by velocibadgergirl

Monday, August 11, 2014

Review / giveaway: Blackfin Sky by Kat Ellis

What if, on a normal morning, everyone reacted to you with shock and horror, insisting that you died three months ago? Died, as in fell off a pier and drowned? Died, as in they saw your coffin lowered into the ground? Author Kat Ellis explores this horrifying premise in her debut thriller, BLACKFIN SKY.

Blackfin is a small, insular town where newcomers are rare and odd things happen. Even so, residents wonder how Skylar Rousseau could return when she had seemed to drown on her 16th birthday. Sky remembers the last three months living her life as normal, which means she has no idea whose body is buried underneath her tombstone.

Everyone seems reluctant to help except her steadfast friend and crush, Sean . . . and a secretive man who draws her to a mysterious circus in the woods.

It is easy for readers to lose themselves in the magic of Blackfin, where weathervanes are inhabited by ghosts and fortune-tellers can be found in foreboding, walled-off forests. The sincere voices of Sky and the friends and family who love her ground the mystery in a story that is, at its heart, about protecting the people you love. A little bit The Night Circus and a little bit Wake, BLACKFIN SKY spins a unique magic of its own.

I quite enjoyed the story of Sky, a girl who maybe or maybe didn't die on her sixteenth birthday, only to return three months later. I was a little slow to get into it at the very first, I think because the overall voice of the book is very young, but it didn't take long before I was caught up in the mystery. The setting was richly created and fun to explore, the main characters believable and likable. I especially liked Sky, her dad, and her friend/boyfriend Sean. In a story involving some time-travel, magic, and interdimensional shenanigans, the most unbelievable part of the plot for me was that Skylar never hopped on Google to investigate the story of her family's past or the mysterious burned-down circus in the woods. It's clearly a pretty modern story based on the characters texting each other, so I remain skeptical that a teenager wouldn't immediately turn to the internet to snoop around for facts. She doesn't even google her own obituary. Other than that, though, I bought in and found the story fun, at times creepy, and containing a pleasing amount of suspense. There were a few twists I didn't see coming, and I'm usually an ace twist-predictor. Overall, I'd definitely recommend Blackfin Sky for fans of magical realism, mystery, or books that are a little different. I can't tell if the ending is setting us up for a sequel or just keeping the mystery alive...either way, this was a good read.

If you'd like a chance to win a copy of Blackfin Sky for yourself, leave a comment here by 11:59 PM on Wednesday, August 20th.

DISCLOSURE:  I received two ARCs of Blackfin Sky to review and giveaway. Other than the italicized writeup at the beginning, the words and opinions in this review are my own.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

books we love (ages 11 months and 4 years)

I use Grammarly's plagiarism checker because I have a four-year-old and I repeat myself a lot. A LOT.

I haven't done a kid book recommendation post in a long while and thought it might be fun to do another now that Nico is older.

Elliott, almost 11 months, likes:

1. Indestructibles books

Since Elliott chews on everything, I wanted to find him some books he couldn't eat. Someone on Twitter recommended these and they are great! He got Wiggle! March!, Creep! Crawl! and Flutter! Fly! for Christmas. The illustrations are really beautiful and they really are chew-proof, drool-proof, and rip-proof.

2. Barnyard Bath

Any bath book would do, but this one is particularly cute. I love Sandra Boynton's books.

3. V Tech Storytime Rhyme book

He got the non-pink version of this for Christmas and while it's probably a stretch to call it a book, he does like it a lot. And it's book-like and non-eatable.

4. Sassy Baby's First Books set

Standard baby's first books, but very cute.

5. baby's first words book

This was Nico's first favorite book so I got it out and started reading it to Elliott at bedtime. He likes to turn the pages and give the picture of the baby a big smooch. It's painfully cute.

Nico, age four, likes:

1. anything with Pete the Cat

I don't know how I was unaware of Pete the Cat before I encountered him at Nico's preschool, but Pete is pretty rad. And man, the kids LOVE him. We put Pete the Cat Saves Christmas in the book exchange for the class Christmas party and when it was opened the whole class hollered, "IT'S PETE THE CAT!"

2. Diggers Go by Steve Light

We got this book from the library and then maxed out our renewals after Nico fell in love with it. So now he has his own and reads it with MB every night before bed.

3. Just Me and My Little Brother by Mercer Mayer

Nico got this for Christmas and he loves it. At the end he always says, "His brother is a baby just like my little brother!"

4. Seedlings series of construction equipment books by Aaron Frisch

These have really nice photos and they aren't overly wordy. I generally don't mind wordy construction equipment books (and goodness knows we've read plenty), but these are nice and short and perfect for bedtime.

5. Stomp Dinosaur Stomp by Margaret Mayo

This one is a long-time favorite and we both still love it.

Disclosure: this post was sponsored by Grammarly. I will receive an Amazon gift card in exchange for including a blurb selected by Grammarly. The rest of the content is my own.

Books Read in 2014

A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly

Takedown Twenty by Janet Evanovich

Total books read:  2

Friday, June 28, 2013


10 kick-ass secret passage bookshelves


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Books Read in 2013

Let it Snowby John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle

Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan

Wild: from Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed

Slow Getting Up: a Story of NFL Survival from the Bottom of the Pile by Nate Jackson

The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater

Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma

Keeping the Castle by Patrice Kindl

The Brides of Rollrock Island by Margo Lanagan

Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things by Randy O Frost and Gail Steketee

The Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale

Odd & the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Hidden America by Jeanne Marie Laskas

A Curse Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C Bunce

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion

Notorious Nineteen by Janet Evanovich

Graveminder by Melissa Marr

Total:  17

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Eye Candy

El ateneo jpg
More of the world's 20 most beautiful bookstores can be found here.

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Monday, April 30, 2012

Unholy Night by Seth Grahame-Smith

This book caught my eye at Barnes & Noble because of the cover, and the flap copy intrigued me: "They're an iconic part of history's most celebrated birth. But what do we really know about the Three Kings of the Nativity, besides the fact that they followed a star to Bethlehem bearing strange gifts? The Bible has little to say about this enigmatic trio. But leave it to Seth Grahame-Smith, the brilliant and twisted mind behind Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies to take a little mystery, bend a little history, and weave an epic tale.

In Grahame-Smith's telling, the so-called "Three Wise Men" are infamous thieves, led by the dark, murderous Balthazar. After a daring escape from Herod's prison, they stumble upon the famous manger and its newborn king. The last thing Balthazar needs is to be slowed down by young Joseph, Mary and their infant. But when Herod's men begin to slaughter the first born in Judea, he has no choice but to help them escape to Egypt.

It's the beginning of an adventure that will see them fight the last magical creatures of the Old Testament; cross paths with biblical figures like Pontius Pilate and John the Baptist; and finally deliver them to Egypt. It may just be the greatest story never told."

Balthazar is a fantastic character and hooked me right away, but he begins the book as a steadfast nonbeliever. The premise of the book is such that one can assume Balthazar will eventually have to accept that the baby he's traveling with is actually the son of God, and I was worried that there would be a big treacly condescending and literal come-to-Jesus moment. I was pleasantly surprised in that while the inevitable moment did come to pass, it wasn't in-your-face or overdone. I have always loved clever historical fiction (or "dark historical revisionism" in this case) so even though I'm not a religious person by any stretch of anyone's imagination, I really liked this book. If I was more current on my Bible knowledge I might have been less surprised by some of the twists and turns, and I couldn't honestly tell you which parts were based on the Bible and which were the author's additions. Even though the eventual escape of the baby Jesus (who is never actually named in the book) and his parents is pretty much assured, there were scenes where I was kind of on the edge of my seat, wondering how they were going to get away.

There are some scenes that are extremely difficult to read, though none of them were really unexpected. I would say that if you're interested in the book but sensitive to violence against children, you'll want to skim through the slaughter of the innocents in Bethlehem (only one graphic death, but it's truly horrible), and the part where Balthazar's missing brother is finally explained. I feel like the book is good enough and well-written enough that the violent parts shouldn't be a deal breaker unless you just absolutely can't abide violence in your reading. Though they're a bit more graphic than I'd prefer, none are offered up lightly or for cheap shock, and they all seem pretty integral to the plot. The book probably deserves more than this quick and dirty review, but I don't want to give anything away. This was probably my favorite book of the year so far, and I don't want to spoil it for anyone who might give it a shot.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Books Read in 2012

Dodger by Terry Pratchett

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Odd Apocalypse by Dean Koontz

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin

Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr

Paper Towns by John Green

Girl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake

How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr

Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Wicked Business by Janet Evanovich

The Next Best Thing by Jennifer Weiner

The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter

Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith

American Canopy: The Role of Trees in the Shaping of a Nation by Eric Rutkow

Let's Pretend This Never Happened: a mostly true memoir by Jenny Lawson

Unholy Night by Seth Grahame-Smith

The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt: a novel in pictures by Caroline Preston

Spindle's End by Robin McKinley

Growgirl: how my life after the Blair Witch Project went to pot by Heather Donahue

Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed by Carl Zimmer

The Word Made Flesh: Literary Tattoos from Bookworms Worldwide by Eva Talmadge & Justin Taylor

How to Get Divorced by 30: My Misguided Attempt at a Starter Marriage by Sascha Rothchild

Silence by Becca Fitzpatrick

Total:  25