Dirty Wings – Sarah McCarry

Dirty Wings – Sarah McCarry

18490688A gorgeous retelling of the Persephone myth, Sarah McCarry brings us the story of Cass and Maia–the mothers from All Our Pretty Songs–and how their fates became intertwined.

Maia is a teenage piano prodigy and dutiful daughter, imprisoned in the oppressive silence of her adoptive parents’ house like a princess in an ivory tower. Cass is a street rat, witch, and runaway, scraping by with her wits and her knack for a five-fingered discount. When a chance encounter brings the two girls together, an unlikely friendship blossoms that will soon change the course of both their lives. Cass springs Maia from the jail of the only world she’s ever known, and Maia’s only too happy to make a break for it. But Cass didn’t reckon on Jason, the hypnotic blue-eyed rocker who’d capture Maia’s heart as soon as Cass set her free–and Cass isn’t the only one who’s noticed Maia’s extraordinary gifts. Is Cass strong enough to battle the ancient evil she’s unwittingly awakened–or has she walked into a trap that will destroy everything she cares about? In this time, like in any time, love is a dangerous game.

Dirty Wings is an extension of All Our Pretty Songs as it shows us how Maia and Cass (the mothers in AOPS) met and became friends. While it’s technically a sequel, you don’t have to read them back-to-back; it would hold up as a standalone, but there are some “OH, I GET IT” moments that you’d only experience if you read both.

Once again, the prose is gorgeous, particularly during Maia’s sections when she describes her piano playing:

…she is the keys, the strings vibrating, she is the wood of the hammers falling and the brass of the pedals and the charged atoms of the air whirling past her, she is the waves of sound, she is articles bright and living, she is shattering and coming together, she is breathing the music, she is transcendent, she is divine.

Cass and Maia have such an intense relationship that, once Jason enters the scene, Cass’s feelings of fear and loss become palpable. It’s heartbreaking to see how she starts to unravel when she feels like Maia is slipping away from her, and the last couple of chapters piece together the puzzle of their relationship in All Our Pretty Songs.

I felt like this one was more obvious about which myth it was pulling from. There are some visuals that are associated with Persephone, such as the pomegranate, and there is the appearance of a dark, dream-like figure, who I’m guessing is Hades. You don’t have to know the myth to appreciate the allusions because they’re built in so flawlessly, they wouldn’t stand out if you weren’t looking for them.

Because it’s more literary fiction, not a whole lot happens, but the stuff that does happen is significant (I know that’s vague, but I don’t want to spoil anything!). This time around, the story is told in alternating chapters, “Then” and “Now”, and the deeper you get into the book, the more you see how they’re connected. There are some key moments that happen in “Now” that are relevant to All Our Pretty Songs, and it retroactively makes the first book clearer (if that makes sense) as you start to fill in the holes left by the unnamed narrator in AOPS.


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All Our Pretty Songs – Sarah McCarry

All Our Pretty Songs – Sarah McCarry

17167090The first book in an exciting YA trilogy, this is the story of two best friends on the verge of a terrifying divide when they begin to encounter a cast of strange and mythical characters.

Set against the lush, magical backdrop of the Pacific Northwest, two inseparable best friends who have grown up like sisters—the charismatic, mercurial, and beautiful Aurora and the devoted, soulful, watchful narrator—find their bond challenged for the first time ever when a mysterious and gifted musician named Jack comes between them. Suddenly, each girl must decide what matters most: friendship, or love. What both girls don’t know is that the stakes are even higher than either of them could have imagined. They’re not the only ones who have noticed Jack’s gift; his music has awakened an ancient evil—and a world both above and below which may not be mythical at all. The real and the mystical; the romantic and the heartbreaking all begin to swirl together, carrying the two on journey that is both enthralling and terrifying.

And it’s up to the narrator to protect the people she loves—if she can.

I’ve wanted to read this book for a while and I finally got around to picking it up. The eye-catching cover, the praise quote on the front comparing it to Neil Gaiman and Francesca Lia Block, the other praise quote that referred to it as a “punk-rock remix of the myth of Orpheus”…all those things appeal to me.

Let me start off by saying that comparing Sarah McCarry’s writing to a combination of Neil Gaiman and Francesca Lia Block is PERFECT. I read Block’s Weetzie Bat books a few years ago so I don’t remember the details very well, but as a Neil Gaiman fan, I can confirm that McCarry has mastered the sort of lyrical prose that can be half “this is gorgeous” and half “what the heck is going on?”.

It’s easy to fall in love with the words. Evocative descriptions and frank discussions of sex, drugs, and rock & roll abound, with our unnamed narrator lavishing poetry over her beautiful sister-friend Aurora and her boyfriend Jack.

All the best artists are selfish. .You can’t be good unless you care about the work more than you care about anything else.

I might not have necessarily picked it up if I hadn’t read a review that pointed it out, but the story takes place in the mid-1990’s, with the grunge/punk subcultures playing a huge role in the setting. As a result, it’s easy to draw comparisons between Aurora and Frances Bean Cobain (who I’m guessing was the inspiration for Aurora), but you don’t have to be a Nirvana fan to understand how messed up these girls’ lives become after Aurora’s father dies.

If this were the kind of story I want to be in, I’d flip back to the pages where all the words made sense and the ending wasn’t written yet.

It takes a while for the mythology to kick in. Most of the first half of the book is dedicated to day-to-day descriptions of Aurora and the narrator and how their relationship becomes more complex once the musician Jack enters the scene. At the same time that the narrator starts dating Jack, Aurora finds herself enthralled by a mysterious man named Minos. At that point, the book shifts into mythology and a world that is only hinted at before it blows up in the narrator’s unsuspecting face. I liked the way the mythology was built in, but I was hoping it would happen sooner or in a more obvious way.

I’m still not sure how to rate the book. In terms of prose and concept, it’s a solid four, but the meandering plot in the first three quarters left me wishing it would hurry up.


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If I Had a Gryphon – Vikki VanSickle, illustrated by Cale Atkinson

If I Had a Gryphon – Vikki VanSickle, illustrated by Cale Atkinson

25614173When a kitten sneezes it’s adorable. When a dragon sneezes? It’s a fire hazard!

Sam is already bored of her new pet, a rather sedate hamster. Inspired by her book of mythological creatures, Sam longs for a more exciting pet. But she soon realizes that taking care of these magical beasts might not be as wonderful as she thought. Unicorns are shy, gryphons scare the dogs at the dogpark, and having a fire extinguisher handy at all times makes dragons seem like an awful lot of work. In the end, Sam realizes that her hamster is a pretty sweet and safe pet … or is he?

If I Had a Gryphon is a raucous rhyming read-aloud about fantastical beasts in everyday situations–and the increasingly beleaguered heroine who has to deal with them. The perfect primer on mythological and fantastic beasts for young kids not quite ready for Harry Potter!

Release Date: February 9th, 2016

I don’t think I’ve reviewed a picture book on this blog before and honestly, I don’t know why. I love picture books! I have a whole shelf dedicated to them, and most of those books are from the past couple of years, nevermind the amount I collected during my actual childhood.

So, I think it’s about time I started talking about the wonders that can be found in picture books, and what better book to start with than the superb If I Had a Gryphon.

With sweet rhyming prose and an easy, bouncy rhythm, the story follows Sam as she tries to decide what kind of mythical animal she would most like to have – anything but a boring old hamster. I read it to my three nieces (aged 3-9) and we had fun talking about the different creatures and which ones we would personally like to own (I think I settled on unicorn), so it would be a great discussion starter at home or in the classroom.


Not only does Sam list the usual suspects (what you would normally think of when you think “mythic”) such as unicorns and dragons, but she also mentions kirins and jackalopes and basilisks and many more. I’ve heard people say this is the book you give to a child who is too young for Harry Potter and I couldn’t agree more.

Side note: around the time I received my copy, I was also reading Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone, and I could not get this precious image of a kirin out of my head.


I might be a little biased because our intrepid heroine may or may not be named after me (she totally is – read more to find out why), but how flippin’ cute are these illustrations?? Cale Atkinson, who released his debut picture book, To the Sea, this past year, is an up-and-coming illustrator from BC who has already done work for different animation studios and publishers. His characters are precious, from the round-faced Sam to the majestic titular gryphon and all the creatures in between, and they make the words come alive. I was interning at Tundra when the artwork first came in and it’s actually uncanny how much Sam looks like a cartoon version of me, even though I’ve never met Cale – and so, she was named. For your enjoyment, here is a photo of me dressed as my picture book doppleganger:

halloween gryphon

I’m lucky enough to know Vikki in real life, and it’s a good thing I love her first picture book otherwise it would be awkward if we ran into each other (I’ve yet to read any of her novels, but since one is referred to as a middle grade version of Dirty Dancing, I don’t see how I could NOT love them). She is a lovely person and is totally living my dream (children’s book marketer by day, children’s book author by night), and if anyone deserves to have a bestselling picture book (and mermaid-like hair), it’s her. It’s hard to pick the right words when you’re writing a rhyming sequence, but Vikki (with the help of her editor, the awesome Sam Swenson) does a fantastic job, making it look effortless and employing some whimsical words and images along the way, such as tinkling unicorn horseshoes and sasquatches with “burly, curly fur”. If you’ve ever wished for an exciting pet or would have cursed someone to be in Hagrid’s Care of Magical Creatures class, this book is for you.


Plus the amount of detail is incredible, as I’ve come to expect from all Tundra picture books (photos from my phone don’t do the illustrations justice). If you have a physical copy, remove the dust jacket for a magical surprise!


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ARC Reviews – May 2015

This month, I’ve read four ARCs – one of which was for a blog tour – and just started a fifth. Here’s a round-up of what I read! (please click the titles for a full review)

  • Sing for Me – Gracie Madison: “I have complicated feelings about this book. It wasn’t bad per se, I just didn’t really enjoy it. I read the whole thing, though admittedly I started skimming at about 30%.” (2 interrobangs)
  • The Rearranged Life – Annika Sharma: “This book read like a cross between Bend it Like Beckham and My Big Fat Greek Wedding, and it was definitely interesting to read the descriptions and think about the differences between cultures…a cute summer read.” (3.5 interrobangs)
  • The Blooming Goddess Trilogy – Tellulah Darling: “I really enjoyed this series: it was fluffy at times but still had a strong plot. The writing was funny and compelling, and if you like contemporary takes on Greek mythology, you’ll love Sophie’s world.” (4.5 interrobangs)
  • Beyond Clueless – Linas Alsenas: “I’m sure there’s an audience for it, but this is one of those rare cases where I feel too old to read this and I think it would be better received by readers aged 12-14.” (2 interobangs)

I just started reading Devil’s Daughter and it’s interesting so far – hopefully I’ll have a review for it up next week!

What ARCs have you read this month? Anything I should look forward to?

ARC Review: The Blooming Goddess Trilogy – Tellulah Darling

The Blooming Goddess Trilogy – Tellulah Darling

25389347Perfect for fans of Meg Cabot, Rachel Hawkins, and everyone who loves their kickass girls sassy and their infuriating gods swoony.

The Persephone myth gets a YA romantic comedy makeover when Sophie Bloom, slacker girl extraordinaire, receives a midnight kiss from a bad boy and discovers that she’s actually Persephone, Goddess of Spring. Somehow she’s got to save humanity in the war between Hades and Zeus, survive God-ordered assassination attempts, deal with mean girls and teen drama, and stop being kissed by the aforementioned bad boy, a.k.a. Kai, Prince of the Underworld.

Compared to Kai and Sophie, Romeo & Juliet had it easy.

The Complete Blooming Goddess Trilogy contains: My Ex From Hell (#1),My Date From Hell (#2), A Date of Godlike Proporitions (short story #2.5), and My Life From Hell (#3) and is available exclusively for Kindle.

Release Date: April 30th, 2015

Thank you to NetGalley for providing a free copy in exchange for an honest review!

I’ve always been fascinated by the Persephone myth, so I was pretty stoked when my request was approved and I’m happy to report that I really enjoyed this trilogy!

What I liked:

-the characters. The core four – Sophie, Kai, Theo, and Hannah – were all amazing. They were fairly well rounded and had amazing chemistry. I also loved the “updated” versions of the gods, especially Festos (Hephaestus) and Pierce (Eros). My favourite god is Hermes, so I was excited when he played a substantial role in the second book. I do wish Poseidon had shown up, but I liked that she introduced some of the lesser known gods, especially in the Underworld.

-the Sophie/Kai relationship. I ended up falling for them harder than I thought I would. Sure, Kai’s your standard brooding YA lead, but a) he has his light-hearted moments and b) he’s the prince of Hades, so what do you expect?

-the other relationships that I won’t spoil for you, but they were equally adorable.

-the humour and sarcasm. Sophie has a great narrative voice and she – and her friends – often made me giggle out loud. They were snappy and sassy and sounded like real teens and didn’t use weird “teen-speak” (i.e. the way some adult authors think teens speak which makes everyone sound like a vapid Valley girl).

-It takes place in Canada! Or, at least, the school is on Vancouver Island. Which I wasn’t expecting, so I thought that was pretty fun.

-a couple of paragraphs in, there was a Tim Burton reference. And then later someone is reading a Neil Gaiman book. WAY TO GET STRAIGHT TO MY HEART, TELLULAH DARLING.

-the mini story in between books 2 and 3. I don’t want to spoil it, but oh my glob, it’s so cute. And featured my favourite couple!!

-there was a moment near the end of the third book that had me so stressed out because I was desperately worried for a particular character, but, thankfully, it all worked out (otherwise I would have cried).

What I didn’t like:

-there were some moments that lagged (as is natural), and I skimmed part of the second book. I think the problem was reading the whole series in one shot (they were all in one file), so it felt like it was longer than if I had three physical books to start and finish (or even three separate files).

-I understood why Sophie and Hannah argued in the third book, but it was a very “dramatic teen girl” subplot that felt a little jarring compared to the “fate of the world” plot. It was handled realistically though.

I really enjoyed this series: it was fluffy at times but still had a strong plot. The writing was funny and compelling, and if you like contemporary takes on Greek mythology, you’ll love Sophie’s world.


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Divergent – Veronica Roth // Odd and the Frost Giants – Neil Gaiman // The Whispering Skull – Jonathan Stroud


“In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago world, society is divided into five factions – Candor, Abnegation, Dauntless, Amity, and Erudite. On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is-she can’t have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles alongside her fellow initiates to live out the choice they have made. Together they must undergo extreme physical tests of endurance and intense psychological simulations, some with devastating consequences. As initiation transforms them all, Tris must determine who her friends really are-and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes exasperating boy fits into the life she’s chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she’s kept hidden from everyone because she’s been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers unrest and growing conflict that threaten to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her.”

It’s possible that, up until this week, I was the only YA-addicted person who had not read Divergent. But I finally read the first one! Admittedly, it was because Veronica Roth was coming to my office and I felt I should at least pretend to know what was going on, but still, I read it.

I didn’t know what to expect, but it was better that I thought it would be. Initially, I didn’t want to read it because a) dystopian’s not really my thing and b) ever dystopian novel I’ve read has always reminded me of the first dysptopian novel I ever read (Lois Lowry’s The Giver which I remember liking when I read it in grade six). Both of those reasons remain true even after reading Divergent, but it wasn’t bad at all.

The problem with reading something popular, of course, is that you occasionally already know what’s going to happen. For example, I already knew who “Four” really was, so the Big Reveal wasn’t as surprising (sidenote: I liked Four, but I cannot take him seriously because the guy who plays him in the movie will forever live in my mind as the Turkish ambassador in Downton Abbey who  – SPOILER ALERT – is felled by Mary’s feminine wiles). Plus – though this didn’t really affect my reading of book one – based on the general angst over the end of the series, I guessed what will eventually happen to Tris (and Wikipedia confirmed it for me). So while I’ll probably read the rest of the series, I’m not in any rush.

Odd and the Frost Giants:

“In this inventive, short, yet perfectly formed novel inspired by traditional Norse mythology, Neil Gaiman takes readers on a wild and magical trip to the land of giants and gods and back.

In a village in ancient Norway lives a boy named Odd, and he’s had some very bad luck: His father perished in a Viking expedition; a tree fell on and shattered his leg; the endless freezing winter is making villagers dangerously grumpy.

Out in the forest Odd encounters a bear, a fox, and an eagle—three creatures with a strange story to tell.

Now Odd is forced on a stranger journey than he had imagined—a journey to save Asgard, city of the gods, from the Frost Giants who have invaded it.

It’s going to take a very special kind of twelve-year-old boy to outwit the Frost Giants, restore peace to the city of gods, and end the long winter.

Someone cheerful and infuriating and clever . . .

Someone just like Odd.”

I needed something short and light-weight to read on Friday (because I had left my actual book at work), so I went with Odd because it’s only 117 pages and I really wanted to read it.

It was super cute! Well, I thought so, anyway. Odd, in my imagination, was just adorable, all precocious and clever. Just over one hundred pages doesn’t give you a lot of time for extraneous words, but Gaiman still managed to throw in plot and character development. I also liked the way the Norse mythology was presented. Short, but cute.

The Whispering Skull:

“In the six months since Anthony, Lucy, and George survived a night in the most haunted house in England, Lockwood & Co. hasn’t made much progress. Quill Kipps and his team of Fittes agents keep swooping in on Lockwood’s investigations. Finally, in a fit of anger, Anthony challenges his rival to a contest: the next time the two agencies compete on a job, the losing side will have to admit defeat in theTimes newspaper.

Things look up when a new client, Mr. Saunders, hires Lockwood & Co. to be present at the excavation of Edmund Bickerstaff, a Victorian doctor who reportedly tried to communicate with the dead. Saunders needs the coffin sealed with silver to prevent any supernatural trouble. All goes well-until George’s curiosity attracts a horrible phantom.

Back home at Portland Row, Lockwood accuses George of making too many careless mistakes. Lucy is distracted by urgent whispers coming from the skull in the ghost jar. Then the team is summoned to DEPRAC headquarters. Kipps is there too, much to Lockwood’s annoyance. Bickerstaff’s coffin was raided and a strange glass object buried with the corpse has vanished. Inspector Barnes believes the relic to be highly dangerous, and he wants it found.

Even though my “To Read” pile is literally half my height, I could hardly wait to get my hands on this book. When the first Lockwood & Co book – The Screaming Staircase – came out last year, I could barely put it down. The same goes for this one; I paused it to read Divergent, and then waited anxiously for the moment when I could pick it back up.

I’ve been a fan of Jonathan Stroud for years. The other day, I realized that, since I have the original cover (you know, the one that doesn’t match the rest of the series? Not that I’m bitter about that or anything), I probably read The Amulet of Samarkand when it first came out – in 2003. It’s been 11 years, but The Bartimaeus Trilogy is still high up on my list of “books that are awesome that I want to re-read”.

Though my memories of Bartimaeus and Nathaniel are a little fuzzy, I still absolutely love the adventures of Lockwood and co. Their dry humour occasionally makes me laugh out loud, and some scenes are quite scary, considering it’s a middle-grade book. Sidenote: I just want Lockwood and Lucy to end up together…I know it’s going to happen, their colleague George knows it’s going to happen…I can’t wait.

Also, HOLY FRACK, THAT CLIFFHANGER ENDING. I gasped so hard, I almost choked.

I sort of wish I had waited longer to buy this because then I wouldn’t have to wait so long for book 3.

Starling – Lesley Livingston // The Book of Dead Days – Marcus Sedgwick

One week, two books.

First up, Starling by Leslie Livingston:

“When Mason Starling rescues an unconscious young man from the ravages of a terrible storm, little does she know her whole life is about to spiral dramatically, mystically out of control. Someone is trying to kill her, someone else is trying to use her, and the only one who seems willing to help her is the tantalizing, dangerous stranger who can’t even remember who—or what—he is. All he remembers is his name: Fennrys Wolf.

What Fennrys doesn’t know is that, thanks in part to his past actions, a crack has appeared in the barrier between the mortal world and the Beyond Realms. As a result, a long-standing truce involving the members of several ancient underworld cartels is now in jeopardy. Mason, Fennrys and the students of elite Gosforth Academy soon find themselves caught in the crossfire as the servants of the warring pantheons fight to see whose gods come out on top and whose demons go down in flames.”

First of all, Livingston is Canadian (from Toronto, no less!) so yay for Canadian YA authors!

I’ve read her previous trilogy (Wondrous Strange, Darklight, and Tempestuous) and enjoyed them. I originally read them at a time when I was reading a lot of fairy books so a lot of authors kind of blurred together, but after re-reading them recently, I remembered why I liked them. To be honest, it was one of the only series where, once the almost-inevitable love triangle plotline came in, I was actually rooting for the second guy, the one I knew the protagonist wouldn’t end up with. The Fennrys Wolf was just so much more attractive to me than Sonny (I also have name-issues, but that’s irrelevant).

So when I found out she was writing a new trilogy about Fennrys, I was pretty stoked. It took me a while to finally pick it up, but I started reading it in New York this past weekend (which I did on purpose because it takes place in NYC so it was fun for me to visualize the places she mentioned while being in the same city).

The book starts off very quickly and with tons of action. It felt like there was a time in the middle where not much was going on apart from the usual “there is a hot, probably dangerous, stranger talking to me. I should be scared, but I’m not” moments, but, as I mentioned, I like Fenn so it wasn’t as terrible as it could have been. The last quarter of the book took the story to another level (literally) and ended on one heck of a high note.

One thing that bothered me a little was the amount of times Mason was described as having “midnight hair”. I’m all for character descriptions, but like…you don’t have to tell me on every other page.

I really liked the part when – SPOILER ALERT – Fennrys regained his memories, but I feel like it could have been fleshed some more. I also couldn’t tell if he remembered everything or just the basics.

And I love how Livingston combines so many different mythologies. Her other series was greatly influenced by Shakespeare, which was fantastic, and this time around, she mixes Norse, Greek, and Egyptian mythology (and that was just in this book! There are still two other books in the series!). You don’t often find Norse mythology in YA books.

My second book of the week was The Book of Dead Days by Marcus Sedgwick:

“The days between 27 December and New Year’s Eve are dead days – days when spirits roam and magic shifts restlessly just beneath the surface of our everyday lives. There is a man, Valerian, whose time is running out, who must pay the price for the pact he made with evil so many years ago. His servant is Boy, a child with no name and no past; a child he treats with contempt, but who serves his master well and finds solace in the company of his only friend, Willow. Unknown to any of them it is Boy who holds the key to their destiny. Set in dark threatening cities and the frozen countryside in a distant time and place of the author’s making, ‘The Book of Dead Days’ conjures a spell-binding story of sorcery and desperate magic as Valerian, Boy and Willow battle to stop time and cling to life. Beautifully evoked, dramatic and emotionally powerful, this is a real page turner.”

As you may (or may not) recall, a couple of weeks ago I read Midwinterblood and mentioned wanting to re-read the other Sedgwick books in my collection. Naturally, I started with the first Sedgwick book I ever bought (or perhaps Ro bought it for me, I don’t remember. It was ten years ago).

I had the most basic memory of this book: the fact that it took place December 27-31 and there was a book needed to stop someone from dying. That was it.

So re-reading it basically felt like I was reading it for the first time!

Sedgwick has a very descriptive way of writing; he seems to prefer straight narration with dialogue thrown in only when necessary. Atmospheric, I guess, is the right word. Or gothic, but like 19th century gothic (if that makes sense).

He’s also adept at creating worlds/times/places that are both similar and very different from our own. This was set in the past – in his author’s note, Sedgwick explains it as taking place “with one foot in the superstitious ancient world and one in the rational modern one, when science […] must have appeared to be magic”.

The ending was a little rushed – the climax of the book took all of five pages – but there’s a sequel (The Dark Flight Down) which I conveniently already own (Thanks, 14-year old me, for buying it as soon as it came out in paperback) and I remember ever less of that one, so it will be a real adventure!

Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos – R.L. LaFevers // Athena the Brain – Joan Holub & Suzanne Williams

**I meant to finish/post this yesterday,  but it’s actually nice outside for the first time in like six months, so I was a little busy (i.e. drinking multiple ciders on my patio).

You know what’s positively delightful? Reading children’s books. I don’t mean picture books (although that can also be delightful), I mean middle-grade-and-younger chapter books. You generally don’t have to think too hard and, despite the simpler language, you don’t lose out on plot.

Last week, I read two children’s books. First was Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos.


“Theodosia Throckmorton has her hands full at the Museum of Legends and Antiquities in London. Her father may be head curator, but it is Theo—and only Theo—who is able to see all the black magic and ancient curses that still cling to the artifacts in the museum. Sneaking behind her father’s back, Theo uses old, nearly forgotten Egyptian magic to remove the curses and protect her father and the rest of the museum employees from the ancient, sinister forces that lurk in the museum’s dark hallways.”

 I found it when I was looking for a present for my niece, Veruca, who turns 8 on Monday. I initially picked it up for her because the cover caught my eye, but as soon as I read the back, I knew I was going to end up keeping it for myself.

At times, it reminded me of Libba Bray’s The Diviners (obviously a younger version), in that delicious combination of museums and magic. And Theo is very amusing, somewhat reminiscent of Alan Bradley’s Flavia de Luce (sidenote: if you haven’t read any of the Flavia mysteries, I highly recommend them).

It’s clearly the beginning of a series, so there was some set-up, but, being a children’s book, it launched into the action fairly quickly. The supporting characters were interesting, though none were as fleshed out as Theo herself.  I liked how Theo had to actually think, that not everything was spelled out for her, and the unexpected betrayal at the end kept the plot’s momentum going until the last page.

There are 3 or 4 other books in the series – I’m not in a rush to read them,  but this first one was definitely a treat.

The other book I read was Athena the Brain (loaned to me by the very same niece I was birthday-shopping for).

“In Athena the Brain, Athena always knew she was smart and special, but she didn’t realize that she was a goddess! When she’s whisked away to Mount Olympus Academy, she worries about fitting in and dealing with her dad (Zeus). Luckily, she meets the Goddess Girls and finds the best friends she’s ever had.”

I’ve been buying this series for Veruca for the past 2-ish years and I’ve told her repeatedly that I wanted to read them (I do enjoy Greek myths, although they almost always leave me with the longing to watch Hercules, one of my favourite Disney movies).

My favourite part was how the young goddessgirls/godboys were given mini hero figures in one of their classes and ended up starting the Trojan War. I also liked the descriptions of the young goddesses/gods and how they remained (mostly) true to their more traditional adult counterparts.

I think this series was written for an even younger audience. It’s less complicated than Theodosia, and much smaller, but the plot is still very fun. I don’t think Veruca knew a ton about Greek myths before reading these, but the way they were adapted for children is great, and if you know anything about mythology, you can catch most of the references.

Gods Behaving Badly – Marie Phillips


“From Marie Phillips, hailed by the Guardian Unlimited website as a “hot author” destined to “break through” in 2007, comes a highly entertaining novel set in North London, where the Greek gods have been living in obscurity since the seventeenth century.

Being immortal isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Life’s hard for a Greek god in the twenty-first century: nobody believes in you any more, even your own family doesn’t respect you, and you’re stuck in a dilapidated hovel in North London with too many siblings and not enough hot water. But for Artemis (goddess of hunting, professional dog walker), Aphrodite (goddess of beauty, telephone sex operator) and Apollo (god of the sun, TV psychic) there’s no way out… until a meek cleaner and her would-be boyfriend come into their lives and turn the world upside down.

Gods Behaving Badly is that rare thing, a charming, funny, utterly original novel that satisfies the head and the heart.”

I’ve always liked stories about Greek deities – I’ve been purposely buying my niece the Goddess Girls books so that one day I can borrow them. Gods Behaving Badly is basically the grown-up version.

At times, I actually laughed (more like snorted) out loud. All of the gods – especially Aphrodite and Apollo – were well-written:  their personalities stayed true to the classic myths, even though it’s set in modern-day London. And the mortal “couple” – Alice and Neil – were believable: it’s not really a spoiler to tell you that at some point they found out that the strange group of people Alice works for are actually gods, and their reactions to it are as realistic as possible.

I have a hard time picking a favourite god: I often consider Athena because she’s the wise one and in this case, her brief appearances made for some funny moments (she uses big words to communicate small ideas and no one else understands her). I’m also going to say that Hermes is my favourite god – no matter what book I read about the gods, he’s always amusing. Also, Eros as a born-again Christian was a touch of genius.

I don’t really have much to say about Gods: it’s more of a “read it and you’ll see why it’s so great” type of book. I can try and explain why I thought it was funny, but it’s hard to describe (the often foul but nonetheless amusing language is definitely a contributing factor to the overall humour). Apparently it’s being made into a movie but since the movie relocates them from London to New York City (I realize it’s a small detail but if it’s so small why couldn’t the film accommodate it?), I’m going to go on a limb and say it’s probably not going to do the book justice.