Rachel Hartman
Random House, 2012

Dragons and people. Not exactly a match made in heaven. Something about the whole "big-as-a-building" and "fire-breathing" aspects of dragonhood makes them fairly scary - or at least a major security threat. But the kingdom of Goredd has made peace of sorts with the dragons, many of whom now live among them in human form (marked by silver bells worn at the shoulder). It's a relationship that works, but is not without tension - especially as the anniversary of the treaty approaches, and with it the (dragon) General's state visit. Among all the intrigue and drama surrounding the upcoming visit, there's another level of mystery: Seraphina.

Seraphina is an amazingly talented musician, with a mysterious, secretive past. Despite trying to maintain a very low profile and avoid attention - even positive attention - that might draw inquiring minds to questions best left unexplored, Seraphina finds herself in the heart of the investigation surrounding the suspicious murder of one of the royal family. Working closely with the Queen's Guard, Prince Lucian, Seraphina begins to walk a fine line between providing much needed assistance and insight and telling too much of her truth. It's a complicated dance, and one that only increases in tension and danger. Soon, Seraphina's secret becomes known - as everything else also becomes clear, and the Queen (and the rest of the royal family) find that things are so very different from what they appeared.

An engrossing and complex read, Seraphina is a stunning debut. I loved the handling of the dragons, and their ability to shift in and out of human form. In spite of dragons being "emotionless," they add a delightfully snarky touch at times - and, some at least, have a stunningly golden heart. There's depth and mystery. I for one had no idea who the culprit was until the end. There's all sorts of tension - but the good kind, that keeps you reading, and makes you pick sides and start cheering for characters. And then there's Seraphina, who goes through so much on a personal level, before emerging a much stronger and more complete character. I'm definitely looking forward to the next installment, seeing where this wild story goes - there's certainly much potential for excitement and drama!

Book provided by my local library.


The Karmic Connection

The Karmic Connection
Libby Mercer

The author of Unmasking Maya is back with another fun, fast "rom com"-esque read that will have you chuckling and sighing by spells. Our two main characters, Adam and Lorraine, are as different as night and day, and when their paths cross at Luna Wellness Center -- well, sparks fly, to say the least.

Adam is an intense, highly-focused (*cough*workaholic*cough*) young professional, who finds himself the unwitting victim of a forced vacation/retreat at Luna Wellness Center. Luna, a holistic wellness retreat center way, way out in the sticks, is the last place Adam wants to be. He's stripped of phone, internet, computer and all work-related privileges, and is forced to keep company with a wide variety of colorful "hippie" characters. And then there's Lorraine. Beautiful, intelligent Lorraine who, though she be the yoga instructor and key assistant in running Luna, is enough to make Adam's heart race out of control. Lorraine has her own story to tell, and a past that threatens to break through her new relaxed control every time she clashes with Adam. Especially once those clashes become more electric than antagonistic. As a result of their forced interaction, each has to come to terms with the ghosts long hidden away, and realize that maybe - just maybe - it's time to move forward. Healthily.

This was such a fun read. Adam and Lorraine are great characters, and their interactions have major chemistry. I chuckled to myself reading several times, and the cast of secondary characters add so much flavor and color to the story. We're introduced to Adam and Lorraine in layers, gradually working down through the outward appearances to get to their cores. It's a wonderful process, and feels very realistic, in terms of getting to know someone (even if they are on the page - or my Kindle screen). And Adam is quite the hero, he'd transfer beautifully to the screen if this is ever adapted into a rom com. Just sayin'.

eARC provided by author for review.


Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom

Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom
Christopher Healy & Todd Harris (illustrator)
Walden Pond Press, 2012

We're all familiar with the "standard" fairy tales - Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White and Rapunzel: they're stories we can recite without pause. But what do we know about the Princes, really? They don't even have names! Just "Prince Charming," and you know it can't be the same Prince Charming in all of the stories (otherwise it wouldn't be True Love's Kiss!). In this first book of a new middle grades series, Christopher Healy introduces us to the Princes Charming (who all have real names, by the way). Don't let the "middle grades" label dissuade you: this is a book that all ages can appreciate!

How to explain this story ... Essentially, what Healy has done is take the oh-so-familiar fairy tales and turned them on their head. What we end up with is a band of mismatched Princes running around trying to make a name for themselves - literally. They're tired of being called "Prince Charming" and having everyone only remember the chick. This band of Princes are ready for adventure, ready to be heroes. And they're searching for Cinderella, who is apparently being held captive by the witch who entrapped Rapunzel. What the guys don't know is that Cinderella has some major spunk of her own, and is a force to be reckoned with. (And if you think you know 'Sleeping Beauty,' well, you're in for a surprise on that one! That girl be crazy.)

I loved this mashed up story, laughing out loud at parts, and falling in love with the idea of all these fairy tale characters jumbled into one wild mess. Prince Liam (Sleeping Beauty) stole my heart. For real. He's amazing (and the only "true" hero among the lot). Prince Duncan (Snow White) cracked me up, and there's just something endearing about Gustav (Rapunzel) and his brash style. Frederic (Cinderella) is the Prince I connected least with, but he has his good points, and is a key thread in the storyline. And don't get me started on the Bandit King.

Seriously, this is an excellent - and hilarious - first book, and I have very high hopes for the rest of the series.

Book provided by my local library.



Alex Flinn
HarperTeen, 2013

If there's one thing I know about fairy tale retellings/novelizations, it is that Alex Flinn can write a mean one. Whew.

Where to start ... In case you couldn't figure it out, Towering is Rapunzel-revisited. But it's also so much more than that - it's also the story of Wyatt, and how he has to face his demons to be able to help the mysterious (and beautiful) girl in the tower. It's the story of heartbroken parents and missing, forgotten people. It's the story of a small town, lost in the backwoods of upstate New York, with dark shadows and unanswered questions. It's the story of how two teenagers' destiny is unexplainably intertwined and that sometimes, at the age of (almost) seventeen, you can find your true love.

Told in alternating points of view, between Wyatt ("Prince Charming," if you will) and Rachel (our Rapunzel), the story builds tension and a little mystery, without getting too bogged down. Wyatt's been sent to live with the mother of his mom's former best friend, to help 'get over' a tragedy. Rachel's the girl being kept in a remote tower, by a woman she calls 'Mama', hiding for her life because the people who killed her real mother would love to kill her too. Somehow, magically, Wyatt hears Rachel - and she senses him. They're brought together by destiny, and together learn to conquer demons of the past and uncertainties about the present (let alone the future). In the process, they not only fall hopelessly in love (of course), but uncover the dark secrets holding the remote region hostage.

What I loved about Towering is that there's a catch. I never saw it coming until one little clue in the text, and even then I didn't guess the full scope of things. Which was way fun, since I love to be caught by surprise (when it's a good one, and not emotional trauma like Froi of the Exiles). An arresting and delightful translation of Rapunzel into a modern setting, and another excellent addition to Flinn's fairy tale repertoire.

Book provided by my local library.


Cover Reveal: Atone

Oh goodness, you guys. Today I am absolutely stoked to be part of the cover reveal tour (organized by Xpresso Book Tours) for Jessica Grey's next book!

You may remember that I've read each of her previous three releases, and I'll let you in on a secret: I beta read the manuscript for Atone as well. Let me tell you: this story is ah-mazing. I may never be the same again.

Read on for the official blurb, all the good links, and the cover. Oh, the cover.

Atone: A Fairytale  by Jessica Grey
Series: A Fairytale Trilogy #2
Publication date: Late June 2013
Genre: YA Fairytale Fantasy

Becca Ward knows that magic is real...

Two years ago not only had she and her best friend Alex found a real-life Sleeping Beauty in the middle of Los Angeles, they also discovered that they were powerful in their own right. They’ve managed to keep both their fae powers and their friend Lilia’s identity as a medieval princess a secret and live a normal life. Now their normalcy is threatened by the return of their former advisor at the Gem and Mineral Museum—and Becca’s least favorite person, Nicholas Hunt.

...and she’s about to find out that more than one fairy tale is true.

Nicholas has been obsessed with proving Lilia’s identity and the existence of magic. While working on an archeology dig he discovered an ancient fae artifact—a mirror that is imbued with a powerful protection spell that twists his obsession, and his body, until he is more beast than man. In order to protect her friends, Becca is forced to help him, and she is surprised to find that in spite of his outward appearance, Nicholas is no longer the beast she remembers. Will she let herself be the beauty that breaks the curse, or will she let her prejudice against him stop her from discovering true love?

Jessica Grey is an author, fairytale believer, baseball lover, and recovering Star Wars fangirl. A life-long Californian, she now lives in Montana with her husband and two children where she spends her time writing, perfecting the fine art of toddler-wrangling, and drinking way too much caffeine.

Author Links:


Rapunzel's Revenge & Calamity Jack

Okay, probably the coolest thing about working in the Library is ALL THE BOOKS. (What? You honestly thought I'd have something non-book related to say?) Between checking out and shelving and just generally handling all kinds of books, and reading for the YA book blog me and the other Teen Services librarian have created, I'm starting to contemplate stretching my reading boundaries somewhat. Nothing too drastic (I won't be taking up some of the recommendations patrons make, because some things I just won't read. But that's a tangent for another day.), but just a little expansion. Like graphic novels. They're hugely popular with the few teen-types who come in, and even some of the adults. But why? I decided to find out ... but started easy: a familiar author's graphic take on a fairy tale.

Rapunzel's Revenge
Shannon Hale & Co.
Bloomsbury, 2008

Most of us are familiar with the story of Rapunzel, but Hale makes some slight adjustments to the story in this graphic novel presentation. "Punzie," as Jack (the scoundrel she picks up along the way) calls her, is a little feisty. And she can do tricks with her long braids, tricks which earn her respect along the journey to save her real mother from Mother Gothel. You see, our Rapunzel tale is set in a sort of Wild West-type environment, complete with misadventures, bandits and oddball creatures. And Rapunzel, bless her heart, she's not just feisty, she has a heart of solid gold and a sense of justice that won't let her turn a blind eye. So of course she picks up a certified hooligan as a sidekick, and of course she manages to charm her  way to success. But there's hard work and a few tricks and twists too. It's a rollickin' good read, and I appreciated the change of pace resulting from Rapunzel being a "Wild West girl". I also thoroughly enjoyed Jack, and detected so much more to his story ... you know, beyond that stunning last panel of the novel.

Book provided by my local library.

Calamity Jack
Shannon Hale & Co.
Bloomsbury, 2010?

Jack and Rapunzel are back! Whee doggie! (Sorry, I had to). We begin their next adventure with a journey back in time, learning the truth about Jack's shadowed past. And oh, what a scoundrel that boy is - but he has a heart of gold of his own, and has decided that it's time to go home and make things right. Rapunzel, of course, accompanies him on this journey of redemption. The pair quickly find themselves in the middle of a strange, strange situation. With side-switching fairies and dictatorial giants and super creepy "Ant People," it's not a tale for the faint of heart. But Jack and Rapunzel find an unexpected friend and ally (the handsome, brilliant, inventive and incredibly wealthy Freddy), and soon things are whizzing to a conclusion that will test the hearts of all involved. Jack has to decide once and for all what kind of man he is - and if he's willing to do what it takes to secure the heart of the Lady Fair.

Book provided by my local library.

Conclusion: I found myself enjoying the graphic novel presentation better than I expected. I'm a text-oriented girl, but the illustrations were fun. There were so many details tucked in, and I loved the facial expressions on Rapunzel and Jack throughout both books. It adds a necessary layer, since the actual "text" is not what one would consider "novel length". Fun, easy reads with a lot of creative handling of familiar tales. Not a bad way to start this whole graphic novel experiment ... Maybe I'll try The Hobbit next.