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review 2017-10-07 01:27
A fun LGBTQ fractured fairytale - Ballad of the Beanstalk by Amy McNulty
Ballad of the Beanstalk - Amy McNulty

Clarion is our quiet, determined hero of this story. She’s on the cusp of adulthood and this adventure will catapult her into life with several decisive actions. I really liked her character. She’s had a pretty stable if downward spiraling life up until recently. She and her mom are facing poverty. With her dad deceased, it’s up to her and her mom to make ends meet. I was right beside Clarion in her grief over her mom’s decision to sell the last of the pigs. However I do wonder why Clarion thought Royce and Raymond would keep their little pig farm going. I’m pretty sure Clarion understood that it takes male and female pigs to get a new generation of piglets… but her inner monologue on these two boy pigs says she doesn’t. That was the first little thing that didn’t make sense with this tale.

Note: I have since learned that it’s Royse (as in Medieval version of Rose). The author shared that little tidbit with me which is great since I didn’t pick up on the spelling with this audioversion.

Over all, I enjoyed this story. With that said, there are several small points (like the pig issue mentioned above) that show this tale could have used a little polishing. Clarion’s mom comes off as a bit of a harpy at first but then her character becomes softer, more approachable. But then we quickly move on with the rest of the story, so I can’t say which version of Clarion’s mom was the more realistic. These are just two examples of small points that sometimes contradicted each other.

Anyhoo, Clarion has a social gathering to get ready for and that involves first cleaning the Mayor’s house and then borrowing someone’s dress. Her beloved harp (a big awkward thing) may not be her’s for much longer. Both Clarion and I were sad about this. But we are given little time to cry over that because there’s a big beanstalk!

From this point forward, things get a bit predictable. The story still has a charm to it but I was not surprised by anything. Up in the clouds, there’s a domineering bully of a giant along with other giants. The characters travel up and down the various beanstalks while they attempt to resolve all the conflicts. The witch Jacosa plays a key role in these beanstalks and in shrinking and enlarging various characters; her herbs and magical beans provide the backbone for this tale.

Now I really did like that Clarion is having to muddle through her romantic feelings in the midst of all this. She and Elena have been friends for years and perhaps a little more. However, in the recent months, Clarion isn’t sure she feels that way about Elena any longer. Then a new young man comes to town, Mack, and Clarion feels her first little crush on a boy. I loved that her blossoming feelings for a potential heterosexual relationship doesn’t diminish her past homosexual feelings for Elena. Two thumb ups for this aspect of the story despite some ridiculous insta-love later on in the tale.

Now the ending is a bit of a cliffhanger so I hope there will be a sequel, otherwise Clarion will be stuck in an uncomfortable disposition forever. All told, it was Clarion that carried me through the story. I was attached to her even with the tale being a bit predictable.

I received this audiobook as part of my participation in a blog tour with Audiobookworm Promotions. The tour is being sponsored by Amy McNulty. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.

Narration: Kaitlin Descutner did a very good job with this story. She had the perfect young lady voice for Clarion. There was singing! Yes, indeed! Descutner pulled this off really well. Not all narrators can easily work in a bit of singing and Descutner did not disappoint. Her male voices were believable and all her characters were distinct. There were no technical issues with the recording.

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review 2014-05-09 04:41
Dorothy Must... Be Read
Dorothy Must Die - Danielle Paige

The first you should know about this book: it's ridiculously entertaining.


As you can probably guess from the cover and title, this is a twisted Oz tale.  Dorothy somehow made it back to Oz and something... broke.  Her sweetness gained a nasty bite that no one is safe from.  It's a world where you need to be happy, no matter what horrors are inflicted on you -- and death is the only easy way out.  There are tin cyborgs and other lab-created monstrosities, magic strip-mines, and all manner of terrible things.  Almost everyone we know and love from the stories has been twisted...  And those that we hated?  It's possible they may be the only salvation for Oz.


Our hero, Amy Gumm, is whisked to Oz via tornado (and that was a bit of surreal reading for me, seeing as how tornado season has just begun here).  She's been made to feel like a nobody by her classmates, her teachers -- even her parents.  In Oz, however, she quickly becomes somebody.  Unfortunately, people are certain that this somebody is a person who will murder Dorothy in cold blood.  Amy struggles with this, but Dorothy's atrocities add up quickly.


In some ways, the plot reminds me a bit of Catherynne M. Valente's The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making.  It's definitely a similar sort of villain.  However, half of my love for that book is the beautiful language it's written in.  Dorothy Must Die doesn't have that kind of language.  Now, don't get me wrong -- there is not a thing wrong with the words of this novel.  It's just that lyrical writing is not point. Amy's point of view is pretty direct.  I think the characters are my favorite elements of the book.  Amy and Star are fantastic, as is Jellia Jamb and Indigo the goth munchkin. (I have to wonder if goth munchkin's always existed or if this is a movement developed in contrast to Dorothy's sickening sweetness?)


The plot is the other place the book really shines.  It takes many familiar elements, shakes them up, and lines that Yellow Brick Road (*ahem* road of yellow bricks) with a story that's impossible to put down.  Amy's journey is a paranoid (she's told again and again to trust no one) race to to figure out who she is inside, how to believe in herself, and... to kill Dorothy.


As I said in the last post, I got to meet the author at a signing last night and I must say, she is a wonderfully approachable and friendly person.  Having a friend named Dorothy, I had to get the book autographed for her.  Turns out that was Danielle Paige's first Dorothy!  She was delighted (as was my friend).  How fun. :)


I think you can expect to see a post about the prequel novella soon.  First I want to read another book from the Dark Days Tour, though -- Kimberly Derting's The Taking.  She made it sound fascinating last night!

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