Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty: A Review

Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty by Christine HeppermanEveryone knows the fairy tale stories. Girls who are princesses who are rescued by princes who get married and live happily ever after until the end.

But life isn’t really like a fairy tale, not for most modern girls in Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty (2014) by Christine Hepperman.

In this collection Hepperman presents 50 poems that bring fairy tale themes and ideas together with the lives of modern girls in clever ways. Eerie photographs accompany the poems to lend a haunting quality to this deceptively slim volume.

Hepperman’s poems range from titillating to empowering as she explores themes of beauty, freedom and sexuality among others in a variety of free-verse poems. While many of the themes–particularly those dealing with physical beauty or eating disorders–are familiar ones, Hepperman’s commentary remains timely and electric.

A range of retellings and original material make these poems approachable for every reader while the black and white photography throughout the book is guaranteed to draw readers in.

Poisoned Apples is a smart, utterly feminist collection of poems that encourages girls to take charge of their lives whether that means finding their own way to a happy ending or taking a different path into new territory.

Possible Pairings: Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson, Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine, North of Beautiful by Justina Chen, Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones, Enchanted by Alethea Kontis, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs, Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff

My True Love Gave to Me: A (Festive!) Chick Lit Wednesday Review

My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories edited by Stephanie PerkinsOnly in a short story anthology can organization, elves, the holiday season, and some other things besides come together to create a delightfully seasonal assortment of stories. My True Love Gave to Me (2014), edited by Stephanie Perkins, brings together YA authors at the top of their game in this festive collection of romantic stories set during the best time of year.

If you enjoy Christmas, especially the decorating and the food look no further than Stephanie Perkins’ “It’s a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown” for a story that combines the wonders of home organization with a first encounter that might lead to something more. “Welcome to Christmas, CA” by Kiersten White is a sentimental story about finding home with some delectable food thrown in to taste.

Not a fan of Christmas? That’s okay too. “Midnights” by Rainbow Rowell is a heartfelt New Years’ story while “Krampuslauf” by Holly Black and “The Girl Who Woke the Dreamer” by Laini Taylor are fantasies set in December without being Christmas specific. Although Kelly Link centers her story around annual Christmas parties, “The Lady and the Fox” is more a Tam Lin style story than a specifically holiday story.

Don’t celebrate Christmas? Gayle Forman’s “What the Hell Have You Done, Sophie Roth?” and David Levithan’s “Your Temporary Santa” both offer a look at the season from a Jewish perspective.

Humor is also prevalent in many of these stories, none more so than “Beer Buckets and Baby Jesus” by Myra McEntire.

Themes of family are just as prevalent in this collection as romance which can be seen in “Angels in the Snow” by Matt de la Pena and Ally Carter’s “Star of Bethlehem” both of which offer very different (but true) takes on what it means to find or just think about the importance of family over the holiday season.

The story I have thought about most since finishing this story is by Jenny Han. “Polaris is Where You’ll Find Me” offers a tantalizing look at what life might be like on the North Pole for Santa’s daughter in a story that I can only hope will one day become a full-length novel.

Considering the range of authors and writing styles in this anthology, My True Love Gave to Me is a stunningly solid collection with a high quality of writing that spans every genre and story presented. This is a delightfully festive (and often secular) assortment of stories with something that will appeal to everyone. Perkins has done an admirable job of editing and organizing this anthology where whole exceeds the sum of its parts and is sure to leave every reader with a smile on their face.

(Careful readers may also want to examine the cover to find their favorite couple on the ice rink. The ARC I read also promises interior illustrations which I can’t wait to see.)

Possible Pairings: Ex-Mas by Kate Brian, Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan; To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han, Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones, Let it Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson and Lauren Myracle; Confessions of the Sullivan Sisters by Natalie Standiford

Princess of Thorns: A Review

 “Once upon a time there lived a prince and princess with no happy ever after . . . “

Princess of Thorns by Stacey JayIn the kingdom of Norvere, two briar-born children are forced into hiding when their father is murdered and their mother–the Sleeping Beauty–is imprisoned by the ogre queen. Eventually Aurora and Jor escape. Thanks to her mother, Aurora is blessed with enhanced strength, a brave spirit, a merciful mind, and a heart no man she loves will dare defy. It will take Aurora nearly ten years to understand the full weight of that; to understand that fairy blessings can be gifts as easily as they can be curses.

The immortal king of Kanvasola cursed his eleven sons so that no heir might live to challenge his claim to the throne. But the immortal king found a gentle witch who doomed the sons to change into swans on their eighteenth birthday instead of death. As the years passed, ten sons were transformed. The eleventh, Niklaas, hopes to break the spell and change his fate by journeying to Norvere to find and marry the princess Aurora.

When her brother is captured by the ogre queen, Aurora disguises herself as a boy to try to raise an army and reclaim her kingdom before it’s too late. Niklaas agrees to help, thinking it will bring him closer to Aurora and the end of his own curse.

It will take trust and sacrifice from both prince and princess if they hope to save Norvere and rescue Aurora’s brother before all is lost. With so much at stake, Aurora and Niklaas will have to try to survive before they can even consider their happy ending in Princess of Thorns (2014) by Stacey Jay.

Dual narration from Aurora and Niklaas offer a balanced story in this action-packed high fantasy fairy tale that references the stories of “Sleeping Beauty” and “The Swan Princess.” Jay takes both stories in unexpected directions as Aurora and Niklaas embark on a cross-country journey to try and save Aurora’s brother Jor.

In addition to action and humor, Princess of Thorns is a fantasy with feminist elements as Aurora struggles to reconcile who she is (capable, single-minded, strong) with what is typically expected of a princess. Niklaas faces similar moments of doubt and confusion in his narration. While both characters begin the story flawed–Niklaas’ views are often primitive or reductive while Aurora is painfully reckless–their growth is obvious over the course of the narrative. Even knowing more than both narrators, readers will find a few satisfying surprises here–particularly in the final act.

Brief scenes from the ogre queen Ekeeta’s perspective add another layer to this story and make Ekeeta a complex character of her own rather than merely a stock villain. Although there is often a fundamental lack of communication between the two protagonists, it is a plot device that is used well throughout the story in combination with the alternating narration to create a story that is an absolute page-turner.

Working within the confines of both Aurora and Niklaas’s curses, Jay offers a thoughtful story with as much external plot as there is internal character development. With magic, adventure and romance Princess of Thorns is a story that is as enchanting as any fairy tale.

Possible Pairings: The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson, Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine, The Girl Who Never Was by Skylar Dorset, Eon: Dragoneye Reborn by Alison Goodman, A Creature of Moonlight by Rebecca Hahn, Seraphina by Rachel Hartman, Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones, Hero by Alethea Kontis, Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta, Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier, Cinder by Marissa Meyer, Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Monday Memories: My True Love Gave to Me

Monday Memories is a weekly feature hosted by Miss Print and the Book Bandit. Just take a photo of a book from your personal library (or a library book that’s significant to you, etc.) and talk about why it matters. Is it your first ever signed book? The first book you reviewed on your blog? Whatever it is, write it up in a Monday Memories post and share it. Just please link back if you decide to join!


This week for Monday Memories I’m talking about My True Love Gave to Me, a collection of holiday short stories edited by Stephanie Perkins.


I’ve been excited about this book since I heard about it earlier this year. Christmas is my favorite holiday and this collection includes stories from some of my favorite authors–what’s not to love?

I’ve had some good experiences with short story anthologies and some bad ones. Happily, this was a good one where I enjoyed all of the stories with a couple that even made me tear up a bit. In particular I was completely enchanted with Jenny Han’s story. The real surprise here, however, was when Kiersten White’s story made me cry (in a good way). I was so taken with her story that I went out and read Illusions of Fate soon after. I might even be a White fan now.

Back in July I was lucky enough to land an ARC from Amazon’s Vine program so I also got to read this book fairly early. Even though it came out in October, I’ve waited until now to review it because I wanted it to be in season.

Last month when Nicole told me many of the authors in this collection were going to be in NYC on December 4 for a big signing event, you can bet I was excited. Hearing about the event led to several days of back and forth planning as Nicole and I coordinated for the event. We also decided it would be a perfect Dash and Lily Day adventure (something we do every year to celebrate another Christmas favorite Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares).

Here’s how excited we were:


If you want to join the Meme fun, just add your link below.

Week in Review: December 7


This week on the blog you can check out:

This week was pretty silly in that I was barely at work. Monday was a pretty regular day. Tuesday afternoon I headed to Macmillan (in the Flatiron Building!) for a Librarians Preview of their Winter 2015 titles. Since I wear a blogger and a librarian hat, I was lucky enough to have read a couple of the books (The Winner’s Crime and The Ghosts of Heaven) already. It’s going to be a great season and I’m especially excited about a lot of their picture books which sound fantastic. It was interesting seeing some familiar faces (though most did not recognize me because I am a stealthy ninja that way) and ahead of the preview I also explored the Lego Store for a bit with my two supervisors. I’m not super into Legos but the store decor included a lot of super cool Lego sculptures including a huge model of the city blog with the Flatiron Building among others.


I’m also feeling pretty cool about being able to now say I’ve been in the Flatiron Building (it’s not quite as exciting on the inside and a lot of the rooms are very small but whatever). While at the preview through the wonders of Twitter I was also able to connect with Ksenia Winnicki–one of the great publicists at Macmillan who coordinates blogger outreach. It was really exciting to put a face to the name since we have been emailing a bit recently about blog tours coming up and the like.

On Wednesday I spent the morning in Long Island City at BookOps (meaning I was in three boroughs over the course of the day) to work with the Summer Reading Team. It’s all hush hush right now but the list for my system’s 2015 summer reading titles is on point. While I was there I also heard about the Morris Finalists which was exciting as it’s one award I do like to read for (I find it a little hard to keep up with others!).

Thursday I took a personal day to attend a My True Love Gave to Me signing with Nicole.

Friday, again, was a regular work day.

In between all of that I managed to finish my Christmas shopping (though I mail ordered so it is not all here as of yet) and also get some stuff to put aside for Nicole’s birthday and Mother’s day for my mom (I am the queen of discipline and will buy gifts for all holidays at once because I’m a boss). I still have to wrap a lot but I’m happy it’s done. I also finished shopping for holiday swaps and only have one left to mail.

Blog-wise I am working on Jamie’s end of year survey, my own 2014 top ten list and trying to catch on reviews as my reading has been outpacing my reviewing by a fair margin.

I am feeling a lot better now that we’re well past the year mark for my mom’s surgery. I don’t know if that’s something that will happen every year from now on but I’m really happy that I’m not feeling super anxious anymore or spending all of my time worrying about something else going wrong.

So that was my fairly good and fairly busy week. I hope yours was everything you needed it to be.

Who’s joining me for Monday Memories this week?

Miss Print’s Re-Prints: December 2007 Edition, Vol. 1

missprintreprintMiss Print’s Re-Prints is a weekly feature that will post on Saturday. Each week I’ll highlight reviews I wrote during a previous month in this blog’s run.

Currently I am Re-Printing 2007 posts.

December 2007: Volume 1

  • December 5, 2007: Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine–“The novel addresses several specific feminist issues, specifically negotiating and fighting the burden of obedience, the importance of female friendships and, of course, learning to save yourself.” This review would become the meat of my scholarly article about the effectiveness of this book as a feminist text.
  • December 12, 2007: Temping Fate by Esther Friesner–“This book gets major points for putting ancient Greek gods (and some other myths from other countries) into a modern setting and preserving their integrity. The gods that we meet in the story are convincing characters and they work perfectly in the modern environment. It’s the first book I have read in a while that can claim as much.
  • December 19, 2007: Clementine by Sarah Pennypacker–“Clementine is used to getting in trouble and spending time with the principal of her school though so she tries to make the best of the situation, which in the fine tradition of children’s literature eventually brings Clementine out on top.

Check back next week for volume two!


Linktastic! Hunger Games, National Book Awards and More Edition! (12/5/14)

  • How “The Hunger Games” Challenges Old Hollywood Expectations About Gender Roles by Allison Willmore at Buzzfeed: “Peeta may require the occasional rescuing, but Katniss is more than capable of figuring that out, and in flipping these roles, The Hunger Games has become a YA adaptation that shakes up the way we think about action, and — maybe more importantly — about romance.”
  • What Really Makes Katniss Stand Out? Peeta, Her Movie Girlfriend by Linda Holmes at NPR: “In fact, you could argue that Katniss’ conflict between Peeta and Gale is effectively a choice between a traditional Movie Girlfriend and a traditional Movie Boyfriend.”
  • How The “Hunger Games” Team Brought “Mockingjay – Part 1” From The Page To The Screen by Adam B. Vary on Buzzfeed: “His shock could have been due to the daunting task of transforming Collins’ darkest and most psychological novel into a global commercial blockbuster, or having to artificially split the book’s narrative into two franchise-extending movies. Instead, the reason was much more straightforward.”
  • National Book Award winners this year include Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
  • Being a White Guy in Children’s Books by Roger Sutton at The Horn Book: “It’s a nice life that’s easy to get used to. But as Handler learned, it can bite you in the ass. There he was in the spotlight, doing what he’s been amply rewarded for doing for years, and he overreached.” (Be sure to also read the comments here!)
  •  Handler Donates $110,000 to We Need Diverse Books by Claire Kirch at Publisher’s Weekly: “WNDB gave away as “featured” swag for each $75 contribution during the 24-hour period that Handler matched donations a signed copy of Woodson’s novel, Brown Girl Dreaming, which won this year’s National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. More than 150 copies had been given away to contributors by Saturday morning.”
  • I Sacrifice, Therefore I Am Good: Young Adult Fiction Heroines and Self-Destruction by Katja Huru at PopMatters: “What makes Tris’s behavior problematic beyond the obvious level, however, is that her self-sacrificing behavior is validated through her motivations. The act itself is not important, only the reasons behind it.” I’m still not sure about this essay–and it has a ton of spoilers for the Divergent trilogy–but this is still a very interesting read.