Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Laydown Lowdown

If you got a gift card for Christmas there are plenty of books to spend it on this week. And if you didn't get a gift card, there are plenty of books worth splurging on.

Romance fans have plenty to choose from such as "The Scandal in Kissing an Heir," by Sophie Barnes, "If Wishes Were Earls," by Elizabeth Boyle, "The Greatest Lover Ever," by Christina Brooke, "The Wedding Favor," by Cara Connelly, " "Love Your Eternity," by Cat Devon, "I Promise Him," by Joan Johnston, "Obsessed With Him," by Red Garnier, "Dark Night: The Dark King Stories," by Donna Grant, "Fighting Love," by Abby Niles, "Heart of Stone," by Christine Warren, and "Somebody to Love," by Lori Wilde. 

Over in Mystery "Rosarito Beach, by M.A. Lawson and "The Purity of Vengence," by Justin Adler Olse is available.  Plus "Fifth Grave Past the Light," by Darynda Jones, "Sleight of Hand," by Phillip Margolin, "Cover of Snow," by Jenny Milchman, and "Greed," by Dan O'Shea are now available in paperback.

New in paperback in the Science Fiction/Fantasy section, you'll find "Witch Wraith: Dark Legacy of Shanara," by Terry Brooks, "Extraordinary Powers," by Joseph Finder, "Great North Road," by Peter F. Hamilton, and "Tarnished," by Rhiannon Held.  "Deadshifted," by Cassie Alexander, "A Study in Ashes," by Emma Jane Holloway, and "The Iron Wolves," by Andy Remic are also available today.

"Unravel Me," by Tahereh Mafi, "Asunder," by Jodi Meadows, "Prophecy," by Ellen Oh and "Pivot Point," by Kasie West are now available in paperback in the Young Adult section.  Other new releases in the genre include "The Promise of Amazing," by Robin Constantine, "The Offering," the third novel in "The Pledge" series by Kimberly Derting," and "The Book of Love," by Lynn Weingarten.

Will any of these books make your "to-read" list?  Happy Reading and Happy New Year!!  Remember to support your local bookstores whenever possible.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

November Book Club: Allegiant by Veronica Roth

Since one of our very first book club selections was Divergent we have always had a special place in our hearts for this trilogy. We reviewed Insurgent last year and decided to round off the trilogy with our November book club.

Tris, Four, and her friends have risked everything and lost much. Now they hold some of the truth and it's only fed their desire to know more. And the answers they want only exist outside. But what they find there will shake them all to the core and raise even more questions about who they are and where they belong. As Tris and Four seek for the truth and try to grapple with how things have changed their perceptions of each other can they fight their way to a happy ending or will everything crumble around them?

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Allegiant was certainly a doozy of a trilogy ender and we've decided to depart from our usual spoiler free reviews because the ending is just too big not to talk about. So if you don't want to be spoiled about the end of the book, then read no further!

Grammy T: The ending was awful! I mean it was good, in that it made sense for her character and for ending the book, but it was just awful. I can't believe it happened. It was an interesting ending to the series.

Jenn N: I thought this was a fantastic but very surprising and shocking conclusion to the trilogy. I loved learning more about the experiment and the aftermath. I often worry that our society's apparent obsession with perfectionism will one day lead to a crazy dystopia like the one Roth has created in this trilogy. So, the horrors Tris and her friends face is terrifyingly possible to me. What really shocked me was - spoiler alert - that Tris dies!! I thought this was a really bold move but true to the realism that I love in this series. Tris sacrificed herself to save her friends, family, and society as a whole. This was an act that was totally true to her Dauntless nature and Abnegation roots.

Rebecca T: This book got off on a bit of a rocky start for me. The writing felt choppier and less polished and things were a little scattered. It did improve as the book progressed and the ending blew me away. I did like learning more about the world and the reasoning behind the factions. As well as learning about the other experiments going on across the country! I wanted more about the reasons behind everything, but I understand that there's only so much that can fit into one book. I thought the choice to alternate between Four and Tris was a good one and it played out fairly well. I just wish the two of them had spent less time fighting and more time together. I felt a little cheated out of their relationship, particularly considering the end. The end. It was actually my favorite part of the book. It was totally true to Tris' personality and the journey she'd gone through to get there. There was literally no other way for her to end. She is not designed to live in this world and her sacrifice, to me, was more fitting than any other ending to the book. I've heard people complain about the book having too many unnecessary deaths, but I thought Roth handled this aspect well, building in the appropriate amount of chaos and destruction to stay true to the turmoil of the society. Overall I was satisfied with this conclusion to the trilogy.

So what did you think? Love it? Hate it? Mixed feelings?

This month we're reading Lauren DeStefano's new book Perfect Ruin for a totally different spin on utopian/dystopian societies. So read along and chime in on our next book club post!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas Everyone!  We'd like to wish you all a wonderful holiday as we share some of our favorite Christmas song with you.

Rachel enjoys the Bright Eyes version of "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas."

Rachel also shares my love of 80's music and notes "Do They Know It's Christmas," by Band Aid is one of her favorites.  However, it's kind of scary to look back and see how young everyone looks.  Bono looks like a kid here.

I also love "Christmas Wrapping," by the Waitresses but "Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth," by David and Bing Crosby is my all-time favorite.  It was part of Bing's last Christmas special before he passed away.  The lyrics are just beautiful. 

And once you hear "Christmas Conga," by Cyndi Lauper, you'll never get it out of your head.

Alan is a fan of "Thank God It's Christmas," Nat King Cole's "Christmas Song," and Bing Crosby's "Do You Hear What I Hear?" plus "Blue Christmas" by Seymour Swine and the Squealers.  

Jess P. feels jolly whenever she hears Burl Ives sing "Holly Jolly Christmas" and the Trans Siberian Orchestra's "Christmas Canon."

Jess B. enjoys "Carol of the Bells," as performed by the Barenaked Ladies.

Jennifer P. gets into the spirit with "Where Are You Christmas,' by Faith Hill.

Rebecca T. our Muppet maven loves, "Bless Us All," from "The Muppet Christmas Carol" and also the traditional hymn "O Come Emmanuel,"  she sent me a link to her new favorite version.

And finally Naomi shared her favorite Christmas song, "Either Reindeer," by The Knife and "Christmas Unicorn," by Sufjan Stevens, I had never heard of either of them but they're unique and interesting just like Naomi.

Now, let's hear from you!! What are your favorite Christmas songs?  Please share with us.  

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Laydown Lowdown

It's Christmas Eve!  New Releases are light today but if you're done with your shopping, you can relax before the festivities with one of today's new releases or pick some up as last minute gifts or stocking stuffers.

"Snow White Must Die," by Nele Neuhaus and "12th of Never," by James Patterson are available in paperback today for mystery/thriller fans and "The Winter Witch," is now available in paperback for romance lovers.

Teens and college kids home on break may enjoy "Roomies," new in Young Adult today by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando or the paperback release of "This is What Happy Looks Like," by Jennifer E. Smith.

Finally, "Strykers," by K.M. Ruiz is available in Science Fiction/Fantasy.

Will any of these books make your "to-read" or "to-gift" list?  Remember to support your local bookstores whenever possible.

Merry Christmas everyone! Please check back tomorrow to see our favorite Christmas songs.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Fairy Interesting - OUAT - Going Home

Last week I completely missed the mid-season finale! But I figured I'd have a chance to catch up since there was no new episode this week. So here we go... what's in store for our intrepid cast of characters heading into the Christmas hiatus?

3.11 "Going Home"

Talk about a doozy of a mid-season finale. I can't believe (and am very grateful) that I somehow evaded all spoilers related to this because... wow. Just wow.

How I felt at the end of this episode
So this week was all the feels, basically. Rumple discovers that the boy really is his undoing, Regina makes the ultimate sacrifice, and no one gets a real happy ending.

Where to start.

Well, I have to give props to the Henry/Pan and Pan/Henry actors once again. To not only play the opposite but then to do the switch mid-episode was well done with no remnants of the other personality.

The ending was insane, but there were some things that got a little shortchanged along the way. At least in my opinion.

It was nice to see Tink believing in herself, but there wasn't much of anything leading to that moment. She was just, okay, I can do this. And it seemed awfully easy to destroy the shadow by throwing the coconut into the flame.

I was reading an EW article in the most recent issue about the way networks seem to be cramming more and more twists and crazy events into individual episodes, possibly in reaction to the marathoning of tv that people can do with sites like Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon Prime. I hadn't really thought about this before, but I do feel like this has become a bit of an issue this season in particular. So many things have to fit into 42 minutes that things like capturing Pan a couple of weeks ago or destroying this powerful shadow that predated Pan on Neverland are over so quickly that I almost feel cheated. If they were so easily defeated, then why did it take so long for it to happen? Don't get me wrong, I think it was time to move on from the Pan and shadow story line, but the shadow just was a little too easy.

I was, however, fairly satisfied with Pan's demise. Though angry as all get out about the loss of Rumple. I seriously cannot imagine the show without him. I really would have rather seen Regina go. I felt like Rumple still had more story that could have been developed while Regina has maxed out her usefulness. And Belle's crumpling to the ground was just so very sad.

Though of course, with the whole curse lifting and everything who knows what twists and turns might come about in January. After all, if the curse never happened, then does everything revert? Or did it just not happen for Emma and Henry?

Also, now that a year has passed Henry's getting older than his years is alleviated a little bit. But that's just a side note :)

Back to Rumple and Pan for a moment. This was another thing that had me shaking my head. I can't believe that 1) everyone just left Rumple and Pan ALONE there after doing the switch. 2) that they actually considered leaving Pan COMPLETELY UNSUPERVISED? I understand Regina, Emma, Snow, and David running out to find Henry and get the scroll, etc. But Bae and Hook just leave Pan there to wake up alone? And Belle leaves Rumple there to face his father alone? I mean, really. After everything they've been through with Pan did they really think it was a good idea? I just couldn't buy that. Even with the anti-magic leather cuff.

I did enjoy all of the mini flashbacks, though many of them didn't really move the plot along. I'm not even sure why I liked them, but I did.

Another sidenote: I realized (and Googled) that Ginnifer Goodwin is pregnant. Which explains some of the ridiculously pouffy outfits in the last few episodes. So congrats to Ginnifer and Josh! And a major duh moment for me (you can tell I'm so out of the loop on celebrity news :)

So the last 10 minutes were basically met by my incoherent babbling. First, I seriously thought for a minute that Rumple was going to cut off his own arm in order to remove the anti-magic band. But as soon as he showed up to confront Pan magic-less I knew what was coming. I kept saying "the boy was his undoing" interspersed with a whole lot of this: No. no.no.no.no.no.no.no.no. THEY ARE NOT KILLING RUMPLE. NO NO NO NO NO I can't I can't I can't.

And how very fairy tale for him to say "I'm a villain, and villain's don't get happy endings." Everything is black and white in the end. There may be nuances built into the characters along the way, but the heroes will always ultimately win and the villains will all ultimately be defeated. And that's the way fairy tales work. And it's almost a message in and of itself that we would get so upset about Rumple's death because real life doesn't fit into those perfect black and white dichotomies. There are very few pure villains and very few pure heroes. So when a fairy tale world meets the real world and lines begin to blur only pain can result.

My very scared question becomes ... what about Hook? Because technically he is a villain. Even if the Pan story got turned on its head, he has, from the beginning, been presented as a villain - a suave and charming one, no doubt, but a villain none the less.

Now to the ending. That was one of the crummiest things ever. As in, it may have been Regina paying the price to not see Henry again, but everyone else had to pay it too. Emma and Henry have finally found their real family, Bae has found a reason to live, Snow and Charming have their daughter back and it's all up in smoke. And not only are they separated but Emma and Henry won't even remember. Don't even remember. It's horrible.

During my note-taking this was my reaction as they left Storeybrooke: I can't even with what will how the rest of obviously they remember something it can't be over I hate no fair - as you can see, almost complete incoherence had descended upon me.

Though obviously from the very ending, we see that the fairy talers have not forgotten.

Hook showing up made me giddy, though I have to wonder why it isn't Bae coming after her. However, this does seem to mean that we will get to see even more Hook so that's a good thing - he doesn't disappear just because Pan has been defeated.

So there we go. I'm still a bit speechless about the ending and really curious as to what they're going to do in the next couple of months. I'm not sure what I think about bringing in the Wicked Witch of the West, though I suppose it was only a matter of time after their introduction of the ruby slippers.

So... what did you think? Love it? Hate it? Were you as flabbergasted as I was? Do tell!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

10 Things I Love About Owly by Andy Runton

Books 2 and 1

  1. The illustrations - They are so simple, yet detailed and absolutely adorable. I challenge you not to take one look at Owly's face and fall in love.
  2. No words - I am astounded that Runton is able to get across everything he does with virtually no words. The only real words in any of the 5 books I have read are in books that Owly and Wormy read.
  3. But speech bubbles - Because there are no words, you might think that the characters just don't talk. But they do! There are simple pictographs representing their speech making it something that a young child can follow and understand, but still developing a complex story that an adult can appreciate.
  4. Owly - He is such a gentle and kind soul. He is patient and caring and everything people should strive to be. A great role model for kids and a great lesson for those of us who are slightly older kids.
  5. Wormy - Owly's foil. He is so real. If Owly is the role model, then Wormy is most of us. Wanting to do the right thing, but not always quite making it, but always growing and getting better.
  6. The secondary cast of characters. The friends that Owly and Wormy make throughout the books are also very real. With everyone from the raccoon who runs the local nursery and is a fountain of information and advice, to the various bird families, the butterfly, the flying squirrel, and all of the other critters Owly meets there is always something fresh and new to enjoy and new friends to add to their lives.
  7. His little rain hat - I mean, come on. How adorable is this:
  8. The scrapbook - At the end of each book there is a glimpse into Owly's scrapbook with 'photos' he's taken. It's such a cute way to show a glimpse into the 'rest of the story' of what happens after the story we're reading ends.
  9. Books are good - I love the way Owly and Wormy turn to books whenever they have questions about the animals they meet. Books become a powerful tool in helping the birds, understanding the flying squirrel, and getting to know the Opossum - all without smacking you in the face about it.
  10. Runton doesn't avoid the tough issues - For a book that is, admittedly, sort of geared toward a younger audience, Runton tackles a variety of issues with tact and charm so the lesson comes across without feeling preachy. A handful of the topics I noticed were prejudice, friendship, sacrifice, fear, forgiveness, and determination.
So if you get a chance, pick up a couple of Owly books and fall in love like I did!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Laydown Lowdown

Sorry for the delay everyone, my internet connection took a snow day so I couldn't get online until this evening.  So, without further adieu, let's see what's new this week!

Over in Mystery you'll find "Murder as a Second Language," by Joan Hess, "Murder and Moonshine," by Carol Miller, and "Rosemary and Crime," by Gail Oust.

If you're looking for just the right gift for a "Game of Thrones," fan, pick up "The Hedge Night," a graphic novel prequel by George R.R. Martin with art by Mike S. Miller.  "The Last Guardian and the Keeper of the Magi," by Ashland Menshouse s also available in Science Ficton/Fantasy today.

Romance fans are sure to love "Law Man," by Kristen Ashley, "The Redhead Plays Her Hand," by Alice Clayton, "All He Needs," by CC Gibbs, "Reaver: Demonica 6," by Larissa Ione, and "Happily Ever After," by Lori Wilde.

Young Adults on winter break can finally get back to leisure reading with the paperback of "Deadly Little Lessons," by Laurie Faria Stolarz and "What We Lost in the Dark," by best-selling author Jacqueline Mitchard.

Will any of these books make your "to-read" or "to-gift" list?  Remember to support your local bookstores whenever possible.  

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Holiday Treats

We're snowbound this weekend, we don't have as much snow as they got in "The Baby Sitters Club Super Special #7: Snowbound" by Ann M. Martin but it's the perfect weekend to bundle up in blankets and read your favorite holiday store or hunker down to a marathon of your favorite holiday films. I asked the BWOBNY crew to share their favorite holiday tales.

Naomi and everyone in the BWOBNY crew adores "The Muppet's Christmas Carol," a heartwarming and hilarious take on the Dickens' classic

Jess P. also loves the original animated version of  "How The Grinch Whole Stole Christmas," based on the Dr. Seuss' book.  

Rebecca T. said, "it doesn't feel like Christmas until I've watched 'White Christmas' and Jess B. agreed it's also a favorite of hers. 

 Jess B. also gets a kick out of "Donald's Snow Fight," and makes a double feature of it with "Mickey's Christmas Carol."

Jess P. and I always snickered and laughed throughout one of my favorite Christmas specials, "A Very Brady Christmas," the 80's era reunion of the infamous Bunch.  And not a Christmas goes by that I don't commemorate the occasion by reading "Sweet Valley High, Super Edition: Special Christmas" by Francine Pascal and "Olive, the Other Reindeer," based on the picture book J. Otto Seibold. 

Now, we want to hear from you!!! What are your favorite holiday stories? Please share with us.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Laydown Lowdown

Yesterday we had a "refreshing" ice storm in our area and this morning a snow storm is expected to dump 5 inches of snow on us.  At this lovely (note sarcasm) time of year, all I want to do is hibernate with a good book.  What about you?  Perhaps one of this week's new releases will help you forget all about the nasty weather.

Over in Romance you can cuddle up with "Kisses, She Wrote: A Christmas Romance," by Katherine Ashe, "A Little Too Much," by Lisa Deroschers," "Kiss of the Night," by Sherilyn Kenyon, "Rodeo Queen," by T.J. Kline, "A Beautiful Wedding," by Jaime McGuire and "The Cupcake Diaries: A Spoonful of Christmas," by Darlene Panera.

Move on over to Mystery for "Once Upon a Lie," by Maggie Barbieri, "Heirs of the Body," by Carola Dunn, and "The Midwife's Tale," by Samuel Thomas.

Slide over to Science Fiction/Fantasy for "Seven Sorcerers," by John R. Fultz, "The Doctor and the Dinosaur," (no relation to Dr. Who) by Mike Resnick and "Kaleidocide: A Peacock Novel," by Dave Swavely.

If you're looking to pass time on a snow day, you may want to check out "Snakeroot," the latest "Nightshade" novel by Andrea Creamer or "These Broken Stars," by Annie Kaufman in Young Adult.

Other new releases in Fiction include "Innocence," by Dean Koontz, "The Housemaid's Daughter," by Barbara Mutch, or "The Remains of Love," by Zeruya Shalev.

Will any of these new books make your "to-read" or "to-gift" list?  Share with us and remember to support your local bookstores whenever possible. 

Monday, December 9, 2013

Fairy Interesting: OUAT - The New Neverland

3.10 "The New Neverland"

This week we make it back to Storeybrooke. Families are reunited, happy tears are shed, Pan plots deviously, and Emma just knows that something is rotten in the state of Denmark. In the flashback to the Enchanted Forest Charming just wants to go on his honeymoon while Snow is focused on getting a head - a gorgon head to be precise - so she can defeat Regina once and for all.

Is it just me or are the flashbacks getting less and less interesting? At this point we've seen enough of Snow and Charming's backstory that continuing to go back to it is feeling more forced. The moral of the flashback was so in your face that I found it a little bit hard to swallow. I also dislike the idea they seem to be trying to weave in that Snow has a dark streak in her from the beginning. Even Charming was pointing out her inconsistencies. And I just don't buy the baby explanation as answering all of her behavior there. I would also like to note that she looked ridiculous in that giant cloak when they first enter the spring palace (where there is miraculously no dust yet no servants either). But moving on!

I adored everything that happened in Storeybrooke. Belle and Rumple are so adorable and seeing Rumple as good yet wily makes me happy. He pulls it off in a way that Regina just never quite manages to do.

Hook proves that he simultaneously has good form and then insinuates that he and Tink have a little something going on, just to make Emma jealous. Poor form there sir. However, I did appreciate that he said he wanted to give Emma and Neal a chance. The thing he doesn't see is the thing that Emma finds herself trying to work through this episode - that she is the savior and that this fact will impact her entire life and all of her relationships.

Regina is back on the wagon and trying to do the right thing. Snow starts things off on a good foot by pointing out all that Regina did to get them off the island, but I was really enjoying the evil-with-a-purpose Regina of the last several episodes and I hope we don't lose that. However, her passion for being a "good" mother was precisely what was needed in this episode. And it got her hurt and blinded her to the truth. That sounds like the perfect recipe for her to move back toward cold, evil Regina again to me.

I kind of feel like I may be the only person left who is still a giant Charming fan, but I adore every scene he is in. I adore how affectionately exasperated he is with Snow and the way he really doesn't let her get away with everything. So going with her might seem like he's giving in, but he understands, just as he shows with Emma, that there are larger picture things and that he doesn't own or rule his wife or daughter. They have their own responsibilities, desires, and needs and he loves and trusts them to offer advice, let them know when he thinks they're making a mistake, but to also trust that they may sometimes see or understand something he doesn't. And if they screw up, he's not there to rub it in their faces, but to love and support them anyway.

Charming also had my favorite line of the episode. Again. When Emma asks if he's sure he isn't just trying to keep her away from Hook and he responds "You think I'm interested in Hook? Emma, I'm a married man!" Just ridiculous and the perfect lightness in that moment. He also had the line that covered the theme of the episode in the same conversation when he tells Emma: "There's more to life than just looking for the next fight."

Speaking of a fight. I really can't believe that the blue fairy is dead and I want to know why the shadow (which I am still dying to find out more about) went after her specifically. There has to be some magic in her shadow (remember all the purple sparks?) that will work toward the spell Pan is trying to perform.

Also, I have to give some kudos to both the actor who plays Henry/Pan and the one who plays Pan/Henry. There were a couple of moments when Henry just nailed the creepy expression of Pan - particularly when he is looking around his old room. I love that he is getting a chance to branch out as an actor.

I also thought that Pan did a great job of exuding the simplicity and innocence that is Henry. After all of the intense creepiness of the last episodes, it shouldn't be so believable that he is Henry, but it totally is.

My final thought as I think about what is coming up in the winter finale is that Pan simply doesn't understand love. He sees it as a danger, a liability, a weakness. And, if everything goes as we've come to expect, love will be the thing that ultimately defeats him. What form that love will come in is still up in the air for me, but I am fairly certain that it is going to be the key.