Monday, September 8, 2014

RIP IX: Twelve Minutes to Midnight and Shadows of the Silver Screen

I'm not entirely sure where I first heard of Christopher Edge's Penelope Tredwell books but when I was making my RIP list, I remembered them and decided to get the first two books from the library.

Twelve Minutes to Midnight introduces us to Penelope Tredwell, a young orphan who has inherited the running of a literary magazine, the Penny Dreadful, from her father. What was once a barely successful business has become an immensely popular publication due to the macabre stories written by Montgomery Flinch -- who is secretly Penelope herself. However, in the Victorian society she lives in, it would never be acceptable for a girl to be the author of these stories so she has created the Flinch persona, even going as far as hiring an actor to portray the author in public. When the Penny Dreadful and Flinch are contacted by the head of the Bedlam Asylum and asked to help solve a mystery, Penelope is the one secretly tasked with unmasking the villain.

In Shadows of the Silver Screen, Penelope has the chance to see one of Montgomery Flinch's (her) stories, The Daughter of Darkness, brought to life by a man who claims to have created the first motion picture camera to capture both color and sound. But what this camera actually captures is what Penelope must find out -- before it's too late.

I read these two books with just one other in between. I was excited to embark on another adventure with Penelope Tredwell so soon because these stories are truly terrifying. I thought they would be typical middle grade fantasy mysteries but they're really horror stories. Penelope's life is seriously in jeopardy more than once and the villains are terrible people, but not in a cartoony, Count Olaf sort of way. Luckily, Penelope is a strong character who is able to defeat these villains and the writing is such that you really feel her angst at being marginalized and ignored. I found myself rooting for her to get her due, even when I knew it wasn't likely.

The third book in the series, The Black Crow Conspiracy, has recently come out and I'm just waiting for my library system to get it (presumably after it is released in the U.S.).

Caught up by the dreadful,

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Joining Up: Witch Week (October 31-November 6)

Lory at The Emerald City Book Review is starting a new yearly event -- Witch Week! The first year will focus on the inspiration for the event -- Diana Wynne Jones.
Calling all fantasy lovers! I'm excited to announce that from October 31 to November 6 I'll be hosting Witch Week, a chance to read and discuss our favorite books and authors, and discover some that may be new to us.
This year the focus will be on the incomparable Diana Wynne Jones, author of so many fantastic books and (as far as I know) the originator of the term "Witch Week." As we learn from her novel of that name, starting on Halloween we enter a special time "when there is so much magic about in the world that all sorts of peculiar things happen," and when stories carry a particular power. What better time to celebrate and share the magic of reading?
Our "official" read-along book will be Witch Week (naturally), with a discussion on Guy Fawkes Day, November 5. Don't know what Guy Fawkes Day is? Read the book, and you'll find out!
There will also be other DWJ books featured daily and a giveaway. I'll be guest posting about Power of Three on November 1!

So, head on over to Lory's blog and let her know you want to participate -- because it's six long months until the next DWJ March.

Waiting for the witching hour,

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Today at The Estella Society: The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate

Yep, I'm still reading chapter books over at The Estella Society and the one I'm featuring today is an absolutely amazing book -- The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly. Head over and read my thoughts on this modern gem.

Girl power! Equalization between the sexes!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Kicking Off RIP IX

Last year, I had a ridiculous list of twenty books for Carl's Readers Imbibing Peril VIII challenge. This year, year number nine, the big IX of RIPdom, I improved upon it ... with a thirty book list! Most of these are TBR books with a couple of library books thrown in. I hope to get through about half of these, possibly more since I have two heinous travel days (23 hours total on planes and in airports) to and from the east coast in September and the joy that is Dewey's Readathon in October.

I've made a Pinterest board like last year featuring all of the books that you can check out below (they link to Powell's non-affiliately if you want to shop for any of them). I'm most looking forward to reading more Discworld books (I've paused in the series for too long so it's time for more Death and Witches) and I'll probably reread the other two Samuel Johnson books before getting to The Creeps. It's one of my favorite series! First up though will be the Christopher Edge books because they're library books and have waiting lists on them so I probably can't renew. I'll be reading those on September 1 (or possibly August 31 because who am I kidding ... I love the RIP challenge!).

Are you participating in RIP this year? What book are you most looking forward to reading?


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

New Release: The Ghost in the Electric Blue Suit

Graham Joyce's The Ghost in the Electric Blue Suit begins by introducing us to college student David Barwise, who has just arrived at a seaside resort in 1976 Skegness to start a summer job. He's ended up there because it's the location of the only photo he has of his father. He doesn't know much else about the man who died years ago but he has a strange notion that the answers are in Skegness. He ends up finding a lot more than he bargained for there -- unconventional relationships, ladybugs and a ghost in an electric blue suit.

Powell's has created a pretty cool companion playlist for the book. I wish I had found it before I read the story so that I could have listened along to Lou Reed, Patti Smith, Kate Bush and more while I journeyed with David through a summer of varied co-workers, vacationers and leisure activities. Even though it turned out to be a different type of story from what I would normally read, I still enjoyed it quite a bit. It took me to a time and place that I've never visited before, introduced me to people I wouldn't have met otherwise and made me think about memory and the past in a different way. The crafting of the story was superb, even in the most uncomfortable moments of David's summer.

I definitely want to read something else by Graham Joyce. Any suggestions?

Returning to shore and (relative) safety,

p.s. I received a copy of this book to review from the publisher.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Short Story Summer: Update Two

I managed to fit in two more books of short stories this summer, bringing my total to four books and dozens of stories.

I have read Neil Gaiman's Fragile Things more than once but hadn't yet read Smoke and Mirrors: Short Fictions and Illusions. This book of stories and poetry covered a wide variety of styles and themes but the only thing that didn't vary was the quality of the writing. (No duh, right? It's Neil.) There are a few stories in this collection that I'm sure I'll revisit regularly.

I had started this collection, Unexpected Magic: Collected Stories by Diana Wynne Jones, a few times but hadn't progressed past The Plague of Peacocks. This time through, I skipped a couple of stories that I had just read in another collection, reread a couple of favorites (The Girl Jones, What the Cat Told Me and Dragon Reserve, Home Eight) and took my first trip down Everard's Ride. I adored these stories (and one novella) so much that I can't even find words to explain. My journal has little hearts next to all of the story names. I even think that Jenny's Law (DWJ is always better on reread) is going to be proven wrong for once because there's no way that I could love Everard's Ride more. I already love it the most possible. And why did Dragon Reserve, Home Eight never become a full novel or series?!

This was a really fun project and I cleared four books off of the TBR. Yay! I deem this Short Story Summer a success.


Monday, August 11, 2014

New Releases: The Eye of Zoltar and Marina

Even though I bought The Eye of Zoltar a couple of months ago from the UK (it doesn't release in the US until October), I didn't read it immediately because, once again, it would leave me without an unread Jasper Fforde book on my shelves. But I recently needed a comfort read and nothing works better for that than Fforde so I had to give in. This is the third Last Dragonslayer book and it was surprisingly sad in parts. It was also surprisingly good, possibly the best of the series -- despite not having the Quarkbeast in most of the story. The development of the characters (especially Jennifer Strange) is coming along nicely and there was a great addition who I hope will at least have a minor role in the next story. I look forward to rereading all three when the fourth (and the last, according to Fforde) book comes out. I don't know how long I will have to wait though. His website also mentions a "standalone thriller of some sort" as his next book.

I also didn't want to read Marina right away, mostly because Carlos Ruiz Zaf√≥n's books are perfect fall reads and we're so close to RIP season -- but then I couldn't leave this gem sitting on my review shelf. It has a gorgeous cover and it is the final book in a loose collection of YA horror tales, following The Prince of Mist, The Midnight Palace and The Watcher in the Shadows. He wrote all of these books in the 1990s, before he wrote Shadow of the Wind.

I could actually see some of the seeds of Shadow in Marina. It was creepy and quite gothic and was another of CRZ's love letters to Barcelona, a city that I'm now equally excited and frightened to visit. It's the story of fifteen-year old Oscar, who is drawn to what he believes is an abandoned house, only to then be drawn into the quiet, mysterious lives of Marina and her father. Marina and Oscar are also dragged into a much more sinister mystery that begins in a graveyard and ends in flames. This book had a heartbreaking ending but the journey was well worth it. It had a slightly slow start but then it picked up and I couldn't put it down until I was done. I'm sad that this is the last of CRZ's early books to be translated to English.

I promised Trish that I would suggest which of these CRZ books to read first (they are all stand-alones). After finishing all four, I honestly can't decide. They are all equally good but different, so choose whatever you're in the mood for -- a ghost in Bombay, a monster in Barcelona, or one of two seaside terrors. You can't go wrong with any of them.

Back to waiting,

p.s. I received an ARC of Marina from the Library Thing Early Reviewers program.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Why Do They Keep Sending Me Lists?!?

random sunset photo by k
My email inbox has recently been torturing me as list after list drops in, taunting me with my incomplete reading canon. Okay, so maybe it's not that horrifying but lists always make me reevaluate my book choices and celebrate those ones that I have already read.

First up was Book Depository's The Best Kids' Books Ever. There are 99 books, broken down into about 20 books per age group--0-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12, and teen/YA. Some fabulous books are on these lists, both old and new titles and a few that I definitely want to add to my TBR (mostly from the 9-12 list).

Next, was Amazon's 100 Children's Books to Read in a Lifetime. This was the list I was most skeptical of but it's actually a beautifully-crafted list with a brief description of why each book made it to the list. I've read 74 of the books and I don't really disagree with any of them. They're good classics with a few newer ones sprinkled in. Some of the books are seemingly on the list for nostalgic reasons (ones like Hardy Boys and Pat the Bunny) but none of them are bad books either.

And finally, I got Powell's 25 Books to Read Before You Die. This is an interesting list of, not classics, but books that have "the ability to change the way you think and feel and reflects our diverse interests here at Powell's". I've only read five of these books on the list but they are definitely game-changer type books and, probably not coincidentally, five of my favorite books.

So, if you're in the mood for a book list, either to look for a great gift for a kid in your life or to broaden your own reading horizons, dive in!

Sharing the obsession,

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