Judging A Book By Its Cover: Frankenstein

This is my weekly post where I highlight and appreciate cover designs and the general physical appearance of books. We all judge book covers to some extent. I can’t say that I’ve ever decided against a book with terrible cover art if I liked the sound of the plot, but I do purchase special editions of books and multiple editions of books based on their cover art. If book covers didn’t matter, publishers wouldn’t put out so many beautiful editions!

This week I’m happy to feature another guest contribution from Zezee! You may recall a while back she sent me pictures of her copy of Lord of the Flies. Now I have the pictures she took of her utterly fabulous and grim edition of Frankenstein! All I’ve done is crop the images.

This is Gris Grimley’s Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus – Assembled From the Original Text by Mary Shelley In Three Volumes. Published by Balzer + Bray, illustrated by Gris Grimly, ISBN: 9780061862977.

Book Review: The Bone Witch

pic from NetGalley

The Bone Witch
By Rin Chupeco

My Edition:
ARC ebook, 432 pages
2017, Sourcebooks Fire
ISBN: 9781492635826 (hardcover)

Tea discovers she has the power to raise the dead when her older brother crawls out of his grave during his funeral. While many people of her land have magic, including some of her sisters, few have Tea’s abilities as a bone witch (or dark asha) and the people of her town are both awed and scornful. Tea leaves home with her reanimated brother in tow to join an academy for asha and starts on the rough road to mastering her powers.

Let it be known that despite the fact that young adult books disappoint me more often than they impress me, I continue to give them a chance (and will continue to do so, because I’m a sucker for punishment). Unfortunately, this book fell into the former category and I stopped reading at about 75%. I wanted to post my thoughts on why I stopped reading because I did actually request the book.

The very first page of this book had me rolling my eyes. There are two perspectives in this book, one from young Tea as she tells her tale of how she started her journey as a witch and the other from some bard who seeks her out when she’s seventeen, living in exile on some beach (in a nicely furnished cave.) The book starts out with the bard glorifying her beauty (including her “pert nose”…), her incredible power and her special snowflakeness all before she turned eighteen. So basically, I hated Tea from the start. I know plenty of other genres have clichés like this, but they seem to manage to pull it off with more subtlety.

Despite wanting to chuck Tea off a cliff (also, come on, her sisters are all named for flowers and her brother is Fox, but she’s Tea?!) I did my best to keep an open mind as I dove into the seemingly complex magical world Chupeco created. But while Chupeco created a vast world with culturally diverse countries and what’s probably a lot of history, I found the world and the characters boring as all hell.

When Tea raises her brother from the dead it was pretty low impact, but the fact that this was her type of magic held some potential for me. Fox is the most human zombie I’ve ever encountered and also the most uninteresting one. Neither he nor Tea seemed to suffer any hardship despite Tea’s young age and ignorance to her own powers at the time. An older witch just comes along and takes them away so Tea can start her geisha-er-asha training. Also reanimated corpses cast no shadows…because reasons (like what even? Actual dead bodies would cast a shadow…). Maybe the last 25% of the book gave some explanation for this, but I doubt it.

Anyway, there’s very little of Tea’s cool powers in this book. It’s mostly her training to become an asha, who is really just a geisha with magic powers that no one ever seems to use. They dress in complicated clothing very much like kimonos (we hear endlessly about what everyone is wearing down to fabric colors and trim and stitching and other super special details and omg shut up), even down to the artwork and fabric choices being intentional and meaningful (granted, I don’t truly understand how asha clothing was meaningful in this book or how it impacted their powers or the plot or anything). They have singing, dancing and instrument lessons, on top of magical fighting classes. They entertain rich people in tea houses and show off their witty banter and political knowledge and they even have patrons. I actually just wanted to stop reading the book and re-read Memoirs of a Geisha because it’s more interesting.

But before Tea can practice becoming a geisha-er-asha, she’s forced to be a common maid in the house of one of the powerful old asha, because even though Tea’s powers are rare and useful, she is despised for no reason and must be punished for existing. Essentially everything I read was her being a maid or training, with little interludes from the bard talking about how sexy and dark and unusual and awesome and different and special older Tea is.

The other significant part of this story revolves around the heartstones everyone wears. I really have no friggen clue what they are. But everyone wears them around their necks and they change colors with their feelings. But you can give yours to the one you love (and receive them as well) but then that could give them control over you? And one of Tea’s sisters keeps giving hers away to different boys and so gets new ones and that seems to be no big deal, but then Heartforgers have to make new ones for people and they require random memories from other people and they’re expensive? So then where is Tea’s sister getting her new hearts? Witches have different hearts and falling in love can be dangerous but then, YOUR ACTUAL HEART DOESN’T CONTAIN OR CONTROL YOUR FEELINGS so why aren’t they brainstones? Ugh.

I’ll end this rant with some descriptions (remember Tea’s “pert nose!”) that had me groaning:

“She was young, in the way a woman of 60 might carefully tuck away the years around her to appear 20.” What!?

Our handsome prince has eyes like “gentle emeralds.” What even?

A monster was “fat and corpulent.” LOL

Something else (I forget if it was a monster or her dress or what) was “as black as shadows, as bright as stars.” K, thanks, bye.

Finally, I could take no more of boring Tea and her boring training and the vague hints of her supposedly awesome powers from our buddy the bard. I wanted more dead things coming back to life and a dark, troubled heroine who actually proved how cool she was. I’ve changed how I feel about DNFing books and I’ve found that it’s liberating to be free of a book that’s not giving me an ounce of enjoyment. At least Throne of (Gl)Ass was fun to make fun of! I have too many books to read and too little time to waste on ones I don’t enjoy. Sadly the premise didn’t live up to my expectations and after taking a peek at some of the reviews on Goodreads, it seems that FOR ONCE I’m not alone in this!

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. All opinions in this post are my own.
Rin does have a very pretty website.

Book Review: The Gunslinger

The Gunslinger (Dark Tower I)
By Stephen King

My Edition:
Paperback, 330 pages
2016, Pocket Books
ISBN: 9781501161803

Roland is chasing the man in black across an endless desert. The man has answers and Roland will do whatever it takes to get them so he can get to The Tower and save his world.

You guys, sorry, but I really can’t describe this book without like…giving away every detail in the story. This book is WEIRD. I’m going to assume most of you have at least heard of the series, if not already read it, but if not, the internet could probably give you a much better description.

I picked this book up because I saw the movie trailer (-yelling- Idriiiiisssssss!) and thought, “Hey, I need to read the series so I can properly hate the movie!” I already have opinions on what I think my opinion of the movie will be, but that’s not really relevant to this post, I suppose.

Let’s see if any of my notes on this story can be formed into a review and not spoil anything for those of you who still haven’t read this series (are you out there?) because I knew literally nothing going into it and I’m sure that’s best.

My favorite part of the whole book was how atmospheric it is. The desert Roland is trudging across, the small pockets of society he encounters, his flashbacks to his childhood – I felt like I was at every location. However, I was thoroughly confused when trying to build the rules of Roland’s childhood world (not the desert) in my head, because I felt the need to figure out whether it was its own point in time or perhaps some sort of dystopian future or even an alternate version of our own world. Once I told myself to let go of this habit and take things page for page, I was less lost, though still pretty puzzled.

The characters were less endearing. Roland is a weird mix of emotionally detached and fond of reminiscing about his childhood. He’s also apparently the only sexy guy left in the desert because the few females he encounters totally want to bone him. He also has a quirky language that only makes itself apparent occasionally. He mentions High Speech and Low Speech and sometimes sounds ye-olde-y and then also uses words like ‘ka’ which I haven’t quite figured out the meaning of (fate perhaps?). also he says ‘yar’ sometimes instead of ‘yes’ and all I could think of was Michael from Hot Fuzz (anyone?!) The man in black was intriguing but we don’t get a lot of information about him, so I’m hoping future books shed more light on the subject.

I’m in the middle of the road when it comes to my overall feelings on the book. I thought I would be more impressed or whatever and less confused.

If you’re interested in a high fantasy style quest, set in a semi-medieval desert (where people wear jeans and corduroys and sing Beatles songs) with a gun-slinging protagonist who is incredibly single-minded and near magically gifted at shooting the shit out of everything, then you may enjoy at least the first book in this series. I’m partway through the second book as I write this and I’m not sure what my overall opinion will be, but if you’re interested in the Dark Tower series, it’s probably worth checking out.

Bonus review:

As it turns out, my friend Melissa and I happened to read this at the same time without planning it. So she’s given her thoughts on the book as well!

“This book reminded me of The Stand, lots of walking. I enjoyed the flashbacks and backstory building, but am still left with a lot of questions and theories. I look forward to seeing how everything comes together in future books. It’s definitely a ‘Stephen King’ book because of the nature of some of the more graphic and sexual scenes; they aren’t usually my style so I could do without those parts. 3.5 stars because of all the questions I have.”

Judging A Book By Its Cover: Cinderella

This is my weekly post where I highlight and appreciate cover designs and the general physical appearance of books. We all judge book covers to some extent. I can’t say that I’ve ever decided against a book with terrible cover art if I liked the sound of the plot, but I have purchased special editions of books or multiple editions of books based on their cover art. If book covers didn’t matter, publishers wouldn’t put out so many beautiful editions!

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Camille Rose Garcia needs to illustrate EVERY FAIRYTALE EVER. Her work is so gothically fabulous. I want her to illustrate me!fairytale by Charles Perrault, illustrated by Camille Rose Garcia (

The Cinderella fairytale is by Charles Perrault, illustrated by Camille Rose Garcia (kweeeeen!), jacket design by Roberto de Vicq de Cumptich, published in 2015 by Harper Design. ISBN: 9780062333919.

Book Review: Sophie Someone

Sophie Someone
By Hayley Long

My Edition:
Hardcover, 258 pages
2017, Candlewick Press
ISBN: 9780763689957

Fourteen-year-old Sophie Nieuwenleven has lived in Belgium for almost as long as she can remember, though she knows her family left England. As the past begins to catch up with them, Sophie starts piecing together details from her past until her family’s terrible secret is revealed and it changes everything she thinks she knows about herself. So Sophie tells her story, but in the only way she feels comfortable – in her own language.

I wasn’t expecting the writing to be so stylized, so right off the bat I was confused. Sure, the back of the book mentions Sophie telling her story in the only way she knows how, but I wasn’t paying attention to the back of the book, was I? (No. No I wasn’t.)

So we have a sort of…modified English where certain words are swapped out for completely different (yet for the most part, essentially similar and mostly coherent) words, creating what appears to be gibberish at first. Examples include “hashtag” for hand, “quibble” for question, “Mambo and Donny” for Mom and Dad, “pigeon” for person, and “supernova” for suitcase. My first thought was that I was just reading a bunch of nonsense and it was frustrating.

However, as I made my way through the book, Sophie’s words, while still silly sounding, started to make a weird sort of sense to me. It’s clear that Long put a lot of thought into her…er…translations. There were still some words that threw me and I did spend the whole book mentally translating each replacement word I encountered. Had I been able to let go of that, I might have had an easier time reading, but I just HAD to know what the words really meant. At times this probably took me away from the story, but that’s just how my mind works.

This is a great story if you can get past the language and Sophie was funny and endearing. This is among the more original contemporary middle-grade novels I’ve encountered and if you’re looking for something different, I highly suggest this.

Also, the cover art is beautiful, see pictures below!

I received this book for free from LibraryThing in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. All opinions in this post are my own.
Hayley is super adorable and has a cute little site.

A Booktastic Anniversary

April 29th was my one year wedding anniversary and my husband booked us two nights in this fabulous B&B in Camden, Maine (which was actually a suggestion from my maid of honor, so without her, we never would have found the place!) called the Norumbega Inn.

We stayed in their library suite, which is so appropriate. The room is where the original library is located and has a balcony that spans the top half of the room with a ton of vintage books! We also had a little room with a gas fireplace (where Sweetbeeps would read in the mornings because he gets up earlier than me.) When we arrived we got a little history lesson about the place, but of course, I don’t remember much. But I know this mansion (castle?!) was built in 1886 by some guy who invented something (haha yep) and it was a private home until the mid-80s. I also know it’s the coolest B&B I’ve ever been to (she says, having only been to one other) and I had the best food there I’ve had in my life and we definitely plan to return.

Camden is a cute little town by the water with quite a few shops to check out….though some get pricey because of tourists and vacationers. There’s hiking in the area, but we didn’t end up doing that because it was still fairly cold. Anyway, on to the pictures….be prepared, there are a TON:

                                                       That fog so atmospheric!

                                           That cage needs a peacock, doesn’t it?

                                       A doggo!

                              Get ready for all your woodworking dreams to come true

                                                                  Soooo delicious!

                               I totally made Sweetbeeps touch that statue’s boob

                                       Even our doorknob was well designed!

                                     Our little side room…and a small view of the main room.

                                                               The view from bed!

                                                                I really love this shelf.

                                          Booooooks!

                                            This book maybe came home with me…….. 

                                                         Just casually browsing….

                                                          Me: Look like you’re browsing. Him…

                                                                       He thinks he’s funny.

                                                                   Found us in book form.

There were four bookstores downtown and naturally, we went to all of them!

                                                  Basically all vintage, but pretty pricey!

                             Super cute, but more of a cafe with small book selection.

                                  Too crowded to focus.

                          Half a toy store, but decent selection!

Judging A Book By Its Cover: Madame Two Swords

This is my weekly post where I highlight and appreciate cover designs and the general physical appearance of books. We all judge book covers to some extent. I can’t say that I’ve ever decided against a book with terrible cover art if I liked the sound of the plot, but I have purchased special editions of books or multiple editions of books based on their cover art. If book covers didn’t matter, publishers wouldn’t put out so many beautiful editions!

Somewhat recently I got it in my head to search for a signed Tanith book – why didn’t I think of this idea sooner? No clue! I’m not always that smart xD

I was able to score this beauty off eBay – it was one of the only reasonably priced ones at the time – and while Tanith’s signature is a diddly friggen squiggle, I DON’T CARE BECAUSE SHE IS MY GODDESS. At least I own something of hers that’s signed now and this is a neat edition because it’s also signed by the illustrator (Thomas Canty) and numbered and it’s a first edition. It’s a 1988 (great year!) edition, published by Donald M. Grant, ISBN: 0937986798. The cover even has some nice gold accents that were frustratingly hard to capture.

Book Review: The Bedlam Stacks

The Bedlam Stacks
By Natasha Pulley

My Edition:
ARC Paperback, 324 pages
2017, Bloomsbury
ISBN: 9781620409671 (hardcover)
Expected Publication Date: August 2017

Merrick Tremayne is an ex-smuggler trapped with his stodgy brother in their old family home as it literally falls apart around them. His brother is ready to ship Merrick off to a small town and force him into being a pastor when Merrick’s old friend and army buddy, Clem shows up. Clem proposes Merrick join him and his wife on a risky quinine-stealing expedition. Merrick’s old leg wound has handicapped him some, but his knowledge of plants is indispensable. Merrick soon finds the expedition is anything but routine as they camp amongst locals who won’t cross a salt line in the woods for fear of what lurks in the woods beyond and living statues.

I loooooved Pulley’s first book, The Watchmaker of Filigree Street, so I practically jumped for joy when Bloomsbury asked me if I’d like a copy of The Bedlam Stacks to review.

Here’s another book that I find myself struggling to describe (“Like basically every book you read?” you think to yourself) and it’s because until about the last fifth of the book, I had no clue what the hell was going on. This is the good kind of clueless though. Not the kind that frustrates you because you don’t have enough information or the writing doesn’t make sense. This book has a very surreal vibe and it took me a while to get used to the atmosphere. Because of that, I was like ??!? but still very interested while reading.

I did fail at the mental imagery though. Bedlam, the mystical little clifftop town Merrick finds himself in, is built on some sort of salt cliffs that have turned to glass? And there’s a forest (that I totally pictured as a rainforest but I’m pretty sure that’s wrong because it was like always cold and sometimes snowing) with these trees that are so light and airy that they can float and also they explode in a fire? And there are moving statues that are much more than they seem (no question marks here because I actually understood that part). And also there’s a sort of glowing pollen everywhere that can be used in lamps and also leaves light trails when you walk? If any of this sounds even remotely interesting to you, you’ll probably like this book.

Yes, I’m aware that my weird questions don’t make a review. Anyway, that’s some of what goes on in this book and I really wasn’t picturing much in the way of a setting. However, I was absorbed in the characters, especially Merrick and Raphael, his guide through Bedlam and to the quinine trees. I’ve already learned that Pulley is a master at crafting characters, especially male ones. Bedlam is yet another book that is heavily character-driven and normally that’s not what I prefer to read, but I will eat up anything this woman writes. There’s even a little cameo from one of the characters from Watchmaker that I think strengthens their backstory and serves as a nice reminder of Pulley’s other novel for those of us who friggen love it.

I loved the weird, mystical feel of the book and Merrick’s sense of humor and sadness. I loved his conversations with Raphael. I loved the final chapters when things got intense and the magic was more prevalent. The ending was totally unsatisfactory and realistic and I don’t think it could have ended any other way but damnit, I wanted it to!

If you like heavy character development, male relationships, the mid-1800s, surreal magic and the feeling of desperately wanting two people to just be together forever, then I highly suggest both Watchmaker and Bedlam. I can’t say I loved Bedlam as much as I loved Watchmaker (it’s not far behind though!), but once more these characters slowly curled their way around my heart and then at the end of the book squeezed the hell out of it. I will absolutely be buying the hardcover once it releases because this book is bound to be as beautiful as Watchmaker if the design of this ARC is anything to go by. I’m fully ready for whatever she writes next and NEED IT ASAP.

I received this book for free from the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. All opinions in this post are my own.
Natasha tweets!

Book Review: Bridge to Terabithia

The Bridge to Terabithia
By Katherine Paterson

My Edition:
Paperback (40th Anniversary), 179 pages
1977, Harper
ISBN: 9780064401845

Jess Aarons works hard on his family farm – with his father working long hours and his four sisters nearly useless, Jess is constantly harangued by his mother. To distract himself, he’s been practicing running and hopes to be the fastest runner in 5th grade. When Leslie Burke, the new girl in town, easily beats him in a race, he finds he’s not nearly as fast as he thought, but more importantly, he finds the beginning of a strong friendship.

UGH THIS BOOK.

Disclaimer: I’ve never seen the movie, but I was aware of the most significant plot point going in to this book. I still think the book is incredibly emotional and powerful, so even if you’ve seen the movie or you know the plot, I think you should read this book.

Also, from what I can tell from movie trailers (I’ve no desire to watch the movie), there’s a big fantasy element in there that really isn’t found in the book. Yes, Jess and Leslie create a magical world named Terabithia and they go there to hang out, but this isn’t a fantasy novel. If you’re looking for middle-grade fantasy, Terabithia is not the place to find it.

It is, however, the place to find FEELS.

Jess is the sort of kid that you feel for, even before his blossoming friendship with Leslie. He can’t seem to catch a break, but he doesn’t let himself get too down about it. He has a semi-secret passion for drawing – his father would see it as weak and his classmates at school would tease him, but he continues to draw and imagine what he would draw despite all that. Leslie has pluck and she’s incredibly intelligent and does a little gender-bending given that the book is set in the 1970s.

There are not a lot of pages in this book, so I feel a little constrained in regards to what I say because really you should just read this book (AND FEEL THE FEELS) for yourself, if you haven’t yet. I don’t know why I didn’t pick it up sooner, honestly. This is easily one of my top middle-grade books and I highly recommend it if you’re looking for a contemporary tale of friendship and loss. Also, my cover is gorgeous.

Paterson’s website

Judging A Book By Its Cover: More Charles de Lint

This is my weekly post where I highlight and appreciate cover designs and the general physical appearance of books. We all judge book covers to some extent. I can’t say that I’ve ever decided against a book with terrible cover art if I liked the sound of the plot, but I have purchased special editions of books or multiple editions of books based on their cover art. If book covers didn’t matter, publishers wouldn’t put out so many beautiful editions!

Charles de Lint is one of the authors that I hoard (and am sadly totally behind in actually reading) and I was happy to find both these illustrated companion novels on BookOutlet. Both books are published by Little Brown and illustrated by Charles Vess with cover design by Saho Fujii. Cats was published in 2013, ISBN: 9780316053594. Sisters was published in 2014, ISBN: 9780316053525.