'You know you've read a good book when you turn the last page and feel a little as if you have lost a friend.' ~ Paul Sweeney

Saturday, December 19, 2015


Author: Marissa Meyer
Publisher: MacMillan's Feiwel and Friends
Publication Date: January 3, 2012

Available in Paperback, Hardcover, Audiobook and by Download

I often find books simply by personal recommendation, but since joining this year's NaNoWriMo session, I find that talking about writing on my social media sites like Facebook and Twitter seem to result in the sites recommending things to me. This series happens to be one of those. 

You're never supposed to judge a book by its cover, but I often find that the books I enjoy most are those with fantastical cover art. Since I love any sort of fairy tale with a twist, the sponsored feed on Facebook that kept suggesting the Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer continued to capture my attention until I was forced to do something about it. I may be thirty-something, but I adore Young Adult fiction, and this series had the potential to be right up my alley.

Turns out, Facebook knew my taste pretty well. It's that time of year when we're all strapped for cash and so instead of impulsively buying yet another book I couldn't afford, I joined my local library and decided to just borrow a few. Or 15.

Not knowing anything about the book besides my attraction to the cover, I was a bit disappointed when I started to read the first few pages. I didn't relate at all to the main character, a cyborg (half-human, half-machine) named Cinder who is pretty much a genius when it comes to anything mechanical. I was also a bit confused by the names, as the book is set in Asia, in a place called the Eastern Commonwealth. 

There was a lot of description of who Cinder was - her human body and the parts of her that are mechanical - but I felt the description of her (hair, eyes, facial features etc) was missing, as were the rest of the characters, with one exception towards the end of the book (which I won't spoil for you!). I don't know if this was done on purpose, to allow the reader to form their own picture of what each character looked like or if it just wasn't that integral to the author in the story she was wanting to tell. Having been placed into the middle the Eastern Commonwealth with no identifying description other than the country and the Asian name of Linh Cinder, I assumed that Cinder was, in fact, Asian, as were most of the other characters. On this score, I'm still just not quite sure and I haven't had the chance to go look at any fan art. The book trailer, however, sheds a bit more light. Take a look:

After I got past this little stumbling block, I realized that the character herself reminded me very much of Kaylee Frye, from Joss Whedon's cancelled television series, Firefly. Funnily enough, at the back of the book, there was a question and answer portion with the author, who says that she was definitely inspired by Firefly! Once I had that in my mind, I started to get more excited about the book and abandoned my reservations about the lack of physical description.  

The story is a complicated one, with little mysteries sprinkled throughout and revealed in spurts. The story of Cinderella that we are all familiar with is twisted into something entirely different in this series, and the dynamics between each character are surprising. We see much more of the prince in this version, which I always found lacking in the Disney tale, and we also have an evil Queen, which is the first time I've ever seen that addition to the narrative. 
Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless Lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . .

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.
While the story was published back in 2012, I don't feel like I've jumped on the bandwagon too late. It seems that the fourth book in the series, Winter, was just released this year, and prior to that, a few short stories that reveal information on Cinder's first meeting with her step-family and the evil queen of the story, Queen Levana. 

As I turned each page, the more I felt sure that this series would play wonderfully on the big screen. I love to fan-cast my favorite books, and I could totally see Chloe Grace Moretz or Bonnie Wright playing Cinder opposite perhaps BooBoo Stewart as Prince Kai. I'm still hoping that somewhere along the line, the series will get an option for film, because it's the best beginning to a series since the Hunger Games. I have no idea if the rest of the series will continue to keep me intrigued, but I really hope so.

I've just rented the second book in the series, called Scarlet, which starts off in Europe with a character based on Little Red Riding Hood who eventually meets up with Cinder from the end of the first book. I can't wait to start reading it and will definitely do a review when I have completed it.

A few facts in addition to the Firefly aspect that I also found interesting - the story sprang from the author's participation in NaNoWriMo (which I just completed my first session of!) AND she lives in Tacoma, WA, which means we're both Pacific Northwesterners!

If you're looking for a new twist on the Cinderella story and other fairy tale characters, then Cinder and the Lunar Chronicles should definitely be at the top of your reading list! You can learn more about the book and even read the first chapter on Marissa Meyer's webpage here.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Sleepy Hollow: Creating Heroes, Demons & Monsters

Let me start my somewhat-biased review by confessing something. I’m a hardcore fan of the FOX television series Sleepy Hollow, and I could not wait to get my hands on the companion volume to the show. As a writer and storyteller, I find it fascinating to see the thought process and storyboards for television and film.
For those who have not yet seen the series, here’s a synopsis of the show, which is now in its third season on FOX:
Resurrected from his grave more than two centuries after he was killed fighting for the Colonial Army in the Civil War, Ichabod Crane partners with Lieutenant Abbie Mills of the Sleepy Hollow Police Department to fight the evil forces that have taken hold of the town.
From the velvet feel of the matte cover to the glossy photos contained within, Tara Bennett and Paul Terry introduce fans to all of the behind-the-scenes production that goes into creating the world inhabited by heroes Ichabod Crane and Abigail Mills.
With a foreword from series executive producer Len Wiseman, the 176-page companion photo and sketch book reveal information that fans rarely have access to, including the original concept of the show and how it evolved into what it is today, how the team creates each monster-of-the-week, and how each of those monsters play into the overall mythology of the series.

Concept sketches depict the show’s interpretation of Washington Irving’s character, Ichabod Crane, brought to life by actor Tom Mison, along with the places that help create the tone of the series. The team behind Sleepy Hollow have taken special care with their version of Irving’s character, making the show much more than simply a tale of a man out of time and instead focusing on Crane’s observations of our modern times through his colonial lens as he comes to accept his role in thwarting the coming apocalypse. If you’ve seen the show, you know how charming Mison is as Crane and how he is completely believable in the role despite the supernatural story the show tells. If you haven’t seen the show, Mison is reason enough to check it out – he’s equal parts adorable and talented, plus he has that lovely British accent that will tickle your ears.

Each of the main characters are featured in one to four-page spreads, including concept art and quotes from makeup artists and costume and set designers. Sprinkled throughout the pages are also pieces of “twistory”, which reveal how the writers have blended American history with the fictional versions of Sleepy Hollow’s denizens.

If you’re interested in sets, props, costumes or makeup design, the detailed concept art, special effect stills and photos from various stages in the production will give you a sense of what goes into each particular piece of the puzzle.

While I enjoyed the book very much, especially reading the creative thought processes of the writers, producers and designers, I have one complaint: the actors were not included in the book at all other than photographs of them behind-the-scenes or stills from the show. Input from the people who bring these characters to life every week would have nicely rounded out the information provided, giving the reader a complete view of the series. After all, a script, costumes and set design can only take a show so far. The actors are the people breathing life into the show, connecting with the viewers each week.

For those fans like myself, who love getting an insider’s look at a show they love and are entertained by, Sleepy Hollow: Creating Heroes, Demons & Monsters is a wonderful companion and interesting perspective on the mythology of the series and its characters. No photos I could take of the book would really do the actual sketches or stills justice, so you’ll simply need to purchase a copy for yourself to get the full and glorious effect.

A copy of the book was provided by the publisher for review and you can purchase a copy here.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Revisiting the Black Dagger Brotherhood and Disappointment in HarperCollins

It's been nearly two months since I was offered an ARC of the second book in the Tearling series and no book has arrived. It's well past the publish date of the book, which was June 9, so I guess I'm not getting one.

On Friday, I sent an email to the marketing exec in charge (as far as I could tell from the HarperCollins site) for the book to let them know how disappointed I was in the lack of follow through or response since the original offer. I emailed the original contact twice, and sent three direct messages to HarperCollins via Twitter, all to receive no response. We'll see what the new email to someone else brings, if anything.

I really don't want to purchase the book now, because I have a bad taste in my mouth from the experience, but I want to read the damn book! So, pay day is this weekend and I'm sure I'll have to go purchase it for myself, and I'm sure I'll probably review it. It's not the author's fault the marketing higher-ups don't keep their word. I NEED to know what happens with Kelsea!!!

In the mean time, I will have to resort to an ebook since I STILL can't find some of the other books I know I had lost in the move. I just finished the Kindle version of The King by J.R. Ward and am still contemplating how I feel about it. I won't do a full blog review on this one until I am sure where I stand, but I will say - I love Wrath. He was the first of the Brotherhood I was introduced to, since I insist on reading the books in order. I assumed with all the myriad of characters the author has created, the continuation of the series would focus on the ones we haven't seen yet, but I was pleasantly surprised to revisit Wrath and Beth.

The author also revealed that one of the upcoming books would once again feature Rhage and his Beast, which I am VERY excited for! The cover was revealed earlier this month:

I have a feeling I must have missed some books in the series, because I felt like the other story arcs in The King featured some characters I have a big question mark about. Like I remember iAm and Trez, but who the hell is Assail and where did he come from? I need to go do some research to figure out where I went wrong in the reading order. It could be simply that when I was focusing on college graduation, trips to Orlando and London that I just overlooked some.

I might just have to institute a reread of the series.

What a hardship, to revisit all my favorite members of the Brotherhood, true?

Have you read the Black Dagger Brotherhood series? Which Brother is your favorite and why? Let me know in the comments!!! 

Friday, May 29, 2015

The waiting is killing me!

As I await my ARC for The Invasion of the Tearling, I'm trying to find things to read. I have realized that during the very quick move from my little town to the big one, in my haste to get the hell out, I must have tossed some books.

I can hear your gasp of shock and disgust. Go ahead, hate me. I hate myself, if I have to be honest.

Here I had this whole stack of something like 32 books I was all set to read and now I can't find but one! I guess I'll have to read that, or barring any interest in the lone straggler, I'll have to resort to.... *gulp* my Kindle books.

Don't get me wrong, a story is a story, but I really HATE ebooks. I want to feel the pages in my hands. I want to smell them. Kindle feels so...cold. Impersonal. Like it's sex without the love. Not the best when you know what it could potentially be.

Oh well.

Let's hope the ARC arrives soon. I'm dying to find out what happens to Kelsea!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

The Queen of the Tearling

The Queen of the Tearling
Author: Erika Johansen
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication Date: Paperback edition April 2015

Available in: Paperback, Hardcover, and Kindle

Like any good book, you hear about it via word of mouth. I'd seen blogs, heard people talking about it, and finally I gave in, though I lacked any substantial reading time. We'd reviewed the book for MuggleNet but I'd yet to pull the trigger on a purchase. 

Luckily, a trip to London gave me plenty of the reading time I'd been lacking, so I hunted for the infamously eye-catching red paperback cover at Barnes and Noble in the airport and began reading before the plane had even taken off.

For the Harry Potter fans, you'll know the novel has already been optioned for a film which will star Emma Watson. For the non-Harry Potter fans, this is the medieval fantasy adventure story you've been waiting for!
"With the arrival of her nineteenth birthday, Princess Kelsea Raleigh Glynn is ascending to her rightful place as the new Queen of the Tearling. Surrounded by enemies, including an evil sorceress possessed of dark magic, the young ruler stands little chance of success. But Kelsea possesses fearsome weapons of her own, including the Tear sapphire, a jewel of immense power and magic. As an epic war draws near, Kelsea's quest to save her kingdom and meet her destiny begins - a wonderous journey of self-discovery and a trial by fire that will make her a legend...if she can survive." - The Queen of the Tearling
There are so many things that I love about this story. The relationships between each character, the seemingly plain-girl self-awareness that Kelsea has when it's so obvious that she is anything but plain, the mystery surrounding the event referred to as the Crossing...it all adds up to a read that answers questions but leaves more questions looming.

And perhaps my favorite thing - this isn't your run-of-the-mill fairytale Disney princess. The strength of this character and her conviction is refreshing. Yet she, and the reader as we take this journey with her, have yet to fully realize the power she holds.

I feel lucky that I waited so long to have jumped on the Tearling bandwagon, as the release of sequel to the first novel in the series is only DAYS away, and hopefully I'll get some answers to my questions! Who is The Fetch? Why is the evil sorceress so evil, yet written almost sympathetically? What is the secret of the two sapphires? Can Kelsea save her people and bring an end to the horrors they've experienced?

Is it June 9th yet?

Check back for my next review of the sequel, The Invasion of the Tearling!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Spies like us: Harry Potter and the Art of Spying

Harry Potter and the Art of Spying
Author: Lynn Boughey and Peter Ernest
Published By: Wise Ink, Inc.
Publication Date: September 15, 2014

Available in: Paperback and Kindle
Art of Spying website and blog

I've had this book on my shelf for more than a year now, having received an ARC well before its publication date. I read it cover to cover a few months before attending LeakyCon in Orlando, Florida last August. At that time, MuggleNet was asked to review the book and give a quote for the publication. I jumped at the chance to get my hands on it and provided a quote to the authors, which you can see below:
Now, I'd meant to write a full review and post on Amazon but with the excitement of LeakyCon as my first real MuggleNet event since joining the team and being promoted to Source Editor, it kind of fell by the wayside. I'm about to rectify that!

My quote absolutely still holds true - what I love most about the Potter fandom is that we can really get our geek on. We re-read the books all the time, we watch the movies over and over, and when we get together as a group to discuss the series, theories and opinions and all the feels start flying around!

I consider myself to be a very intuitive person and think that I see (or in this case, READ) between the lines to what lies deep underneath. However, when it comes to Potter, the pensieve runs deeper. Just when you think you have it all sorted or you've discovered the hidden gems that Jo has laced throughout the series, someone else brings to your attention something you never thought of before.

That's what this book does. It marries the need to understand the Potter series on a deeper level with, as the title indicates, the art of spying.
"Although some Potterphiles consider Order of the Phoenix to be one of the lesser books in the series, we heartily disagree. This book is Harry's true coming-of-age story, alongside his best friends Hermione and Ron. With little to no help from the adults, the famous triad rebels against authority, organizes a subversive organization, and takes matters into its own hands! The fact that the kids must do this in secret allows them to develop important skills not only in magic, but in spy craft as well." - Art of Spying
Before this book, I'd never really thought of what Harry and his friends were doing in the series in quite those terms. What is supremely interesting to those addicted to Harry's journey and the world he inhabits is that there were so many things going on around Harry that affected him but that he just had zero clue about. He was completely new to the wizarding world and didn't understand the rules that governed it. We as readers had access to information he didn't, albeit sprinkled in what appeared to be a random sentence or paragraph that seemingly had no bearing to his journey.  Knowing what we know now, those bits of information were never random and never without purpose.

The authors, Lynn Boughey and Peter Earnest (the director of the International Spy Museum!!!), explore book five in the series - chapter by chapter, moment by moment, breaking down each one by reflecting on the action of the characters. They help us understand the various methods of gaining information, how that information informed the decision-making process, and revealed truths about each character and their motivations that we may not have seen at first glance.

Harry Potter and the Art of Spying is definitely worth the money as an addition to your Potter collection - you'll never look at the series the same way again!

You can check out the blog for the book, which I also happened to write a few guest posts for last December when Pottermore dropped clues and new information as a 12 Days of Christmas gift to fans!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Time to Commit!

It has been FOREVER since I have blogged here - life sometimes gets a little too busy to be able to get my thoughts down. 

However, after talking with some of my blogger and writing friends, I am going to once again try to make a monthly blog post, reviewing books, movies, or just talking about some of my favorite fandom things. First on my list is a review of Erika Johansen's "Queen of the Tearling", which I just finished and which Emma Watson is reportedly attached to for the film adaptation. I also just got offered an ARC of the sequel, which I am STOKED about. I can't wait until it arrives and you can bet I will review this one for you all as well!

Since I last posted in September, my life has changed a lot! I was very unhappy with my job and so therefore, most of my time was spent looking for another. I started a new position at a new-to-me company and have been busy learning the ropes. In addition to the new job, an opportunity to travel to London, England, came up unexpectedly and I had to raise funds for the trip, which took place in April. I won't go into the series of unfortunate travel experiences I had, but I will blog about my trip (once I actually got to London!) and include some pictures soon.

MuggleNet duties have kept me busy for the last two years and I love it! I write a special column for them once a week in the Casting News section, called Role Call. I also post news items for our journalists to write up and occasionally get to write some of them myself! In addition, I've taken on the added duty of our Giveaways (which we do a LOT of!). My role at MuggleNet has afforded me many wonderful experiences and perks, and they will have to pry the things I do out of my cold, dead hands if they ever try to take them from me.

Last, it is my goal to begin to write some fiction again. I've been saying this since August, when I graduated from college with my Bachelors degree, but have yet to really put it into action. I think I will dip my toes back into the Role Play scene over on GALS with my friends Bella and Misty, who have urged me in the last month to get my ass back in. Hopefully, this will lead to finding the joy in writing fiction again.

Wish me well on my journey to find the writer in me again and to bring that part of myself back to life. I look forward to revisiting my favorite characters and creating new ones, revamping old storylines and improving upon them. I hope you all enjoy what is to come.