The Door By the Staircase by Katherine Marsh

door by the staircaseHere’s an example of an excellent audiobook I never would have found if it weren’t for Hoopla. What’s all this “Hoopla,” you may ask? It’s a new database at my place of work that has the most attractive interface of any library e-content book I’ve ever seen. On to the book review!

I had an inkling I’d like this one based solely on the fact that it’s a retelling of the Baba Yaga stories out of Russia. And it doesn’t try to be anything else. In fact, one of the first interactions our main character, Mary, has with anyone at the house is with Baba Yaga’s assistant, who quickly informs her that Madame Z., as she’s known throughout the book, is trying to fatten her up so she’ll be plump enough to eat. But Mary is too resilient for that. She’s much braver than anyone bargained for, and that comes in handy.

Replete with a flying mortar and pestle, a house that runs around on chicken legs, an enchanting cat, and a town full of otherworldly neighbors, this is a brilliant retelling. Let’s face it, it’s hard to make all that work and still seem menacing, but Marsh pulls it off.

I’d also recommend this audiobook above the text version for anyone trying to sell this book to children. The pronunciations are very difficult here, especially to those of us who aren’t familiar with Russian.

Hunter by Mercedes Lackey

Release Date:

September 1, 2015

Summary

I adored this book, especially after the disaster that was A Whole New World by Liz Braswell. I was just really pulling for Disney/Hyperion to slay it on this awesome book, and they really pulled through for me.

In a world where mythical creatures called “Othersiders” have reshaped society, it’s up to the Hunters to keep humanity safe (and alive). Each is armed with a pack of dogs (usuallyl 3-4) from the Otherside, but Joyeux Charmond has the largest pack out of the group of hundreds of hunters she lives with. From the moment she moved from her small town to the big city, she’s been on guard. Unsure of whether her uncle–a man of power–can be trusted, she worries that he or his Psimon bodyguard (a mind reader) might try to end her life. Her rosy ideals are not ready for a life where she must guard herself from even her fellow Hunters. Joy must decide who to avoid and who to trust, especially in this (literally) post-apocalyptic world.

Opinions

If you’re a big fan of mythology and folklore, this is for you. It’s got everything from Cerberus to a pack of vampires and sneaky dragons. It’s also deeply disturbing because of the religious references. It seems like how radical Christians would act if they weren’t chosen for the rapture, which is what the radicals think happened.

Hunger Games fans will enjoy it, as will any fantasy fanatic.

The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle

Publication Date:

August 18, 2015

Review:

Absolutely stunning. This novel takes on the idea of ghosts, both real and emotional as they affect an entire family. Cara’s family struggles to survive during the accident season every year. From October 1-31, there’s an increase in scrapes, broken bones, and other more fatal injuries. Like when her dad drowned. Or her uncle. This accident season, even more odd things are happening. For one, Elsie (the weird mousy girl from school) is in every one of her photos. Not just the ones she’s taken in this last few weeks, but in every photo on her phone and in the photo albums at her mom’s house, Elise is there… watching. When she tries to confront Elise about everything, she’s not at school and nobody knows where she is. Or who she is, for that matter.

Then there’s Bea. Her best friend has been acting extra weird around her sister Alice, and she and her ex-stepbrother Sam are both starting to notice. Speaking of Sam, he’s looking at her differently these days too. Just as it’s about to come to a close, Bea reads (in her Tarot deck) that this accident season will be one of the worst.

Filled with ghosts and monsters straight out of a fairy tale, this novel set in rural Ireland was a real treat of a ghost story. It’s anything but typical, and I can’t wait for someone to please please please read this so that I can actually talk to them about it!

Verdict:

Holly Black meets John Green meets Ireland. Boom. (That’s an “I would recommend to anyone” for all of you not familiar with my weirdness).

Have you read this book? Is there anything similar out there that I can read before I lose my mind? Can we start a support group? 

Virginia Wolf by Kyo Maclear, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault

This is a children’s picture book, yes, but it was so unexpected. I honestly don’t know where I first heard the title, but the book was overall very much about depression and coping/living with someone who suffers from depression.

Plot

Vanessa’s sister Virginia has woken up feeling quite wolfish. She finds no joy in her friends stopping by or the birds singing. Her art box remains unopened. So Virginia sits with her and listens to what she could possibly want. From here she decides to paint a magical world on their bedroom walls that can transport Virginia to a happier place. Virginia notices. The two talk together and eventually Virginia starts to feel less like a shadowy wolf and more like a sunshiny little girl.

Verdict

It’s hard to find a book that deals with mental illness in a positive way. This is nothing like the brusque titles like My Mommy Has Depression (is that a title? I should hope not, but I would not be surprised at all). This one handles the issue with respect and dignity while at the same time giving examples of how to help: listen, talk, be there for that person. It’s a beautiful book.

Bonus

I fell in love with Isabelle Arsenault when I read Jane, The Fox, and Me during grad school. I believe it was for my class, “Art in Picture Books.” In it, a young girl struggles with her weight and feeling inadequate. The manner in which the story is told is both whimsical and heartbreakingly real. I’ve been planning on getting her fox tattooed on me for a while now. At any rate, if you’ve got a minute you should head over to Arsenault’s blog. Since she’s from Montreal, there are both English and French captions on her lovely pictures.

Marilyn’s Monster by Michelle Knudsen

Sooooo normally children’s books get to me, but this one really got to me. For some reason this little girl’s story of not being able to find her monster hit home. Maybe it’s because I’m starting to date people again. Maybe it’s because another one of my college acquaintances got engaged over the weekend. Who can say?

Plot

The world Marilyn lives in is quite similar to our’s, with one difference: there are monsters. Not the hide-under-the-bed, jump-out-and-scare-you monsters, but the companion kind. Not unlike a significant other, Marilyn waits patiently for her monster to come and accompany her throughout life’s little journeys. “Your monster has to find you. That’s just the way it works” says basically everyone to Marilyn (including her brother). Eventually she says “eff you” to that idea and searches for her monster herself (que “RESPECT” at full volume). Maybe her monster just got lost.

Verdict

Again, did this hit close to home? Yes. But I will say that Knudsen is amazing and she really got me on Marilyn’s side.

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

I highly contest this tagline,

Graceling meets The Selection

not unlike many of the other readers out there that I’m seeing. I can honestly say that ____ meets ____ meets ___ is just as much of a cop-out as “the next Harry Potter” and might be nearly as problematic.

That being said. Mare’s narrow world has her pegged as the underdog, and there’s nothing she can do about it. When she bleeds, she bleeds red, unlike the upper-class Silver elite who bleed silver blood. Side note: This leads to interesting problems later because when she blushes, she blushes a rosy pink color unlike her silver counterparts. A well-developed part of the plot that made it seem more believable. That’s not the only thing that keeps the reds down. Nope. The Silvers have special abilities like telepathy, the ability to control the will of others, or the ability to control elements and objects around them.

So when Mare is offered a job at the Silver palace in order to get out of being conscripted as a front-lines solider in a war she has no interest in, she jumps at the opportunity. Who wouldn’t when you don’t want to die for a lost cause? She soon finds out, however, that she has an ability too: she can make electricity, including controlling the many security cameras in the castle.

With her new found ability comes new responsibility.

Soon Mare finds herself deep in the life of the Silver royals, whether she wants to or not.

All she knows is she better not bleed.

Cemetery Boys by Heather Brewer

Cover

This book was seriously bad-freakin’-ass. I got it as an advanced copy, so this one will be released at the end of the month.

Release Date:

March 30, 2015

Plot:

Stephen and his dad just moved back to Spencer, Michigan. They’re moving in with his grandma, and she’s reveling in the fact that Stephen’s mom isn’t with them because she was institutionalized. Soon after, Stephen meets Cara (hot goth chick) and her twin brother, Devon, who also have a crazy mother. What a coincidence! But when Devon invites Stephen to a Revel at the Playground (the local cemetery) he starts to realize something sinister might be afoot.

Verdict:

Wow. I can honestly say that this book reminded me of The Raven Boys meets a small-town urban myth. Very interesting. If you’re into dark cult material, this is your book!

The Diviners (part 2)

I started my blogging journey on Libba Bray’s The Diviners on Sunday December 14th. As of right now, I can finally say I finished the book/audio experience and I have to say, although this book is so beautifully written, I actually prefer the audiobook version, read by January LaVoy. Her voice is so dynamic–accents and the taking-on of both male and female voices enhanced the story rather than taking away from it (like those kinds of things so often do).

This book also has an awesome website with photos of the characters and news on possible sequel(s) and the forthcoming movie.

Plot:

it’s the 1920’s and 17-year-old Evie O’Neill is known in her small Ohio town for starting trouble. She’s perfectly okay with that, thankyouverymuch. After all, “well-behaved young ladies rarely make history.” One night, however, she takes it too far. She uses her gift, called “divining,” to read an item belonging to a young man in her circle of friends. When she tells the people at the party that the golden boy she’s “reading” knocked up a chamber-maid, her parents send her to New York City to stay with her Uncle Will for fear that she’ll be charged with slander.

This is the moment Evie has been waiting for. Once on the train, Evie meets Sam Lloyd and her big New York adventure begins. Although this series is primarily about Evie, there is a beautiful cast of characters that have their own abilities and well-drawn backstories. Miracle Memphis Campbell, the Harlem Healer, is another Diviner featured in the story. He and Evie’s new friend Theta Knight turn heads as one of the first biracial couples in NYC’s club scene. And then there’s Maybel, Evie’s longtime friend and pen pal who is in love with Jericho (Uncle Will’s mysterious assistant).

Everyone in this cast of characters is put to the test when New York City is struck by The Pentacle Killer (Naughty John Hobbes). The city knows him as a ruthless, methodical killer, and no one is safe. Uncle Will, Evie, Jericho & Sam, along with Theta, Maybel and Memphis are all in grave danger as Naughty John stalks his next victim.

I fell in love with these characters and I’m truly sad to have to stop hearing their story. Apparently The Diviners is being picked up by Paramount and is in the developing stages of becoming a movie (EXCITING!). As I said before, I listened to this book on audio, and I really loved the experience. I ended up buying a hard copy (I loved the book that much), but I was still sitting in front of my laptop for hours on end listening to this beautiful story.

Subject Headings:

Paranormal, Romance, Historical Fiction, New York City, 1920s

Appeal:

fast-paced, breakneck, thrilling, suspenseful, well-drawn characters, beautiful language, open-ended, multiple plot lines,

Favorite Quotes:

“‘There is a hideous invention called the Dewey Decimal System. And you have to look up your topic in books and newspapers. Pages upon pages upon pages…’
Uncle Will frowned. ‘Didn’t they teach you how to go about research in that school of yours?’
‘No. But I can recite “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” while making martinis.’
‘I weep for the future.’
‘There’s where the martinis come in.'”

“I’m not interested in being polite. It’s false.”

Cinder

I started reading this series for my GSLIS Young Adult Literature class, and I must say I was pleasantly surprised. I love, love, love fairy tales. And there has never been a story more beloved and retold than the classic underdog story of “Cinderella.” It’s told in every culture. It’s been retold in some of our favorite adventure stories (Harry Potter, anyone?) and yet it’s never been retold with such a Science Fiction twist.

So yeah, when I started reading Cinder by Marissa Meyer I was a bit skeptical. I know this story could get me on the protagonist’s side like no other or I could really not like the way this book takes place in a futuristic society. I really loved it, though. I just finished Scarlet, which features Cinder and Emperor Kai along with Wolf and Scarlet, who are loosely based on the classic “Little Red Riding Hood.”

Plot:

Cinder CoverThis book takes place in New Beijing in a completely new era, where cyborgs (humans that have been modified with robot parts for medical purposes) are marginalized and spit on by society. Enter Cinder, a part-cyborg who’s only friends in the world are her adopted sister, Peony and a robot named Iko who she works with in her family’s mechanic shop. One day, Peony comes down with the plague, a disease that has been rampant in the Eastern Empire for decades. It is the same disease that has the current emperor in the hospital.

So imagine Cinder’s surprise when Prince Kai shows up in her mechanic’s shop (in a disguise, of course. He is the prince of everyone’s dreams) with a robot in desperate need of repair. Kai tries to woo Cinder but is unsuccessful at first. Eventually he asks her to the ball to which Cinder has been specifically banned by her stepmother from attending.

How will Cinder deal with Peony’s death? Will the emperor formerly known as Prince ever find out the truth about Cinder? Why does Cinder black out when she sees the Lunar visitors who have come to Earth in want of peace?

Read Marissa Meyer’s Cinder to find out.

Subject Headings:

Fantasy, Science Fiction, Romance, Young Adult, cyborg

Appeal:

compelling, bleak, chilling, gritty, suspenseful, romantic, eccentric characters, recognizable characters, action-oriented, layered, open-ended, plot twists, futuristic, urban, accessible, engaging, vivid.

Favorite Quotes:

“Even in the Future the story begins with ‘Once Upon A Time.'”

“I’m sure I’ll feel much more grateful when I find a guy who thinks complex wiring in a girl is a turn-on.”

The Diviners (part 1)

It’s not often that I stumble upon a 15-CD audiobook and think, “yes Margaux! Brilliant! You have the time and patience for this!” but for some unknown reason I did this time. I was at the library looking for our hard copy of The Diviners by Libba Bray (let us all bask in the glory that is that woman’s name for just a moment…… okay done) to no avail. I’m convinced someone was reading it IN THE LIBRARY that day.

Anyways I hunched my shoulders in mock-disappointment over the text version and as I walked past our audio section and saw that we had it on CD. I’d read in School Library Journal that the audio was one of the best of 2013 so I gave it a shot.

I find myself listening to it in the car and wishing that I had the sultry voice of Theta and could jaunt around New York City unnoticed like Sam. The characters are so well-drawn in this book and I really think the audio does it justice. If you need me at any time in the next few weeks, you’ll find me on the couch with a cup of coffee listening to The Diviners in the glow of my Christmas tree.