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Book Review: The Stepsister Scheme

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

I recently figured out how to check out library books on my new Kindle, and wow is that the best thing ever. Granted, almost every virtual copy of almost everything I want to read is almost always checked out, but hey, there are waiting lists!

I started out with the fourth (and final?) Tiffany Aching novel, I Shall Wear Midnight, by Terry Pratchett. I mentioned how much I liked this series in my last recommended reading post, so believe me when I say I was shocked - SHOCKED - by how much I disliked this book. At the halfway point I even put it down in disgust, but then soldiered on through sheer determination. 

I prefer writing long reviews for books I actually like, so suffice to say the story made me too angry for too long. I just can't handle constant bullying and degradation of a main character. It's fine for establishing a villain or moving the story forward, but in this one it just ground on and on until I wanted to scream in frustration. (Imagine Delores Umbridge bullying Harry for twenty chapters straight.) It only let up sometime *after* the book's halfway point, and then the story's resolution was far too weak to make up for all the grief. (Plus it was jarring to have gritty issues like child abuse and pre-teen pregnancy make up such a large portion of the plot.)

To be fair, I know I internalize fiction too much, and I have a hard time with most dramas because of that. (There's a reason I read mostly YA fantasy, after all.) So I guess I just prefer the lighter, quirkier, and younger Tiffany Aching.

After dragging myself through the ending of I Shall Wear Midnight, I was desperate for something - anything - to cleanse my mind palate, as it were. Next on my Kindle was The Stepsister Scheme, a title recommended by you readers:

(This is the first time I've seen the cover art, and I have to say I'm glad I didn't see it before reading the book. Yech. Trust me, this cover does NOT do the story justice.)

This book was a veritable breath of fresh air, and I was drawn in by the first chapter. I love stories that incorporate and twist around classic fairy tales, so it was a delight to have the opening pages be from Cinderella's perspective just after her marriage to the prince. 

Of course, very soon after all hell breaks loose, and Cinderella joins forces with two other classic fairy tale princesses to kick some hienies and take some names. It's a rip-roaring adventure story, and yet the princesses have this amazing depth, with unique personalities and painful back stories that eek out bit by bit as the story goes on. I expected fairytale fluff, and got...well, people

I think it was that darker tinge of past pains that helped balance all the fantasy in the story - and it definitely made the characters more real and relatable. [Note for parents: there's a non-graphic mention of assault.]

There were also unexpected moments of humor - at least one of which made me laugh out loud - and the twists on the classic stories are brilliant, weaving in familiar elements with something wholly creative and fresh. (I won't spoil anything, but I will say I loved the incorporation of Cinderella's mother. Really beautiful story-telling.)

And get this: NO CLIFF-HANGER ENDING! Woohoo!! Bless you, Mr. Hines. Bless you. It's always refreshing to read a book that can hold its own as a stand-alone story. 

That said, this is one of Hines' "Princess Novels," and it looks like he takes the same characters into his next fairy tale retelling of The Little Mermaid, The Mermaid's Madness:

(Ok, this cover is better.)

It's going on my Kindle waiting list.

So, to sum up: I loved it. Definitely read The Stepsister Scheme when you can.

By the way, I'm slowly working my way through all the titles you guys have recommended on my previous review posts (like this one). Last time I looked for nearly thirty titles listed in the comments, and of those three were in stock for a digital check-out. (I'm currently on the third: The Iron Thorn.) All that to say, I plan to eventually read pretty much everything you guys have ever recommended; the order I get to them just depends on what's in stock at the time. :)

I really need to compile a master list of titles at some point, too, so that we can all reference it. Hm. Yep. That's going on the "to do" list!

Posted by Jen at 3:30 PM Labels:


  1. I would totally recommend my ultimate favorite book by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes "Hawksong" I have read the entire thing out loud 15 times and countless times to myself. The rest of the series is as good in my opinion but her vampire books are really good like "shattered mirror" and "demon in my view" there is a bit of romance, and the characters are very relate-able. I love the author.

  2. Compose a master list that we can all find and use for our own purposes. :)

  3. I would love a masterlist. I'm reading Uglies now based on a recommendation in a previous post and loving it!

  4. Added this one to my "To Read" list. Thanks!

    I find goodreads.com helpful for tracking what I've read and what's on my to read list. When I'm done with books (or getting close to done), I just put the next however many on reserve at the library. It also helps me find other things by the same author.

    You can even create a group on goodreads with lists of books for the group. It might be a fun way to keep collected book recommendations.

  5. I can't recall if this was in your list or other's before, but you might like Sherwood Smith's YA novels. I'm particularly fond of Crown Duel (or Crown Duel/Court Dual as originally published in two books)

  6. This post made me move "The Stepsister Scheme" to the top of my TBR list. I already knew about Jim C Hines because of a fantastic, hilarious, and thought-provoking post he did about female cover poses (here) .

    1. Do me a huge favor and look up thehawkeyeinitiative.com/‎ , it's the same idea as that article, but with artists drawing Hawkeye in the same positions.

  7. Because I'm a university instructor who teaches courses about reading, I get to read all kinds of children's and young adult books without guilt! "Yes, I should be grading papers, but I need to read this book for, um, er, RESEARCH! Yes, research!"
    I just finished a book that I loved and wanted to share. This is a book for a slightly younger crowd -- more middle school than high school -- but if you love quirky science fiction, you'll love "The True Meaning of Smekday" by Adam Rex. The main character is a wonderful and spunky 11-year old girl who describes what happens after aliens take over the Earth. I don't remember anyone on this list mentioning it, but if someone already has, forgive me for the second posting.
    The lists of recommended books from readers on this blog is FANTASTIC--I love you guys!

  8. I second the goodreads request. I'd love to follow your lists on there since we seem to have very similar taste in books!

  9. Did you know someone can lend you a Kindle book they own for 14 days? Not all books are available for lending, they can only be loaned once, and you can't read it while you've loaned it out, but it's free. If you have a friend w/a Kindle and your taste in reading, it might be a way to bypass the Kindle wait lists. I just finished "Seraphina" which was mentioned in your last book post's comments, and loved it. Sadly, it's not lendable yet -- or I'd send it to you.

    Go to "Manage my kindle" and then the help links and type in "Loaning books" for more info. I'd paste a link, but it accesses my personal account, and that's more info than I'd like to share...

  10. @ Kristin: don't forget the post about male cover poses too. Taken together the posts are funny funny stuff (and yet tragic commentary).


  11. I second the goodreads suggestion. We could even start a book club there! It could be a fun thing where we read a book a month and have all sorts of fun discussions about it.

    Also, I admit to not liking I Shall Wear Midnight nearly as much as the other Tiffany Aching books, though I also didn't totally dislike it either (though that could be because I'm a sucker for Vimes, even if he only shows up for a minute).

    Have you read any of the books in the Demon Trilogy by Sarah Rees Brennan. They are a pretty fun read, and I totally love her character of Jamie. I'm not sure I love all aspects of SRB's writing, but I think she does a great job at dialogue.

  12. Ok then I have to recommend "A discovery of Witches" and the sequel just out "Shadow of Night" by Deborah Harkness. Love it - but it IS a trilogy so you might want to put it toward the end of your list of you don't like series. No cliff hangers per se but the first one definitely leads you into the second one.

  13. Stepsister Scheme was awesome, I have read all four books in the series and loved them all, The Mermaid's Madness is my favorite though, happy reading.

  14. Wait, wait-- HOW do you check out library books on your Kindle?? I don't know how to do this!

  15. oh hey, I didn't know you could loan kindle books, awesome, thanks! I have the rest of the princess series, if you want to borrow them, Jen (tweet me @celynnen, if you do). Incidentally, the author, Jim Hines, is the guy who posted photos of himself trying to hold the various female movie poster and book cover poses awhile back =oD.

  16. I'm in the midst of the third book in Mr. Hine's Princess series, and am still loving it as much as I did the first two!

    I personally highly recommend the Study Series (Poison Study, Magic Study, and Fire Study) and the Glass Series (Storm Glass, Sea Glass, and Spy Glass) by Maria V. Snyder.

  17. I just finished a fun Cinderella inspired cyborg/steampunk story called Cinder. It is the first in a series and is the only one published, but I enjoyed it a lot.

  18. I can't remember if I've recommended Mercedes Lackey before, but if you like fairytale retellings you will love her 500 Kingdoms books, or her Elemental Masters series.

    The 500 Kingdoms books are set in a land known as the 500 Kingdoms where an omni-present force exists that forces people into fairytales any times their lives start to follow a particular path, even if the circumstances don't quite add up. So the books are about fighting the tradition and trying to achieve your own destiny in spite of it. For example in the first one, Godmother, the main character, Ella Cinders, has a wicked stepmother and two nasty stepsisters who turned her into a household slave...but the nearest prince is only 11 years old.

    The elemental masters books are more oblique, the stories are set in somewhere around Victorian times, mostly in England. They are about magicians who hide themselves in the real world, and their stories just so happen to follow paths of familiar tales, but with more modern trappings. Also much more strong-minded females and male characters that aren't just placeholder princes.

  19. Ha! Those covers immediately brought to mind the author who tries to imitate the ridiculous ways they pose women on the covers of fantasy novels and I see it's in fact the same person :) I've also been known to internalize fiction too much, and don't think I could have read pages and pages of brutal bullying either.

  20. Sorry for posting under anonymous, my name is Linzi
    Have you tried Melissa Marr's Wicked Lovely series? It's one of my favorites. And while it's not YA, Deborah Harkness's A Discovery of Witches is amazing. The second book just came out and I'm hooked :)

  21. Not only are his books good, but Jim Hines is good people. He writes many great, insightful blog posts. I think you'd also like his other work, the Jig the Goblin series.

    I'd also love to see that master list. I'm always up for something new to read.

  22. This may or may not change your thoughts on I Shall Wear Midnight, but it gave me some helpful insight into where Pratchett was in his life while writing it. Heartbreaking. I wish him all the best.


  23. I don't know if anyone mentioned these on the first thread, but have you ever read Jane Yolen's YA stuff? She's been doing children's books for a while, so the YA stuff is older. *If* it's available on Kindle, old stuff is more likely to be available.

    The Pit Dragon series appears to be available on Kindle, but not the Great Alta books, which are awesome girl power stories, from back before that was at all common (1988 for the first book). And those are so interesting with her take on storytelling tropes. You can see a couple pages at amzn.com/0765343576, enough to see "the myth", "the legend" and "the story". Sometimes there's even a song, or a thesis abstract, or an encyclopedia entry. It's really interestingly told.

    The Pit Dragon series was pretty great too. It was one of my favorites in midle school. Raising your own dragon!

  24. So glad you read and liked this one! Jim Hines has four of the princess stories published (and I think that's all he's planning for at this point.) They do all follow the same characters, and while there are mentions of the events of previous books, all of them can stand beautifully on their own.

    Mermaid's Madness (the second one) is probably my least favorite of the four, but it wasn't bad by any stretch. It's still an interesting story, but it didn't hold my interest quite as strongly as the other three.

    Three is called "Red Hood's Revenge" and focuses more on Talia, and introduces the Little Red Riding Hood character in what I felt was a really interesting and unique reimagining of the character. This one was my favorite>

    Four is called "The Snow Queen's Shadow" and to me was... heartbreaking (in a good, the-story-is-emotionally-powerful way, not an I'm-sad-because-I'm-disappointed way.) The Snow Queen was always one of my favorite fairy tales, too.

    For what it's worth, the author is a super awesome guy, too.

  25. Tamora Pierce is a wonderful author as well, I can't remember if you've mentioned her before. Her main character is almost always a female, but not a wimpy one either. I'd recommend her for any young adult or adult reader, she is a bit graphic for children.

  26. Oooh a master list! Since I can tell your reading taste is a lot like mine, I would LOVE a master list.

    Speaking of books, I can't remember if you've read the Ranger's Apprentice series. If not I highly recommend them. There's like 10 books in the series.

    And I am SO checking out this princess series. I love re-imagined princesses, and the ones that kick butt and take names are the ones I like the most. (Probably why Mulan has always been my favorite of the Disney Leading Ladies.)

  27. I just recently read a couple YA sci-fi novels you might like. The first is the Missing series by Margaret Peterson Haddix (first book is "Found". The basic premis is two kids discover they have been kidnapped from history, and are actually some of history's famous missing children. It's really engaging, and there is a lot of cool time-travel action. The second series is the Dragonback series by Timothy Zahn (first book is "Dragon and Thief"). This is the story of a boy named Jack who stumbles on a dragon-like alien who can become two-dimensional and rest against a person's skin, like a tattoo. The dragon, Draycos, needs Jack's help to save his people. It is really engagingand well written. Enjoy!

  28. (Not so) little known fact about Jim C. Hines: he's a genuinely warm and kind human being, and he has a page on his blog dedicated to helping women who have been raped. (http://www.jimchines.com/rape/) When you buy his books, know you're really putting your money behind a seriously good egg. I'm halfway through Red Hood's Revenge in this series. <3

  29. Another vote for Goodreads!

  30. 1. Add me to the recommendations for GoodReads (although I think you've mentioned it before) this book is now on my to-read list :)
    2. Mercedes Lackey has a series of retold/meshed fairytales in more of a romance novely setting and they are so, so good. A little more adult of course though.

  31. something you might be interested in if you tend to collect enough books to be considered a hoarder, is paper back swap. its a site where you post your books you are willing to part with and all you do is when someone selects your book you send it to them in the mail; you have to pay for your out going postage but they ask that of everyone. I have gotten some good books and have gone from "hoarder" to "reader" lol.! Happy reading
    I haven't read YA in forever so im way out of the loop especially for the scifi/steam-punk/fantasy genre. If you want a cool girl kicks butt awesome book though read" I'd tell you i love you but then I'd have to kill you" by Ally Carter. Very girl power fun teenage spy-in-training kind of stuff. It is a series but I haven't read past the first or second one; my library in this little town is way behind in getting books.

  32. Though I'm sorry you didn't like "I Shall Wear Midnight" I am completely thrilled to find that I was not alone in my disappointment of it as well. The Wee Free Men will always have a soft spot, but I'd warn others about the end of the series.

  33. You sound like how I felt about the last Harry Potter. I actually hated that last book so much it turned me against the whole series. I haven't read one of them since.

    That said I actually rather liked, "I shall Wear Midnight." The books pretty much increased in darkness as Tiffany grew up, which is part of what witches have to do. I really enjoyed the insight into his other witch characters through Tiffany's growing up.

  34. I don't remember if you mentioned it, but there's a book called, simply "Pirates!". I cannot remember the author. I loved it. It's about a middle class young woman who, through some unfortunate events, turns to piracy to save her life. There's an element of a love story, but its mainly about a friendship between two girls. There's a lot of stuff in there through....its not fluffy pirates. They deal with slavery, torture, an attempted assault, and murder. But I found it wasn't overdone. I highly reccommend it.

  35. When I saw Esther Freisner's blurb on the cover, I realized why Jim Hines' name was familiar! He has a story in one of the Chicks in Chainmail anthologies, which she edits(or edited, I think they're done). :) You might like those too; they are mostly funny short stories about female fighters who kick serious butt, but can still take a joke.

    I just found a new good series thanks to a library sale: Darkborn by Alison Sinclair. The rest of the trilogy are Lightborn and Shadowborn. The fantasy concept is really good: a massive curse has left a country divided into Darkborn, who are blind, burn to ash in the light, have extremely sensitive sonar, and shun magic for mechanical wonders; and Lightborn, who melt away if kept from the light and whose entire society is dependent on magicians and sorcery.

    Also, I'm sure she's been mentioned before, but Patricia C. Wrede's new(ish) Frontier Magic trilogy is really great! (Thirteenth Child, Across the Great Barrier, The Far West). Of her older books, I think Dealing With Dragons and Mairelon the Magician are my favorites.

  36. @Lacey - My library uses mymediamall.net. You might want to call your local library and see what program they use. It's super simple to check out books, place holds and see what's available. I love it!

    I also second the goodreads recommendation. I've stopped using my Kindle Wish List for keeping tracks of books I want to read. Goodreads is such a better resource for tracking what you've read, want to read and what you think of it.

  37. After a previous book review I read Divergent and decided I like Hunger Games better. I do want to get my hands on Hines' books though and another one you recommended called Ugly, I think. I've been thinking of getting a Nook or Kindle and am glad to hear you can "check out" books (although I really don't get how a digital copy can be out of stock.)
    If there are unicorn chasers for the internet, what do you call a book to get rid of the bad taste of other books? We need a new word for that.

  38. Just thought I would mention that Goodreads is good for organizing your to read lists :).

    Also, they're a little bit romance-fluffy at times, but the teen books by Vivian Vande Velde are great fantasy fun. Dragon' Bait is my favorite, about a maiden who doesn't take kindly to being staked out for the local dragon. Companions of the Night is modern day vampire fun (I promise nobody sparkles, haha), and A Well-Timed Enchantment has some delightful time travel hijinx.

  39. try The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor :)

  40. Oh Thank God! I absolutely *adore* Terry Pratchett's books, but I couldn't even get past the first few chapters. I do recommend his Discworld books (Guards! Guards! is my favorite) as well as The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents.

  41. Aww, I'm sorry to hear you didn't like "I Shall Wear Midnight." The Tiffany series is my favourite by Pratchett, who is my hands down favourite author. I love the theme of the book, the idea of prejudice physically manifesting and overcoming it. As a previous poster mentioned, they series gets darker as with each book, and Tiffany grows into her role as a strong woman and a powerful witch. You may enjoy the middle two, which have more light humor and less dark stories. I hope you'll give Pratchett another chance, as the whole (huge!) series is definitely worth the effort!

    I have read several new books based on your recommendations. As a suggestion, even though you are reviewing youth fiction, I would find it helpful if there was a scale for referencing how "young" a book is. I found "The Hunger Games" trilogy a great read, but "The Pretties" rather childish... You have such great recommendations, but books are expensive and as I prefer the more mature youth books, it would be nice to know where things fall. :)

    Thanks for the great blog, it's one of the best out there!

  42. Ok, I'll go ahead and recommend to you the 3 my most favourite series at the moment (except discworld, as you obviously are already familiar with terry pratchett).

    1) ARTEMIS FOWL by Eoin Colfer.
    This is a charming YA series (there are 8 books so far), the main charakter of which is a teenage prodigy who discovers a secret fairy world. but not the fairies that sniff flowers all day long, ohhhh no. Fun to read and utterly creative.

    2) THURSDAY NEXT by Jasper Fforde.
    I don't even know if this qualifies as YA or not. The main charakter is an adult, but other than that it does definitely have the charme of many YA books. The first book is titled THE EYRE AFFAIR. Thursday Next is a literature agent that protects books and has conversations with the characters. her father has a face that can stop time. her uncle is a mad scientist. Give it a try and see for yourself.

    3) TEMERAIRE by Naomi Novik.
    This is definitely not YA, but i do like it very much. The story is set in Britain during the Napoleon war. only there is an Air Force. consisting of dragons. beautiful, elegant, kind dragons, that are capable of emotions, language and have very distinct personalities. the first book is titled HIS MAJESTY'S DRAGON. the whole series is wonderfully written, with a strong emphasis on asthetics.

    I hope you get to those series at one point, i think you might enjoy all of them.

  43. You should totally read the Court of the Air. Is a steampunk novel by Stephen Hunt, it's great. It's part of a series all related to the same country or world, I haven't read the other books but I've heard they're really good. The book is huge but is worth it.

  44. Terry Pratchett is hands down my favorite author, and I'm just now getting into his YA stuff.

    Honestly when I was younger and read YA fiction, it always frustrated me that everything ended up alright in the end. It was so different from how I was experiencing life I couldn't relate to it. So I imagine I would love the ending.

    You should read The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents, like another commenter mentioned. It's brilliant.

    Also, any of his Discworld books are awesome. Guards! Guards! is what I always start people off on when I suggest Terry as an author. The Hogfather is also great for Christmastime.

  45. Ooooh! I'm on the waiting list. As a thank you for the recommendation...Seahorse!

    Also, I'm reading Rot and Ruin right now and really enjoying it.

  46. Jen, I understand your frustration with I Shall Wear Midnight. I had a really hard time getting through the beginning as well and couldn't understand where the sudden change in everything came from. The one part that made me really happy was when they brought Esk back... I thought Terry Pratchett had forgotten about her and Equal Rites was one of my favorite Discworld books.

  47. nthing goodreads... please let us know if you start up on there!

  48. A master list would be awesome! Oh, and if you like fairy tale retellings/reconfigurings, you might want to check out(ha!) Mercedes Lackey's Five Hundred Kingdoms series. They're not YA, but they're not heavy either.

  49. I LOVE all of Amelia Atwater-Rhodes' books. There's a series about vampires/witches (it starts with In The Forests Of The Night) and there is a series about shapeshifters (Hawksong is the first).
    Also, I'm super bummed. I just checked my library for The Stepsister Scheme and they don't have it! None of the libraries in my area do :( So I either need to buy it, or ask my library to acquire it...

  50. Poor dear sweet Terry Pratchett. Iris Murdoch's books got weird and unpleasant when her Alzheimer's started gearing up, too.

  51. While I haven't read down through the list yet, I'll make a recommendation in case someone else hasn't: The Kingdom Keepers series by Ridley Pearson and Tristan Elwell. Currently, it's on book 5, and he's said that the plans are for 7 total. I wasn't big on the first one, but because I had been given the first three, I trudged through it anyway. They definitely get better.

    The premise is that the Disney Villains are, in fact, real, and are attempting to take over the parks--starting with Disney World. To combat this, the Imagineers have created five holograms (I know, weird, but it's Disney and, well, the holograms are more than that) of teenagers who--during the day--are DHIs (Disney Host Interactives) that walk around the parks, interacting with the people, giving directions, etc. At night is when the real fun comes out.

    Anyway, as I said, I wasn't big on the first one. It felt too much like a Magic Kingdom tourist guidebook with a story woven through it. The subsequent ones focused much more on the story. They do still focus on a Disney park (well, this latest one is the Disney Dream cruise ship, as well as Castaway Cay), and I don't see that changing.

    Being such a big Disney fan, I'm sure you'll enjoy these, too. They're fun, quick reads. They're filled with magic (since the Disney characters are real, why wouldn't their magic be real as well?), adventure, and... Well... You'll see.

  52. Really, anything by Anne McCaffrey:
    Acorna, Body Heir, Brainships, Crystal Singer, Dinosaur Planet/Planet Pirates, Doona, Freedom, Pern (Largest, and about dragons!), Petaybee, Talent.

    Here is the complete bibliography sorted by series: http://mccaffrey.srellim.org/biblioseries.htm

  53. I've been looking forward to reading the Stepsister Scheme for a long time and I'm glad to hear that it's good. Sadly my library doesn't have it available in electronic form.

    My master list of books to read got so large that I had to start a file to keep track of them. I recommend creating a Google Doc spreadsheet. You'll be able to share and you could also include columns with series title and the number of the book in the series. It's helped me a lot to keep track of everything.

  54. I totally agree with you on "I Shall Wear Midnight!" Although Terry Pratchett is one of my all-time favorite authors, his latest work (starting with "Nation," which was billed as his first YA book) are NOT on my list. I put down "Snuff" after the first few chapters, something I've sadly never done with a Pratchett book. Couldn't even finish it and have no desire to go back and try.

    There is a series by Catherine Jinks that begins with "The Reformed Vampire Support Group" that you might enjoy.

    OH! And for some really good, entertaining, make-you-think adult fiction, try "Good Omens," by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. HIGHLY recommended!!!

  55. Any chance you would ever consider organizing an online book group? I have to say, being in a book club with you has to be really fun. I would totally join.

  56. I second the paperbackswap.com recommendation, as well. I've been a member for almost 2 years, and it's GREAT.

    Library books are super easy to check out on your Kindle. Just don't forget to check the box for "Kindle book." Then go to checkout. Turn your wireless on and go to "Sync/Download Items," just like if you bought a book.

    I have another couple of recommendations, too: John Levitt (start with "Dog Days"), Andre Norton (a classic SF/F master - she was one of the greats!!!), and Patricia Briggs (who writes both high fantasy and an urban fantasy series about Mercy Thompson, a shapechanger). Also? Do NOT forget Anne McCaffrey (the Dragonriders of Pern). These are all adult SF/F. After working in a library for the past 8 years, I have LOTS of recs, but I'll stop here;^)

  57. I'm not sure if you've read it (them) yet but there is a trilogy by Patrick Rothfuss that I'm loving so far (only two books out so far). They are The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man's Fear. His Website has a few excerpts on it if you're curious but I'd highly recommend them. They are a longer read but I found very worth it.

  58. I have totally read those books, and I LOVE this series! It is just so much fun to read!

  59. This is so wonderful! I'm a fairly recent follower, but I've never seen your book recommendations posts. I love it! Thanks for the recommendation, and I look forward to future ones. (Especially ones for the Kindle, I can never decide what to get from the library!)

  60. yay Jim Hines! Check out his jig the goblin books too, they're a delight. He also addresses feminist issues in his blog, and and is an advocate for victims rights as well. He is helping create and shape the reporting systems for sexual assault at cons, too. He is funny and on our side! He's on twitter too.

  61. Hurry, if you haven't already, read Life of Pi before the movie comes out. It is fantastic. And as always, anything by Jasper Fforde. The Fourth Bear is my favorite but you must read The Big Over Easy first.

  62. OK - there's a series I know you would totally adore. I can't quite describe why because it's not YA, it's not fantasy, I suppose you could sort of, maybe give it some steampunk props, but only because it takes place during the Victorian era, has a strong female protagonist, and a sword-stick parasol (which I think would be a completely cool accessory for a steampunk costume). I guess the best reason I can come up with is that I adore the series, everything I've read that you've recommended I've loved, that means we have the same taste in books, and therefor you too will adore the series.

    It's the Amelia Peabody series by Barbara Peterson. (First book is Crocodile on the Sandbank). Amelia is a Victorian lady who becomes an Egyptologist and incidentally a detective/murder mystery solver. She's a fabulous character and the books are light, funny and completely enjoyable. They fall into a category I call "bubblegum for the brain" The perfect antidote for something that was too dark/serious.

  63. Not sure if anyone suggested this book to you yet, but I would recommend Idlewild by Nick Sagan (son of astronomer/writer/icon Carl Sagan). I really enjoyed it and I think it would be right up your alley :). It also has 2 follow-ups: Edenborn and Everfree. Enjoy!

  64. Thank you for this book review! I have been training up my daughter in fantasy (mostly)/sci fi reading and "geek". :) She's embraced it gladly and love it. Anyway, thank you so much for this book review as I thought I'd been all over your site, but hadn't seen the book reviews yet. The library will be miffed as there are now another good dozen reserve requests from us. But I love hearing about new titles in the genres it seem we both love. :)

  65. Awesome! I shall have to put "The Stepsister Scheme" on my reading list. I'm currently working my way through all of Diane Duane's Star Trek novels, which I would HIGHLY recommend for any Trek fans. They're not technically YA, but her stories never get too dark. They can be kind of technical and science-y at times, but that's usually just slightly more intelligent Treknobabble that can be focused on or ignored as the reader chooses. LOL.

    If you only want YA recommendations, Diane Duane also wrote the fantastic "So You Want to Be a Wizard" series. It's set in New York and focuses on a boy and girl (and, later on, the girl's younger sister) who come upon a magical book that allows them to train to become wizards.

    Long story short: you can't go wrong with Diane Duane. I have loved every single book of hers that I've read so far (though her "Rihannsu" series did start off kind of slow. And in Romulan.)

  66. I noticed on the previous post that someone had already recommended 'Emperor's Edge' series by Lindsay Buroker. I would double down on that recommendation. Not only is it hilarious, but it's also based in a Steampunk work.

    Additionally, the first book is free on Kindle:


  67. Not sure if someone mentioned this book or not, but Gordon Dahlquist's The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters I think would be right up your alley. It is NOT YA, and I will warn you the first 20-30 pages seem incredibly dull, but then WHOOSH you are picked up and carried along for a bizarre, fun, intriguing adventure. (And very steam-punky, though my knowledge of such things is limited to what I've gleaned from your site)

  68. Have you read Rampant by Diana Peterfreund? Or anything by Tamora Pierce is just pure awesome. I also like Michelle Zink's Phrophecy of the Sisters, although I have not finished the trilogy. And Libba Bray's A Great and Terrible Beauty books.

    Here is my review of Rampant. http://minavilly.wordpress.com/2012/02/19/myth-and-legend-combine-in-diana-peterfreunds-rampant/

  69. I don't have the time to go through all your recommended reading lists right now, (although I intend to at some point) and I'm relatively new to this site, (I've followed Cake Wrecks for a while now, though) so I don't know what's already been mentioned, but I thought I'd suggest Gregory Maguire's books since you're into the fairy tale twist thing. (Assuming you haven't read them. If so, feel free to stop reading here.)

    His four-book Wicked series is awesome; (and my favorite) it's much darker and richer than the musical it (loosely) inspired. (Though admittedly I love that, too.) However, too many people seem to overlook his other books. "Mirror, Mirror" (which has nothing to do with the recent film) is a fantastic take on Snow White. "True Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister" is another great one. "Lost" a mystery/ghost story in which the protagonist is a relative of the (fictional) man who (in the story) inspired Dickens' Scrooge is pretty great, too. "The Next Queen of Heaven" is the only one I can't recommend, as I haven't read it yet.

    They're each under $10 in the Kindle store right now and they frequently go for less. (I think I got "Wicked" for under $5--I already owned a hard copy.) He writes women SO well.

    On an unrelated note, anything by David Mitchell is excellent, too. Start with "Ghostwritten." "Number9Dream" was a little much for me. I internalize fiction too much, also, and that one left me feeling like I'd been punched in the stomach, but I can't recommend his others enough.

  70. I'll second (or fifth, or sixth, or whatever we're up to now) the Mercedes Lackey. And not just the 500 Kingdoms. Before she started those she had a couple of others that were retelling of fairy tales: Firebird and Black Swan. She also has a series with elves active and the child Queen Elizabeth (This Scepter'd Isle is first). These are definitely aimed older than the 500 kingdoms.

    In a totally different note I would recommend Steven Brust, esp. the Vlad Taltos series. Yendi is one of the first SF books I picked up in HS and it is still one of my favorites. Vlad is sarcastic, funny, and a kick-ass assassin. On top of that the world is fascinating! His Khaavren Romances series is also awesome, esp. if you have ever read the Three Musketeers. They are written in a spoof of Dumas' writing style which just makes me giggle constantly. The bonus is that the series are starting to cross as they continue, so I'm in heaven.

  71. I don't know if anyone mentioned in previous posts, but Gail Carson Levine is great for re-tellings of fairy tales. Young YA books, but a great writer.


  72. I just finished up this series on my way out to Vegas this past week.

    He got all of my feels at the end. I really suggest sticking through it though I felt that in a few parts of the third book it did drag just a tiny bit.

  73. I have a few suggestions that haven't already been mentioned (I looked) "Never After" by Rebecca Lickiss is the twisted fairy tale "true story" of Sleeping Beauty. "The Unhandsome Prince" by John Moore is the story of the frog prince. "Firegold" by Dia Calhoun is an entirely different sort of story, coming of age type of tale with magic and traditions and special apples. (c:
    There is also a series starting with "The Alchemist" by Michael Scott about Nicholas Flemel and the sorcerer's stone...but it has NOTHING at all to do with Harry Potter...it is fantastic! Happy reading!

  74. Some more goodies:

    The Mistmantle Chronicles by M.I. AcAllister. There are five books and it starts with Urchin of the Riding Stars.

    David Clements-Davies has a few good ones. The Sight and it's sequel Fell. As well as Fire Bringer and The Telling Pool.

    The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell by Chris Colfer.
    It's a remix of fairy tale characters. I loved that one. He's also working on a sequel for it.

    Also there's the Animorphs series by K.A. Applegate. There are 54 main books and a handfull of tie-in books. The books are under 150 pages each.They are being re-published; they're up to book seven.

    And finally:
    Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick. It has two sequels, Silence and Crescendo, and the last one, Finale, will be published Oct 23.

  75. i think you will enjoy howls moving castle and it's sequels by Dianna wynne jones. they are on the younger side of the young adult fiction, but they are timeless stories. all could stand alone but you'll want to read them all.


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