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The Song of Achilles
Author: Madeline Miller
Published: September 2011
Length: 384 pages
Warnings: gently described sex scenes, taking of women as prisoners to most likely be used and abused, the normal gore/death/blood that comes with Greek mythology and war
Summary : Greece in the age of Heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the kingdom of Phthia. Here he is nobody, just another unwanted boy living in the shadow of King Peleus and his golden son, Achilles.
Achilles, 'best of all the Greeks', is everything Patroclus is not — strong, beautiful, the child of a goddess — and by all rights their paths should never cross. Yet one day, Achilles takes the shamed prince under his wing and soon their tentative companionship gives way to a steadfast friendship. As they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine, their bond blossoms into something far deeper — despite the displeasure of Achilles's mother Thetis, a cruel and deathly pale sea goddess with a hatred of mortals.
Fate is never far from the heels of Achilles. When word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, the men of Greece are called upon to lay siege to Troy in her name. Seduced by the promise of a glorious destiny, Achilles joins their cause. Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus follows Achilles into war, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they have learned, everything they hold dear. And that, before he is ready, he will be forced to surrender his friend to the hands of Fate.
Review: Patroclus, son of a king, is just a boy when he is exiled for accidentally kiiling another boy. Sent to the court of King Peleus, he gradually befriends and falls in love with his son Achilles, growing close over training for war and despite sea-goddess Thetis, Achilles’ mother, disapproving. Carry on a few years. Helen of Sparta’s been kidnapped. Achilles is destined to go to war and be the greatest of the Greeks. Patroclus is honour bound to go to war because of an oath he swore when he was nine and being put up as a suitor for Helen. Together they go to war and meet their destinies.
I’ve been in love with Greek mythology since I was...eight? maybe. And ever since we studied the Trojan War in history when I was ten, I’ve loved it (even though the thing I’ve always remembered most is that Hector dies and Achilles drags his body round Troy three times). So yeah. Retelling of Illiad. Fun times.
Patroclus is really the main character, despite the title. You follow him from an early age, you get into his head a lot, you see him following around Achilles a lot. Achilles is a bit annoying at times, but also kind at times, mainly because Patroclus asks him to be. My favourite character is Briseis, a girl from one of the villages raided that Patroclus asks Achilles to claim, and then befriends. I also really liked Odysseus. Some of the Greek kings were idiots.
The romance features heavily. The connection between Patroclus and Achilles is different to the typical male/male relationship structure seen in Ancient Greece-it’s a very deep one, grown over years, that you can easily see how it would set up the climax of Patroclus’ story-Achilles sulking after Briseis is taken, Patroclus going off in Achilles armour, and the following events.
You get a lot of action written well. It’s all very quick, you feel as though you’re there. Madeline uses the mythology really really heavily, giving sea-goddess Thetis a starring part, and having gods like Apollo show up onthe battlefield. I would have liked to go a little more into the way that the gods interact with humans, but I guess that wasn’t really the focus. Also, there’s a lot of stories from along the timelines of Patroclus and Achilles, for example the killing that sets it up, the training of Patroclus and Achilles with centaur Chiron, the hiding as a woman at someone’s palace that Achilles does to avoid being called to war and so on. I would have liked Madeline to put in a bit more of her own spin on things like plot and characterisation, instead of the only major additions to the stories I already know being Patroclus gushing over Achilles (which he does fairly regularly).
The writing is poetic, the dialogues a little less so. It’s kind of awkward going into a book knowing that your narrator dies. However, Madeline keeps the story going after this happens, really well, before drawing it to a good conclusion.
Overall: Strength 4 tea to a beautiful retelling of the Illiad, with further backstory and character interaction.
Published: September 2003 by Knopf
Length: 192 pages
publisher and netgalley
David Levithan co-authored Will Grayson, Will Grayson with John Green.
Summary : This is the story of Paul, a sophomore at a high school like no other: The cheerleaders ride Harleys, the homecoming queen used to be a guy named Daryl (she now prefers Infinite Darlene and is also the star quarterback), and the gay-straight alliance was formed to help the straight kids learn how to dance.
When Paul meets Noah, he thinks he’s found the one his heart is made for. Until he blows it. The school bookie says the odds are 12-to-1 against him getting Noah back, but Paul’s not giving up without playing his love really loud. His best friend Joni might be drifting away, his other best friend Tony might be dealing with ultra-religious parents, and his ex-boyfriend Kyle might not be going away anytime soon, but sometimes everything needs to fall apart before it can really fit together right. Review: Paul, who's known he's gay his entire life and lives in essentially a utopia for the LGBT community, doesn't have any problems. Until he meets Noah and falls in love.
I read this because everyone's just like “Yay! David Levithan!” and I wanted to know what all the fuss is about.
I think this would have been so much better if someone other than Paul was the main character. Hopefully Tony, whose religious household means that he has to hide his feelings for other guys, or Kyle, whose struggling with his sexuality. (I think) Both of them have much more interesting storylines than Paul, whose seems to be “I met a guy. I messed up. I want him back.” Paul himself isn't that interesting either, so having him as our main character didn't make me care too much for this book.
As I said, this is a utopia of sorts. The gay and straight scenes got mixed up. The only opposition to the LGBT community is from the overly religious, and there's none of the outright or casual homophobia that is often seen in highschool environments. The star football player is a drag queen, and there's a small subculture. I'm reading it thinking “this is lovely and all, and I love the fact that there's very little discrimination and such, but it's just a bit too optimistic; I can't see this happening in a contemporary, modern day setting”.
Apologies for the shortness of this review but I just sat there thinking “this is boring. Boring. Bored.” And couldn’t really formulate many thoughts past that.
Strength 2 tea to a book where the side characters and plots make for much better stories than the main one we have.
Title: Of Poseidon
Author: Anna Banks
Narrated by: Rebecca Gibel
Publication Date: December 11, 2012
Listening copy via Sync
I realized that my monthly Reader's Corner column had turned into a monthly audiobook review, so I thought I go ahead and just make it an actual audiobook review.
I was able to stock up on some audiobooks thanks to Sync, and
Title: Boyfriends with Girlfriends
Published: April 2011 by Simon and Schuster
Length: 219 pagesSource: bought
Other info: Alex has written The Rainbow Boys trilogy (which I was going to review for Rainbow Reads but gave up after three pages so I'm not) and many other prominant LGBT books. Summary : Lance has always known he was gay, but he's never had a real boyfriend. Sergio is bisexual, but his only real relationship was with a girl. When the two of them meet, they have an instant connection--but will it be enough to overcome their differences? Allie's been in a relationship with a guy for the last two years--but when she meets Kimiko, she can't get her out of her mind. Does this mean she's gay? Does it mean she's bi? Kimiko, falling hard for Allie, and finding it impossible to believe that a gorgeous girl like Allie would be into her, is willing to stick around and help Allie figure it out.
Boyfriends with Girlfriends is Alex Sanchez at his best, writing with a sensitive hand to portray four very real teens striving to find their places in the world--and with each other.
Review:Sergio is bisexual, Lance and Kimiko are gay, Allie's not entirely sure. A meet up with Sergio and Lance leads to them getting together, and to Kimiko and Allie maybe getting together. There's a lot of differences in between them, and lots of questions to be answered. I added this to my wishlist because there's just not that many books with prominent bisexual characters (at least, I can't think of many), and I feel like I should know about what representation we do have. Boyfriends with Girlfriends is a very character book. centering around two sets of romantic relationships and the relevant friendships involved. Both romantic relationships start at the start of the novel and develop very differently over the course of the novel. I like the racial diversity (Sergio is Latino, I think, and Kimiko is Japanese). Sorry, in literature (most media really) there's not that many non-white queer characters, which is something I'd really like to see change over time. The characters, I felt, were very stock-y. Three secure in their sexuality, one not, the lesbian being your standard cut out of cardboard uber dyke, many stereotypes for all of them, not much more than that to them. I kind of related to Sergio and Kimiko, Allie was nice enough, and Lance pissed me off to no end in the first half of the book. The writing isn’t very good. It’s immature at times, and simple, and it didn’t make me want to keep reading. Boyfriends with Girlfriends approaches bisexuality from opposite ends of the spectrum-the one confident and secure with his, and the one starting to discover hers. I very much like the fact that Sergio constantly challenges Lance’s opinion that bisexuals are closeted homosexuals. Thank you someone for making that clear! There’s some nice scenes with Kimiko’s family and Sergio’s family regarding acceptance, but these seemed to take a backseat which is sad, cos these were interesting. I like the fact that not everything ends amazingly. With the way the relationships were going, it didn’t seem likely that they would, but still. This is kind of realistic. Overall: Strength 2.5, slightly more a 3, to a book that looks at bisexuality well, but doesn’t do very well in terms of plot and character. PS- datassguardian has very eloquently voiced the thoughts I have on this book. Posted with permission.
Julie Anne Peters
Published: 1st September 2007
Length: 160 pages
Warnings: child abuse, attempted rape
I really enjoyed Luna
Summary :I n this honest, emotionally captivating short story collection, renowned author and National Book Award finalist Julie Anne Peters offers a stunning portrayal of young women as they navigate the hurdles of relationships and sexual identity.
From the young lesbian taking her first steps toward coming out to the two strangers who lock eyes across a crowded train, from the transgender teen longing for a sense of self to the girl whose abusive father has turned her to stone, Peters is the master of creating characters whose own vulnerability resonates with readers and stays with them long after the last page is turned.
Grl2grl shows the rawness of teenage emotion as young girls become women and begin to discover the intricacies of love, dating and sexuality.
Review: I didn’t know what to expect from this. I really wasn’t paying attention when I got it from the library, so was surprised to find it was a collection of short stories.
Passengers-Tam starts getting to know the person on the train, and herself.
Can't Stop the Feeling-Mariah working up th courage to go to the GSA. Nice enough characters, open ending as to Mariah's choices later. I liked Lily.
After Alex- The dealing with Alex's break up with Rachel. Not much happened here.
Outside/Inside-Logan selects a card for the girl she likes. Nice little twist. This was a good one.
On the Floor-sporting competition. Not much happened.
Stone Cold Butch-Cammie's abusive father has made her cold. This was emotional.
Abstinence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder- a "sex ed" class leads to Aimee chatting to ex-best-friend Peyton, discussing things. Nice reunion. A little emotional.
Boi-the story of Vince, the transgender teen looking for hir sense of self, being looked after by hir brother Kevin, and ze gets attacked. This one was emotional. I got close to Vince in the story.
TIAD tells of two girls on a support forum, Scar_tissu and Black_Venus, who fall in love. This was a nice one.
Two-part Intervention-Kat and Annika, great friends, violinist and cellist, haven't seen eachother for a year. They reunite. Short, happy, nice use of music.
Most of these were too short. They all felt like they were the beginning of something, and were cut off before I could make that much of a connection with the characters.
That said, there’s some great things in these stories. There’s a very large range of characters, and I think everyone will see something of themselves in at least one of them. There’s a lot of issues coming up-homophobia, transphobia, abuse and so on, which gives the book a rather depressing, pessimistic feel, but is good in showing how some people cope. The writing was gentle and suited the themes well.
Overall: Strength 2.5, just about more a 3, tea to a book with great themes and topics raised, but stories I couldn’t get in to.
Book: The Rules
Author: Stacey Kade
Source: ARC borrowed from a friend
Ariane lives by the rules. 1. Never trust anyone. 2. Remember they are always searching. 3. Don’t get involved. 4. Keep your head down. 5. Don’t fall in love.
They’re all that stands between her and discovery. If anyone learned that she was different in any way, the evil GTX corporation would recapture her and drag her back into the bowels of their research division. Yes, recapture. Because Ariane lived the first six years of her life like a mouse in a maze, showing GTX what she could do. And why was what she could so much more special than any other child?
Because she’s not fully human.
Built of human and alien DNA to be GTX’s pet assassin, she was freed at age six by the man who now calls himself her father, and it’s his rules she lives by. She never thought Rule 5 would be a problem - Don’t fall in love - until she starts to get involved with Zane. Popular Zane. Gorgeous Zane. Sweet, gentle, fascinating Zane. The son of the local sheriff, who wants more than anything to get in good at GTX.
This . . . might be a problem.
Like her prior Ghost and the Goth series, this is written in a dual POV, something that’s happening a lot in YA lately. Often, I don’t really know why. In this book, it pretty much works, because Zane and Ariane have very different viewpoints of GTX, but also of their friends, schoolmates, and obviously, each other. Ariane doesn’t trust Zane (for good reason, because his friend Rachel is as mean as a snake). Zane is fascinated by the formerly mousy Ariane’s buried strength, as well as being very concerned about her home life. Seeing the way that their views gradually change was one of the things that kept pulling me through this novel.
There are some things that don’t hold up. For instance, how is it that this girl lived 10 years in the same town with GTX, with her father working for them, and never once thought, “You know, this isn’t the smartest place for me to be.” There’s a spoileriffic reason for that situation, but her unquestioning acceptance of it is what makes me do the simple-dog head-tilt. Plus, Ariane is very delicate, bruising and breaking bones easily, which is part of the reason Zane becomes convinced she’s being abused. How does that work for an assassin, even if she can kill people with her brain?
Overall, however, I liked this book. I’m told (by Goodreads, and if we can’t depend on that, then who can we depend on?) that this is the first in a series. I feel as if it could have just as well been a standalone, but I’ll try out the next one.
Today is the first Friday in September. Which means it's time for the Fourth Annual Bugs and Bunnies Wonderful Weirdos of Literature Series!If you're a regular reader of Bugs and Bunnies, you know exactly what's in store, and I hope you're excited to get started. If you're new here, I expect you'll be wanting a bit of explanation before we dive in today.Here's the Peanut-Shell Explanation (because peanut shells are small, so they only hold a little bit):
And here's the Walnut-Shell Explanation (because walnut shells are bigger than peanut shells, so they hold a little bit more):Visit the links below for more in-depth information:
- Every Friday in September, I post a round-up of kids' books I just love, with characters who are, well, characters. You know: the misunderstood, the eccentric, the quirky, the unique, the weird, the wacky. Those books might be picture books, or chapter books, or middle grade books, or young adult books.
Once you're all caught up, come back to this post, and we'll Crack this Coconut (because coconuts are bigger than peanuts and walnuts, so they hold a lot more, and whether a coconut is nut or or a fruit or a seed or a drupe, it's the biggest nut-type-thing I could think of).
- Wonderful Weirdos of Literature Series - This is the main page for the series. Here you'll find a brief explanation of how the series works, and links to Installments #1-11 from the previous three celebrations.
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Back now? Wonderful! Let's get started with Installment #12. As in past years, there will be Variations on the Overall Weirdo Theme for each installment. This year's Variations will all start with "O." (I don't know why. They just came to me. Sometimes it's best not to question inspiration that just drops in your lap like that.) This week's Variation on the Overall Weirdo Theme is:
You know the type – they're just this side of normal, and they have their own unique way of doing things. The characters in the following books fit that bill, to be sure – odd animals, in even more odd situations:
Max's Chocolate Chicken
Written and illustrated by Rosemary Wells
Ages 3 - 7
One morning, Max finds a chocolate chicken in the birdbath. Max loves the chocolate chicken. But before he can grab it, big sister Ruby lays down the rules: First, they have to do an egg hunt. Whoever gets the most eggs, gets the chocolate chicken. So, they set off. Ruby keeps finding eggs, but Max keeps finding anything but. And when it becomes clear that the chocolate chicken is not going to go to Max, Max takes matters into his own hands...
Written by Margie Palatini
Illustrated by Henry Cole
Ages 3 - 7
Moose has a rather hairy problem - a mighty, massive, itchy moosetache. Because of his moosetache, dancing is nearly impossible, cooking is a messy disaster, and skiing is downright dangerous. And so, he is determined to tame it. But how? Moose tries all manner of creative solutions, but each "solution" brings even more trouble. Then, just when he's sure he'll never figure out how to manage his mischievous moosetache, Moose runs into...her. And soon, things become much more manageable indeed.
Philadelphia Chickens: A Too-Illogical Zoological Musical Revue
Written, illustrated and directed by Sandra Boynton
Ages 1 - 4, technically. But really, Ages 1 - 100 will enjoy it, too.
Presented in the style of a musical stage production, Philadelphia Chickens is a compilation of songs covering a variety of off-beat topics, such as: an ode to out-of-reach cookies, an existential examination of the belly button, and the antics of a group of swingin' city chickens, to name just a few. The book features illustrations, lyrics and music for each song, and comes with a CD featuring the original recordings from such entertainment greats as Kevin Kline, Meryl Streep and Scott Bakula. Add in vocal performances from the Aaaardvarks, The Seldom Herd, and The Bacon Brothers, and the result is a ton of silly reading and listening and singing fun.
Wind in the Willows
Written by Kenneth Grahame
Illustrated by Ernest H. Shepard
Ages 8 and up
Mole keeps a fastidious house, and usually he enjoys doing so, but one day during Spring cleaning, he's had enough. Craving something new, he sets off from his home in search of adventure. And he finds it in the form of Water Rat, who introduces Mole to the river life - exciting stuff for a Mole. Then, things get considerably more adventurous when Mole finds himself pulled into the goings-on of the infamous Mr. Toad, who has wild rides through the woods in (someone else's) motor car, endures a stint in jail, and finds himself in a tricky battle with weasels intent upon usurping Toad's fabulous abode for themselves. Through it all, mild-mannered Mole discovers he's made of tougher stuff than he imagined. And the adventures are exciting, just as he'd hoped. Still, he begins to pine for his quiet little life at home after a while. But, after taking the wild ride that is running about in company with Mr. Toad and friends, will Mole ever be able to return to his comparatively hum-drum life?
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So. That wraps it up for today. But before you go, I'll leave you with this:
"To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
Yesterday I posted a tip on Facebook regarding the wrong way to contact bloggers for exposure after being “cold call” emailed myself. The cliff note version is that a marketing person sent me a form letter asking for book exposure, and supplied 4 attachments that contained book covers, press releases, links, etc.
This prompted some discussion on Facebook and in email about what the protocol is for contacting bloggers or website owners for a promotion opportunity, especially if one does not have a strong online presence and so can't reciprocate (such as trading guest posts). I know reaching outside one's comfort zone to ask for help can be a difficult thing to do, so based on my personal experience from both sides of this fence, here's some tips on how to ask!1) Do your homework
I'll be honest...nothing bugs me more than to be contacted by someone who has looked at my blog's SEO score or glanced at my traffic meter (which is way off the mark anyway) but knows nothing about The Bookshelf Muse
. Asking me to review business software, jewelry, iPad products or anything else that has nothing to do with my blog's focus is NOT going to win me over. So, when you are looking for online exposure, research blogs to understand what they are about, what they typically post, and only add them to your list to contact if you see a strong fit. This means knowing YOUR audience before you get started. Also, if you are looking for a book review, make sure the people you wish to contact actually DO REVIEWS, and if so, that they REVIEW YOUR GENRE. If they have instructions for contacting them, follow those instructions.2) Show respect
First off, while it certainly is easier to send out a cut-and-paste email to 50 or so blogs or websites asking for help, what saves you time will cost you in exposure. Anyone with any measure of success online understands that relationships are paramount. If you did your homework in step 1, you have researched the person you are contacting. Personalize email by introducing yourself and demonstrating that you have visited the person's blog, and understand & enjoy the content. Be authentic and friendly, and respectful of their time. 3) Offer information, but don't go overboard
Whatever exposure opportunity you're asking for will require some specific information. Be clear and concise about what your offering, be it a book, product or service. Convey why your product is a good fit for the blog/blogger and their audience, showing you have knowledge of this person's site. Provide a link if needed to the product online, or lacking that, links to how to reach you. DON'T send them your book or product proactively, or a bunch of press release attachments and book covers or promotional information. Would you send your manuscript along with a query letter to an agent who has not asked for both? No. So offer to forward these things if the blogger wants them and welcome the chance to answer any questions they may have.4) Offer value, not promo
Your goal is to get a YES when it comes to asking for an exposure opportunity, so make it easy for them to do so. When you approach a blogger, know what you are asking for. If it is a review site, then ask for a review and in turn offer something of value. A free book to the reviewer will be expected, but consider also offering one in a giveaway. Giveaways usually increase traffic, so the expense will be worth it if you have chosen a site that exposes you to your ideal audience. If it is a product or service, or book exposure that is not a review, consider what this audience might find valuable. Can you guest post on a topic that fits well with this blog's focus? Can you offer your expertise in a way that readers will find helpful (a Q & A about something you know a lot about, for example.) A freebie of some sort, or something else? Whatever you can offer, lay this out. Offer a few options (for example, list out a few ideas you have for a post), but be flexible and open to whatever ideas they have for you, too. Exposure is an opportunity to CONNECT with an audience and build a relationship with people interested in what you have to say, not a way to spam people with promo. Always add value in all that you do.5) Be easy to work with
Bloggers are busy people. The bigger bloggers especially have a lot to juggle, because they are likely active across different social media platforms, plus have their own lives and work to attend to. Once you've secured a guest post or exposure opportunity, make sure you send them whatever is required in a timely manner. Also, don't just "dash something off" (especially if you are a writer!) Write something you're proud of and make sure it offers insight and value. Check carefully for typos and grammar. Bloggers appreciate it when you do a good job the first time so they don't waste time sending it back to you for editing. Provide links that are easy to follow for the audience, and make sure there is a way for readers to find out more about your product. Include a small bio about yourself and where you can be found (twitter, facebook, website, etc.) so the blogger doesn't have to spend time looking for these things themselves.6) Show up, interact and share
The day your post goes live, stop in and interact with people in the comment section. This is your opportunity to make yourself memorable to people who took the time to read what you had to say. Thank your host for having you. Continue to add value by answering questions, both the day of the post and a few check-ins afterward (some people won't see the post until the next day or so). Wherever you are online (even if you only use Facebook, or Twitter, etc.) make sure you share your post with people who might be interested in the content. When you ask someone for exposure, you thank them by trying to drive people to their blog however you are able to. Don't spam, but do share the link with people who you feel might be interested.7) Keep on asking
Maybe you might strike out a few times, but that's okay...keep going! I know asking for things can be intimidating, but here's the thing...most people are caring and helpful and want to build relationships. If we didn't, we wouldn't blog, or be on facebook or twitter. So try to set your nerves aside and be genuine. When you are, it comes through, and often leads to a Yes!
Other posts you might find helpful:
Any tips on contacting bloggers that you'd like to share? I'd love to hear them!
By: alethea aka frootjoos,
Blog: Read Now Sleep Later
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Thanks to Claudia Mills and FSG for inviting me to kick off the Zero Tolerance blog tour!
Middle Grade Realistic FictionKeywords:
School controversy, friendship, family, values, moralityFormat:
Seventh-grader Sierra Shepard has always been the perfect student, so when she sees that she accidentally brought her mother's lunch bag to school, including a paring knife, she immediately turns in the knife at the school office. Much to her surprise, her beloved principal places her in in-school suspension and sets a hearing for her expulsion, citing the school's ironclad no weapons policy. While there, Sierra spends time with Luke, a boy who's known as a troublemaker, and discovers that he's not the person she assumed he would be--and that the lines between good and bad aren't as clear as she once thought. Claudia Mills brings another compelling school story to life with Zero Tolerance.Review:
I was initially drawn to read this by the great cover art by Vera Brosgol
(author-illustrator of Anya's Ghost
-- note, not all her artwork is SFW ;) Sierra's worried brows striking just the right gesture of uncertainty towards the green apple on top of her head, William Tell-style, with the subtle background behind her forming a target. The symbolism of the apple is so clever--not just its part in setting off the events in the book, but also the reference to apples for teachers
, that iconic fruit for teacher's pets. I started this late one night and finished around 3 am, earning it the Stay up all night
Careful plotting and great characters are what make this middle grade novel by Claudia Mills so compelling to read. The book centers not necessarily around the zero tolerance policy that Sierra unwittingly breaks, but around the idea that right and wrong aren't always clearly defined. For a goody-two-shoes like Sierra and the other good girls she hangs around with, everything seems black-and-white... until she gets suspended and put on a track towards expulsion.
Her perspective shaken off its axis, Sierra starts to see people differently: Mr. Besser, the school principal she had previously viewed with an almost worshipful eye; her lawyer dad, who might not be handling the situation in a completely above-board way; and her friends, especially a cute boy named Colin who sticks up for her, but maybe not for the reasons she wishes he would. Then there's the hyperactive Luke, perennially suspended but not exactly bad-to-the-bone. Sierra starts to make impulsive, spiteful decisions she will later regret. As the consequences start to pile up, she needs to re-balance her views of good and bad if she is ever going to be able to make things right again.
There are a couple of words used that might make this objectionable for parents (assuming it's assigned for school reading), however I think Sierra's attitude towards swearing and how it changes throughout the book is a great way to broach the topic with tweens and younger teens (who, lets face it, probably swear a lot more than their parents think they do). Counterbalance that analysis with the school's creed: RULES - RESPECT - RESPONSIBILITY - RELIABILITY, and you've got quite a lot to talk about. The author provides a discussion guide with activity ideas
on her website.
I think this would make a great family tv-movie. Nick Offerman would make a great Mr. Besser; Joel McHale and Alison Brie could play Sierra's dad and mom. I don't know of any young actresses that could really pull off the various emotions and attitudes that Sierra goes through, do you?
Lastly, Sierra's mom keeps trying to keep her spirits up. She's affectionate and loving, but most noticeably (as most good moms do) she keeps feeding Sierra comfort foods. As the book goes on and Sierra becomes more and more disgusted by her own actions, she develops aversions to particular foods. I can't say I blame her! If only she hadn't brought that knife to school by accident... So below, I've included some ideas for apple nachos--if you're a kid, have an adult help you with the chopping and heating parts. You can vary the amounts as you wish, but for a lot of the toppings just a tablespoon of each will do. Recipes for the sauces follow. I'll try to update this post with more photos when I can make the other variations. And please, remember to leave the knife at home!
|"The Sweet Sierra"|
An apple, any variety
A cutting board
A mixing bowl
A serving plate (or a container with an air-tight lid if you're taking it to school)
Makes 1-2 servings
- Wash and dry an apple. You can peel the skin off if you want to, but I like to keep it on unless it's a variety that has a bitter or waxy skin.
- With an adult's help, chop the apple into quarters. Carefully cut out the core with the stem and seeds, then slice each quarter into thinner slices. These are your "chips".
- Cut the lemon in half and squeeze the juice into a bowl.
- Toss the apple chips in the lemon juice and let them soak for a minute. This will stop them from turning brown right away. Drain and pat the apple chips dry with a paper towel.
- Arrange the slices on a plate and add your choice of toppings. You can drizzle the sauces on or put them on the side for dipping.
- Eat it right away, or take it to school with you.
The Sweet Sierra (pictured above)
the sweet and sour variation
Dulce de leche
or caramel sauce + raisins + mini chocolate chips + shredded coconut
the nutty variation
Peanut butter sauce + raisins + chopped pecans + banana slices
The Principal Besser
the school lunch variation
Nacho cheese (yes, apples taste great with cheese!)
+ diced tomatoes, olives, and jalapeños (optional)
The Gerald Edward Shepard, Esquire
the fine dining variation
Extra-virgin olive oil + balsamic glaze or vinegar
+ pine nuts + crushed dried basil or oregano + parmesan cheese
(You can toss a little crushed garlic in there if you're really feeling brave)
the French toast variation
Maple syrup + crumbled shredded wheat or other cereal + cinnamon sugar
The Angie Shepard
the tough cookie variation
Cookie butter sauce + slivered almonds + dried cranberries
The Comfort of Friends
the hot chocolate variation
Chocolate syrup + mini marshmallows + whipped cream*
*You're going to want to eat this right away, unless you for some reason have access to a refrigerator at school. You can also toast this combo after adding marshmallows but before adding the chocolate syrup and whipped cream!
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp half and half, heavy whipping cream, or milk
1/2 Tbsp butter
Tiny pinch of salt
A few drops of vanilla extract
In a small saucepan over low heat, stir together all the ingredients except the vanilla. When the sauce has melted and blended together (about 1 minute), stir in the vanilla. Turn off the heat and keep stirring all the while to help it cool down. When it is no longer very hot, pour over apple nachos.
Peanut butter sauce
2 Tbsp peanut butter, smooth or crunchy
1 Tbsp half and half, heavy whipping cream, or milk
1 Tbsp white or brown sugar
Tiny pinch of salt
1 tsp maple syrup or light corn syrup
In a small saucepan over medium heat, stir together all the ingredients until well blended. Turn off the heat and keep stirring all the while to help it cool down. When it is no longer very hot, pour over apple nachos.
Cookie butter sauce
1 Tbsp half and half, heavy whipping cream, or milk
1 Tbsp white or brown sugar
Tiny pinch of salt
In a small saucepan over medium heat, stir together all the ingredients until well blended. Turn off the heat and keep stirring all the while to help it cool down. When it is no longer very hot, pour over apple nachos.
I used a Granny Smith apple for The Sweet Sierra variation since it's a little tart -- it balances out all the sweet stuff and I thought this represented Sierra's character changes throughout the book. I used Gala apples for all the rest but you can use any kind you like or have available. I also used Mallow Bits for the hot chocolate variation, but use regular mini-marshmallows if you're going to toast it.
By: Lizza Aiken,
Joan Aiken writing at her very best was a perfect companion. Well travelled, cultured, with a wealth of personal experience, and the ability not just to tell a gripping story, but to draw the reader in to the very process of writing. What she loved was to hold her audience in a […]
By: Lizza Aiken,
This famously haunting picture, and its resonant title, which some have taken as the manifesto of the Spanish painter Goya, was the inspiration for Joan’s science fiction fantasy The Cockatrice Boys. Her magpie mind was constantly on the alert, moving between the news of the day, the scientific discoveries that were changing the world, […]
Jane is ready. She has her sketchbook (one of the most important things in her life), her obnoxious brother Michael and her mother. Everything is packed. The beach is calling. It's a beautiful day, clear and perfect. Jane couldn't ask for a better one. She heads toward the water and start swimming. And that's about all she can remember.
Her brother Michael remembers it all to well. The water turning red as Jane is pulled onto the beach. The shock of seeing her mangled body. The ambulance pulling up and taking his sister away. He caught it all on camera, and it's this footage that changes Jane's life.
It's a long road to recovery for Jane. The pain, the loss of her arm to a shark, the rehab...it's something she can't psychologically get through. She knows it will take time, and she knows her life now has changed. The sketchbook she always carried around? Useless now. Everyday tasks at home? Can't even accomplish those. And don't even talk about going to back to school. Not now, not with the everyone seeing and knowing what happened.
First it's the newscast, then the letter begin to come in, not in a trickle but en masse. Everyone encouraging her, praying for her, hoping for the best. But all of that doesn't matter unless Jane decides to make is matter personally for her, and she is not feeling it. Until a boy named Justin enters her life and makes an impact.
But is Jane ready to begin again? Can she accept her new normal?
Bingham writer a beautiful novel in verse through Jane's eyes from the first struggle to the continuation of her new life. It's about Jane's journey that pulls the reader in, from her interminably hospital stay to her trying to overcome the obstacles she faces within and without herself. Bingham also inserts letters and external dialogue within the verse to not only give readers first person perspective, but third person as well. This is a quick read and is perfect for this summer because....
Bingham has recently come out with a sequel to the novel entitled Formerly Shark Girl. They say one year can change your life. Jane knows this all too well, but in a day, not a year. The reader sees her emotional and physical progress in this sequel and how much stronger she has become. Again, Bingham inserts letters from strangers asking how she is and how inspirational her story has become. A perfect ending to Jane's last year in high school and all the changes in her life that have taken place in 365 days. Bingham ends this novel with the possibility of another...or maybe not. COMMON CORE PAIRS:
Hamilton, Bethany. (2006). Soul Surfer: the true story of faith, family, and fight to get back on the board. MTV Books
Capuzzo, Michael. (2003). Close to Shore: the terrifying shark attacks of 1916. Crown Publishers
By: Lizza Aiken,
Russ Tunney, Artistic Director of The Nuffield Theatre and long time Aiken admirer has adapted and premiered a gloriously funny and faithful stage version of Joan Aiken’s classic children’s book The Wolves of Willoughby Chase which is just celebrating its 50th Anniversary. The adaptation is published today by Nick Hern Books in a practical edition […]
By: Lizza Aiken,
What if you could have ‘All You’ve Ever Wanted‘? Joan Aiken liked to imagine just this sort of dangerous wish going horribly wrong, and it became the title story of her first book. The wishes in question are not made by her sensible heroine, the ill-starred Matilda, an orphan of course, who is brought […]
Little Brown, 2011
Min is mad, but more than that, her heart is broken...
Min doesn't have a lot of friends, but the ones she does have are loyal and close, with Al being her closest friend. Between him and the avant-garde movies she loves, her life is really good. Until Ed Slaterton showed up....
She was "arty;" he was an athlete. She had a free-spirit; his was defined by his friends. Min was under the radar; Ed was the one girls wanted to be with and guys wanted to hang with. Her lifestyle was nostalgic; his was trendy. Both of them showed each other a new world.
It was a complete accident, their meeting. She searched for him, he handed her a beer (which Min poured out discreetly). They talked that night and soon, this led to another meeting, then another...and then they became a couple.
And everyone wondered why they were together. But Ed knew, with all of his heart, that Min was different and he loved the fact that she wasn't just another pretty face. Min was secretly, than openly, thrilled about being Ed Slaterton's girlfriend, even if it meant she had to sacrifice some things, including her favorite coffee shop.
But today, she wants no part of Ed. Nothing about him in her life is the cleansing she needs. So she takes everything they ever shared, including a:
oily kitchen towel....and so much, so many more.
They go in a box, along with her story of why they broke up.
The premise of this book is simple. Each chapter contains an item and the story that goes along with it in chronological order. Told from Min's point of view, the reader becomes entangled in her story and the curiosity quotient is raised of how, not especially why, Min broke up with him. But this book is unique in another very different way. Daniel Handler writes with dangling participles galore. It will take a reader to fine tune the voice in their head to follow the pattern his writing takes on, including the ever important comma pauses he uses. It is also because of his stylized writing that Min's character truly comes out, filled with emotion and packed with meaning. Handler also creates the town Min lives in and the world of film she loves, not with the branded names of coffee houses, Hollywood, and music, but with care, choosing imaginative names to convey the feeling each name evokes.
Simple book, intricate writing....two very different styles that compliment and run alongside the two main characters in this book that reflect Handler's writing. Interspersed throughout are deft, well-spaced illustrations of each item Min discards. Recommended for high school (9-12).
Sidenote: it has been a long time since I've read a book that was actually sewn. Also, this is a heavy book (literally, not figuratively) with glossy thick pages. Not your typical YA book, and one that definitely stands out.
By: Lizza Aiken,
With over one hundred books published in her lifetime, Joan Aiken has contributed so much to the lives of her readers that some characters have lived on as a part of their own history, like old friends. Everyone has that aha! moment as with the taste of Proust’s famous Madeleine, when they catch sight of […]
Title: Black Irish
Author: Stephan Talty
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publication Date: February 26, 2013
Review: The sanctity of a local Buffalo, NY church is forever compromised when the maimed corpse of Jimmy Ryan is discovered in the basement. Tied to a chair, eyelids cut off as if he were made to look at something, the sight of Ryan's body sends a shock through the town. Author Stephan Talty describes the southern part of Buffalo, the County, as having a "small-town feeling". Its best days behind it, the County is a place where news travels fast and nothing stays secret for long. Enter Absolam "Abbie" Kearny. Despite growing up in the County, she has always been a kind of outsider. Adopted at a young age by John Kearny, a local police legend, she has now returned to follow in her father's infamous footsteps. Tasked with the Ryan case, she is quickly met with resistance from the local townspeople and police. The County is mostly made up of Irish immigrants. As Abbie digs deeper into the murder, connections, both historical and personal, begin to reveal themselves. As further murders occur, Abbie struggles to stay ahead of the killer. The Buffalo police run an investigation parallel to hers, and Abbie soon finds herself a suspect in the case. As the tension rises Abbie is forced to question her sanity and family history, all culminating in a shocking twist that is sure to leave readers riveted. With his debut work of fiction, Stephan Talty instantly places himself among the great modern thriller authors such as Dennis Lehane and Tana French. Like Lehane and French, Talty manages to maintain exceptional characters, setting and suspense without ever sacrificing the integrity of his writing. This novel could have easily become a standard thriller, but Talty daftly takes his time to build each character, allowing the suspense to stay at a constant boil. In Abbie, Talty has imagined a believable protagonist, whose flaws and vulnerability allows readers to connect with her emotions and desire to succeed. I was hooked on this novel from beginning to end. Fascinated by the serial killer who tells, "his autobiography through corpses", I was shocked at the final turn that the events took. This exceptional novel has everything thriller fans have come to expect and gives them more than they could ever have hoped for.
Title: I’d Know You Anywhere
Author: Laura Lippman
Publisher: Harper Collins, Inc.
Publication Date: September 17, 2010
Review: After seeing this book on Stephen King's Best of 2010 list for EW, I became curious about this novel. Most reviews I read prior to beginning this story were mixed at best, so I really wanted to read this and form my own opinion. In the mid 80's, an insecure young man named Walter abducts young Elizabeth. Unlike his previous victims, who were quickly raped and killed, Elizabeth travels with Walter for nearly forty days, and is only raped once. While traveling with Walter, Elizabeth witnesses the abduction and murder of another girl. Now, many years later, Elizabeth (now called Eliza) is a seemingly normal wife and mother, helping her family deal with their recent move back to the US from London. With the arrival of a letter from Walter, who is awaiting execution on death row, Eliza is forced to face her past and reveal secrets to her family and herself. In this mesmerizing novel, Laura Lippman twists what could have been a straight forward thriller into an introspective narrative about a woman's unwillingness to accept her past, and the ways in which previous events shaped her into the person she has become. Readers will delight in the steady pacing and wonderfully drawn characters in this must read novel.
By: Lizza Aiken,
One of the very worst things you can hear as a child coming home to find that your room has been ‘Spring Cleaned’ must be: “Oh you didn’t want that did you? I thought you’d finished with it.’ This was clearly a memory from Joan Aiken’s own childhood, and she turned it into one of [...]
2013. G.P Putnam's Sons (imprint of Penguin)
They came way before, nestling into the quiet brains of the sleeping, waiting and biding their time.... Eighteen years later, they showed themselves, their ship hovering like a giant green eye in the sky, silent. Everyone watched it for ten days, hoping for some kind of communication or sign. Their unease grew, but if these aliens were trying to kill, wouldn't they have done it by now?
On the tenth day, the attack began. Electricity and power shut down by a massive EMP. At first people were thinking that it would be restored in a few hours, but it didn't happen. The mayhem grew, causing worldwide panic, and few died.
Then the second wave hit. This was planned methodically and with precision. The result were giant tsunamis taking out cities, countries, entire chunks of the earth as we knew it. Millions died, and without any electricity there was no hope of rescue. But they weren't done yet.
The third wave was the most deadly. They used nature to attack humanity, spreading a deadly virus that killed. If the second wave didn't kill you, this one would. Millions more were killed in this wave, with a few who lived through it because of resistance to the virus. Humans became an endangered species.
The fourth wave was the first direct assault from the aliens. The silencers...tracking down humanity and killing them point blank, no questions asked. They used drones and foot soldiers to locate colonies and wipe them out. No mercy. Whatever you called them, they were the enemy.
Cassie saw her family die, and now alone, she struggles to survive, holding the last remnants of her old life, a teddy bear her little brother loved. Beside the bear is her protector, an M-16. Cassie knows survival depends only on yourself, never any other person. One will make you invisible, two will make you a target.
Little did she know that there was a 5th wave, the deadliest of all...
Told in four teen perspectives, Yancy writes an incredibly in-depth dystopian novel that is noticeably more sophisticated. The reader walks beside Cassie, a tough kick-A girl who knows the reality even when it frightens her; her little brother Sam, an innocent kid who wants protection but becomes the ultimate pawn; Ben, a popular athletic boy who finds himself defending his life and those of others as a soldier; and Evan, who escaped attacks through isolation and ingenuity. Although it is the characters that capture the readers' attention,it is the psychology behind the attacks and how it affects survivors that gives this novel an edge, pulling the reader through the story until realization dawns on them about what exactly is happening. The pace is fast and the writing is spot on for anyone wanting hardcore dystopian science fiction. You had better buy not two copies, but three or four because they will be quickly checked out and on demand. The book trailers are equally compelling (found on http://www.rickyancey.com/
). HIGHLY recommended!!
By: Lizza Aiken,
Creating her own period of alternate history gave Joan Aiken the freedom to exercise her endless imagination, but also provided her with the opportunity to use a variety of stored information from her wide ranging reading and her life-long fascination with all kinds of study. These elements, combined with an absolutely riotous ear for dialogue […]
Title: Heat Lightning
Author: John Sandford
Series: Virgil Flowers (#2) Publisher: Putnam Adult
Publication Date: September 23, 2008
Summary: Filled with the audacious plotting, rich characters, and brilliant suspense that have always made his books "compulsively readable" (Los Angeles Times), this is Sandford writing at the top of his game. Review: Someone is killing Vietnam War Veterans. Each time, the deceased man is left at a veteran's memorial with a lemon in his mouth. After two of these murders, it is clear to Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension investigator, Lucas Davenport, that there is a connection. Unable to devote his own skills, (Davenport is featured in Sandford's "Prey" series), he calls in the only man who can clean up the mess. It is time to call in the man he hired to solve "the hard stuff". Enter Virgil Flowers, the thirty something detective, whose quirky, off the cuff reputation is as well known as his ability to solve the cases that no one else can. To say Flowers doesn't fit the standard law enforcement mold would be an understatement. He keeps is blond hair at shoulder length, wears rock band t-shirts and cowboy boots, occasionally writes for national outdoors magazines, and keeps in contact with various women and ex-wives, all of whom he has fallen in love with. Despite all of this apparent baggage, Flowers gets the job done, and he does it well. As he begins investigating the deaths of the veterans, he realizes that they are being killed professionally, as if they are each being checked off of a list. When he discovers the connections, he is immersed in a global conspiracy dating back to the time of the war. There is no denying Sandford's ability to create riveting mysteries with relatable characters. He writes with an urgency that keeps the plot moving, never allowing the suspense to ease. As I read, I continued to be sucked deeper into the mystery as each twist and turn was unveiled. Virgil Flowers has a charismatic everyman charm that forced me to root for him. It has been almost a year since I read the first Virgil Flowers novel, and I forgot how much I enjoyed the world that Sandford has provided. There is a kind of timelessness to the story that will surely appeal to any mystery fans. With two solid novels, this series is quickly becoming my new favorite!
Author: James Patterson, Maxine Paetro
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication Date: June 28, 2010
Review: I'll admit it, sometimes I just feel like reading a quick, entertaining, James Patterson novel. With a really crazy schedule that barely left time for sleep, let alone reading and reviewing novels, I knew I could count on Patterson to provide a non-taxing read that I could pick up in short bursts and not be completely lost with. Unfortunately, its the entertainment factor that seems to be more hit or miss when it comes to Patterson's recent efforts. As he has grown into a novel-producing brand, releasing numerous books with various co-authors, the quality of his stories seems to have suffered. With all this in mind, curiosity got the better of me, and I found myself plowing through one of Patterson's latest series novels, Private. As any reader of any of Patterson's novels can attest, pace is rarely an issue. I easily found myself 80 pages deep into the book with no problems, but was surprised at the amount of time the authors (Maxine Paetro co-authors this narrative) spent setting up the characters and upcoming action. The novel follows former Marine pilot Jack Morgan who, after inheriting 15 million dollars from his imprisoned father, starts his own private investigation firm. Within 5 years, Jack's company, Private, quickly becomes a success with branches around the globe. Jack oversees the LA branch, and has recently become very busy with three urgent cases. To start things off, his best friend, Andy, has called him to investigate the murder of his wife, Shelby. As is always the case, Andy is the police's prime suspect, but Jack knows Andy would never kill the wife he loved. Jack tasks Private with finding the real killer before Andy is hauled off by the LAPD. In addition, Jack's uncle Fred, a high level executive of the NFL, has hired Private to investigate the possibility of referees fixing games through bad calls. With several examples, the evidence seems to support this theory. Jack’s firm has to prove this case before it reaches the public and completely destroys the integrity of the game. Finally, there is the case of the schoolgirl killer. Thirteen girls have been killed and even stranger, none of the killings were done the same way. With the rate of the killings quickly rising, Private is in a race to catch the killer before more innocent lives are lost. This is probably one of my favorite Patterson novels in recent memory. Considering some of his other attempts, the characters were generally well thought out, and the mysteries were intriguing without ever getting completely over the top. With all the cases coming to a satisfying, if somewhat predictable, conclusion, this novel was brisk while still providing enough entertainment to make it an enjoyable read.
Title: The Guilty One
Author: Lisa Ballantyne
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Publication Date: March 19, 2013
Review: Daniel Hunter is no stranger to lost causes. In fact, there was a time, not too long ago, when he himself was seen as a lost cause. His mother was a junkie, so he spent most of his childhood dependent upon the state to place him in proper care. He always felt a constant need to look after his mother, even sacrificing his own needs for her benefit. But then he went to live with Minnie. At first, he treated her like all the other foster parents, eager to leave and return to his mother. But there was something different about Minnie. A widow who lost her husband soon after the shocking death of her only daughter, Minnie seemed just as damaged as he was. Soon, the two formed a bond, and Daniel finally seemed to find a home. Then the betrayal happened. While Daniel was beginning his studies as a law student, he discovered a secret that Minnie had kept from him. This information was simply too much to handle. Suddenly Minnie changed from a loving mother figure to just another person who betrayed his trust. In that moment, Daniel vowed never to speak to her again, and to create his future on his own. Fast forward a few years, and Daniel is a successful solicitor working in London. His own troubled background has provided him with the unique ability to defend troubled youth. After the unexpected death of an eight-year-old boy, found dead in a playground, he is called to defend the eleven-year-old neighbor, Sebastian Croll, accused of murdering the other boy. Instantly, Daniel feels a connection to Sebastian. The young boy is surprisingly aware of his situation, and consistently declares his innocence. But there is something unsettling about the boy. He seems strangely fascinated with the details of the other boy's death, and displays an unusual interest in topics that most would find disturbing. Despite this, Daniel agrees to defend Sebastian. Immediately, the media latches on to the story, shining a light not only on the lives of the victim and accused, but on Daniel as well. As the case begins, Daniel learns of the death of Minnie. Now, as he embarks on arguably the most important case of his career, Daniel finds his past colliding with the present, forcing him to remember his past actions, and atone for his own personal guilt. In The Guilty One, author Lisa Ballantyne has crafted a genuine story of believable characters facing the harsh realities of our time. She calls into question the practices of juvenile trials, and the effects such events have on the mental and physical health of those involved. Each chapter alternates between the present events of the trial Daniel's personal flashbacks. In doing this, Ballantyne lets to story slowly unfold, maximizing both the suspense as well as character development. She beautifully creates connections between the past and present events, bringing and inevitable coherence to the entire narrative. Despite the often unpleasant subject matter, especially in the details of the small child's death, I felt emotionally connected and moved by the characters and events that unfolded. The ending, while not necessarily expected, left me satisfied and craving even more time with the characters that a grew close to. This is an exceptional novel of emotional depth and lingering suspense.
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Balzer +Bray, 2013
Juliet once knew the life of luxury, but that is far behind her now. Her reality is working as a cleaning woman, rubbing her knuckles bare scrubbing the bloody floors of the surgical hospital to keep her off of the streets. Even if Juliet isn’t working on the streets, she still must fend off those who have enjoyed seeing her and her family’s fall in society and feel she should be treated as such.
Her father is dead, but he caused enough damage to ruin Juliet and her mother’s future without him. But one item, a drawing of a vivisection taken from her father’s journal, leads Juliet to seek out the person who owns this. And that one item will also lead her down a dark and dangerous path. This ripped page from her father's personal journals is all the confirmation Juliet needs to motivate her desire to seek the truth, and leads her to Montgomery, an old friend and former servant.
What he tells Juliet is beyond belief. Her father is alive, living on an island as a recluse and using Montgomery to go for supplies when needed, regardless of how odd or dangerous those may be. Juliet demands she goes back with him, even though his friend Balthazar makes her uneasy.
The journey is more than anyone bargained for, and when Juliet finally reaches the island and understands exactly what her father, Dr. Moreau is doing, the true horror begins. Juliet’s life is also in danger due to an aberration Dr. Moreau has created that is beginning to kill the natives and will think nothing of killing the humans….madness has taken control.
Shepherd has taken the classic tale of The Island of Dr. Moreau and created an alternate re-telling, which includes many of the same characters but in a slighty variegated form. This story is as chilling as the original and readers of historical fiction and horror fiction will find themselves mesmerized. Juliet is a strong female character trapped not only physically on an island but emotionally as well as she battles between her desires and fears. Although Shepherd doesn’t write in detail about Moreau’s creations, the reader can most certainly “see” them through the small details she does provide. I'm firmly grounded in the camp of readers that thoroughly enjoyed this book. As a bonus, the cover is as enthralling as the story told within it. Recommended.