Monday, September 30, 2013

Review of The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

I know what some of you might be thinking. “Another vampire book?” But trust me, Holly Black’s latest novel, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, should not be missed.

After a typical night at a sundown party with friends, seventeen-year-old Tana Bach wakes up alone in a bathtub, hungover and confused, with the sense that something is very wrong. Her fears are confirmed as she discovers someone left a window open during the party – and something came in. In spite of the garlic hung on the lintel to ward them off, vampires crawled through the window in the middle of the night and massacred every one of Tana’s friends -- except, she discovers, her charming, immature ex-boyfriend Aidan and mysterious the vampire Gavriel, both of whom have been tied up and need Tana’s help to escape.

The only problems with this mad plan? Well, Gavriel, while handsome, is dangerous, secretive, and slightly - or more than slightly - unhinged, and Aidan has already been bitten by a vampire and is turning Cold. On that note, this is one of the best descriptions of vampirism I’ve encountered in fiction, not only the change from human to vampire, but also the hungry, insatiable nature of vampirism itself.

Once a human is bitten by a vampire, they turn Cold (infected with vampirism) and bloodthirsty. If they drink human blood, the transformation will be completed and they will die to rise again. But it is also possible to stave off the change, if one is strong enough to resist the siren call of blood for long enough (about 88 days). Officially, the government requires people to report all cases of infection so that those who are Cold can be quarantined, along with vampires, in their local Coldtown, to prevent the further spread of vampirism. Yet those who enter Coldtown almost never leave, so many families attempt a self-quarantine of infected family members. Tana knows what it’s like to try to restrain the Cold – when she was a child, her father locked her Cold mother in the basement, and the consequences were tragic.

That’s why Tana and her two companions embark on a journey to "the wicked, opulent heart of Coldtown."
Holly Black, I'll allow a smirk since you wrote another kick-ass book.
 Are you hooked yet? I was! The Coldest Girl in Coldtown grabbed hold of me and would not let go till I was done. The plot is non-stop action (I mean it, like, when does Tana sleep?), and Black offered up a few plot twists that surprised me in their cleverness. After being involved with a string of series this year, I also appreciated that this novel works nicely as a standalone. The novel was jam-packed, for sure, but every moment was necessary to the unity of the whole, and by the end of the book, all plot threads were concluded to my satisfaction.

Part of the reason why this story about vampires doesn’t feel tired is because Black brings a peculiar, unexpected modernity to it. So often, vampires are portrayed as quaint and old-fashioned, given their eternal lives. But in Black’s vision, American pop culture is perversely fascinated by vampires; reality TV series follow vampire bounty hunters and broadcast feeds of Coldtown’s never-ending party for vamps and vamp wannabes, the Eternal Ball. Tana’s friends speculate about her disappearance by Twitter and text message and a reporter offers her money for an exclusive story. And at various times, Tana questions the justice of the Coldtown system that is willing to lock people up and throw away the key, simply for the sake of convenience and the illusion of safety for those on the outside. It reminded me uncomfortably of Japanese internment camps during WWII or the forced relocation of Native Americans. The Coldest Girl in Coldtown offers what feels like a realistic look at what would happen if vampires stepped into our world today.

No sparkling here, gents!
Holly Black’s The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is a not-to-be-missed, highly original vampire story that offers up some wickedly dark, scary, sexy moments at a pace that won’t give you a second to catch your breath. It uses the vampire theme to ask some important questions about the nature of identity and paints a compelling portrait of how our modern American life, even without vampires, may not be so far distant from Coldtown already.




Saturday, September 28, 2013

Snips & Specs & Web Series (Part Deux)

In which Sam rants about zombies, raves about the presence of Jane from Lizzie Bennet Diaries in a recent Sprint commercial, and muses on the success of LBD as the impetus for more web series development!

As Kate discussed last week, web series adaptations are on the rise, to the benefit of YA readers everywhere. Pride & Prejudice and Jane Eyre each received well-known interpretations. Recently, the actress who portrayed Jane Bennet in "The Lizzie Bennet Diaries," the Pride & Prejudice adaptation, appeared in a Sprint commercial!

For the record, although I love zombie fiction, I think the trend is perhaps overplayed. Just like pumpkin spice. Did you know that there are now pumpkin spice M&M's? What's next, pumpkin-spice-flavored, zombie-shaped cookies? Wait a minute, that's a great idea...

Anyway, for a refresher, here's our girl Laura Spencer in LBD:

Pretty neat! Also, here at Mad But Magic we also love seeing a redhead keep her color across platforms, right Kate? ;)

LBD was popular enough to spawn a sequel and some spinoffs as well as other adaptations, but do you think the success of actors in such adaptations will mean more viewers and (hopefully) more readers of these works of fiction? 
What do you think this means for the viability of the web series as a way to kick-start interest in new books, new adaptations, and new acting talent?

Have you seen any other web series stars in television clips or on film? We'd love to know about it - tell us in the comments!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Top Ten Best Sequels, Or, I Sure Do Read a Lot of Series

This feature brought to you by The Broke and the Bookish

As a lover of book series, this was an especially difficult post!  Whittling down the list was quite a challenge, but after much deliberation, I can wholeheartedly recommend the following sequels as my favorites.

Prodigy by Marie Lu
My most recent sequel experience and a very satisfying one! Even better than the first (as all book dust covers promise to be), this book was very refreshing- setting me up for what I thought would be the climax and then totally surpassing those expectations.  I find Marie Lu’s writing to be the right combination of fast-paced action, reasonable world building and insights into character psyche.

Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare
How often does a book fulfill all your hopes and dreams and challenge everything you know about the love triangle?  I fully expected this final installment of the Infernal Devices to crush my soul- and it did.  And then miraculously managed to entirely rebuild it.  Is this summary vague?  You bet!  Go read the books.

Where She Went by Gayle Forman
There's something about these characters that I really love. I feel their passion for music and their passion for each other. And if there was a 3rd book written about their lives or a 4th or a 10th, I’d read those, too.

Evolution of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin
THIS BOOK HAS LEFT ME WITH SO MUCH SPECULATION.  I will not disclose how much time I have spent trying to formulate, hypothesize and conjecture what the heck is going on with these characters.  I won’t subject you to the long list of unanswered questions I was left with.  I will be first in line when the final book is released!

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
A lot of people were disappointed by this series finale, but I liked it.  There, I said it. I appreciated the portrayal of PTSD, the allusions to events in US history, and that that the ending wasn’t quick fix perfect happiness.  Katniss has scars, and getting to end up with a guy at the end of a book doesn’t heal all wounds like girls are so often told will happen.  Mockingjay keeps it real, yo.

New Moon Stephanie Meyer
Love it or hate it, most of you have probably read it.  While I’m not lauding the writing or upholding the relationships, but I have to say I’ve got a soft spot for this novel… entirely due to loveable Human Jacob (very clear distinction of Human Jacob vs. WereJacob).

Anne of the Island by L.M. Montgomery
This is one of my go-to comfort books- I read it whenever I’m going through a big life change, somehow finding it encouraging that if Anne can get through it by golly, so can I!  (Maybe it’s in part that I’m a redhead, too?)  In Anne of the Island, we follow our favorite plucky lady as she goes off to college and finds herself the recipient of more than one marriage proposal!  I won’t tell who :^)

Remembering the Titanic by Diane Hoh
Did anyone else read Titanic: The Long Night?  I was obsessed with Titanic in 4th grade (Leo DiCaprio!) which is probably dating myself.  When this sequel came out, I couldn’t wait to see what happened after certain characters survived the disaster.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling
Everyone has their favorite, but this is easily my favorite the Harry Potter series! We meet Sirius, one of my favorite characters, and it’s one of the two books that breaks the mold of a springtime face-off with Voldermort.

In the Hands of the Goddess by Tamora Pierce
It’s no secret that we’re fans of Tamora Pierce here at Mad But Magic because not only is there a kick-ass heroine, there's also George.


Friday, September 20, 2013

Snips and Specs and (Web) Series

I have found my new favorite distraction- web series!  

It all started with Lizzie Bennet Diaries.  I was skeptical- there are a lot of modern adaptations that went by the wayside, in my opinion (and I have notably bad taste in movies so don’t be offended if I don’t like what you love) such as 2003’s Pride and Prejudice: A Latter-Day Comedy which was like an arrow to my heart, what they did to Darcy and Jane. So if a movie that managed to get produced could flop, what on earth would happen to an adaptation merely posted on YouTube?

I persevered nonetheless and was rewarded with good quality video, clever and quick scripting, and an engaging cast. It was fun to have other interactive features- such as characters on Twitter and Lydia starting her own channel. I looked forward to noon Mondays and Thursdays every week, anxiously refreshing their page, pining for a glimpse of the elusive Mr. Darcy, anticipating how they would modernize Lydia’s elopement and Darcy’s rescue. I engaged in the wild speculation and discussion that is YouTube comments. 

YouTube comments crack me up.
This isn't intellectual debate, WE'RE ON YOUTUBE
Now that Lizzie Bennet Diaries is finished (a moment of silence, please) I have been searching for other book adaptation web series to occupy 10 minutes of my week.  The producers of LBD followed up with Welcome to Sandition but I had not read the novel yet (*gasp* what kind of Austenite am I??) and I don’t think adaptations are nearly as fun unless you can understand the references and appreciate nuances and plot changes (the watchers commenting, “What’s going to happen next? I’ve never read the book!” boggled my mind, but I guess it gave credence to the exemplary writers of the series that could keep even the non-literary glued to their screens? Or provided one more example of how these stories are ageless and engaging to all generations!).  

While I wait for the LBD creators to come out with their next project- an adaptation of Emma, I have been nosing around for other good YouTube adaptations and was delighted when Meg pointed me to The Autobiography of Jane Eyre.  For the first 3 episodes I was unconvinced; the first episode especially was too spacey, low quality and attempt-at-artsy for my taste, but I held my judgement and soon found myself anxiously awaiting each Wednesday for a new update, a little in love with Rochester (I have yet to meet a version Rochester I haven't fallen in love with).

Who could resist this??

What do you think of book adaptation web series?  What adaptations would you like to see (I would LOVE to see a Room with a View modernized!)?  Any recommendations of series we should be watching?


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Top 10 Books on My Fall 2013 TBR List

Guys. There is seriously SO MUCH good YA to be released this fall. That’s why I compiled this list of my top ten books to be read this fall out of ALL NEW RELEASES! Here they are, helpfully organized for you (and me) according to release date so that you can mark your calendars!
(As always, TTT is a weekly feature of The Broke and the Bookish)

1. Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan
Release date: August 27, 2013
After loving Will Grayson, Will Grayson (a collaboration between Levithan and John Green) and Boy Meets Boy, I decided to try some of Levithan’s other stuff. I couldn’t quite push through Every Day, although I plan to pick it up again soon. Two Boys Kissing tells the story of two high school age boys who try to break a Guinness World Record by taking part in a 32 hour kissing marathon while trying to figure out how they feel about each other.

2. The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black
Release date: September 3, 2013
This summer I also rediscovered the work of Holly Black (I was a big fan of The Spiderwick Chronicles a few years ago) in her Modern Faerie Tales. I stumbled upon this upcoming book by her on Amazon, and now I am SO excited for it. From Goodreads: “Tana lives in a world where walled cities called Coldtowns exist. In them, quarantined monsters and humans mingle in a decadently bloody mix of predator and prey. The only problem is, once you pass through Coldtown’s gates, you can never leave.

One morning, after a perfectly ordinary party, Tana wakes up surrounded by corpses. The only other survivors of this massacre are her exasperatingly endearing ex-boyfriend, infected and on the edge, and a mysterious boy burdened with a terrible secret. Shaken and determined, Tana enters a race against the clock to save the three of them the only way she knows how: by going straight to the wicked, opulent heart of Coldtown itself.”

3. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Release date: September 10, 2013
Another chance find, this time from my local library. This new book is from the author of YA hit Eleanor & Park and sounds similarly adorable! It follows sisters Cath and Wren, who are huuuge Simon Snow fangirls (HP, anyone?) but as they grow up, Wren tries to build a different life for herself, and Cath is left wondering if there’s life outside of the fandom. (Um, there’s not, in case you were wondering.)

4. The Dream Thieves (Raven Cycle #2) by Maggie Stiefvater
Release date: September 17, 2013
First I should probably finish The Raven Boys, in which my attention was really at the top of the novel, but flagged halfway through. I’ll definitely come back for more, though, as I’m dying to know what will become of firecracker heroine Blue and the Raven Boys themselves, Gansey, the leader, fierce and bitter Ronan, and sweet, bashful Adam.

5. Battle Magic by Tamora Pierce
Release date: September 24, 2013
It is a well-established fact on this blog that Sam and I will read any book Tamora Pierce publishes, forever (don't believe me? Here's an experiment: search "Tamora Pierce" to see how many times we talk about her. Or don't, cause maybe it's embarrassing). She is quite simply a goddess of girl-centric YA fantasy. I must admit, I’m a little behind on this Circle series business, since I’ve been involved in the Beka Cooper series for awhile now, but this September 24th release date is the perfect opportunity to get caught up!

6. Atlantis Rising by T.A. Barron
Release date: September 26, 2013
I already expressed my love of T.A. Barron to the world a few months ago; I’ve been eagerly anticipating this Atlantis origin story (genius idea!) by the author of The Lost Years of Merlin series. If there’s anyone who knows how to build a magical world, it’s this guy.

7. Ghost Hold (The PSS Chronicles #2) by Ripley Patton
Release date: September 30, 2013
Coming out just in time for you to read it on a chilly fall night, at home, alone, and creep the heck out of yourself. I read the first book in this series, Ghost Hand, over the summer and was pretty darn impressed by up-and-coming YA author Ripley Patton’s darkly funny style. If you’re a fan of Holly Black, Cassie Clare, or Libba Bray, give this series a try (and read our upcoming long review, too!)

8. The House of Hades (The Heroes of Olympus #4) by Rick Riordan
Release date: October 8, 2013
Another author I’m obsessed with (and have met in person!). I’ve been desperately waiting for this 4th book in The Heroes of Olympus series since Riordan published The Mark of Athena last spring. You don’t have to have read the Percy Jackson series to jump right into this one, although it might help. If you love Greek or Roman mythology, this series has BOTH! As well as a seriously goofy sense of humor and a great cast of characters.

9. Allegiant by Veronica Roth
Release date: October 22, 2013
I’ll come clean: I didn’t love Divergent as much as the rest of the world. In fact, in some ways I found it kind of silly. But I’ll still jump on the Veronica Roth bandwagon to see how the series ends… boy, do I read a lot of series.

10. The Retribution of Mara Dyer (Mara Dyer #3) by Michelle Hodkin
Release date: June 3, 2014
This one’s mostly on here because it was ORIGINALLY supposed to be released in November 2013, and then the publisher decided to torture us and make a wait an extra SIX MONTHS. I am so not okay with this and am protesting by including it on my fall 2013 TBR list, anyway. I don’t hear much talk about this series except among my dedicated group of fangirls (ahem, friends), but it is smart and spooky and surprising!

Now tell me, what books are YOU looking forward to reading this fall? Tell me all about them so I can steal them from you and add them to my Goodreads, mwahahaha…

Monday, September 16, 2013


In which Sam rants about the potential for a dystopian future, raves about the plot, placing, and graphic intensity of Divergent, and eagerly anticipates the release of Allegiant this October!

Though I read Divergent earlier this summer, it felt like the perfect time to review it given the release of the final book in the trilogy on October 22nd. (Insurgent, the second book in the trilogy, is still in hardcover and was released last May). I've also already talked a little bit about the upcoming movie adaptation - if you're curious, check it out here. 

Friday, September 13, 2013

Snips & Specs and & Summer Reading

I just went back to grad school this week - I'm studying to be a high school English teacher. So this week I've been thinking about summer reading!

I was one of those obnoxious students who actually (almost) always did my summer reading, although this didn't work out so well for me in middle school. The more popular kids would always "ask" for my "help" in writing their book reports, aka... write it for them.

For real, though

As a future high school teacher, I was ruminating on the best and worst summer reading assignments from my own high school years. Here are some!

The Book of My Soul:
 Made me convinced I was going to find my true love in a field of blue flowers in Italy. Seriously, one of the most gorgeous and romantic stories I've ever read.

The "My Teacher Didn't Know How to Pronounce Any of the Characters' Names" Book: OH-diss-seuss? Pa-TRO-cuh-lus? Just... awkward.
The Book with the Whiniest Protagonist:
Holden Caulfield, you win... or lose. And do us all a favor and stop calling everyone a phony, would ya??

The Worst. Ever.
No, for real guys, my Catholic high school made us read this non-fiction book about a kid who survived a fire. And I feel really bad that that happened, and he seems like a great person. BUT this book is so badly written, it's unreadable. My brothers and I still joke about Joel being an underappreciated literary masterpiece.
Now I want to know, what are some of YOUR most memorable (for better or for worse) summer reading assignments??


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Desperately Necessary Film Adaptations...Only one day late this week!

In which Sam rants about existing adaptations, raves about some of her favorite novels, and tries to convince Hollywood that the time is now for that Harriet Tubman biopic already.
As always, this feature courtesy of The Broke and The Bookish!
Seriously, I have been trying to convince people for years. Why isn’t there an amazing, visceral, Oscar-winning Harriet Tubman biopic? Her story is incredible. To be fair to Hollywood, they are bringing Twelve Years a Slave to theaters this fall. Still, Harriet’s heroism cries out for recognition!

Harriet Tubman. A boss.
In honor of Harriet, let’s look at ten other candidates due for recognition in Tinseltown. (This task is notably more difficult than I thought it would be due to the number of upcoming YA novel adaptations in film - Divergent! Ender's Game! Gah! Still, that’s something to be excited about as a YA blogger!)

10.  Anita Diamant, The Red Tent

Lush, rich, graphic retelling of a famous Biblical story – this time, from a woman’s perspective. It’s such an intimate immersion into the life of a woman in early human history. I would love to see it translated to screen!

9. Meg Cabot, Size 12 Is Not Fat, Size 14 Is Not Fat Either, Big Boned

All three novels. Plus...Meg Cabot swag?
Let me be clear: this is another wacky Meg Cabot heroine who is clearly blessed and refuses to see it. That being said, this is the perfect concept for a television series: former pop star turned assistant dorm director deals with murder mysteries at her building. C’mon, the pilot is writing itself! I see this adaptation as an investment vehicle.

8. Sophie Kinsella, The Undomestic Goddess


Primarily for the greenhouse scene (just read it) and fingers crossed for my favorite British star Idris Elba cast as the male lead!

Full disclosure: I would recommend Idris Elba as every male lead.
7. Carolyn Keene, Nancy Drew Mystery Stories

Look at that smart lime green sheath dress!
Such an underrated female heroine. She deserves a proper film, not a strange tween twist that treated her as kitsch! (Okay…she may be a bit kitschy at this point.) Bring on the sensible twinsets and clever quips!

6. Rick Riordan, The Kane Chronicles

Some of my favorite YA covers, too!
The Percy Jackson films are beyond salvageable in my mind at this point, but Riordan’s clever and thoughtful take on Egyptian mythology I’m willing to cross my fingers for, and hope for a better silver screen adaptation.
In the interim, check out the graphic novel!
5. Gary Paulsen, Hatchet

The original cover, which I always thought placed the hatchet in a rather odd place...
I see it as a film with stunning cinematography of the Canadian wilderness in summertime, lots of silence, startling visuals – a sort of Life of Pi for the survivalist crowd.

The whole movie...just THIS.
4. Scott O'Dell, Island of the Blue Dolphins

I want an island with my canine friend!
Similar to Hatchet, it’s easy to picture this island in my mind’s eye – the hut she builds, the fence, her dogs – it’s a quiet film, but it’s a place you want to see and visit. I think a movie is the perfect device to transport people to her world.

3. Rae Carson, Girl of Fire and Thorns, Crown of Embers, and The Bitter Kingdom

Image credit to Carina Olsen! Thanks for the collage :)
Can’t stop, won’t stop raving about this trilogy. Still working my way through Bitter Kingdom – that promised review is coming down the pipeline – but such an epic story, with big, powerful landscapes, three-dimensional characters, and a flawed but lovable heroine!

2. Garth Nix, Sabriel, Lirael, and Abhorsen; as well as the short story in Across the Wall compilation

Image courtesy of Airiz at Cinderella in Rubber Shoes!
I could tell you all the reasons that I want this trilogy, and you would, if you have read the novels, inevitably agree with me (world-building! Characterization! Plot! Epic scale!) yet I desperately want to refrain from telling you the real reason this trilogy should make it to screen. And that is: Merch.

Awesome fan-made bell bandolier by Elentari-Liv at DeviantArt!
Yes, basically, I just want my own bell-bandolier.

1. Tamora Pierce, Song of the Lioness and Protector of the Small

A Song of the Lioness series cover
One of my favorite covers from the Protector of the Small quartet
You want it. I want it. We all want it. Tamora Pierce hastried to gently break the news that it may never happen. But the dream lives on!

Also, I’m now up to 3 mentions of Protector of the Small. Your move, Meg.

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