Monday, December 29, 2014

The Silent Stars Go By

By Dan Abnett

The winter festival is approaching for the hardy colony of Morphans, but no one is in the mood to celebrate. They’re trying to build a new life on a cold new world, but each year gets harder and harder. It’s almost as if some dark force is working against them. Then three mysterious travelers arrive out of the midwinter night, one of them claiming to be a doctor. Are they bringing the gift of salvation or doom? And what else might be lurking out there, about to wake up?

Being the enormous Doctor Who fan that I am, how could I not try out at least one novel about the Doctor and his companions? This is a novel featuring 11th doctor (Matt Smith) and companions Amy Pond and Rory Williams. I was pretty impressed with Dan Abnett’s version of the very popular television characters, I was able to hear their voices with most of the dialogue, especially Rory. This is a fun little Christmas on an alien planet story featuring (of course) a perilous adventure and a new civilization of people who need…a Doctor. You’ve got good aliens, and bad aliens, a mystery to solve in order to save everyone, and the Doctor being his crazy genius self. It was great fun to read and I enjoyed reading a story about the Doctor that was new and viable as a story I could see on the TV screen.


It gets a 3 out of 5 for average (which is great when you consider that this is a novelization of a television show)

And just in case you haven't seen any Doctor Who, this is a favorite clip of Matt Smith's Doctor. It's when he first becomes the doctor and he can't quite get the right food to help him regenerate properly...

The Mirror

By Katherine Pine

The only thing more dangerous than poison is yourself.
Snow White vowed to protect the men she saved from the woods. Keeping that vow will be difficult when everyone in the kingdom wants her companions dead. To save them and herself, she will have to trust the terrifying man who shadows Rose. But nothing comes without a price, and neither Rose nor Snow White understand the true cost of the mirror’s services until it’s too late.


Okay this series is rather hard to review because I don’t want to give anything away. I’ve been enthralled with this darker retelling of snow white and (I think) Rose Red. It’s pretty amazing the twist that Katherine Pine introduces with a Snow White who is born poisoned and that is why her skin is white and her lips are red and her hair is black. This second installation delves deeper into Rose’s story and of course the relationship between her and Snow White. The Mirror is a freaking creepy dude. I have no idea what his deal is and I’m a little afraid to find out more about him. Needless to say, if you enjoy fairy tale retellings and don’t mind if they’re a little on the horror side this is the story for you. And if you don’t like horror, no worries, I’m a pansy when it comes to horror, but this is just on the line for me for what I can handle, so if I can you can too! The only problem is each installment of this series ends rather abruptly, kind of like a weekly television series with 2 parts, except I don't know how many parts this is meant to have. I though it was just the three, but the third was a cliffhanger as well and to my knowledge another has not yet been written, so if that bothers you you may want to wait for it to be finished. The first story is called Poisoned. 


This gets a 3.75 out of 5

Janitors

By Tyler Whitesides

Have you ever fallen asleep during math class? Are you easily distracted while listening to your English teacher? Do you find yourself completely uninterested in geography? Well, it may not be your fault. The janitors at Welcher Elementary know a secret, and it’s draining all the smarts out the kids. Twelve-year-old Spencer Zumbro, with the help of his classmate Daisy “Gullible” Gates, must fight with and against a secret, janitorial society that wield wizard-like powers. Who can Spencer and Daisy trust and how will they protect their school and possibly the world? Janitors is book one in a new children’s fantasy series by debut novelist Tyler Whitesides. You’ll never look at a mop the same way again.


This is one of those cute books that you find on the shelf and just smile while you’re reading. It’s a great choice for middle readers and it has a very relatable situation combined with magic and kid-like wonders. Meet the Janitors, they’re different from custodians. The Janitors are actually a secret society that fights the Toxites that infest schools and cause havoc for children trying to learn. Each Toxite has breath that makes children distracted, sleepy, or just plain apathetic. It’s up to the Janitors to destroy the Toxites so kids can learn in school. This story is creative and a fun way for kids to look at their janitors in school and imagine a world beneath their own. Spencer is a fun protagonist, a kid who hates making a mess and frankly comes across as a tad OCD, but it never stops him from getting his hands dirty to help his friends and family. This book is a great addition to the books from Shadow Mountain publishing like Cragbridge Hall and Fablehaven. It’s geared toward boys, but with Daisy as a character it also works just fine for girls. My only issue with this book was simply because it is for a younger audience and I found the obvious theme of ‘saving education’ a bit preachy, but for a kid they won’t be bothered by it at all, in fact it probably will be great. I was just rolling my eyes at a few parts (But I’ve read the next few books in the series and it all pans out just fine and I don’t have an issue with it anymore)

I give it a 3 out of 5 – average and fun middle to teen read. 

Breadcrumbs

By Anne Ursu

Once upon a time, Hazel and Jack were best friends. They had been best friends since they were six, spending hot Minneapolis summers and cold Minneapolis winters together, dreaming of Hogwarts and Oz, superheroes and baseball. Now that they were eleven, it was weird for a boy and girl to be best friends. But they couldn’t help it—Hazel and Jack fit, in that way you only read about in books. And they didn’t fit anywhere else.
And then, one day, it was over. Jack just stopped talking to Hazel. And while her mom tried to tell her that this sometimes happens to boys and girls at this age, hazel had read enough stories to know that it’s never that simple. And it turns out, she was right. Jack’s heart had been frozen, and he was taken into the woods by a woman dressed in white to live in a palace made of ice. Now, it’s up to hazel to venture into the woods after him. Hazel find, however that these woods are nothing like what she’s read about, and the Jack that Hazel went in to save isn’t the same Jack that will emerge. Or even the same Hazel.

I was excited to find this modern retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen because it is my favorite of his fairytales. This was a very interesting perspective on the story because it focuses more on how people grow apart and how they grow up and out of things. Hazel seems to get left behind while Jack moves on and inexplicably becomes mean to her and starts playing with other people. They used to be best friends. Everyone tries to tell her that this happens, but she can’t believe it. She’s convinced that Jack has been cursed. This story is dream-like in the telling and a great example of a coming-of-age tale. This book is one that I’ve noticed that people either think is amazing or they simply don’t like it. I was on the fence about it to be honest. I was wanting more fairytale and magic than it offered so I was disappointed. The tone felt more like Alice in Wonderland and I’m still not sure if parts of it were a dream or reality. Overall it’s a good read and well written and thought out. You can tell while reading that Anne Ursu put a lot of heart into the story.


I give it a 3.25 out of  5 simply because it wasn’t my cup of tea, but it was a really neat idea.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Northanger Abbey

By Jane Austen

Catherine Morland is a remarkably innocent seventeen-year-old woman from a country parsonage. While spending a few weeks in Bath with a family friend, Catherine meets and falls in love with Henry Tilney, who invites her to visit his family estate, Northanger Abbey. Once there, Catherine, a great reader of Gothic thrillers, lets the shadowy atmosphere of the old mansion fill her mind with terrible suspicions. What is the mystery surrounding the death of Henry’s mother? Is the family concealing a terrible secret within the elegant rooms of the Abbey? Can she trust Henry or is he part of an evil conspiracy? Catherine finds dreadful portents in the most prosaic events, until Henry persuades her to see the peril in confusing life with art.

When I read the synopsis for this Jane Austen novel I was smiling to myself and thought it would be entertaining and was a bit confused as to why it is one of the less popular novels. I now know why. Catherine Morland is so vapid and really quite idiotic at times. She says and does things that I would equate with the modern “dumb blonde” stereotype. Henry Tilney deserves someone better than Catherine. She drove me crazy. The funny thing is I honestly don’t know why Catherine loves Henry other than the fact he is a gentleman and pays attention to her; on Henry’s side it seems he fancies himself in love with her because he likes to improve her mind and mold her into a better person…not the best basis for a good relationship, but she is so simple she might enjoy the experience. This was a strange addition to otherwise enjoyable books by Jane Austen. I won’t be re-reading this one like I have some of the others. Of course there are also movie adaptations, of which I recently watched the newest version from BBC, which my sister and I just laughed and laughed at; we both loved Henry Tilney’s facial expressions when Catherine was being silly.

You can actually watch the entire movie on youtube here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MqrfXsDshqg.


This gets a 3 out of 5, but only just. 

E-Squared

By Pam Grout

Don’t face reality. Create reality! E-Squared could best be described as a lab manual with simple experiments to prove once and for all that reality is malleable, that consciousness trumps matter, and that you shape your life with your mind. Rather than take it on faith, you are invited to conduct nine 48-hour experiments to prove there really is a positive, loving, totally hip force in the universe.

This was an intriguing read. It’s basically a book about quantum physics talking about the all-encompassing energy of the universe and how that energy can be put to use for you in your life. This book begins with a basic explanation of this “force” that allows you to create your own reality. The premise of the book is not just thinking positive, it’s creating a positive experience by thinking about and looking for signs from the universe. One of the exercises is to choose a color and then see how many cars of that color you see within 48 hours. Not just any color, but a very specific color. It’s the principle of you don’t see it when you aren’t looking for it. So, this book is saying that if you want a new job, you need to give the universe a time limit to help you achieve your goal, and you need to put all your thoughts and energy into it as well, and more often than not good things happen simply because you expect them to. It’s an interesting concept and one that I’ve used since reading this book and it’s worked for me. Like once I woke up really sick and knew I had to get to work so I gave myself a mantra, “I will be fine until I get home from work,” and I said that as I got ready, as I drove, and as I walked in the door at work. The longer I said it the more I believed it and I really was fine…until I got home then I was sick as a dog! Weird, but effective. It doesn’t work all the time for me, but it works often enough that I’ll try to psych myself out.


This gets a 3.5 out of 5 for an interesting and helpful perspective on the power of noticing things and changing your thoughts. 

North and South

By Elizabeth Gaskell

When her father leaves the Church in a crisis of conscience, Margaret Hale is uprooted from her comfortable home in Hampshire to move with her family to the north of England. Initially repulsed by the ugliness of her new surroundings in the industrial town of Milton, Margaret becomes aware of the poverty and suffering of the local mill workers and develops a passionate sense of social justice. This is intensified by her tempestuous relationship with the mill-owner and self-made man, John Thornton, as their fierce opposition over his treatment of his employees masks a deeper attraction.


This is a prime example of Victorian literature, and right down my alley for a lovely romance. I’m of the mind that romance is great but it needs other things going on and happening to make it feel real and deep. This book is about dichotomy, the difference between north and south (as the title states) between country gentility and city independence, between men and women, between faith and conscience. Margaret is a great character because she is moral and upright, if a bit hard-nosed at first. As the reader follows Margaret through her life they experience along with her a change of heart and mind and a growth of character as she deals with the poverty and the politics of the North. We meet John Thornton, a man who is stubborn but incredibly fair and honest. I love his character because he has so much integrity that he cannot lie even to save his own feelings or those he loves. There are so many wonderful things about this book and I highly recommend it to those who love classics like Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, and Pride and Prejudice. It is fantastic and amazing.

This gets a 4.5 out of 5


P.S. This has also been made into an incredible mini series that is one of my all-time favorites. John Thornton is played by Richard Armitage, who I fell in love with just as much, and maybe more (gasp!), than Colin Firth as Darcy. I don’t know if it’s the story or the accent…probably a bit of both. 

Below is an excerpt of Richard Armitage (better known for his role as Thorin in The Hobbit) reading from North and South along with scenes from the mini series.

Sky Raiders

By Brandon Mull

Cole Randolph was just trying to have a fun time with his friends on Halloween (and maybe get to know Jenna Hunt a little better). But when a spooky haunted house turns out to be a portal to something much creepier, Cole finds himself on an adventure on a whole different level.
After Cole sees his friends whisked away to some mysterious place underneath the haunted house, he dives in after them and ends up in The Outskirts. The Outskirts are made up of five kingdoms that lie between wakefulness and dreaming, reality and imagination, life and death. It’s an in-between place. Some people are born there. Some find their way there from our world, or from other worlds.
And once you come to the Outskirts, it’s very hard to leave.
With the magic of the Outskirts starting to unravel, it’s up to Cole and an unusual girl named Mira to rescue his friends, set things right in the Outskirts, and hopefully find his way back home; before his existence is forgotten.


Brandon Mull is the man. I very fortunately got to meet and talk with Brandon at a book signing for Sky Raiders back in March and was impressed with his confidence in his craft and his obvious love for creating worlds and seeing fan reactions to his books. I distracted him so much that he signed my book upside down! Sky Raiders is much along the lines of his Beyonders series, in that a young boy crosses the realms into another world to save his friends who have been kidnapped. He finds a world of dreams and impossibility. He finds a lake of milk and cookies! He finds a place where the raiders live, the people who raid the castles in the sky of all their treasures, and he becomes one of them. Cole is a fun protagonist and Mira is our mysterious companion. Will Cole save his friends and find a way back home? Or will he be stuck as a slave in this strange world forever? As per usual with Brandon the characters are fun and courageous, the plot is creative and filled with wonder, and you know that somehow the courage of our heroes will win. I don’t want to spoil the fun of discovering a new world, so I’ll end my review saying in my best mesmeric voice and wiggling my fingers mysteriously, “Read it. Read it!”

P.S. If you enjoy Brandon's books you should definitely follow him on facebook, not only does he have highly entertaining posts but he also will keep you updated on school visits and signings. 


4.25 out of 5

Entwined

By Heather Dixon

Come and mend your broken hearts here. In this retelling of the classic tale “The Twelve Dancing Princesses,” the eldest princess must fight to save her family—and her heart—from an ancient dark magic within the palace walls.
Just when Azalea should feel that everything is before her—beautiful gowns, dashing suitors, balls filled with dancing—it’s taken away. All of it. And azalea is trapped. The Keeper understands. He’s trapped, too, held for centuries within the walls of the palace. So he extends an invitation.
Every night, Azalea and her eleven sisters may step through the enchanted passage in their room to dance in his silver forest, but there is a cost. The Keeper likes to keep things. Azalea may not realize how tangled she is in his web until it is too late.

So, I may have read this 2 or 3 times already since I first discovered it early in 2014. I adore this version of the Twelve Dancing Princesses because it is more than just a fairy tale and a romance. It’s about family and what loss can do to a family. The relationship between the girls and their father is central to the story and one that fascinated me and had me cheering for them all. Each of the girls has a distinct personality, though it still is a whirlwind to try and distinguish the younger girls from each other, though this is the absolute best version I’ve ever read for really disentangling the sisters so they don’t meld together. Azalea is a wonderful protagonist, and you can just tell she’s the eldest. Bramble is so stubborn and headstrong that she either makes you laugh or cringe at her antics. The characters are so dear that you’ll be in love with all of them come the end of the novel and the resolution to the curse that comes upon the princesses in the form of a malicious man they know as Keeper. And what fairy tale is complete without a prince? Okay, Mr. Bradford isn’t a prince, but he should be! I love him, and there are other love stories in here than just Azalea’s too! Oh this book was delicious to read. Major love Heather Dixon. I fist bump you across the internet.


This gets a 4.5 out of 5

P.S. Heather has an awesome blog that you should go check out. She is my kind of people. go to http://story-monster.blogspot.com

Ruby Red

By Kerstin Gier

Gwyneth Shepherd’s sophisticated, beautiful cousin charlotte has been prepared her entire life for traveling through time. But unexpectedly, it is Gwyneth, who in the middle of class takes a sudden spin to a different era! Gwyneth must now unearth the mystery of why her mother would lie about her birth date to ward off suspicion about her ability, brush up on her history, and work with Gideon—the time traveler from a similarly gifted family that passes the gene through its male line, and whose presence becomes, in time, less insufferable and more essential. Together, Gwyneth and Gideon journey through time to discover who, in the 18th century and in contemporary London, they can trust.

I’m always interested in time travel novels. I find them fascinating when they’re treated in a believable manner. This particular young adult novel about a girl who never expected to time travel but inexplicably does, is interesting. Gwyneth is not happy about the turn of events in her life, as she cannot control her ability. Her cousin Charlotte is even less happy because she was supposed to be the one destined to have the family time travel gene. Cue haughty and arrogant Gideon, the other time traveler from a different family, and you’ve got your love interest. Of course he’s gorgeous. Of course he hates Gwyneth in true Mr. Darcy-like fashion. And of course he starts to see Gwyneth’s courage and of course they are thrown into the middle of a mystery and possible conspiracy and have only each other to trust…or do they? Well, this story moved along at a good clip, had interesting characters, and of course lovely jaunts to the past. I liked it as I read, though I was a little miffed at the fact that the other time traveler was so pompous and obviously meant for our heroine. Another huge problem for me: the book freaking ends in the middle of a sentence. I’m not joking. It’s going along all fine and then just…nothing. That is not okay. That is just ugh. Otherwise this was a fun and entertaining read, and the first in a trilogy, and also a movie (in German). 

I give it a 3 out of 5 for being average. 


Frankenstein

By Mary Shelly

At once a Gothic thriller, a passionate romance, and a cautionary tale about the dangers of science, Frankenstein tells the story of committed science student Victor Frankenstein. Obsessed with discovering the cause of generation and life and bestowing animation upon lifeless matter, Frankenstein assembles a human being from stolen body parts but; upon bringing it to life, he recoils in horror at the creature’s hideousness. Tormented by isolation and loneliness, the once-innocent creature turns to evil and unleashes a campaign of murderous revenge against his creator, Frankenstein.
An instant bestseller and an important ancestor of both the horror and science fiction genres, not only tells a terrifying story, but also raises profound, disturbing questions about the very nature of life and the place of humankind within the cosmos; What does it mean to be human? What responsibilities do we have to each other? How far can we go in tampering with nature?

This is now one of my all-time favorite books. And just as a preface: this book is nothing like any film adaptation of reincarnation you know. None of them come close to the awesomeness of this book. I took a film adaptation class last spring and we delved into not only the adaptations of the film from Whale’s iconic black-and-white adaptation with Boris Karloff to the newest film “I Frankenstein”, but also comic book versions and the original by Mary Shelly.  I think the lead-up to reading the original is part of why I love this book so much. I was totally Frankenstein immersed when I got to the book. This book is about morality as much as it is about monstrosity. I loved the monster’s point of view in the book, and it really points out how kindness and a lack of it can change the course of many lives for better or worse. Also, I think everyone should read a description of what the monster really looks like. It’s much freakier than the green-skinnned square headed Boris Karloff with bolts in his neck. It’s so much more frightening because Victor Frankenstein actually created this creature, he didn’t grave rob body parts, he created it. Part of the horror of it is the fact that Shelly never explained how Victor did it, she just said he did and described the terrible outcome. Wow. Just read this once in your life please! It’s amazing. And while you’re at it, you should at the very least go watch James Whale’s Frankenstein for the beautiful cinematography (even though it’s way different than the book)


This gets a 4.75 out of 5


Lark

By Erica Cope

The last time she checked, Mia Carrington was pretty sure that she was a normal girl with a completely ordinary life. She goes to high school, has a crush on the gorgeous and mysterious new boy in town, and has strange dreams that she can’t help but feel are real somehow. Okay, so maybe she’s not all that normal after all. A freak accident changes Mia’s life forever when she is thrown into another world and left to deal with the revelation that she is the daughter of the King of the Light Elves. Throw in an ominous prophecy predicting that Mia will break a curse unleashing the Dark Elves on the world and well, things don’t look too good. There is danger lurking at every corner in this strange world and Mia isn’t sure who she can trust…The only thing she is certain of is that the Dark Elves know about her, and they will stop at nothing until they have her.


This was one of those books I was hoping would be great and I ended up being highly annoyed as I read it. The heroine was okay, but she was so annoying because the author used her poor character to make the plot move along by having her do stupid things, like lying for no reason to people she should trust, and therefore putting everyone in danger for seemingly being too much of an imbecile to figure out it was a bad idea. The execution of the story was really interesting when the author got into the back story of the light elves and the dark. That was the best part of the whole novel, the mythological side of things. And of course I was EXTREMELY perturbed at yet another love triangle. We have two uncommonly gorgeous males vying for our heroine, and while one is nice and everything decent (in other words boring as all get out) the other is snarky and interesting. Hmmm. I wonder who she’ll choose. Sheesh. This book had loads of potential, and was written well, I just really got turned off by the love triangle and the stupidity of the main character.


This is a 2 out of 5 for me.

Princess of Glass

By Jessica Day George

Hopping to escape the troubles in her kingdom, Princess Poppy reluctantly agrees to take part in a royal exchange program. She travels abroad hoping to find better political alliances and perhaps a marriage. But thanks to a vengeful fairy, Poppy’s happily ever after gets complicated.

This is the second installment in Jessica Day George’s fairy-tale retellings about the princesses from Princess of the Midnight Ball, better known as the 12 dancing princesses. This is the story of Poppy, one of the twin girls from the above prequel. She’s sarcastic and snappy, down to earth, and stubborn. Poppy is sick to death of dancing, having just escaped a curse that required her to, even though she’s an incredible dancer because of it. Now, she’s trapped in an upside-down version of Cinderella, and she’s trying her best to figure out who exactly Eleanor, Ella, or Lady Ella is, and she’s trying to get rid of a vengeful fairy-godmother called The Corley as well as trying to help out the prince who is the target: Christian. This is a fun and creative perspective on the Cinderella tale, where the main character is in fact NOT Cinderella. It was fun and cute, though it seemed to end rather abruptly without much problem. Seemed to me that the Corley shouldn’t have been defeated so quickly or easily. Oh well.

3 out of 5- Average. 

The Twelve Dancing Princesses

By Jenni James

Twelve princesses, one gardener, and a mysterious secret…
As the castle gardener, Aleck is paid well, has his own room above the stables, and he is able to support his mother and younger brothers and sisters. Why would he risk it all for one girl?
For weeks now, Princess Cascadia and her eleven sisters have awakened each morning to swollen feet and tattered dancing slippers without any recollection of what happened. Why would someone do this to them? The king calls all the worthy men in the land to come and help solve the riddle of the twelve dancing princesses. The man who is able to sort the mystery will be allowed to choose one of the princesses to wed.
Cascadia immediately turns to Aleck for assistance. If anyone can help her, she knows it is him, and she knows of no man she would rather marry. But will Aleck be able to unravel the mysterious happenings and save the kingdom before those behind the scheme succeed?


So as you may have gathered I tend to read any and all books that Jenni James writes because I am enamored with fairy tales. That being said, this one isn’t my favorite of hers. There are much better retellings of the twelve dancing princesses, my favorite is Entwined by Heather Dixon. This is basically a rehash of the original tale with very little character development and not too much going on except for getting through the plot. It was fine as a read but to be utterly honest, it is a forgettable read. If you want my opinion for Jenni James try Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast or Rumplestiltskin so you know what her best looks like.


This gets a 2.75 out of 5

Incarnate

By Jodi Meadows

New Soul.
Ana is new. For thousands of years in Range, a million souls have been reincarnated over and over, keeping their memories and experiences from previous lifetimes. When Ana was born, another soul vanished, and no one knows why.
No Soul.
Even Ana’s own mother thinks she’s a nosoul, an omen of worse things to come, and has kept her away from society. To escape her seclusion and learn whether she’ll be reincarnated, Ana travels to the city of Heart, but its citizens are afraid of what her presence means. When dragons and sylph attack the city, is Ana to blame?
Heart
Sam believes Ana’s new soul is good and worthwhile. When he stands up for her, their relationship blooms. But can he love someone who may live only once, and will Ana’s enemies—human and creature alike—let them be together? Ana needs to uncover the mistake that gave her someone else’s life, but will her quest threaten the peace of Heart and destroy the promise of reincarnation for all?


When I first read the above synopsis I was all over this book. I wanted to read it and eyed it on my kindle for months before I found it on sale. So excited about the notion of reincarnations and New Souls, I read this in about 2 days.  This was a well-written young adult book that handled an interesting mythology and religion, that of reincarnation and what it means to really live your life. One of the underlying questions in the book is How do you live your life if you know you’ll always come back? Unlike most reincarnation stories you hear, in this one, each person or Soul comes back to the next life with all their previous memories and experiences in tact from the time they are born. Then we are introduced to outcast Ana, who is New. She has never lived before, and one of the others has disappeared never to be born again when she appeared. Sam takes Ana under his wing, protecting her from those who resent her presence in their well-established lives. Ana doesn’t know if this first life is her only life, or if she too will be reincarnated when she dies. Nobody knows. She is an anomaly in a predictable world, and Sam wants to show her everything she’s missed in the thousands of years he’s lived. It’s an interesting book and well-executed theory and mystery as to why suddenly reincarnation has stopped for the person Ana replaced. This is a love story, a mystery, a fantasy, and an adventure.

Content warning: Sam and Ana do talk about becoming intimate and what that entails. It was enough to make me uncomfortable and not want to read the other books because it foreshadows actual sex scenes between two teenagers, which I dislike.


I give it a 3 out of 5- average dystopian fantasy with the love story (thank heavens it’s not a triangle)

Stardust

By Neil Gaiman

Hopelessly crossed in love, a boy of half-fairy parentage leaves his mundane Victorian-English village on a quest for a fallen star in the magical realm. The star proves to be an attractive woman with a hot temper, who plunges with our hero into adventures featuring witches, the lion and the unicorn, plotting elf-lords, ships that sail the sky, magical transformations, curses whose effects rebound, binding conditions with hidden loopholes and all the rest.

Neil Gaiman is amazing, in case you didn’t know…but this book kinda fell flat for me. For one thing it had a seeming random triste between one of the princes and a bar-maid that was a bit too much for my sensitivities to handle, as well as a love scene right off the bat from which our hero is the outcome. Cue awkward feelings. I read this because I enjoyed the movie adaptation so much. I’ve had to warn people that I recommended the movie to about the content of the book in case they were eyeing it, because they feel the way I do about “adult content”. That being said, normally I appreciate Gaiman’s dry wit and clever creativity in his writing, but this just seem dry with too little wit and I found myself reading it without my accustomed excitement for one of his books. I just didn’t fancy this one Neil, sorry. If you like fantasy and loveliness, try one of Neil’s other books like The Graveyard Book, or Odd and the Frost Giants. I loved both, but those are young adult genres, so maybe it’s just that I love Neil’s younger audience books? I’ve got a few of his adult books in my reading queue so I’ll let you know how those go!

This one gets a 2.5 out of 5 because it was professional and an adventure.


The House of Hades

By Rick Riordan

At the conclusion of The Mark of Athena, Annabeth and Percy tumble into a pit leading straight to the Underworld. The other five demigods have to put aside their grief and follow Percy’s instructions to find the mortal side of the Doors of Death. If they can fight their way through Gaea’s forces, and Percy and Annabeth can survive the House of Hades, then the Seven will be able to seal the Doors both sides and prevent the giants from raising Gaea. But, Leo wonders, if the Doors are sealed, how will Percy and Annabeth be able to escape? They have no choice. If the demigods don’t succeed, Gaea’s armies will never die. They have no time. In about a month, the Romans will march on Camp Half-Blood. The stakes are higher than ever in this adventure that dives into the depths of Tartarus.

Yay for Greek demigods! This is the penultimate installation of the Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan, and it is just as grand as the rest of the series. After loving the Percy Jackson novels, I didn’t think I would like another series even more, but this one takes the prize. I love all the characters, which is shocking because I usually dislike different perspectives (as I’ve stated many times) but this just plain works. The demigods are back and they’re into crunch-time. Gaia is rising, the Romans are marching, and the clock is ticking for Percy and Annabeth to meet the others at the Doors of Death. Follow Annabeth and Percy through Tartarus, meeting the monsters they put there, and some surprising allies. It’s a race to get to the doors, but it’s also a challenge to stay in one piece while running from the monsters that want revenge. The others up top-side are also racing to the Doors with the help of Nico diAngelo, who is shady (literally) to say the least. Leo is still tinkering and thinking of a certain girl on an island, Frank is still an awesome warrior teddy-bear with a stick for a lifeline, Hazel has some issues to work through, and Jason is trying to take the reins and lead them all to safety with the help and support of Piper. It’s difficult to review this without giving things away, so I’ll say just read it if you’ve started the series, it’s amazing and Riordan knows what he’s about.

Content warning: If it bothers you, there is a character that comes out as gay. I did appreciate how Riordan handled it with kindness and I thought it could be a teaching moment for parents and kids, whether you agree with it or not.


I give it a solid 4 out of 5 for awesomeness.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Just Ella

By Annette K. Larsen

Ariella was only looking for a distraction, something to break up the monotony of palace life. What she found was a young man willing to overlook her title and show her a new and vibrant way of life. But when her growing feelings for Gavin spiral out of control and clash with the expectations of her station, she will discover that the consequences of her curiosity are far more severe than she’d imagined.


I went into reading this book thinking I was getting a lovely little fluff piece about a swollen-headed princess that learns peasants are people too. Wrongo-bongo. This is one of my favorites of its genre now that I’ve found it, and I have a gap on my shelf waiting for it. Just Ella is not a story about Cinderella, it’s a story about a girl who feels alone because she is royalty and looks everywhere for a friend. She is destined to be queen one day, and feels the pressure and loneliness keenly. One day she meets gardener Gavin, who treats her kindly and like a person not just a princess. Of course, inevitably, they fall in love. But is this the whole story? No. This next part is what made me love this book and set it apart as one of the best of its genre. This book features love, as life features love, but it is ultimately about a girl trying to discover who she is and let things take place when and where they should. It’s a coming-of-age as much as it is a romance. The characters are incredibly fleshed out, especially Ella and Gavin. This is the kind of romance that feels truly real, not fairy-tale, not perfect, but because it isn’t a perfect fall into place tale, it makes it perfect! Oxymoron, maybe, but boy does it work! If you love princess stories, good writing, great characters, and a story about courage, love, strength, and sacrifice, this is the book for you. I was so surprised and fell in love with Ella’s story. Well done Ms. Larsen. Well done. You’ve got a fan.


This gets a 4.5 out of 5- yes I wasn’t lying when I said it is fantastic!

Across a Star Swept Sea

By Diana Peterfreund

Centuries after wars nearly destroyed civilization, the two islands of New Pacifica stand alone, a terraformed paradise where even the reduction—the devastating brain disorder that sparked the wars—is a distant memory. Yet on the isle of Galatea, an uprising against the ruling aristocrats has turned deadly. The revolutionaries’ weapon is a drug that damages their enemies’ brains, and the only hope is rescue by a mysterious spy known as the Wild Poppy.
On the neighboring island of Albion, no one suspects that the Wild Poppy is actually famously frivolous aristocrat Persis Blake. The teenager uses her shallow, socialite trappings to hide her true purpose: her gossipy flutternotes are encrypted plans, her pampered sea mink is genetically engineered for spying, and her well-publicized new romance with handsome Galatean medic Justen Helo…is her most dangerous mission ever.
Though Persis is falling for Justen, she can’t risk showing him her true self, especially once she learns he’s hiding far more than simply his disenchantment with his country’s revolution and his undeniable attraction to the silly socialite he’s pretending to love. His darkest secret could plunge both islands into a new dark age, and Persis realizes that when it comes to Justen Helo, she’s not only risking her heart, she’s risking the world she’s sworn to protect.

Here’s the second installment in the world of “For Darkness Shows the Stars”, set in a different part of the world from Eliot’s, this is the world of Persis Blake, aristocrat, socialite, vapid, and empty-headed…or is she? In this lovely sci-fi retelling of  The Scarlet Pimpernel, we see an intelligent and caring young woman risk everything to save those in danger of losing their minds to the new weaponized drug that is Reducing those born with their minds intact. While all this political play is going on, Persis’s best friend, who happens to be Royalty, asks her a favor: look after Justen Helo, a refugee and prodigy in his chosen field of science and medicine. Persis’s secret comes at a cost when she begins to fall for the passionate, and secretive Justen. Justen is smart and observant, and can’t seem to understand why a girl who is obviously almost as intelligent (maybe more) than he is would pretend to be otherwise. Persis doesn’t know what to do with the young Helo when she discovers secrets about him, because she wants more than anything to be able to trust him. This is a great retelling of a fantastic classic, and a great addition to a spectacular world that the author has created. My only difficulty with this book was centered on the relationship between Justen and Persis and the scenes where they are swimming and making out. As per usual, this kind of thing makes me uncomfortable, so I like to warn people when it occurs, in case there are other hyper-sensitive people out there. Other than that very small issue, this book was fantastic and lovely.


4.25 out of 5

Ranger's Apprentice 12: The Royal Ranger

By John Flanagan

Will Treaty has come a long way from the small boy with dreams of knighthood. Life had other plans for him, and as an apprentice Ranger under Halt, he grew into a legend—the finest Ranger the kingdom has ever known. Yet Will is facing a tragic battle that has left him grim and alone. To add to his problems, the time has come to take on an apprentice of his own, and it’s the last person he ever would have expected. Fighting his personal demons, Will has to win the trust and respect of his difficult new companion—a task that at times seems almost impossible.

I was incredibly excited when I found out John Flanagan was going to add one last book to my beloved Ranger’s Apprentice series. When I found out that it would feature an older Will with an apprentice of his own I was even more excited. The dynamics of this particular Ranger’s Apprentice was, of course, different and took me a bit to get into as I was expecting a solo Will and a younger one. The jump in time was hard to adjust to, but once done I was right there enjoying seeing old friends and getting to know new ones. Maddie, Will’s new apprentice, is an arrogant spoiled brat. Oh and she happens to be the Princess of Araluen. Her parents are desperate and hope that training as a Ranger will help iron out Maddie’s attitude. Needless to say, it’s fun to see Will in the situation that Halt was in when Will became his apprentice. Will is the greybeard famous ranger now, with more than a little in common with Halt, but thankfully, still very much himself. The best part of this book was seeing old friends and also the epilogue. One thing I really appreciate about John Flanagan’s books, he never leaves you feeling sad or anxious. Everything, while not perfect, is good. He always leaves his readers smiling and hopeful. This has been a wonderful series, and here’s to Mr. Flanagan letting us see his Ranger’s characters in Brotherband every so often!


This gets a 3.75 out of 5- dangerously close to a 4.

An Unlikely Match

By Sarah M. Eden

It isn’t every day an impoverished young gentlemen inherits a sizable fortune and an estate. Nickolas Pritchard, not only impoverished and young, but a gentleman as well, felt his luck acutely the day just such a remarkable inheritance fell upon him.
The future has never looked brighter for once penniless Nickolas Pritchard. Now in possession of an unforeseen legacy from a distant cousin, he can finally woo the exquisite Miss Castleton, belle of the London Season. What better setting for matchmaking that Ty Mynydd, his ancestral home nestled in the untamed hills of Wales? Ideal indeed…except for the ghost.
For nearly four hundred years, Gwen has walked the halls of the home in which she lived—and died a mysterious death. But despite centuries as the reigning force within her ancient residence, nothing prepares her for the charm and unexpected appeal of Englishman Nickolas.
A deep and abiding affection grows between the two, tempered by the unbreakable barrier that separates them. They cannot possibly hope for a happily ever after. There can be no future between a man yet living and a woman long dead.
But how can Nickolas possibly give Gwen up? And how can Gwen face an eternity without Nickolas?

This was a fun concept for a romance novel. It’s set in regency times and takes place in Wales. Gwen comes from a time long gone, so this could probably be loosely in the historical romance genre. The interplay between Nickolas and Gwen, a man and a ghost, is the best part of this book. It’s a cute byplay, if a little too easily won romance, despite the obvious barrier of life and death. The mystery within the book still leaves me a bit mystified honestly. It all felt…fuzzy. That being said, it was a fluffy little piece that was pretty fun to read, but I do prefer Sarah Eden’s other novels that leaves the supernatural alone.


I give it a 2.75, because it’s just a little below average for the author and genre.

Divergent

By Veronica Roth

In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). 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 to determine who her friends really are—and where exactly a romance with a sometimes fascinating sometimes infuriating 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 her death. And as she discovers a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves…or it might destroy her.

I really pushed to read this before watching the movie that came out this past year because I can’t stand to see a movie before reading the book. They tend to fill each other out for me, the theater bringing the best of the visual storytelling and the book bringing the best of the psychological and philosophical. That being said, I did enjoy Divergent and could see why it has become one of the more popular dystopian novels. Beatrice “Tris” Prior is a fairly typical teenage heroine. She leaves her family because she feels like she doesn’t fit and is searching for who she is. When she begins her training as a prospective member of the Dauntless she is put through a cruel and unrelenting competition. She meets Four, one of her trainers, as well as the other initiates, some of whom break under the enormous pressure. It’s basically a study in brainwashing and seeing how much abuse a person can take. And on top of that there is some funny business going on with the Erudite faction that Tris’s brother chose and something to do with the elusive people known as Divergents. I liked this book, but I feel like The Hunger Games introduced the uber violence that writers are starting to latch onto, and Divergent really latches onto it with gusto.
Content warnings would be for violence, and mentions of intimacy, some swearing.  


This gets a 3.5 out of 5- above average execution

A Series of Unfortunate Events 2: The Reptile Room

By Lemony Snicket

Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire are intelligent children. They are charming, and resourceful, and have pleasant facial features. Unfortunately, they are exceptionally unlucky. In the first two books alone, the three youngsters encounter a greedy and repulsive villain, itchy clothing, a disastrous fire, a plot to steal their fortune, a lumpy bed, a deadly serpent, a large brass reading lamp, a long knife, and a terrible odor. In the tradition of great storytellers, comes an exquisitely dark comedy that is both literary and irreverent, hilarious and deftly crafted. Never before has a tale of three likeable and unfortunate children been quite so enchanting, or quite so uproariously unhappy.

Just when the Baudelaire children think they have escaped the Count, and found a relative that is truly interesting and enjoys them, once more a series of unfortunate events unfolds to threaten their safety and their new home. Without going into the actual events of the book, I can say that this series is quite different and enjoyable once you become accustomed to the unusual tone and content. Daniel Handler, AKA Lemony Snicket, is a great writer and very diverse as well as a sarcastic bloke. This book is chuck full of fun archetypal characters and situations as well as fun new words that the narrator loves to explain to kids in his morose style. This series is quite fun and I figure eventually I’ll get through them all someday and find out the eventual unfortunate end.

This gets a 3 out of 5

Chaos

By Taylor Longford

Think you know about gargoyles? Think again. The beautiful winged race disappeared eight hundred years ago. Now they’re back.
Trapped in a harpy’s lair, Chaos must choose between his freedom and the life of an innocent young girl. To save the girl, he must agree to a lifetime of captivity at the end of a monster’s leash, a bleak existence that would crush his wild spirit and impetuous nature.
Starved and abused by the same harpy, Torrie doesn’t trust anyone, especially anyone with wings. She doesn’t realized that the young gargoyle imprisoned with her is her only hope for survival. And when she finally discovers her mistake, it appears to be too late for amends.

This was more like it. The last book, Defiance, was a bit of a letdown and I wondered if I had worked through my liking for the series and it was time to let them go, but Chaos got me in my happy place. It’s told from both Chaos and Torrie’s perspectives, and because we haven’t been introduced to Chaos previously this was fun to get to know one of the three Gargoyles we haven’t met yet. Chaos is captured by a harpy, and in order to get Chaos’s venom, the harpy abducts the first human female she sees, which happens to be torrie. Torrie has no idea that Chaos isn’t just an ordinary guy, and is freaked out to put it mildly at being kidnapped by a monster. As the two are thrown together Chaos begins to care for Torrie, and Torrie can’t help but be attracted to the stoic Gargoyle. She doesn’t understand that he is protecting her and has to make a horrible decision to save her life, because against all odds, he has fallen in love with her. This is a great addition to the series and one I really enjoyed reading. It also adds a little more mystery as to what happened to the other two Gargoyles.

I give it a 3.5 out of 5

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Poisoned

By Katherine Pine

Poisonous mists settled in the lowlands 17 years ago, rendering ninety percent of the land uninhabitable and killing over half the population. Most blame their misfortune on industrialization or the fey, but some curse Snow White, the princess who was born poisoned.
As the only person who can survive entering the poisoned woods without a gas mask, Snow White has dedicated her life to studying the poison and finding a cure. This obsession draws her deeper into the woods and its secrets, where nothing is as it seems. When Snow White saves a man who should never have been saved, she unleashes an evil more horrifying and destructive than poison.

Whoop-de-do. I found a doozie. This is nothing like the Snow White you know. This is a story that just happens to have the princess of the same name. Welcome to a kingdom that is poisoned, where the people live daily in the fear that they will somehow contract the deadly diseases found in most of the country. Everyone goes around wearing gas masks when they get anywhere close to infected areas, but the only person who always has to wear a mask is the princess, Snow White. She was born poison. Her skin is the shade of deathly white, her lips a grotesque and poisoned red. She has poison in her touch, in her veins, in her kiss. All Snow White wants is to be accepted and loved, and to help her people to escape the poison’s grip. This is a great dark re-telling of the Snow White story, and so far has three parts, which are all amazing so far. I highly recommend this novella-length story for those who enjoy a more grim tinge to their fairy tales (Pun definitely intended).

P.S. This story is also sold as 'Love is Poison', which includes the next 2 parts of the story, 'The Mirror' and 'The Huntsman


This gets a solid 4 out of 5 for sheer awesome creativity 

The Frog Prince

By Jenni James

A prince disguises himself to find true love—Prince Nolan has had enough of Princess Blythe—the woman to whom he has been betrothed since infancy—and her simpering letters. Does the princess truly not have a brain in her head? Never before has he communicated with someone who seemed so childish and spoiled. It was time he met her for himself, to decide if he could actually follow through with this marriage. But to do it right, she must not see how handsome he is. He needs a disguise—something that would show him her true nature.
Nolan asks an old herb woman to transform him into a creature that is disgusting to any female—a frog. The spell will last thirty days unless the princess does the impossible and kisses him. Now the true test begins. Will Blythe prove to be as monstrously annoying as he believes she is, or will he learn to see past his judgments and find a loving princess waiting for him?

Here’s another win for Jenni James! She doesn’t always get a good fairy-tale out there, but this one made my ‘to read again’ list. This is a sweet story with a creative twist to the classic tale; the frog prince voluntarily becomes a frog? Nolan is endearing as a frog and learns that there is so much more to his intended than he thought. Blythe is a girl who just wants what everyone wants; to be herself and be loved for herself. There are shenanigans and misunderstandings and true love in the story which will leave you smiling and making that universal sound of approval, “Awwww…”


I give it a 3.75 out of 5- above average for the author and the genre. 

Defiance

By Taylor Longford

Think you know about gargoyles? The beautiful winged race disappeared eight hundred years ago. When they last walked the earth, they traveled in close-knit packs, their throats marked with ancient runes. Their greatest enemies were the ugly and brutal harpies that people today mistake for gargoyles.
Defiance can’t resist Whitney Anders. But the young gargoyle has trust issues where human girls are concerned. And Whitney’s a babe among her human peers in Pine Grove, so he’s going to have to work for her if wants her. And overcome his trust issues once and for all.

So this series is one of my guilty pleasures, as the plots are pretty much the same: Gargoyle falls in love, girl is unbelieving, harpy attack, Gargoyle and girl win, love ensues. This book focuses on Defiance, one of my least favorite of the Greystone brothers, so perhaps that is why this book wasn’t as fun for me. I don’t like Whitney either, her character comes across as one of those really annoying girls who is beautiful and knows it and just happens to be good at everything and basically perfect except for her lack of personality. Meh. The best parts of this book were the references to the missing Chaos and his rescue. Mystery anybody? The plot chain of the books has begun to break! Yay! Also, having an adult know about the Gargoyles was a huge plus for me and I really like Whitney’s Dad and his insistence that Defiance wait to mark Whitney until she graduates. Good call Dad.


This one gets a 3 out of 5

Michael Vey 3: Battle of the Ampere

By Richard Paul Evans

Michael, Taylor, Ostin and the rest of the Electroclan have destroyed the largest of the Elgen Starxource plants, but now they’re on the run. The Elgen have teamed up with the Peruvian army to capture them, and only Michael remains free. With his friends due to stand trial for terrorism—a charge that may carry the death penalty—Michael will need all his wits and his abilities if he’s to save them.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, Dr. Hatch and his loyal Electric Children have seized control of the E.S. Ampere—the super yacht the Elgen use as their headquarters. With the seven ships of the Elgen fleet now under his control, Hatch heads back to Peru to gather his army and begin his quest for global domination.
Michael must free his friends and then find a way to stop Hatch, but Hatch knows Michael and the Electroclan are coming. And he’s ready for them. Can the Electroclan win the battle of the Ampere? Or has Michael’s luck finally run out?

So, the beginning of this book was super slow. I had a really hard time and was forcing myself to read chunks and get to the point of the book. It seemed to me there was a ton of unnecessary detail and focus on things that were interesting, but didn’t move the plot forward fast enough for the theme of the series. Once you get through it though, it picks up and we’re back on track. I will admit though that I am having a hard time caring about the majority of the characters, as their development hasn't been addressed near enough. But now that I’ve got my issues out of the way I will say that this book is a solid adventure and interesting in how the clan continues to find new ways to use their electrical powers to defeat the baddies. I’m a little less enthused about the series as a whole after this book, and still haven’t picked up the fourth book that came out this past year. I’m waiting for the mood to hit, which might take a while.


This gets the average 3 out of 5

The Fall of Five

By Pittacus Lore

The Garde are finally reunited, but do they have what it takes to win the war against the Mogadorians? John Smith—Number Four—thought that things would change once the Garde found one another. They would stop running. They would fight the Mogadorians, and they would win. But he was wrong. After facing off with the Mogadorian ruler and almost being annihilated, the Garde know they are drastically unprepared and hopelessly outgunned. Now they’re hiding out in Nine’s Chicago penthouse, trying to figure out their next move. The six of them are powerful, but they’re not strong enough yet to take on an entire army—even with the return of an old ally. To defeat their enemy, the Garde must master their Legacies and learn to work together as a team. More important, they’ll have to discover the truth about the Elders and their plan for the Loric survivors. And when the Garde receive and sign from Number Five—a crop circle in the shape of a Loric symbol—they know they are so close to being reunited. But could it be a trap? Time is running out, and the only thing they know for certain is that they gave to get to Five before it’s too late.
The Garde may have lost battles, but they will not lose this war. Lorien will rise again.

This series has been entertaining to read, and I always enjoy reading them when they come out. They aren't really the books I can’t wait to read, but if I see it in the library, I’ll definitely pick it up. This fourth installation of the series was chuck full of difficulties for the Garde. They meet Number Five, a chubby kid that nobody can seem to find any liking for, but man is he powerful. Each member of the Garde has their own problems, doubts, and worries about the fate of the world, and the mystery of the Elder’s plans when they sent the last Loriens to Earth. Ella/Ten has an interesting role in this book, which I won’t spoil for anyone, but I’m hoping that things work out for the poor kid. As for the mysterious ally, Adam, I really liked the spin that was put in, as it balanced things out in the end. And (SPOILER) a character dies that everyone is incredibly upset about…I was there with you. So so sad. All in all, this is a solid companion to the first three books, and I will definitely keep reading to see what other kinks and resolutions come about in the series.  
One warning: Nine has the mouth of a sailor, so beware of profanity if that distresses you. No bombs, but plenty of the others.

This gets a 4 out of 5 

The BFG

By Roald Dahl

Captured by a giant! The BFG is no ordinary bone-crunching giant. He is far too nice and jumbly. It’s lucky for Sophie that he is. Had she been carried off in the middle of the night by the Bloodbottler, the Fleshlumpeater, the Bonecruncher, or any of the other giants—rather than the BFG—she would have soon become breakfast. When Sophie hears that they are flush-bunking off in England to swollomp a few nice little chiddlers, she decides she must stop them once and for all. And the BFG is going to help her!

Roald Dahl is a beloved children’s author for a reason. This is just pure fun and captures the imagination of children. It’s a great story for kids and as an adult, just makes me smile and feel great. The BFG (short for Big Friendly Giant) is the only nice giant in the world, and Sophie just happens to make friends with him and learn about how horrible the other giants are while with the BFG. When she finds out the other giants are on their way to England for a snack of children, she takes matters into her own hands with the help of the BFG and decides to go to the Queen of England for help. This is just a fun romp with clever wit and friendliness. One of my favorites from Roald Dahl.

I give it a 4 out of 5

Blackmoore

By Julianne Donaldson

Kate Worthington knows her heart and she knows she will never marry. Her plan is to travel to India instead—if only to find peace for her restless spirit and to escape the family she abhors. But Kate’s meddlesome mother has other plans. She makes a bargain with Kate: India, yes, but only after Kate has secured—and rejected—three marriage proposals.
Kate journeys to the stately manor of Blackmoore determined to fulfill her end of the bargain sooner rather than later and enlists the help of her dearest childhood friend, Henry Delafield. But when it comes to matters of love, bargains are meaningless and plans are changeable. There on the wild lands of Blackmoore, Kate must face the truth that has kept her heart captive. Will the proposal she is determined to reject actually be the one thing that will set her heart free?


I was pretty excited for this second novel from Ms. Donaldson, who debuted with “Edenbrooke”, a light-hearted, adventure-esque, clean romance. This second book promised to be more ‘realistic’ and I found myself hopping to get a copy. Now let me start by saying, holy smokes, the writing is beautiful. It was poetry. The imagery and the descriptions were deep with feeling. I was quite taken with this story, the characters were fleshed out and believable, the plot was fun, and I appreciated that the main character was able to figure out her folly in the end. I’ve always been a sucker for the ‘boy next door’ romances. Now on the other hand, the little portion of the book where she goes to the beach and he’s swimming nude made me squirm. That was so harlequin I was irritated. That doesn’t happen in regency romance, and the guy isn’t all debonair if by some strange chance it does. Irritating. Also, the end could’ve used a little more hope, happiness, you know. It let me down for a book I was otherwise in love with. I felt like it was a little too ‘real life’, come on, a little bit of fairy-tale is okay for the ending! That said, it was lovely and I’d like to say well done Ms. Donaldoson, keep them coming!


I give it a 4 out of 5

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Wildwood Dancing

By Juliet Marillier

High in the Transylvanian woods, at the castle Piscul Draculi, live five daughters and their doting father. It’s an idyllic life for Jena, the second eldest, who spends her time exploring the mysterious forest with her constant companion, a most unusual frog. But best by far is the castle’s hidden portal, known only to the sisters. Every Full Moon, they alone can pass through it into the enchanted world of the Other Kingdom. There they dance through the night with the fey creatures of this magical realm.
But their peace is shattered when Father falls ill and must go to the southern parts to recover, for that is when cousin Cezar arrives. Though he’s there to help the girl survive the brutal winter, Jena suspects he has darker motives in store. Meanwhile, Jena’s sister has  fallen in love with a dangerous creature of the Other Kingdom---and impossible union it’s up to Jena to stop.
When Cezar’s grip of power begins to tighten, at stake is everything Jena loves: her home, her family, and the Other Kingdom she has come to cherish. To save her world, Jena will be tested in ways she can’t imagine—tests of trust, strength, and true love.


I have heard a lot of love for this book and was just waiting for the right time and mood to read it. I was not disappointed. IT was a sort of mix of the Twelve Dancing Princesses, and The Frog Prince, except it was so originally done, you can only catch a passing resemblance to this stories. It was great story-telling. The choice of setting the story in Romania was awesome, though I was miffed with the names and even with the pronunciation guide, I still had difficulty and found it halted the flow of the story. Other than that the girls, of which there are only 5, are well fleshed out and individual, which is rare to find outside of the heroine of the story. The fairy realm is beautiful and the dwarves and other creatures were just as mystical. I was reminded of all the images that stuck in my mind as a child about fae creatures and was transported there with them. There is much about love and sacrifice, honor and choice. It’s got some great gems in it about where our choices lead us, and the love story was not straight-forward and predictable. That was my favorite part. I got a bout of dread when vampires showed up—but no worries. They are not even named as vampires, but “night people” (though they totally were vampires) and they are as nightmarish and eerie as they should be. No sparkles! It was a wonderful story full of magic and a little mayhem, and mostly a test of courage and ingenuity for the characters. Highly recommend this, not only to people who like re-tellings, but people who enjoy a good fantasy.


I give it a 4.25 out of 5

Fortunately, The Milk

By Neil Gaiman

“I bought the milk,” said my father. “I walked out of the corner shop, and heard a noise like this: Thum thum. I looked up and saw a huge silver disc hovering in the air above Marshall Road.”
“Hullo,” I said to myself. “That’s not something you see every day. And then something odd happened.”
Find out just how odd things get in this hilarious story of time travel and breakfast cereal, expertly told by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Skottie Young.


I have decided that aside from being crazy in a fantastic way, Neil Gaiman should write more short stories. This was fabulous. I was smiling and laughing at the premise, and at the fantastically expressive illustrations by Skottie Young. I’d love to have this ‘big fish’ story on my personal bookshelf. It’s on my list. If you’ve got half an hour, pick this up and read it, and remember all those whoppers you, or your family have told in your life.


I give it a 4.5 out of 5

Palace of Stone

By Shannon Hale

Coming down from the mountain to a new life in the city seems a thrill beyond imagining. When Miri and her friends from Mount Eskel set off to help the future princess Britta prepare for her royal wedding, she is happy about her chance to attend school in the capital city. There, Miri befriends students who seems so sophisticated and exciting…until she learns that they have some frightening plans. They think that Miri will help them, that she should help them. Soon Miri fiinds herself torn between loyalty to the princess and her new friends’ ideas, between an old love and a new crush,k and between her small mountain home and the bustling city.


I meant to read this when it first came out but couldn’t really get in the mood. Even when I did read it it took forever for me to really get into the story, which is abnormal for me with a book by Shannon Hale, who is fantastic. Needless to say, I liked the original MUCH better. Miri irritated me because, once more, she has Peder there and is crushing on a stranger and doubting Peder’s affection. The actual political shenanigans and plot line was good. Typical of Shannon Hale to have it perfectly hashed out and wrap it up in a bow. Love that, also the fact that I am never quite sure how it’s going to work out is a plus.

I give it a 3 out of 5

Among the Hidden

By Margaret Peterson Haddix

Luke has never been to school. He’s never had a birthday party, or gone to a friend’s house for an overnight. In fact, Luke has never had a friend. Luke is one of the shadow children, a third child forbidden by the Population Police. He’s lived his entire life in hiding and now, with a new housing development replacing the woods next to his family’s farm, he is no longer even allowed to go outside.
Then, one day Luke sees a girl’s face in the window of a house where he knows two other children already live. Finally, he’s met a shadow child like himself. Jen is willing to risk everything to come out of the shadows—does Luke dare to become involved in her dangerous plan? Can he afford not to?

Well, this book has been out a while and it’s one of those I kept meaning to read. I found that it is very much in the Dystopian style that is now prevalent everywhere (and frankly I’m starting to tire of) but this is geared toward younger kids, with the short span of the book. But don’t let that fool you, this book is written in top-form, it’s not only good for younger kids, I was engrossed and I’m in college. It’s a great premise. Nobody is allowed to have more than 2 kids, and yet there is an underground group of children who are all the 3rd child, or shadow children who have to decide if they stay in the shadows or come out into the light. It’s great in a terrible way. The writing reminded me a lot of Lois Lowry’s The Giver. It had the same sort of feel to it, just a little dimmed down because it is meant for a little lower reading level.

I give it a 4 out of 5