When Mystical Creatures Attack by Kathleen Founds

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Title: When Mystical Creatures Attack!
Author: Kathleen Founds
Series: N/A
Edition: Digital Reader’s Copy, 206 pages
Publication Details: October 1st 2014 by University Of Iowa Press
Genre(s): Short Stories; Fantasy
Disclosure? Yep! I received a copy from the author/publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Goodreads // Purchase

In When Mystical Creatures Attack!, Ms. Freedman’s high school English class writes essays in which mystical creatures resolve the greatest sociopolitical problems of our time. Students include Janice Gibbs, “a feral child with excessive eyeliner and an anti-authoritarian complex that would be interesting were it not so ill-informed,” and Cody Splunk, an aspiring writer working on a time machine. Following a nervous breakdown, Ms. Freedman corresponds with Janice and Cody from an insane asylum run on the capitalist model of cognitive-behavioral therapy, where inmates practice water aerobics to rebuild their Psychiatric Credit Scores.

The lives of Janice, Cody, and Ms. Freedman are revealed through in-class essays, letters, therapeutic journal exercises, an advice column, a reality show television transcript, a diary, and a Methodist women’s fundraising cookbook. (Recipes include “Dark Night of the Soul Food,” “Render Unto Caesar Salad,” and “Valley of the Shadow of Death by Chocolate Cake.”) In “Virtue of the Month,” the ghost of Ms. Freedman’s mother argues that suicide is not a choice. In “The Un-Game,” Janice’s chain-smoking nursing home charge composes a dirty limerick. In “The Hall of Old-Testament Miracles,” wax figures of Bible characters come to life, hungry for Cody’s flesh.

Set against a South Texas landscape where cicadas hum and the air smells of taco stands and jasmine flowers, these stories range from laugh-out-loud funny to achingly poignant. This surreal, exuberant collection mines the dark recesses of the soul while illuminating the human heart.

Review

I can honestly say this was one the strangest things I’ve ever read. And I usually like strange, but for some reason I couldn’t get on board with this.

The book begins with a series of short stories/essays in which students use all manner of mystical and mythological creatures to solve the world’s problems. They are sometimes funny, and always bizarre, but none of them really worked for me. I don’t think I quite got the point 😦

We soon learn that the school teacher, Mrs Freedman, has been admitted to an insane asylum and through letters from two of the students we follow their lives, and the impact that the teacher’s incarceration has had on them.

This part of the book I enjoyed more, but again, I wasn’t gripped. It was very fantastical and unfortunately I couldn’t get into it. The story is revealed through many different mediums; short stories, advice columns, diary entries and it made the book feel very disjointed to me. There was just too much going on.

I thought this was a huge shame, because I think the idea is very unique and could have been great. There was just nothing that made me want to keep reading. Perhaps I just wasn’t in the mood for something so different, I don’t know.

What I would say, is that if you’re a fan of the short story format, and want to try something a bit different, this may be the book for you. I thought it was a very ambitious book, even if it didn’t work for me. I certainly wouldn’t write it off.

unicorn rating 2

Top Ten Tuesday: Books About Friendship

toptentuesday
Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish (click the image to visit them) who pick a different topic each week.

This week the topic is: Top Ten Books About Friendship.

I actually found this topic harder than I expected to, but I think I’ve managed to come up with ten books that I love (OK 9 – I cheated on one) and that hopefully won’t be on everybody else’s lists.

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The BFG by Roald Dahl: This book is definitely in my top 3 Dahl books! Sophie and the Big Friendly Giant are just so cute together. He even makes her a dress.

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson: This one is the cheat because I haven’t actually read it yet…I have no idea how or why! However, if the film is anything to go by, the friendship between outsiders Jess and Leslie is beautiful, and inevitably heart-breaking.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky: I really didn’t rate the film, but this is one of my favourite books, and definitely one that will make you think about how important friendships can be.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by David Levithan & John Green: This is one of my favourite coming of age stories, set around what sounds like an amazing high school musical.

A Million Little Pieces & My Friend Leonard by James Frey: Sometimes in the unlikiest places with the unlikliest of people, friendships can strike and that’s what happens in Frey’s controversial books about one man’s struggle with drink, drugs and rehabilitation.

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The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak: Oh this book. Has friendship ever been so dangerous?

Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants by Anne Brashares: I really liked the first book in this series, but the second one just didn’t have the same magic so I read no futher. If I’d read these when I was at school though I’m absolutely positive I would have loved them. Every girl longs for a close circle of friend like these girls have.

Let the Right One in by John Ajvide Lindqvist: A lonely, bullied boy and a strange, wild girl who only seems to come out at night makes this the epitome of an unlikly friendship story.

Noughts & Crosses by Malorie Blackman: If you think Romeo & Juliet had problems just see what Sephy and Callum have to put up with. This story of racism and prejudice blew me away, and at the heart of it is such a beautiful friendship, despite everything going against them.

What would make your list?

Book Promo: Slip by Leslie J. Portu

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Title: Slip
Author: Leslie J. Portu
Series: Slip #1
Genre(s): YA; Contemporary;
Pages: 400
Format(s): Paperback; Kindle (Only £1.85/$3.11 at time of posting)
Published: June 19th 2013 by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

Links:
Goodreads
Facebook
Purchase:
Amazon

Synopsis

As Vivien Allen begins her junior year of high school, her expectations are flat.

While the status quo has always been a source of comfort, she can’t silence the small voice inside of her that yearns for something out of the ordinary. When her crotchety old French teacher is replaced by Christophe, an attractive young newcomer, she senses the possibility for change, and a strange, indefinable relationship begins.

But, luck, it appears, has arrived in pairs, and Vivien soon finds herself the object of attention of Declan Mieres, the star senior lacrosse player. As her intimacy with both grows, so, too, does her unease. It becomes increasingly difficult to keep her two worlds separate. When at last they collide, the repercussions are far worse than she ever imagined.

Meet the Author

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5 Things With Leslie Portu:

1. I believe reading novels is one of the best ways to increase your knowledge on just about ANY subject. As you follow the characters into their world you can’t help but soak up all sorts of new information. There is nothing like the feeling of losing yourself in a good book.

2. Most kids/young adults these days do not read enough due to an overabundance of competing distractions. (Obviously this does not apply to YOU, since here you are on a blog about books! So congratulations! Take a second and give yourself a pat on the back).

3. I am so glad that I have found writing later in life, and it is my great, great aspiration to make a connection with all of you voracious readers. It would be especially great to hear your thoughts: Do you identify with any of my characters? Do you hate/love one in particular? Would you act the same in a similar situation? The questions are endless…

4. Other factoids: I attended the University of Wisconsin for four of the best years of my life (Go Badgers!). After spending hour upon hour sitting in a chair, I love to head for the stair climber and lift weights (my family will tell you I am a serious grump without exercise). I love the beach and the sun and chicken lettuce wraps and coffee and atomic fireballs. Currently, I live in Ann Arbor, Michigan (not a Wolverine fan, sorry) with my husband, four children, and two dumb dogs. In the summers I can be found in Carolina Beach, NC where I have recently converted to a country music fan (the most touching lyrics! seriously!).

5. More books are coming.

Slip: Top Ten Eleven Playlist

Hi all!
I would like to share with you some of the music that was my inspiration while writing Slip. Music is a powerful generator of all kinds of emotions. These are the songs that helped me to visualize my characters more clearly, and access the emotions of a particular scene. The list (more or less) follows along with the storyline. Happy listening! And, more importantly, happy reading!

– Leslie J Portu

1. Live: Lightning Crashes (What’s this? Could it be love?)
2. Marcy Playground: Sex And Candy (Riley’s Halloween Party)
3. Big Data: Dangerous (Things are not always what they seem)
4. Tame Impala: Feels Like We Only Go Backwards (When is it OK to lie?)
5. Icona Pop: Good For You (Dinner party at Lauren’s)
6. How To Dress Well: Cold Nites (Turn up the heat (Ch. 20))
7. City and Colour: Weightless (Declan’s world crashes down)
8. Prince: I Would Die 4 U (The chase)
9. Death: Denial of Life (In the mind of a killer)
10. The Limousines: Wildfires (Passion in the winter woods)
11. Ghost Beach: Miracle (Love trumps all: final scene)

Excerpt

And so it begins…Boy Meets Girl

Vivien heaved open the gym door to be greeted by the thunder of bouncing balls. Kids were running in all directions, shrieking and shouting at each other. She stood uncertainly, her eyes sifting through the chaos for any sign of an adult in charge. By sheer luck she managed to dodge an errant basketball just before it collided with her face. At last, near the center of the gym, she spotted a bald man wearing an ID badge and she made her way toward him.

“Excuse me!” she shouted, extending her hand. “I’m one of the volunteers. Vivien Allen.”

His hand gripped hers in a firm shake. “Another one. Fantastic! Wonderful! We’ve got a nice-sized group this fall. Excellent!” He spoke every word without ever losing his broad grin. “I’m Mr. Peterson. Bob, you can call me. Where would you like to start?” He gestured toward the basketball nets. “We’re about to get a game going in a minute here.”

She hesitated, eyeing the net with suspicion. She knew nothing of the rules of basketball. In fact, she avoided all sports whenever possible. To say she was unathletic was putting it kindly. As her gaze dropped, the sight of a small boy crying caught her eye. One of the volunteers was crouching before him, his back to Vivien. He appeared to be listening thoughtfully as the child sobbed and pointed his finger at the accused (another small boy who, upon being singled out, promptly split the scene). Slowly the volunteer rose to his feet: faded jeans, cardinal-red Eastbrook Lacrosse sweatshirt, perfectly tousled dark hair. Oh no. She sucked in a breath. He remained still, hands on hips. Then at last, Declan Mieres turned and looked straight at her.

She swallowed, eyes darting away, but not before he’d caught her staring. Great. “Um…are there any other choices?” she asked.

Bob managed to reveal an even more spectacular view of his back molars as he nodded and signaled for her to follow. She trailed along behind, flinching every now and then as a basketball whizzed past her ears.At the opposite end of the gym were another set of doors through which they passed, ending up in a small cafeteria. Here she saw three rows of long tables set up for various arts and crafts. Much better, she thought.

“Jules is in charge of this room,” Bob explained, indicating a frazzled-looking woman cradling a large tub of crayons. “She’ll get you situated.”

Before she knew it, her two hours had gone by and she was letting Jules know it was time for her to leave. Most of the afternoon had been spent showing a second-grade girl how to make cootie catchers. She’d been drawn to this particular girl when she saw her sitting glumly, methodically kicking her foot against the table leg. None of the other children sat by her or paid her any attention whatsoever. She seemed in dire need of a friend.

“See you next week, Dashayla,” Vivien promised as she headed for the door. But Dashayla protested her departure by wrapping her chubby arms around Vivien’s thigh and clinging to her the entire length of the cafeteria. Gently she peeled the fingers off one by one. “You better go back before you get in trouble.” Dashayla put on a pout. “Don’t worry. I’ll be here every Wednesday.” Vivien bent down and gave her a big hug.

Smiling to herself as she headed toward the front office, she couldn’t help but marvel at the easy affection of her newfound friend. Everything seemed so simple in elementary school. If you liked someone, you showed it. Had she really been that way once? She couldn’t remember at what point she’d begun to tuck away her true feelings…just in case.

Her head in the clouds, she failed to notice the three Eastbrook seniors as they crossed paths exiting the office.

“Oh!” she gasped, stumbling backward. “Sorry!”

Directly in front of her, Declan stood gaping, as if he’d just come upon a perplexing riddle.

“Dude!” Nathan shouted over his shoulder. “Watch where you’re going. You almost ran right over this fine girl.”

Vivien returned Declan’s stare. Never before had she been this close to him; he traveled in packs made up of lacrosse players and the most attractive senior girls. Now at last she had a golden opportunity to see for herself what all the fuss was about. He was nice-looking, she gave him that. Yet his striking presence failed to induce rapid heart palpitations, as all the other silly girls claimed was the case. Maybe he did have soft brown eyes, the kind that looked like pools of melted chocolate. And maybe they did go flawlessly with his olive skin and his wavy dark hair. And he wasn’t exactly hurting physically, either; his muscular body towered over hers by a good twelve inches (she’d inherited the “short genes” from her mother’s side of the family and was finally coming to grips with the fact that she was never going to be much over five-foot-two). But none of these things could make up for the fact that he was nothing but a player.

“Don’t worry about it,” she said. “I’m fine.”

“Don’t you go to Eastbook?” Declan asked, still gawking. “You look…familiar.”

She nodded, trying with difficulty to pull her gaze away. And then, strangely, absolutely nothing happened. The four of them stood trapped in an uncomfortably prolonged moment. A moment of complete and utter silence. The spell was broken at last by Thomas as he cleared his throat, and time was permitted to resume its natural progression.

A self-conscious dance variation followed—a simultaneous shuffle in one direction, then the other as the four bodies attempted to navigate the narrow confines of the doorway. She managed at last to slide past the three leering Neanderthals, stomach sucked to her spine as if it was essential to create as much space as possible between their species and hers. Despite this superhuman effort, she felt the tiny hairs on the back of her neck rise and stand at attention as she and Declan shared the intimate space of the doorframe.

“Nice set of DSLs,” she heard Nathan mutter once she was several feet away. She had no idea what this meant, but coming from Nathan, the king of crass, she was certain the comment was hardly complimentary. She made a beeline for the sign-out sheet, fighting the urge to look back. The sound of laughter drifted in as the three boys headed out to the parking lot.

It took a minute before she’d regained the mental capacity to sign her name. She didn’t know how they’d managed to fluster her so badly. Why should she care about them? She had nothing but contempt for the entire lacrosse team and their social circle. They breezed through the halls like they were some kind of royalty. And she was only a minor character—the lowly chambermaid—in their star-studded cast.

One thing was for sure: hell would freeze over before Miranda could talk her into going to Nathan’s Friday night.

Purchase:

Amazon

Huge thanks to Leslie for taking the time to talk to me about herself and her book!

Top Ten Tuesday: Books You Should Read If You Like…

toptentuesday
Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish (click the image to visit them) who pick a different topic each week.

This week the topic is 10 Books You Should Read if you Like X (TV show/Film etc).

Ooh I like this topic, it’s fun. But I had a hard time coming up with 10 books for just one TV Show or film so I’ve split it into a few categories.

Books you should read if you like…

Buffy the Vampire Slayer
BTVS is my favourite show of all time. It’s everything a high school drama with vampires should be! It’s witty and has a kick-ass protagonist, as do the following books.

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The Vampire Academy Series by Richelle Mead
Graceling by Kristin Cashore
Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare

Veronica Mars
V Mars is so awesome. She’s ridiculously intelligent and mature for her age, and she can’t help getting herself into sticky situations. Her dad -who is pretty adorable- is a PI, and the apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree. These books also have feisty female protagonists whose inquisitive natures get them into all sorts of scrapes, whether it’s fighting octopuses (Ruby Redfort) or studying poisons (Flavia de Luce).

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The Ruby Redfort books by Lauren Child
Skulduggery pleasant by Derek Landy
The Flavia de Luce mysteries by Alan Bradley
The Lily Pascale mysteries by Scarlett Thomas

True Detective
I just finished watching this show last night (gooooood ending), and I did enjoy but it has such a slow-burning pace. And that’s what really reminded me of this book.

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The Weight of Blood by Laura McHugh

Not Your Average School Ski Trip…

Frostbite by Richelle Mead

spr4It’s winter break at St. Vladimir’s, but Rose is feeling anything but festive. A massive Strigoi attack has put the school on high alert, and now the Academy’s crawling with Guardians—including Rose’s hard-hitting mother, Janine Hathaway. And if hand-to-hand combat with her mom wasn’t bad enough, Rose’s tutor Dimitri has his eye on someone else, her friend Mason’s got a huge crush on her, and Rose keeps getting stuck in Lissa’s head while she’s making out with her boyfriend, Christian! The Strigoi are closing in, and the Academy’s not taking any risks… This year, St. Vlad’s annual holiday ski trip is mandatory.

But the glittering winter landscape and the posh Idaho resort only create the illusion of safety. When three friends run away in an offensive move against the deadly Strigoi, Rose must join forces with Christian to rescue them. But heroism rarely comes without a price…

Well, getting hooked on this series was probably inevitable. Some hot vampires and a kick-ass female lead, in a high school setting…now, where have I seen that before!? I was really impressed with the first book in this series though, as I wasn’t expecting it to be so rooted in Vampire Lore. (You can check out my review of book 1 here.)

Frostbite, continues where we left off. Rose is getting closer to becoming an official guardian and trying to keep her distance from hot russian Dimitri, whilst Lissa is sickeningly in love with Christian and trying to control her weird Vamp powers.

It’s Christmas (yay) and they are all forced (not that you wouldn’t go willing by the sounds of it) to spend it at an exclusive ski resort to keep hidden from the deadly Strigoi who are still picking off the Moroi royalty one by one. Of course! Where else would one go?

I was pleased that this book has a prologue that went over what we’d learned thus far; the gospel according to Dhampirs, Moroi and Strigoi if you will (I still can’t pronounce them), to remind us of all the intricacies involved in their society and the stigma that comes from certain choices, should they make them. However what I wasn’t OK with was all of the other catch-up sessions in the book. The prologue was perfect, I really didn’t think we needed the rest.

There were a few other things I was disappointed with in this book as well, maybe disappointed is a bit harsh considering I couldn’t put it down, but I felt like all the dark shiz that made me love the first book was gone.

Now they know what Lissa’s deal is, there’s no self-harm (which is obviously a good thing but it made for good reading!), no dead animal corpses in her dorm, and now that Lissa and Rose are permanently back at St Vlads (yes, we’re on nick-name terms already, I move fast) no hot ‘dirty’ feeding sessions. Bore off.

But, I digress. Overall, Frostbite wasn’t boring at all. With the focus taken off Lissa and Rose a little, we get to explore some of the minor (and new!) characters a bit. There’s definitely more of Christian, Lissa’s boyfriend, who I’m really hoping is going to turn out to be evil, right? Because if not what is he good for?-Creating tension between Lissa and Rose I guess, but it was a bit meh.

We also get more of Mason, who grew on me throughout the book, he’s pretty adorable. And then there’s the introduction of tall, dark, mysterious and probably deadly Adrian who seems to be stalking Rose a bit. Well, who wouldn’t!?

AND OF COURSE, there’s Dimitri. Oh delicious Dimitri… Richelle Mead you really are spoiling us!

I liked that they didn’t get together too quickly (because you know, it’s wrong), but I really hope it’s not going to end up being a whole on/off, on/off thing for the next 4 books too.

I NEED TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS right now. Sigh.

One thing I wasn’t expecting however, was that Rose started to annoy me a bit in this book. I like a protagonist that is confident, but in Frostbite, her self-assuredness (that’s not even a word is it? Bitca!) got a bit too much. She’s constantly pointing out how hot her body is, like anyone actually ever says that to themselves all the time! Pfft, anyway…

No matter what, I couldn’t put Frostbite down. It definitely has some flaws but I’m too far gone to care. I’m invested in Rose, Dimitri and Lissa, and GIVE ME THE NEXT ONE NOW.

Ahem. Please.

unicorn rating 4

Disclosure?: Nope, I bought it!
Title: Frostbite (Vampire Academy #2)
Author: Richelle Mead
Details: Paperback, 327 pages
Published: April 10th 2008 by Razorbill
My Rating: 4/5

Blood Orange Soda by James Michael Larranaga

blood Darius Hunter is a bullied high school freshman. When he drinks Blood Orange Soda to transform into a Vampire and earn respect, he soon learns life as a Vampire has its own challenges.

Set in the future on the rural landscape of St. Cloud, Minnesota where pre-Vampire teens are required by the government to take a daily Red pill to prevent their urge to bite, Blood Orange Soda is a coming of age story of love, life and death.

I really liked the sound of Blood Orange Soda, picturing a gritty dystopian future in which Vampires are are somehow forced to suppress their urges. Unfortunately, it didn’t meet my expectations…any of them.

Blood Orange Soda is written in diary-entry format from the perspective of protagonist Darius, a goth teen who is constantly bullied at school and plays in a rock band. Oh, and he’s a pre-vampire. If he stops taking his pills he will become a full vampire, although that’s not really recommended until he turns 18.

Although I did find some things I liked in this story – enough to keep me reading – I felt constantly let down. I was waiting for things to get interesting but they never did. There’s this whole sub-text about under-age sex (biting-before-love, surely not!) and drug culture (the Blood Orange Soda of the title which speeds up the transformation in pre-vamps, and ‘Normals’ just get ‘juiced up’ on) which could have worked well but was just too transparent and read as immature.

I thought it was going to get interesting when Darius’s Uncle Jack was training him for his impending fight (a ridiculous concept in the first place). There was pretty much a Rocky-style training montage and everything, and I started to think Jack may have ulterior motives for helping him and encouraging him not to tell anyone about taking the Blood Orange Soda, but no, it was just another false alarm and led nowhere!

I found the characters one dimensional, and not a lot happens. I did like that it had an urban feel to it, but Blood Orange Soda is a coming of age story with no bite, excuse the pun!

unicorn rating 2

Disclosure?: I received an advanced copy from the author/publisher in exchange for an HONEST review
Title: Blood Orange Soda
Author: James Michael Larranaga
Details: ebook, 350 pages
Published: Expected March 15th 2014 by JML
My Rating: 2/5

Favourites Friday #7: Speak – Laurie Halse Anderson

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The first ten lies they tell you in high school. “Speak up for yourself–we want to know what you have to say.” From the first moment of her freshman year at Merryweather High, Melinda knows this is a big fat lie, part of the nonsense of high school. She is friendless, outcast, because she busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops, so now nobody will talk to her, let alone listen to her. As time passes, she becomes increasingly isolated and practically stops talking altogether. Only her art class offers any solace, and it is through her work on an art project that she is finally able to face what really happened at that terrible party.

In Laurie Halse Anderson’s powerful novel, an utterly believable heroine with a bitterly ironic voice delivers a blow to the hypocritical world of high school. She speaks for many a disenfranchised teenager while demonstrating the importance of speaking up for oneself.

Speak was a 1999 National Book Award Finalist for Young People’s Literature. Image & Synopsis from Goodreads.

Speak is one of those books that doesn’t blow you away at first. It’s a slow burner but once you have read the final word you are left speechless. It is a dark and frank portrayal of the high-school experience that will speak to many, and move most. It’s harrowing and depressing but also intensely funny.

Anyone who has ever felt like an outcast or a victim can find solace in Speak, and all can learn from it. Pay attention to your kids, World.

Favourite Lines:
Opening line: ‘It is my first morning of high school. I have seven new notebooks, a skirt I hate, and a stomach ache’.

OUR TEACHERS ARE THE BEST… My English teacher has no face. She has stringy hair that droops on her shoulders. The hair is black from her parting to her ears and then neon orange to its frizzy ends. I can’t decide if she has pissed off her hairdresser or is morphing into a monarch butterfly. I call her Hairwoman.

‘Sometimes I think high school is one long hazy activity: if you are tough enough to survive this, they’ll let you become an adult. I hope it’s worth it.’

When people don’t express themselves, they die one piece at a time. You’d be shocked at how many adults are really dead inside—walking through their days with no idea who they are, just waiting for a heart attack or cancer or a Mack truck to come along and finish the job. It’s the saddest thing I know’

You should probably read the book before you watch this video, just sayin.