Thursday, May 14, 2015

More Books for the Summer Bookshelf

Here's a few more books I'm adding to the kid's shelves for the summer.

THE JUMBIES by Tracey Baptiste

The blurb: "A spine-tingling tale rooted in Caribbean folklore that will have readers holding their breath as they fly through its pages.

Corinne La Mer isn't afraid of anything. Not scorpions, not the boys who tease her, and certainly not jumbies. They're just tricksters parents make up to frighten their children. Then one night Corinne chases an agouti all the way into the forbidden forest. Those shining yellow eyes that followed her to the edge of the trees, they couldn't belong to a jumbie. Or could they?

When Corinne spots a beautiful stranger speaking to the town witch at the market the next day, she knows something unexpected is about to happen. And when this same beauty, called Severine, turns up at Corinne's house, cooking dinner for Corinne's father, Corinne is sure that danger is in the air. She soon finds out that bewitching her father, Pierre, is only the first step in Severine's plan to claim the entire island for the jumbies. Corinne must call on her courage and her friends and learn to use ancient magic she didn't know she possessed to stop Severine and save her island home.

With its able and gutsy heroine, lyrical narration, and inventive twist on the classic Haitian folktale "The Magic Orange Tree," The Jumbies will be a favorite of fans of Breadcrumbs, A Tale Dark and Grimm, and Where the Mountain Meets the Moon."

This looks like the right amount of creepy and action for my young readers.


EL DEAFO by Cece Bell

The blurb: "Starting at a new school is scary, even more so with a giant hearing aid strapped to your chest! At her old school, everyone in Cece's class was deaf. Here she is different. She is sure the kids are staring at the Phonic Ear, the powerful aid that will help her hear her teacher. Too bad it also seems certain to repel potential friends. 

Then Cece makes a startling discovery. With the Phonic Ear she can hear her teacher not just in the classroom, but anywhere her teacher is in school--in the hallway...in the teacher's lounge...in the bathroom! This is power. Maybe even superpower! Cece is on her way to becoming El Deafo, Listener for All. But the funny thing about being a superhero is that it's just another way of feeling different... and lonely. Can Cece channel her powers into finding the thing she wants most, a true friend?

This funny perceptive graphic novel memoir about growing up hearing impaired is also an unforgettable book about growing up, and all the super and super embarrassing moments along the way."

This award winning graphic novel is a must for the bookshelves. 


THE CASE OF THE TIME-CAPSULE BANDIT (Randi Rhodes, Ninja Detective #1) by Octavia Spencer

The blurb: "Meet Randi Rhodes, the world's first ninja detective! Mystery abounds in this delightful new middle grade series from Academy Award-winning actress Octavia Spencer.

Deer Creek is a small town whose only hope for survival is the success of their Founder's Day Festival. But the festival's main attraction, a time capsule that many people believe hold the town's treasure, has gone missing.

Randi Rhodes and her best friend, D.C., are Bruce Lee-inspired ninjas and local detectives determined to solve the case. Even if it means investigating in a haunted cabin and facing mean old Angus McCarthy, prime suspect.

They have three days to find the treasure; the future of their whole town is at stake! Will these kids be able to save the day?"

Had us at "Ninja Detective."


FLURRY OF THE SNOMBIES (Notebook of Doom #7) by Troy Cummings

The blurb: "It's summertime in Stermont! And it's...SNOWING?!

This series is part of Scholastic's early chapter book line called Branches, which is aimed at newly independent readers. With easy-to-read text, high-interest content, fast-paced plots, and illustrations on every page, these books will boost reading confidence and stamina. Branches books help readers grow!

In this seventh book, it's summertime in Stermont! Alexander, Rip, and Nikki are at summer camp up in the Gloamy Mountains. And it is REALLY hot! But suddenly, it starts snowing - and with the snow comes the snombies! Snombies are snow monsters that can build armies of themselves! Will the S.S.M.P. be able to stop their coolest monster yet?"

One of the kids' favorite series. Zany monsters and a trio of monster hunters.


LITTLE MISS EVIL by Bryce Leung & Kristy Shen

The blurb: "When you live in a volcano, ride to school in a helicopter, and regularly see your dad on the news with the caption “EVIL GENIUS” underneath his picture, it takes a lot to rattle you.

Until you get a message that says: We have your father. Deliver the NOVA in 24 hours or we will kill him.

What’s a NOVA you ask? It’s a nuclear bomb capable of turning the city into a radioactive mushroom cloud, and ever since Fiona’s dad built it, it’s caused nothing but grief. But telling him to stop building weapons is like telling Michelangelo to stop painting.

And that’s why thirteen-year-old Fiona has a flamethrower strapped to her arm. After all, who’d mess with a girl who can throw fireballs?

Apparently, these guys. Big mistake."

One of those books where girlchild saw the cover and had to have it.



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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Call of @EldritchSwift

There is nothing I love more than a good Lovecraft parody. Eldritch and spooky and fun? I can't help but adore it. There was the awesome Beauty by HP Lovecraft Facebook account, the wildly popular Dread Singles (@hottestsingles) Twitter account and the Night Vale-esque Nihilist Arby's (@nihilist_arbys) account. There's a new account in town and it's OUTSTANDING. May I have the pleasure of introducing you to @EldritchSwift, a Twitter account that crosses Taylor Swift lyrics with perfect Lovecraftian bon mots of terror and horror.

@EldritchSwift follows the current trend of making outlandish parody accounts focused on Taylor Swift. The most notable one is @SwiftOnSecurity which imagines her as a tech professional. 

@EldritchSwift is the brain spawn of YA author Riley Redgate. In just a short time, it's already amassed a following in the thousands and it's perfect in every single way. I especially love the use of "eldritch" since that is one of my favorite words and my usual online handle.

Each tweet begins as a Taylor Swift lyric or quote and quickly twists, shifts and mutates into a delightful chunk of crawling, shuddering darkness. Each tweet feels effortless and packs a nice supernatural punch. Somehow adding Lovecraftian mythos and themes to Taylor Swift just feels RIGHT, you know? It's currently my favorite account on Twitter and I can not stop retweeting it and marveling at just how beautifully made each horrific message is.

There are only 37 tweets and each one is a masterpiece. You NEED to be following this account. Tell her I sent you. See below for some of my favorites. From one eldritch creature to another, I love you @EldritchSwift.








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Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Facing the Music About Getting Older

Me in a few months
I’m not going to lie, I’m just a touch terrified of turning 30. I was completely fine moving through my 20s, but everything changed when the Fire Nation attacked I turned 29. It felt like I’m careening towards the edge of a cliff without any brakes, like I'm on a deadline I forgot about. I’m examining my life and I find the last 29ish years wanting. I haven’t done anything at all. Plus, all the stuff that’s quirky and adorably weird about me feels like it will instantly become pathetic the second I turn 30. I am not in a good place and I have nearly four more months to dwell on it.

Why am I talking about my absurd age fears? Well, I heard something exceptionally troubling on radio this morning and it drove me into a full blown panic. You see, there are a few things I really, really, whole heartedly, completely and utterly love. Books are one, of course. The other is music. I am a huge music fan and I have over 100 GBs of music on my computer. I’m the obnoxious person who actually buys vinyl records. I have a default playlist of over 600 songs. I was just introduced to Pandora by a friend on Twitter and I’ve already created a dozen playlists. You think my book obsession is bad? MAN, wait until you see my music collection.

With that being said, the alt rock station I listen to when I drive to and from work spoke about an alarming study that claims that most people past the age of 33 just stop seeking out new music. I actually shrieked “WHAT?” out loud as I listened. It’s the most horrifying thing I’ve heard all year. You don’t even understand, books and music are basically my life. Being told I will lose interest in something I love so much is like being told I’ll lose a limb.

As is my wont, I ran screaming to Twitter to have a good break down over it and freak out a little. Since I have the best friends in the world, I was gently talked off my ledge. Our own Megan S was especially kind and pointed out the faulty metrics of the study. It was gone by a streaming music company and not, say, a university or peer reviewed journal. It could all be bullshit. Or it could be true and we’re all DOOMED.

There’s an excellent article on the AV Club about the study with over 900 comments proclaiming it to be completely useless and full of lies. It’s comforting but also slightly worrying, because many do admit to having increasingly unfamiliarity with some of the new acts out there right now.

There’s a saying about technology that I feel applies here. It’s from the always on point and wonderful Douglas Adams. “I've come up with a set of rules that describe our reactions to technologies: 1. Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works. 2. Anything that's invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it. 3. Anything invented after you're thirty-five is against the natural order of things.” It rings true. Think of the usual stereotypes of parents being bewildered using new tech and their children who act like it’s as natural as breathing. I’m a total Twitter addict but my father can’t even pronounce the name of the site correctly. Trying to explain Pinterest to my mother was like trying to explain to a fish how to climb mountains.

I’m not going to lie, I continue to be terrified. I can’t imagine losing interest in new music or new technology. This world is a strange place, do we really lose our wonder of it as we age?
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Thursday, April 30, 2015

Urban Sci Fi Fantasy: REVISION


Many times while reading REVISION by Andrea Phillips, I was reminded of the Arthur C. Clarke quote "Magic's just science we don't understand yet."

The blurb: "Mira is a trust fund baby playing at making it on her own as a Brooklyn barista. When Benji, her tech startup boyfriend, dumps her out of the blue, she decides a little revenge vandalism is in order. Mira updates his entry on Verity, Benji’s Wikipedia-style news aggregator, to say the two have become engaged. Hours later, he shows up at her place with an engagement ring. Chalk it up to coincidence, right?

Soon after, Benji’s long-vanished co-founder Chandra shows up asking for Mira’s help. She claims Verity can nudge unlikely events into really happening — even change someone’s mind. And Chandra insists that Verity — and Mira’s newly minted fiance — can’t be trusted."

Quick and dirty review: I had fun reading it. Quick, easy to get into. Given the technical aspect of the power at hand, it falls into the sci fi realm. However, this also had the feel of an urban fantasy, so I'm calling it Urban Sci Fi Fantasy. This isn't romance heavy at all, even with the fiance bit. The main character has a lot of growing to do, and she did irritate me at times, but by the end I was rooting for her.

A little more info: When I first started reading the book, I thought that Mira was trying to make it on her own, but as I got to know her better, it became apparent that she's just been playing at being a grown up. I get wanting to have a low stress job and not fitting into your parents' expectations. Mira, though, felt like she hadn't moved past rebellious teen. She said she didn't want her trust fund, but she also called up the family lawyer if she couldn't make rent.

Then she discovers that her boyfriend's Wikipedia-like site can actually alter reality. At first it just seems crazy. There's no way that typing  a sentence on a website can make a guy go from dumping you to proposing, right? Then she uses it to save a friend, but it doesn't take long to see darker implications. She also meets a mysterious person who warns her about Verity, tries to get Mira to help, but is so distrusting that she herself isn't trustworthy.

It's a jumbled mess for our lead, who along the way starts realizing that she has been wasting her potential and has not been a remarkably good friend.

The tech was interesting but not overwhelmingly heavy or complex. It all seems quite magical. I'm good with magical.

Mira isn't the typical kick-ass heroine. It takes her awhile to figure things out. Once she does though, and has a very important meeting, things clicked into place in rapid succession.

I'll be on the lookout for more from Phillips.

Find pre-order links for REVISION at http://www.firesidefiction.com/books/.

[received a review copy]




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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Hollywood Is Giving DC Serious Side Eye

On the eve of the release of Marvel's next Avenger's movie, The Hollywood Reporter has run a story about how little faith Hollywood has in DC ever getting it's shit together. It's full of industry insiders shit talking the company and tearing into the disastrous looking Batman V Superman movie trailer.

DC has a lot of reasons to be nervous. They're losing their grip on TV supremacy as Marvel has stepped up their game with Daredevil and Agent Carter. Marvel's comics are outselling DC's and this entire summer is 100% Marvel. The next DC film doesn't come out until this winter. What are they thinking?

The ultra-grimdark and pointless looking Batman V Superman is supposed to be the lead-in to the Justice League and I'm afraid to say I couldn't care less. Wonder Woman already looks like a beleaguered undertaking since it has already lost it's director and there isn't even a script yet. According to the Hollywood Report, DC hired five different writers to write a script SEPARATELY and the best one wins. OH lord. Aquaman sounds as if it has the same writer problems, with DC hiring three writers to make separate scripts and neglecting to tell them when the studio's vision for the film changes. They're just spinning their wheels.

 The Hollywood Reporter article is a fascinating look at a group who has some of the most famous superheroes in all of comic book history and has no idea what to do with them. DC still comes off as embarrassed about making superhero films, overcompensating with bleak characters and dark plots. It's obviously not making them any friends. Add in the absolutely bizarre styling of the Joker in Suicide Squad and DC is losing their fans as well. I honestly want to pull the DC execs aside and shake them REALLY HARD shouting "WHAT ARE YOU THINKING?!".

Meanwhile, the Avengers opens this weekend and I could pass out from sheer excitement. DC, this was your race to lose and it isn't looking good.
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Monday, April 27, 2015

Guest Post: Andrea Phillips on Writing & Fantasy

Andrea Phillips, author of REVISION, out May 5th, is here to talk about writing and fantasy.

First, a little about the book: "Mira is a trust fund baby playing at making it on her own as a Brooklyn barista. When Benji, her tech startup boyfriend, dumps her out of the blue, she decides a little revenge vandalism is in order. Mira updates his entry on Verity, Benji’s Wikipedia-style news aggregator, to say the two have become engaged. Hours later, he shows up at her place with an engagement ring. Chalk it up to coincidence, right?

Soon after, Benji’s long-vanished co-founder Chandra shows up asking for Mira’s help. She claims Verity can nudge unlikely events into really happening — even change someone’s mind. And Chandra insists that Verity — and Mira’s newly minted fiance — can’t be trusted."

I've enjoyed reading this one, and my review will be here later this week. For now, take it away, Andrea!

There are a lot of reasons to write fiction. Fame, fortune, endless glory and power… HA HA HA yeah right. I mean, in theory those things can happen, but the smart money is giving your fame and fortune the side eye and slipping its phone number to an investment banker instead.

It's true, though, that your dreams can come true through the writing of fiction. Just they come true in the story, not outside of it. This is one of the quiet and vastly undersold joys of being a writer: you get to live other lives, be other people, make different choices. It's all thought experiments, of course, but sometimes even the contemplation of a different life scratches that itch.
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Saturday, April 25, 2015

First Thoughts on DC Girls



By now everyone has had a chance to read about DC's new line of superheroes for girls, yes?

I had three first thoughts/reactions when I heard about it:

1. Uncontrollable eye-twitch over the "Just for Girls" label.

2. My kids are going to want this. All of it.

3. They better fucking have adult sizes of the t-shirts.

I really love the character designs just from this peek at their costumes. We'll see how they implement it, but I'll give them the benefit of the doubt for now. Would have loved for it to be a DC KIDS line where we have girl and boy heroes and villains all together. I don't think our toys need to be one for girls, one for boys. Put them all in the same section and let the kids pick what calls to them.

SOMEDAY.

What do you think about DC's new line?
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Thursday, April 23, 2015

Summer Stock: Books for Young Readers

Summer is coming. Usually this statement fills me with a dread greater than the zombie apocalypse, but strangely not this year. Could it be because summer means summer reading?

Well, no. Summer means I don't have to get the kids out the door in time for school, but we'll pretend it's the books.

Over the past couple of weeks I've bought several books for our friends. Need any of these for your shelf?

Girlchild's grandma is getting her this book, and we also pre-ordered it for one of her friends who has a birthday soon. PIP BARTLETT'S GUIDE TO MAGICAL CREATURES by Jackson Pearce & Maggie Stiefvater.

The blurb: "From bestselling authors Maggie Stiefvater and Jackson Pearce comes an exciting new series full of magical creatures, whimsical adventures, and quirky illustrations.

Pip is a girl who can talk to magical creatures. Her aunt is a vet for magical creatures. And her new friend Tomas is allergic to most magical creatures. When things go amok—and they often go amok—Pip consults Jeffrey Higgleston’s Guide to Magical Creatures, a reference work that Pip finds herself constantly amending. Because dealing with magical creatures like unicorns, griffins, and fuzzles doesn’t just require book knowledge—it requires hands-on experience and thinking on your feet. For example, when fuzzles (which have an awful habit of bursting into flame when they’re agitated) invade your town, it’s not enough to know what the fuzzles are—Pip and Tomas also must trace the fuzzles’ agitation to its source, and in doing so, save the whole town."


We gave a "get well soon" book to one of her other friends. She likes fantasy, but lately has been reading a lot of real world fiction, so we got her TEN by Lauren Myracle.

The Blurb: "Winnie Perry is turning ten and ten is BIG: it means double digits, more responsibility, and being an almost-middle-schooler. Ten means that Winnie can handle anything, even a three-year-old baby brother and a practically teenage (and acting like it) older sister. And with her best friend, Amanda, by her side, Winnie plans on enjoying every last second of their last year in elementary school.

This prequel to the New York Times bestselling Winnie Years series will thrill the tweens who grew up with Winnie and introduce a whole new generation of readers to a heroine they can grow up with."


Other presents we recently bought, book 1's in series with book 2 already out:

THE FORBIDDEN LIBRARY by Django Wexler

The blurb: "Alice always thought fairy tales had happy endings. That--along with everything else--changed the day she met her first fairy
When Alice's father goes down in a shipwreck, she is sent to live with her uncle Geryon--an uncle she's never heard of and knows nothing about. He lives in an enormous manor with a massive library that is off-limits to Alice. But then she meets a talking cat. And even for a rule-follower, when a talking cat sneaks you into a forbidden library and introduces you to an arrogant boy who dares you to open a book, it's hard to resist. Especially if you're a reader to begin with. Soon Alice finds herself INSIDE the book, and the only way out is to defeat the creature imprisoned within.

It seems her uncle is more than he says he is. But then so is Alice."


THE LUCK UGLIES by Paul Durham

The blurb: "The Luck Uglies is the first in a tween fantasy-adventure trilogy brimming with legends come to life, a charming wit, and a fantastic cast of characters-and is imbued throughout with the magic of storytelling.

Strange things are happening in Village Drowning, and a terrifying encounter has Rye O'Chanter convinced that the monstrous, supposedly extinct Bog Noblins have returned. 

Now Rye's only hope is an exiled secret society so notorious its name can't be spoken aloud: the Luck Uglies. As Rye dives into Village Drowning's maze of secrets, rules, and lies, she'll discover the truth behind the village's legends of outlaws and beasts...and that it may take a villain to save them from the monsters.

The first in a series, The Luck Uglies is an altogether irresistible cross of Lloyd Alexander's Chronicles of Prydain, Stefan Bachmann's The Peculiar, and Chris Healy's The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom, overflowing with adventure, secrets, friendship, and magic."


THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD AND EVIL by Soman Chainani

The blurb: "The first kidnappings happened two hundred years before. Some years it was two boys taken, some years two girls, sometimes one of each. But if at first the choices seemed random, soon the pattern became clear. One was always beautiful and good, the child every parent wanted as their own. The other was homely and odd, an outcast from birth. An opposing pair, plucked from youth and spirited away.

This year, best friends Sophie and Agatha are about to discover where all the lost children go: the fabled School for Good & Evil, where ordinary boys and girls are trained to be fairy tale heroes and villains. As the most beautiful girl in Gavaldon, Sophie has dreamed of being kidnapped into an enchanted world her whole life. With her pink dresses, glass slippers, and devotion to good deeds, she knows she’ll earn top marks at the School for Good and graduate a storybook princess. Meanwhile Agatha, with her shapeless black frocks, wicked pet cat, and dislike of nearly everyone, seems a natural fit for the School for Evil.

But when the two girls are swept into the Endless Woods, they find their fortunes reversed—Sophie’s dumped in the School for Evil to take Uglification, Death Curses, and Henchmen Training, while Agatha finds herself in the School For Good, thrust amongst handsome princes and fair maidens for classes in Princess Etiquette and Animal Communication.. But what if the mistake is actually the first clue to discovering who Sophie and Agatha really are…?

The School for Good & Evil is an epic journey into a dazzling new world, where the only way out of a fairy tale is to live through one."





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Thursday, April 16, 2015

Miserere Review and Discussion Time!

MISERERE by Teresa Frohock gives us a portal fantasy with a religious-based magic system, dysfunctional families, betrayals, demons, knights, and a man seeking a chance to make up for past mistakes. It was parts what I expected, but also threw me wonderful surprises, even if they weren't very wonderful for the characters involved.

The quick and dirty review: I really liked this story. It was intense, dark, but also with hope, even if sometimes that hope was just a slim shard. The magic system is based on religion, with knights of all of the religions of the world battling the Fallen. While faith is a key attribute of the magic of this world, it didn't feel preachy to me. It's also an incredibly dangerous and treacherous world, so there is a lot of action. If you are a fan of knights, fights with demons, and portal fantasy, you should check this one out.

Continue on for a bit more detail and discussion questions for MISERERE.

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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

For All Your Evil Needs

8-Bit Black Hearts Evil Meter Pin - $2.95
Being a villain isn't all volcano lairs and henchmen waiting on you hand and foot. It can be hard. There are heroes who insist on interrupting you while you're watching Netflix with their goody goody crusades. Sometimes your killer robots malfunction. I mean, have you seen the price of freeze ray freon lately?

Thankfully, there is someone out there who understands. He's the villain's villain. He's there to see that us villainous connoisseurs get the help we need. He's Atticus Q. Redghost, head ghoul in charge of Evil Supply Co. and they just re-launched their website.

I've talked about Evil Supply Co. before here and I'm very excited that they finally finished their long awaited store revamp and relaunched their site. If you need evil stationary, Atticus is your man. I assume. No one knows if he's really a man or a ghost or a figment of our collective imagination.

From notebooks with wills on the back to awesome patches and pins to complete your evil genius style, they have everything you need. One of their best products is the Mister Ghost's Highly Enviable Monthly Parcel of Simple Yet Amazing Wonderments. For $12, you can get a monthly surprise box of stickers, cards, patches and envelopes. It's like an evil stationary Birchbox!

Fellow villains, times are tough. Let Evil Supply Co. help make things just a little bit easier. See some of their awesome products under the cut!

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