Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Little Lit: Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz

Welcome to a new feature here on the blog! While I absolutely love doing my 10 Things I Love... posts, sometimes I just want to quickly write up what I liked and didn't like about a book without going into so much detail. Hence, Little Lit!
So hang on for my quick review of Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz.
Twelve year old Clara is captivated by the marionette performance of the masterful Grisini, but also taken by his two assistants, Lizzie Rose and Parsefall. When she invites them to perform at her birthday party and Grisini gives her a strange gift, Clara is drawn to the strange man. When Clara goes missing, Lizzie Rose and Parsefall find themselves caught up in a web of deceit, magic, and revenge that goes back decades. Can they figure out how to break the spell before their lives or Clara's are lost forever?

What I Liked:

  • I really enjoyed the play between Lizzie and Parse. Though they aren't related, there was a brother/sister vibe between them that I enjoyed.
  • I liked Lizzie and Parse's perseverance and street smarts. Though neither is formally educated, they each have many skills that they use to work their way through the very strange events they find themselves trapped in.
  • SPOILER (kind of): I liked the idea of Clara being trapped into being a marionette and being caught in this power struggle between Grisini and his rival.
What I Would Have Liked:
  • I would have liked it better if it hadn't been quite as dark. I'm sure there are kids who would love the creepiness of this, but I am an adult and I found some of the things to be a bit too gruesome or dark for me. I would really hesitate to give this to many middle grade kids.
  • I would have liked less of the adults. Not that I have an issue with adults being major characters in kids' books, but in this, the feud between Grisini and Cassandra felt like something out of an adult novel, while the parts with Lizzie and Parse fit better in a middle grade novel. For me, the two didn't blend together very well.
  • For people who like a dark, creepy story, I think they'll enjoy this.
  • For me, it just didn't quite work as a whole.
  • I did like Schlitz's style. Though it was a bit more formal than many middle grade level books are, it fit with the tone and time period of the story.
You can find more information about Schlitz and her books on her GoodReads page or through this page on the Candlewick Press website.

I received an advance copy of this book via BookExpo America.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Toxic by Kim Karr

New York Times bestselling author Kim Karr turns up the heat in a smoking hot, emotionally compelling new novel that takes you into the world of Manhattan’s elite.

In Toxic, Jeremy McQueen, a sexy, intense, sometimes brooding entrepreneur goes after what he wants—the woman he left behind years ago. Phoebe St. Claire, a put together, in control socialite-turned-CEO has been drifting through life searching for something she thought she'd never find again—the right man to share her future.

If you're looking for a fun beach read to make this summer even hotter, check out Toxic by Kim Karr.  In addition to the passion and romance between Phoebe and Jeremy, the characters also stand on their own.  In the beginning of the story, I thought Phoebe seemed like just a "poor little rich girl."  Fortunately, the story picked up and as I got to know Phoebe and Jeremy better, I really got into the story. I enjoyed reading about their business struggles just as much as I enjoyed reading about their relationship. I also loved the supporting characters, especially Phoebe's neighbor, Mrs. Bardot.  Everyone could use a neighbor like her with great advice and a fabulous closet.  This is a quick and steamy standalone novel  that I recommend for adults 18 and up.

For more information on Toxic or Kim Karr, please visit the author's website

If you've read Toxic, please share your non-spoilery thoughts below, I'd love to see what you thought of it.

Note: I received a free digital copy of Toxic by Kim Karr in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

10 Things I Love About Teen Wolf

It's been a while since I've done a TV or movie related 10 Things post, and since Teen Wolf just started its new season, it's been on my mind. If you haven't watched the show, I am keeping this as spoiler free as humanly possible, so read on and see some of the reasons I think this is a show worth watching!
  1. Mythology - I love the way they play with mythology of different supernatural creatures. Though there are, obviously, werewolves, there are also many other mythological beings that come into play including kitsunes, nogitsunes, banshees, kanimas, and many others. Many are pretty closely based in existing mythologies (though the show always puts its own spin on things) and some are more loosely based on mythologies, and I'm pretty sure there are some that are invented for the sake of the show. But it always keeps things interesting and I've become more interested in various mythologies as a result of them coming up on the show.
  2. Here are 3 of the lovely leading ladies
    Couldn't find one that also had Malia, though :(
  3. The female characters - Although Scott is the main character as the "teen wolf" who is turned in the first episode, the supporting cast is all amazing and the female characters are done well. They are strong, well-rounded characters who don't lose their femininity just because they can also kick some serious butt. Lydia has become one of my favorite characters as she has developed throughout the series and Malia, a more recent addition to the cast, is absolutely hilarious and either first or second place with the best one-liners. Each female (including the adult women we encounter) is different and fully drawn and developed and that's, unfortunately, still fairly rare to find, especially in a sci-fi/fantasy genre show.
  4. The friendships - The show is set in high school and, fittingly, the relationships and friendships between characters make up a large part of the non-supernatural drama. I love the way the characters go through changes, falling outs, arguments, getting closer, drawing apart. If it wasn't for the interplay between the characters, you wouldn't care so much about the larger supernatural issues that arise. 

  5. The bromance - The friendship between Stiles and Scott is so genuine and so wonderful. You can just tell they've been friends forever, they know each other well, they've always got each other's backs, and they're not afraid to tell each other the truth, even if it will hurt.
  6. It's not this one, but there's a scene in season 3 between
    the two of them and I was totally sobbing.
    The fact that they're really good friends in real life
    carries over to their performance too.
  7. Stiles - Speaking of, I simply cannot make this list without putting Stiles on it by himself. Scott may be the "main" character, but Stiles is the heart of the show. He's the one who ties with Malia for best one-liners. He's the one who is one of the first to point out when an idea is stupid, but also one of the first to risk himself to save someone else. Even though he is not a supernatural creature himself, he's the one they all tend to lean on and turn to even if they don't realize it. And his relationship with his father is so fantastically well done. The two of them are always so great together.
  8. The reality - As I mentioned before, the show is set in high school, but this is a high school where the students actually spend time going to class and doing homework. There have been story threads where characters have been in jeopardy of failing because their schoolwork has suffered as a result of the supernatural highjinks. Besides that, other very real, very serious issues have also been dealt with from struggling to make ends meet as a single mother, to the repercussions of divorce, to dealing with the loss of a family member or friend. I really appreciate that there are other things they face than just the ones that go bump in the night.
  9. The unexpected - Seriously. You never know what is going to happen. And it often feels like no character is safe. There have been a couple of deaths or people leaving that were a bit shocking or surprising. And new people coming in that you wouldn't have expected. And people you thought were allies being enemies and vice versa. The show keeps you on your toes in a good way.
  10. Stiles' dad and Scott's mom are so integral to the show.
  11. The adults - I like the fact that the adults aren't missing. There may be single parent homes (actually in quite a few cases), but the parents and adults that are there are very much involved in their kids' lives. And they often play important roles in the larger narratives. So often in high school dramas the parent figures are gotten out of the way as quickly as possible, but some of the sweetest and best moments I can remember have come between parent/child on this show.
  12. The blend of genres - While in many ways this is a teen drama, it's also (as you can see from the previous point) a bit of a family drama, with plenty of fantasy/mythology thrown in, a lot of action/adventure, and a dash of horror with a healthy dose of comedy. How does all that work together? I honestly don't know, but it does and I love it.
  13. The fun - It's just a fun show to watch. There are some great moments of scariness as well as moments of serious drama, and plenty of heart. But when it really comes down to it, it's just a really fun show to watch. It's a great one to watch with a friend so you have someone to exchange what on earth just happened! looks or texts or conversations.
So have you seen Teen Wolf? What do you like about it? Anything that's shocked you in the last season or in this season!? SPOILERS MAY EXIST IN THE COMMENTS, so feel free to share your thoughts there.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

What I'm Reading Now: June Edition

I know it's technically July, but since it's just now July, I'm going to go ahead and call this the June post. So what have I been reading lately? Check it out:

On my Nook: A long time ago I picked up these collections of classic children's stories and one of the collections was by Grace S. Richmond. Technically I feel like these are the precursors to young adult fiction, at least The Twenty-Fourth of June, which I'm reading now. The main characters are out of childhood, but not really adults yet. It started a little bit saccharine, but there's some sort of charm in books written in the late 1800s/early 1900s that I enjoy. Definitely isn't ringing with me as much as other authors of that period that I like, but enough to want to keep reading. I just read the two short stories included in the collection and they have a vaguely Louisa May Alcott vibe to them.

On my phone: I finished Darker Days and moved on to A Darker Past by Jus Accardo. I ended up really loving the first one and am thoroughly intrigued by this sequel so far. Jessie and her mother survived the trials of the seven deadly sins wreaking havoc, but the consequences of many of their choices are coming back to haunt them. A solid YA paranormal series I can recommend so far.

In print - fiction: After Alice by Gregory Maguire - this is one of the ARCs I picked up at BEA. I have very mixed feelings about Maguire's works and this book is falling between I like it and I don't. Definitely some things I'm enjoying, but he waxes on politically and philosophically too much at times and it doesn't sit right with the rest of the content of the book for my taste. I'm thinking I might do a mini review on this when it gets closer to the release date with more complete thoughts about it.

In print - non-fiction: A.A. Milne by Ann Thwaite - I am loving this. Milne's life is really very fascinating and, though the type is tiny and the book thick, Thwaite's writing style is engaging and very readable. Anyone curious about the man who actually hated being equated with his Pooh creation should definitely check this out.

On audio in my car: The Maze Runner by James Dashner - I read this years ago. Ever since the movie came out (which I really liked), I've been wanting to read it again and get through the whole series this time. I'm not enjoying it as much as I remember liking it the first time around, but it's still good. I'm also finding it odd that this is one book that I think I like better as a movie.

On TV: I'm almost done with my grand Buffy and Angel rewatch and have started watching X-Files again. I've never seen it all the way through and my Dad and I were watching it together before I moved, so it took me a while to get back to it without watching it with him. With the continuation coming up I wanted to get back into it. I just watched "Bad Blood" which is the 12th episode of season 5. I noticed that this was one of the "must watch" episodes in Entertainment Weekly so was excited that I had just hit that point in my watch list. It's on that list for a reason. Absolutely hilarious and the perfect play between the personalities of Scully and Mulder as they each recount their version of events as they investigate what seem to be a spate of vampiric murders.

How about you? Reading anything good?