Author: Erica

‘An Enchantment of Ravens’ enchants with its beauty and thrills

“No. You surpass us all.” Beside me she looked colorless and frail. “You are like a living rose among wax flowers. We may last forever, but you bloom brighter and smell sweeter, and draw blood with your thorns.”

~Margaret Rogerson

Let me preface this blog by saying that I am a huge fan of fantasy books, but for some reason, I am not always a big fan of books about fair folk. For some reason, they don’t seem to be able to reinvent themselves as easily as other fantasy.enchantment of ravens But An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson took me completely by surprise. I was completely captivated by this book within the first chapter. It was probably one of the few books that I have read this fall that I have binged.

We begin this story with Isobel, an incredible painter who fashions portraits of the fair folks. She exchanges these portraits for magical favors. Fair folk are obsessed with “Craft”, anything that is made, for they can not make anything without it falling to dust. She is highly acclaimed among the fair folk but is still startled and nervous by the idea of receiving Rook, the Autumn Prince, for the first time. She sees sorrow into the eyes of Rook and paints it into his portrait despite the fact that the fair folk do not have human emotions. When Rook presents the portrait for the first time in the Autumn court, the display of a human emotion on his portrait is taken as a display of weakness and he takes it as the greatest betrayal. Rook demands that Isobel come with him and stand trial for her crimes.

This is the beginning of a magical and dangerous adventure through the land of the fair folk. Along this journey, alliances are broken and reformed, emotions flare between hate and love as  Rook and Isobel try to stay alive and find their way to the Green Well. If a human drinks from the Green Well, they will become a fair one and this may be the only way for Isobel to save herself from the others. But the catch is, if she chooses this path, then she will have to give up her Craft forever.

Margaret Rogerson’s writing is absolutely lovely and magical. Just like Isobel beautifully paints portraits, so does Margaret paint this rich world with words. The language paints a perfect picture of Isobel’s world and any reader will feel like they have just stepped up next to Isobel as she picks up her paints.

‘Genuine Fraud’ by E. Lockhart is a genuine gem

genuine fraudI was first turned on to E. Lockhart when my best friend and trusted book consultant recommended Lockhart’s We Were Liars. She couldn’t put it down. She loved it. She hated it. It wrecked her. All she could do after was take a nap. She couldn’t stop talking about it. This got me interested and when I saw she was coming out with a new book called Genuine Fraud and we had an advanced copy I knew I just had to read it.

Knowing what I did about We Were Liars, I was hesitant to believe or trust anything in her new novel Genuine Fraud. I knew nothing and no one  would be as simple as they seemed.

Imogen is a runaway heiress, an orphan, a cook, and a cheat.
Jule is a fighter, a social chameleon, and an athlete.
An intense friendship. A disappearance. A murder, or maybe two.
A bad romance, or maybe three.
Blunt objects, disguises, blood, and chocolate. The American dream, superheroes, spies, and villains.
A girl who refuses to give people what they want from her.
A girl who refuses to be the person she once was.

Lockhart introduces a new and captivating suspense and psychological horror novel with Genuine Fraud. The book starts off with chapter 18, in June 2017. Hint: you should pay attention to the dates. The story is mainly told in flashbacks over the course of the past few years. The story is about Imogen and Jule and their friendship and time together. It’s a story of those who lack morals. It is a story about those that lack ambition and others who will do whatever it takes to get what they want. It’s a story about liars and cheaters (in more ways than one). It’s about accidents and premeditation and telling more would give too much away.

If you have read We Were Liars, be warned the only similarity is that they both take you by surprise. Genuine Fraud is very straight forward and, in some ways, this makes the mystery even harder to figure out. It seems like things are one way, and because they are presented as fact, I was always questioning what was real and what wasn’t. It is a very fast and short read, perfect for a weekend binge read. It has just enough ambiguity in the plot to keep you flipping the pages until the very end.

With Her Little Eye: ‘Olivia the Spy’ by Ian Falconer

This blog is in honor of my little sister, Olivia. She grew up on Olivia the Pig books and I got the joy of reading them along with her. Olivia is a classic and has made many families fall in love with her over the years. My family even started a collection of pig stuffed animals. We can’t see a pig without thinking of Olivia the Pig. She is a most beloved children’s book character and, after many years, she is back.

Olivia is sassy, bold, and refuses not to be seen. She has been any- and everything from a fairy princess to a circus performer–and now she is a spy!

In Olivia the Spy, Olivia overhears her mom talking with her dad about her, and she must know what they were discussing. She decides to do some investigating herself. She becomes a spy! She is sneaky and quiet. She must blend in with her surroundings. This is not something Olivia is good at, but she never gives up. Don’t worry; Olivia always finds a way.

“Olivia, Who had always stood out, now needed to blend in. She might be anywhere. Anywhere. Seriously, Anywhere.”

“Olivia, who had always stood out, now needed to blend in. She might be anywhere. Anywhere. Seriously, anywhere.”

What will Olivia discover through her investigation? Is it the truth? Olivia will learn whether or not she can trust what she overhears as the whole story.

Ian Falconer brings Olivia alive once again in this hilarious new book. Lovers of the classic Olivia books or those who have not even met Olivia yet will thoroughly enjoy Olivia the Spy. Falconer’s comical illustrations are very funny, a combination of drawings, painting and photos that bring even more life to his stories. They are quirky and will brighten anyone’s day.

Find a classic Easter adventure in DuBose Heyward’s ‘The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes’

“One day a little country girl bunny with brown skin and a little cotton-ball of a tail said, ‘Some day I shall grow up to be an Easter Bunny: –you wait and see!’”

country bunnyI’m bringing back a classic Easter book here, guys. The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes by DuBose Heyward, which was first published in 1939. This is not only one of my favorite Easter books, but also one of my favorite picture books in general from my childhood. My sister and I would go over to my grandmother’s place and have her read it to us repeatedly. It didn’t matter if it was Easter or not, it was the book we asked for. We even fought over who got my Grandmother’s copy just last summer (we’re high school and college students). This just goes to show how the books of your childhood can leave a mark.

Part of this book’s appeal for me as a child was, to be honest, the bunnies and the golden shoes (What can I say? I like my shoes). On the surface, this book is about a cute momma bunny (of 21 little bunnies) who wants to be the next Easter Bunny. The country momma bunny is named Cottontail, and she enters to be the next Easter Bunny. All the other rich white bunnies laugh at her and tell her that she can’t do it, but she is determined to prove them wrong. For kids, the idea of an Easter Bunny that wears golden shoes to deliver their Easter goodies is just so much fun, and you just can’t go wrong with bunnies.

I’ve recently gone back and reread it and I was shocked by its deeper meaning, and how wonderfully it is crafted for both children and parents. Not only is this a cute book about Easter Bunnies but it speaks to race relations, social standings, and gender roles. Cottontail is not only a brown, country bunny but she is a lady and a mother, at that. How could she possibly be able to be Easter Bunny? hoppsThis digs into the bigger issues in a very subtle way that is appropriate for small children, but also makes it more interesting for the parents to read. They question her color and class standing, but she overcomes this. They suggest that because she is a woman and a mother, there is no way she could be the Easter Bunny, but she proves them wrong. She never gives up and in the end, she is rewarded for this determination.

This is one of the sweetest picture books out there and my favorite Easter book. It’s a beautiful story of motherhood and following your dreams.

Three-Book Circus: Erica Recommends 3 Fantasy Picks

Okay guys, I’ve had some books on the brain lately, and if you don’t already know about them, then you should. They are The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye, and Caraval by Stephanie Garber. If you’ve ever talked to me at Lemuria, then I have probably told you to read The Night Circusand if you took that advice, then you really need to know about The Crown’s Game and Caraval.

            “You think, as you walk away from Le Cirque des Rêves and into the creeping dawn, that you felt more awake within the confines of the circus.

You are no longer quite certain which side of the fence is the dream.”

― Erin MorgensternThe Night Circus

night circus

The Night Circus is hands down one of my favorite books I’ve ever read. With a story that travels between New York and England and everywhere in between, it twists and turns with a nonlinear time line that will keep the reader guessing about what is to come, and what is even real. There is a dark challenge that is being played out in the beautiful black and white tents of Le Cirque des Rêves, unbeknownst to the audience—and most of the cast. Celia and Marco are tangled in a game that neither of them quite knows the rules, let alone how to win. As they play this dangerous game of illustrious illusions, the web of those affected reaches further than they can possibly imagine and there will be consequences. Morgenstern spins a story of bowler hats, charmed umbrellas, boys reading in apple trees, and a garden made of ice. In this nocturnal world of black and white, you will find the most vivid and colorful characters and writing.

 

“For the winner of the game, there would be unimaginable power.

For the defeated, desolate oblivion.

The Crown’s Game was not one to lose.”

― Evelyn Skye, The Crown’s Game

crown's game

The Crown’s Game was pitched to me as being like The Night Circus, but initially I was skeptical. I had yet to find a book that I would have put in the same category as The Night Circus, but indeed this book is. Set in a fantastical Imperial Russia full of rich historic details (thanks to Skye’s degree in Slavic language and her love for Russian history), the book presents a dark and beautiful world. Russia is trapped between the Ottomans on one side and the Kazakhs on the other, so the tsar has only one option: to initiate the Crown’s Game, where the only two enchanters will duel for the position of Imperial Enchanter, protector and adviser to the tsar. This dangerous game traps Vika, Nikolai, and Pasha. As the story is spun, these characters must navigate tense political situations, love, loss, and betrayal with the knowledge that they will have to die if either of the others wins. Skye’s beautiful imagery and writing brings the magic right off the page. The Crown’s Game is full of sparkling magic with a healthy dose of dark Russian folklore. Read it now so that you will be ready for the sequel that comes out in May 2017.

 

“No one is truly honest,” Nigel answered. “Even if we don’t lie to others, we often lie to ourselves. And the word good means different things to different people.”

― Stephanie Garber, Caravel

caraval

Caraval, which comes out today (Tuesday, January 31) has been sitting on the advance reading copy shelf, just begging me to read it for months. So, last week as I was procrastinating reading other books, I started Caraval. I finished in less than twenty-four hours (this includes the 8 hours of work). I knew within the first 40 pages that I was going to love it. The Caraval is not only a once-a-year performance, but also a dream that Scarlett has been dreaming since her Grandmother told her and her sister, Tella, about it when they were children. Now seeing the Caraval is suddenly an option, and a dangerous one at that. Will seeing the Caraval be the escape they have been looking for from their abusive father, or will it just be giving themselves over to another dangerous and powerful man? With the help of a mysterious sailor that seems to have secret motives, Scarlett enters into the magical world of the Caraval. You can either watch or play, but remember that they will try to make you believe it is real, although it is just a game. Garber spins a story that drags you in with the first page and doesn’t let go through all the twist and turns, betrayals and alliances. You will not rest until you reach the very end. Keep your eyes out January 2017.

The Night Circus  by Erin Morgenstern was Lemuria’s September 2011 First Editions Club selection. A signed first edition of the book can be found here.

Get to Know Erica

So, to start, I love young adult fiction and beautiful children’s illustrations. All I really want from a book is for it to drag me in, give me the romance I want, and have pretty pictures. I’m still a kid when it comes down to it.

How long have you worked at Lemuria? Just about a year now.

What do you do at Lemuria? I work in OZ, our children’s section. I mainly handle the different displays, and the other everyday duties. Hopefully I can help out more after school is out.

What I’m reading now.. Okay, so this is the sad part: I’m in a reading funk right now. The beginning of school this year has just taken over my life and I haven’t read as much as I would like. I’ve just finished A Shadow Dark and Burning by Jessica Cluess and really enjoyed her magic- and destruction-ridden Old England. I’ve started about three other YA (young adult) books, but haven’t gotten deep enough into any of them to really say anything about them yet.

erica

 

What’s currently on your bedside table (book purgatory)? I’ve actually started all the ones on my table, but am switching around, willing at least one to kick me out of my book funk. So my books are Spare and Found Parts by Sarah Griffin, Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter and Kids of Appetite by David Arnold.

Top 5 books:

Ahh! Let’s see, if we’re talking currently favorites then it would have to be

  1. The Book Thiefby Markus Zusak (It will always hold top place for me)
  2. An Ember in the Ashesby Sabaa Tahir
  3. The Dream Thieves(from The Raven Cycle) by Maggie Stiefvater
  4. The Diabolic(comes out Nov. 2016) by S. J. Kincaid
  5. A Child of Booksby Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston (because I’m still a child at heart)

Favorite Authors This is a bit harder than picking favorite books. I’m not the best with names, so, sadly, I don’t always remember them. I don’t necessarily find one author that I like and then go read all their books, but I do love Markus Zusak, William Joyce, Oliver Jeffers, Maggie Stiefvater and Sabaa Tahir.

Any particular genre that you’re especially in love with?Ha, yes! I love YA and have no shame in saying it. It’s really the majority of what I read. I also have a huge love for children’s picture books. I’m an artist and am a sucker for beautiful illustration.

What did you do before you worked at Lemuria? I’m still a college student and thought I had a work study job, until I didn’t. Besides that, I have worked at two libraries and as a pool assistant.

If you could share lasagna with any author, dead or alive, who would it be? What would you ask them? Maggie Stiefvater, I just finished her Raven Cycle books. I want to know what lead her to ending the series the way she did. It took me by surprise in the quietest and best way possible.

If we could have any living author visit the store and do a reading, who would you want to come? I would LOVE Sabaa Tahir to come and do a reading. By far, An Ember in the Ashes is one of my all time favorite books. She creates beautiful and broken worlds with the most vibrant and often violent characters. I’m always captivated by her books and I can’t wait to see what she does next.

If Lemuria could have ANY pet (mythical or real), what do you think it should be? I have this feeling that Lemuria is being haunted by a friendly but mischievous ghost that likes to rearrange displays and push books off the shelves right when you walk out of the room.

If you had the ability to teleport, where would you go first? Cancun, Mexico. They have sunken underwater coral reef statues that I would love to see. Really though, I’m just a total beach bum at heart and winter is coming soon in Jackson. I would give anything to feel hot sand between my toes

From ‘Ollie’s Odyssey’ to ‘Dinosaur Bob’: William Joyce is an inspiration

I was beyond excited to have William Joyce come to Lemuria for his latest children’s book Ollie’s Odyssey. I might have even skipped out on class to go on his school visits.

William Joyce is an inspiration. I didn’t know much about his work before he came, and I was blown away by the end of his first school talk. He has touched the lives of kids everywhere, from those that love Toy Story to Rise of the Guardians, Dinosaur Bob to Ollie’s Odyssey. His books and animation bridge the gap between generations.

dinosaur bob LTDI wanted to tell you a little about two of my favorites, Dinosaur Bob and The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore. They are full of the importance of family, those we are related to and the friends we find along the way. They also stress the value of creativity, imagination, and the amazing impact stories can have on you if you give them the chance. His illustrations are lively and friendly. They bring his beautiful stories to life in a way that makes you feel like you stepped into the pages of his books.

Dinosaur Bob follows the Lazardo family and their pet dinosaur Bob, from finding him on a safari to bringing him home. Full of fun adventures, Dinosaur Bob is a heartwarming story about love. It shows that sometimes our family isn’t only who we grow up with, but it’s also those special people and pets that we meet along the way. For the Lazardo family life wouldn’t be the same without dinosaur Bob and they wouldn’t want it any other way.

Jacket (3)The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore is one of the most heartbreakingly beautiful stories you will ever read. After hearing him talk about his own history and rereading this book, I nearly teared up. The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, is more than just a picture book, and it will touch the heart of anyone that reads it, regardless of age. This story exudes his love for books and storytelling. By illustrating characters without books in black and white and later giving them color after they’ve received a book, it beautifully shows how reading enriches lives. You can feel the love for books and the overpowering desire to share this love with everyone. It has a beautiful circular telling: you begin and end with a book opening the way to discovery.

William Joyce is one of the best storytellers, both in person and in his words on the page. His illustrations will bring even more life to his already lively stories. In every book and film, he reaches out with his words and reminds us that there are stories all around us.

“Everyone’s story matters” said Morris. And all the books agreed.
The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore

Welcome to English Special Topics

Jacket (3)Over the break, I finally had some time to immerse myself in reading for fun! Did I ignore my impending final exams? Yes, I did! I read a couple of books during this time, but the one that really stood out to me was Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer. When I first picked up Belzhar, I thought it would be a quick and fun read, just what I needed to get me back into reading for pleasure, but it surprised me. I’m not saying that it wasn’t a quick and easy read; rather, that it was deeper and had a much more serious tone than I expected.

This novel approaches grief and tragedy in a way I never thought of before. It tackles these serious themes fully and is careful not to make light of them or belittle the suffering and struggles of the characters. It has the right amount of teenage humor and angst to keep the reading light and fun while still making the reader truly think about the effects of tragedy and grief on a person. It addresses how different people process and deal with grief in different ways without saying one way is the best, or the only way to process life’s terrible moments. Using a magical twist, Meg Wolitzer explores these themes in a way that is easier for the reader without taking away from the seriousness of the topic; through the interesting world of Belzhar, into which a group of students has been forced.

The story follows Jam Gallahue who has lost her boyfriend, Reeve Maxfield. She has been sent to a therapeutic boarding school out in the country for students with delicate emotions. (In Jam’s opinion, this is a nice way of saying she is two steps away from being tossed into the loony bin). Once there, she is placed into Mrs. Quenell’s English Special Topics class, a class in which only a seemingly random few are chosen. There have been rumors and talk about past students of this class; each year is different, one year they create their own language, another they hide out in the woods; and they all act as if they have a secret that no one else would understand.

At first the class isn’t all that weird. They’re reading The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath and keeping journals. However, the journal assignment seems a bit strange. The journals have the power to take them back to a happier time just before their lives were overtaken by tragedy. Unfortunately, the students soon find there’s a catch. The journal only has so many pages. What will they do when the pages run out? How can they move past their own tragedies and start truly living again?

Gifting the Perfect Book: Intergalactic Young Adults

JacketCinder is an exciting sci fi/magical young adult novel, which is part of a larger series called The Lunar Chronicles. I read Cinder a few years ago when it first came out and I loved it. Ever since then,The Lunar Chronicles has continued to be one of my favorite series. I just recently finished Winter; the final book in the series. Cinder was definitely my favorite if I had to choose, but I loved them all. I listened to the first three (CinderScarlet, and Cress) on audio and I have already gone back and re-listened to all three multiple times just this year.

Cinder is a retelling of a classic fairy tale. You could say, “been there! Done that”!  All I’ll say to that: give it a chance and you won’t be disappointed. This story is not a typical retelling. Meyer uses the framework of classic fairytales to build a unique and exciting new story in a fascinating world. In Cinder, she uses the bones of the Cinderella fairytale to build a foundation for a larger plot that sets up the rest of the series. Yes, there is a mean stepmother and two stepsisters, and of course, there is a prince. Would it be a fairy tale without one? Of course not! However, the story of Cinder is the beginning of so much more than just another Cinderella story.

So the basic gist of the plot is this: Cinder is a cyborg and the best mechanic around (No wonder! She has a computer in her head)! Her best friend is an android with a messed up personality chip. As a cyborg, Cinder has no more rights in her stepmother’s house than a pair of shoes. She has no memory of her life before the age of eleven (after her cyborg surgery). But Cinder is not the only one with struggles. All of Earth is dealing with a deadly illness that kills quickly and has no cure. On top of that tragedy, the alien colony on the moon (Luna) has been engaged in an intergalactic struggle with Earth for many decades.

Cinder is forced into the world of intergalactic conflict when Prince Kai asks her to fix his favorite android, and at the same time, her stepsister (Peony) catches Earth’s deadly illness. Cinder is thrown into a world of medical testing, evil mind-controlling queens, and interplanetary political relationships. In the midst of it all, she also has to deal with the inconvenient fact that she likes Prince Kai. Unfortunately, Prince Kai is in the middle of trying to arrange a peace treaty with Luna, without having to marry their Queen Levana. Cinder must discover truths about her past, and make the difficult choice between duty and the freedom she so desperately wants.

Cinder is strong willed, smart and loyal. I have thoroughly enjoyed watching her develop throughout the whole series. Meyer does a fantastic job of creating and managing a large cast of characters; each one is strong and independent, and she does not reuse character types. With each book, she ties in new, unique characters that seamlessly join together with those of the previous books. Ultimately, they all come together to tell a beautiful intricate story. This series is built on the bones of fairy tales, but at the end of the day, it can stand on its own two feet.

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This month, the fourth installment in the Lunar Chronicles was released! Click here for a copy of  Winter. 

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

You may not have seen me at Lemuria yet, since I’ve only been working here since mid September. When I was younger, I really hated to read; I knew I was bad at it, so I avoided it unless it was required for school. But around the time I was fourteen, I was introduced to young adult fantasy, and ever since I’ve been hooked on reading.

JacketSo, here we go with the main reason I’m writing this blog. About four years ago, I read The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin. It was one of those situations where you love a book, but get distracted and miss the release of the next book in the series. This past summer, I was trying to find something to read and I came across The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer again. I decided to reread it and ended up binging on all three books in a matter of about a week, completely captivated.

The book follows the story and life of Mara Dyer (or is that even her real name?). Right at the beginning of the novel, her normal high school life takes a tragic turn. She is the sole survivor of an accident that took the lives of her best friend, schoolmate, and boyfriend. Or did it really?

She convinces her family that she needs a different location to recover, so they move to Florida. Not only is she struggling with the loss of her friends and the pain of being the only survivor, but strange things start to happen to Mara. At first, she thinks she’s just hallucinating due to post-traumatic stress. But is it really? One of the things I love about this book is that you really can’t place it into a specific category. At times you truly believe that Mara is just a girl struggling with the loss of her friends. At other times, it seems like there is something magical and science fiction-y going on. Then you’ll switch back to thinking it’s just PTSD. Or is it some weird, dark, and creepy mix of the three? The plot twists, turns and keeps you guessing what’s going on.

Mara Dyer is a believable high school girl, struggling to act like everything is okay to keep her family happy while being terrified by all the weird things happening around her. Then there is Noah. And yes, he is that token attractive, sarcastic British boy (I don’t mind, what can I say? I love those) and yes, he plays the love interest. But aside from the type he plays, he is a fully developed character who truly adds to the story. I enjoyed getting to know Noah and seeing his progression.

Over all, this book has witty and sarcastic dialogue. It keeps you giggling and helps to lighten the creepy and dark side of the story. Michelle Hodkin is great at writing dark, ominous, and sometime violent scenes that will have you looking around your own room and questioning what’s real. I would put this book into the hands of anyone looking for a witty, twisted, dark tale that will keep you guessing all the way until the end of the series.

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