Log in

[sticky post] Fashionista Piranha Book Blog

Welcome to Fashionista Piranha Book Blog, where a good book is always your best accessory!  Life is too short to waste reading bad literature, especially when there's so many good books out there. If I can keep you from reading one atrocious novel, I've done my job. But if I help you find something you'll enjoy, even better. I've achieved my goal.

I have been reading, writing and reviewing since 2008, so there's a lot to see here.  To read the latest reviews, simply scroll down; in the sidebar to the left I also have the reviews grouped chronologically.  If there's a specific title or series you have in mind, I also have the reviews indexed by the author:

Book Reviews by Author, A-H
Book Reviews by Author, I-P
Book Reviews by Author, Q-Z

Sometimes I will wander off-topic and talk about theater productions I've seen.  Usually - but not always - it'll be Shakespeare-related (most commonly the plays from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival) or a stage adaptation of a classic book.  But if I see a show and I'm super-excited about it, odds are that it'll show up on Fashionista Piranha.  Less frequently, movie adaptations of books will make a similar appearance.

I always enjoy hearing from visitors to the blog, so please feel free to leave comments or email me at fashion_piranha @ livejournal.com.  This includes you, publishers and authors!  I am always happy to discuss your projects with you; feel free to check out my review policies here and drop me a line.
Thanks for stopping by!
Suzi the Fashion Piranha
Subscribe to Shelf Awareness and enter to win a free book!

New Releases: January 19th, 2015


THE PORTABLE VEBLEN by Elizabeth McKenzie
THE PORTABLE VEBLEN is set in and around Palo Alto, amid the culture clash of new money and old (antiestablishment) values, and with the specter of our current wars looming across. A young couple on the brink of marriage --- the charming Veblen and her fiancé Paul, a brilliant neurologist --- find their engagement in danger of collapse. Along the way they weather everything from each other’s dysfunctional families, to the attentions of a seductive pharmaceutical heiress, to an intimate tête-à-tête with a very charismatic squirrel. Fiction

RIVER ROAD by Carol Goodman
Nan Lewis, a creative writing professor, hits a deer while driving home from a faculty holiday party. But when she gets out of her car to look for it, the deer is nowhere to be found. The next morning, Nan is informed that one of her students was killed in a hit-and-run the night before. And because of the damage to her car, Nan is a suspect. In the days following the accident, Nan finds herself shunned by the same community that rallied around her when her own daughter was killed in an eerily similar accident. When she begins to find disturbing tokens that recall the death of her daughter, Nan suspects that the two accidents are connected. Psychological Thriller

THE ROAD TO LITTLE DRIBBLING: Adventures of an American in Britain by Bill Bryson
In 1995, Bill Bryson got into his car and took a weeks-long farewell motoring trip about England before moving his family back to the United States. The book about that trip, NOTES FROM A SMALL ISLAND, is uproarious and endlessly endearing. Two decades later, he set out again to rediscover that country, and the result is THE ROAD TO LITTLE DRIBBLING. Nothing is funnier than Bill Bryson on the road, so prepare for the total joy and multiple episodes of unseemly laughter. Memoir / Travel

William Herschel, the great composer and astronomer, rescues his sister, Caroline, from a life of drudgery in Germany and brings her to England and a world of music making and stargazing. Lina, as Caroline is known, serves as William’s assistant and the captain of his exhilaratingly busy household. William is generous, wise and charismatic, an obsessive genius whom Lina adores and serves with the fervency of a beloved wife. But when William suddenly announces that he will be married, Lina watches her world collapse. Historical Fiction

WARRIORS OF THE STORM by Bernard Cornwell
A fragile peace reigns in Wessex, Mercia and East Anglia. King Alfred’s son, Edward, and formidable daughter, Aethelflaed, rule the kingdoms. But all around the restless Northmen, eyeing the rich lands and wealthy churches, are mounting raids. Uhtred of Bebbanburg, the kingdoms’ greatest warrior, controls northern Mercia from the strongly fortified city of Chester. But forces are gathering against him. Northmen allied to the Irish, led by the fierce warrior Ragnall Ivarson, are soon joined by the Northumbrians, and their strength could prove overwhelming. Historical Fiction


Hazel lives with her brother, Ben, in the strange town of Fairfold where humans and fae exist side by side. The faeries' seemingly harmless magic attracts tourists, but Hazel knows how dangerous they can be, and she knows how to stop them. Or she did, once. At the center of it all, there is a glass coffin in the woods. It rests right on the ground and in it sleeps a boy with horns on his head and ears as pointy as knives. Hazel and Ben were both in love with him as children. The boy has slept there for generations, never waking. Until one day, he does... As the world turns upside down and a hero is needed to save them all, Hazel tries to remember her years spent pretending to be a knight. But swept up in new love, shifting loyalties, and the fresh sting of betrayal, will it be enough? Fantasy / Young Adult

FROG written by Mo Yan, translated by Howard Goldblatt
FROG opens with a playwright nicknamed Tadpole, who plans to write about his aunt. In her youth, Gugu --- the beautiful daughter of a famous doctor and staunch Communist --- is revered for her skill as a midwife. But when her lover defects, Gugu’s own loyalty to the Party is questioned. She decides to prove her allegiance by strictly enforcing the one-child policy, keeping tabs on the number of children in the village, and performing abortions on women as many as eight months pregnant. Fiction

Broken Wheel, Iowa, has never seen anyone like Sara, who traveled all the way from Sweden just to meet her book-loving pen pal. When she arrives, however, she finds Amy's funeral guests just leaving. The residents of Broken Wheel are happy to look after their bewildered visitor --- not much else to do in a small town that's almost beyond repair. They just never imagined that she'd start a bookstore. Or that books could bring them together --- and change everything. Fiction

WE SHOULD HANG OUT SOMETIME: Embarassingly, A True Story by Josh Sundquist
Josh Sundquist only ever had one girlfriend. For twenty-three hours. In eighth grade. Why was Josh still single? To find out, he tracked down the girls he had tried to date and asked them straight up: What went wrong? The results of Josh's semiscientific, wholly hilarious investigation are captured here. From a disastrous Putt-Putt date involving a backward prosthetic foot, to his introduction to CFD (Close Fast Dancing), to a misguided "grand gesture" at a Miss America pageant, this story is about looking for love -- or at least a girlfriend -- in all the wrong places. Memoir / Young Adult

Peeking into the archives...today in:
2015: We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
2014: Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by April Genevieve Tucholke
2013: Movie: Les Misérables
2012: 15 Great Works of Literature-Inspired Nail Art
2011: Closing down for end of year Festivus…
2010: News: Seriously Cool Pop-Up Book
2009: College Girl by Patricia Weitz

New Releases: January 12th, 2016


DICTATOR by Robert Harris
At the age of 48, Cicero --- the greatest orator of his time --- is in exile, separated from his wife and children, tormented by his sense of failure, his great power sacrificed on the altar of his principles. And yet, in the words of one of his most famous aphorisms, “While there is life, there is hope.” By promising to support Caesar --- his political enemy --- he is granted return to Rome, where he fights his way back to prominence. Even so, no public figure, however brilliant and cunning, is completely safeguarded against the unscrupulous ambition and corruption of others. Historical Fiction

THE DRESSMAKER'S WAR by Mary Chamberlain
In London, 1939, Ada Vaughan is a young woman with an unusual dressmaking skill and dreams of a better life for herself. That life seems to arrive when Stanislaus, an Austrian aristocrat, sweeps Ada off her feet and brings her to Paris. When war breaks out, Stanislaus vanishes and Ada is taken prisoner by the Germans, she must do everything she can to survive: by becoming dressmaker to the Nazi wives. Abandoned and alone as war rages, the choices Ada makes will come back to haunt her years later, as the truth of her experience is twisted and distorted after the war. Historical Fiction

THE LOST TUDOR PRINCESS: The Life of Lady Margaret Douglas by Alison Weir
THE LOST TUDOR PRINCESS is the first biography of Margaret Douglas, the beautiful, cunning niece of Henry VIII of England who used her sharp intelligence and covert power to influence the succession after the death of Elizabeth I. Drawing on decades of research and myriad original sources --- including many of Margaret’s surviving letters --- Alison Weir brings this captivating character out of the shadows and presents a strong, capable woman who operated effectively and fearlessly at the very highest levels of power. Biography / History

THIS CENSUS-TAKER by China Miéville
In a remote house on a hilltop, a lonely boy witnesses a profoundly traumatic event. He tries --- and fails --- to flee. Left alone with his increasingly deranged parent, he dreams of safety, of joining the other children in the town below, of escape. When at last a stranger knocks at his door, the boy senses that his days of isolation might be over. But by what authority does this man keep the meticulous records he carries? What is the purpose behind his questions? Is he friend, enemy…or something else altogether? Urban Fantasy

UP FROM THE SEA by Leza Lowitz
A powerful novel-in-verse about how one teen boy survives the March 2011 tsunami that devastates his coastal Japanese village. On that fateful day, Kai loses nearly everyone and everything he cares about. When he’s offered a trip to New York to meet kids whose lives were changed by 9/11, Kai realizes he also has a chance to look for his estranged American father. Visiting Ground Zero on its tenth anniversary, Kai learns that the only way to make something good come out of the disaster back home is to return there and help rebuild his town. Middle Grade / Children's Fiction

At the age of 36, on the verge of completing a decade’s worth of training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. One day he was a doctor treating the dying, and the next he was a patient struggling to live. And just like that, the future he and his wife had imagined evaporated. WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR chronicles Kalanithi’s transformation from a naïve medical student into a neurosurgeon at Stanford working in the brain, and finally into a patient and new father confronting his own mortality. Memoir


AQUARIUM by David Vann
Caitlin lives alone with her mother in subsidized housing next to an airport in Seattle. Each day, while waiting to be picked up after school, she visits the local aquarium to study the fish. Gazing at the creatures within the watery depths, she accesses a shimmering universe beyond her own. When she befriends an old man at the tanks one day, who seems as enamored of the fish as she, Caitlin cracks open a dark family secret and propels her once-blissful relationship with her mother toward a precipice of terrifying consequence. Fiction

A GOD IN RUINS by Kate Atkinson
Kate Atkinson's LIFE AFTER LIFE explored the possibility of infinite chances and the power of choices, following Ursula Todd as she lived through the turbulent events of the last century over and over again. A GOD IN RUINS tells the dramatic story of the 20th century through Ursula's beloved younger brother, Teddy --- would-be poet, heroic pilot, husband, father and grandfather --- as he navigates the perils and progress of a rapidly changing world. Historical Fiction

MISSOULA: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town by Jon Krakauer
Jon Krakauer chronicles the searing experiences of several women in Missoula --- the nights when they were raped; their fear and self-doubt in the aftermath; the way they were treated by the police, prosecutors and defense attorneys; the public vilification and private anguish; their bravery in pushing forward and what it cost them. Krakauer’s dispassionate, carefully documented account of what these ladies endured cuts through the abstract ideological debate about campus rape. True Crime

Peeking into the archives...today in:
2015: New Releases This Week: January 13th, 2015
2014: Sidebar: Review Status for Books 2014
2013: The Lion in the Valley (Amelia Peabody #4) by Elizabeth Peters
2012: Delilah by India Edgehill
2011: Closing down for end of year Festivus…
2010: The Day the Falls Stood Still by Cathy Marie Buchanan
2009: Discussion Question: Buying Textbooks

News: January Movie Adaptations

Read the Book Before You See the Movie!

Thank you IMDB.com for providing the movie plot summaries.

Date: January 6th
Adapted From: Sir Conan Arthur Doyle's Sherlock Holmes character
Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman
Plot Summary: Not really a movie, but the holiday special from the BBC series Sherlock will be released in movie theaters before airing on television. Set in Victorian London instead of the show's contemporary setting, Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson tackle yet another case.

Date: January 8th
Adapted From: The Revenant by Michael Punke
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy
Plot Summary: A frontiersman named Hugh Glass on a fur trading expedition in the 1820s is on a quest for survival after being brutally mauled by a bear.

Date: January 15th
Adapted From: 13 Hours Mitchell Zuckoff
Starring: James Badge Dale, John Krasinksi
Plot Summary: An American Ambassador is killed during an attack at a U.S. compound in Libya as a security team struggles to make sense out of the chaos.

Date: January 15th
Adapted From: The Lady in the Van by Alan Bennett
Starring: Maggie Smith, Alex Jennings
Plot Summary: A man forms an unexpected bond with a transient woman living in her car that's parked in his driveway.

Date: January 22nd
Adapted From: The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
Starring: Chloë Grace Moretz, Nick Robinson, Maika Monroe
Plot Summary: Four waves of increasingly deadly alien attacks have left most of Earth decimated. Cassie is on the run, desperately trying to save her younger brother.

Peeking into the archives...today in:
2015: Subscription Box: Book Riot, January 2015
2014: Anything That Moves by Dana Goodyear
2013: A Sound Among The Trees by Susan Meissner
2012: At the Mercy of the Queen by Anne Clinard Barnhill
2011: Closing down for end of year Festivus…
2010: Sticklers, Sideburns & Bikinis by Graeme Donald
2009: News: TwiCon 2009


New Releases: January 5th, 2016


MIDNIGHT IN BROAD DAYLIGHT: A Japanese American Family Caught Between Two Worlds by Pamela Rotner Sakamoto
After their father’s death, Harry, Frank and Pierce Fukuhara moved to Hiroshima, their mother’s ancestral home. Eager to go back to America, Harry returned in the late 1930s. Then came Pearl Harbor. Harry was sent to an internment camp until a call came for Japanese translators, and he dutifully volunteered to serve his country. Back in Hiroshima, Frank and Pierce became soldiers in the Japanese Imperial Army. Before the Fukuharas would have to face each other in battle, the U.S. detonated the atomic bomb over Hiroshima, gravely injuring tens of thousands of civilians, including members of their family. History

PASSENGER by Alexandra Bracken
In one devastating night, violin prodigy Etta Spencer loses everything she knows and loves. Thrust into an unfamiliar world by a stranger with a dangerous agenda, Etta is certain of only one thing: she has traveled not just miles, but years from home. And she's inherited a legacy she knows nothing about from a family whose existence she's never heard of. Until now.
 Nicholas Carter is content with his life at sea, free from the Ironwoods --- a powerful family in the Colonies --- and the servitude he's known at their hands. But with the arrival of an unusual passenger on his ship comes the insistent pull of the past that he can't escape and the family that won't let him go so easily. Now the Ironwoods are searching for a stolen object of untold value, one they believe only Etta, his passenger, can find. In order to protect her, Nick must ensure she brings it back to them --- whether she wants to or not.
 Together, Etta and Nicholas embark on a perilous journey across centuries and continents, piecing together clues left behind by the traveler who will do anything to keep the object out of the Ironwoods' grasp. Young Adult

THE NIGHT PARADE by Kathryn Tanquary
The last thing Saki Yamamoto wants to do for her summer vacation is trade in exciting Tokyo for the antiquated rituals and bad cell reception of her grandmother’s village. Preparing for the Obon ceremony is boring. Then the local kids take interest in Saki and she sees an opportunity for some fun, even if it means disrespecting her family’s ancestral shrine on a malicious dare.
But as Saki rings the sacred bell, the darkness shifts. A death curse has been invoked...and Saki has three nights to undo it. With the help of three spirit guides and some unexpected friends, Saki must prove her worth --- or say goodbye to the world of the living forever... Middle Grade / Fantasy

SPARK JOY: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
Japanese decluttering guru Marie Kondo’s THE LIFE-CHANGING MAGIC OF TIDYING UP has revolutionized homes --- and lives --- across the world. Now, Kondo presents an illustrated guide to her acclaimed KonMari Method, with step-by-step folding illustrations for everything from shirts to socks, plus drawings of perfectly organized drawers and closets. She also provides advice on frequently asked questions, such as whether to keep “necessary” items that may not bring you joy. Self-Help


AMERICAN RECKONING: The Vietnam War and Our National Identity by Christian G. Appy
How did the Vietnam War change the way we think of ourselves as a people and a nation? Christian G. Appy, author of the widely praised oral history of the Vietnam War, PATRIOTS, now examines the relationship between the war’s realities and myths, and its impact on our national identity, conscience, pride, shame, popular culture and postwar foreign policy. History

THE BURIED GIANT by Kazuo Ishiguro
Kazuo Ishiguro, one of the best novelists working today, is also one of the most surprising. He has written drawing-room novels, dystopian fiction, surrealist works, and now a post-Arthurian tale of knights and ogres, of elderly villagers searching for their long-lost son, and of a she-dragon rumored to be the cause of a mist of forgetfulness that has plagued the land. As in past books, Ishiguro uses his story to meditate on memory and loss. Historical Fiction / Fantasy

ROGUE WAVE (Waterfire Saga, Book Two) by Jennifer Donnelly
Serafina, Neela, Ling, Ava, Becca, and Astrid, six mermaids from realms scattered throughout the seas and freshwaters, were summoned by the leader of the river witches to learn an incredible truth: the mermaids are direct descendants of the Six Who Ruled-powerful mages who once governed the lost empire of Atlantis. The ancient evil that destroyed Atlantis is stirring again, and only the mermaids can defeat it. To do so, they need to find magical talismans that belonged to the Six. As they hunt for their talismans, both Serafina and Neela find reserves of courage and cunning they didn't know they possessed. They face down danger and death, only to endure a game-changing betrayal, as shocking as a rogue wave. Young Adult / Fantasy

THE SWEETHEART by Angelina Mirabella
It’s 1953, and 17-year-old Leonie Putzkammer is cartoonishly tall and curvaceous, destined to spend the rest of her life waiting tables and living with her widowed father in their Philadelphia row house. Until the day a legendary wrestling promoter walks into the local diner and offers her the chance of a lifetime. When Leonie becomes The Sweetheart, one of America’s most infamous female wrestlers, she attracts the fans she desires but complicates all of her relationships. Historical Fiction

Peeking into the archives...today in:
2015: Fashionista Piranha will be on break for the holidays
2014: Giveaway: Where Spirits Dwell
2013: Sidebar: Books Reviewed in 2013
2012: Uzumaki: Spiral Into Horror Vol. 3 by Junji Ito
2011: Closing down for end of year Festivus…
2010: Remaining Unread: The Top Ten Reasons We Don’t Get To Certain Books
2009: When the Heart Cries by Cindy Woodsmall

Review: Ghostlight by Sonia Gensler

by Sonia Gensler

Every summer, Avery and her brother Blake are sent to their grandmother's farm, where they spin stories together about a magical Kingdom. This summer, Blake refuses to play along, telling Avery he's too old for kingdoms and magic. Initially furious, Avery is soon distracted by a boy she finds wandering her grandmother's property, looking to tell stories of his own. He asks her to help him create a movie, and Avery agrees – but once she realizes Julian is intent on making a horror movie set in Hilliard House, a derelict mansion her grandmother has forbidden her to visit, she is scared. Julian teaches Avery about making movies by showing her classic films and explaining different shots and techniques, but each lesson is accompanied by a reminder that they need access to Hilliard House so they can apply what they've learned. Avery slowly warms to Julian's ghost story, but when they finally enter the house to begin filming they uncover the house's own tragic spirit.

Every character in the story has problems that he or she is working through. For Avery, it's learning to recognize and control her temper and coping with the fact that her brother is starting to leave her behind as he grows up. Julian's father is a famous country star, and the celebrity has made it hard for him to talk about his family's problems. Julian himself has several issues that he's learning to deal with through his films.

While Avery and Julian are researching the history of Hilliard House and the identity of the spirit haunting it, they uncover other long-hidden secrets, including a secret marriage, the truth behind the death of a seven year old girl, and an insane mother who may have passed her mental troubles on to her child. Each new twist adds a layer of creepiness to the story.

This middle-grade book will teach readers a lot about film by using examples from psychological horror classics like The Haunting and The Innocents to explain how the director's choice of camera angles, lighting, and shots can shape a movie. It's especially fitting because the story often uses similar techniques to tell its own spooky stories. Julian's excitement cinema is contagious and will encourage some kids to try making their own short films.

Other children might be inspired by Avery's research into the history of Hilliard House to learn more about their own family tree and local landmarks. Her tenacity to chase down the details of what happened in the past is admirable. As she matures Avery also learns to channel her creativity beyond pure imagination into storytelling.

4 out of 5 stars

To read more about Ghostlight, buy it or add it to your wishlist click here.

Peeking into the archives...today in:
2015: Fashionista Piranha will be on break for the holidays
2014: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)
2013: Thermae Romae Vol. 1 by Mari Yamazaki
2012: Verily, Verily: The KJV by Jon Sweeney
2011: Closing down for the end of the year...
2010: Index of Book Reviews from June – December 2009
When the Heart Cries by Cindy Woodsmall
Goosebumps: Slappy's Tales of Horror
by R. L. Stine

Slappy the Ventriloquist’s Dummy introduces four creepy stories, based on four previously published Goosebumps books. In “A Shocker on Shock Street”, two children are given a chance to test a new theme park attraction that utilizes ultra-realistic special effects. Jamie Tolagson's graphic style recalls old EC horror comics (but child-safe, of course) and the traditional comic book style.

Gabriel Hernandez's sketchier illustrations for “The Werewolf of Fever Swamp” are in line with more contemporary horror comics. This story calls to mind works like The Walking Dead. It's set in a spooky swamp. A boy and his family have recently moved there, and the boy has adopted a large, wolf-like dog. When a rabbit is found brutally mutilated, his new pet is accused, but the boy is determined to prove Wolf's innocence, and discovers something far scarier haunting the swamp.

“Ghost Beach” is illustrated in a Japanese manga style. While the story can be chilling, the cartoon characters don't always convey it authentically. Two girls are staying with cousins for the summer, and befriend some of the local children. The locals tell the girls about a ghost haunting the nearby beach, and ask for their help in permanently ridding the town of the spirit.

I was going to describe the style of the final comic, “Night of the Living Dummy”, as Telgemeier-esque. It seemed all the more apt when I realized that the artist, Dave Roman, is married to Raina Telgemeier. Characters are rounded and cute, almost bouncing from one panel to the next – which suits the story, which revolves around two sisters feuding with ventriloquist dummies. It's Slappy's origin story, and it's an entertaining one.

I remember reading most of these stories in their original book form when I was a kid. I enjoyed them back in the mid-90s and I had fun revisiting them in this new, graphic form. I've always liked the Goosebumps franchise for its ability to introduce something unsettling into a very real-world setting and slowly build on events in a way that ratchets up the tension while remaining gentle enough that the stories don't give kids nightmares. A cartoonish sense of humor pervades all of Goosebumps, and in the four selected stories it doesn't overwhelm the spookiness. I don't know if this is meant to be the first of many graphic adaptations or just a one-off event, but it's a great way to introduce the stories to a new generation of readers.

3.5 out of 5 stars

To read more about Goosebumps: Slappy's Tales of Horror, buy it or add it to your wishlist click here.

Peeking into the archives...today in:
2015: Fashionista Piranha will be on break for the holidays
2014: Movie: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)
2013: Fashionista Piranha Book Blog in 2013
2012: The Most Anticipated Reads of 2012
2011: Closing down for end of year Festivus…
2010: Summary of Book Reviews from June-December 2009
2009: The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell

Powell's Indiespensable Book Club
Volume 56: City of Fire

Since 2008, Powell's Books of Portland, OR has run a book club/subscription service that sends a new, autographed hardcover book in a custom slipcase to its subscribers. Each mailing is accompanied with notes on the selected book and a surprise selection of extra items.

Volume 56's shipment was delayed due to changes in Powell's web platform. As an apology to subscribers, the box was free! That was a very special and greatly appreciated surprise.

CITY ON FIRE by Garth Risk Hallberg
New York City, 1976. Meet Regan and William Hamilton-Sweeney, estranged heirs to one of the city’s great fortunes; Keith and Mercer, the men who, for better or worse, love them; Charlie and Samantha, two suburban teenagers seduced by downtown’s punk scene; an obsessive magazine reporter and his idealistic neighbor—and the detective trying to figure out what any of them have to do with a shooting in Central Park on New Year’s Eve.
The mystery, as it reverberates through families, friendships, and the corridors of power, will open up even the loneliest-seeming corners of the crowded city. And when the blackout of July 13, 1977, plunges this world into darkness, each of these lives will be changed forever.
City on Fire is an unforgettable novel about love and betrayal and forgiveness, about art and truth and rock ’n’ roll: about what people need from each other in order to live . . . and about what makes the living worth doing in the first place.

One of the owners of the store I work at read this and LOVED it.  Other than that, I don't know much about the book, but it has a cool cover.  I love the shiny metallic red fireworks printed against the black background of the slipcover.  The book is autographed by the author on the title page.

As always, the book is accompanied by a little chap book containing a brief bio of Garth Risk Hallberg (a good-looking guy if his photo is to be believed) and an interview with him.  This unique touch is one of the things I simply LOVE about the Indiespensable subscription.

RANGER CHOCOLATE 73% Peru tumbes Chocolate Bar
This is a medium-sized chocolate bar, according to Powells.  Ranger Chocolate makes artisanal chocolates and caramels in Portland, OR, where Powells is headquartered.  They claim that their Peruvian cacao beans are organic and sourced directly from the farmers.  The chocolate is bitter but has a slight wine-y/fruity note.  It's nice enough but I wouldn't buy it again.

Unlike previous boxes, there's only the one book and one extra item - but hey, the box was free so I'm happy with anything I got.  CITY ON FIRE is a book I've been curious about, and since it's here in my hands I might actually read it in a timely manner.


Powell's Indiespensable subscription costs $39.95 per box. To learn more and check out books previously selected for subscribers, visit the Indiespensable page at Powell's Books.

Peeking into the archives...today in:
2013: Monsterology (Ologies #6) by Dr. Ernest Drake and Dugald Steer
2012: Showcase Presents: Ghosts Vol. 1 by Various
2011: Fashionista Piranha Book Blog on hold for a few weeks!
2010: Closing down for end of year Festivus...
2009: News: Stealing Books
2008: Book Group Expo: Where There's A Will: Shakespeare in the 21st Century

New Releases: December 15th, 2015

There aren't many new releases this week. Things get really quiet in the publishing world this time of year.


RICHARD III: A Ruler and His Reputation by David Horspool
With the discovery of Richard III's bones under a parking lot in Leicester, England, interest in this divisive and enigmatic figure in British history is at an all-time high. RICHARD III dispassionately examines the legend as well as the man to uncover both what we know of the life of Richard, and the way that his reputation has been formed and re-formed over centuries. But beyond simply his reputation, there is no dispute that the last Plantagenet is a pivotal figure in English history --- and David Horspool's biography chronicles this tumultuous time with flair. Biography


HOW IT WENT DOWN by Kekla Magoon
When sixteen-year-old Tariq Johnson dies from two gunshot wounds, his community is thrown into an uproar. Tariq was black. The shooter, Jack Franklin, is white. In the aftermath of Tariq's death, everyone has something to say, but no two accounts of the events line up. Day by day, new twists further obscure the truth. Young Adult

STORY THIEVES by James Riley
Life is boring when you live in the real world, instead of starring in your own book series. Owen knows that better than anyone, what with the real world’s homework and chores. But everything changes the day Owen sees the impossible happen---his classmate Bethany climb out of a book in the library. It turns out Bethany’s half-fictional and has been searching every book she can find for her missing father, a fictional character. Bethany can’t let anyone else learn her secret, so Owen makes her a deal: All she has to do is take him into a book in Owen’s favorite Kiel Gnomenfoot series, and he’ll never say a word. Besides, visiting the book might help Bethany find her father…Or it might just destroy the Kiel Gnomenfoot series, reveal Bethany’s secret to the entire world, and force Owen to live out Kiel Gnomenfoot’s final (very final) adventure. Children's Fantasy

The ZODIAC LEGACY #1: Convergence by Stuart Moore and Stan Lee with illustrations by Paris Cullins
When twelve magical superpowers are unleashed on the world, a Chinese-American teenager named Steven will be thrown into the middle of an epic global chase. He'll have to master strange powers, outrun super-powered mercenaries and unlock the mysterious powers of the Zodiac. Children's Fiction

Peeking into the archives...today in:
2013: Mythology (Ologies #5) by Lady Hestia Evans and Dugard Steer
2012: News: New Christian Andersen Fairy Tale Found!
2011: Fashionista Piranha Book Blog on hold for a few weeks!
2010: Closing down for end of year Festivus...
2009: The Emperors of Chocolate by Joel Glenn Brenner
2008: Guardian by Julius Lester

New Releases: December 8th, 2015


When 19-year-old Beatrice is brought to live at her uncle's court in Sicily to be a companion to his daughter, she first meets Benedick, a young soldier who is there with a Spanish lord on a month-long sojourn. As they begin to wage their war of wit, their words mask their deep love for one another. But the pair are cruelly parted by misunderstanding and slander. Heartbroken, Benedick sails to England on the ill-fated Spanish Armada. Beatrice returns to her home in the North and an unwanted betrothal. While Benedick must fight for his life on board ship, Beatrice fights for her freedom from an arranged marriage. Historical Fiction

THE MERMAN by Carl-Johan Vallgren
Nella and her brother, Robert, live a difficult life with their mother and father in a small town on the west coast of Sweden. Robert is bullied at school, and Nella has to resort to debt and petty crime to pay off his tormentors. When she turns to her friend, Tommy, for help, her suspicions are aroused by the mysterious comings and goings of his brothers at their dilapidated boat house. But when she uncovers the reason behind their enigmatic behavior, her life is opened to the realities of a mind-boggling secret. Fantasy

QUEEN VICTORIA’S MYSTERIOUS DAUGHTER: A Biography of Princess Louise by Lucinda Hawksley
The secrets of Queen Victoria's sixth child, Princess Louise, may be destined to remain hidden forever. What was so dangerous about this artistic, tempestuous royal that her life has been documented more by rumor and gossip than hard facts? When Lucinda Hawksley started to investigate, often thwarted by inexplicable secrecy, she discovered a fascinating woman, modern before her time, whose story has been shielded for years from public view. Biography

THE RELIC MASTER by Christopher Buckley
In a departure from his usual satires of Washington politics, Christopher Buckley turns to politics of a more medieval nature. In 1517, a former Swiss mercenary named Dismas sells holy relics to powerful clients who then use their purchases to sell indulgences to people hoping to shorten their stay in Purgatory. The sudden loss of his life savings forces Dismas to sell a forgery of Christ’s burial shroud --- a scheme that goes harrowingly wrong. Historical Fiction


CAPTIVE PARADISE: A History of Hawaii by James L. Haley
James L. Haley's CAPTIVE PARADISE is the story of King Kamehameha I, The Conqueror, who unified the islands through terror and bloodshed, but whose dynasty succumbed to inbreeding; of Gilded Age tycoons like Claus Spreckels, who brilliantly outmaneuvered his competitors; of firebrand Lorrin Thurston, who was determined that Hawaii be ruled by whites; and of President McKinley, who presided over the eventual annexation of the islands. History

HER BRILLIANT CAREER: Ten Extraordinary Women of the Fifties by Rachel Cooke
Rachel Cooke goes back in time to offer an entertaining and iconoclastic look at 10 women in the 1950s --- pioneers whose professional careers and complicated private lives helped to create the opportunities available to today's women. These plucky and ambitious individuals --- among them a film director, a cook, an architect, an editor, an archaeologist and a race car driver --- left the house, discovered the bliss of work, and ushered in the era of the working woman. Biography

IN THE COMPANY OF SHERLOCK HOLMES: Stories Inspired by the Holmes Canonedited by Laurie R. King and Leslie S. Klinger
The Sherlock Holmes stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle were recently voted as the top mystery series of all time. Now, Laurie R. King and Leslie S. Klinger have assembled a stellar group of contemporary authors from a variety of genres and asked them to create new stories inspired by that canon. Readers will find Holmes in times and places previously unimagined, as well as characters who themselves have been affected by the tales of Sherlock Holmes. Mystery

Instructions for the End of the World by Jamie Kain
When Nicole Reed's father forces her family to move to a remote area of the Sierra Foothills, one without any modern conveniences, it's too much too handle for her mother, who abandons them in the middle of the night. Heading out to track her down, Nicole's father leaves her in charge of taking care of the house and her younger sister, Izzy. For a while, Nicole is doing just fine running things on her own. But then the food begins to run out, the pipes crack, and forest fires start slowly inching their way closer every day. Wolf, a handsome boy from the neighboring community, offers to help her when she needs it most, but when she starts to develop feelings for him, feelings she knows she will never be allowed to act on once her father returns, she must make a decision. Young Adult

THE WILDERNESS OF RUIN: A Tale of Madness, Fire, and the Hunt for America's Youngest Serial Killer by Roseanne Montillo
In the early 1870s, local children begin disappearing from the working-class neighborhoods of Boston. Several return home bloody and bruised after being tortured, while others never come back. With the city on edge, authorities believe the abductions are the handiwork of a psychopath, until they discover that their killer --- 14-year-old Jesse Pomeroy --- is barely older than his victims. The criminal investigation that follows sparks a debate among the world’s most revered medical minds, and will have a decades-long impact on the judicial system and medical consciousness. True Crime

Peeking into the archives...today in:
2013: Cloaked in Red by Vivian Vande Velde
2012: Illusionology (Ologies #11) by Albert D. Schafer
2011: Uzumaki: Spiral Into Horror Vol. 2 by Junji Ito
2010: Writer's Block: Ready, Steady, Read
2009: Going on hiatus...
2008: Contest: Patrick Rothfuss and Heifer International

Review: The Nest by Kenneth Oppel

The Nest
by Kenneth Oppel

Something is wrong with Steve’s baby brother. His parents are constantly taking the newborn to the hospital, and whispered conversations Steve overhears indicate that even if the baby survives, his life will be difficult. One night, in a dream, an angel appears to Steve and offers to fix his brother. Steve can save his brother if he’ll only say “yes”, but something about the increasingly insectoid angel holds him back.

I can’t go too much into the plot without revealing major spoilers, but I’ll try to describe something of the atmosphere of the novel. Never straight-out frightening, The Nest unsettles the reader with every turn of the page. The narrator Steve isn’t entirely reliable. He reveals that he’s had certain psychological problems in the past that may color his interpretation of events. But even if his narrative isn’t entirely true – it’s left to the reader to determine its accuracy – Steve’s descriptions of enormous wasp-like creatures that communicate telepathically make my skin crawl.

As the “angels” release details about their plans to fix Steve’s brother, you begin to really sympathize with the boy. He feels completely isolated except for these extremely sympathetic and understanding wasps. They’re asking Steve to make major decisions that will affect his entire family, and any time he reaches out for help his parents think he’s acting up for attention or that his previous problems are returning.

This creepy middle grade novel will thrill fans of books like Coraline. While the story initially seems simple and straightforward, it is as layered as a wasps’ nest. It’s pleasingly complex and will make the reader uncomfortable, but it’s still suitable for children.

4.5 out of 5 stars

To read more about The Nest, buy it or add it to your wishlist click here.

Peeking into the archives...today in:
2014: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
2013: Beauty's Daughter by Carolyn Meyer
2012: Egyptology (Ologies #2) by Emily Sands and Dugald Steer
2011: Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld
2010: The Candidates (Delacroix Academy #1) by Inara Scott
2009: Going on hiatus...
2008: Company of Liars by Karen Maitland
The Girl on the Train
by Paula Hawkins

One of the hottest books of 2015, The Girl on the Train tells the story of Rachel, a commuter who rides the train past the same houses every day. At a signal stop, she always watches a particular family. She’s given the couple names – Jess and Jason - and imagined a wonderful, happy life for them. This picture-perfect creation of her imagination is ruined when she witnesses a shocking incident. When the wife is murdered soon after, Rachel realizes that she may hold the secret to uncovering the truth behind the woman’s death. But Rachel is an unreliable witness, an alcoholic with large gaps in her memory, a penchant for lying, and a troubled past. She may be doing more harm than good as she becomes entwined in the investigation, but the attention and the mystery is too addictive for Rachel to stop.

The story is told from the perspectives of three women: Rachel; Anna, the new wife of Rachel’s ex-husband, and Megan, the murdered woman. Their lives are all intimately connected and dominated by Tom, the ex-husband of Rachel, the father of Anna’s child, and the former employer of Megan. All three narrators are deeply flawed, hiding terrible secrets behind facades of domestic normalcy. It’s hard to like any of them.

Should I read a book populated by people I dislike? It’s an interesting question to me. If I’m consistently annoyed by the narrator(s), it does color my overall view of the story, usually in a negative way. Terrible things happen in The Girl on the Train, but it’s far less traumatizing when a small part of me thinks the women deserve it. But when I look a little deeper and appreciate the honesty of these women in laying out the worst aspects of their personalities and behaviors for scrutiny, I do find myself sympathizing. I think that very few of us would be flattered if forced to display the darker aspects of ourselves to the world, and while Rachel, Anna, and Megan all represent extreme examples there’s something recognizable in them.

The story is definitely dramatic and filled with tension. With a relatively small cast of characters, it quickly becomes obvious that the murderer must be someone the reader knows. I guessed early on who the killer was, and my hunch proved correct. The excitement came from wondering if Rachel would pull herself together long enough to make the connections, and if the others would listen to her. I wouldn’t say it ever reached the point where I couldn’t put the book down, but The Girl on the Train was an entertaining and dark psychological thriller. Knowing how hot that genre is at the moment, I can see why so many people picked this up and made the book one of the breakout stars of the year.

3.5 out of 5 stars

To read more about The Girl on the Train, buy it or add it to your wishlist click here.

Peeking into the archives...today in:
2014: Egg and Spoon by Gregory Maguire
2013: Happy Thanksgiving!
2012: News: Shopping For Pearls in a Bookstore?
2011: Clara and Mr. Tiffany by Susan Vreeland
2010: Happy Thanksgiving!
2009: Going on hiatus...
2008: What books are you hoping to receive during the holiday season?

New Releases: November 24th, 2015


BOYS IN THE TREES: A Memoir by Carly Simon
BOYS IN THE TREES reveals Carly Simon’s remarkable life, beginning with her storied childhood as the third daughter of Richard L. Simon, the co-founder of publishing giant Simon & Schuster. It was a childhood enriched by music and culture, but also one shrouded in secrets that eventually would tear her family apart. Simon captures moments of creative inspiration, the sparks of songs, and the stories behind writing "Anticipation" and "We Have No Secrets," among many others. Memoir

GRATITUDE by Oliver Sacks
No writer has succeeded in capturing the medical and human drama of illness as honestly and as eloquently as Oliver Sacks. During the last few months of his life, he wrote a set of essays in which he movingly explored his feelings about completing a life and coming to terms with his own death. “It is the fate of every human being,” Sacks writes, “to be a unique individual, to find his own path, to live his own life, to die his own death.” Together, these four essays form an ode to the uniqueness of each human being and to gratitude for the gift of life. Essays

Rules for 50/50 Chances by Kate McGovern
Seventeen-year-old Rose Levenson has a decision to make: Does she want to know how she's going to die? Because when Rose turns eighteen, she can take the test that tells her if she carries the genetic mutation for Huntington's disease, the degenerative condition that is slowly killing her mother. With a fifty-fifty shot at inheriting her family's genetic curse, Rose is skeptical about pursuing anything that presumes she'll live to be a healthy adult --- including her dream career in ballet and the possibility of falling in love. But when she meets a boy from a similarly flawed genetic pool and gets an audition for a dance scholarship across the country, Rose begins to question her carefully laid rules. Young Adult

Warren the 13th and The All-Seeing Eye by Tania del Rio and Will Staehle
Meet Warren the 13th, a cursed 12-year-old Victorian bellhop who’s terribly unlucky...yet perpetually optimistic, hard-working, and curious. Orphan Warren’s pride and joy is his family’s hotel, but he’s been miserable ever since his evil Aunt Anaconda took over the management. Anaconda believes a mysterious treasure known as the All-Seeing Eye is hidden somewhere on the grounds, and she’ll do anything to find it. If Warren wants to preserve his family’s legacy, he’ll need to find the treasure first --- if the hotel’s many strange and wacky guests don’t beat him to it! Children’s Fiction


In the ruins of a future America, 15-year-old Ice Cream Star and her nomadic tribe live off of the detritus of a crumbled civilization. Before reaching the age of 20, they all die of a mysterious disease. When her brother begins showing signs of the disease, Ice Cream Star sets off on a bold journey to find a cure. Led by a stranger, a captured prisoner named Pasha who becomes her devoted protector and friend, Ice Cream Star plunges into the unknown, risking her freedom and ultimately her life. Dystopian Thriller

POSITIVE by David Wellington
The tattooed plus sign on Finnegan's hand marks him as a Positive. At any time, the zombie virus could explode in his body, turning him from a rational human into a ravenous monster. If he reaches his 21st birthday without an incident, he'll be cleared. Until then, he must go to a special facility for positives. But when the military caravan transporting him is attacked, Finn becomes separated. To make it to safety, he must embark on a perilous cross-country journey across an America transformed. Horror

Peeking into the archives...today in:
2013: The Small Hand and Dolly: Two Novels by Susan Hill
2012: Isle of 100,000 Graves by Jason
2011: Another little break for school...
2010: The Ghost in the Tokaido Inn by Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler
2009: Going on hiatus...
2008: Coolest Package Ever From Makers of 'Coraline'!

Review: The Witches by Stacy Schiff

The Witches: Salem, 1692
by Stacy Schiff

In 1692, during the bitter cold of winter, a minister’s daughter complains that she is being tormented. The diagnosis? A witch must be afflicting her. Soon other girls are complaining of being pinched and poked. They writhe in agony and scream in horror as shades and specters swirl around them. Soon accusations begin to fly against neighbors, spouses, parents, and children. The prisons swell as witches are arrested and held for trial. In an odd twist, confessed witches are allowed to live while those who refuse to admit their guilt are hanged. As panic spreads, the accusations increase. Before a year has gone by, the madness has ended, but not before twenty people lost their lives.

The notorious Salem witch trials are brought to life once again under the vibrant pen of Stacy Schiff. I think people who typically find history books boring would be pleasantly surprised. Schiff writes this almost like a thriller, very taut and full of suspense. The account is also very straightforward, and describes the politics of the era very thoroughly so that readers can understand the jockeying for power that accompanied the trial.

What the biography does not do – and perhaps what it never could do – is enlighten the reader about the personalities of the possessed girls or the accused witches. Trial transcripts tend to be spotty and subject to distortion, as the men who recorded the events were not bound to be impartial or journalistic in their approach. New England records from the time are also curiously sparse. Women were rarely prominent in the records before and after 1692, so other than a few notes in family genealogies and church records very little is known about their lives. Since there’s no way to know what set these women off or what they thought of the events afterwards, the events always remain somewhat distant.

The great question of “Why did this happen?” is never definitively answered, either. Several explanations that have been proposed over the years are presented, and it’s possible that all of these things were contributing factors to the Salem events. My conclusion, which I assume was Schiff’s as well, is that it’s impossible to know. Too much information was never recorded, or has been lost in the centuries since the witch trials.

3.5 out of 5 stars

To read more about The Witches, buy it or add it to your wishlist click here.

Peeking into the archives...today in:
2013: The Iron Traitor (Iron Fey #6/Call of the Forgotten #2) by Julie Kagawa
2012: Bibliomat: Book Vending Machine
2011: Another little break for school!
2010: The Virgin Widow by Anne O'Brien
2009: Doodle of the Day: Twilight
2008: Babylonne by Catherine Jinks

New Releases: November 17th, 2015


YOUNG ELIZABETH: The Making of the Queen by Kate Williams
We can hardly imagine a Britain without Elizabeth II on the throne. It seems to be the job she was born for. And yet, for much of her early life, the young princess did not know the role that her future would hold. Kate Williams reveals how the 25-year-old young queen carved out a lasting role for herself amid the changes of the 20th century. Her monarchy would be a very different one to that of her parents and grandparents, and its continuing popularity in the 21st century owes much to the intelligence and elusive personality of this remarkable woman. Biography

BEATLEBONE by Kevin Barry
It is 1978, and John Lennon has escaped New York City to try to find the island off the west coast of Ireland he bought nine years prior. Leaving behind domesticity, his approaching 40s, his inability to create and his memories of his parents, he sets off to find calm in the comfortable silence of isolation. But when he puts himself in the hands of a shape-shifting driver full of Irish charm and dark whimsy, what ensues can only be termed a magical mystery tour. Fiction

YOUNG ORSON: The Years of Luck and Genius on the Path to Citizen Kane by Patrick McGilligan
In the history of American popular culture, there is no more dramatic story --- no swifter or loftier ascent to the pinnacle of success and no more tragic downfall --- than that of Orson Welles. In this biography, Patrick McGilligan brings young Orson into focus as never before. He chronicles Welles’ early life growing up in Wisconsin and Illinois as the son of an alcoholic industrialist and a radical suffragist and classical musician, and the magical early years of his career, including his marriage and affairs, his influential friendships and his artistic collaborations. Biography


THE ART OF THE ENGLISH MURDER: From Jack the Ripper and Sherlock Holmes to Agatha Christie and Alfred Hitchcock by Lucy Worsley
Murder --- a dark, shameful deed, the last resort of the desperate or a vile tool of the greedy. And a very strange, very English obsession. But where did this fixation develop? And what does it tell us about ourselves? From Jack the Ripper and Sherlock Holmes to the cosy crimes of the Golden Age, renowned historian Lucy Worsley explores the evolution of the traditional English murder --- and reveals why we are so fascinated by this sinister subject. History / True Crime

Deep below the University, there is a dark place. Few people know of it: a broken web of ancient passageways and abandoned rooms. A young woman lives there, tucked among the sprawling tunnels of the Underthing, snug in the heart of this forgotten place. Her name is Auri, and she is full of mysteries. THE SLOW REGARD OF SILENT THINGS is a brief, bittersweet glimpse of Auri’s life, a small adventure all her own. Fantasy

Peeking into the archives...today in:
2014: News: R. A. Montgomery dies at 78
2013: Far Far Away by Tom McNeal
2012: A Needle in the Right Hand of God by R. Howard Bloch
2011: Another little break for school…
2010: Nightshade by Andrea Cremer
2009: Doodle of the Day: Twilight
2008: Monarchy Mania Giveaway Winners

Latest Month

January 2016


RSS Atom


Powered by LiveJournal.com
Designed by Tiffany Chow