Mini Review: Kill Me Softy by Sarah Cross

Kill Me Softly
Sarah Cross

Released April 10, 2012
EgmontUSA
336 pages
YA / Faerie Tale Retelling / Fantasy

Find it on Goodreads

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Indie Bound

Mirabelle's past is shrouded in secrecy, from her parents' tragic deaths to her guardians' half-truths about why she can't return to her birthplace, Beau Rivage. Desperate to see the town, Mira runs away a week before her sixteenth birthday—and discovers a world she never could have imagined.

In Beau Rivage, nothing is what it seems—the strangely pale girl with a morbid interest in apples, the obnoxious playboy who's a beast to everyone he meets, and the chivalrous guy who has a thing for damsels in distress. Here, fairy tales come to life, curses are awakened, and ancient stories are played out again and again.

But fairy tales aren't pretty things, and they don't always end in happily ever after. Mira has a role to play, a fairy tale destiny to embrace or resist. As she struggles to take control of her fate, Mira is drawn into the lives of two brothers with fairy tale curses of their own . . . brothers who share a dark secret. And she'll find that love, just like fairy tales, can have sharp edges and hidden thorns.

This book is problematic. Mira is a highly problematic (or highly naive) protagonist who, can’t see obvious if it beat her in the face. The romance in Kill Me Softly is cringe-worthy at best, and the book should probably have trigger warnings all over it.

And yet I still enjoyed it enough to finish. I partly blame Sarah Cross’s very easy to digest writing style and interesting take on faerie tale mythology. It also helps that the characters surrounding Mira are far more interesting and fun to spend time with than Mira herself.

Kill Me Softly is a weird take on the Sleeping Beauty mythos. Mira grew up far away from Beau Rivage with her God Mothers, who were over protective and kept stories of her parents and birth place close to the vest. So of course, Mira decides to run away to celebrate her 16th birthday searching for her parents’ graves in Beau Rivage. When an older 20-something hotel magnate swoops in to help her then promptly starts putting moves on her, this is obviously a dream come true. When she faints and finds herself unconscious for several hours after making out with said way-too-old-for-her 20-something Romeo, she brushes it off as a weird coincidence. Turns out faerie tales in Beau Rivage are real in a weird sort of way and she’s caught in between two potentially deadly ones.

Mira, as I said, is incredibly dumb. Her relationship with Felix is creepy from moment one, full of near-statutory rape scenarios that also might potentially end in her death. No words of warning or acknowledgement of Felix’s utter creep factor sways her from being instantly in love with him and thinking he is the nicest, most generous person in the world. It’s beyond creepy and I can’t very well understand how I still liked this book despite it.

And yet I did. The world building, more age appropriate characters like Blue, Viv, and Freddie, and the conclusion made me look over the horribly problematic elements of this book to the point that I read the sequel (which was much, much better). I can’t forgive the problematic elements enough to recommend this book though, so skip it and go straight to Tear You Apart. You won’t miss much other than an overwhelming need to take hot showers and scrub the ick factor off of your brain.

 

Anybody else read a book that was clearly problematic and yet still enjoyed it? How did you process the disconnect? Help me out in the comments!

Review: Fairest by Marissa Meyer

Fairest
Marissa Meyer

Feiwel & Friends
Released January 27, 2015
222 pages
YA / Sci Fi / Twisted Faerie Tales

Find it on Goodreads

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Indie Bound

In this stunning bridge book between Cress and Winter in the bestselling Lunar Chronicles, Queen Levana’s story is finally told.

Mirror, mirror on the wall,

Who is the fairest of them all?

Fans of the Lunar Chronicles know Queen Levana as a ruler who uses her “glamour” to gain power. But long before she crossed paths with Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress, Levana lived a very different story – a story that has never been told . . . until now.

Marissa Meyer spins yet another unforgettable tale about love and war, deceit and death. This extraordinary book includes full-color art and an excerpt from Winter, the next book in the Lunar Chronicles series.

I devoured Fairest as quickly as my over-exhausted body and work schedule would allow, meaning that over the course of two nights, I was once again engulfed in Marissa Meyer’s world of Lunar royalty and cunningly clever yet devastatingly lonely evil queens. It wasn’t long enough, but I suppose it will have to do until Winter comes out towards the end of the year.

Possible spoilers for Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress ahead.

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Teaser Tuesday: Fairest by Marissa Meyer

It has been a terrible, no good, very bad day. Then I came home and found this lovely in my mailbox.

Now it is a much better day. This hard cover of Fairest is really pretty, inside and out. Here are the end pages, which shows the palace on the Moon.

And of course, here is the first page.

 

So instead of putting together a Random Tuesday, I'm going to dive head first into Fairest and pretend today never happened. I leave you with the opening.

She was lying on a burning pyre, hot coals beneath her back. White sparks floated in her vision but the mercy of unconsciousness wouldn't come.

I'm so excited!

Leslie's Top 10 Books Read in 2014

I’m always bothered by people who do best of lists before the year is over. What’s to say you aren’t going to read the best book of the year on the very last day of the year? That’s why I always wait until January, at which point people probably don’t care anymore because they’ve already seen a million and one best of lists. Well, here is one more.

Last year I only read 79 books, including many comics. This is partially due to a lethargy that took over the last quarter of the year that made me slow at everything and partially due to a giant leap in job duties that took up some free time. Despite that, I read 24,701 pages last year, which isn’t nothing to frown on. Of the 79 books, I rated 20 of them 5 stars on Goodreads and another 42 as 4 stars. Not too shabby of a year. I ended up re-reading 3 books (all graphic novels) and they all landed on the 5 star pile.

So which were my favorites?

The Girl with all the Gifts by MR Carey
I want everyone in the world to read and love this book as much as I did. I was so in awe of Carey’s writing and plotting, so surprised by plot twists that I had a happy post-read afterglow for days afterwards. I want more books like this in the world – standalones full of heart and surprises and emotion and not skimping on the action either.

Cress by Marissa Meyer
Marissa Meyer is my favorite YA author hands down. I think there’s no way this series can get any better and then, somehow, it does. Meyer was juggling a ton of characters in this third volume and yet I didn’t feel as though any one character was jipped. I wanted to spend more time with everyone and continue their space adventures and fight against the Evil Queen Levana. This is a series that I think about a lot between books and can’t wait to get a double dose this year with Fairest and Winter. But then it will be over and I will be sad and I will buy anything she ever writes for the rest of time.

Locke & Key by Joe Hill & Gabriel Rodriguez
I’m pretty certain this is the best comic series I have ever read. Gabriel Rodriguez’s art astonished me from beginning to end, and together with Joe Hill, gave me nightmares for days. I’m thankful Fernando suggested I read the last volume t home instead of on an airplane to Comic Con because, by the end, I was full on ugly sobbing. These guys deserve all the accolades that can be given to them and then some.

Robogensis by Daniel H Wilson
Speaking of nightmares, Daniel H Wilson once again manufactured many of mine this year. I never dreamed a sequel to Robopocalypse would exist, but man, am I glad it does. It feels real and surreal and crazy all at the same time. I would not want to live in Wilson’s world, but I really love visiting it and revealing in the victories and commiserating in the defeats.

The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski
Forget Song of Ice & Fire. Give me Marie Rutkoski’s romantic fantasy realm of a general’s daughter and her mysterious slave boy getting in above their heads. Rutkoski’s writing was beautiful in its descriptiveness while pacing rarely let up. With so many series ending in 2014, I’m so glad this one started.

Prisoner of Night & Fog by Anne Blankman
In 400 pages, Blankman reignited a love of historical fiction in me that I had forgotten for nearly a decade. This is a delicately weaved tale of family and love and doing what is right when it’s by no means easy. I’ve always been fascinated by stories of the home front during World War II, but this gave me a fictional glimpse at what it was like on the other side before everything exploded. I can’t wait for the sequel.

Free to Fall by Lauren Miller
Ignore the title and ignore the cover. What is between the pages of this book is so much more than the sum of its exterior. I had such a hard time putting down this near-future sci-fi standalone full of mystery, weird secret societies and an app that makes every decision for you. Life at a freaky elite boarding school and the technology ruling the students’ lives makes for one compelling read.

Strange & Ever After by Susan Dennard
I was disappointed with one series ender after another in 2013. Luckily that wasn’t the case in 2014. While it’s the only book on the list that is a series ender, man, what an ender it was. There were tears and cursing and white-knuckle gripping of the book. I still can’t believe what Susan Dennard did to me through her characters. I don’t know if I will ever get over that ending, though she has officially landed on my list of “automatically buy all the books no matter what”.

The Rule of Three by Eric Walters
My favorite books either leave me dreamy for a fictional world or leave me clutching the blankets in terror it seems. The Rule of Three was too realistic in its depiction of how society will fracture after a catastrophe like the complete loss of electricity. It stuck with me for a year and has made me both eager and terrified to read the sequel. If the world as we know it ends, I hope a level-headed kid like Adam lives in my neighborhood.

Love in the Time of Global Warming by Francesca Lia Block
Who knew coming home could be so fulfilling? I might not be an emo, manic depressive teen with dreams of great adventures anymore, but returning home to Francesca Lia Block was just as exciting and welcoming in its subversive weirdness as it ever was. Block is not to everyone’s taste, especially anyone who doesn’t like weird drug-fueled psychedelic dreamscapes filled with manic pixie dream girls, but it still feels like home to me.

 

Runner Up in Comics:

All the Marvel NOW books I picked up, particularly Young Avengers, Captain Marvel and Hawkeye
I read a fair amount of comics in 2014, but my reading timeline shows a strong turn towards the Marval NOW! line of books around mid-summer after reading tons of DC comics that left me feeling bleak and mildly disgusted in some cases. First came Hawkeye then Captain Marvel then Guardians of the Galaxy, Young Avengers, Loki: Agent of Asgard, Black Widow and more. I might not always know what’s going on because I lack background, but I always have fun with Marvel’s latest lines so far. I already have a long list of Marvel books to pick up this year. Compared to DC, the Marvel universe is full of so much fun and adventure and no one is trying to chop Batgirl’s legs off or skin the faces of everyone Batman loves. Sunshine can happen to superheroes too, you know.

 

Just Didn’t Get the Hype

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
I called the big “reveal” mid-way through chapter 2 and just ended up hating all the people in this book to the point that I wanted everyone to end up at the bottom of the river. I’m definitely not the target audience and I might have to stay away from this sort of “marital crime” sort of books in the future because it just made me grumpy and angry for awhile.

 

Of course a lot more books came out last year, so what are the glaring omissions from my list? What 2014 book should I bump up on my TBR list this year?

Mini Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

The Ocean at the End of the Lane
Neil Gaiman

William Morrow Books
Released June 18, 2013
181 pages
Fantasy / Faerie Tale-esque / Kid Friendly Sort Of

Find it on Goodreads

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Indie Bound

Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn't thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she'd claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.

Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie—magical, comforting, wise beyond her years—promised to protect him, no matter what.

A groundbreaking work from a master, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is told with a rare understanding of all that makes us human, and shows the power of stories to reveal and shelter us from the darkness inside and out. It is a stirring, terrifying, and elegiac fable as delicate as a butterfly's wing and as menacing as a knife in the dark.

I am a Neil Gaiman fan girl. I won’t ever try to deny that. Gaiman single-handedly destroyed my preconceived notions of modern fantasy literate as an adolescent. Neverwhere is the first book that comes to mind when asked what my favorite book is. Sandman was my gateway into mature comics. Neil Gaiman may be my hero.

So I’m not entirely sure why it took me so long to read The Ocean at the End of the Lane. Perhaps I knew that, once finished, I might not be getting new Gaiman words in my hands anytime soon. Maybe I was a little scared that the magic might have disappeared. Whatever it was, this book sat on my shelf for a little too long until it became the monthly book for my book club. I eagerly dived in and wasn’t disappointment.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a children’s tale with an adult wrapper. If you removed the first and last chapters, this could easily be a scary tale to read to children, all about witches and mysterious girls and creepy monsters from alternate realms. For most of the book, the narrator is a small boy, looking at a very strange time in his life in retrospect now that he’s a middle aged man. Whatever perspective you’d expect from a story told by a grown man is non-existent. This book is told as though it’s happening out right to the point that I forgot about the framework around the story being from the point of view of an adult.

Our main character is never named. He’s just a regular boy growing up in a house with his parents and his sister when one day, the family wakes up to find their boarder missing. This starts a bizarre adventure into a twilight world that only the boy seems to see. He meets Lettie, her mother and her grandmother, three slightly strange women that live at the end of the lane. Together they help him ward off evil and turn his life back to normal though not without some serious consequences.

This is a modern faerie tale, a quick read with a bit of a moral underneath the surface. It’s imaginative and written in that classic Neil Gaiman way that’s full of metaphors that seem to live off the page. It’s an incredibly quick read at 181 pages and it’s nothing complicated. This was a great palate cleanser after the number of YA books I’ve read that started blurring together without having to dive into an dense or serious literature. While it might not be a book that sticks with me like Neverwhere, Sandman or Stardust, it’s definitely a book I look forward to revisiting once my nephew is a little bit older and not quite so scared of his own shadow.

Mini Review: The Fourth Bear by Jasper Fforde

The Fourth Bear
Jasper Fforde

Viking Adult
Released August 3, 2006
382 pages
Fantasy / Twisted Faerie Tales / Psychotic Gingerbread Men

Find it on Goodreads

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Indie Bound

Jack Spratt and Mary Mary return in their second adventure from the inimitable Jasper Fforde

Five years ago, Viking introduced Jasper Fforde and his upsidedown, inside-out literary crime masterpieces. And as they move from Thursday Next to Jack Spratt's Nursery Crimes, his audience is insatiable and growing. Now, with The Fourth Bear, Jack Spratt and Mary Mary take on their most dangerous case so far as a murderous cookie stalks the streets of Reading.

The Gingerbread Man, psychopath, sadist, genius, and killer, is on the loose. But it isn't Jack Spratt's case. He and Mary Mary have been demoted to Missing Persons following Jack's poor judgment involving the poisoning of Mr. Bun the baker. Missing Persons looks like a boring assignment until a chance encounter leads them into the hunt for missing journalist Henrietta 'Goldy' Hatchett, star reporter for The Daily Mole. Last to see her alive? The Three Bears, comfortably living out a life of rural solitude in Andersen's wood.

But all is not what it seems. How could the bears' porridge be at such disparate temperatures when they were poured at the same time? Why did Mr. and Mrs. Bear sleep in separate beds? Was there a fourth bear? And if there was, who was he, and why did he try to disguise Goldy's death as a freak accident?

Jack answers all these questions and a few others besides, rescues Mary Mary from almost certain death, and finally meets the Fourth Bear and the Gingerbread Man face-to-face.

I have a theory about Jasper Fforde and that’s why this is just a mini review. My theory – and this is backed up only by the empirical data taken from my book club – is that if you A) have an English degree, B) love meta things, or C) Have spent a lot of time critically examining the structure, constructs and tropes just because you like to, you will love Jasper Fforde. It helps if you also enjoy British humor and strange takes on classic characters. I easily check off all those items, so it’s no wonder that Fforde is my go-to guy when I want a silly, ridiculous book, and The Fourth Bear didn’t disappoint.

This isn’t Fforde’s best book, but it still has all the meta craziness that makes The Eyre Affair and The Big Over Easy, you’ll probably like this book. It’s somehow manic and meandering at the same time as Jack Spratt tries to solve the problem of Goldilock’s death and explosions that seem to be killing all the award-winning cucumber farmers in Reading. Fforde plays with detective tropes, the main characters make references to plot devices and the third wall is more or less non-existent.

There is also an alien creature as a police officer. His native language is binary. He owns a spaceship in his garage. There are aliens in Britain and they work for the police. Honestly I think that alone will give someone unfamiliar with Fforde’s work a good enough idea of the craziness that are within the covers of this book.

This is not a book for children. There is a 7 foot tall psychotic gingerbread man running around trying to dismember people. If that sounds like something you want to know more about, then pick up this book. You’ll have a giggly good time.

Trailer Park Friday: The Maze Runner, The Giver, The Boxtrolls & More

This week has been crazy in real life, so it's nice to escape to the interwebs where tons of movie trailers have come out. This week had several highlights including the first footage from The Maze Runner and The Giver, some pretty crazy new footage for Maleficent, Martin Freeman pretending to be from Minnesota in Fargo and more.

First up is The Giver because if they screw this movie up, my 8-year-old self might figure out a way to travel into the future/now and kick some people in the shins. The Giver comes out August 15.

I wasn't the biggest fan of Fargo, but I'm not a huge fan of the Coen brothers. I will take a chance on the new television version because there is a hobbit in it pretending to be from the midwest. It starts on FX on April 15.

I knew Maleficent was a faerie, but I didn't expect her to have crazy bat wings. I haven't come to a conclusion on whether this movie looks potentially pretty cool or just bad. Maleficent comes out May 30.

Earth to Echo is a Relativity sci-fi film I hadn't heard of until yesterday. It looks like it could be an interesting smaller film in the middle of all the blockbusters. It comes out July 2.

I have a confession - I still haven't read The Maze Runner. I've long since lost count of how many times it's been recommended to me, so I must get to it before the movie comes out September 19.

In my opinion Laika has never done wrong. Coraline is one of those movies I'm dying to share with my niece and nephew when they get older. Their next film is called The Boxtrolls and it looks like it will be awesome as well. It comes out September 26 and has a great voicecast.

 

I think that may be the max of potential greatness I can cram into a Trailer Park Friday. What trailers am I missing? What movies are you most excited about for this summer?