Sunday, November 30, 2014

Great Advice for Alleged Grown-Ups: Grace's Guide

Grace's Guide: The Art of Pretending to be a Grown-Up by Grace Helbig
Touchstone, 2014

For how long have people said that there's not a guide book for how to be a grown up? Well, now there is! Coming of age in the digital age has been full of ups and downs, and frankly, at 26, a lot of the time I still find myself not quite feeling like an adult. I mean, I do when I'm at work, helping mold young minds and all that jazz, but there's still always been that part of me who feels more like the I'm still 16 years old, hopelessly lost on things like how to interact with other people (not just guys. People. Guys may as well have been from another planet).

But never fear, Grace Helbig is here!

Known for her hilarious videos on YouTube, Helbig dishes out plenty of food for thought five days a week on her channel it'sGrace to her 1.9 million subscribers. In a guidebook tailor-made for Millennials (though you don't have to be one to enjoy this), life gets broken down into easy-to-manage chunks, each section's advice resulting in a hashtag acronyms to help you remember. The guide is both practical and humorous as it is dotted with plenty of anecdotes from Helbig's life, both things her viewers may have seen before as well as secrets coming to light. It's not enough to count as a memoir, but again, it enhances the conversational feel of the entries.

All in all, I can't say enough great things about this book or Grace herself whom I was lucky enough to meet when she was on tour for this release. At an event with over 200 people, she took selfies with everybody and though she's a self-proclaimed introvert and "the Internet's awkward older sister", she seemed at ease and made every person feel special, like a friend, like we weren't alone.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Grace Helbig on YouTube

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Short Story Saturday: Kiss Me Deadly, The Hounds of Ulster

Welcome to Short Story Saturday! Each week, I'll talk about a different story from the collection I'm working my way through and offer up some thoughts. I'm currently reading Kiss Me Deadly: 13 Tales of Paranormal Love.

Story: The Hounds of Ulster
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Summary: Bryant and her best friend Sullivan are Irish punk music gods and are well aware of the fact that music can have power over people, but she never realized how it would change both of them and their friendship.
Thoughts: Sometimes when Maggie Stiefvater writes a short story, it feels much more like a conversational anecdote. She's not one for tidy endings or explaining everything - she leaves a lot of room for readers to draw their own conclusions - and such is the case here. In this piece, various kinds of love are at play - romantic, familial, fantastical, and painfully platonic - and in the end, we are left with more questions than answers, namely which kind of love is really the most powerful of all?

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Fairy Tales with Feminist Twists: Poisoned Apples

Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty by Christine Heppermann
Greenwillow Books, 2014

I consider myself fortunate in that I grew up in a time where being a princess was something I always saw as an honest-to-goodness Job rather than only being about handsome princes and happily ever afters. Thanks to the likes of Princess Diana, Meg Cabot's Princess Diaries series, and now Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, it was always clear to me that fairy tales, while lovely stories to get lost in, may not always be quite as they appear. I've been thinking about this a lot ever since finishing Poisoned Apples, a collection of 50 poems by Christine Heppermann inspired by classic fairy tales, but given contemporary and feminist twists.

While there are plenty of people out there who see fairy tales as detrimental to the minds of young girls, Heppermann's collection shows how the princesses in these tales are very much people too. Dealing with the pressures put on us by society and ourselves, some of the roots of these poems are more obvious than others, but each one packs a punch. The artwork that accompanies these poems adds to their emphasis, an additional reminder of how what we say, what we think, and how it looks on the outside can all be drastically different things.

I don't typically consider myself much of a poetry person - I can usually only appreciate it in small doses - but when I find something that speaks to me, it does so loud and clear. This is very much the case for many of the poems in these pages. Two in particular stand out, "The Woods" and "Nature Lesson", but I made copies of many others so I can draw from them in times of need.

Even if you don't consider yourself a particular fan of poetry or fairy tales, I highly encourage you to give this book a chance. It may be small, but it is fierce.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Christine Heppermann's Website
Christine Heppermann on Twitter

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Short Story Saturday: Kiss Me Deadly, Vermillion

Welcome to Short Story Saturday! Each week, I'll talk about a different story from the collection I'm working my way through and offer up some thoughts. I'm currently reading Kiss Me Deadly: 13 Tales of Paranormal Love.

Story: Vermillion
Author: Daniel Marks
Summary: When the undertaker in Vermillion is suspected of joining the growing revolution and has gone missing, Velvet and her boyfriend Nick are recruited by the Station Agent to search Purgatory's other boroughs for him.
Thoughts: This story was not my particular cup of tea, but then again, I've always had trouble with mysteries. It took me a while to sort of figure out the world and people's roles in it, so in focusing on that I wasn't paying as great attention to the clues and red herrings as I should have. If you like stories where paranormal meets mystery/detective flair, then this is for you.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Hang on to Your Heart: Crown of Midnight

Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas (Throne of Glass #2)
Bloomsbury, 2013

*As this is the second book in a series, there may be spoilers for previous books - you have been warned!*

Maas takes readers on another emotional and action packed roller coaster in Crown of Midnight, the second book in her Throne of Glass series. Celaena Sardothian has won her place as the King's Champion and over the last few months has begun to adjust to her new role as the royal assassin. Watching her fight for her survival is one thing, but seeing how she takes the lives of others is something else entirely for Prince Dorian, Captain of the Guard Chaol Westfall, and visiting Princess Nehemia. Yet there are all kinds of suffering that each of them endures, many of them in the form of terrible secrets, as the evil king rules from his glass castle. When tragedy strikes, where will Celaena's loyalties lie and will she strike back?

Maas continues to build her intricate fantasy world in book two of this planned six book series. The stakes, which were already high, continue to rise. However, this time around I felt that urgency not just in Celaena, but in her peers as well. It quickly becomes clear that all of them have a lot to lose, and while the highs are great (they are truly wonderful and fantastic, leaving my heart pounding and my knees weak), the lows are devastating. This is one of those reviews when I'm not even sure what to say because I'm still trying to process all that has happened, all the questions that are now on the table, and what lies ahead for everyone's favorite fantastical killer with a conscience (well, mostly haha). This book has an arc of its own, yet Maas is clearly thinking long term here, especially when she still has four books to go.

There was so much growth, so many twists and turns that kept me guessing, and I'll definitely be coming back for more in the Throne of Glass series. And if you're a fantasy lover, I'm betting you will be, too.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Sarah J. Maas's Website
Sarah J. Maas on Twitter
Sarah J. Maas on Tumblr

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Short Story Saturday: Kiss Me Deadly, Fearless

Welcome to Short Story Saturday! Each week, I'll talk about a different story from the collection I'm working my way through and offer up some thoughts. I'm currently reading Kiss Me Deadly: 13 Tales of Paranormal Love.

Story: Fearless
Author: Rachel Vincent
Summary: Sabine, a delinquent in the eyes of the Texas justice system, has been sentenced to six months at Holser House and get her act together, but it's easier said than done if only people knew the things she saw whenever she touches another person.
Thoughts: Ms. Vincent, you can't end a story like that! I NEED MORE! This was such a refreshing and different paranormal story, from Sabine's powers to the setting, to the well thought out abilities of others' and how they all come together in a perfect storm. I loved this, except for the ending because I want more. So if you could please finish this novel (because this is clearly a cut-off novel, not just a short story), that'd be great.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

There's Something About Her: Mary Poppins

Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers
Harper Collins, 1934

I usually do my best to read the book before I see its film adaptation, but Mary Poppins is an exception to this rule. Not only was I a young child when was first introduced to this fascinating character, but I must admit that I never even knew she was based on a book until recent years. And so since recently seeing the film Saving Mr. Banks which chronicles the challenges of Walt Disney getting Poppins author P.L. Travers to agree to sell him the film rights to her story, I was curious. I'd learned that there were numerous changes between.the beloved novel and its equally beloved film.

Blowing into Number 17 Cherry Tree Lane on an East Wind, Mary Poppins is unlike any nanny the Banks family has ever known before, but she couldn't have better timing seeing as their other nanny just quit. Charged with the care of the Banks' four children - yes, that's right. In the book, Jane and Michael have twin younger siblings James and Barbara - Mary Poppins takes them on fantastical adventures and does her job well.

However, Travers' Mary and Disney's Mary aren't exactly identical. While both are firm, determined to get the job done (and done right), and incredibly orderly, they each go about things in their own way. In Disney, she's also extremely kind and caring, a source of sunshine in the lives of everyone she meets. In the hands of Travers, however, she is not one for sentimentality. Often after these magical adventures, she will insist to the children that they never happened and they are being ridiculous. She's also a bit vain, taking great pride in her appearnce and often stopping to admire her reflection in shop windows.

Many of my favorite scenes from the movie are also here, albiet they transpire differently such as the journey into the chalk drawing with Bert, the tea party on the ceiling, and the woman who feeds the birds at St. Paul's Cathedral. And of course, this being a book, there was plenty more happening as well.

All and all, I can see why children of past generations were interested in these stories. While I'm not so sure it'd be my top pick for kids anymore, I think for those who loved the movie and want to know its origins or for children wanting to explore chapter books, this is something they may enjoy. This wasn't my particular favorite read ever as I explore more classics, but I'm glad to have read it once.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Short Story Saturday: Kiss Me Deadly, Familiar

Welcome to Short Story Saturday! Each week, I'll talk about a different story from the collection I'm working my way through and offer up some thoughts. I'm currently reading Kiss Me Deadly: 13 Tales of Paranormal Love.

Story: Familiar
Author: Michelle Rowen
Summary: Brenda, a reluctant witch-in-training, goes to the local magic store to pick out a cat to be her familiar but instead of getting a kitten, she picks out and is Bonded to a shape-shifting boy named Owen.
Thoughts: I. LOVED. THIS! This story was fantastical and fun and I loved the snarky banter between Brenda and Owen. I thought each of their circumstances was interesting and how the Bond worked between them. Add in a dash of werewolves, some stolen jewelry, and this is a story I'd love to keep reading. I'll definitely be looking for more by this author!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Life and Death: Mortal Heart

Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers (His Fair Assassin #3)
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Release Date: November 4, 2014

*ARC provided by the publisher at BEA and picked up by Rachel of ReadWriteRamble - thank you! This in no way impacts my opinions expressed in this review. Also, as this is the final book in a series, there are some spoilers for the previous books in the series - you have been warned!*

I remember when my library first got a copy of the first book in Robin LaFevers' His Fair Assassin series - in fact, I'm pretty sure I'm the one who put it on the order. Nuns who serve the ancient Brittany god of death, St. Mortain (who is actually their father), by becoming highly skilled assassins? Sign me up! Yet there it sat, a premise I was always interested in, yet just didn't pick it up and start reading. When I finally did, I was hooked on this historical series. I inhaled Grave Mercy, then Dark Triumph, and finally Mortal Heart.

Annith has been at the convent of St. Mortain her entire life and is still waiting for her chance to leave the abbey's walls so she may finally carry out the will of her god with her own highly skilled hands. Her dearest friends Ismae and Sybella have already been sent out, as have younger girls with far less training. So when the abbess declares that it is the will of Mortain that Annith become the new Seeress, a role that means never leaving the abbey for the rest of her life, this daughter of Death takes her life into her own hands and leaves to join her friends. The journey unites her with unlikely people, long buried secrets come to light, and it becomes clear that Annith's destiny with Death is far different from anything she could have imagined in the abbey's walls.

This was a very satisfying ending to LaFever's trilogy. I've been interested in Annith's story ever since meeting her back in book one. While this novel has fewer action sequences than its predecessors, here readers get a lot in terms of the ancient beliefs of Brittany, backstory about the abbey, and the followers of other saints. The abbess also plays a much bigger role here, and while I still hate her more than ever, learning her story was illuminating. Seeing Ismae and Sybella again was like visiting old friends, but I think my favorite parts are ones involving new characters. I won't say more than that because the surprise was so much fun and I don't want to spoil it for anyone. For readers of this series who like the dashes of romance included before, never fear, you'll find that here as well. My only criticism is that since it's been a year since I read book two, I was hazy on remembering the political details of this world, so a bit more in terms of helping refresh my memory would have been helpful.

Though the story of these three handmaidens of Death is over, LaFevers has ended her saga in a way that still allows room for the story to continue should she choose. All in all, if you liked books one and two, pick up Mortal Heart. I'm so glad I got to read it early, but even if I hadn't, I'd say this book was worth the wait.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Robin LaFevers's website
Robin LaFevers on Twitter
Robin LaFevers on Tumblr

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Short Story Saturday: Kiss Me Deadly, Hare Moon

Welcome to Short Story Saturday! Each week, I'll talk about a different story from the collection I'm working my way through and offer up some thoughts. I'm currently reading Kiss Me Deadly: 13 Tales of Paranormal Love.

Story: Hare Moon
Author: Carrie Ryan
Summary: Tabitha has been raised to believe that her village is the last of humanity, yet learns this isn't so when she breaks the rules and ventures into the Forest of Hands and Teeth and falls in love outsider Patrick.
Thoughts: Though I'm not the hugest fan of when works in short story collections are extensions or spin-offs of authors' other series, this story is an exception because it stands on its own. I've never read Ryan's historical zombie series, but had no trouble following this tragic tale of Tabitha and the choices she must make. I was hopeful for a happy ending, but, alas, zombies have a tendency of making that kind of impossible. Still, a very engaging story.