Friday, December 11, 2015

Firefight

By Brandon Sanderson

Newcago is free.
They told David it was impossible, that even the Reckoners had never killed a High Epic. Yet Steelheart—invincible, immortal, unconquerable—is dead. And he died by David’s hand.
Eliminating Steelheart was supposed to make life simpler. Instead, it only made David realize he has questions. Big ones. And no one in Newcago can give him answers.
Babylon Restored, the city formerly known as the borough of Manhattan, has possibilities, though. Ruled by the mysterious High Epic Regalia, Babylon Restored is flooded and miserable, but David is sure it’s the path that will lead him to what he needs to find. Entering a city oppressed by a High Epic despot is risky, but David’s willing to take the gamble. Because killing Steelheart left a hold in David’s heart. A hole where his thirst for vengeance once lived. Somehow, he filled that hole with another Epic—Firefight. And now he will go on a quest darker and even more dangerous than the fight against Steelheart to find her, and to get his answers.

Once more, I listened to the audiobook, and I loved it. This was not just amazingly narrated, but the story itself was intense, funny, and full of shocks that I loved and simultaneously screamed at. I started this series knowing that the last book was coming out in 5 months, but I didn’t realize how much I would get involved in the series and now I am stuck waiting until February and having to practice my patience. I loved the dynamic and how it changed from a revenge story to a story about understanding and problem solving. David’s character growth is awesome. I’ve never cared much for revenge stories, but this turned into a story about people, fears, love, friendship, and where true power really lies. I can’t really delve into the story without spoiling the amazing surprises in store for the readers. This had all the right touches for me personally. I laughed out loud, I gasped, I froze, and even teared up a little. If you are looking for a great read, perhaps if you enjoyed Michael Vey or I Am Number 4, this is a great follow-up (It’s way better than those books, but similar in tone).

I give it a 4.5 out of 5

And Now You Know

By Larry E. Morris

And Now You Know presents fifty behind-the-scenes stories of prominent Church members you only thought you knew.
In this rare collection, author Larry E. Morris reveals startling true experiences in a “rest-of-the-story” format that will keep you guessing as each tale unfolds. Who was responsible for the tragic accident that caused his younger brother’s blindness? Which General Relief Society president endured the loss of her eldest son in a violent Indian attack? Who tenderly cared for her deaf sister during the last twenty-five years of her life while shouldering enormous responsibilities as the wife of a church president?
Each story recalls a forgotten fact from Church history and provides a lesson in faith, courage, and determination. Well documented and presented, And Now You Know opens little-known corners of the past, providing an interesting and personal look at experiences of prominent member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

This was an anthology of stories about actual people who lived and their stories of faith within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. It was formatted in such a way that you were introduced to the character without knowing their name and then after a few pages you were told the rest of the story as the name was revealed. Some of the names I knew very well, and others I’d never heard. It was a nice short read with a lot of entertaining and inspiring stories.


I give it a 3.25 out of 5 

Wednesdays in the Tower

By Jessica Day George

Wednesday at Castle Glower is an ordinary, ho-hum sort of day. No new hallways, no extra turrets, no sudden changes. At least according to Princess Celie, who knows the Castle better than anyone. So Celie is surprised when, one Wednesday, she happens upon a new tower, with a new room, and a giant orange egg hidden inside.
Celie doesn’t know what to do, and neither does her brother bran, the new Royal Wizard. But the Castle knows. As staircases spring up and doorways disappear, the Castle’s plan becomes clear: Celie is to care for the egg and whatever creature is hatches! Of course, she hadn’t bargained for a pet, and this one will prove tricky, once Celie and her siblings realize what else the Castle is hiding…

It’s rather easy to know what creature hatches from the egg in the book summary because it’s on the cover. I kinda wish that it hadn’t been so prominent. I had such a fun time reading the first book and especially enjoy Jessica Day George’s tone of warmth and quirky magic. This second book is equally fun to read, Celie is a great protagonist, full of friendship and belief and trust. She’s in for quite the ride when asked to raise a Gryphon, an animal everyone assumed was a myth. As Celie tries to hid her new pet from her family, she makes discoveries that may point to a larger plot at hand. Why has a wizard come to stay with them when her brother is the royal wizard? What is he looking for? And why does everyone feel like he’s big trouble?


I give this a 3 out of 5- it was average. Fun to read, but not as good as the first. 

The Help

By Kathryn Stockett

Aibileen is a black maid in 1962 Jackson, Mississippi, who’s always taken orders quietly, but lately she’s unable to hold her bitterness back. Her friend Minny has never held her tongue but now must somehow keep secrets about her employer that leave her speechless. White socialite Skeeter just graduated college. She’s full of ambition, but without a husband, she’s considered a failure. Together, these seemingly different women join together to write a tell-all book about work as a black maid in the South, that could forever alter their destinies and the life of a small town.

I typically stay away from Best Sellers, because from past experience they tend to cross lines that I like just where they are thank you very much. I only read this after I asked people who had read it and know my preferences and decided to try it out. I was warned there was language, and boy howdy there is quite a lot of language. No ‘F’ words, but plenty of the usual in the profanity department. There was also a brief mention of rape, so subtle you could almost miss it. Though, I definitely did not. There is spousal abuse, though it is only portrayed with the next day bruises.
After reading this book I understood why it has been such a phenomenon. It deals with racial discrimination, the sexism of the 60s, and what it is to be different in a place that eats unique people alive. Told from 3 perspectives, Minny, Aibileen, and Skeeter, it’s a story about courage and change. It’s beautifully written, and easy to understand. It’s a book that I found myself both impressed with and sad about. I always get uneasy when reading historical fiction that makes me wonder about humanity. I always hope that if I were to have lived in these sorts of times that I would’ve had the courage to stand by truth and right. This is an interesting way to look at a time in history when things were so chaotic and people really thought the world was going to end and it wouldn’t get better. It’s really about how we’re all the same in the ways that matter. We all have people that treat us badly, we all have problems, we all have insecurities. It’s a good book, and I understand why it was so highly acclaimed.

I give it a 3.5 out of 5- above average but also less than I was expecting for such a wide-read book. 

Friday, August 21, 2015

The Changeling Sea

By Patricia A. McKillip

Since the day her father’s fishing boat returned without him, Peri and her mother have mourned his loss. Her mother sinks into a deep depression and spends her days gazing out at the sea. Unable to control her anger and sadness any longer, Peri uses the small magic she knows to hex the sea. And suddenly into her drab life come the King’s sons—changelings with strange ties to the underwater kingdom—a young magician, and, finally, love.

The more I think about this book, the more I like it. This book had such a beautiful tone and grace to the telling, it was magic to read. It was simple, but the depths were amazing. I was entranced. I felt like I was swimming through the words; poetic, eerie, and captivating. Peri is such a strange protagonist, ragged and ordinary, estranged from her mother and longing for her lost father. Peri learns some magic and becomes enmeshed with the destiny of the sea itself, and finds her answers and works through her sadness by helping the princes of her kingdom. It’s a tale filled with longing, love, loss, and hope. I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would, even when I was in the middle of reading it. I sighed when I finished, relieved and a little lighter. It was therapeutic in a way, showing that destiny isn’t always fixed and that even the worst hurts can be healed.


I give it a 4.25 out of 5

Five Kingdoms 3: Crystal Keepers

By Brandon Mull

Cole Randolph still can’t believe the way his life has turned inside out. Stuck in a strange land far from home, he has found his friend Dalton and has survived the first two kingdoms of the Outskirts, but none of that has prepared him for the magnetic highways and robotic bounty hunters of Zeropolis.
Ruled by Abram Trench, the one Grand Shaper who stayed loyal to the evil High King, the government of Zeropolis uses advanced technologies to keep tight control. Luckily, the resistance in Zeropolis is anchored by the Crystal Keepers—a group of young rebels with unique weapons.
On the run from the High King’s secret police, Cole and Dalton hope to find more of their lost friends and help Mira locate her sister Constance. But as their enemies ruthlessly dismantle the resistance, time is running out for Cole to uncover the secrets behind the Zeropolitan government and unravel the mystery of who helped the High King steal his daughters’ powers.

I always enjoy reading Brandon Mull’s books, they are just what I like for adventure, magic, and creativity. This series has been a lot of fun, he’s created a world where he can stretch and pull in a lot of different genres into one. This book, unlike the previous two, is set in a more futuristic kingdom with advanced technology. Cole is still trying to figure out what he has to do to get his powers back, and he and Dalton are looking for the other kids from earth while helping Mira find her sisters. This book has some major plot twists that I am delighted to say I didn’t see coming, not entirely anyway. It changes the dynamic of the book and I can’t wait for the next book in the series to come out in March, where Cole is going to Necronum, and I expect lots of creepiness to happen. I especially liked the highlight on Joe, who is my favorite adult character in the series so far, and learning his story was one of the highlights for me. Good addition and nice twists to keep interest going.


It gets a 4 out of 5

Legion: Skin Deep

By Brandon Sanderson

It’s not his own genius that Stephen Leeds gets hired for. Clients want to tap into the imaginary experts that populate his mind—and it’s getting a bit crowded in there.
Now Stephen and his internal team of “aspects” have been hired to track down a stolen corpse—but it’s not the corpse that’s important, it’s what the corpse knows. The biotechnology company he worked for believes he encoded top-secret information in his DNA before he died, and if it falls into the wrong hands, that will mean disaster.
Meanwhile, Stephen’s uneasy peace with his own hallucinations is beginning to fray at the edges, as he strives to understand how one of them could possibly have used Stephen’s hand to shoot a real gun during the previous case. And some of those hallucinations think they know better than Stephen just how many aspects his mind should make room for. How long will he be able to hold himself together?

When I came across Legion on my Kindle I was intrigued and I fell in love with the idea and the way the idea was realized in the book. So, when I got the chance to get the second book for free on audible I snatched it up. I’m not a huge fan of audiobooks, because I’m not a great listener, I’m too easily distracted. This was easy to listen to, the narrator was amazing, doing all the voices of Stephen’s aspects perfectly. I was entertained with the mystery and the action, and the underlying story of Stephen trying to find his lost lady friend (whose name escapes me at the moment). The only content warning I have is for violence and language. It would be akin to watching a PG-13 movie. Great fun in a novella, and longer than the first book.


It gets a 3.75 out of 5 

Prince Tennyson

By Jenni James

This captivating story is about a ten-year-old girl who is trying to prove if God is real or not. Her dad died in Iraq the year before and now she wants to know if she’ll ever see him again. Prince Tennyson was his nickname because of how dashing he looked in his uniform—he was her handsome prince. This is an endearing father-daughter story told through the eyes of a ten-year-old. It is a story of overcoming trials, moving on, and finding not only faith in yourself, but in a loving God as well.

I’ve read Jenni James’s Timeless Fairy Tale series and enjoyed most of them, so when I saw she wrote a book about a little girl searching for the answer to “is God real?” because she wants to see her father who died in Iraq, I knew I wanted to read it. Especially when I saw the high ratings it’s gotten, if only just under a hundred ratings on Goodreads. This was a cute and simultaneously sensitive story about loss and the need to know what’s next. Chelsea loved her Dad more than anything, and she has to figure out how to help her mom smile again, make sure her two little siblings don’t forget their Prince, and she desperately wants to know if she’ll get a hug from her Dad again. It’s a faith-affirming and sweet book about family and love that never ends. I liked it, but it was a little predictable (me having read a lot of similar short stories).

I give it a 3.25 out of 5 

Monday, August 17, 2015

Skulduggery Pleasant 3: The Faceless Ones

By Derek Landy

If you’ve read the previous Skulduggery books then you know what the Faceless Ones are—and if you know what the Faceless Ones are, then you can probably take a wild guess that things in this book are going to get AWFULLY sticky for out skeletal hero and his young sidekick.
If you haven’t read the previous Skulduggery books then what are you doing reading this? Go and read them right now, so that you know what all that stuff in the previous paragraph was about.
Done? Good. So now you’re on tenterhooks too, desperately awaiting the answers to all your questions, and instead you’re going to have to wait to read the book. Sorry about that.

I’ve loved Skulduggery Pleasant since I discovered them a few years ago, and it’s been hard to find copies of the series where I live, so I waited to read this book until I knew I could get the next books. This book had a definite tone dip toward the dark. I was a little discomfited at the major swing toward depressingness that this one made, but thankfully Landy does even it out successfully with his trademark humor. This book isn’t a stand-alone like the other two have been and begins a story arc that you can see going to the dark side of things. It had the same sort of vibe that the show “Supernatural”. In this book Valkyrie and Skulduggery are in the middle of a huge mess. The Faceless ones, gods from another world, are returning to our world. Skulduggery, being Skulduggery, is the only one that sees both sides and tries to stop what is about to happen: the end of the world. It was a great read, and we meet some new people and reunite with some old ones. This book, however, has enough of a cliffhanger that I wouldn’t suggest reading it without having the next book handy. I was dying to know what happened, and I’ll leave it at that. A-maz-ing.

I give it a solid 4 out of 5

Skulduggery Pleasant 4: Dark Days

By Derek Landy

Skulduggery Pleasant is lost on the other side of the portal, with only some evil gods for company. Can he possibly survive? (Yes, all right, he’s already dead. But still.).

I listened to the audiobook of this and I wish I would’ve started out listening to the audiobooks. That narrator, Rupert Degas, is the man. He does all the voices so perfectly, especially Skulduggery. And this one was just…goodness…it was amazing. I loved it so much and Skulduggery is just one of my favorite characters ever. I can’t say much without spoiling the wonderful surprises in this book. Which is probably why I couldn’t find a decent synopsis either (though the one above made me smile as per usual with Landy). Again, this series is taking a definite turn for the darker side of things, but I can’t stop reading it. I love Skulduggery too much to give up, though the next few books will tell whether I finish or not. But this was amazing! Read it!


I give it a 4.25 out of 5

Anne of Green Gables

By L.M. Montgomery

“Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?”

Anne of Green Gables is one of the world’s most beloved young heroines. This coming of age novel is a must read for romantics of all ages. This book tells the adventures of Anne Shirley, a young orphan girl, age 11 who is mistakenly sent to Mathew and Marilla Cuthbert, a middle-aged brother and sister who had intended to adopt a boy to help them on their farm on Prince Edward Island.


I tried to read this a few years ago and was so bored I vowed I wouldn’t read it. This just goes to show that sometimes you really need to be in the right mindset to read certain genres of books. This was so cute and fun and warm-fuzzies abound. I liked it enough that I’ll keep reading the series as the mood strikes me. I learned a valuable lesson: don’t force yourself to read something when you don’t really want to read it. I waited until I was ready to try it because I wanted to and not just because other people pressured me to. Anne is such a likable character and it was fun to see how she differed from the movies I grew up watching with Megan Follows. It was sweet and lovely. It reminded me a lot of Little House on the Prairie in tone. Really enjoyed it, and had fun reading about the mishaps of one of the most beloved red-heads in literature. Diana getting drunk is one of my favorites.

I give it a 3.75 out of 5

The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom

By Christopher Healy

Prince Liam. Prince Frederic. Prince Duncan. Prince Gustav. You’ve never heard of them have you? These are the princes who saved Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Snow White, and Rapunzel, respectively, and yet, thanks to those lousy bards who wrote the tales, you likely know them only as Prince Charming. But all of this is about to change. Rejected by their princesses and cast out of their castles, Liam, Frederic, Duncan, and Gustav stumble upon an evil plot that could endanger each of their kingdoms. Now it’s up to them to triumph over their various shortcomings, take on trolls, bandits, dragons, witches, and other assorted terrors, and become the heroes no one ever thought they could be.

This is one of those satirical books that was pretty fun to read, though you need to be in a certain mood to really enjoy it. I admit, it took me a while to get into this book, but I was determined to finish it because my friend said that she and her husband read it out loud and couldn’t stop laughing. This would’ve been a great read-out-loud book. It’s about four princes, who are each known as their kingdom’s “Prince Charming”. Liam is a hero who is the darling of his kingdom, until he meets sleeping beauty, Frederic has never been outside of his own castle and fell for adventurous and sheltered Cinderella, Duncan luckily stumbled across Snow White, a hermit, in the woods, and Gustav is known for being rescued by Rapunzel, who healed his blindness with her tears. The princes band together to save their reputations and find out if they really are hero material. What ensues is a hilarious satire of fairy-tale stories and all the stereotypes that happen. It’s clever and well done, kids love reading about these unlikely Prince Charmings, and adults laugh at the way the story pokes fun at the genre. Again I had a hard time getting into the story, it was a little too dumbed down for me, geared for children and not adults. Some books can easily bridge the gap, but this one fell a little flat for me.


I give it a 3 out of 5  

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Steelheart

By Brandon Sanderson

Ten years ago, Calamity came. It was a burst in the sky that gave ordinary men and women extraordinary powers. The awed public started calling them Epics. But Epics are no friend of man. With incredible gifts came the desire to rule. And to rule man you must first crush his will.
Nobody fights the Epics…nobody but the Reckoners. A shadowy group of ordinary humans, they spend their lives studying Epics, finding their weaknesses, and then assassinating them.
And David wants in. He wants Steelheart—the Epic who is said to be invincible. The Epic who killed David’s father. For years, like the Reckoners, David’s been studying, and planning—and he has something they need. Not an object, but an experience.
He’s seen Steelheart bleed. And he wants revenge.


First off I need to say that I began reading this when it first came out and my interest flagged pretty quickly (partly because I started it when I wasn’t in the mood for it) so I put it aside so I could give it the attention I thought it most likely deserved, knowing Sanderson’s ability to write phenomenal worlds and characters. I decided to wait until the last book was fairly close to coming out so I wouldn’t be in yet another waiting line for a series. So I decided to listen to this on Audible. I am SO glad I made that decision. MacLeod Andrews, who narrates the audiobook is fantastic. I was immediately grabbed by his voice and his subtle way of reading the story. I felt like it was a whole new book and I loved how he narrated as David. He has this amazing ability to deliver the dialogue in the perfect way that animates and brings to life the situation and the characters. I devoured this audiobook and couldn’t wait to listen to it. I’ve tried audiobooks before and this is the first time I listened to an audiobook when I wasn’t driving and had other things to do. Combining Mr. Andrews’ presentation with Sanderson’s brilliant writing was genius. I loved this book. The plot was amazing, I was left flabbergasted at some of the turns and surprises at the end. This is an awesome twist on ‘superhero’ books, where the question is put: what happens if everyone who acquires superhuman powers actually becomes evil? By the end of the book you’re realizing the straightforward plot that you were handed at the beginning is the tip of the iceberg. I finished this audiobook knowing that I didn’t want to read the next book, I wanted to listen to it. In fact, I immediately went and grabbed it on audible and am now listening to Firefight. I’m still trying to figure out how I’ll survive the wait until February for Calamity.
Anyway, plot is solid, action-packed and rendered in crystal-clear quality. Characters are fully realized, unique, and diverse. You have Cody, the Scotsman from the Southern States, Abraham, The Canadian with a French accent and heavy artillery, Tia, the Redhead with a plan, Megan, the young serious fighter, and Prof, the man, the myth, the legend. And David, a kid with a vendetta, a serious lack of social life, and whose metaphors need a lot of help.
Tons of fun from Sanderson. I’m liking this one in a major way.

I give it a 4.5 out of 5 (A 4 if it’s without MacLeod Andrew’s performance, it really does bring it up another level!)

Hope for the Flowers

By Trina Paulus

Hope’s theme of life, moving through seeming death to a new and more beautiful life, has touched the hearts of millions of people. Hope for the Flowers is for young and old, lovers, husbands and wives. It’s a book to learn to read with, or to comfort those who are dying or grieving. In the tale, the caterpillar heroes, Stripe and yellow, want something more from life than eating and growing bigger. They get caught up in a “caterpiallar pillar,” a squirming mass of bodies, each determined to reach a top so far away it can’t be seen. Finally disillusioned, they discover that the way for the caterpillars to find their particular “more,” who they really are, is to enter the cocoon and “.risk for the butterfly.” Hope for the Flowers has helped people gain the courage to leave jobs, change their lives and explore their love for another human being.

You can read this book in about 15-20 minutes. It’s heavy on the illustration, an allegory for anybody who is looking for a purpose, or ‘more’ to their life. It was a sweet little story that has a lot of life applications, some of which left me a little confused in the ambiguousness that ensued. Was it saying that “love is all you need” or was it saying that you should wait for the answers to fall from the sky? I liked some of the morals that were in this, but some just seemed…off. I could tell that this book was written in a certain era, and the morals come from that time and culture. That was the stuff that was throwing me off. It was a cute read. If you find it take a second and read it. I wouldn’t go out of my way to read it, and I think there are better gifts to give for a motivational or inspirational story for someone.


I give it a 3 out of 5

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

By Mary Ann Shafer

“I wonder how the book got to Guernsey? Perhaps there is some sort of secret homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers.” January 1946: London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she’s never met, a native of the island of Guernsey, who has come across her name written inside a book by Charles Lamb…
As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, Juliet is drawn into the world of this man and his friends—and what a wonderfully eccentric world it is. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society—born as a spur-of-the-moment alibi when its members were discovered breaking curfew by the Germans occupying their island—boasts a charming, funny, deeply human cast of characters, from pig farmers to phrenologists, literature lovers all.
Juliet begins a remarkable correspondence with the society’s members, learning about their island, their taste in books, and the impact the recent German occupation has had on their lives. Captivated by their stories, she sets sail for Guernsey, and what she finds will change her forever.
Written with warmth and humor as a series of letters, this novel is a celebration of the written word in all its guises, and of finding connection in the most surprising ways.

My sister told me to read this about 3 years ago, and I just now got around to it. Better late than never eh? I was reluctant to read yet another World War II book, and didn’t want the depressingness of it in my life. There’s only so much a soul can take of that level of depravity. But oh, how I loved this book! Written in a series of letters between Juliet (our heroine) and the citizens of the island of Guernsey in England, it was charming. Completely and deliciously charming. Heartwarming. Laugh-out-loud funny at times, and filled with hope and sunlight. It’s not all roses, but the hope that is displayed through these courageous islanders during the occupation of German soldiers on their island through all the horrors that wartime brings was inspiring. I fell in love along with Juliet for the island of Guernsey and it’s book-loving people. I was smiling through most of the book, and the heaviness of war is lightened by the strength of the human spirit. I understand now why this book is so heavily read by book clubs and loved so much. I almost immediately started recommending it to people. I do have a brief warning though: it does contain language (no “f” words) and it also mentions a character being Gay. Those are my main content warnings.

I give it a 4.25 out of 5

Force

By Taylor Longford

Seventeen-year-old Force has never been interested in girls. All of his dreams have revolved around serving with honor in battle. But the gargoyle left all the great world-shaping battles behind him in another era. Now he’s just a medieval guy trying to get by in a modern world.
At this point in Camie’s life she’s convinced that you can’t count on guys for nothing. Her short-term plan is to get through high school without a boyfriend to distract her. Her long-term plan is to complete college. After that, maybe she’ll look around for a knight in shining armor…if there is such a thing…and if they aren’t all taken by the time she starts looking.
Only fate and unusual circumstance can move these two independent young people together. But when you’re talking about gargoyles, the circumstances are always unusual.


So this series has been kinda hit and miss for me, and it seems like the further on it gets the less I like it, though I keep hoping it will get better, and thus here I am reviewing the seventh book in the series. Force was interesting in that he isn’t interested in girls, and more slowly falls for our main girl. There’s a bit more at play in the character development than them being head-over-heels for each other, which was nice. Although, I got distinctly uncomfortable at the mentions of sex and how nonchalant it was, and a borderline rape (though I knew it wouldn’t happen) it was still toxic for my happiness. That being said, it was decently written, the story was average, the romance was okay. I was not happy with the ever increasing sensuality of this series that happened in the last book Victor. I’ll probably finish out the series however, because I want to get to Havoc dangit.


I give this a 2.75 out of 3 (for the sensuality nothing else)

Longing for Home: Hope Springs

By Sarah M. Eden

Katie Macauley gave up her lifelong dream of returning to Ireland in order to make a home for herself in Hope Springs, Wyoming, but her future has never been so uncertain. Katie’s heart still remains sharply divided between playful Tavish and steady Joseph, though she feels ill-prepared to make a decision. Furthermore, the town is more divided than ever with both the Irish and the Reds stealing property, burning buildings, and endangering lives. In the midst of the growing unrest, temperatures drop quickly, too quickly, and Irish nightmares of famine and cold resurface as the little Wyoming town struggles to beat the harsh winter.
Katie makes one sacrifice after another to keep the peace and help see her loved ones through the difficult days ahead, but will her efforts be enough? Can the town make amends before their hatred consumes them all? And will Katie find the love she has been searching for as well as a home to call her own?

So I read it, after moaning and complaining about the first book (which I didn’t know was a two-parter series). My favorite part of this series was the feud and the social problems and prejudices this town faces. It was handled well and I was all a fever to figure out how Katie was going to fix things and help those town folk not be so idiotic toward each other. I was about halfway through this book when I hit a night where I couldn’t stop reading. I’d think, I’ll stop when this scene is over and I know what happens. That happened until I was finished at 3 am, and cursing myself for not stopping earlier. When all is said and done, I did enjoy this series, and I was glad that Katie ended up with the guy I liked. Another solid book from Sarah Eden (though I still like Corbin from As You Are the best.)


I give it a 3.5 out of 5

Lois Lane: Fallout

By Gwenda Bond

Lois Lane is starting a new life in Metropolis. An Army brat, Lois has lived all over—and seen all kinds of things. (Some of them defy explanation, like the near-disaster she witnessed in Kansas in the middle of one night.) But now her family is putting down roots in the big city, and Lois is determined to fit in. Stay quiet. Fly straight. As soon as she steps into her new high school, though, she can see it won’t be that easy. A group known as the Warheads is making life miserable for another girl at school. They’re messing with her mind, somehow, via the high-tech immersive videogame they all play. Not cool. Armed with her wit and her new snazzy job as a reporter, Lois has her sights set on solving this mystery. But sometimes it’s all a bit much. Thank goodness for her maybe-more-than-a-friend, a guy she knows only by his screenname, SmallvilleGuy…


Superhero nerd that I am, I’m always willing to try out a decent sounding incarnation of a comic. I’ve never been a fan of Lois Lane. I was always a little dumbfounded why Superman/Clark Kent fell for such an abrasive and annoying woman. I mean, Superman is a symbol of pure goodness (or is supposed to be). The least annoying (and most accurate) version of Lois Lane to me was Teri Hatcher’s Lois from “Lois and Clark” and even then she felt off. I like to keep an open mind, so when this young adult version of Lois Lane’s origins popped up on my Goodreads account I was more than willing to bite.
Lois as a sixteen-year-old character was done surprisingly well. She’s a girl who has moved twice as many times as she is old, and has had to build up a thick wall of protection, and not just because her Dad is a general and makes sure his daughters know how to look out for themselves. She desperately wants friends, but not just any friends, people who ‘get’ her. She’s driven, ambitious, and she wants the truth. She wants everybody to have a fair shot.
Que a new school and a chance to help a girl who is being bullied, and Lois jumps all over it, even if it goes against her new motto of flying under the radar. The plot gets trippy as we’re introduced to futuristic tech with holograms and games that can literally change neurons in your brain to help it feel more realistic. (which I kinda wanted to play, and kinda hope never happens) Let the mind games begin. Lois, being Lois, is offered a job by none other than Perry White himself at a high school online newspaper called the Scoop, a subsidiary of the Daily Planet. Lois feels like she’s finally found her calling, and is desperately trying to help her new friends, the first friends she’s had since grade school, without them thinking she’s a complete psychopath for believing that there is ‘more out there’. Que her best friend, whom she hasn’t met IRL, and doesn’t actually know his real name: SmallvilleGuy. She meets him on a conspiracy website after witnessing the impossible one night in Kansas with her father. SmallvilleGuy believes in the impossible, and wants to help this girl who is always getting into trouble. Lois is dying to know, who is this guy really?
This was fun to read, I devoured it in about two days. It was action oriented, had a good amount of tension, a little sci-fi, and the beginnings of something *ahem* great. If you like comic books and Superman, you’ll like this modern retelling of a heroine worthy of the most iconic superhero in the world. This is the Lois Lane I can see being with the Man of Steel.

I give it a 3.75 out of 5 (though close to a 4 for the genre) 

Lockwood and Co The Screaming Staircase

By Jonathan Stroud

A sinister Problem has occurred in London: all nature of ghosts, haunts, spirits, and specters are appearing throughout the city, and they aren’t exactly friendly. Only young people have the psychic abilities required to see—and eradicate—these supernatural foes. Many different Psychic Detection Agencies have cropped up to handle the dangerous work, and they are in fierce competition for business. In The Screaming Staircase, the plucky and talented Lucy Carlyle teams up with Anthony Lockwood, the charismatic leader of Lockwood and Co, a small agency that runs independent of any adult supervision. After an assignment leads to both a grisly discovery and a disastrous end, Lucy, Anthony, and their sarcastic colleague, George, are forced to take part in the perilous investigation of Combe Carey Hall, one of the most haunted houses in England. Will Lockwood and Co. survive the Hall’s legendary Screaming Staircase and Red Room to see another day?

In a future time when the world shifts and everything changes, ghosts, ghouls, revnants, and foul creatures of death haunt (literally) everyone. It’s called ‘The Problem’ and nobody knows why it happened. All anybody has been able to discover is that only kids under the age of 18 have the psychic know-how to see and deal with these unwelcome visitors from beyond the grave. Lucy Carlyle is new to London, and finds a job with the only agency in town that is exclusively run by adolescents. Anthony Lockwood is the owner of Lockwood and Co, and as enigmatic as they come. Lucy is a talented psychic and Lockwood doesn’t ask too many questions. So now they are three. George is their researcher, Lockwood their point-man, and Lucy is the Listener and backup for Lockwood. When on what seems to be a routine assignment at a haunting, Lockwood and Co discover a sinister ghost with serious power, and a grisly secret. Barely surviving the encounter, the team is lead to the most haunted house in England, Combe Carey Hall, and the rumors of the Screaming Staircase.
I’m a huge fan of ghost stories. I don’t like horror in general, but I like a good spooky old-fashioned ghost story. This was perfect for me. It wasn’t nightmare-inducing but it was creepy in all the right kinds of ways. There was murder, ghosts, revenge, creepy whispers, lights, and sounds. It was a mystery and an adventure. I don’t much care for Lucy, but Lockwood is a strange kid that I’m dying to know what happened to him and his family. I can’t wait to uncover his story. The Screaming Staircase was a fun eerie read with a good humor and late-night story with a flashlight kind of tale.


I give it a 3.75 out of 5

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Mustache Baby

By Bridget Heos

This is such a cute little picture book about the different stages that kids can go through, depicted through the different mustaches that this baby has. It’s cute and hilarious and I’d recommend it to adult and kid alike. The kids will get a kick out a baby with mustaches and the adults will laugh at the depictions of stereotypical mustaches to show whether the baby is good or bad. Because everyone knows that a big handle-bar mustache is not a good sign if you want a good guy in the family…


I give it a 3.5 out of 5

Peter Pan

By Jenni James

Peter Pan needs help, and he’s convinced the effervescent Wendy Darling is just the girl to champion his cause. Ever since the mischievous fairy Tinker Bell began recruiting—more like, snatching—boys from London’s orphanages to take them to a magical place called Neverland, things have gotten out of hand. Captain Hook has only become more violent and the boys more lost as their memories of life before Neverland begin to fade. Peter’s only hope is to get the boys back to England and hep bring balance to Neverland before Hook’s dangerous escapades kill them all.
Wendy is not quite certain why such a handsome young man would need her—especially a lad who clearly has a touch of madness in him. What boy learns to fly? But whatever the reason, home life has become too much for her now that her parents are hoping she marries an acquaintance she can barely abide. There is something about Peter Pan that intrigues her greatly, and then there is this magical world he talks about, this Neverland…

First of all, I was perturbed when I discovered that this was a two-parter (or more, not sure as of yet). This deals with the first time Peter meets Wendy and takes her to Neverland. Interestingly, Peter is older, about 18, and he is trying to save the lost boys by bringing them home to London, which they are starting to forget. The fairies are not benevolent, the pirates are evil and definitely try to kill the boys, Peter especially. Peter immediately falls for Wendy, and Wendy, a properly raised high-born girl, cannot help but be intrigued by this disheveled young man who flies and steals kisses from her with grins. I’ve read a fair few retellings of Peter Pan and haven’t really found one that I’d recommend, though I tend to lean toward the ones that portray Hook as the ‘good guy’ and Peter as the antagonist. This was fun to read and I’ll probably end up reading the sequel when I’m bored one day. It’s not going to be a feverish attempt to get it as soon as it comes out though.

I give it a 3 out of 5

Lady Emma's Campaign

By Jennifer Moore

She would follow him through peace and war.

London, 1811

The London Season is ushered in with a thrilling flurry of invitations, gowns, and parties. But despite her status as belle of the ball, lovely socialite Emma Drake simply cannot fathom becoming entangled with any gentleman of her acquaintance. For in truth, since childhood her heart has belonged to Captain Sidney Fletcher, a man of the sea—and her brother’s best friends. Emma knows that Sidney’s directive to free the Spanish city of Cadiz from French occupation will be dangerous, but when word arrives of his capture, she is frantic. Determined to aid her brother in Sidney’s rescue, she hides aboard his ship and sets a course to Spain. But the realities of war are a far cry from the drawing rooms of London, and Emma finds the man she loves a mere shadow of his former self. When a series of events leaves them trapped together behind enemy lines, Emma and Sidney must embark on a journey fraught with danger—from a bloody hunt for Spanish treasure to the battlefields of war-torn Spain, new threats lurk around every turn. As their flight becomes increasingly perilous, Sidney and Emma must trust each other with their lives—but can they trust the other with their heart?

It’s hard to find a good clean romance that is written well with believable characters and an entertaining plot. I enjoyed Jennifer Moore’s first book Becoming Lady Lockwood enough that I picked this up at the library as soon as it came out. While it was fun to see old faces, I had a hard time liking Emma. She’s sheltered and she screams far too much. Perhaps it’s because when I’m truly terrified I can’t speak. I was reminded of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. I swear all that blonde woman did was scream in a high-pitched and very annoying way. I inadvertently pictured her as I read about Emma’s experiences in the midst of a war. Sure, she gets better, but there is that first picture to contend with. It made me not like her and I only minimally was able to overcome that. It’s always hard to root for a relationship when you don’t like one of the characters. Sidney was much more agreeable, though he became a fairly stereotypical protective male. Though I did appreciate the gesture that was made toward explaining PTSD. It was a fine read, just not one of my favorites. Will I read Ms. Moore’s next book? Probably. This was just a case of not liking the character versus the writing or overarching plot.


I give it a 3 out of 5

A Light in the Attic

By Shel Silverstein

Shadow Race

"Every time I’ve raced my shadow
When the sun was at my bak,
It always ran ahead of me,
Always got the best of me.
But every time I’ve raced my shadow
When my face was toward the sun,
I won."

Shel Silverstein is always fun to read. He has his silly poems, his ironic poems, and his thought-provoking poems (my favorite). Most people end up liking his poems because they’re relatable and it doesn’t take much to understand them. His books are beloved by young and old alike for a good reason. If you’ve not read Shel Silverstein you need to at least try it. Doesn’t matter if you don’t like poetry, it’s poetry that even the most critical will enjoy.

I give it a 3.75 out of 5

Alanna Song of the Lioness

By Tamora Pierce

“From now on I’m Alan of Trebond, the younger twin. I’ll be a knight.”
And so young Alanna of Trebond begins the gourney to knighthood. Alanna has always craved the adventure and daring allowed only for boys; her twin brother, Thom, yearns to learn the art of magic. So one day they decide to switch places: Disguised as a girl, Thom heads for the convent; Alanna, pretending to be a boy, is on her way to the castle of King Roald to begin her training as a page. But the road to knighthood is not an easy one. As Alanna masters the skills necessary for battle, she must also learn to control her heart and to discern her enemies from her allies. Filled with swords and sorcery, adventure and intrigue, good and evil, Alanna’s first adventure begins—one that will lead to the fulfillment of her dreams and make her a legend in the land.

Another book that has been on my to-read for a long while. It’s got a sort of Twelfth Knight/Parent Trap vibe going on. Alanna and her brother trade places because he wants to be a sorcerer and she wants to be a knight. We follow Alanna (now Alan) in her training as a page, squire, and one day hopefully to become a knight. Because she is in fact a girl, a girl who desperately wishes she was a boy, there are all kinds of problems she has to deal with besides the daily rigors of training and school. I enjoyed this book until a few little things came into play that made me edgy and frowny. Of course one thing Alanna has to deal with is puberty and dealing with a first menstrual cycle, which I really dislike in books. I know it’s natural, but sheesh. Of course the woman that explains to Alanna also has the birds and the bees talk with her (which I also disliked). There is also nudity and foreshadowing of a relationship of Alanna with one of her fellow pages. All in all, I liked the writing and the plot, but I can’t take the above mentioned stuff. Too much for me. Uncomfortable-making.


I give it a 3 out of 5

Friday, July 31, 2015

Tuesdays at the Castle

By Jessica Day George

Tuesdays at Castle Glower are Princess Celia’s favorite days. That’s because on Tuesdays the castle adds a new room, a turret, or sometimes even an entire wing to itself. No one ever knows what the castle will do next, and no one—other than Celia, that is—takes time to map out the new additions. But when King and Queen Glower are ambushed and reportedly killed, it’s up to Celia with her secret knowledge of the Castle’s many twists and turns, to protect their home and save their kingdom.

This is one of those gems that just fell into my lap in a surprising way. I have really enjoyed other books by Jessica Day George, but for some reason I just wasn’t expecting this to be one that I liked all that well. I read it because I needed something light and comforting. I was smiling and feeling those wonderful warm-fuzzies as I read about Celia and her family. I wasn’t expecting the plot turns from the synopsis, and I loved the characters to bits. Particularly a certain prince that always seemed to make me smile at his kindness and blonde moments. I am so excited to continue this series and discover more about the sentient castle and its inhabitants. This had a good adventurous story with a strong leading character and supporting characters that weren’t far behind. I enjoyed the light but courageous tone of the book and would highly recommend this to middle readers and any adult who is a kid at heart. It’s heart-warming. It’s a chicken soup comfort book. Well done Ms. George.


I give it a 4 out of 5

Perfect State

By Brandon Sanderson

God-Emperor Kairominas is lord of all he surveys. He has defeated all foes, has united the entire world beneath his rule, and has mastered the arcane arts. He spends his time sparring with his nemesis, who keeps trying to invade Kai’s world.
Except for today. Today, Kai has to go on a date.
Forces have conspired to require him to meet with his equal—a woman from another world who has achieved just as much as he has. What happens when the most important man in the world is forced to have dinner with the most important woman in the world?

Wow. This. Was. Awful. Okay, clarification time. The premise and the plot was amazing as per usual with Brandon Sanderson, I was blown away once I figured out what was going on, which was a weird hybrid of dystopia and high fantasy. I was strongly reminded of The Matrix. After reading the above summary it was jarring to discover the actual genre (which was far from what is described, but there isn’t really a way to describe what he wrote!) My beef with this novella was the underlying plot, and it’s mostly because I was disappointed that Sanderson wrote something that to my mind was sex-driven. I was irritated at the nudity and I felt awful after I finished. I’m the biggest supporter of Elantris and I was flabbergasted with the world building and plotline of Mistborn, I love Legion and Skin Deep, but this was just…ugh. I didn’t like Kai. I didn’t like any of them. It was just the sexual stuff that completely threw me. I hope that Sanderson isn’t going to fall into the adult fantasy trap of feeling the need to write about sex and rape. This was just…disappointing.


I give it a 3 out of 5 (All for the plot and world building.)

To My Friends

By Jeffrey R. Holland

“If you need a burden lifted, I want you to imagine I am in a personal, private, closed-door chat with you. I want to help you if I can.” With those words, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland invites every reader of his latest book to become a friend, to receive instruction and encouragement, counsel and comfort.
Elder Holland addresses these powerful messages “to my friends who love the Lord,” “to my friends who want to change,” “to my friends who face opposition,” and more. Each chapter begins with a beautifully designed quotation to help convey the message in an artistic way, making the book a lovely gift for friends to share. Throughout, Elder Holland’s powerful witness of the Savior shines through, for, as he writes, “I am grateful for the greatest friend any of us could ever have, in time or eternity, the Lord Jesus Christ.”

First off, how can you go wrong with Elder Holland? This is a LDS book (A book geared more toward members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) written by one of the apostles. Elder Holland has a way of being personable even in book format, and he speaks from the heart to the heart. This is a great addition to my library and would definitely be for yours too. With messages that uplift and bring comfort and hope in a world where it’s difficult to find peace and truly live a Christian life, this is the book to study and give as a gift. I found the formatting to be as beautiful as the contents, which only adds to it in my opinion. My favorite chapters were Chapter 9: To My Friends Who Seek to Build Zion, Chapter 13: To My Friends Who Want to Move Forward, Chapter 16: To My Friends Who Stand as Witnesses, and Chapter 18: To My Friends Who Seek Happiness. I was surprised how much this helped me with my perspective, though I probably shouldn’t have been. I especially liked the chapter about Zion. It talks about making Zion a place in your heart so you’re able to live in the world but not get swallowed up by it. I loved it and needed it. All of the sections are wonderful, but a few hit me especially hard, and I would recommend this to anyone. LDS or any Christian, though like I said, certain things are not going to make a lot of sense if you don’t know about the LDS church. The principle is there though, and it’s beautiful.


I give it a 4.75 out of 5 

Dealing With Dragons

By Patricia C. Wrede

Cimorene is everything a princess is not supposed to be: headstrong, tomboyish, smart—and bored. So bored that she runs away to live with a dragon—and finds the family and excitement she’s been looking for.

This has been on my list of to-reads for years. I was engaged almost immediately, but quickly became disinterested and only finished out of sheer will. I know that a lot of people disagree and think this book is the best thing since sliced bread, but I found the plot to be boring (though this could be due to the fact that I’ve read similar books that have been more entertaining and well-done). This may have been the first book to represent the anti-princess stereotype and dragon comraderie, but it was not the first I read, and therefore I was bored. Bored because Cimorene didn’t really have to fight for anything. Sure, she ran away and offered her services to a dragon, but everything that happens to her is done in such a way that she is practically gift-wrapped the ending without having an effective struggle. It was my biggest turn-off. I was past the point of caring because Cimorene didn’t seem to care either. I mean, she was concerned, but it was mild in tone and had me irritated. Anyway, I could go on and on, but this just wasn’t a happy-making read for me. I’d go to many other dragon/princess books before this one. And I’m not going to read the rest of the series. The only way that will happen is if in a few years I forget how bored I was and someone who loves the series talks me into it.


I give it a 2.75 out of 5 (Though it could be a 3, I’m just in a bad mood with this book.)

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Running Dream

By Wendelin Van Draanen

Jessica thinks her life is over when she loses a leg in a car accident. She’s not comforted by the news that she’ll be able to walk with the help of a prosthetic leg. Who cares about walking when you live to run?
As she struggles to cope with crutches and a first cyborg-like prosthetic, Jessica feels oddly both in the spotlight and invisible. People who don’t know what to say, act like she’s not there. Which she could handle better if she weren’t now keenly aware that she’d done the same thing herself to a girl with CP named Rosa. A girl who is going to tutor her through all the math she’s missed. A girl who sees right into the heart of her.
With the support of family, friends, a coach, and her track teammates, Jessica may actually be able to run again. But that’s not enough for her now. She doesn’t just want to cross finish lines herself—she wants to take Rosa with her.

When I started reading I was in a negative mind place and almost decided not to read this book. It starts out with Jessica in the hospital, having just lost a leg. I was expecting a downer book, and I wasn’t particularly in the mood. I decided to keep going and I’m so glad I did. This was an amazing book. I loved the message and I loved how Jessica’s character shows that people are amazing. It was inspiring and motivational. I wanted to fly out my front door and start running. This book was very well written and thought out, having been through a life-changing health situation myself as a teen I had a lot of the same feelings and concerns that Jessica voiced. It was vindicating. This wasn’t a downer book, this was a book about not giving up your dreams and having hope for the future, whatever future that may turn out to be.

I give it a 4.25 out of 5

Heidel

By Anita Valle

A tempestuous princess + an arrogant prince= a recipe for royal disaster.
Heidel never wanted to be a cookie-cutter princess. She isn’t graceful. She isn’t sweet. She isn’t even skinny! Heidel would much rather cook than curtsy; is more interested in eating that etiquette.
The Nine Princesses are preparing for the annual festival known as Fenwick’s Feast. Heidel plans to enter the Kind’s Cake Contest given by the famous, but crazy, King of Bauble. But also entering the contest is arrogant Prince Eravis who sneers at Heidel’s cooking skills, insults her rounded figure, and mocks her ambition to cure the world of Red Fever.
Caught up in her culinary conquest, Heidel barely notices that another enemy simmers on the back burner, one much more deadly than a sarcastic prince. An enemy who may hold the secret to the princess’s long lost servants.

I enjoy this little novella series, though the last book about Coralina, the seductive and flirtatious princess threw me off. This one also threw me a bit. Heidel wasn’t in the last two books much, and it was surprising to see that she is super competitive, has a horrible temper, and is often a big jerk. That being said, she is also passionate about helping others and a loyal person. It was a shock to read about her this way as her personality didn’t really come up in the previous two books (that I can remember). It was an entertaining book, and I appreciate the added tidbits of mystery that have been added about the servants and the overall plot of the series. This was fun to read and entertaining. Not a huge fan of the making out stuff toward the end though. Ah well.


I give it a 3 out of 5

Monday, July 27, 2015

Longing for Home

By Sarah M. Eden

Though she was only a child during the darkest days of Ireland’s Great Famine, Katie Macauley feels responsible for the loss of her family’s land and the death of her sister. Now a woman grown, Katie has left Ireland for America and the promise of earning money enough to return home again and plead for her family’s forgiveness. She arrives in Hope Springs, Wyoming Territory, a town sharply divided between the Americans who have settled there, with their deep hatred of the Irish, and the Irish immigrants who have come searching for a place to call home. Her arrival tips the precarious balance, and the feud erupts anew. Even in the midst of hatred and violence, however, Katie finds reason to hope. Two men, as different as they are intriguing, vie for her heart, turning her thoughts for the first time toward a future away from Ireland. Katie must now make the hardest decision of her life: stay and give her heart a chance at love, or return home and give her soul the possibility of peace.


I listened to the audiobook instead of reading it, which was my first experience with an audiobook that I didn’t have to immediately put the book down. I’m not an auditory person, but I recently got a job where my commute to and from work is 40 minutes, so I thought, heck I could get a lot of books “read” by listening to them. So, this was my first attempt. The narrator did a fair job at the Irish accents, and the solo southern accent. I found myself liking the story and people because I didn’t know too much about Irish racism in America, though I knew it happened. I admit though that the audiobook took way too long to finish. I could’ve read the book in a day or two, but this dragged out over 3 weeks. I was only able to listen to it in the car (I can’t pay attention if I’m doing anything else). That was my main drawback. It started to feel like a soap opera because listening to it drew it out too much. I do have to warn as well that this book is the first in a two-part story. Things are left pretty much in the air. The following will be a spoiler so if you don’t want to know, do NOT read further: I did something I never do. I was so ticked off that Katie ended up with the wrong person (in my mind) and I actually went in search of spoilers because if she really truly ended up with this person I wasn’t going to read the next book. I couldn’t stand it. I was that passionate about it….and I’m going to read the next book. That is all.


I give it a 3.5 out of 5

The Mysterious Benedict Society

By Trenton Lee Stewart

“Are you a gifted child looking for special opportunities?”
When this peculiar ad appears in the newspaper, dozens of children enroll to take a series of mysterious, mind-bending tests. (And you, dear reader, can test your wits right alongside them.) But in the end just four very special children will succeed. Their challenge: to go on a secret mission that only the most intelligent and resourceful children could complete. With their newfound friendship at stake, will they be able to pass the most important test of all?
Welcome to the Mysterious Benedict Society.


“Remember the white knight.”

This, like many books, is about being different and finding where you belong. Reynie Muldoon is an orphan who has a special tutor who helps him to find an advertisement in a paper asking gifted children if they want a special opportunity. Only through the encouragement of his tutor does Reynie decide to take the tests, which turn out to be myriad and strange tests. Reynie passes, along with three others: Sticky Washington, Kate Wetherall, and Constance Contraire. Sticky is the kid who remembers everything he ever reads. Kate is the daring athletic one, keeping everything she needs in her handy bucket, Constance is stubborn and short, and Reynie, well, he’s the one who is able to lead them. This is a little like mission impossible for gifted kids. It’s cute, deep, and warming to read. The above quote is one of the take-aways that I adored from this book, but I won’t spoil it by telling what it means. You’ll have to read it and find out! I enjoyed this story and the inherent goodness of it. It’s about using your unique gifts to make a difference and overcome difficulties and help others.

I give it a 4 out of 5

Five Kingdoms: The Rogue Knight

By Brandon Mull

Cole Randolph never meant to come to the Outskirts, but when his friends were kidnapped on Halloween he had to try to save them. Now he’s trapped in a world that lies between wakefulness and dreaming, reality and imagination, life and death. Cole’s hunt for his lost friends has led him to the kingdom of Elloweer. Accompanied by new friends Mira, Twitch, and Jace, Cole teams up with the resistance movement and joins the search for Mira’s sister Honor.
But Elloweer has grown unstable. A mysterious enemy is wiping out towns, leaving no witnesses or survivors. And an infamous rebel known throughout the kingdom as the Rogue Knight is upsetting the balance of power. With enemies in pursuit, Cole and Mira must resort to a fascinating new kind of magic to protect themselves. Every move is filled with danger as Cole and his friends try to outwit the High King, who will stop at nothing to regain what he has lost.

The second installment is here, and I’m embarrassed to admit it took me until the third book was out to finally get to reading this. I read the first one the week it came out! Anywho, this second book was quite fun, as all of Brandon Mull’s books are. The adventure and shenanigans are top-notch. I particularly enjoyed the Half-Knight’s character. We are introduced to a few new characters that we know are important and I’m intrigued to find out what is going on in the outskirts. I can’t help but compare this series to Beyonders and I wonder if Mull will work it out that Cole will make it home or have to sacrifice and stay. Similar themes, but like with Beyonders Mull pulls out the rug from you in subtle ways just when you’re sure you have it figured out. That’s what I like. Not a huge pull-the-wool-over-your-eyes, but he gives just enough of a twist to leave me grinning and shaking my head at the sheer awesomeness of the surprise. Hold on to your seatbelts, the surprises are just starting. (I know because I’ve read the third one now too!)


I give it a 4 out of 5

Death Cloud

By Andrew Lane

It is the summer of 1868, and Sherlock Holmes is fourteen. On break from boarding school, he is staying with elderly relatives in the country and expecting a tedious vacation. Instead, he finds himself in the midst of a shocking murder mystery. Two local men have died from symptoms resembling the plague. Soon it is clear they have not died from natural causes.
Heedless of danger, Holmes throws himself into an investigation of what and who really killed them. With encouragement from his American born tutor and the help of two new friends, he uncovers a diabolical plot. So begins his first battle of wits against a brilliantly sinister villain of exquisitely malign intent.


So. Young Sherlock Holmes. Well. Ahem. Alright I’ve stalled enough. How intriguing to put the world’s most famous detective into the awkward phase of youth. I began imagining a know-it-all kid who can’t stand to be around all the boring ‘normal’ people who are so blind to the details of life. I had a pretty clear picture (but was staying open-minded) of what I thought needed to happen. I was expecting a very independent kid who couldn’t stand to let a murder go unsolved simply because he knew that everyone was missing the important clues. Andrew Lane’s Death Cloud introduces us to a 14-year-old Sherlock Holmes, just getting ready for the summer holidays. A loner, but not okay with this, Sherlock is dismayed to realize he isn’t going home when Mycroft appears. It’s evident from the get-go that Sherlock has a hero-worship thing going on with Mycroft (which was weird). Sherlock’s personality is that of a kid who is uncertain and emotional, and far too normal. We are also introduced to Sherlock’s tutor who it is obvious is to be his detecting mentor (which I was also disappointed at. Sherlock Holmes doesn’t seem the type to have needed or wanted anyone telling him the way to do things.) The only reason why I was able to enjoy this book was the fact that I kept forgetting that this kid was supposed to be the Sherlock Holmes. It was decent for a young adult murder mystery. I’m not sold on it at all though. I saw the huge potential for the idea of a young Sherlock, but the choices Lane made seemed more geared toward the genre than the character.

I give it a 3 out of 5 It was fine, but not anywhere near Sherlock’s awesome potential

Friday, July 24, 2015

Rumplestiltskin

By K.M. Shea

When Gemma’s drunken father tells King Torgen of Verglas that his daughter can spin straw into gold, Gemma assumes her life is over. Held captive in a room filled with straw, Gemma is ordered to spin it all into gold by dawn the following day, or she will be killed by the king’s orders. Rather than cry her eyes out over her sad fate, Gemma tries escaping, and becomes acquainted with a mysterious mage named Stil. Stil offers to help Gemma complete her task, for a price, and turns the straw into gold thread.
Unfortunately the gold whets the greedy appetite of King Torgen, who is determined to wring more gold from Gemma. Gemma is relieved when Stil agrees to help her a second and third time…but his requested payments for the task grow stranger and stranger…
Can Gemma outsmart the evil king and survive Stil’s unusual bargains?

What an interesting way to retell Rumplestiltskin! The trend right now is to make Rumple the good guy/love interest instead of the little trickster that he was in the original. This is no exception, and to boot, Stil (as he is known in this story), is a mage. A wandering sorcerer who hears of Gemma’s predicament and wants to help. You know what they say about good intentions, sometimes they end up making things worse. I enjoyed this novel a great deal, mostly because Gemma is so snarky and no-nonsense. She doesn’t place trust in anybody but herself, and will escape on her own thank you very much. Stil is ever amused by her and, obvious to everyone but Gemma, almost immediately starts to try and win her affection. It’s cute and fun, and boy am I enjoying Shea’s development as a writer. Her characters are getting more and more interesting all the time and a pleasure to read!


I give this a 3.75 out of 5

The Fairest Beauty

By Melanie Dickerson

Sophie has long wished to get away from her stepmother’s jealous anger, and believes escape is her only chance to be happy. Then a young man named Gabe arrives from Hagenheim Castle, claiming she is betrothed to his older brother, and everything twists upside down. This could be her chance at freedom—but can she trust another person to keep her safe?
Gabe knows he defied his parents Rose and Wilhelm by going to find Sophie, and now he believes they had a right to worry: the orphan girl has stolen his heart. Though romance is impossible—she is his brother’s future wife and Gabe himself is betrothed to someone else—he promises to himself he will keep her safe, no matter what.
When the pair are forced to run to the Cottage of the Seven, they find help—but also find their feelings for each other have grown. Can they find a way to protect Sophie while also safeguarding their hearts?

I have found myself, like I so often do, devouring a series of books that I have found enjoyable to read. This is the latest in the series from Dickerson that I’ve read, based on the fairy tale Snow White. Her re-tellings are more fact-based and down to earth. Not magical, but practical. The villains are just people with evil intent. The good people are God-fearing and kind. I had a little trouble with this story because I liked Gabe but he seemed really wishy-washy. We’re told that he’s irresponsible and rash, but the whole time we as readers know him he is nothing but kind, respectful, and responsible. I was thrown by this, and a little irritated. Sophie is your typical nice sort of blah character. This wasn’t my favorite from Dickerson, but it doesn’t mean I won’t keep reading her books (eventually. I’m taking a break). Although it was fun to read about Rose and Wilhelm's children.

I give it a 3 out of 5 

The Little Selkie

By K.M. Shea

It is with great reluctance—and a lot of frustration—that Dylan, a selkie, saves the Ringsted Prince Callan when she finds him shipwrecked and drifting in the ocean. The experience is nothing but a bother, so she puts it from her mind and swims off on her merry way. Two years later, while chasing an evil sea witch onto land, Dylan’s pelt is stolen, leaving her unable to return to the ocean in her sea lion body. Rather than serve as the sea witch’s tool, Dylan asks a traveling enchantress to seal her voice. The enchantress complies, and Dylan is taken to the royal palace by one of the sea witch’s minions where she encounters, yet again, Prince Callan.
Between court games, a dangerous brush with a kelpie, and sniffing out the sea withch while looking for her pelt, Dylan’s days are a flavorful blend of treachery and boredom. But during her searches and investigations, Prince Callan befriends her, making her question her loyalties. Dylan always thought her heart was with the ocean, but can she defeat the sea witch and leave Callan forever?

K.M. Shea is my favorite go-to for a good fairy-tale retelling. I love how she’s able to keep true to the heart of a story but gives the reader enough little twists that it’s enjoyable to re-experience the classic fairy-tales. This is by far the best retelling I’ve read for The Little Mermaid. Hans Christian Anderson’s original is depressing to say the least, and Disney’s version is delightful. I really appreciated Shea’s decision to use a Selkie instead of a Mermaid, which to my mind made more sense anyway. This is the fifth book in her fairy-tale series, and I didn’t have high hopes for it, but I ended up loving this story. Mostly because of Dylan. Dylan is awesome. She is a girl who is bold and different. I love that Shea made her a bottomless pit when it came to eating. That was hilarious and endearing. She had so much personality, and a different personality! I had gotten used to the typical Princess who was either sick of being royalty and wanted to be normal, or was pushed around and had to find her own voice (with small variations). Dylan is loyal and knows who she is. She doesn’t care about things that don’t matter to her end goal. Falling in love wasn’t what she was waiting for, it happened and she dealt with it like a person. I cannot say enough how much I enjoyed the characters in this book. Also, Callan is a perfect match for Dylan! I don’t want to spoil too much, but he’s just as different as she is and it’s an amazing to see how they work off each other and support/respect one another. Great job Ms. Shea. Bravo!


I give it a 4.25 out of 5 –for awesome original characters!!!