I have a lot of friends who love this series so I feel really bad that I didn't like this book at all, so bad I thought, "I could give it two stars. I...moreI have a lot of friends who love this series so I feel really bad that I didn't like this book at all, so bad I thought, "I could give it two stars. It wasn't that badly written." Yet one star means didn't like it and I didn't like. I have reasons:
1. Totally called it. I knew who the murderer was from the first scene that person was in and figured out the motive shortly after. Now that in and of itself is not enough to turn me off a book. If I believe the amount of time it takes the characters to figure it out makes sense, I'm good. And with Julia it did. There is no reason any of that should have been on her radar. I'm less impressed that Nicholas didn't even seem to flirt with the notion. He has seen more of the world and had more experience. Really, the thought should have crossed his mind. Which leads me to...
2. Nicholas is fairly useless as a character. He is supposed to be this great agent. He makes his living off of investigating things. He does absolutely no investigating in this book. All the important clues are stumbled on by Julia. He contributes an arsenic test and a few field trips to question some people-to no avail I might add. Most of the time he is "indisposed" or "out of town". What he does contribute is a perfect brooding stare, snarly dialogue directed toward Julia, and some obligatory I'm-too-sexy-for-my-shirt scenes. None of which endeared him to me. Also he's there to save Julia in the end when she needs him, which of course she does because...
3. Julia is not exactly possessed with an overabundance of critical thinking skills. Au contraire. The book kept telling me she was smart. All the people who knew her kept stating it. I kept waiting for evidence of it to show up. Example: She finds a crucial clue to the case in her own private study, in her own private book. She has a couple of days to ruminate on this before showing it to Nicholas. She is utterly shocked when he presents the notion that this means the murderer is most likely someone in her own household. She had days to think it over. This is only one example, there were other times I was blinking at Julia's inability for deep and nuanced thinking. But she must be intelligent because the author kept insisting on it. After all she had a great education because...
4. Julia's family believes in fully educating women. Is this a bad thing? No. They are also completely okay with people having same sex lovers, performing merciful abortions, and are loving and helpful to gypsies. They are open minded and accepting of all the things. Now if this were a contemporary series all this together would not be a problem but...THIS IS VICTORIAN ENGLAND. I will say the context in which these are included is believable for the time period. If ONE of them had been present, I would not have been skeptical. But all of them together? No. This is a 21st century family living in Victorian times.
5. Finally: Nicholas's big "secret". I really hated this element. Why? What on earth was the purpose of this really? It seemed it was just a convenient way to have him out of commission for half the novel and then able to rescue Julia in the end. Also so he could angst and have reason to talk himself away from Julia. Lame.
Needless to say I will not be reading any more of these. They are clearly not meant for me.(less)
Originally posted here at Random Musings of a Bibliophile.
When I read Newbery Honor book Three Times Lucky, I went in expecting not to like it due to...moreOriginally posted here at Random Musings of a Bibliophile.
When I read Newbery Honor book Three Times Lucky, I went in expecting not to like it due to my overwhelming dislike for quirky southern books, particularly ones that take place in the state I've lived the most years of my life. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it and it overcame almost all my qualms. It was with no hesitation at all that I picked up a copy of the follow up, The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing, at ALA Midwinter. It has all the charm of the first book and does it all even better.
The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing has so many aspects I look for in a good story: mystery, an old house to explore, old secrets, family history, friendship, and strong characters. Mo's voice, already the greatest strength of Three Times Lucky, is even stronger and more assured in this book, as though Turngage grew completely comfortable with her character and let her take completely over as she was writing. I appreciate how true to their age Mo, Dale, and all their classmates are. I recognize the kids I know in them. I further appreciate the friendship between Mo and Dale and how solid it is. As they are dealing with the fall out of the events in the last book, particularly Dale's father being in jail, this is brought out fully. Mo and her big mouth make all sorts of mistakes, but Dale forgives her (eventually). Mo is learning too, which is always a wonderful aspect of characterization to see. She actually realizes when she has gone too far sometimes, and even manages to hold herself back at points. The kids relationships with the adults in the community are highlighted well too. They are working on a history project where they have to interview an older member of the community and this brings in history, but also demonstrates the importance of these generational relationships and knowing your own story. I like how Mo firmly feels a part of this community and family created around her. She still writes to her upstream mother, and she still has moments she wonders about where she comes from, but mostly she is living where she is. Harm is a new student and character introduced in this book. I throughly enjoyed the addition he made to the Mo/Dale dynamic, how he changed it. It was an interesting look at how jumping to conclusions about a person is an injustice, and how friendships can grow and change to incorporate new people and relationship dynamics.
The mystery aspect of this story fascinated more in than in the last too. As a kid, I loved stories that explored the past of a certain place and how it connected with current characters lives. I still love those stories as an adult, and this one is executed well. It focuses mostly on the kids and their immediate problems, and the mystery itself focuses on children. The ghost is the same age as the characters making it infinitely interesting to readers. As an adult reader, I would not have minded if the ghosts in the title had been completely metaphorical, but I know my students would not agree. If they are promised a ghost, they want a ghost. And Turnage delivers a wonderful ghost, complete with chilling disembodied laughter, freezing spells, flickering lights, slamming doors, and visions of scenes past. Yet the story isn't creepy so even sensitive readers can enjoy it. It is full of humor and the charm that is Mo herself. The imagery is perfect. Descriptions are short and snappy yet full of wonderful similes that readers will understand, be able to picture perfectly, and find amusing. The writing is jus top notch.
I can't wait to book talk it. I have so many pages marked with passages that I love and that will be sure to capture interest.
I read an ARC received from the publisher, Kathy Dawson Books, at ALA Midwinter. The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing will be in stores on February 4th.(less)
Originally posted here at Random Musings of a Bibliophile.
I'm going to admit it. I wasn't the biggest fan of the Bartimaeus books. I didn't actually f...moreOriginally posted here at Random Musings of a Bibliophile.
I'm going to admit it. I wasn't the biggest fan of the Bartimaeus books. I didn't actually finish the series. I hated it because I wanted to love them. So it was with a little trepidation that I requested a galley of the first book in Jonathan Stroud's newest series entitled Lockwood & Co. This time, I'm pleased to say, I wasn't at all disappointed and loved everything about The Screaming Staircase.
The book is told from the perspective of Lucy, a brave bold girl whose particular talent lies in hearing and feeling ghosts. After a tragic incident at her former job she sets off to find a new one. Lucy is a wonderful vehicle for the story as she is the newest employee of Lockwood & Co. and she has a greater sense of what the supernatural forces they face are feeling because of her talent. She is often impatient and doesn't always think her actions through all the way. Lockwood is the brilliant young leader of the band. His wit and charm tend to pull people toward him, Lucy included. She joins his agency despite the lack of adult supervisors and buys into his belief that they can and will be the best there is. This doesn't mean she can't see his faults though. Lockwood is brilliant, snarky, a great strategist, and a massive risk taker. There is something a bit Sherlockian about him. I loved him beyond all measure. There is also a mystery surrounding him involving a locked room in his house and the truth behind his dead parents. Other characters hint at things that just make you want to know as much as possible. Seeing him through Lucy's eyes makes him even more enigmatic, causing the reader to be drawn in by the force of his personality as much as Lucy and George are. George is the third member of the team. He is the cautious one. He lives for research and organizing things. The three of them together have all the essential components of a brilliant team if they could just work together properly. The story of this book is about them doing just that as much as it is about the mystery and the ghosts.
I love a good mystery and if you add in some creepy but not too terrifying supernatural elements I'm even more on board. Stroud builds his story piece by piece. The famed Screaming Staircase of the title is not even mentioned until well into the book. The story opens while Lucy and Lockwood are on another job. The reader learns all of the elements of the work involved in dealing with "the Problem". Since children are the ones best as sensing the spirits, the most dangerous work falls to them in this world. The job Lucy and Lockwood are working goes horribly wrong on several levels. There is then a flashback to how they came to work together and then a return to the fallout of the messed up job. All of this ties together brilliantly. There is so much action that despite the length of these sections the story doesn't drag or feel too heavy. A lot of this is due to the characterization. I will gladly read about Lucy, Lockwood, and George doing pretty much anything together now. I adore all three of them. A story that shows them working through their team work difficulties, fighting for their lives, solving a mystery decades old, and facing a night in the most sinister haunted house in existence is mesmerizing. I could not put this book down and read it one afternoon. I immediately wanted more. I hope we will be getting book two sooner rather than later.
I read an e-galley made available by the publisher, Disney Hyperion, via NetGalley. The Screaming Staircase is available for purchase now. (less)
I really enjoyed this book at first. It is a classic who-done-it mystery in which there are multiple suspects and no real clear evidence. Yet the bodi...moreI really enjoyed this book at first. It is a classic who-done-it mystery in which there are multiple suspects and no real clear evidence. Yet the bodies keep piling up. I loved the portrayal of small British village life. I was thoroughly enjoying the character of Richard Jury and thinking this would be a book (and series) I could really get into do despite the sometimes overwrought use of figurative language. (Seriously, the similes in this are way over the top.)
There is insta-love. The hero takes one look at a girl and decides he is madly in love with her. Never mind that she can actually be considered a suspect. Never mind that she is known to be close to two other people who are also suspects. No. He is in love. And why? I couldn't really tell since the girl hadn't spoken a word when he decided this, but it is implied she in some way reminded him of a former lover. Nice. Jury immediately gets all grumbly and jealous over her interactions with other men. My liking for his character dwindled fast. The overwrought similes in the writing became more annoying when tied up with this, and the last half of the book left a bad taste in my mouth as a result. Sigh. I so wanted to like this one. (less)
I really enjoyed Enola. The book is a first person narrative from her point of view. At the beginning she is scared and...moreReview originally posted here.
I really enjoyed Enola. The book is a first person narrative from her point of view. At the beginning she is scared and uncertain. However, she proves to have a brilliant mind capable of strategy and great deception. She learns a lot about life and human nature over the course of this one book and, because she is observant and processes information quickly, she is able to adjust herself accordingly and quickly. She is a girl who fights when she has to but mostly uses her wits to see her through. The book's supporting characters are also well written. Even the missing marquess, who is in the book very little, is given surprising depth (I really hope he shows up again in later volumes). I very much enjoyed the portrayal of Sherlock as well.
The first half of the book covers the mystery of Enola's missing mother and helps the reader to become acquainted with Enola and the world in which she lives. The other half of the book is more of an adventure story involving Enola's escape from the dooms of finishing school and her entanglement with the missing marquess. The whole thing is interesting, paced well and Enola's observations on life make for humorous and quick reading.
Nancy Springer did a wonderful job describing Victorian England. From the docks and slums of London's East End to the ridiculous practices of the upper class, this book has it covered. There is not a shiny gloss put over anything here. The prostitution, poverty and lawlessness of the East End are mentioned. There is an allusion in the prologue to the work of Jack the Ripper (the book takes place in 1888). The type of clothes women of the upper class had to wear and the restrictions put on girls of this time are well detailed. The popular view of women as witless and fragile is espoused by Sherlock and his brother several times. Enola's father was a rationalist and Darwin is mentioned as one of his favorite writers. Enola's mother is active in the struggling movement for women's suffrage. Pretty much every angle and aspect of Victorian society is given a nod to in this book and it is done without ever being didactic.
This book is marketed for middle grade readers but is enjoyable for any age. Teen and adult readers will enjoy it as well, especially if they like the mystery genre and are familiar with the character of Sherlock Holmes. Advanced younger readers will probably enjoy the mystery and adventure elements, but a lot of the rest of it will probably go over their heads. There are intense moments when Enola is held captive some younger readers might find scary.
I am very much looking forward to reading the other books in the series.(less)
Strong Poison is a book that is mystery, romance, philosophy and social commentary combined in a very interesting and funny story. This is the third b...moreStrong Poison is a book that is mystery, romance, philosophy and social commentary combined in a very interesting and funny story. This is the third book of Dorothy Sayers I have read and now I know why so many people claim she was a genius.
Lord Peter Wimsey is in a hurry to figure out who murdered a little known writer before the wrong person is convicted and hanged. The police are convinced he was murdered by his former lover, Harriet Vane, who is a mystery writer. When her first trial ends with the jury being unable to reach an agreement Lord Peter steps up to help find proof of the defendant's innocence. He only has a month before the new trial begins and normally that would challenge him. But this time he is not interested in the challenge so much as the outcome because he has fallen in love with Harriet.
It was interesting to watch Peter, who is normally so in control and cool, lose it a little in this story. Also for someone who always knows what to say he totally puts his foot in it the first time he meets Harriet. All of thier interactions in this book were hilarious.
I read Gaudy Night first, not realizing it was part of a sequence and while it did not hurt my enjoyment of this book I wish I could have experienced reading them in order (less)
Watery Grave takes a place a little over a year after Murder ends. Jeremy is now a settled member of the Fielding...moreFrom a review originally posted here.
Watery Grave takes a place a little over a year after Murder ends. Jeremy is now a settled member of the Fielding home. Sir John has remarried and the new Lady Fielding is welcoming home her son, Tom, who has been aboard ship in the Navy for the past three years. The ship he crews has come into port with a scandal and an old Admiral friend of Sir John's asks him to help in the investigation. The Captain of the ship went overboard during a storm and the First Lieutenant, now acting Captain, has accused the Second Lieutenant of pushing him over. The crew is not too happy about this as they far prefer the Second Lieutenant to the First. In the course of his investigation Sir John uncovers the nastier side of His Majesty's Navy.
This is a really sad story. There is a lot of disillusionment experienced by the characters and the end was a bit depressing. I liked this realistic aspect and thought the author concluded it well. Jeremy's character is starting to grate on me a little now though. He is not so naive as he was in the previous two but he still seems far more innocent that a boy of 14 who lived in Covent Garden and worked daily at the Bow Street Magistrate would be. Maybe I am cynical though. As a word of warning for any who might be sensitive, this book has a lot of discussion about sex. Jeremy is, as I said, a 14 year old boy who talks to other teenage boys. The subject comes up. Sex is also a major component in what is uncovered in the investigation and a good many characters who turn up in this one are sailors on leave. So it's there more than a bit in the plot but not described at all. Some of the conversations are actually quite amusing.(less)
From first reading the premise of this book I wanted to read it. It is an interesting concept, having a character go thr...moreReview originally posted here.
From first reading the premise of this book I wanted to read it. It is an interesting concept, having a character go through finding out their life is a lie. Even though there is nothing new about it, it is a fascinating idea. I began reading expecting to get an interesting story about a girl having to cope and change after learning a devastating truth. I had no idea I was in for a story with so much political intrigue and mystery. Imagine my delight to discover that I was. I love stories like this, that require unraveling, characters looking for clues, fitting pieces of a puzzle together to see the whole picture. Add in convoluted court politics and magic and I'm a happy girl. The final third of the book is action packed with many tense moments.
It is still a character story as well. The first part of the book is about a girl devastated, discovering herself, finding where she belongs, struggling with who she might be.
I liked Sinda from the beginning. Her world is decimated by the news of her birth. Her emotions are in turmoil, but she still thinks. And chooses her reactions after she thinks. She is sensible. There are times when this trait abandons her. There are a couple of times when she really should have listened to Kiernan (her best friend). But overall, I liked how she wasn't a battering ram, no matter how many times others accused her of being so. She simply chose her battles.
I would have liked Kiernan's character to have been fleshed out more. He is a good partner and foil for Sind as he is. He's the quintessential boy next door/good guy character. I feel there was a depth to him though that was almost there but not quite.
If you enjoy fantasies that involve politics, magic, mystery and adventure this is very enjoyable. It is YA but is one that I could definitely see anyone with the ability to read it, no matter the age, enjoying. (less)
To be fair if younger me had read this, it may have blown my mind. Older me has too much experience with psychological thrillers and genre tropes of s...moreTo be fair if younger me had read this, it may have blown my mind. Older me has too much experience with psychological thrillers and genre tropes of such so I had the entire thing figured out by the end of the first chapter. ENTIRELY. Even the author's attempts at misdirection didn't shake my confidence that I was right. And I was. I do think that this is a failure on the part of the writer to craft his story with the proper amount of suspense. Also, I don't like be bashed over the head with symbolism. I don't enjoy it when writers condescend to their readers as though they are not smart enough to grasp thematic elements and symbolism without the author's help. So that annoyed me too. The plot is certainly full of intrigue, paced well, and has many edge-of-your-seat moments. This is clearly Dekker's strength as a writer, though I was rolling my eyes at how safe and sanitized it all was.
I may have been able to give this three stars if I hadn't been so enraged by the last couple of pages and the character of Jennifer. I could not believe the choices she was making and where Dekker implied all of that was going. Talk about having a female character who exists only in relation to what she can do for the male lead. (less)
Busman's Honeymoon picks up the story of Peter and Harriet on the day of their wedding. There are several amusing, and sometimes sweet, letters and jo...moreBusman's Honeymoon picks up the story of Peter and Harriet on the day of their wedding. There are several amusing, and sometimes sweet, letters and journal entries at the beginning that fill in the details of the time that has elapsed from the end of Gaudy Night to the big day. Peter and Harriet leave for their honeymoon at a house they have purchased near where Harriet lived as a child. The first day there one catastrophe after another occurs, culminating with the discovery of the former owner dead in the cellar. So of course, Peter and Harriet have to spend their honeymoon working, hence the title.
The book is, of course, brilliant. Like Sayers other Lord Peter books it is not the mystery aspect of the novel that makes it wonderful but the keen insight into humanity, the philosophy and the tackling of weightier issues that pushes it into the brilliant category.
Gaudy Night allowed us to see Harriet come to terms with her demons and, with Peter's help, overcome them. In Busman's Honeymoon it is Peter facing his demons and he has Harriet to help him this time around. The book paints a startling picture of a mind haunted by the things it has witnessed, the war it survived and the struggle it constantly undergoes to balance responsibility, honor and a massive guilt complex. Unlike all of the times Peter simply ran away and into himself, this time there is another person to factor in to his decisions and actions. This and the tension that is created by the situation as Peter and Harriet (and Bunter too) adjust to the new reality and revelations marriage brings about is the center of the story. The mystery acts as a catalyst that brings all of this to a head.
Peter and Harriet are one of my favorite literary couples and I am grateful to Sayers for rendering such a beautiful and complex love story. (less)
From looking at the cover you might come to the conclusion that those kids are creepy an bizarre. They are not creepy, b...moreReview originally posted here.
From looking at the cover you might come to the conclusion that those kids are creepy an bizarre. They are not creepy, but they are a bit bizarre. Otto doesn't speak (by choice), Lucia is uncomfortably forthright and Max is super smart and likes to sit on the roof. This is their story and I have a great love for books about siblings who adventure, suffer, and succeed together so I was expecting to like the Hardscrabbles. I was not expecting them to earn a place in my heart next to the Bastables, Pevensies, and Penderwicks, but they have.
The adventures of the Hardscabble children will captivate young readers. What child doesn't love the idea of being on their own in a big city? Or living in a miniature version of a castle complete with its own carousel? Or finding and exploring a secret passageway? Or brilliantly outwitting all the grownups? These kids argue and fuss with each other like any other group of siblings. There are characteristics in them all kids could identify with, but at the same time they are so different, and having such a strange adventure that their story is engrossing. It is the perfect combination.
I really enjoyed the style of the writing here as well. From the beginning it pulls you in: "There were three of them. Otto was the oldest, and the oddest. Then there was Lucia, who wished something interesting would happen. Last of all was Max, who always thought he knew better. They lived in a small town in England called Little Tunks. There is no Big Tunks. One Tunks was more than enough for everyone."
This is one of those books where the story is told in third person by a first person narrator who provides commentary for the reader. Normally that type of narration drives me nuts, but it worked for me in this book, probably because the narrator is one of the children and not some unknown supercilious adult. The narrator's identity is meant to be secret, as this is the story of all three children and not just one. The narrator, not necessarily agreeing with this edict, gives the reader plenty of information to make an accurate identification. I absolutely love the narrator's wit, such as: "They hooted and laughed and staggered around like a pack of drunken idiots as the Hardscrabbles walked by. If I ever become like this when I am a teenager, I hope someone smothers me in my sleep." and "Here is my most important message to you: All great adventures have moments that are really crap."
The ending is a bit rushed, which I'm noticing a lot in books lately. It is described in the book as bittersweet and I think young readers would agree. As a mother, I found it to be really really sad. Don't worry, everyone, including the cat, is alive and well in the end. Happy even.
If you know a kid who loves adventure, humor, and mystery then put this book in their hands. If you are a lover of those things yourself, you should read it too. (less)
I was worried after readingThe Case of the Peculiar Pink Fanthat the series may have lost some of its quality as it continued. It only took reading th...moreI was worried after readingThe Case of the Peculiar Pink Fanthat the series may have lost some of its quality as it continued. It only took reading the prologue of this one for me to say, " Ah, now that's more like it." This book is my favorite in the series after the original. Not only do we have more delightful encounters, or near encounters, between Enola and Sherlock but there is also the added presence of Florence Nightingale as a character. Ms. Springer does a delightful job of again accurately displaying history but also giving her own twist to the motivations of a well known figure in history. (She does include a very brief end note explaining what is true and what is fabricated.) The mystery in this one is tied up in the work of Florence Nightingale during the Crimean War and gives the reader a graphic picture of what life was like for those who fought it and the people who cared for them.(less)
Sir John Fielding was the half brother of British novelist, Henry Fielding. Together they started the first London police force known as the Bow Stree...moreSir John Fielding was the half brother of British novelist, Henry Fielding. Together they started the first London police force known as the Bow Street Runners. After Henry's death, John took over as the Bow Street Magistrate. His ability to discern truth and learn the facts of crimes was extraordinary given that he was blinded in an accident in the Navy when he was 19. Bruce Alexander wrote 11 fiction novels in which the historical figure of Sir John is the protagonist. Blind Justice is the first volume of the series. I am looking forward to reading the others as well.
The narrator of the story is a 13 year old by the name of Jeremy Proctor who finds himself standing before the famous magistrate after he is accused of a theft he didn't commit. Sir John dismisses the charges against Jeremy but at the same time brings him under the custody of the court. While trying to sort out Jeremy's future Sir John is called to investigate a death. In the course of gathering information the extremely observant Jeremy proves useful as a pair of eyes for Sir John when needed and helps during the rest of the investigation.
The mystery is an interesting puzzle though not tricky or surprising. The plot unfolded in a way that was never boring. The characters are memorable, some for being rather stereotypical of the time period. The two things that made the book a great read for me were the historical integrity of the novel and Jeremy's voice.
Georgian London is represented in all its glory and grit from the upper class to the Covent Garden prostitutes and everything in between. The job the Magistrate and the Bow Street Runners had before them is shown clearly through the eyes of the innocent country boy Jeremy. The historical figures who make appearances in the novel are not trifled with. They remain true to the historical accounts of their lives with no embellishment. This is true of the ones who are merely small players and of Sir John, who is the main protagonist. I found the book to be a clear window on what life in London at the time was like.
Jeremy is a newcomer to London so seeing the world through his eyes allows even those not well versed in London history to gain a clear picture of what it was like. The novel is written very much in the style of the times so it reads like something Henry Fielding himself might have written. Jeremy's story reads genuine as a result. I found this made it easier to get caught up in the time period even more. I also enjoyed Jeremy's observations on the world around him and is innocent obliviousness to many things was amusing.(less)
Murder in Grub Street picks up just a few weeks after Blind Justice ends. Mourning the death of his wife, Sir Joh...moreFrom a review originally posted here.
Murder in Grub Street picks up just a few weeks after Blind Justice ends. Mourning the death of his wife, Sir John has arranged for Jeremy to have an apprenticeship in a printer's shop. The night before Jeremy is supposed to start the family and two young apprentices are savagely murdered with axes in their beds. A man, apparently crazed, was found at the scene axe in hand. He is apprehended but Sir John chooses to send him to Bedlam rather than bind him over for trial immediately when he acts as though he is someone else speaking for himself. Things are further complicated for Sir John and Jeremy when a new group of religious zealots determined to convert all the Jews make their presence known in Covent Garden.
Again, I enjoyed the way this novel depicted Georgian London and the way it is written in the language of the time. The plot was fast paced and interesting. I felt a couple of scenes were a bit unbelievable, but overall the story was engrossing. One thing I really liked about the first novel was Jeremy's voice and how he showed us this city through the innocent wide eyes of a country boy newly arrived. This continues in this novel although there were times when his innocence seemed a bit disingenuous.(less)
Any time I find a fantasy that does something new and different I am excited. When the new and different is also done well and...moreOriginally posted here.
Any time I find a fantasy that does something new and different I am excited. When the new and different is also done well and is an engrossing read, it is even better. I found such a book with The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson. I am the first to say that this won't be a read everyone will enjoy, but I sure did.
Chalk drawings: who would have thought they could be used in such a way? In The Rithmatist Sanderson has created a world in which chalk drawings can be brought to life and used for nefarious purposes. Like eating a person until all that is left is a mangled messy corpse. A concept like that could have turned quickly into the ridiculous, but Sanderson's writing keeps that from happening. This book is a page turner filled with mystery, intrigue, and a quest to find a killer whose weapon is CHALK. (I'm still not over the creativity of that.) There is a definite creepy element to the chalklings, but the true horror in this book comes from the feelings of fear and panic the people trapped by them experience. Sanderson brings his characters to vivid life and describes what they are going through in a way that the reader feels s they do.
I adored Joel. He is focused, brave, intelligent, and a complete nerd. He loves Rithmatics and dedicates all of his free time to studying theories and defense moves. He is not a Rithmatist himself, but longs to be one. Unfortunately he was not chosen so must watch the Rithmatists from a distance and help in any way he can. Fortunately, a Rithmatic professor at his school takes an interest in him and brings him on as a research assistant in the case he is investigating. During this time Joel befriends Melody, a Rhithmatist who needs remedial attention. Her chalkings have amazing abilities, but her defense circles are weak. Together these two make a fantastic team. They are brilliant foils for each other and their friendship developed in exactly the perfect way. Melody is a bit odd and her favorite chalklings to draw are unicorns. I loved that about her.
The chalk drawing involves a lot of math and theory and Sanderson goes into a lot of detail about this, which is why this may not be the best book to hand just any reader. But for readers who enjoy puzzles and strategy games, it is a perfect fit. I was riveted from beginning to end and can not wait to read the next book in the series. (less)
Rosemary Sutcliff's work had been recommended to me by several different sources. I am grateful to all for introducing me to this wonderful author. I...moreRosemary Sutcliff's work had been recommended to me by several different sources. I am grateful to all for introducing me to this wonderful author. I hate that I have been missing out all these years.
The Eagle of the Ninth is historical fiction set in England during the Roman occupation. It is the story of a young Roman soldier stationed there whose career with the legions is brought to an abrupt end. Looking for a purpose to fulfill him afterwards he goes on a mission that takes him from southern England to the north of Scotland to find the Eagle lost by the missing legion his father commanded and discover the truth about what happened to them.
The language of the book is beautiful and it would make a great read aloud. The history is well researched, the characters fully developed and the plot engrossing. While this book technically falls into children/YA category it is equally engaging for adults to read. (less)
I have been torn about reading Death Cloud by Andrew Lane for some time. On the one hand, it is about a teenage Sherlock Holmes...moreOriginally posted here.
I have been torn about reading Death Cloud by Andrew Lane for some time. On the one hand, it is about a teenage Sherlock Holmes. On the other hand, the cover is highly mockable. I wouldn't be caught in public with this book sort of mockable. It makes it difficult to take the contents seriously. Then I saw a favorable review from a friend on Goodreads and decided to overcome my being content with chortling over the cover (the UK cover is so much better). I'm glad I did because this is an excellent example of YA historical fiction, a true honoring of the original character, and a fun mystery adventure story.
Sherlock Holmes is such an iconic character that I have to admire those who take him on and do it well. Andrew Lane has done it well. In this story you see the beginnings of the man who will be the great detective and the influences that formed him. I really really liked young Sherlock. He has a keen and intelligent mind but it is not fully trained. For that he has an excellent tutor who forces him to question, observe, think before judging. In his tutor's lessons fans of the original stories can see much of the tactics employed by Holmes, the detective. At the same time this young version of Sherlock is realistically young. He is insecure and unsure of himself. As someone who has read most of the original stories I enjoyed most of the hints of things to come. At the same time I can see a person who had never read those stories finding enjoyment in this developing character as well, even if they don't know to what it is all leading. This made me a little sad: Laudanum. Remembering the strange dreams that he'd had after he had been drugged, while he was being taken to France, Sherlock felt a twinge of-what? Melancholy, perhaps. Wistfulness. Surely not...longing? Whatever the feeling was, he pushed it away. He'd heard stories about people becoming dependent on the effects produced by laudanum, and he had no desire to go down that route. None at all. Poor Sherlock. I have to confess I did miss the presence of Watson. I don't know that I had realized how full of an impression he makes on the stories before, but not having him there made me notice. Sherlock does have two other friendly sidekicks, one of which is a lovely girl who Sherlock most definitely has more than friendly feelings towards.
All in all this book is good fun whether your a fan of the iconic detective or just interested in mystery set in Victorian England. This is the beginning of the series. There are currently four books out in the UK (with lovely intriguing covers). The second book will be released in the US in April under the altered title, Rebel Fire(can we please get better covers here?).(less)
This is a fun MG mystery. Fast paced from the beginning, Kittscher has woven together a tale of intrigue and danger where the kids get to save the day...moreThis is a fun MG mystery. Fast paced from the beginning, Kittscher has woven together a tale of intrigue and danger where the kids get to save the day. It is one of those books that MG readers who like mysteries will love. The mom-reader in my was side-eyeing it through a good deal though because I don't like it when kids take risks I can realistically see my own thinking would be awesome. (less)
A lot of my negative reaction to this book is because I am well and truly tired of the whole "kid is abandoned by parent...moreReview originally posted here.
A lot of my negative reaction to this book is because I am well and truly tired of the whole "kid is abandoned by parent(s) with obscure little known relatives and has to be brave and learn something" story. So why did I read this? Hope that eventually someone has to subvert the trope. Hope that the mystery would be mysterious and intriguing. Hope for a good examination of British/American relations and thoughts in 1941. This book is sadly lacking in all of these.
Despite what the synopsis implies Felicity is nothing like Mary Lennox. Felicity is a hard character to like and almost impossible to empathize with. She is twelve and still talks about her teddy bear as if he were a living being. She doesn't cry into him at night whispering her secrets wishing he were real, she talks like he actually is real. Which is why I think this book would be tough for anyone over the age of 10 to take seriously. And even 8-10 year olds might find their credulity being stretched. Felicity has issues, no doubt. Her parents often left her on her own to go and do their own thing. Her grandmother claims this is the reason she is immature. I think she has issues that go beyond immaturity that more than cracking a spy code and finding a crush will fix, but this book is not that deep so the mystery and the boy do the trick here.
But what annoyed me the most was the book's REVELATION, which I saw coming from the first chapter, but a child reader wouldn't. That is not what bothers me about the revelation, it's what follows. (view spoiler)[It turns out that Felicity's father is actually her uncle and her Uncle Gideon is actually her father. Felicity's mother was married for a few months to Gideon, left him and took with his brother, and then realized she was pregnant. So Felicity grew up thinking her uncle was her dad. Gideon reveals this to Felicity by the request of her mother toward the end of the book. You would think that this would create some interesting scenes. Felicity has to feel something genuinely human right? Anger. Betrayal. Distrust. Horror. Anguish. Disgust. Sadness. ANYTHING. But this is what we get: "Perhaps it was something like wearing new shoes or having a completely new way of fixing your hair or having a new name or going to a new school or looking in the mirror and having a completely different air about you." Ummm...no actually. It is not like any of those things. She doesn't like Gideon in the beginning of the book because she senses he doesn't like her father. She finds out this massively scandalous (it is 1941) reason why and compares it to a new hairstyle????? The passage does continue: "Everything was changed. And I needed to time to let it all sift through me like beach sand as it falls through your fingers when you try to hold in in your hand." Ugh, the similes. But more than that we are not given any idea what is sifting or how it is being sifted. We are shown absolutely no emotion at all from Felicity. She shares the news with Derek (the crush) who was an abandoned child taken into the family when he was one and given the same birthday as Felicity to celebrate. His reaction: "I always felt I was a stand-in, a replacement for somebody or something, and now I see, Flissy, it was you. It was you I was standing in for. That's why we have the same birthday. That's why and how I came to live here. And it was a lucky thing for me, you know that?" Most people would have at least a little trouble with the concept that they were a replacement for someone who no longer needed replacing. (hide spoiler)]
The emotional vapidity of the novel made it impossible for me to enjoy. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
In order to have a solitary holiday with no mail or phones Harriet sets out on a walking tour of the coast. One day after lunch and a nap she comes a...more In order to have a solitary holiday with no mail or phones Harriet sets out on a walking tour of the coast. One day after lunch and a nap she comes across a corpse on a rock. It is the body of a young man and his throat has been slit. Knowing that the tide will come in soon and wash the body away Harriet does some investigating, finds the razor used and takes pictures of the body to give to the police. When she finally is able to reach a phone she calls the police and then the press, thinking that she should try to control the media story as much as possible. The next day Peter, who was notified by his reporter friend, arrives at her hotel in Wilvercombe to help in sorting out crime, be it murder or suicide.
This is definitely my least favorite of the quartet of books with Harriet in them. It is loooong and the mystery is a complex puzzle. I felt that part dragged a bit. However, as far as the development of Peter and Harriet go it was a good read.(less)
Originally poste here at Random Musings of a Bibliophile.
The Wizard of Dark Street by Shawn Thomas Odyssey has been on my TBR since it came out. Sadly...moreOriginally poste here at Random Musings of a Bibliophile.
The Wizard of Dark Street by Shawn Thomas Odyssey has been on my TBR since it came out. Sadly, other things keep coming up. When its sequel, The Magician's Tower, was nominated for the Cybils I decided to go ahead and give it a try anyway. At least I would know if it could stand on its own. It can and it is such a fun story I am now looking forward to reading its predecessor even more. (Come January.)
I adore a good fun mystery, and that is what The Magician's Tower is first and foremost. It is also an adventure full of riddles and, of course, a fantasy. All things prepared to make me have quite a bit of fun with a book. And did I ever have fun reading this one. The competition is set up in an interesting manner and watching as Oona attempts the feats and tries to solve more than one mystery at the same time is thrilling.
Oona is a wonderful main character. She is persistent, brave, clever, and also possessing of a remarkable amount of common sense. And when her common sense fails her she has a talking pet raven to remind her when its gone missing. I thoroughly enjoyed the interactions between these two characters. Oona's rival in the competition, Isadora, is a bit over the top, but that is what makes her character fun and a perfect foil. She was frightfully annoying, as she is intended to be. Oona's cursh on Adler is sweet and perfectly described for the intended age group. I quite liked the villain as well, and was pleasantly surprised to find that I was not able to figure every piece of this mystery out before the reveal.
I enjoyed the mixture of genres and am delighted to have found another book and series I know I can get my students, many of whom also love both these things, interested in. (less)
Originally posted here at Random Musings of a Bibliophile.
Rose by Holly Webb is a book I may have missed out on entirely if it had not been nominated...moreOriginally posted here at Random Musings of a Bibliophile.
Rose by Holly Webb is a book I may have missed out on entirely if it had not been nominated for the Cybils and that would have been tragic. This book has so many elements I love to find in a fantasy story and Webb brings them all together so well.
Rose is wonderful. I love how simple and practical she is. All she wants is to earn a decent living and be proud of the work she does to earn it. When she begins to show signs that she has the ability to do magic, she wants no part of it. She just wants to be a regular girl. She is a courageous and righteous though, and when children begin disappearing and she is required to use her magic to solve the mystery she jumps at the chance. Rose has an equally wonderful supporting cast backing her up, from the rest of the household servants to her master's snooty apprentice and spoiled brat daughter. She even has the help of a magical cat named Gus, who is one of the best talking animal characters ever. I am impressed by how well Webb drew all these characters. I felt like each had a distinct personality and I really knew them. It is not easy to do that in the space of a short book with such a full plot, but she did it.
The story is delightful in every way. Taking place in an alternate Victorian England, the book includes the orphan with special abilities, a magical mystery, and a truly awful villain. I enjoyed that Rose was not plucked from the orphanage because of her magic. I like that she was chosen because her "special" talent was hard work. Lucky for her she ended up in the household of the King's most trusted alchemist so she is able to learn about her powers more. The villain's goal is not a surprising one, but the methods employed to achieve it are not for the easily sickened or grossed out. I enjoyed the real sense of danger this added to the story. It kept it from being too sweet, and made the stakes higher.
This is not a long book and the language is such that readers at the younger end of the MG audience will enjoy it, and it works well for older readers too. It certainly worked perfectly for this one. (less)
Icefall by Matthew J. Kirby is a book I have had my eye on for a while. It is excellent historical fiction full of mystery, tre...moreOriginally posted here.
Icefall by Matthew J. Kirby is a book I have had my eye on for a while. It is excellent historical fiction full of mystery, treachery, and deceit with Vikings and berserkers. I love when books are set in different times and places we don't have an overabundance of books about. So much the better when they are as well written as this one.
Solveig suffers from middle child syndrome in the worst kind of way. Her older sister is beautiful and valuable to their father in the marriage she may make. Her younger brother is the heir. She is plain, unhelpful, and unnoticed. As the story moves on Solveig comes to see she has valuable strengths that she can use to carve a place in the world for herself. I love stories like this, where the character embraces who they are and uses that rather than trying to become something they are not. I loved how Solveig came to see herself as worthy and began to care less about how others saw her. She is brave, smart, and talented and uses all of these to save her companions from the treachery they are facing. I enjoyed the sibling dynamic of the story as well and thought it played out very realistically.
I particularly enjoyed the way the setting reflected Solvieg's feelings and mood. The frozen cold of winter, the thawing, the breaking, and renewal. This parallel was subtle and done very well. The language is wonderfully descriptive:
I sit down. I don't want t o cry anymore, so I keep my thoughts away from Hilda and listen to the ice. It speaks to me of scouring winds, of cloudless nights, of endless cold. It measures its loneliness by the weight of its layers, the years and years of snow falling unobserved. I've been told its lament is the loudest at the beginning of winter and the coming of summer, as if it knows that is the closest it will ever come to warmth and thaw. As if it yearns for its own demise. But it can will be only what it is, bleak and alone, until the breaking of the world.
This language could have been too much and overdone but Kirby uses it sparingly. The result is that when he does it packs a punch and drives a point home.
The mystery was not a terribly difficult one to unravel (though it will be harder for a young reader) but I did enjoy watching the interactions between the people as it all unfolded.
Icefall was a finalist for this year's Cybil Awards in the category of MG science fiction and fantasy. I feel like calling this a fantasy is a bit of false advertising. It is fantasy in the same type of way one might classify Holes by Lois Sachar or Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta as fantasy. Which is to say I wouldn't. I'm clearly in the minority on this but I believe it is more accurately labeled as simple historical fiction. Of course it is also a mystery as its recent Edgar Award proves.
Nitpicky genre discussions aside, this is a book that will appeal to any who like stories with brave protagonists, mystery, action, and adventure.(less)
I really enjoy Tom Angleberger's Origami Yoda books. That being the case, he is now an author whose books I'm on the lookout for. I was fairly excited when my library attained copies of Horton Halfpott or The Fiendish Mystery of Smugwick Manor or The Loosenin og M'Lady Luttertuck's Corset. It is written by Tom Angleberger and involves life at an English manor house.
There are so many exciting things in this book-a Stolen Diamond, snooping stable boys, a famous detective, the disappearance of a Valuable Wig, love, pickle eclairs, unbridled Evil, and the Black Deeds of the Shipless Pirates-that it really does seem a shame to begin with ladies underwear.
But the underwear, you see, is the reason that all those Unprecedented Marvels happened-with the possible exception of the pickle eclairs.
And yes, the book is about all those things, but most importantly it is about a boy named Horton Halfpott. Horton is a downtrodden servant. His family was once more affluent, but they have been brought low by his father's illness. So he is a kitchen boy. A good, upright, honorable and true kitchen boy who develops an affection for a girl beyond his means he knows he can never have. He is positively Dickensian. In fact, this book reads as a Dickens novel might if it were written by...well, Tom Angleberger. (Whose head, I'm convinced, would be a most fascinating one to peek into.)
The story has one of those plots that pops around a lot showing what several people are up to all at once, not leaving room for much character development. There is quite a bit of the zany and ridiculous. It mostly works because of Angleberger's talent for wording delightful sentences and because it's so understatedly satirical. That is going go go way over the heads of the target audience, who will most likely enjoy it for it's aforementioned zaniness. There is plenty of hijinks and action to keep readers, even ones who would never deign to pick up a book set at an English manor house under normal circumstances, interested.(less)
Sherlock has finally figured out the fastest way to find Enola and its a good thing because he has received a communication from their missing mother...moreSherlock has finally figured out the fastest way to find Enola and its a good thing because he has received a communication from their missing mother that is for her. At the same time they are both tied up in a case involving a missing noblewoman. The book pulls together all the missing pieces in a tidy way and leaves the reader with a sense of closure. (Inexplicably to me Lady Cecily is brought up by Enola again at the end and it is said she has affection for her. I remain completely baffled by this one aspect of the books. She doesn't even really know Lady Cecily, she is fascinated by her own conjectures of Lady Cecily's personality. I really want to point out to her the difference and wish someone else Mycroft? Sherlock? would.) (less)
Dorothy Sayers is brilliant and, as a result, so is Peter. I have so much fun reading these stories. This collection contains all of the short stories...moreDorothy Sayers is brilliant and, as a result, so is Peter. I have so much fun reading these stories. This collection contains all of the short stories featuring Peter Wimsey complete with his amazing abilities of dection and witty banter. The stories run the gamut of mystery plotting. There are murders to solve, thieves to catch, subterfuge to enact and even a giant crossword puzzle that must be solved to find a missing will. Many of the other beloved characters from the Lord Peter novels, including Bunter and Harriet (accompanied by little Wimseys) are found peppered throughout the collection. For anyone who is a fan of great detective fiction this is a must read!(less)
The concept of this book is unique and intriguing. I went into it with great expectations but found the book to be average at best. I enjoyed the lite...moreThe concept of this book is unique and intriguing. I went into it with great expectations but found the book to be average at best. I enjoyed the literary allusions, particularly the "who is Shakespeare really?" ones. However, the rest of the book fell flat for me. I could not connect with Thursday, the main character. It is possible I would have enjoyed this book more and rated it higher if I hadn't just finished "To Say Nothing of the Dog" by Connie Willis. That was such a superior mixture of time travel and literary allusion for me, and this book couldn't match it.(less)
The cover of my copy of this book says, "A Lord Peter Wimsey Mystery with Harriet Vane". That should really be the other way around. This is Harriet's...moreThe cover of my copy of this book says, "A Lord Peter Wimsey Mystery with Harriet Vane". That should really be the other way around. This is Harriet's book. The third novel in the quartet of Peter novels involving Harriet, Gaudy Night finds her sorting out her feelings on the past and finally ready to contemplate a future. Sound easy? It is anything but.
The opening of this novel finds Harriet attending the gaudy of her former college, Shrewsbury at Oxford University. While there Harriet contemplates and weighs the pros and cons of married life versus life as a scholar. Seeing so many former bright minds dulled by years of marriage and child rearing Harriet wonders if the only choice is to lose oneself to someone else or spend a lifetime alone. Is there any way that finds a balance? When a string of strange incidents at the college involving some horrid notes and malicious pranks begin the dons call in Harriet, with her limited investigating experience, to help them figure out who is behind it. Harriet finds herself living at Oxford again for some months and is happy with how she fits and is able to work. However, as the campaign of the college "poltergeist" takes on new and dangerous aspects Harriet begins to suspect nearly everyone forcing her to question whether lifelong celibacy for scholarship can cause you to go mad. When the case begins to reach impossible levels she calls in Peter to help her. His arrival at Oxford brings closure to the case and the fraught five year relationship between Peter and Harriet.
I really enjoyed the further development of Harriet's character in this novel, the discussion of women and their roles in society, and the 1930's perspective on the rise of Hitler's Germany.
And then there was the romance. Peter and Harriet have a truly spectacular love story. (less)
Secret Letters by Leah Scheier was a book I couldn't refuse. It involves Sherlock Holmes after all, and I am a big fan of Sherlock Holmes. I did enjoy the mystery element of the story even though I had some issues with the book overall.
The mystery part of the story was a lot of fun. There is more than one Secret Letter floating around in the plot. So many that one of the characters (the "attractive yet enigmatic young detective") makes a joke about it in his own letter to Dora: I would burn this letter if I were you. There are far too many questionable letters floating about in this case, and I don't want to add mine to the pile. Which brings to my favorite part of the book. Peter. I want a book series that is all about Peter. There is really no need for Dora (I'll get to that in a minute). Peter is funny. Peter is brilliant. Peter has a tragic past that has marked him, but doesn't make him. He is making himself. He is all kinds of interesting and when he was in a scene it was great.
The mystery is a good one. It is certainly not on the level of some of the Holmes canon, but it is fun and there are several twists and turns along the way to keep the reader engaged and guessing. Though I don't think the whole connection to Dora's cousin's blackmailing was explained as well as it could have been.
My major issue with the book lies with Dora. She is an anachronism, a 21st century girl dropped in a Victorian setting. And it shows. She is a lady of class and wealth who has been brought up in a gentle household, corseted, finished, taught the ways of society. She of course thinks it's all nonsense. I'm sure there are girls who did, but an awful lot of them seem to pop up in historical fiction. More than I think there were actually. And the extent of it here is not so believable. When it is proposed that Dora should go undercover in a house as a scullery maid she doesn't hesitate. She manages to hoodwink her chaperone into thinking she is somewhere else and hoodwink everyone into thinking that she is indeed a scullery maid. This is more than just donning a costume. It is also more than just doing chores she would never have dreamed existed. It is an entire way of life she would have had no prior exposure to. Yet it doesn't require much effort for her to fit in. Then she barely bats an eye when she discovers a fellow maid is pregnant and not married. Then she barely bats an eye again when said maid confesses she is going to have an abortion. THIS IS THE VICTORIAN ERA. I realize that this is a thing of mine being the history nerd that I am. Others might not be so bothered by it, but I'm just too tired of reading YA historical fiction where the main character thinks in such a modern context. It bothered me enough here I wanted Dora completely gone from the story and more Peter. Lots more Peter.
If you are not a hyper sensitive history nerd like me and love mystery, Sherlock Holmes, and Victorian settings this is a fun and engaging story. If you are a hyper sensitive history nerd like me you may enjoy it too. Just be forewarned. (less)
Originally posted here at Random Musings of a Bibliophile.
I love mysteries, particularly ones that appear to add in a touch of the fantastic, so I was...moreOriginally posted here at Random Musings of a Bibliophile.
I love mysteries, particularly ones that appear to add in a touch of the fantastic, so I was excited to read North of Nowhere by Liz Kessler, which I received an e-galley for.
Mia is a girl that will have a wide appeal to child readers as well. Kessler made her sound like a 12 year old. The book is written more like how a 12 year old would write a story than what a 12 year old girl's thoughts would look like. It is simple, not layered thinking, and there are lots of exclamation points! Again, not particularly my cup of tea, but kids will like it.
Definitely pick this one for kids in your life who love mysteries mixed with fantasy. I will be suggesting it to Bit, it's a book that will be just her thing.
I read an e-galley made available by the publisher, Candlewick, via NetGalley. North of Nowhere is available for purchase on August 6.(less)