Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday: Sleeping Beauty's Daughters

Today's Waiting on Wednesday pick is another that you actually don't have to wait long for.  It was actually published yesterday.  But this is one I have been waiting for awhile, since I absolutely love this author.

Sleeping Beauty's Daughters by Diane Zahler
About the Book (copy from "The classic fairy tale of Sleeping Beauty is transformed into a dazzling new story of two sisters fighting a powerful curse by Diane Zahler, the acclaimed author of The Thirteenth Princess. Briskly paced and full of lush descriptions, readers who enjoy the work of Shannon Hale and Gail Carson Levine will be swept away by this spellbinding novel.

The daughters of Sleeping Beauty, Princesses Aurora and Luna, have grown up in a cliff-top palace by the sea, where they are carefully protected by their parents. No one visits, the girls cannot stray beyond the castle walls, and all sharp objects are forbidden here.

But accidents will happen—particularly when an old curse still has power. Soon, in spite of all precautions, Aurora is struggling not to slip into an enchanted sleep.

Frantic, the princesses accept the help of a young fisherman named Symon and embark on a daring ocean voyage to find their aunt—a fairy who may be able to break the spell. From fearsome beasts to raging storms, many dangers befall them, yet they must not give up . . . for if Aurora sleeps, she will not wake for one hundred years.
So what can I say about this one?  You know me, I absolutely love fairy tale retellings.  Sleeping Beauty is one of my favorites, and although it has been retold many times, I don't think I've ever read one that had this spin to it.  And I really enjoy Zahler's books.  She always manages to put a unique spin on things.  They do tend more towards the middle grade age level, and they can be on the shorter side, but I love them anyway. 

Oh, and isn't the cover gorgeous?  I love the artist that does these covers.  If you haven't already, you should check them all out: The Thirteenth Princess, A True Princess, Princess of the Wild Swans.

Sleeping Beauty's Daughters was released yesterday, August 27th.

Available at in Hardcover or Kindle
Add to your Goodreads shelf
Check availability on

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Review: Secrets at Sea

Secrets at Sea by Richard Peck

The Hudson Rvier Valley circa Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee is home to the stately Cranston family. Of course, there’s really two Crantson families: the Upstairs Cranstons and the Downstairs Cranstons. If you’re into a certain popular BBC historical drama on TV recently like I am *cough* Downton Abbey *cough*, you may be expecting the Downstairs Cranstons to be servants. But they’re not. They’re actually mice. And they would like to point out theirs is the older Cranston family.

Helena is the oldest mouse, and since her mother, father, and two older sisters have since passed on (it’s a dangerous life being a mouse!) she has the responsibility of worrying about and taking care of her two younger sisters, Louise and Beatrice, and younger brother, Lamont. So when the Upstairs Cranstons decide to leave their home and take of tour of Europe in order to give their eldest daughter Olive “her chance” (to catch a husband), Helena decides that rather than face and empty house and starvation, the Downstairs Cranstons will just have accompany their humans across the ocean. Even though mice aren’t good with water. The resulting voyage is full of strange new experiences, intrigues, dangerous situations (cats!), brushes with royalty, and maybe even a little romance.

I have to say, I’ve almost never met a Richard Peck book I didn’t like. In fact, I can only think of 2 that I didn’t enjoy thoroughly, and they were both fine books, just not for me. And that’s okay. Luckily, Secrets at Sea can easily fit the category of “thoroughly enjoyed”.

I suppose it bears mentioning that the whole book itself is quite silly. This is definitely a “suspension of disbelief” book. However, I think for the middle grade audience it’s aiming for, this isn’t necessarily a problem. As a (young) adult reading this book, I personally didn’t have any problem with it. But I’m pretty gullible that way. I’ve seen reviews that have beaten this one up a bit for this very reason, because it seems little too unlikely and the plot is fairly simplistic. But I think if you go into expecting it to be silly, you won’t have a problem with it. So the moral of the story is: don’t take your reading too seriously!

The book is narrated by Helena, and as the oldest, she does come off as bossy quite a bit. However, being the oldest (and pretty bossy) myself, I found myself relating to Helena quite a lot. She’s simply concerned with how she can keep her dwindling family together, which is something I’ve worried about myself before. So although some might find her unlikeable, I enjoyed Helena quite a bit.

The other nice thing about this book is that I think it has appeal for a wide audience. Yes, it has some romance (think along the lines of “we love each other and now we’re getting married!”), but not enough to necessarily turn off the young male reader. It is historical fiction, but isn’t heavy enough in historical detail to turn off readers who shy away from history. And I think it is a book that all ages can enjoy, especially its target middle grade audience.

I really did enjoy Secrets at Sea, it was a short, quick read, and I am still putting Richard Peck at the top of my favorite authors list. According to Goodreads it appears he has another mouse book that’s been recently published, The Mouse with the Question Mark Tail, which I will have to pick up and try soon.

Shady Glade Rating: 8/10

Available at in Hardcover, Paperback, or Kindle
Add to your Goodreads shelf
Check availability on

Friday, August 23, 2013

Review: Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos

I didn't have a chance to put up a new WOW post this week, but I do have another review to make up for it.

Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos by R. L. LaFevers

At first glance Theodosia Throckmorton appears to be like any other normal 11-year-old girl living in London at the turn of the century. But Theodosia’s life is anything but normal. First of all, her archeologist mother is currently off on a dig in Egypt, uncovering treasures in the Valley of the Kings. And rather than going to boarding school or having a governess like a normal, respectable girl her age, Theodosia spends her time exploring the Museum of Legends and Antiquities, where her father is Head Curator.

But that’s not the most unique thing about Theodosia either. It’s the fact that she seems to be the only one who can see the horrible black magic and curses that often accompany the Egyptian artifacts the museum acquires. Which means it’s up to her to break said curses too. When her mother returns from her most recent dig with the famed Heart of Egypt amulet, only Theodosia seems to notice that the item perfectly reeks of black magic. And the curse is a bad one. Bad enough that the entire British Empire might be at stake if she can’t figure out how to break it.

This is the kind of book I would have LOVED when I was younger. I was obsessed with anything Egyptian in 5th grade, and this book would have been made for me. Kids have it so easy these days! There’s so many more good books than when I was younger. Not that I had a lack of books to read, of course. :)

This is also a book that took me completely by surprise. I’m not sure why I didn’t pick it up sooner. I had kind of seen it hovering on friend’s bookshelves and wish lists online, but I wasn’t ever really interested enough to even investigate what it was about. And the cover copy is pretty boring, so if I had, I’m not sure I would have investigated further anyway. But I recently picked it up from the library as I was browsing, and I grabbed it the other day when looking for something new to start. Kind of a “hey, why not?” moment.

Theodosia narrates the story in first person, and her voice drew me in right away. First thing she already starts mentioning Egyptian artifacts and curses, which was a great hook for a girl who used to love (and still kind of does) all things ancient Egyptian. Theodosia’s story is engaging in its uniqueness. You want to know who this girl is, how she knows so much about ancient curses, and why she spends so much of her time in a museum. Then, as the story progresses, you add in mysterious characters, plot twists, secret societies, double agents, forbidden new friends… really, it’s a dynamite mix. I can’t wait to pick up the next one.

And on a side note, since I’m such a cover fanatic… I’m not a fan of the cover. Something about the artwork is off to me. Theodosia is really not a boring character at all, but I don’t think this cover makes her look intriguing in the least. Honestly, I think if I saw this at the bookstore or library I would probably pass it right by. Which, obviously I did, since it’s been out since 2007. So this is definitely a case of don’t judge a book by its cover!

Shady Glade Rating: 9/10

Available at in Paperback or Kindle
Add to your Goodreads shelf
Check availability on

Monday, August 19, 2013

Review: Foiled

This is one of those book reviews where I actually read this book a while ago, and have been meaning to post a review for some time. Well, I finally got around to it now!

Foiled by Jane Yolen

Aliera eats, sleeps, and drinks fencing. Not very popular at school, and with not a lot of friends, she spends most of her free time working on her fencing technique. And it helps that she’s good. Very good. Little does she know that her life is about to change when she gets assigned a new lab partner in science class. Chris is engaging, funny, and maybe a little bit mischievous (and mysterious). He brings a little bit of levity and excitement to Aliera’s life, and fencing just might start to slip out of first place in her book. When she aquires a new practice fencing foil with a red jeweled handle, Aliera’s fencing skills are about to take center stage, and she just might get more new excitement than she bargained for.

I’m going to be honest: Foiled really disappointed me at first. I’m hoping it was because I had such high expectations going into it, since it was not only a graphic novel, but one done by one of my favorite authors, Jane Yolen.

First of all, the artwork wasn’t my favorite. Eh. But I can get over that. Artistic license and all that. But one of the most disappointing things was that for a graphic novel that was published in full color, there was not a lot of color to go around. Mostly shades of gray, dark blue/purple, you get the idea. Granted, the end of the book reveals a very good reason why this is. So in retrospect, I understand why that chose was made, and I admire them making that choice. But in my initial reading of the book, the whole thing came off as “blah” to me.

Second of all, it doesn’t seem like much happens plot-wise until the last third or so. I realize to some extent there’s a certain amount of necessary background information that needs to be presented. In a graphic novel that’s show sort, where every panel is carefully planned to impart the maximum information to the reader, I found the amount of what felt like background a little overkill. I got a sick of all the fencing, Aliera at school with Chris, more fencing, Aliera hanging out with her cousin, more fencing… you get the idea. And once all the action does show up (in that final third) the resolution is rather abrupt. Kind of like “okay, here we go… and we’re done!”. Everything does turn out to be significant in the end, but I feel like there should have been more to keep me engaged as I went along, so I could pay a little more attention to those things while I was reading.

In the end, it’s a much better read the second time around. Knowing how it ends up, you do see more connections than the first time. And I think the book ended up being stronger than I originally thought. I see there’s been a sequel published since I first read this (Curses! Foiled Again), and I have high hopes for that second book. There’s a lot of questions and loose ends to be wrapped up, which I imagine would be just right for a sequel. In the end, Foiled isn’t a bad book, and despite my initial disappointment, I would still recommend it, especially to Jane Yolen fans. Maybe if you don’t have as high of hopes for it as I do, you’ll enjoy it more the first time than I did.

Shady Glade Rating: 6/10

Available at in Paperback
Add to your Goodreads shelf
Check availability on

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Review: A World Without Heroes (Beyonders)

Yup, it's another review!  I'm on a roll lately.  :)  I've been able to  write up several of these in free moments over the last little while, so hopefully it will keep me supplied for a few weeks.

Beyonders: A World Without Heroes by Brandon Mull

Jason feels like he’s in a rut. Although his real passion is baseball and animals, he feels like he will have to live up to his parents’ expectation of him becoming a dentist. Why? Because his dad is a dentist, and both of his older siblings are on their way to becoming dentists as well. It seems to be a blossoming family tradition. Jason’s one escape, other than baseball practice, is his volunteer job working at the local zoo. Which is about to get a lot more interesting, as one day while working near the hippo tank he ends up falling in and getting swallowed whole. But rather than being eaten alive, the hippo leads him to an alternate world: Lyrian.

Here Jason is a “Beyonder”: someone from the world beyond this strange place he has found himself in. Lyrian is ruled over by the evil Emperor Maldor; who happens to have outlawed anything to do with the Beyond. Through a “curiosity killed the cat” moment, Jason ends up engaged on a quest to find a Word of Power that will destroy Maldor and hopefully save Lyrian. The problem? The Word has a total of six syllables, which have been scattered and hidden all over Lyrian. With the help of another Beyonder named Rachel, Jason must quickly gather all the syllables of the Word, or he might not make it home alive.

I’m a big fan of Brandon Mull’s. I loved his Fablehaven books, the Candy Shop War books are also a lot of fun, and I even got to meet him one on one once. So I definitely have a soft spot for him. So when I first heard about the Beyonders series, and that it was one he had been working on for many years, I was pretty excited.

A World Without Heroes is a book that is both alike and different from Brandon Mull’s other books. Like the Fablehaven books, this features both a male and female main character, with Jason definitely taking the larger role. Although that feature does seem to change nearer the end of the book and I expect it will continue shifting in future books. The supporting cast of characters is quite large, to the point where it was almost a little difficult to pick up on characters that were mentioned once or twice in the beginning when they pop up again in the plot later.

The plot itself is full of twists and turns. Although not much seems to happen to Jason and Rachel at first, I was certainly never bored as a reader, or felt I was being plagued with introductory material. There is a chapter of the necessary background information, but the action gets going pretty quickly, within the first chapter. One of the things that caught my attention when watching the Star Wars movies for the first time (way back in elementary school) was that in addition to a great story, if you pay attention there’s also some political/intrigue subplots taking place. I felt like this book was a lot the same. Jason is on a quest to find the Word, but there’s a lot of political reasons he comes up against the things he does, which add a whole new layer to things when you start paying attention.

The world building of this book is intriguing. Lyrian definitely has a medieval/feudal feel to it, which is typical of epic fantasy. However, there’s something weirdly alien as well as that familiar fantasy feel. The description of foreign foods/fruits, strange musical instruments, and inventive architecture (such as a tavern that rotates like a merry go round) add plenty of strange to what you would expect from this setting. There’s even the addition of the “wizard born” races that add a dimension to the populace of Lyrian. These are all magically created races, but are quite human in appearance and action, but have special features such as being able to separate from your body, or being reborn after you die thanks to a seed that grows on your neck. Yeah, I know, that sounds really weird, but you should just go with it, okay? Cuz it’s awesome.

As a general warning, this book does have a pretty decent cliffhanger ending, so you will definitely want to have the next one (Seeds of Rebellion) on hand when you finish this one. Overall, I think this is a strong start to a great trilogy.

Shady Glade Rating: 10/10! 

Available at in Hardcover, Paperback or Kindle
Add to your Goodreads shelf
Check availability on

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Review: Dorothy of Oz

So I know it’s been a while since I’ve done reviews. And despite the fact that things are little crazy around here recently (see previous post about impending court date and Disneyland trip), I would like to get back into doing more reviews here on the blog. So I’m going to start with this graphic novel series I picked up recently.

Dorothy Of Oz by Son Hee-Jun

This is a sort of manga-style retelling of the Wizard of Oz story. Or more appropriately, a manhwa retelling, since it hails from Korea instead of Japan. But the artistic style is pretty typical of your average manga shojo series. Quick side note: favorite character is Toto. Why? Because he is just so darn adorable! He’s like a little ball of fluff with ears and legs. But anyway, moving on.

Dorothy Of Oz, not to be confused with an upcoming animated sequel to the Wizard of Oz (which I found out about in my Google searching for images), is the story of Mara Shin. Like Dorothy, she finds herself unexpectedly in the Land of Oz, and is chiefly interested in finding her way back home. Though in a twist of events, she ends up in Oz more like Alice ends up in Wonderland, by following Toto down a dark alley that leads to a yellow brick road. There, she meets up with the typical characters: scarecrow, tin man, cowardly lion, though not necessarily in the form you would expect them. I won’t give away how they are different here, as it would ruin the plot. Everyone is so excited to meet her, because they think she’s Dorothy, who’s been prophesied to return to Oz and fix everything that’s gone wrong since she left. The problem is, Mara isn’t Dorothy, she’s Mara, and she doesn’t want to save Oz, she just wants to get back home to Korea.

This is an Oz that’s both familiar, and completely alien. The role of magic is much more prevelanet, and it appears as though Oz is ruled over by the four witches (North, South, East, West) since the Wizard has mysteriously disappeared. The land is covered by war, and there seems to be a lot of mercenaries roaming about as well, each with their own agenda. Of course, I’m not really sure exactly what’s going on, as in typical manga tradition, Volume 1 drops you into the middle of the story, has a bunch of action, and then drops back to the introductory material once the battle is over. It’s great for drawing a reader in (nothing more exciting than unanswered questions), but can be a little disorienting.

As a content warning for those who are so inclined, the book does feature quite a bit of fighting, and some resulting violence/blood is depicted, although it’s toned down a lot from some manga I’ve seen. There’s also a typically manga skimpy fighting outfit for Mara, which is quite sexed-up. Those familiar with manga will know what I’m talking about, but if this is your first foray into the genre, you have been warned. As of the writing of this review, I’ve read three of the books in this series (the aptly named Volume 1, Volume 2, and Volume 3). Unfortunately, it looks like the series quit after Volume 4. And based on what’s happened so far in just the first 3 books, I’m not optimistic the action can all be wrapped up in that last book. So it looks like I might have to just resign myself to a lot of unanswered questions. But I will still definitely pick up that last book, just as soon as I can get it from the Interlibrary Loan.

Overall, it tends a bit to the mediocre side of things once you’re no longer reading and trying to figure out what’s going on in the story. But the storyline is engaging enough, and I think those who love books that have anything to do with Oz will enjoy it. And I would recommend it to those readers based on that facet alone. As long as you can get past that possibility of there not being a true ending after Volume 4, that is.

Shady Glade Rating: 5/10

Although apparently out of print, it is available at in Paperback
Add to your Goodreads shelf
Check availability on

On a side note: 

If you'd like a more classic, and in my opinion stronger, Oz-related graphic novel, you should check out the adaptations of the original L. Frank Baum Oz books that are published by Marvel.   The story is done by Eric Shanower (a veteran of both Oz adaptations and graphic novels) with excellent artwork by Skottie Young.  I haven't read one of those that I haven't enjoyed yet.  For those wondering on the chronology, they follow the original oz books: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (Graphic Novel), The Marvelous Land of Oz, Oz: Ozma of Oz, Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz, and Road to Oz have all been published at this point, with The Emerald City of Oz to follow soon I believe.