Review: The Little Queen by Meia Geddes

At the Boston Book Festival, I couldn’t not bring home a new book! While exploring the booths, I came across a collective of self-published, independent authors. One of those authors was Meia Geddes, who struck me as kind and soft-spoken as she explained to me what the booth was about. I took a look at the books she had out, and I instantly fell in love with this book cover:

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I know I shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but it was just gorgeous and completely my aesthetic. That shade of lavender is almost exactly the same as the paint on my bedroom walls.

The Little Queen is a charming fairy tale that, as you might guess, somewhat recalls The Little Prince. It’s no copy, though–Geddes infuses the novella with its own distinct atmosphere. The little queen, who is nameless, ageless, and faceless, struggles with the idea of being a little queen and strikes out on an adventure, hoping to find someone to take her place. What she discovers is not a replacement, but rather a journey to self-actualization.

Her journeys through her kingdom lead her to meet a variety of unusual people–some of the first citizens she meets are called the book sniffer and the wall sawyer. While their occupations are specific to the point of uselessness, every person the little queen meets has a deep underlying motivation for her chosen path in life. The outwardly whimsical, but truly meaningful natures of the people of this world are reminiscent of The Phantom Tollbooth or The Neverending Story.

The little queen discovers herself, but another underlying theme is love. Every time she meets interesting people, they pair off and go away to live their lives together. She is never resentful or jealous of her newfound friends, but after the deaths of her parents, she is clearly lonely. This isn’t an angsty book by any means, though. After wandering for a long time, the little queen eventually finds a love of her own.

Within the pages are hidden many pearls of wisdom about dreams, writing, and living life to the fullest, told through metaphors that often have straightforward meanings, but are nonetheless quirky and offbeat in presentation.

Aside from the cover art, the same illustrator contributes similarly lovely artwork throughout the book, the design complementing the writing without getting in the way of the reader’s imagination.

My one complaint is that the ending, in which all the characters design houses together, comes across as a bit protracted (a serious flaw for a book of one hundred pages!) and purple in prose. Still, because it’s a concise novella otherwise, anyone who picks up the book will easily finish it without being disturbed by a few bloated paragraphs.

If you’re looking for a quick, pleasant read or a children’s book with timeless appeal, The Little Queen is for you.

Rating: 4/5 stars.

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Quick October Book Recommendations

I’m a busy bee this weekend, but I still wanted to put up a post today! Here’s a quick rundown of books I think are great to read in October. It’s a good mix of creepy and fun, so I think there’s something for everyone here!

1. The Vegetarian by Han Kang

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If you love psychological horror and aren’t averse to gore, The Vegetarian will be a gourmet meal for you (ha!). Yeong-hye, an ordinary woman, starts to have intense, bloody nightmares involving meat, and to make them stop, she decides to become a vegetarian. Her traditional family don’t understand the changes in her behavior, and as Yeong-hye’s mental state deteriorates, she faces hostility rather than support from the people around her.

2. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame Smith

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Fan of the classics? Put a spooky spin on it with this fun and campy take on the text of Pride and Prejudice. It sounds like a gimmick, and it is, but it’s also extremely high quality. Confession: I read this version before actual Pride and Prejudice, and it helped me follow the story and the somewhat archaic writing style when I did read the original. It’s not a total rewrite, but rather a rework with interpolations.

3. Charlie Bone/Children of the Red King series by Jenny Nimmo

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These were some of the first “big” books I read as an elementary schooler, back when I thought 400 pages was an absolutely colossal book. Charlie Bone is a kid who discovers an unusual ability to see into the past through photographs, and he’s packed off to school with a group of children, the Endowed, who each boast their own specific magical talents. It’s Harry Potter-esque without being a carbon copy, and I think it’s an underrated pick for kids who want “something like Harry Potter!”

4. Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

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Here’s the pitch: a buddy comedy about an angel and a demon during the Apocalypse. If that idea strikes you as overly blasphemous, I wouldn’t bother picking it up, but if you have more of a sense of humor about such things, you’ll probably enjoy it. It taps into ideas both Biblical and cultural about what the Apocalypse will be like and pokes gentle fun at them. I actually learned a thing or two from it!

5. The Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling

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You’ve already read it, right? If not, now’s the perfect time! If you have, what’s stopping you from rereading them for the third or fourth or eleventy-second time? Nothing, that’s what. Aside from being a tale of magic, Harry Potter has the best Halloween-oriented plot points in the game.

Have you read any of these? What are your favorite Halloween reads? Let me know in the comments!

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Fellowship of the Ring Book Tag

Today, for the very first time, I’m doing a book tag on my blog! Many thanks to BiblioNyan for tagging me. She’s very cool and kind and friendly and you should check her out.

I have to admit, I’m a poor Tolkien fan. I’ve only read The Hobbit and about two thirds of The Fellowship of the Ring, although I have seen all the movies in the trilogy & the first Hobbit movie. I’ll have to get on that sometime, but for now, here’s the tag!

Points to Note:

  1. Please pingback to Nandini’s original post.
  2. Feel free to use the banner from her post.
  3. Be as creative as you like while interpreting the prompts.
  4. Tag at least 3 people you think would enjoy doing the tag.
  5. Even though Gollum is not an official part of the Fellowship, Nandini wanted to have a round figure, so she added a prompt for this character too.

1. Gandalf – A book that taught you something

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Out of all the questions in the tag, this the the hardest to pick, because I learn something from just about every book I read. In the end, I decided to just go literal and recommend a book that taught me a lot of good information. Rubicon is a book that was assigned to me by my high school Latin teacher. It’s great because it’s a history book written in an engaging narrative style. Even if you already have a pretty good grasp of Roman history, I recommend this book just on the basis of being fun to read.

2. Frodo – A book that left a mark on you

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I read Night in my eighth grade English class. I’d learned about the Holocaust before, of course, but this was the first time I had encountered a survivor’s account. It was so visceral, dark, and disgusting. It made me realize exactly how dark human nature can be and what true evil looks like. The last line of the book has stuck with me ever since:

From the depths of the mirror, a corpse gazed back at me. The look in his eyes, as they stared into mine, has never left me.

3. Legolas – A book you finished in one sitting

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I very rarely finish a book in one sitting, even if it’s extremely short. Usually it’s only comics or poetry books that fit into that category, and so the last book I remember finishing in one sitting is Milk and Honey. Honestly, I didn’t really like it. While I appreciate the author’s vulnerability and expressiveness, the quality of the poetry is just poor. It’s fourth-rate Tumblr poetry. So many of the poems come across as lazily written. I’m not giving it a pass just because I sympathize with the author’s experiences or agree with some of her viewpoints.

4. Gimli – A book that features an unlikely friendship

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This sprawling masterpiece is full of strange connections and coincidences. There is, of course, Jean Valjean’s commitment to Fantine and later Cosette. His role as Cosette’s surrogate father is one of the essential relationships of the book. When you look at it more closely, though, there are all sorts of unlikely friendships. Valjean and Fauchelevent, Thenardier and Georges Pontmercy, Marius and Les Amis de l’ABC… that last one has a severely underrated backstory that’s totally glossed over in the musical. If you only know the musical, you’re missing out on so many details!

5. Merry – A book that pleasantly surprised you

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One time in middle school, I was taking way too long to choose a book at the bookstore. My mom got impatient and tried to help me pick. When she suggested The Mysterious Benedict Society, I wasn’t sure I would like it. Since we had to leave, though, I accepted her suggestion and gave it a shot. It turns out that this is one of the most clever and charming children’s books I’ve read in my life, and I later ended up buying the sequels, too!

6. Pippin – A book that made you laugh

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Nimona caught my eye at the bookstore one day, and since then, it’s become one of the most reread books on my shelf. It’s an irreverent fantasy story with lots of laughs, but it also offers a nuanced deconstruction of the line between good and evil. The main characters all have depth and make you sympathize with them at the most unexpected moments. I appreciate how this book manages to pull off light banter and ridiculous gags without feeling disjointed when it transitions to deeper and more emotional fare.

7. Boromir – A book/series that you think ended too soon

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There’s something bittersweet about Calvin and Hobbes. It’s basically how I learned how to read, and unlike most of the comics of my youth, it hasn’t grown stale with age. Instead, I find something new every time I revisit a strip. Bill Watterson has left us with plenty to chew on, but I still wish for more sometimes, or at least that the guy would come out of hiding for five minutes so I could shake his hand. These books evoke such intense nostalgia in me that it’s like some sort of drug.

8. Sam – A book with memorable side characters who stole the show

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When I think of books with a colorful ensemble cast, the Harry Potter series is the first one to come to mind. It’s hard to even name all of them, but aside from fan favorites like McGonagall, Snape, and Sirius, even the truly minor characters have their own fans. It’s partly because of the massive popularity of the series, but it’s also because Rowling gives her readers such a large sandbox to play in. Characters I think are underrated? Fleur Delacour and Regulus Black.

9. Aragorn – A good book with a bad/average cover

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My brother gave me The Dispossessed for Christmas this past year. Now, the cover isn’t exactly ugly, but it does look like a plain, cheap science fiction paperback–which, to be fair, it is. What’s contained between the covers, though, is insightful social and political commentary. Le Guin is a sensitive and thoughtful writer who knows how to capture the human condition. I slowly fell in love with this book.

10. Gollum – A book that had great potential but disappointed you in the end

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For this one, I’m going to have to go with Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor. I’d heard great things about the book, and the premise excited me. I wanted to see fantasy written for young people that came from a different perspective than the typical amalgamation of various European lore. The magic system here is distinctly Nigerian, to be sure, but the influence of Harry Potter overshadows the book’s plot and style. In the end, I found it surprisingly paint-by-numbers, especially from an author who’s such a critical darling right now.

Tags:

(To be honest, I’m not sure if everyone here is a doer of tags… so if you don’t want to participate, just take it as a compliment!)

  1. Lana Cole
  2. Lorraine
  3. thebookishbohemian

 

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Review: Ogre Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

This review is based on an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.

I love Ella Enchanted. I love Gail Carson Levine’s entire bibliography. If you haven’t seen it, I’ve written an essay on the impact Ella Enchanted has made on my life. So when I got the chance to read Ogre Enchanted before it officially comes out, I was psyched. This book can stand alone, but it’s also a prequel featuring characters from the generation before Ella.

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There’s a suggestion of a Beauty and the Beast narrative, but Ogre Enchanted is content to leave it as a vague inspiration rather than the basis of the tale. In fact, the Beauty and the Beast story canonically exists as a fairy tale in this universe. This stands in contrast to Ella Enchanted and Fairest, which are retellings, albeit ones that take great liberties with the source material.

Our protagonist, Evie, turns down a marriage proposal from her friend Wormy in the presence of the familiar fairy Lucinda, who turns her into an ogre in retaliation. If Evie can’t secure and accept another proposal within the time limit, she’ll remain one forever.

The main appeal for me as a fan of Levine is the expanded world-building. This story sheds light on the workings of ogre culture and magic, gives important background information on the history of Kyrria, and explains how Ella’s parents got together. The main plot-line is solid enough, but it seems a bit formulaic, and I would have preferred a different ending.

Spoilers under the cut.

Continue reading “Review: Ogre Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine”

Sci-Fi Favorites

Right now I’m reading The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal, an alternate history wherein an asteroid hitting Earth accelerates the space race, including the appearance of the world’s first female astronaut. I’m loving it so far, but I haven’t finished it yet, so I thought I’d recommend some other sci-fi favorites in the meantime!

1. The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

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Since I read this book around when it came out, it’s spawned a popular series now on its third installment. To be honest, I haven’t read either of the sequels yet, but I really want to. This first book features a quirky ensemble cast of humans and aliens. They form an interstellar construction crew for wormholes, and their biggest assignment yet is to connect an isolated planet with the universe at large. The planet is so isolated that they can’t use typical shortcuts to get there, and so it’s a long way to that small, angry planet. It’s a fun, low-pressure space adventure that focuses on the relationships between characters on what is essentially a really long road trip. And the characters are so endearing!

You can buy it here!

2. The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin

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Le Guin is, of course, the queen of sci-fi, but I hadn’t read any of her books until this year after my brother gave me a copy of The Dispossessed for Christmas. It centers around Shevek, a renowned physicist from Anarres, an anarcho-communist splinter colony on the moon of the planet Urras (or is Urras the moon of Anarres?). He’s the first visitor between the two worlds in hundreds of years, becoming entrenched in diplomatic intrigue in the much more complex politics of Urras. There’s a strong focus on world-building, comparing and contrasting the political systems of the two worlds. Le Guin uses this novel as a way to explore what anarchism might look like when put into practice, both the upsides and downsides. It’s a nuanced and fascinating read.

You can buy it here!

3. Extras by Scott Westerfeld

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This might sound a bit unusual, but I’m recommending the fourth book in a series. The Uglies series made a splash with its exploration of beauty standards, environmentalism, and dystopian government in a post-apocalyptic Earth. I’ve loved it ever since middle school. Most people, though, don’t even know that there’s a fourth book, since it was originally billed as a trilogy. Extras is something of a spin-off featuring a new main character, Aya Fuse, who lives in a future Japan. The book came out in the early years of YouTube and social media, and I find that it predicted the impact of these websites on our world with unnerving precision. In a city where popularity is an industry, Aya is desperate to be famous. Her character is a fictional prelude to the social media stars and wannabes of today.

You can buy it here! Or start with the first book here.

4. The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

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This series is an enjoyable and well-crafted sci-fi/fantasy mashup that brings together the stories of Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, and Snow White in a futuristic setting. Cinder kicks off with the title character as a cyborg who loses her entire prosthetic foot, not just her shoe. It’s also fittingly set in future China, home to one of the earliest versions of the Cinderella myth. The Lunar Chronicles is not merely a retelling, but rather a total reinvention of fairy tales, and Meyer deftly weaves them together to form a cohesive, creative world. I’m asking you to give it a shot even if you usually steer clear of YA books. It’s worth it.

You can buy the first book here!

Have you read any of these? What are your favorite sci-fi novels? Tell me in the comments!

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Flashback Friday: Childhood Favorites

If you know me, you know I am an ardent fan of Ella Enchanted and Gail Carson Levine, and that her books pretty much defined my childhood. Today, though, I’m going to go a bit deeper into the authors and books that made me who I am now. I’ve restricted myself to elementary school favorites — middle school is a whole different game.

1. The Town Cats by Lloyd Alexander

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I’m easy. I will read almost any book that prominently features a cat. The Town Cats is a collection of short stories about various sentient talking cats in fantasy medieval settings, an excellent premise that is brilliantly executed here. The cats in question are often heroes, but usually roguish ones. Most memorably, the first story of the collection features a cat who convinces the entire populace of his village to switch place with their cats in order to evade increased regulation and taxes from the government. As you can guess, the level of humor is perfect for family entertainment: funny for kids, but with an extra layer of absurdity for their parents. It’s kind of like SpongeBob that way.

(See also: Time Cat, Chronicles of Prydain)

2. Dealing with Dragons (Enchanted Forest Chronicles) by Patricia C. Wrede
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I found Princess Cimorene’s name to be supremely unpronounceable, but that didn’t stop me from adoring her. This contrarian princess saves herself not from a dragon, but from a forced marriage by means of taking up with a dragon named Kazul. Whenever a prince or knight comes to “save” her in exchange for a hefty reward, she sternly kicks him out, usually without even calling on Kazul. She also learns practical skills from her new reptilian mentor, thwarts the plans of some unscrupulous wizards, and makes friends with other captives. I would gladly live in a cave with Kazul, who is the chillest dragon aunt ever.

3. Maximum Boy series by Dan Greenburg

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Max is a kid with amazing superpowers, but the caveat is that he can only use them at maximum. Maximum speed, maximum strength — he can’t parade that kind of power in front of his classmates, so he sticks to being the second slowest kid in gym class. In that sense, he’s a bit like Deku in My Hero Academia, for you anime fans. Also, he’s allergic to math. …There’s no real explanation for that part. I checked this series out of the library a weird number of times, and I’m not really sure why. It’s such a typical kid-superhero storyline, but it’s well done. Max reminds me a little bit of Percy Jackson, a wisecracking kid who somehow has to save Manhattan.

4. Tales of Magic series by Edward Eager

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I took these from my classroom library originally mistaking them for Roald Dahl books. The covers in my teacher’s classroom copies featured cute sketches of children in fantastical situations against a white background, so it was an easy mistake to make. It’s a charming series of low fantasy stories that take a group of children from the mundane to the fantastical. It’s hard for me to remember specific plot points, but all of it has an air of whimsy. The “half magic” coin only does half of what you want it to, and there’s a thyme garden that facilitates time travel. It surprises me that I don’t hear more people talking about these books.

What books did you love reading as a kid? Are any of these among them? Tell me in the comments!

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That Time I Met Rick Riordan

Not to be dramatic, but I was scarred by this encounter. I was betrayed.

(Don’t worry, I love Uncle Rick.)

At the time of The Last Olympian‘s publishing, Rick Riordan went on a book tour, and one of his stops was at my local community college. I was in seventh grade and at the peak of my Percy Jackson obsession. I was convinced that if I were a demigod, I would be a daughter of Athena. The most recent book, The Battle of the Labyrinth, had played with my emotions with the kiss scene immediately followed by Percy’s near-death experience. I was hyped beyond belief for the dramatic conclusion.

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So I went to the event along with my dad. The signing limit was one book per person, so I gave my dad Battle of the Labyrinth and picked up a copy of The Last Olympian at the door. It was packed in there. Stacks of fresh new hardcovers practically lined the walls, and the place was teeming with children and their parents. To my surprise, most of them were younger than me, somewhere from eight to ten years old. I knew that lots of kids my age loved the books, so why weren’t any of them here? Had they not heard about it? Later, I guiltily realized that I hadn’t mentioned it to my friends beforehand, so they very well may not have heard about it.

With all the younglings, the event was a bit raucous, and I can’t remember the exact order of things or what exactly was said. Roughly, I think Rick spoke for a bit, then he took questions, and then there was the signing.

What I do remember is the cardboard cutouts promoting the upcoming movie. Right away, I was suspicious, because Percy Jackson was supposed to have green eyes, and Annabeth most definitely did not have brown hair! I voiced these complaints to my dad, who took them in good humor.

I also remember Rick Riordan promoting the movie and acting pretty excited about it. He said that he had visited the set for Camp Half-Blood and that it was everything he could have imagined. The teaser he showed us looked a bit dark to me, but he was the author. I trusted him. Bolstered by his words, I resolved to look forward to the movie.

I shouldn’t have underestimated all the nine-year-olds. They came prepared with questions, unlike me. One sharp-eyed child asked why Blackjack was originally introduced as female, but later showed up as a male pegasus. Rick admitted that the inconsistency was a mistake not caught in editing.

After questions, we got in line for the signing, which was managed pretty briskly. Nonetheless, Rick was polite and friendly to everyone, allotting enough time to answer one question per person. My dad went before me, and because he was clearly just there in a parental capacity, he moved through pretty quickly. Then I was up. I, stupidly, had not prepared any questions. Rick greeted me and asked for my name, which I gave, and then asked if I had any questions for him, to which I said, “uhh, not really.” He said some other pleasantry, gave back my book, and I was moved along.

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Looking back, of course I wish I had asked him something, anything, but my brain shorted out in the moment, and being twelve, I didn’t know what book signings were like. The nine-year-olds were probably warned by teachers or parents, or maybe they were just smarter and more dedicated fans than me. Who knows?

Part of it is definitely a personal trait I didn’t know about until that moment, that I am supremely awkward around celebrities. Not that I’ve met many, but I’ve been to several signings with famous authors since, and I’ve put my foot in my mouth every single time, usually in more embarrassing ways than not having a question ready.

Anyway, I went home, read The Last Olympian, and I was not disappointed in the dramatic conclusion I’d been waiting for.

So where does betrayal come in? If you’re a fan of the series, you may have already picked up on what I’m referring to. That is, the movie.

The movies based on the Percy Jackson series are supremely bad.

percy jackson 1
No offense, Logan Lerman, but your character is supposed to be twelve years old.

I trusted you, Rick Riordan! I went into that theater with expectations of a great movie experience, and that is not what I received! I left the theater disappointed. Disgruntled. Distressed.

It wasn’t until years later that I discovered Rick Riordan’s Twitter account, where he has disavowed any connection with the movies and makes fun of them on a semi-regular basis. And you know what? By that time, I understood. Sometimes a movie deal for your book isn’t what you expected it to be. I’m sure that he was more excited than any fan about it, and as a result, more disappointed when it turned out to be garbage.

In the end, I’m still a huge fan of Rick Riordan, and the existence of some terrible movies that capitalize on his name can’t ruin that for me.

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