Monday, November 26, 2012

On Thuribles: A Review of Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor

Days of Blood & Starlight (Daughter of Smoke and Bone, #2)Earlier this year I read the fantastically unusual novel Daughter of Smoke and Bone, and while it was by no means flawless, it certainly left an impression. This book, it's sequel, has been on by To-Read list ever since.

In the aftermath of the massacre of the chimera, Karou is hiding out in a sandcastle in on the edge of the Sahara in the human world, resurrecting select soldiers at the command of Thiago, aka the White Wolf. Karou hopes these soldiers will be able to defend the last living chimera, but in reality Thiago is using them in a terror campaign against the angels. Akiva, meanwhile, is struggling with his desire for peace in a world full of murder. He offers mercy to as many chimera as possible, but many continue to die. His attempts to reach of to Karou are rejected, though she softens toward him when he returns certain key friends to her.

Positive Comments

This book was more successful than the first at making the world of Eretz seem large and vast and important, lending the story the epic feel that one wants in a fantasy. Where the first book was largely about a teenage girl who is unusual and out of place, this book is about the lives and deaths of entire peoples. The politics of the empire of angels are gritty and intriguing, as we see that Akiva comes from a warrior class of little prestige but much power.

Karou's very unusual position as a resurrectionist and perceived traitor made her journey in this book incredibly rocky and emotional. She doesn't want or feel able to lead, but throughout the book it becomes increasingly obvious that she's going to have to. I liked Karou's loyalty and her unique and artful magic.

I came to appreciate the secondary characters a lot more. Zuzana was surprisingly charming, and she and Mik were rather cute together. I really liked Ziri, and I was glad that he gets a somewhat central role.

Critical Comments

I was a bit disappointed with the lack of romance, or even the teensiest bit of relationship development between Karou and Akiva. They spend very, very little of the book in the same room, and all of it tense and uncomfortable.


I recommend this series to fantasy fans, YA or otherwise. It's so fresh and different, and it's easy to become immersed in such an intense world. 4.5 stars.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Review: Fables Vol. 5: The Mean Seasons

Fables, Vol. 5: The Mean SeasonsThe Mean Seasons, which chronicles what goes on in the Fable community after the attack of the wooden soldiers, is honestly something of a downer. Well written and well told, this transitional tale still left me wanting a lot more.

The volume begins with a tale of Bigby's exploits during World War II, which involved terrorizing Nazis among other things. If I'm being truly honest it comes off as entertaining but way out of place in the rest of the story arc.

We also learn that Cinderella (Cindy) is far more than what she seems--not just a bubbly socialite, but also a crafty spy.

The meat of the story, though, is devoted to the birth and first year of Snow and Bigby's children. Because most of them don't look human, Snow is forced to move to The Farm with them, and Bigby is not allowed there. The emotional impact of the separation is keen. I really felt for Snow as she grappled with her feelings and dealing with her very unusual brood. It struck me as highly odd, however, that there was no better solution to be had than her self imposed exile to The Farm. Bigby suggest that they go elsewhere, somewhere secluded, and Snow acts as though this would be a huge betrayal of Fabletown. I just can't understand why, and consequently the whole plot felt slightly forced.

Nonetheless, it was very cool to see the cubs in all of their oddness, and to learn about Bigby's father, The North Wind. It's interesting to see what bits of his nature have been passed down to the cubs.

Overall, it's not the strongest volume of the series, with so many logistical and motivational flaws. However, it wasn't so bad that I don't still want to see more from the series. 3.5 stars. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Misc. Monday: Thanksgiving Week

Well, hello, people of the interwebs! Just dropping in to share a few updates for the week coming up.

See Any Good TV Lately?

This past week's Supernatural  had Cas in it again! Happy Dance! With Bobby gone, Cas is by far my favorite character, so I'm looking forward to seeing more of him this season!

Once Upon a Time killed off Billy/Gus the Mouse (apparently), and gave us some more backstory and development for Ruby, one of it's most interesting secondary characters. I like this version of Red Riding Hood because she's portrayed as a very typical, urban fantasy style werewolf with all of the conflicts there in--controlling the beast, finding a pack, maintaining humanity, and so forth. Very cool, indeed.

I'm glad Arrow seems to be doing well, since I really feel that TV needs a superhero or two, and why not one with a hood? My only critical comment about the overarching plot is HOW are all of these really corrupt people all in one city? I guess Sterling is to sleezy business men as Gotham is to psychopaths?

Grimm is a great show in many ways, but it annoys the piss out of my husband. He can't get over how slow the overarching plot is to progress--"I see one out of three shows, but I don't feel like I missed anything!" And he's not entirely wrong. It is first and foremost a procedural cop show with a fairytale twist, so right now it leans more toward episodic than saga style storytelling--fine for some viewers, apparently frustrating for others. What can I say? I still find the show engaging. Although I agree with hubby on his one other criticism, which is that Juliette has become horribly annoying in her obliviousness and lack of judgement. She can die any episode now, doesn't matter to me.

Beauty and the Beast is stupidly cheesie and not all that original, but still very watchable. If it were a book series, it would be paranormal romance Lora Leigh style, but without all the sex. It would be better with sex. As would so many things.

I also caught one episode of Revolution, and I liked what I saw. Problem is, I don't really have time for all of my TV and books as it is (I'm losing sleep here, people), so to fit this in something else would have to go. Anyone been keeping up with this? Want to tell me if it's worth squeezing in?

Reading Goals Are Holding Steady!


I surpassed the number of books read last year (97) and just hit 101! I'm so very proud of my extreme nerdiness! My goal for the year was 112 books, and with just over a month left I can't slow down now, but I'm confident I'll make it!

What will my goal for next year be? Perhaps 113, or something even more ambitious. Next year may be a bit easier without school or a wedding to deal with.

Some Thanksgiving Advice From Your Friendly Neighborhood Penguin


If I'm not around much this Thursday and Friday, it is of course because of the holiday. We here in the US will be celebrating our Thanksgiving diners, and then on Friday the shopping madness begins. On Friday . Friday. And that's the first point I want to make to you all, is that Black Friday should be strictly a Friday thing. Thanksgiving is for food and football and time with your family. Many retailers have gotten greedy and are starting their sales at 7 or 8 on Thursday. Nonsense.

I bring this up because right now, I have a day job (sometimes night job) at one such popular retailer. My schedule for the holiday actually worked out okay for me. But many of my coworkers were not so lucky. In the past, everyone had to work on Thanksgiving, but only 4 or 6 hour shifts. To cope with the early sales, almost everyone has to work 9+ hour shifts on Thanksgiving--sacrificing their time with their families. Do us a favor, please--vote with your pocket books, and stay home until Friday. Friday morning--go nuts, shop til you drop, we're ready for you. But please don't encourage companies to continue with these early sales--the hidden costs are paid by workers and their families.

Happy Holiday Season, Everyone!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

On Tarot: A Review of Poison Princess by Kresley Cole

Poison Princess (The Arcana Chronicles, #1)I might as well warn you right out of the gate that I didn't like this book, even though I intended to. I was so sure I'd like it that I bought my own copy without reading an excerpt or any reviews. I'm like a cautionary tale for impulse buying.

Tough to detail the plot, since all of the legitimately interesting portions are spoilers, but...Basically, an apocalypse happens, in which the sun flares and kills all plant life and vaporizes all water on the Earth's surface, and Evie is one of few survivors. She's unfortunately terrible at surviving, but is lucky to have first her mother and then Jackson to take care of her. Jackson is a Cajun juvenile delinquent, and it's an opposites attract situation with Evie having been a peppy cheerleader in her pre-dystopian life. The plot gets (comparatively) interesting when we start to learn that Evie has magic(ish) powers to do with plants--and that there are other teens out in the world with other powers.

Positive Comments

The prologue is gripping, and the final chapter is rather triumphant. I can't deny that there are a lot of great ideas in this book. I really wanted to know about the Arcana and what their purpose in the world is. I can't deny that I'm still intrigued, and that even though I really, really did not like this book, I will probably read the next one in the series. That's how interesting the fantasy elements are.

Critical Comments

Let's start with Evie. I found it very, very hard to like, relate to, or sympathize with Evie on any level. Now, it's not like I really expect to connect directly with every heroine I read about, especially in YA. But dear God, Evie is unlikeable, and more importantly she is useless. It's fine for a character to start out useless, or weak, or cowardly, as long as they show some sort of steady development over the course of the story. But Evie does not. With the exception of her breakthrough at the very, very end, she is content to rely on Jackson for survival, even when he puts her down for being dead weight. Where is her sense of pride or self respect? Where are her survival instincts? Why should I care about this girl?

The romance did not work for me, and the main reason for that is Jackson. Jackson comes from a dirt poor background where he's had to learn to fight for basic survival--and by fight, I mean beat men's faces into their skulls. He's a bad boy...okay, fine, I like bad boys. The problem is he just doesn't come across as redeemable in any capacity. He drinks heavily, puts Evie down all the time, and hits on another girl to make her jealous. If all that isn't bad enough, I'm left with the impression that his only motivation for helping Evie is to get into her pants. At one point, when she puts a stop to their physical activities, he blows up at her, basically saying "I saved your life, the least you could do is put out!" Our hero, ladies and gentlemen! So this book fails entirely as a romance, and whether the relationship stands a remote chance of being salvaged for me in future books is doubtful.

So, there isn't a single truly likeable character...maybe the plot is still good? Yes, to a point, but the pacing is way off. The first third is spent on Evie's high school drama--maintaining popularity, having a surprise birthday party, maybe losing her virginity to her perfect boy friend...none of which shows any signs of being even slightly relevant to the actual plot. A lot of this could have and should have been slashed in favor or interesting things.


Unfortunately, I can't in good conscience recommend this book. It annoyed and infuriated me on so many levels. Will I read the next book? Probably. But there's no reason that you should suffer as well. 2 stars.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Review of Fables, Vol. 4: March of the Wooden Soldiers

Fables, Vol. 4: March of the Wooden SoldiersThis volume of Fables marks a lot of changes for our fairy tale characters. We are, of course, familiar with the adversary and the fact that our characters are in exile in the mundane world because of the destruction that this mysterious enemy wrought. This, however, is the first time that we experience the adversary as an active threat in more than a flash-back capacity.

To begin with, I really enjoyed learning of Boy Blue's tragic and romantic back story. I think what makes Fables special is it's ability to take characters who most of us feel that we know, since we've heard since childhood, and cast them in an entirely different light--for better or worse. So seeing a romance for  Boy Blue and Red Riding Hood.

Snow White is continuously fantastic. She basically organizes a defense against an army that marches on Fabletown, and she does so while pregnant and piled down with worries. I'm deeply invested in he story, at this point, and I would love for her and Bigby to find some shred of happiness.

I thought the wooden soldiers, and the way that they are introduced with their connection to Pinocchio, were very clever indeed. They're very much like the Mr. Smiths of the Matrix, with their frightening one track minds and utter disposability. But more importantly, they seem to represent a larger danger that I'm sure we'll see more of in future books.

Finally, in this book we begin to see Prince Charming campaigning for mayor against King Cole. This entire subplot is pathetically hilarious, with the prince making ridiculous promises that you know will land him far in over his head. When I actually read this, the US was in the midst of our election definitely reflected reality.

My final conclusion on this book is that, it is perhaps not my favorite story arc yet, but it was still quite strong. I didn't feel that it had the emotional impact of some of the previous installments, but it had a lot of cleverness and humor that left me wanting more. 4 stars.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Guest Post: Guilded Wings by Amy Lignor Morning, people of the internet! Today we have an excerpt for Until Next Time, by Amy Lignor, as well as a guest post from the author! 


Another cold blast of air hit Anya’s body. She fell against the metal railing, waking her from her dreamlike state. Gregori, her ‘sheriff,’ had stayed by her side every moment of the last seven days, regaling her with tales of his future in the West of America. He’d spoken to her of strange heroes—distant icons who lived in a world of brilliant sun and red dust. He’d even told her of a boy called Billy the Kid, a name that made Anya shudder. She wondered how a kid, a mere child, could commit the atrocities that the dime novel had claimed. But Gregori had ignored her anxiety completely and babbled excitedly about unknown figures named Earp and Holliday—friends who’d supposedly taken on a slew of outlaws and cleaned up the territory, once again making it safe for the Americans who dwelled there.

Now, on the seventh day, Anya’s thoughts were jumbled about America. She wondered why they would write about such angry people, yet raise them up on pedestals and turn them into legends that their people would revere.

“They certainly must be a free society,” Anya mumbled. “Imagine, holding the good guys and their evil rivals in the same high esteem.”

Inside the Writer’s Studio…with Matthew!

One of my most favorite shows on television is “Inside the Actor’s Studio.” This is a show that’s presented to students of the Actor’s Studio Drama School at Pace University. I know there are a ton of interviews with celebrities but the host, James Lipton, uses a slow pace and makes these people who everyone is so bedazzled by seem like the regular, normal humans they are. At the end of the show, Lipton asks his guest ten questions that they have to answer for the audience.

I thought about what Matthew would say in a situation such as this because he likes to be talkative and outgoing; whereas Emily is more sedate and really likes to get out of a situation where the spotlight is on her just as fast as angelically possible. So, today, we’re going to sit down with Matthew and see what he has to say…

Host: Matthew, thank you for being here today.

M: You betcha! This is fun!

Host: Being a warrior must be an extremely difficult job, seeing as that you have to save everyone all the time. Don’t you ever think about having some time off?

M: Well, James… Can I call you James?

Host: Of course.

M: I actually really love the battle part of the whole thing. I mean, I’m basically the protection detail, whereas Emily really has the hardest part of the whole gig because she has to listen, interpret, find solutions - the really tough stuff. And she’ll never take a vacation, so my work never stops.

Host: You must have a great partnership. Is she at all hard to work with?

M: Well…we do have a great partnership. It’s been a long time since we first made our ‘appearance’ down here, and even though we’ve gone through some rough spots, to say the least, we’re still able to get the job done that we need to do.

Host: But…is she hard to work with?

M: James, it’s not your fault, because you really don’t know how we’re linked. But Emily can hear everything I say…and she’s really good with a sword when we head into the pit and battle things out. So, let’s just sya she’s strong, caring, has a big heart and (his voice drops down to a whisper) a big mouth when it comes to her sarcasm.

(Slap! Matthew’s head flies forward)

M: Ouch! See? I told you she could hear me. (He clears his throat.) By the way, you should know that she can open the gates of hell if she really wants to.

Host: (Perspiration breaks out on Lipton’s forehead.) Ready to move on to the questions?

M: I think it’s safer!

Host: What is your favorite word?

M: Beginning. I love the start of new things.

Host: What is your least favorite word?

M: Ending. When things are over, you always want to go back and change something you did.

Host: What turns you on?

M: (answers way too fast) Emily. (slap) OW! FINE! Umm…I love Dutch Apple Pie - that was a seriously great creation.

Host: What turns you off?

M: Being slapped in the back of the head.

Host: I bet… What sound or noise do you love?

M: It’s probably because of the job, but the acoustics are really good in Gabriel’s classroom, so when the swords clash, the sound is wicked cool.

Host: What sound or noise do you hate?

M: Crying. I wish people didn’t have to.

Host: What is your favorite curse word?

M: Ahh, James? We’re not allowed to do that. It’s against policy.

Host: Right, sorry. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

M: A Locomotive Engineer would be cool. I want to wear one of those caps and pull the cord that makes the train whistle.

Host: What profession would you not like to do?

M: Angel. Like I said…her job is tough.

Host: If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?

M: IF? Okay, well, Gabe and Mike are the ones we actually see when we head home, but I would like Him to hand me a piece of that Dutch Apple Pie and say: Good job! Now, get ready to do it again!
Host: Thank you for joining us today, Matthew. It was really great to meet you.

M: You bet! (Matthew looks around the room) I think Emily is your next guest so…good luck with that, James!

Host: (sighs) Yeah, thanks a lot…

Until Next Time, Everybody,

Want to read Amy's book? Here, have some links!




Continue following the tour!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Blog Tour Review of Summer Before the Storm by Gabriele Wills

The Summer Before the Storm (Book 1)Historical fiction reviews are rare around here. Not because I don't like historical fiction, but rather because there are so many other books that take priority. It's nice to change things up now and then.

Set in Muskoka, a popular Canadian vacation spot for the wealthy and privileged, this book follows the joy and trials of one family just before, and after the start of World War 1. The first half of the book details the charmed lives of the islands' inhabitants, as they attend balls, canoe, skinny dip, fall in and out of love, and squabble over family money. The second half deals with the start of the Great War and how it affects the lives of our bright young characters--with many of the men enlisting, and everyone else trying to do their part.

Positive Comments


While I am by no means an expert in history, this book felt rather realistic and authentic to me. I have to believe that the author spent a lot of time on research and really immersed herself in the era, so that readers could in turn become immersed in the era. I really enjoyed the details about the lifestyle of the women in particular. On one hand, they are terribly sheltered and still politically powerless. Their bathing outfits include stockings and caps. On the other hand, you see a lot of spirit among the female characters, with several of them trying to further their educations, becoming doctors and mechanics and the like. It's a time of progress, slow though it might be, and the author captures that very well.

For me, the second half of the book was far more enjoyable than the first. I loved the drama and pain of the war, and how the characters are forced to change to survive. The character development is fantastic. Victoria, once one of the more immature members of the family, goes through great trauma and comes out of it with a stiffer backbone.

I love how flawed the characters are, and how even the best of them make terrible choices and errors in judgement.

Critical Comments

The biggest flaw is the shear number of characters that the book asks us to keep track of. Even with a cast list at the beginning of the novel, I found it impossible to get them all straight--I felt like I needed to take notes. I think that's why the second half of the book is so much stronger--it focuses more on just a handful of characters instead of the dozen or more that we meet in the first part.


I would recommend this book to historical fiction fans. It has a lot of rich period detail. It has romance and emotional turmoil. It has a bit of action and a lot of drama. Overall, it's a very enjoyable read. 4 stars.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

On Assassins: A Review of Spider's Bite by Jennifer Estep

Spider's Bite (Elemental Assassin, #1)I've already experienced Jennifer Estep's writing via her young adult series, the Mythos Academy books. This book, however, has languished on the TBR shelf for...probably a year or more. I suck like that. I finally read it...but did I like it?

Spider's Bite introduces Gin, an assassin who has a talent for quick killing, as well as some magic abilities. When she's offered a seemingly simple job for twice her usual fee, it seems like a great opportunity--especially since her handler, Fletcher, believes she can take the money and finally retire. But the job goes wrong and Gin is double crossed, putting her on the run and in search of whoever hired her. Along the way she teams up with Donovan Caine, an idealistic detective who is simultaneously repulsed by and attracted to Gin.

Positive Comments

I liked Gin. She seems like a badass, able to kill with the smallest of weapons in the most tense situations. She's cold in many ways, and yet she's not impossible to sympathize with. Predictably, she has a tragic back story, but fortunately we don't get weighed down with it. The people that she cares about, she cares about intensely. She operates under a moral code, though it's more flexible than most.

I liked the plot. It was simple enough to follow, not so much so that it put me to sleep. I liked the fact that it dealt with mobs and dirty cops and the seedy underworld of Ashland. I like that the story features vampires, dwarves, and giants, but I never had to sit through more than a paragraph of info-dump world building about them.

Critical Comments


There are a good many frustrating cliches in this story. Donovan is one of them--he's hot, and I like him, but his relationship with Gin as her opposite and sometimes/maybe enemy is extremely predictable. He shows up, and you immediately know that they're going to sleep together, but he's going to hate himself and judge her because she's a murderer, and so forth. It's hard to like them together, for this reason.

The narration is a bit awkward and even repetitive at times. For example, Gin describes her feelings of "guilt and grief" multiple, multiple times following the death of one character. And then there's the tendency to call characters by their full name for no reason...Mab Monroe, Alexis James, and Donovan Caine are all frequent victims. I found this to be annoying, distracting, but not too detrimental to the story.



Overall, I liked the tone of the story, the characters, and the authors voice (with a few stylistic issues). So yes, I'd recommend it to urban fantasy fans. 4 stars. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Review of Fables, Vol. 3: Storybook Love by Bill Willingham

Fables, Vol. 3: Storybook LoveIt's rare that I latch on to a graphic novel, and I have never, ever lacked onto a graphic novel series like this. Fables just happens to have all of the qualities that I enjoy in a story, so why not dive in? And so we're on to volume 3.

The first part of the story features Jack Horner, a notorious schemer, in Civil War era America. In it, he gambles, tries to get the best of death, and also finds true lust. This little story is very funny, if a little pointless.

In the second part, a mundy reporter comes forward with loads of data on the fable community, which he mistakenly believes proves that they're all vampires. Bigby and gang have to neutralize this situation, as the fable community must remain a secret. In this part, we also meet Briar Rose, the notorious sleeping beauty, who's curse is still ongoing. Every time she pricks her finger, she falls asleep--as does anyone around her. What I liked about this part of the story was the character interactions, and the tension inherent in the situation. I really like Bigby, and his very practical way of viewing the world.

The second part really hammers home the conflict between Bluebeard and Bigby, and the conflict comes to a head in part three when Bluebeard devises a way to kill off Bigby. I can't say much without getting spoilery, but I will just say (again), that I liked the relationship and character building. I like the romantic tension between Snow and Bigby. I like the violent tension between the villains (if we want to call them that) and the heroes. I like that it gets pretty gory, and kind of dark. Twisted fairy tales, indeed.

Overall, I would say that I like this book for it's unusual and yet familiar characters, and for the fact that I really feel like I'm getting to know them now. If I had to name a flaw, it's that I would like just a smidge more back story on some of them, just because it would help me become emotionally invested in their lives (and deaths, as the case may be.  I continue to recommend the Fables series to fairy tale fans. 4.5 stars.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Misc. Monday: Wreck It Ralph

Another week has just begun, folks. There are a lot of great reviews coming up this week, but for today I'm just going to share a few brief updates and a short movie review.

I Watch TV Now! Sometimes...


This season probably sets the record for the most shows that I've actively tried to follow at once. It used to be one. Now it's...five? I think there are five. Holy cow.

ABC's Once Upon a Time is probably the one that I look forward to the most right now. So far, I really like season 2. I appreciate the fact that it's gone in a different direction from season 1, that it hasn't started to feel formulaic. I really like most of the characters, and I like that the world feels big and it seems like they have loads of stories to tell. Is it kind of BS to have characters like Lancelot or Mulan or, God help me, Frankenstein in a fairy tale world? Yes, yes it is. But on some level, I don't care, because the show amuses me. That is all.

Supernatural is the stale bread of TV shows right now. It is no longer, and will never be as awesome as it once was...but it's still consumable. I've found season 8 at least passably entertaining, even though the overarching plot--Sam's normal relationship, Dean having been gone, blah blah--to be redundant of things hashed out in previous seasons, and just uninteresting overall, there are other things about it that I do like. I just hope they wrap up the show before it molds over completely.

Those of you who've been with me since last fall will remember that I had mixed feelings about Fox's Grimm. I still have mixed feelings. Some episodes are good, but some are far too procedural cop show for my tastes. But I like Monroe. And I'm intrigued by the royals, or whatever they are...

Speaking of procedural cop shows, masquerading as something more interesting...Beauty and The Beast is a thing now, again. The "Beast" is a guy who was given adrenaline based super soldier powers by the military, and is now in hiding. Beauty is a detective, but doesn't seem to be great at her job. It's honestly a bit of a train wreck, and boy is it cheese-tastic, but I'm going to keep watching it.

I've been watching Arrow, and it is also full of the cheese, but I do like it. It's basically a typical superhero story, but I like that sort of thing. Umm, the acting is kind of bad though.

Movie Review! Wreck It Ralph


Hubby and I knew we wanted to see this the minute we saw the previews. In sum, it's a story about video game characters, specifically Ralph, who is a bad guy that wants to be a good guy. So he leaves his game and goes to other games with the goal of winning a medal that will earn him respect and so forth...

What Worked In This Movie...


Ralph is likeable. The premise is likeable. You sympathize with his and you get emotionally invested in his desire for a less miserable life.

It was a lot of fun to see cameos from games that we know and love--Sonic the Hedgehog, Pac-man, and so forth. The references were fun. I got the feeling that the writers know and feel affection for video games, and for arcades, and for the era when such things were at their peak. I loved the attention to detail.

It's just a really happy movie. It made me smile. But, I mean, it's a kids movie, it ought to make you smile.
Except this part. Homelessness is a bummer.

 What Didn't Work


If I had to name a disappointment, it would be the amount of time they spend in the race game "Sugar Rush", with the little girl character, Vanelope (sp??). Yeah, she's cute, but I wanted to see more, different games. She kind of takes over the plot. It's not bad, but I can't help but feel that this movie would be so much better with less of her.


As such things go, I would recommend this movie. That is, if you like children's/family movies, this is a good one. I like gamers in particular will get a kick out of it.

That's all for now, fellow penguins. What have you been watching lately?

Sunday, November 4, 2012

On Fire Power: A Review of Firelight by Kristen Callihan

Firelight (Darkest London, #1)This book was recommended to me from a number of sources--a lot of positive ratings from trusted reviewers. I do see why.

At its core this is a Beauty and the Beast retelling, though not a direct one. It has a lot of nods to the classic story. More importantly, it's a historical paranormal romance. Miranda Ellis is blessed (or cursed) with the ability to start fires at will--an ability that comes out rather uncontrollably when she's threatened or frightened. Lord Benjamin Archer wheres a mask to hide a mysterious affliction that resulted from a curse years ago. When he meets Miranda in a dark alley, he knows he wants her as his wife, though he's somewhat reluctant to claim her. Nonetheless, they marry. Shortly thereafter, men begin turning up dead--in such a way that Archer appears to be the prime suspect.

Positive Comments

For some reason I was anticipating a much meeker heroine than the one I got. Miranda has a strong will and a lot of backbone, with a dark history--she's fought off attackers, stolen to survive, and dealt with a selfish emotionally abusive father. What I really like about her, though, is how she deals with Archer. Once she decides that she likes him, maybe even loves him, she steps right up to try to help him--even when he doesn't want he to. She's bold, but she's not stupid, and she can protect herself.

I enjoyed the fact that the physical aspect of the romance is kind of a slow burn. I like the fact that Archer admires and cares for Miranda, with no expectations of ever getting to "have" her. It makes their relationship sweet, and kind of...pure, I guess. That's not to say that the book is entirely sexless...

Critical Comments

It took me awhile to get into this book. I think my main hang up was the lack of explanation as to why Archer wanted to marry Miranda in the first place. We don't really see into his head at this point. The marriage seems rushed and out of nowhere, and it was honestly disorienting.

To top that off, I never fully connected with the paranormal aspect of the story. It's just a bit vague for my taste.


Well, given the things that I enjoyed about it, and the things that I didn't, I would have to say I recommend this to historical romance fans first, PNR fans second. I liked the characters, I enjoyed the romance, and I will be looking forward to reading the other books in this series. 3.5 stars.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Review of Fables, Vol. 2: Animal Farm, by Bill Willingham

Today I continue my discussion the Fables series with a brief review of Volume 2, which is the story arc known as Animal Farm.

To briefly recap volume one, we had all of our fairy tale characters living in a secret community in New York City, after they were forced to flee their homelands centuries ago. Snow White is essentially in charge, Bigby (the wolf) is now in human form and is sheriff. Snow White's lesser known sister, Rose Red, fakes her own death and is now (in volume 2) being punished with community service. Snow drags Rose with her on a trip to the farm, an upstate chunk of land where non-human looking fables hide from the mundane world. There they find discontent among the farms inhabitants, with a revolution being plotted against the human fables, perceived now as jailors and overlords.

Positive Comments

Now, at no time in my academic career was I actually made to read Animal Farm by George Orwell. At one point, we did read a summary and watch part of the movie for the purpose of knowing something about it, should it show up on one of our AP tests. I know the general idea, but not necessarily the details. However, I did find recognizable and humorous nods to the original story in this book, and I felt that was very smart.

I found the entire plot of the book engaging. It seemed realistic to me that the farm dwellers would ultimately feel underprivileged and restless, and that this might lead to violence. The real kicker for me was when Goldilocks turns up as a vocal ring leader on the side of the rebellion, she being sympathetic to the animals in light of her history. It was so shocking and so hilarious to see her grown up and wielding a gun--a serious stroke of genius.

We are given more ideas on what it is that makes fables tick, in terms of immortality and power. We are basically told that human belief helps to keep them alive. Not a new idea in the fantasy realm, but still one worth exploring in this world.

Critical Comments


Once the revolution comes to it's conclusion, we become removed from the story as it's now told second hand. I was a little disappointed, as I thought they could have shown a lot more in terms of the aftermath. It would have provided an opportunity to see more of the nonhuman fables, many of whom were glossed over so very briefly.



All I can really say is that you have to try the series to know if you'll like it. It's a great take on twisted fairy tales, and it's a lot of fun--it's humorous, smart, and quirky. I liked the plot of volume 2 perhaps a hair more than that of volume 1, which was more of a murder mystery and therefor not my cup of tea. So I will say that if you've read the first installment and felt kind of "meh" about it, it's worth trying this one to know for sure. 4 stars.  

Friday, November 2, 2012

On Titian: A Review of What I Did For a Duke by Julie Anne Long

What I Did For a Duke (Pennyroyal Green, #5)Well, folks...I put off reviewing this book because it's book 5 in it's series, and I have in fact reviewed the first three books, but not #4, and I hate to review out of order...but I guess I'm going to, since it may take a week or two for me to actually get around to book 4. Book 4 will be reviewed here, fear not. I hope this doesn't confuse anyone. I will say that What I Did For a Duke stood very well on its own, and I don't think you necessarily need to read the series in order. Though I always prefer to. Anyway, on to the review!

The duke described in our title is Alexander Moncrieffe, and he's out for a little revenge sex. Because, you see, Ian Eversea almost slept with Moncrieffe's (now ex) fiance, and so Moncrieffe thinks that the perfect revenge will be to deflower and abandon Ian's beloved sister, Genevieve. Genevieve, however, proves to be more than a match for the duke in terms of intelligence and perceptiveness, and he finds he feels some real emotion for her. Not to mention that Genevieve is feeling a bit melancholy, and nursing a broken heart after Harry (her best friend, and the love of her young life), tells her that he plans to propose to another girl.

Positive Comments


There are a lot of good things to be said for this book, but many of them can't be said in a spoiler free review. What I can say, in general terms, is that I really loved the characters, and as a result I really enjoyed their romance. I loved Genevieve for her quiet wittiness. I loved how misunderstood she was--seemingly shy and plain, but secretly in possession of very strong and passionate feelings. We learn this when she describes her love for art, and for brightly colored flowers, and so forth. Her family and friends never see her in this light, but the duke does. Moncrieffe is an older hero, and he's loved and lost before. I loved how good he was at reading and knowing people.

I love the rest of the cast, too. I though Ian was rather hilarious. Like many very young men, he's all sex drive and no sense. Harry annoyed me a bit, but again much of his flawed character can be attributed to immaturity and inexperience, and I feel that he could easily be redeemed once he grows up a bit. Initially Harry seems like a good match for Genevieve, but once you get to know them you realize that they aren't quite on the same playing field. Genevieve is ready to be challenged by love and enter a commitment, while Harry is still dealing in crushes and mind games as one does in high school.

I liked the touches of humor in this book. From the witty thoughts of our main characters, to the silly behaviors of our side characters, there's a great deal to make the reader smile.

Critical Comments


My only frustration with the plot is one that I really can't mention, it being a huge spoiler near the end. What I will say is that I was frustrated with Genevieve and how slow she was to understand her own emotions. I was frustrated that she caused pain because of it. I guess a love triangle is a love triangle, and it generally annoys me no matter where it's found.



Who would like this book? Certainly and Julie Anne Long fan, because he style and talent with creating likeable characters shows through in this book. I'm confident that most historical romance fans. Of the readers that I discussed this book with, the one that didn't like it mainly took issue with the age difference between the hero and heroine. So that would be my only major caution--if you don't like older men, stay away. And the love triangle thing. Other than that, it's a wonderful novel. 4 stars.  

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Best Book of October/November Preview

My October reading went kind of off the track. I read quite a bit, just not what I really meant to. In any case, I've got two more months to finish up my reading goals. First thing, lets crown the book of the month!

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