best things arrive by accident. Continue Reading →

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Interview with Sarah Beth Durst, Author of CONJURED and LOST

Sarah Beth Durst author photoSarah Beth Durst is the author of young adult novels VesselDrink, Slay, LoveEnchanted Ivy, and Ice from Simon & Schuster, as well as middle grade novels Into the Wild and Out of the Wild from Penguin Young Readers. Her next book for teens, Conjured, comes out in September 2013 from Bloomsbury/Walker. Her first book for adults, The Lost, comes out in June 2014 from Harlequin/Mira. She won the 2013 Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature and has been a finalist for SFWA’s Andre Norton Award three times.

Sarah was born in Massachusetts as Sarah Angelini and grew up in Northboro, a small town in central Mass that later became the setting for her debut novel.

At the age of ten, she decided she wanted to be a writer. (Before that, she wanted to be Wonder Woman, except with real flying ability instead of an invisible jet. She also would have accepted a career as a unicorn princess.) And she began writing fantasy stories.

She attended Princeton University, where she spent four years studying English, writing about dragons, and wondering what the campus gargoyles would say if they could talk.

Sarah lives in Stony Brook, New York, with her husband, her two children, and her ill-mannered cat.

Shae: Hi, Ms. Sarah, and welcome!

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of your work, what are five things we should know about you?

Sarah Beth Durst:

1) I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was ten years old.
2) CONJURED is my seventh novel.
3) I have really, really curly hair. Even curls when wet.
4) I’m afraid of skunks.
5) And Frisbees. (Not in a paralyzing sort of way. I’m just convinced they’re all going to hit me in the face.)

Sh: In preparing for this interview, I had so much fun learning about your books. I learned about you when I fell in love with your 2012 YA fantasy Vessel, but you actually started with an MG book in 2007 titled Into the Wild. Could you tell us a little about that book and what prompted it?

SBD: Total wish fulfillment. I grew up in a nice, quiet town in Massachusetts, and I always wished something magical would happen there: dragons in the woods, aliens in the school, goblins in the basement. No such luck. So I wrote INTO THE WILD to fix that problem. In it, fairy-tale characters live in secret in my old hometown… but the fairy tale wants its characters back.

Sh: After that series concluded, you moved onto Ice, a YA with an eighteen-year-old protagonist that has been on my to-be-read list for what feels like forever. It looks amazing! Was it frightening to move from MG to YA?

SBD: Not frightening at all. For me, the story dictates the age of the protagonist, which in turn dictates whether the book is labeled MG or YA or adult. INTO THE WILD and OUT OF THE WILD were about Rapunzel’s daughter, a girl who was caught between worlds. So I wanted her to be twelve-years-old, the age that many people start questioning their place in the world and who they are. For ICE… ICE is basically Beauty and the Beast meets Arctic adventure. But at its heart, it’s about leaving home and finding or creating your own home. For that story, I wanted her to be eighteen, the age many people leave home for the first time.

Sh: You’ve really kicked it into high gear this year with two nearly simultaneous releases. Conjured, your paranormal YA, is being published by Bloomsbury/Walker in September while The Lost, your first adult book, is being published by Harlequin Luna in November. What has it been like for you as you juggle two different books in two different age categories with two different publishers?

SBD: It’s been fantastic! And busy. And somewhat lacking in sleep.

I decided to do two books a year because I noticed that I’ve started writing faster. Over the last few books, I’ve learned a ton about what writing process works best for me, and that’s enabled me to become more efficient. (To any aspiring writers out there: it does get easier! Never easy, but easier.)

By the way, there has actually been a change to the pub date for THE LOST. The publication schedule for the trilogy was recently re-worked such that the three books could come out in more rapid succession. THE LOST, THE MISSING, and THE FOUND are now scheduled to be released in June 2014, December 2014, and April 2015. So CONJURED will actually be my only new book for 2013, but with my next YA coming in fall 2014, I’ll have 3 books out next year! More about this here: http://sarahbethdurst.blogspot.com/2013/08/big-changes-afoot-for-lost-trilogy.html

Sh: I’ve been pleased by how strongly Bloomsbury has been behind Conjured. They’ve put out quite an impressive marketing push. What can your fans look forward to in this book? (I personally can’t decide whether the serial killer or the reoccurring amnesia excites me more.)

SBD: You can expect the unexpected. (Cue “Twilight Zone” music.) CONJURED is not a traditional thriller. It’s more a fall-down-the-rabbit-hole, twisted fairy-tale kind of thriller. I tried to achieve a feeling of chaos and disorientation as Eve tries to figure out who she is and who she can trust.

You can also expect some kissing. 🙂

Sh: As I mentioned before, The Lost is your first adult book, which is terribly exciting. I can’t wait to get my hands on it. In themes and content, how “adult” is The Lost? Do you expect it to have strong crossover appeal with your teen fanbase?

SBD: Thanks! I’m really excited about it. And yes, I expect it to have crossover appeal to teens.

The primary reason that THE LOST is a novel for adults is that it’s about loss, and I wanted the protagonist to be someone who has experienced loss and feels the emptiness of abandoned dreams. So I needed her to be late-twenties, rather than teenage.

This or That:

Unicorns or gargoyles? Unicorns

Apples or bananas? Bananas (but only if they’re not mushy — actually, that’s true for apples too)

RedBox or Netflix? Netflix

American football or soccer football? 🙂 Basketball

Sh: There are so many more questions I would love to ask (especially about Vessel, because I’m still swooning over it nearly a year later), but for time’s sake we’ll stop here. Thank you for being a game participant! Readers, you can learn more about Sarah and her books at her website, sarahbethdurst.com, and connect with her via her blog, Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest, and Facebook.

SBD: Thanks so much for interviewing me!

Eve has a new home, a new face, and a new name—but no memories of her past. She’s been told that she’s in a witness protection program. That she escaped a dangerous magic-wielding serial killer who still hunts her. The only thing she knows for sure is that there is something horrifying in her memories the people hiding her want to access—and there is nothing they won’t say—or do—to her to get her to remember.

At night she dreams of a tattered carnival tent and buttons being sewn into her skin. But during the day, she shelves books at the local library, trying to not let anyone know that she can do things—things like change the color of her eyes or walk through walls. When she does use her strange powers, she blacks out and is drawn into terrifying visions, returning to find that days or weeks have passed—and she’s lost all short-term memories. Eve must find out who and what she really is before the killer finds her—but the truth may be more dangerous than anyone could have ever imagined.

Conjured by Sarah Beth Durst is on shelves and online now!

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Wishlist Wednesday #35

Hosted by Pen to Paper

Hosted by Pen to Paper

Bishop’s Lacey is never short of two things: Mysteries to solve and pre-adolescent detectives to solve them. In this New York Times bestselling series of cozy mysteries, young chemist and aspiring detective Flavia de Luce once again brings her knowledge of poisons and her indefatigable spirit to solve the most dastardly crimes the English countryside has to offer and, in the process, comes closer than ever to solving her life’s greatest mystery-her mother’s disappearance…

I know this isn’t my usual YA/MG fare, but I ADORE Alan Bradley’s Flavia de Luce series. Flavia is precocious, sarcastic, ingenious, and completely obsessed with poisons. The mysteries are excellent and the interpersonal drama is quiet but engrossing. Despite my busy reading schedule, I push aside all other books to read the newest Flavia every single time one comes out.

I CAN’T WAIT FOR THIS BOOK!

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The Lizzie Bennet Diaries

I know I’m really late to the party, but I’ve just started watching The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. I know most of you are probably already acquainted with the series, but perhaps a few of you are not.

So here’s the skinny.

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries is a modern day retelling of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen told in the form of a vlog (video blog) on YouTube. It’s really cool.

Lizzie Bennet is a 20-something grad student living at home with her family as she works on her master’s degree in mass communications. As a thesis project, she has started The Lizzie Bennet Diaries with the help of her best friend, filmmaking genius Charlotte. In the course of her vlog, in which she details the daily events going on in her life, we get to meet the rest of the Bennet clan, as well as other friends and annoyances, and watch the story of Pride and Prejudice unfold in an entirely unique manner.

I’m going to assume that you all know the basic story of Pride and Prejudice. Even if you haven’t read the book or watch one of the movie adaptions (and you should, you know), anything I say about the characters here won’t spoil it for you. I’m only 3/4ths of the way through the current episodes (they’re not done yet) and I haven’t gotten into the extra material such as Lydia’s videos or Charlotte’s videos, but here are some of the characters I’ve met so far. [Note: I thought about putting their pictures up, but half the surprise is finding out how they’ll look, so I’ve only included pictures of those who appear in the first episode.] Continue Reading →

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Book-To-Movie Soundtracks

This past weekend, I gave into the shameful spirits of procrastination and slothfulness. While my upcoming blog posts sat unwritten, I watched a movie. I blame Gillian and Ems. If they hadn’t mentioned this particular movie and started reminiscing about key scenes, I would have had a productive weekend. Instead, I sat down and watched all FOUR HOURS of the BBC mini-series North and South.

Based off the Elizabeth Gaskell novel of the same title, North and South is a masterpiece. The plot is more character-driven than action-driven, but the characters themselves are a triumph. For me, North and South trumps even Pride & Prejudice for swoony period awesomeness.

One key component of the movie is the soundtrack. There are a few musical themes that cycle in the background, and they’re all gorgeous. One in particular, entitled “I’ve Seen Hell (And It’s White)”, makes me want to die from happiness every time I hear it. The way the music swells with emotion, perfectly in synch with certain scenes, is indescribable.

Then I started thinking about other soundtracks. We talk so much about book-to-movie translations, but it’s rare to talk solely about the music. But the more I started thinking, the more I realized that it was those book-to-movie translations that boasted some of the most moving cinematic soundtracks on my iPod.

Below are just a few of my favorites.

1. “I’ve Seen Hell (And It’s White)” from North and South, based on North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell.  Starting slow and then building to a climax, “I’ve Seen Hell” adds an extra punch to some of the more emotional scenes in the mini-series, especially those darn cliffhangers.

2. “Come Away to the Water” from The Hunger Games, based on The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. There are so many good songs on THG soundtrack. Each fit the movie perfectly and exceeded my expectations (holla, “Kingdom Come!”), but Adam Levine’s sinister and seductive “Come Away to the Water” is one of my favorites.

3. “Postcard for Henry Purcell” from Pride & Prejudice, based on Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Again, there’s a plethora of amazing songs to choose from, but “Postcard” is one of my favorites. That may or may not have anything to do with the insane amount of romantic tension between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy in that scene.

4. “Dance ‘Round the Memory Tree” from Prince Caspian, based on Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis. Another song that makes me want to dance, “Memory Tree” is slow, haunting, and perfect. “Lucy” and “The Call” from the same movie are also favorites.

5. “I Wanna Be Like You” from The Jungle Book, based on The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling. Most of the music on this list is more pathos-driven, but “Wanna Be” is amazingly fun. I dare you not to smile while listening.

6. “Houses of Healing” from The Return of the King, based on The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien. Yet again, there are so many fantastic songs in The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy. So. Many. I’m partial to “Houses of Healing” for several reasons. It’s gorgeous, for one. It also boasts vocals from Arwen (Liv Tyler). And it’s startlingly unknown, as it comes from the ROTK Extended Edition soundtrack rather than the theatrical release. (For a more kid-friendly take on LOTR, try “My Baby Elf” from The Lord of the Bean.)

7. “Masquerade” from The Phantom of the Opera, based on The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston LeRoux. Everyone has their own favorite Phantom song. Some love the tender romance of “All I Ask of You;” others prefer the dark seduction of “Music of the Night;” while still others delight in the rockin’ organ and electric guitar(!) in “The Phantom of the Opera.” I prefer “Masquerade” best of all. The characters are ebullient, drunk on their supposed freedom from the Phantom. They celebrate, taunting him with their masks. It reaches a fever pitch around 3:12, and every time my stomach clenches. It’s like watching the fall of Rome. They’re mad with power, balancing on the edge of their doom, and it’s all about to end with a violent crash.

8. “Cabin Fever” from Muppet Treasure Island, based on Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. You just can’t beat a big, bald man in a Carmen Miranda outfit. (For a sci-fi, steampunk version of Treasure Island, try “I’m Still Here” from Treasure Planet.)

9. “The Plagues” from The Prince of Egypt, based on the story of Moses from Genesis in the Bible. Heehee. I was very careful not to specify novels, because I badly wanted to include this song. It’s chest-poundingly powerful. Bonus for the Harry Potter geeks: the singing Pharaoh? That’s Voldemort, folks. (“Deliver Us” and “When You Believe” are two other masterpieces from the same movie. Oh, who am I kidding. They’re all awesome!)

10. “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” from Mary Poppins, based on Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers. Every kid knew how to say this word when I was growing up. Not everyone could spell, it though. Still, such a treat! (I also have learned to love the soft lullaby “Feed the Birds.”)

There are hundreds of other songs I could have mentioned. I’ve excluded fairy tales and myths, for starters, as well as Winnie the Pooh, Tarzan, and tons of other wonderful book-to-movie translations. What songs would be on YOUR list, and what did you think of mine?

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