I don’t often open reviews with the first line, but in this case, I think it’s my favorite first line of the year so far.
“Rye and her two friends had never intended to steal the banned book from the Angry Poet–they’d just hoped to read it.”
First lines are like the first bite of food in a meal. They give you an instant impression of what the book will be like, sound like and feel like. While a great first line does guarantee a great book, a good first line can be quite a boon to a book. The moment I read this line I found myself relaxing into the story, recognizing I was in for a fun and furious ride. The Luck Uglies is a fantastic adventure of urban fantasy for middle grade readers that welcomes its audience in and brings readers along the rooftops and down into the tunnels and everywhere in between. Delicious, filling, and has got me asking for seconds!
Rye O’Chanter and her family live in the town of Drowning, a placed ruled by the oppressive and petty Earl Longchance. Rye’s nature is such that she cares nothing for the Earl’s laws (such as the one about women not reading) and is more than willing to break such rules–especially when there’s a chance to read a book that the Earl has banned. But now trouble has come back to Drowning. Monsters known as Bog Noblins have returned to the town, and pose a danger to everyone. Rye knows only the legendary Luck Uglies can defeat these monsters–but even if she finds this notorious secret society, will they help Drowning this time?
Sometimes names in a book are simply there and the readers won’t particularly note or notice them. Other times the names clash or wind up feeling inappropriate for the character or book. In rare instances, a book can take the names and run with them. Paul Durham’s book manages to succeed with names on a level I’ve only seen with a few other authors–including my personal favorite, Terry Pratchett. Let me just list a few of the names for characters and places you’ll find in the book: Morningwig Long Chance, The Dead Fish Inn, Bog Noblins, Rye O’Chanter, Harmless, Folly Flood. In another book, the names would feel out of place, oddly comical. Here they fit and light up the text, giving it character and a sense of earthy whimsy.
For a debut story this is great stuff. Heck, it’s great stuff no matter what. Vividly drawn characters and a setting that is as much a character in its own right. Interestingly, this is also a family story of sorts. Granted, Rye’s family is a very odd one indeed, but that just makes it more of a reading adventure. In some ways this tale remains fairly straight forward, our worst villain is obvious from the start–there’s no gray area when it comes to Earl Longchance, he’s as nasty as Prince Humperdink. While I think the adventure and fun of the tale are firmly middle grade, there is some rather startling violence in the story. (for instance, a man getting his arm bitten off) that might be a bit much for some readers. Despite the light-hearted feel of the story there is still some truly frightening stuff going on.
For all that, it’s going to be the characters that win out for me. Especially Rye’s toddler sister, Lottie who seems to have a dangerous love of swords and pointy objects. This story is presented up front as the first in a trilogy and I for one will be looking forward to the next volume!
Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett (HarperCollins, 2003) Goblins by Philip Reeve (Scholastic, 2013) The Vengekeep Prophecies by Brian Farrey (HarperCollins, 2012) Note: An advanced reader copy was provided by the publisher....more
Fans will likely love this newest world building by Anne Bishop. Those who've enjoyed all of her books up to now are not likely to be disappointed byFans will likely love this newest world building by Anne Bishop. Those who've enjoyed all of her books up to now are not likely to be disappointed by this one. I will admit freely that where Bishop is at her best is in world building. She so effortlessly creates entirely new imagined worlds that spring to life and have all the necessary details without becoming a run on narrative of explanation.
That said, I'm an on again, off again Bishop fan. I love the original Jewels trilogy, and it's a guilty pleasure to reread. But I haven't been thrilled with most of the books since then, though I'll admit they are certainly quick reads and immediately accessible.
It's just that . . . I'm a little tired of her repeating themes and repeating character types. Especially the villains. Others will probably disagree, but I find the "predatory female" characters who are so sly and so stupid at the same time something I can only put up with in one or two books--not nearly every story. And certain scenes read too much like ones from Black Jewels, only modified to fit the world they are set in.
I'm not going to try and stomp on anyone's love for the book--but I can't share it. Doesn't mean I won't pick up her next book for a read through, but I find overall that I prefer to go back and reread the Black Jewels trilogy on more time....more
Very nicely done for the most part. Few minor quibbles and felt like Verus went on a few times too much about how disreputable mage society is, but I'Very nicely done for the most part. Few minor quibbles and felt like Verus went on a few times too much about how disreputable mage society is, but I'm liking Verus and look to keep reading these stories....more
Intro by Charlaine Harris: very brief, just a paragraph or two. Which is fine in reality, since the interest is goWill comment on the stories as I go:
Intro by Charlaine Harris: very brief, just a paragraph or two. Which is fine in reality, since the interest is going to be in the stories themselves.
"Playing Possum" by Charlaine Harris--I've never been a huge Harris fan, but this short story is fine, and Sookie fans will be delighted by the added side story.
"Spellcaster 2.0" by Jonathan Maberry--at times I thought this lost steam, but the overall story is rather interesting, and I did wind up sticking to it.
"Academy Field Trip" by Donald Harstad--Different, but interesting. Has a twist to it I didn't suspect until almost the end. Apparently it's his first paranormal.
"Sympathy for the Bones" by Marjorie M. Liu--Very chilling and dark . . . hard to say I liked it but it's a proper little horror story about a student who learns her lessons well.
"Low School" by Rhys Bowen--certainly a bit of a lighter tone than the one before it, this takes a whole new perspective on selling your soul . . .
"Callie Meet Happy" by Amber Benson--Could not get into this. I don't know if it's because it's part of a series or if I'm just not finding the writing particularly accessible. this is a side story from the author's series featuring Calliope Reaper-Jones.
"Iphigenia in Aulis" by Mike Carey--The best I've read so far. Mike Carey has a real talent for this--and this is just . . .chilling, heartwrenching, beautiful. Loved it.
"Golden Delicious" by Faith Hunter--Liked it enough that I want to find the author's series work. Fun urban fantasy/detective work with interesting characters.
"Magic Tests" by Ilona Andrews--I'm a big fan of Ilona Andrews, so reading this little sidebar story was entertaining, although not their best work. Still, it should be readable both by those familiar with the Kate Daniels books and those not.
"An Introduction to Jewish Myth and Mysticism" by Steve Hockensmith--Overall the story arc on this one is familiar, but the writing and tone take it a step above. Worth a few dark chuckles.
"VSI" by Nancy Holder--Reads a lot like the earlier story, Academy Field Trip, but not as strong. Really didn't like the characters much overall, and seriously unimpressed with the portrayal of female characters in this.
"The Bad Hour" by Thomas E. Sniegoski--A short story set in this author's series that features an angel works as a detective. I didn't love it, but the dog saved it from being too bad. Fans of his work will probably enjoy the story more.
"Pirate Dave and the Captain's Ghost" by Toni L. P. Kelner--Just . . .eh. I don't know. I wasn't won over by this last offering very much. I also felt it was stretching to really fit the theme.
Over all this was a passable collection. Fans will probably like picking it up from the library to peruse their favorite authors. ...more
**spoiler alert** Sigh. I really do enjoy most of the Kate Daniel book without having too much trouble suspending my disbelief. This time, however, wi**spoiler alert** Sigh. I really do enjoy most of the Kate Daniel book without having too much trouble suspending my disbelief. This time, however, with the focus on Andrea, it just didn't quite live up to the earlier books set in this world.
If you're a fan of Kate Daniels and you've been reading them consistently all along, then the strong romantic themes in the story are not in and of themselves going to bother you. If you're familiar with the general amount of violence and gore and weaponry within the works, that will not bother you either. If you've never read these books and aren't sure where to start, please don't start with this one.
Okay, small spoiler time. There is way too much time spent on Andrea and Raphael being petty with each other in here. And, I'm sorry, but the last place you have it out with your ex about issues in your relationship is while you are breaking into a possible murderer's magical office space where time is of the essence. And, sorry, but your company just lost four people but you're going to drag your "girlfriend" into the office in an interview with your ex-gal just to make her hurt? When there are 4 people murdered that were friends or associates?
There were some good moments here, some great action scenes, but it didn't really dovetail together as well as I'd have liked to see, and overall I was less than enthralled with the characters. Although Roman is lots of fun and I hope we see more of him soon! Not the best, but I'm not giving up on the writers for writing a slightly out of character book. I'll give them a book or two to get back on their game before I decide one way or the other....more
I think this is Pratchett at his best right here. It certainly is some of the best Vimes character work. A few of Pratchett's books have certain sceneI think this is Pratchett at his best right here. It certainly is some of the best Vimes character work. A few of Pratchett's books have certain scenes that make me tear up. This one has quite a few--and many, many places where I simply want to quote whole paragraphs. Marvelous, profound and so undeniably human. Thank you, Mr. Pratchett, for this book....more
I may have to pause my reading of this for a bit while I take a tour of a bundle of books that have a more urgent read time frame. But got to say whatI may have to pause my reading of this for a bit while I take a tour of a bundle of books that have a more urgent read time frame. But got to say what an awesome cover! It's been a while since I've been quite so delighted with an urban fantasy style cover and the depiction of the main character!
Update . . . disappointed. Had to give up after a few chapters in. What killed it for me was when the main protagonist needs to keep another character out of her room and explains it as "female issues" ugh....more
I'm back and forth about this one as a children's book. People die in horrific and vivid ways--other people are described as tortured in even more horI'm back and forth about this one as a children's book. People die in horrific and vivid ways--other people are described as tortured in even more horrific ways. The main character is 13, and some parts of this book are on target for that tween audience that loves Riordan's stuff. But I think this book may really cross a line. Unlike Riordan's stories that balance action and danger with humor, this book really doesn't have a sense of humor very often. It tries occasionally to do so, but I found it didn't work.
It's not a bad book, mind you. It's a very good stab at taking on the Hindu mythologies in an urban fantasy style adventure (complete with a reluctant chosen one). There's little enough out there that touches upon this brand of mythology, so it's fascinating to read in that regard.
Strangely enough, I've had Rakshasas come up twice in the last few days, since they feature prominently in an adult urban fantasy I just finished by Benedict Jacka. The next up and coming bogeyman? Hard to say . . ....more
In a world where a cataclysmic event triggered the arrival of the fae in Britain 100s of years prior, the country has done its level best to mitigateIn a world where a cataclysmic event triggered the arrival of the fae in Britain 100s of years prior, the country has done its level best to mitigate the damages of magic after winning the war against the fae folk by introducing mechanical, gear laden technology to their country and putting the fairies and goblins to work in factories, until they become just one more faction of British society. Our main protagonists are a young "changeling" (in this book meaning half fae, half human)boy and a young nobleman who just happens to find himself in a position to discover a plot against Britain and mankind in general.
This is an unusual offering in terms of middle grade fantasy. Steampunk is a fairly rare animal in this age range, as is urban fantasy of this kind. While I've seen many adult urban fantasies that feature some kind of cataclysmic event that have "brought magic back" or exiled the fae to the human world, or something similar, it's not a topic much covered in children's fantasy. I was excited and curious by the opportunity to read this, but after getting through the book, I find myself more than a little disappointed.
Firstly, this has been pegged as a middle grade read. While reading it, I kept questioning whether it really fit the bill for middle grade. The book assumes the reader has some familiarity with Britain and the British ruling system of the time period. It also spends long passages dealing with completely adult characters. Most noteworthy of these is Mr Jelliby, who is described as a bit of an unambitious mild man for whom the idea of becoming a hero is somewhat unpalatable. Yet he steps up to the challenge in this story. I just felt so much of the concerns in the tale were too adult. Not too mature, but just not things that most kids would find relevant. The violence is very gruesome at times, and our villains are not only unrepentant, but disturbingly dour. I think this would take a very high level reader who is a fan of steampunk and urban fantasy to appreciate the story.
Secondly, I still don't feel I know the characters. Our main protagonist, a boy who is half human, half fae. We know so little about him--what are his hopes and dreams? How has he survived all these years, why was he born at all? (Clearly his mother had been willing enough to have children with a fae father twice, but why does that father not live with them or help them?). Even though the boy is out to rescue his sister, we don't know either that well, and at first we really don't see the attachment he has to his sister. The other characters all seem drawn at a distance, we never really get to know any of them except, perhaps, for the rat-fairy. When I read a story it is important that I care enough about the characters to see them through the story events.
Thirdly, there are a lot of unexplained parts of this story that have me tugging at loose threads. How did the first fairy door happen that led to the fae being in Britain and why did it close again? Are the fae only in Britain or are they spread out world wide. Clearly, the fae must have been made citizens, if there are fairies on the council, but it's never made clear when and how this has happened. We don't know much about the culture of fae themselves. Do they live just like humans? Why do some of them seem to have so much magic left and others so little? Why would the government in particular have so little protection against magic working? The descriptions of fairies seems to indicate they really are very inhuman, yet they manage to have children with humans. I find this really odd, and not very well explained. Given the description of many of these creatures, it's difficult to think they could create a child by any means other than intentional magic. And if these children are intentional, why aren't they better cared for and protected in the city?
I don't know, there are a lot of issues I have with this. However, the world building is decent enough, and hopefully the characters can be improved given time in the next book. There is a lot of promise to the writing here and the author clearly has potential and imagination on his side. This book won't appeal to everyone, but may capture the imaginations of a smaller group of fans who will look forward to reading the further adventures of our characters. Certainly it takes a risk and tries something different, which is more than I can say for many fantasy books for children....more
This is one of those surprising books that didn't go quite as I expected. Most middle grade fantasy fic I'm familiar with tends to take place in a purThis is one of those surprising books that didn't go quite as I expected. Most middle grade fantasy fic I'm familiar with tends to take place in a purely fantasy world (often with castles and pseudo medieval settings) for instance The Star Shard or it takes place in a modern world where fantasy is unexpected but shows up like: Cold Cereal. But rarely have I seen this contemporary urban fantasy setting that is fairly common in adult fiction in stories for kids.
Emma and her parents have just moved away from her friends and her old life, coming to live in a trailer park that houses Crags--all sorts of odd mythological creatures who live in and around humanity, even in this modern age. Recently Emma's sister has disappeared and her father is caught up in a desperate search to find her. Emma wants to help too and when a talking cat named Jack offers to help her find her sister--she finds it's an offer she can't refuse. Even if Jack's offer comes with some strings, more than a little danger, and whole lot of trouble!
In the tradition of many adult urban fantasies where email and government regulations fit side by side with talking animals, fairies and legendary creatures, the authors have done some stellar world building. Emma is a likable heroine who comes across as real, able to act and make choices in her life without always listening to those around her. The cat Jack is likely charming, very much the rogue. I do believe we may be seeing more of both characters and the rest of their friends, allies and enemies in books to come.
Readers who have limited patience with talking critters may want to avoid this, but I think most young readers with a penchant for fantasy will be happy to find one that not only gives them magic and fabulous monsters, but does it in a contemporary styled setting. Very lively, enjoyable and read worthy!...more
I'll be the first to admit that I like a good superhero/super villain yarn. I'm rather tickled by stories taken out of graphic novel format and placedI'll be the first to admit that I like a good superhero/super villain yarn. I'm rather tickled by stories taken out of graphic novel format and placed in novel form that encapsulate elements of things like super powers.
That said, this book just didn't do it for me. The writing never really was compelling enough to pull me in, and I felt like we were kept at a distance from our characters, never knowing quite enough or feeling connected enough to actually care about any of them. Not to mention the plot sort of unwound for me really quickly.
I'm still unclear why the Vindico goes out of their way to kidnap kids rather than draw them in persuasively. Why, also do they build the secret base so near the home of one the kids, in a place that's bound to be on the League's list of areas to search? We don't really get a lot of the kids training, or their psychological shifts, or even a sense that they're growing up and coming into their own.
Some things in this book seemed to just put me off. Normally, I have no problem reading about nasty villains doing awful things, but somehow it just doesn't work here. A lot of the character motivations and decisions feel rather bizarre and unrelated to anything we've been told. And some stuff just really didn't fit for me. Having babyish Sam deal with arousal and infatuation emotions from some of the other boys, having Lara suddenly start finding the unpleasant and leering Hayden attractive--things like this just made me want to close the book.
I'm afraid this didn't work at all well for me. Perhaps it would appeal more to a specific YA audience....more