Wednesday, December 30, 2015

What I'm Reading Now: December Edition

It's December! I'm wrapping up the year with some good books and thinking about what I want to do in the new year. Any reading plans for 2016?
If you're looking for a good book, here are a few suggestions.

On my Nook: Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte - I loved The Tenant of Wildfell Hall so I dove into this one and I'm really loving it. Why on earth did it take so long for me to read Anne Bronte?

On my Phone: A Soul for Trouble by Crista McHugh - I originally thought this was a YA, but it's more a high fantasy with elements of romance. However, once I readjusted my expectations I really am enjoying it. And the way it's going, it seems to be the first in a series, so I'm looking forward to reading more.

In Print - Fiction: The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex - When I saw that the movie Home was based on this, I pulled it off my shelf. It's cute and different enough from the movie that I don't feel like I'm reading the same thing. If you're looking for a spunky young protagonist, a story of alien invasions, or a book about the importance of cats in your life, you should love this book.

In Print - Non-Fiction: It's Too Late Now: An Autobiography of a Writer by A. A. Milne - seriously. Everything I read by this man just makes me feel like he is my historical spirit animal. His autobiography is interesting and entertaining and informative all at the same time.

On Audio in my Car: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J. K. Rowling - After my giant Series of Unfortunate Events reread I decided to go ahead and dive into Harry Potter again. It still has its old magic.

On TV: Jessica Jones - If you have Netflix and you like a darker, edgier show this one is for you. Also, David Tennant as Kevin Killgrave is horrifically and deliciously evil.

How about you? Anything you're trying to finish before the 31st?

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Little Lit: The Third Twin by CJ Omololu

I heard about this book during a Twitter chat that popped up on my feed. I then got sucked into the fun that was going on there and my interest was piqued by the description. (Note: social media marketing, when done right, with people that actually care about the people not just the marketing, does work!)

So hold on for my mini review of CJ Omololu's The Third Twin.

When Lexi and Ava were little they invented Alicia. She was the imaginary third twin who ate the cookies in the pantry, broke the lamp, and generally took the blame. Now that they're teenagers, the twins use Alicia as an opportunity to go out with guys they wouldn't normally date or visit parties they wouldn't go to themselves. Lexi's ready to let Alicia go when suddenly ominous things start happening. Alicia starts taking on a life of her own and when the first body turns up Lexi doesn't know who she can trust. Is Ava involved? Or is there really an Alicia out there? And who wants to set Lexi up for murder?

What I Liked:
  • I really enjoyed the premise. I liked the way Omololu took the traditional "twin" story - identical sisters who switch places - and twisted it, adding the invention of the imaginary twin into the mix.
  • I liked the twists and turns, including one that really did shock me. Omololu certainly wasn't afraid to take some risks and it paid off.
  • I enjoyed the small, but not insignificant character development of Lexi as she comes to better understand herself through dealing with the various identities of her sister and imaginary twin.
What I Would Have Liked:
  • The ending twist was certainly a bit of a shock and it did work, but I would have liked it better if it had been set up just a little more throughout the book. I would have preferred to look back and see more clues planted throughout to make the twist more of a "how did I not see that; now these things make sense" than a "what".
  • I would have liked just a little bit more development of some of the secondary characters. Some of them are fairly important, but they fell a little bit flat for me, including Lexi's father and even, to some extent, Zane. It's not that they weren't developed, I just wanted a bit more.
  • Definitely worth the read and I will check out more things by this author in the future!
  • If you like a twisty turny thriller that isn't too gory, this is your book.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Once Upon a Time - Swan Song

5.11 "Swan Song"

SO. Um. Yeah. I'm feeling a little speechless after that episode.

Tonight the battle against the Darkness comes to a head, with Emma "I can't move my face" DarkSwan ready to sacrifice herself to protect her family. Meanwhile Snow and Charming and Henry act completely contrary to character and decide to sit around eating pie while waiting for their impending deaths as Regina makes all of my wildest dreams come true and finally throws Zelena out a window. In a rare wayback flashback we get a little more of Killian's backstory for no real apparent reason other than for Regina to make vague allusions to it all episode long. Rumple finally proves that I have, unfortunately, been right all along concerning the core of his character, and the set up for the second half of the season means we could see pretty much anybody who has ever been on the show and I'm not sure how I feel about that.

So, even though the flashbacks felt really unnecessary, I do have to say that the person in charge of casting is probably the most brilliant person working on this show. Killian's father was absolutely spot on.

I'm finding myself with actually little to say about this episode as a whole. There wasn't as much a unifying theme as there often is. So here are all of my random thoughts:

As so often has happened, I found myself typing the following early on in the episode: "Someone push Zelena out a window already would you?" When this actually happened I was literally cackling on my couch. Now, I'm sure this isn't the last we've seen of Zelena, because the writers like to torture us, but that moment was the best.

I hate that Killian was made a Dark One, but I love Killian as the Dark One acting wise. Kind of the way I love evil Regina and evil Rumple. The actors just play it up and I love seeing them pull out such a wide range. That was what I was really hoping for from Emma *sigh* Also, I loved that Killian's smoke was red.

Can I just say how tired the trope of the "good woman who saves the bad man" is? I think that's one reason that I actually am kind of really glad that Rumple twisted everything around to regain all of his power rather than just becoming the "hero." Because Belle doesn't fix him. His love for Belle doesn't miraculously change his character. I am both mad that she came back and fell for his lies again (though they were good ones) and very happy that she is not gone from the show. I'm just really scared we'll be stuck in that loop. I want her to be separate from Rumple so she can have crazy amazing adventures as herself, not as a plus one.

Rumple's ancient flip phone made me laugh so much. It was just a perfect touch.

Is it just me, or was it really super easy for the Dark Ones to trade all those souls. It would seem to me it would be a little more complicated to do something that major?

But here's my biggest pet peeve. I was so frustrated with Snow, David, and Henry. The three of them are like the most tenacious people on this show. They don't give up. Ever. I mean, come on. It was completely out of character for them to just shrug and go to the diner to "make the most of the time they had left" instead of trying to find a way to NOT DIE. How many other times have they faced the impossible and figured something out at the last minute. Maybe they could have stopped Emma from giving the sword to Hook if they were actually THERE. I'm sorry, but that's just lazy writing. It's like, hey, let's take the people who could most help Emma out of the equation so everything can go wrong BECAUSE PLOT.

Wait. No. I think my biggest peeve of the night was Emma being STUPID enough to hand the sword over the "Henry" when the door never opened and she KNOWS that Dark Ones can take on the shapes of others. That was just too dumb for words.

Okay. Now. Killian.

I am so happy that he turned around and made the right choice, and yes, I realize that it plays into the bad boy saved by the good girl trope, but he doesn't make the choice just because of Emma. He makes it because he wants to be a different kind of man (whereas Rumple doesn't want to be different. He likes his power). BUT the yoyo on his emotions/decisions since finding out he was a Dark One has been ridiculous. I'm going to kill you; I'm going to kill everyone you love; I'm going to make you suffer; wait, Nimue is hurting you. Never mind I'm going to sacrifice myself to save Emma because I remembered that I do love her after all. Oops.
It's just a little hard to swallow. Also, did they have to kill him? Again? I mean, Graham, Neal, Killian? Ridiculous.

And what do you think about the whole Underworld thing? At first I was thinking that maybe they were going to start dipping into mythologies (which I guess could still happen), but now it kind of looks like an excuse to revisit everyone who has died. I wonder who all we will see? And why did everyone go with Emma? I mean, it seems like it would have made more sense for someone to stay behind, like Snow and David, to, you know, take care of the babies? I get that the fairies have them, but wouldn't it be better for at least one of the four parents to not go into the underworld?

Crazy. What did you think? Who are you hoping we'll see in the second half of the season?

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

What I'm Reading Now: November Edition

Christmas is almost here, guys! Also, only one more month to complete any personal reading challenges you've set for yourself! I'm chugging along on mine. But here's what I'm reading right now.
On my Nook: Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. This is hilarious and I'm so glad to be reading it and I will be so sad when it is over. I really wish Pratchett and Gaiman had worked on more things together because they just create a really great story when they collaborate.

On my Phone: A Fairy's Guide to Disaster by A. W. Artoin - Finding this quite enjoyable, though there are some rough spots in the editing. The world building is pretty intriguing, though. I'm curious to see how everything turns out.

In Print: I'm actually in between books, but I just finished Naked Heat by Richard Castle - it's like reading an episode of the show - and I'm about to start Never Always Sometimes by Adi Alsaid. Both of these are to help me complete the PopSugar reading challenge - I only have 3 more books to go on that front!

On Audio in my Car: I just finished The End, the final book in the Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket, and I haven't started a new one yet. I am absolutely and completely even more in love with that series after rereading (re...listening?) to the entire thing one right after the other. I've kind of just been reveling in that feeling. But I'm thinking an audio reread of Harry Potter may be next on my list!

How about you? Reading anything good right now?

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Once Upon a Time - Broken Heart

5.10 "Broken Heart"

In tonight's episode we finally get answers. We learn what happened to Merlin, why Emma took the memories, why Killian hasn't remembered he was a Dark One, and how Merida and the Camelotians ended up in Storybrooke. Meanwhile, in the present, Robin and Regina give Zelena a four billionth chance to redeem herself, Hook duels with Rumple, and Rumbelle shippers squee with delight and scream with despair.

Trust is not easily gained and, once broken, is incredibly difficult to regain.

This theme was reiterated throughout this episode. Emma didn't trust her family to understand why she had done what she did with Killian, even though they initially supported her. Because of this breach of trust, they don't trust her and shut her out of what they are doing. Emma doesn't trust Killian to reject the sword or to ask someone to guard it the way she asked Regina to keep the dagger and so he loses trust and respect in her. Then, when he finds she wiped his memory, he turns even further away. Belle has trusted Rumple so many times that now, even with his redemption, she feels the need to protect herself. She loves him, but she can't trust him. And, to counterpoint all of this, Regina and Robin decide to take a massive step of trust and offer Zelena a small opportunity to begin to prove herself. Of all the people in this show, she is the one least deserving of trust, but there is a tiny slivery glimmer of redemption in her interaction with her baby girl.

Trust makes or breaks a relationship. The question for the second half of this season, I think, is going to be whether trust can be regained enough to allow these people to work together and to save Hook from himself.

Hook makes a much better Dark One than Emma. Even "good" Dark Hook has a swagger and sassiness that is sadly lacking. But it isn't long before he turns, so I'm beginning to see that Emma's blah-ness is somewhat tied to her continuing struggle not to give into the Darkness. But honestly, I just am finding her not that great of an actress. Her voice is also incredibly getting on my nerves with its oily lethargicness. Okay. Moving on.

I really do understand that Hook would be much more susceptible to the Darkness. He's still fighting so hard against his own natural tendency toward evil and I can see how he would feel so betrayed by Emma, but I just have a hard time seeing the man who was willing to sacrifice everything to protect Emma being so very quick to just throw it all away.

I AM SO NOT OKAY WITH MERLIN'S DEATH. They were being so cagey about it that I feared it was true, but I am so very upset and sad and *sigh*

Also, I totally get Belle's point of view. She certainly deserves some time to just be able to be herself rather than being defined by trying to help Rumple. And I'm really hoping that this means we'll get some adorable courtship stuff as Rumple wins her back. Part of me is okay with this and hopes it doesn't happen too quickly because Belle has been through the wringer and I want her to be able to be the amazing kick-butt person she so often proves herself to be (when she gets screen time), but part of me just wants them to finally be happy together after everything that has happened and hates the way this plays into the idea that a villain can never get a happy ending no matter how much they reform or change. *more sigh*

Favorite line of the night goes to Regina (as usual)
Regina to Emma: "Fine. You're being stupid. So stop it."

And quite an interesting set up for the second half of the season. All of the Dark Ones are back and ready to wipe out the light?

And even with all of the answers we did get, we still don't really know Hook's whole plan.

So what did you think of the episode?

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Down Unders: Uprooted

Book Details:
  • Written by Lynne Reid Banks
  • Cover Illustration - I couldn't find this information, though I looked all over the place, which made me sad because I absolutely adore this cover. It's so perfect for the story.
  • Published by HarperCollins Children's Books (first published in 2015 in Great Britain)
  • This is geared toward a solid middle grade audience. Lindy is 10 and her cousin is a little older.
  • Ten year old Lindy along with her mother and cousin Cameron flee England as war begins to encroach on their home. Settling in Saskatoon, Canada with a kind couple who welcomes them in, the three struggle to adapt to their new situation in a new country. Lindy has to find ways to deal with her feelings of loss and displacement and the uncertainty of what is happening to the family she left behind on top of the every day trials of growing up, going to school, and making and losing friends.
Important Things To Know:
  •  This book does deal with issues of war and some domestic issues, but everything is handled in an age appropriate way.
  • Although this is a fictional story, it is based on Banks' own life story, which is really cool and makes this story even more interesting, in my opinion!
  • This is a standalone novel, but Lynne Reid Banks has written many books, including the classic The Indian in the Cupboard. You can check out more of her books and more about the author on her website.
  • I got an Advance Reader Copy of this book at Book Expo America this year
Why I Enjoyed This Book:
  • I really liked the way that the different levels of the story came together. Even though there were really big, intense troubles going on from the war to the troubles they had with their sponsor family, there were also the more intimate problems a ten year old would face like settling into a new school with a "funny" accent, losing friends, and worries over her parents being apart for so long.
  • I loved Lindy's voice and the way the book is told sort of as a flashback (without being too cheesy or belaboring that aspect). It makes even more sense knowing this was based on Banks' own childhood memories.
  • I liked the way Lindy interacted with her cousin Cameron. They felt very real in the way they got along, fought, and found each other confusing at times.
You Can Find This Book At:

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

10 Things I Loved About A Girl Named Digit by Annabel Monaghan

Farrah is good at math. Really good. As in, she has a gift, good. But all she wants is to be normal, so her friends don't know. Then one night she spots a code embedded in one of the teen shows she watches with her friends and when the code leads her to a terrorist plot, Farrah suddenly finds herself on the run for her life with a young and admittedly cute FBI agent. As the threat to her safety escalates (as well as her attraction to John), Farrah has to let her true self shine or risk losing everything.
So here are my 10 (non-spoilery) Things I Loved about Annabel Monaghan's A Girl Named Digit:

  1. Farrah aka Digit: I really enjoyed her story arc. I totally understood her desire to hold back on her math/pattern intelligence as a way to just get through her senior year of high school, but I appreciated the way her perception of herself (and her friends) grew over the course of the book. I also liked the way both sides of her "gift" were presented - both the positive (the good that was done through applying it) and the negative (the OCD type tendencies she could fall into).
  2. Her parents: I liked the fact that they cared for her and that Digit got along with them as well. It was nice to see a cohesive family unit in a young adult novel.
  3. Her brother, Danny: who is the main person to call her Digit. I liked that the siblings got along okay as well. It was refreshing to not have the tension be in the main character's family for once.
  4. John: I liked the way his character was slowly built throughout the novel. Monaghan did a good job of revealing things just slowly enough to keep the interest going.
  5. John's dad: Cracked me up. I really liked his character, for the short amount of time he was there.
  6. Farrah's friend Olive: Even though she isn't present in much of the book, her character really shone through the brief bits that are there. Enough so that she left an impression and I want to see more of her!
  7. The codes: I've always been fascinated with secret codes and I loved the way they all worked together to crack the various messages and codes to uncover the terrorist plot.
  8. The action: Running for their lives, trying to solve the mystery in time to save people, being betrayed - all made for a quick read as I wanted to find out what happened next!
  9. The camp: Okay, so there are bits of this that are a bit cheesy and a few things about the plot (particularly the very end) that stretch believability a bit. But it's a good and enjoyable kind of cheesy (at least it was for me). It's hard to have a light-hearted romance-y novel that's dealing with a girl running from terrorists who want to torture and kill her, but somehow Monaghan manages to pull it off.
  10. There's a sequel. I'm definitely going to be looking up the next chapter in Digit's adventures.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Once Upon a Time - Birth & The Bear King

I'm going to handle each episode separately in the post, as they really do stand apart from each other.
So first up:
5.8 "Birth"

This: Yes
from HERE
In the Storeybrook/Camelot story line Dark Swan pushes forward with her plan while Killian begins really pushing her to reveal the whole truth. In the flashbacks we see Arthur pair up with Zelena to try to manipulate Emma into making Excalibur whole again, with a lack of success.

And... that's pretty much it.

The end reveal was quite a twist, but I have to admit that throughout the episode I was starting to just feel jerked around as a viewer. Everything Emma has done said since coming back has been a smoke screen. And yes, she's been fighting the darkness in trying to undo it, but... I don't know. I just felt like it was all a set up to make us gasp, without really building anything into the story to point us to this.

Wouldn't Killian have felt something in all of this time to clue him into the fact that he was now a "Dark One"? Wouldn't someone have sensed something? Some sort of struggle? Something?
This: No.
from HERE
And ALSO, this is really bothering me, why did he suddenly go all moody and dark as soon as he found out. Like, Emma's love has made her fight this whole time and he discovers that she's given up everything to save him and he's all, "that's it I'm done." No. That's just. No.

We still don't know why Merlin isn't here or why Emma still mysteriously says he can't help anymore. I'd say he's dead, but it's more likely we're supposed to think that he's dead, but he's just incapacitated in some weird way.

Arthur continues to be a crazy pants jerk face (which is carried over into the next episode) and seriously needs to get over himself. I also feel like he knows more - that he has more of his memories from the before. He's just too sly.

I was also a bit confused about the whole, Emma couldn't light the spark until she was ready to let go of the darkness. I mean, it makes sense in the flashback, but BUT I don't understand where the spark came from in the present and how she was able to light it again to link Excalibur and the dagger.

Also, how did Excalibur get into the stone in Storebrook?

Also, also. I don't understand her plan. She's going to put all the dark magic into Zelena...somehow. And then kill Zelena with the sword? Which will somehow destroy the dark magic? Why does that sound totally like it won't work. Will Zelena be able to use that magic? And if so, how on earth does Emma think she'd be able to kill her when she's already pretty powerful and it's only going to get worse.

And won't Killian die if he's not linked to the sword anymore? Like won't that undo the magic that's keeping Killian alive and now that he's been stabbed and everything, he's dead many times over. Yes?

Two other unrelated thoughts:

1- How on earth did Arthur break that enchantment that was holding Zelena to the tree. I mean, she couldn't break it and last time I checked he has no magic, so how did he manage to undo it with a little swipe of his hand?

This gif set is basically perfect
from HERE
2- I've been watching iZombie, which is wonderful and ridiculous and I'm enjoying it very much and David Anders is in it and it was particularly hilarious seeing him back in Storybrooke as Dr. Whale and I loved the comments about his hair and that pretty much made the episode for me.

So... yeah, not really feeling this episode.

But, hey, it was a double feature tonight, so now it's on to:

5.9 "The Bear King"

In a separate and basically unrelated story line, Merida and Mulan team up to save Merida's kingdom from the witch, running into Ruby along the way and Girl Powering it up while Arthur and Zelena flounce around with really stupid schemes that they can't accomplish.

But I forgive much about this episode because actual theme development and also RED IS BACK I"M SO EXCITED I CAN'T HANDLE IT < what I actually wrote when the wolf appeared.

I would just like to point out, before moving on to the more interesting parts of the story, that Arthur needs to get a grip because he's been so obsessed with Excalibur being the "only way to save his kingdom" but now it's the helm. Basically, Arthur needs to be smacked.

But his story and the larger narrative with the Bear King and Merida connect together in a theme that ties all of our stories together this season, and overall - if you aren't enough by yourself, magic can never make you enough.

Arthur could have been a great king. Merlin saw it in him and hoped to help train him to reach the potential he saw in Arthur as a boy. Instead, Arthur fell back on Excalibur as proving his right to rule. He looked to magic to save his kingdom. He searched for the dagger so that he could feel complete. But because he relies solely on magic and manipulation, he's exposing his true weakness and the fact that he will never be a good ruler as he is now, with or without Excalibur or the helm.

Fergus was also feeling weak and looking for something magical to save his kingdom. It wasn't until he realized, through seeing himself in Merida, that his power was in himself and in his belief in his cause and in his men. He lost his life, but he saved his kingdom ultimately. The more he used the helm, the more he would have relied on it, rather than on himself and the weaker he would have become as a leader.

from HERE
Something Merida learned as well. She could have relied on the helm, searching for it, not only to save her kingdom from the witch, but using its power to cement her authority. Because she chose to believe in herself and to honor her father's legacy, she was able to earn the true respect of the clans, ensuring their loyalty in future.

Thinking back to "Birth" we see this playing out in Emma's life as well. Her reliance on the Dark Magic to get her through these situations, means that she's losing herself. Her decision to bind Killian, turning him into a Dark One rather than losing him, her plan to murder Zelena in cold blood to try to undo it. The more she tries to solve her problems through magic, the worse things become and the harder it will be for her to break free of it all. Even if she can destroy the Dark Magic by killing Zelena, something I doubt, what's going to stop her from continuing to rely on her own magic as a crutch. Regina wasn't a Dark One and she still managed to wreak quite a lot of havoc by relying on magic to solve her problems.

It was so nice to see Red again and I was grateful that we got some sort of brief explanation as to why she suddenly vanished. It does make me wonder, however, what happened with the actress that precipitated her abrupt leaving and equally abrupt return. I found it a little odd that we didn't get that scene between her and Snow and perhaps a little good-bye party rather than just a vanishing act that no one seemed to talk about. Now she and Mulan are off on their own adventures and I fear we won't see them again for some time, but at least there's closure.

Another question: how did everyone see Merida fail when she was so far away and the battle was raging around them? I mean, enough of them saw her miss to decide to KIDNAP her brothers and turn completely against her. I would think that her not being in the battle at all would have seemed more likely a reason for them to distrust her, but that wouldn't have set up her insecurities of shooting her bow to save her brothers. So, it's true because plot. *sigh*

Favorite lines from tonight?
Ruby "I kind of ate the only boyfriend I ever had"
Mulan "Yes. That disqualifies you."

Big question I have left? Why on earth is Merida in Storybrooke now?

So those were tonight's episodes. And we get a break next week (which I wish was Thanksgiving weekend instead, since I'm visiting my parents and won't be able to watch until later) so have a great holiday (if you celebrate) and I'll see you in a couple of weeks.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Art! by Patrick McDonnell

Click here to find out more about Patrick McDonnell

Wombly and I loved this book for a couple of reasons:

  • It introduces Down Unders to the concept of art
  • Patrick McDonnell ALWAYS has a feel good message to his books. Always nice to have a little bit of that in life!
  • Wombly was reminded of Harold and the Purple Crayon, the way Art was running around with a paintbrush.
  • Annnnd... Wombly found the book inspiring!

Happy Reading!

~ NaomiRuth, Wombly the Wombat

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Little Lit: The Adventures of Miss Petitfour by Anne Michaels

Buckle up for my quick review of The Adventures of Miss Petitfour by Anne Michaels with illustrations by Emma Block.
Miss Petitfour lives with her many cats. loves to prepare treats, and travels by tablecloth. She's a quirky character, but well-loved by the people around town who are used to her unusual ways. Each chapter follows a new adventure that Miss Petitfour and her cats stumble into with everyone coming safely and happily home at the end of the chapter.

Available for sale November 10, 2015

What I liked:
  • The idea of the book - I always find it interesting when someone writes a children's book with an adult as the main character. Most of the books I can think of that fall into this originated decades in the past - Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle (1940s), Mary Poppins (1930s), Amelia Bedelia (1960s). And, with the exception of Amelia Bedelia, children were still the focus even if they weren't the protagonsts. I think Miss Petitfour fits in pretty nicely with this cohort, though I will be curious to see what the response is from children reading this.
  • I liked that Miss Petitfour traveled by tablecloth (perhaps that is where I'm connecting to Mary Poppins) and that the wind not going the right direction causes many of the mishaps, as should be expected.
  • I liked the adventures. They were fun and unusual and interesting.
  • I liked the illustrations, which matched the tone and feel of the book quite well. It's going to be a lovely little volume when all are rendered in color.
What I would have liked:
  • I would have liked the cats to be a bigger part of the story. There were so many of them that we don't really get a good understanding of most of them. I would have liked their personalities to be a bit bigger and have more impact on the story and on Miss Petitfour.
  • I would have liked to see more of Pleasant, the one child we do meet in the book. She seems like a very interesting person and I wanted more of her.
  • I would have liked a little less of the long lists of names and definitions and a little more of the quirk and fun that comes through a good part of the time.
  • Some people are going to find this book utterly charming. I certainly enjoyed parts of it.
  • However, it didn't quite work as a whole for me. I don't know if it was the lack of children (or children type creatures - the cats could have worked well for this) or if it was just a personal preference.
  • Miss Petitfour is whimsical, but she is firmly an adult, which lends a more mature tone to a book that seems to be focused on a slightly younger audience.
  • I think that many people, both adults and children, will be calling for more adventures for Miss Petitfour.

For more information you can check out Anne Michaels GoodReads page and you can find more about Emma Block's illustrations on her website.

I received this book as an advance reader copy at BookExpo America.

Monday, November 9, 2015

We have a winner!

First a giant thank you to everyone who entered our giveaway for Gregory Maguire's After Alice - we'll be having more contests, both here on the blog and over on our Instagram account, so follow us there for other fun stuff.

And now.....

Without further ado.......

We announce the winner.........


(are you annoyed yet?).......


Woohoo! We're so excited for you! You'll be getting an e-mail soon so we can get your mailing address and all that jazz and get the book in the mail for you.

Congratulations and happy reading!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Once Upon a Time - Nimue

5.7 "Nimue"

Tonight we get to spend some quality time with Merlin, meet the very first Dark One, and see more of Emma's journey both in the flashback and in present time. Meanwhile the hero squad is stupid enough to trust Zelena. Again. Also, there are so many inconsistencies in the plot that I was left scratching my head.

First, I was so excited to get a Merlin episode and to see the incarnation of the Dark One. It was pretty interesting to get a peek into his past and travel back to the start of so much that has affected the characters from the beginning. After all, almost everything goes back to the Dark One. Dark Rumple was the one who taught Regina what she knew, which led her to put everyone under a curse in the first place.

BUT I can't help but feel there is something Merlin is holding back. He's a little too perfect - it's a little hard to believe that he was never tempted to use his power for anything but altruistic ends, and yet not believe that there is anyone else in the worlds who could do the same.

Both he and Nimue drank from the same Holy Grail and were given power from the same source. So often on this show it has been drilled into our heads that how magic is used and the choices people make are the most important things. It's duplicated here. Nimue and Merlin receive their power from the same source, but one remains pure of heart and the other does it for revenge and christens her new powers with blood shed, so turning into the Dark One. It wasn't the magic that was at fault, but the motivations behind the use of that magic.

Yet, since the advent of the dark magic, it has somehow now become an entity in and of itself that corrupts absolutely no matter what the intent or purpose of the wielder? Even Regina's magic is no longer damaging to her, because she is now using it in the right ways. Emma saves a life, but because she's using "dark" magic, she's damaging her soul? It hadn't been sitting right, but this episode helped me articulate why this has been bothering me so much.

Another question I have is how Nimue was able to drink from the Grail without poofing into dust. The assumption I made when Merlin's companion went poof was that he wasn't worthy of the power (and was I the only one who was waiting for an old knight to step out from behind the rock and say, "He chose...poorly"?), but if that was the criteria, then Nimue should have been poofed too. What's the rhyme or reason there?

And speaking of rhyme or reason, how on earth did that goopy stuff Arthur was mixing up not eat through the table. He said the ladle and the cauldron were enchanted, but the table seemed to be intact. And how on earth would it eat through metal, but not the teeth and bones he claimed would be left? Or, for that matter, the floors or walls of the castle? And I would really have second thoughts about carrying that thing around.

Though perhaps the guards' nervousness accounts for how they walked past the hero squad without even noticing they were standing right there.

Pretty much as soon as Nimue started craving magic for revenge I knew where it was going - that she would become the first Dark One, but it didn't make her betrayal any easier. Poor Merlin.

I kept expecting Emma to grab for her ring when she was fighting against Nimue's influence. BUT I was so so so excited to see her flip out when Nimue tried to say she had been nothing. Because Emma of not too long ago would have bought that lie and would have believed that she had nothing worth going back too.

Which made me wonder if this is all part of her lack of glittery skin and panache as the Dark One. When Nimue's skin went all scaly I started to think about it. Both Nimue and Rumple became the Dark One because of their desires for power and control. They embraced it willingly and wholeheartedly. Emma took it only to protect others and, even as the Dark One, is still fighting against its influence. Her actions in the presence, though tinged with darkness, are not the deeds of someone sold out to the dark powers. She still cares for Henry and Killian. She's still fighting to hold onto certain parts of her character.

So her appearance echoes this, and her attitude reflects the conflict still raging inside her.

I'm still not a big fan of the way the actress is playing it, but I do feel like that could be a good enough explanation to get me over my frustration.

The question is whether she'll be able to continue to resist, now that she has the whole sword, and what on earth happened before fetching the spark and the moment where she turned against everyone.

Killian is so frickin' adorable. That is all.

Okay. Now onto my least favorite subject, which I will ease into by admitting that Zelena had the best quip of the episode when she said about Charming, "If Sir Castic would let me speak..." Okay, so at least she and Regina are related in their quips.

But really. How many times are these people going to fall for her nonsense? This is far beyond mercy and compassion and into reckless endangerment.

And I hate when they play the women stupid. Mary Margaret is way too intelligent to fall for that nonsense.

And now Arthur also chooses power over love or kindness and has Merlin on a leash. Good job guys. You know, when someone wants to claim power as their "right" it's never a good thing.

Here's hoping we get some Swan answers as the preview teased. Will Emma's love be enough to help her to fight against the darkness, even now that it's gotten a hold on her?

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

10 Things I Loved About The Blackthorn Key by Kevin Sands

Christopher is actually pretty happy with his life. He's the apprentice to an intelligent and kind apothecary, has the opportunity to study and learn many different things, and his best friend is always up for trying to blow something up. Everything is good, that is, except the mysterious and deadly cult that seems to be targeting apothecaries. When everything in Christopher's life turns upside down, he will have to use every lesson Master Blackthorn taught him to solve the mystery and escape the doom that is starting to close in on him and everyone he knows.

You can learn more about Kevin Sands and his books on his website, Facebook, or Twitter!

And now, the 10 things I loved about The Blackthorn Key by Kevin Sands:

  1. The genre: It's a historical mystery! I love well-written middle grade novels set in the past. And well done mysteries. So, to find them both in an adventurous, crazy, fun book was so wonderful.
  2. The details: Somehow Sands weaves in so much historical detail that the period just oozes through. I felt completely immersed in the world, but it never felt didactic. overdone, and never a single info dump that I can remember.
  3. The sense of time: This is kind of connected to the previous point, but I really appreciated the acknowledgment of how pervasive religious belief was in the 17th century.
  4. Christopher: He seemed so real, not only just as a boy, but also as a boy of the period. It felt authentic. Sometimes authors can tend to assign too many modern sensibilities to children set in a historical period, but Sands does a great job of avoiding this, but still making Christopher completely believable.
  5. The concoctions: I loved all the bits of scientific details and how Christopher uses his knowledge to mix up things to help him get out of (and sometimes into) trouble.
  6. The friendship: I absolutely adored Christopher and Martin's friendship. They were everything best friends should be: similar, yet different - complementing each other's strengths and weaknesses, and loyal.
  7. Martin's sisters: They were adorable and strong and intelligent and I wanted so much more of them!
  8. The twists and turns: What good is a mystery without a ton of crazy twists and turns? The mystery spins you around, revealing things at just the right rate to keep you intrigued but not frustrated.
  9. The secret passage: I love a good secret passage. How much fun would it be to find a secret room in real life? I'll take experiencing it second hand in a good book if I can't experience it for real.
  10. Bridget: Every boy needs a pigeon sidekick. Adored Bridget.
So there you have it! What are you waiting for, go out and grab a copy for yourself!
I received this advance reader copy via BookExpo America

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Once Upon a Time - The Bear and the Bow

5.6 "The Bear and the Bow"

On tonight's episode we finally get some decent Belle time. And the bonus of some good Rumbelle scenes as well. In the flashbacks Merida kidnaps Belle to get her help in saving Merida's brothers - and her kingdom. In the present Merida, under Dark Swan's sway, goes after Belle in a last attempt to turn Rumple into a hero. Meanwhile, the hero squad asks for Arthur's help to reach Merlin and finally learn that he's a snake in the grass. After getting Merlin's answering machine they're, of course, no closer to knowing how to stop Dark Swan than they were before.

This was another good episode. Finally finally Belle has a chance to shine and be something more than a footnote. It's about time. The plot was moved forward nicely while doing some nice character development at the same time.

How much do I love Belle's research skills? And how much did I laugh at this exchange:
Merlin: Aren't you the clever one?
Belle: "Glad someone noticed."

I hear you, Belle. A lot of fans were rejoicing over that tonight with you. Though, there was a short period of time where I was afraid that the episode was going to be a farewell tribute, so I'm quite relieved that they managed to get Rumple to step up without sacrificing Belle.

Dark Swan seems to be a little desperate. Her manipulations are nowhere near as smooth as either Rumple's or Regina's. Or Cora's for that matter. Her work with Merida seemed sloppy at best, her bid to turn Rumple into a hero a stretch, and her palaver with Zelena ridiculous.

As for Zelena, I was rolling my eyes again, though her reading What to Expect When You're Expecting had me giggling and I found it sad that I actually thought her smarmy villainy was better than Dark Swan's weird cold smirkitude.

I thought that Rumple's transition was well done - it could have felt much more contrived, particularly in such a short period of time, but with all of the Rumbelle history it felt more like inevitable. Though I was surprised that he didn't point out that he only bargained to pull the sword out for Emma - never actually promised to give it to her. Dark Rumple would never have overlooked that loophole and I was surprised Dark Swan did. Okay, actually I'm not. Deals aren't really her thing the way they were Rumple's.

Of course, one brave act does not necessarily a hero make. It was enough, obviously, for Rumple to pull the sword from the stone, but what will happen if he's required to sacrifice to save someone who isn't Belle? Will his newfound courage be enough? His eloquent apology and admission of guilt to Belle points to a greater change (along with the fact that he finally admitted the true extent of his cowardice in breaking his own foot), but we shall see how it holds up.

But Rumple makes a good point. Yes, Emma has the sword, but Rumple is quite a threat. Not only is he now a hero, but he's an ex-Dark One. He knows how the dark magic works on someone, what they will be tempted with, how Emma will be likely to think and to act. And that edge could make all the difference.

Now that Excalibur is out in the open I'm curious to see what will happen if/when it's made whole again.

I'm so glad Arthur's double talk has finally been revealed, though it seems rather stupid of him to not make sure no trace of the mushroom remained. Glad to see Henry back in the midst of things. Hopefully this betrayal drives him to free Emma more than ever.

Have to love Regina: "I don't believe this. We're getting Merlin's voicemail?"

And we're left with many questions: What did Dark Swan do to Merlin? How did she go fully dark? Why wipe everyone's memories and bring them all back to Storybrooke (even the Camelotians...Camolites? Cameloters?)? Looking forward to getting the answers!