Mini Reviews: Mary Poppins, Dreaming Anastasia

I’m beginning to really like doing these mini-reviews. Though am thinking about reformatting the images that come along with the minis. Maybe when I find myself with time in my hands, I suppose!

I never actually read any of the Mary Poppins books when I was a kid, so I was weened off of the Disney movie that the author deplored. That said, I mean, it takes a special kind of person to dislike the casting of Dame Julie Andrews…buuuut I can see where she was going with things, I suppose. (I still love Julie Andrews so whatever.)

Dreaming Anastasia was something that landed on my lap for Fableulous Retellings so this was definitely something I needed to read. I mean, I wasn’t expecting much from it, but I do love Anastasia and the Baba Yaga folk tales, so I thought this would have been a classic love-hate relationship? It totally was.

Have you read either of these? What did you think?

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Long Tails and Ears for Hats || Josie and the Pussycats Review

Initial Thoughts: 

This brings me back to a lot of the pop culture I grew up with, and now I’ve got the theme tune stuck in my head and it will not go away. The artwork is fantastic! I loved the numerous pop culture references, puns, and fourth wall breakage (it reminded me of the irreverence and parodic style of Ouran High School Host Club), but it did have the tendency to get out of hand. If things pick up in plot in later issues, it would be even awesomer!


JOSIE AND THE PUSSYCATS, VOL. 1

by Marguerite Bennett, Cameron DeOrdio, and Audrey Mok (illustrator)
Archie Comic Publications, June 2017
Graphic novel
Rated: 4 / 5 cookies

Friends, countrymen, lend me your long tails and ears for hats–the Pussycats are back! In this series kick-off, Josie’s getting the band together to help achieve her dreams of musical stardom. But for the group to last, it needs a strong foundation of friendship and trust. Can the girls get going, or will Alexandra Cabot’s plotting put a stop to the whole thing? Don’t miss comics’ supreme songstresses’ return to the limelight in this exciting first volume!

I will let you know right now that this review is completely biased. I grew up reading old Archie comics and watching Hanna-Barbera cartoons on Saturday mornings. When the live-action movie came out in 2001, I watched the heck out of that, too. (I am unashamed to say I enjoyed the movie, and it wasn’t just because the music–sung by Letters to Cleo vocalist Kay Hanley–was toe-tapping addicting!)

I still have my meager collection of the comics! I…am somewhat surprised these are still in decent condition…

So yeah. I’m biased when it comes to Josie and the Pussycats. And when I found this volume at the library, I eagerly read it and quietly fangirled at the fact that the sassy cat-band got makeovers–and mostly for the better!

Josie and the Pussycats is a rebooted take on the 1960s comic and this first volume pretty much covers the origin story of the band. It focuses–obviously–on Josie, Valerie, and Melody, three young ladies who come together to make sweet, sweet music. The volume also brings in familiar characters from the original set, including the Cabot siblings and of course Alan M.

What I loved about this reboot was the fact that the three girls had a bit more depth to them, and Melody’s entire “dumb blonde” persona gets replaced with a geeky, though still-bubbly nerd, and honestly, she’s cute as a button this way. Josie herself isn’t the perfect band leader, either, and it’s her faults–and amusing quips that got me to like her. And honestly, I’ve always liked Val, so there’s that.

The volume was certainly energetic, fun, and amusing to read. It paid homage to the original as well as added in some fourth wall breakage, puns up the wazoo, and pop culture references that made me giggle because I knew them all (some of them were from the ’90s okay?! Definitely one of the best decades ever). It’s definitely something light to read, and if you were looking for some deep insight into life, the universe, and everything, Josie and the Pussycats is definitely not the right direction to go to. Frankly, that’s probably why I loved this volume; it didn’t take itself seriously, and I was in the mood for that.

4 out of 5 cookies! Also, now I’ve got the 2001 movie’s songs stuck in my head. #noshame


Have you read this book? What did you think?

Mini Reviews: Beastkeeper, Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

More TL:DRs for ya! After these mini-reviews, I’m actually pretty caught up with my reading list. Thank goodness for that!

Beastkeeper has been on my reading list for a while now, and while it didn’t make the Fableulous Retellings podcast discussion, it was still an interesting take on the Beauty and the Beast tale.

I actually watched The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society on Netflix and found the movie interesting enough that I wanted to read the book it was based off of. I hadn’t actually known that the book would be in the form of letters. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though! I actually loved the epistolary novels I’ve read before, so this was a pleasant read.

Have you read either of these books? What did you think?

Murder Most High || The Dazzling Heights Review

Initial Thoughts:

Okay. OKAY. This was actually much better than the last book even with all the random ass drama going around. I will admit I was ready to chuck my speakers out (yes I had this as an audiobook) during all the teacher drama but I calmed down when I realized Rylin had a decent head on her shoulders. The girl death was kind of lackluster though, and could have benefited from more narrative on her part. But more on that later.
SPOILER WARNING: The Dazzling Heights is the second book of the The Thousandth Floor trilogy, so expect spoilers from the first book and possibly some spoilers in this next one.


THE DAZZLING HEIGHTS

by Katharine McGee
HarperCollins, August 2017
YA science fiction
Rated: 3.5 / 5 cookies

New York City, 2118. Manhattan is home to a thousand-story supertower, a breathtaking marvel that touches the sky. But amid high-tech luxury and futuristic glamour, five teenagers are keeping dangerous secrets…

Leda is haunted by memories of what happened on the worst night of her life. She’ll do anything to make sure the truth stays hidden—even if it means trusting her enemy.

Watt just wants to put everything behind him…until Leda forces him to start hacking again. Will he do what it takes to be free of her for good?

When Rylin wins a scholarship to an upper-floor school, her life transforms overnight. But being there also means seeing the boy whose heart she broke, and who broke hers in return.

Avery is tormented by her love for the one person in the world she can never have. She’s desperate to be with him…no matter the cost.

And then there’s Calliope, the mysterious, bohemian beauty who arrives in New York determined to cause a stir. And she knows exactly where to begin.

But unbeknownst to them all, someone is watching their every move, someone with revenge in mind. After all, in a world of such dazzling heights, just one wrong step can mean a devastating fall.

I’ll have to hand it to McGee, she knows how to put attention-grabbing passages to good use. I really wanted to know what would happen after the death in the first book, and then another one in this one? Oh yeah, definitely curious. There is a morbid fascination I have to this book and it has drama written all over it.

I did like this book a lot more than the previous one, even though some people *coughAVERYcough* still annoyed the hell out of me. I still have major issues with the whole more-than-brother-sister relationship Avery and Atlas harbor throughout this book. BUT. At least one of them has a modicum of sense by the end of the book. Hint: It’s not Avery, that’s for sure. And honestly, that story was the least interesting. I wonder if there’ll ever be an Atlas POV, though. The fact that he’s such a babe magnet is beyond me, because as Bryce put it, he’s kinda vanilla other than the whole “in-love-with-my-sister” issue. I’d love to see more flavor injected in him, and maybe a POV would fix that.

In other news, things heat up with Leda and Watt, and while I faced this mostly with great amusement (because YES, WATT, let’s make nice with the girl who practically rufied you in the first book…THIS IS TOTALLY NOT OKAY BTW), I am kind of feeling this relationship. It’s almost as toxic as the beginnings of the Blair-Chuck relationship until even that blossomed to something amazing. I’m hoping for something along those lines, because I really liked the interaction they had, especially with Watt being amusing and all. Also, Nadia. I want Nadia in my head, too, if she’s gonna be the voice of sass and sometimes reason.

Dammit, every. Single. Time. It’s a vicious cycle of wanting to watch this show when I bring it up!

I worried over Rylin a lot once she started going to school with the Highliers, and I was definitely sent into a bit of a panic when the whole teacher drama thing started. I’ve been watching Pretty Little Liars recently, and lawdiedee, I was going to flip out if the whole “sexy teacher sleeps with a student” thing was going to go down again. I’m so over this sickening trope, and honestly, the minute my audiobook got to the bit where that skivvy over-confident douchenozzle lip-locked with Rylin, I was prepared to chuck my speakers out the classroom door. (The irony is that I was listening to this AS I WAS CLEANING UP MY CLASSROOM AND OH GOD THE IMAGES ARE DISGUSTING.) All that said, I am hopeful that she’ll make the right choices. I am also a lot hopeful that Cord will snap out of it and do his thing before Rylin well and truly gets snatched up by someone more appropriate.

JUST DO IT CORD.

An addition to the bunch of conniving drama-addled characters is Calliope, whose name isn’t actually Calliope, because she’s a con-woman along with her mother. Frankly, I’m not exactly sure what she adds to the story, because the revelation she finds at the end of the book wasn’t anything new or groundbreaking. Honestly, Watt and Leda had that covered by the end of The Thousandth Floor, and Calliope was, in all respects, a superfluous character. To be honest, we could have gleaned a bit more out of Mariel’s character if they had more of her POV littered in the book. Especially since it was kind of silly to have her show up in the beginning, and then nothing for the longest time until the very end. While I did like Calliope’s narrative tone–she kind of reminded me of a British-speaking Georgina Sparks (from GG of course), all there to make trouble but easily able to disappear from the plot without making any major ripples.

I’ve come to love Georgina after a while…but again, she wasn’t really all important in the grand scheme of things.

So yeah, the drama level is still high up there, and while some were cringe-worthy and overly-dramatic, others actually pick up to become riveting. I would definitely like to finish this trilogy.
3.5 out of 5 cookies!


Have you read this book? What did you think?

A Light at the End || Ruin and Rising Review

Initial Thoughts: 

Well hot damn. From my thoughts about the last book, I honestly didn’t think I’d be won over so well and truly with the love story that became super pervasive in all three books. I mean. I GET that it had to happen, because where would the poetry be that tied all three books together? What I didn’t get, until now, was that it FITS. I get it now. I understand this ending.

And hot damn. That didn’t make it any better. I still cried for all the loss. I still cried for Aleksander. And I totally blame Bardugo for making me an emotional wreck throughout this entire book.

WARNING: This is the third book of the Grisha trilogy, so expect spoilers from the first two books, and possible spoilers for the third book (because how could I NOT talk about the shit that happens in this third book…).


RUIN AND RISING

by Leigh Bardugo
Square Fish, June 2017
YA fantasy, romance
Rated: 5/5 cookies

The capital has fallen.

The Darkling rules Ravka from his shadow throne.

Now the nation’s fate rests with a broken Sun Summoner, a disgraced tracker, and the shattered remnants of a once-great magical army.

Deep in an ancient network of tunnels and caverns, a weakened Alina must submit to the dubious protection of the Apparat and the zealots who worship her as a Saint. Yet her plans lie elsewhere, with the hunt for the elusive firebird and the hope that an outlaw prince still survives.

Alina will have to forge new alliances and put aside old rivalries as she and Mal race to find the last of Morozova’s amplifiers. But as she begins to unravel the Darkling’s secrets, she reveals a past that will forever alter her understanding of the bond they share and the power she wields. The firebird is the one thing that stands between Ravka and destruction—and claiming it could cost Alina the very future she’s fighting for.

I will admit I went into this last book apprehensive and a bit afraid of what I was going to find at the end of it. Like many trilogies I’ve read, I normally go between loving the conclusion and wishing I’d just stuck to the first book because I was fine with how it ended then. This is probably one of the reasons why I am not so quick (okay, code for “I suck at”) to pick up a sequel or a continuation of a series. To me, standalones are still awesome.

But Bardugo spared no punches in this book. Ruin and Rising quite possibly beat out Shadow and Bone as my favorite of the trilogy, and I say this grudgingly because not only does it show one of my favorite characters in quite possibly the lowest point in his life, but it also slightly humanizes one of the worst villains ever. It was both painful and sad to read, and yet…

Hell, I read this whole book in two sittings. That’s got to be the record to beat this year. (This may not be a big deal for many readers, but again…I READ LIKE A TURTLE OKAY.)

The book pretty much follows a couple of months after Alina goes underground. Imprisoned by the Apparat in the White Cathedral, Alina is still recovering from a deadly battle that had occurred between her and the Darkling at the end of Siege and Storm. Unfortunately, with Alina mortally wounded, the royals of Ravka missing/possibly dead, and all but 12 of the Grisha Second Army decimated, it comes as no surprise that the Darkling has taken his rule over a ruined Os Alta. Already the situation is bleak, so it stands to reason that things can only get better, right?

Wrong. So, so wrong. If anything, things could possibly stand to get even worse. AND IT DOES.

But let me not dwell too much on the horrible bits and get to some of the lighter things I enjoyed about this book. (Hah, lighter things…)

“You are on your knees,” I said. “We are not negotiating.”

His lips thinned, but after a moment, he dipped his chin in assent.

Alina is definitely sassier now. I love this change in her. I love that it’s a continuing process. She went from a girl I had no patience for, to someone I respected. Yes, this comes in the territory of having great power, and in my mind, as I read the story, I was pretty sure there was going to be a way to nix Alina by the end. Alina was a special snowflake at the beginning, but to be honest, I ceased thinking of her as one because she definitely worked at being the person that she is by Ruin and Rising.

“I’ve never understood this taste for otkazat’sya. Is it because you thought you were one of them for so long?”

“I had a taste for you, once.” His head snapped up. He hadn’t expected that. Saints, it was satisfying.

And honestly, someone who could say that confidently to a man that constantly dogged her throughout Siege and Storm and Shadow and Bone deserves every respect.

Which brings me to the matter with the Darkling. What I loved about this trilogy is that Bardugo created a villain that had gone so far that redemption–if there is to be any–is absolutely unfeasible. In the first book, the Darkling was someone I sympathized with (I do have a weakness for Tall, Dark, Handsomes after all…). In the second, I cringed with disappointment because holy hell, Darkles, did you have to do that to Genya and Baghra?! By the third book, I knew–and I was ready to see–that the Darkling was too far gone into the Dark Side. Darth Vader would be proud. Erm. Wrong fandom, I get it.

And yet…Bardugo still found a way to humanize him. She gave him a name. My copy of the damn book includes a short story prelude to the entire trilogy. (Which I haven’t read, because I’m still emotionally scarred and I am not ready to cry some more over someone who completely broke bad). She gave him a heartbreaking backstory. By the end of it, as much as I agreed with how it ended, I still sympathized with a lonely boy who thought the only way to belong was to forge a new world where everyone could belong. Best intentions…but again, not the way to go about things, Darkles.

Oh god. The Darkling IS Walter WHITE. IT ALL MAKES SENSE NOW.

(I won’t get into the thing with Baghra…I’m still crying over the thing with Baghra. I don’t think my sorrow over Baghra is ever going to get better.)

There’s poetry in the romance. In my review of Siege, I’d mentioned that I was not really seeing the ship that was clearly Bardugo’s endgame. I still saw Mal and Alina as mismatched, Mal constantly does a 180-turn in his personality (and he does this again in this book), and Alina–as strong as she’d become–is still hung up over a boy she’d grown up with. The love story itself does flesh itself out in this book, and the twist that concerns Mal kind of adds to the drama by the end, but all in all, I thought the resolution regarding Alina and Mal’s relationship was done well. It’s honestly not my preference, but to each her own.

“Toss him over,” Zoya said. “Break his heart cruelly. I will gladly give our poor prince comfort, and I would make a magnificent queen.”

Frankly, I rather agree with Zoya. Might have to do with that Lantsov emerald, NOT GONNA LIE.

But it mostly has to do with how much I loved this book with Nikolai in my life.

“I saw the prince when I was in Os Alta,” said Ekaterina. “He’s not bad looking.”

“Not bad looking?” said another voice. “He’s damnably handsome.”

Luchenko scowled. “Since when–”

“Brave in battle, smart as a whip…An excellent dancer…Oh, and an even better shot.”

Like Siege and Storm, I was always riveted by bits where the Lantsov prince walks into the scene. He always comes off with flair, and even in his darkest moments (and ohhhh boy, did those send me in a tizzy), there is still that bit of hope I had that he would eventually get through.

(It did, however, help that I knew he’d be around for the sequels–hell, there’s a duology about him coming up and I cannot WAIT.)

“You never know,” said Nikolai. “I’ve been busy. I might have some surprises in store for the Darkling yet.”

“Please tell me you plan to dress up as a volcra and jump out of a cake.”

Oh gods. I just realized the foreshadowing in that quote.

“There’s not much to do underground besides train.”

“I can think of a few more interesting ways to spend one’s time.”

“Is that supposed to be innuendo?”

“What a filthy mind you have. I was referring to puzzles and the perusal of edifying texts.”

But yes, without Nikolai, I don’t think I would have read this book faster than I did.

5 out of 5 cookies! Honestly, Alina’s story could not have been tied up better, and as much as I would have loved to see her feature more in later books, I think this poor girl needs a rest. I’m mostly ready for Genya and David and Zoya to rock out in their new roles. And I’m most definitely ready to see Ravka flourish under its new king.


Did you read this book? What did you think?