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)
Doll Bones is a new Middle Grade title from the talented Holly Black. It is, thus far, my favorite MG read of the year. It is a genre busting title that covers horror, suspense, mystery, and the supernatural. Or it could be a plain old contemporary realistic novel. It is all in how you look it at.
Doll Bones follows three twelve year olds who have been friends for years.
Zach: He is a talented basketball player and has recently attracted the interest of the cool kids and girls in his middle school. He doesn't want anyone to discover he still plays with action figures with his two friends who are girls, but he also loves it and doesn't want to give it up.
Alice: She is a drama girl who loves theater and acting and uses it to escape from her domineering grandmother, who is her guardian. She uses the game with her friends for the same thing and has created ever more dangerous and reckless characters who take the risks she is afraid to take herself.
Poppy: She is the youngest of a group of delinquent siblings. Her house is always a mess and her parents have quit trying to maintain order. It is her house the other two come to for their game, and it is Polly who is the diabolical thinker who comes up with all of the games danger and adventure. It is why she often plays the part of villain.
The game is complex. These kids created an epic imaginary world culled from tales and myths they read. Into it they placed characters who have real lives and histories. Over this world rules the Queen in her glass tower, an antique china doll belonging to Poppy's mom and locked in a cabinet to keeep her safe. They are invested in their game and everything it entails. Until one day Zach tells the girls he doesn't want to play anymore. Then one night the girls show up and tell him a horrifying story. Poppy released the Queen from the tower hoping she could convince Zach to keep playing. Now she is having dreams about a girl who was murdered. A girl whose bones were ground up and made into a china doll. She is demanding a proper burial in the cemetery in her home town. And she wants Poppy, Zach, and Alice to take her there.
All three characters are vivid, layered, and interesting. The story is told in third person from Zach's perspective so it is his thoughts and struggles the reader is most connected to. However, the girls' struggles are also depicted through Zach's interactions with and musings on them, even if he doesn't understand all of what he is seeing. The struggle here between childhood and emerging adolescence is rendered so well. It is happening gradually, yet faster than any of them would like, particularly Poppy who feels like she is being left behind by the other two. There is the struggle to hold on to the things that are most familiar as everything seems to be changing too fast. Yet there is an excitement and anticipation about the changes as well, at least in Zach and Alice. This is a story any middle school kid will find themselves in, they all have this same struggle.
Then there is the creepy horror part of the story. And creepy it is. Is Poppy messing with the other two? Spinning a yard to keep them playing the game, keep them attached to her? Or is the Queen really the ghost of murdered girl named Eleanor who is forcing the three to do her bidding by scaring the pants off of them? Black laid out her plot perfectly, setting down each event to keep the reader wondering, asking. Everything that happens to the kids can be logically explained, and Zach and Alice do logically explain it all. And yet...the creepiness is there.
The writing here is phenomenal. The pacing keeps the reader engaged from start to finish. The phrasing is engaging and simple, but layered with meaning at the same time. The kids are equal parts relateable and unlikable. They are so real. The theme of growing up, changing, moving on, learning to adapt are woven into the story so perfectly that anyone who is or has experienced adolescence will get the character's struggles. At the same time it also funny. When you add in the sense of mystery, intrigue, and horror, you have a book that is impossible to put down until you have reached the last page.
Some of my favorite quotes: Sometimes it seemed to him that girls spoke a different language, but he couldn't figure out when they'd learned it. He was pretty sure that they used to all speak the same language a year ago.
In stories, orphan boys became assistant pig keepers and magician's apprentices. In real life, he wasn't sure there were many equivalent jobs.
He wondered whether growing up was learning that most stories turned out to be lies.
Also, it wasn't like they were walking through the awesome vistas of Middle Earth- a forest full of Ents or elves, a mountain pass brimming with orcs and ice-they were mostly walking past industrial buildings and a bowling alley.
It's not fair. We had a story, and our story was important. And I hate that both of you can just walk away and take part of my story with you and not even care. I hate that you can do what you're supposed to do and I can't. I hate that you're going to leave me behind. I hate that everyone calls it growing up, but it seems like dying. It feels like each of you is being possessed and I'm next. (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)
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)
When I discovered there was a book coming out about a girl who was a literal Nightmare I was super excited. The Nightmare Affair by Mindee Arnett has a great concept. When I began reading it I was afraid the execution would not quite live up to it. I'm glad I stuck with it though because I thoroughly enjoyed the second two thirds.
Dusty and Eli are a dream-seer pair, a very rare phenomenon. She is a nightmare who feeds on dreams and when she feeds on Eli's they can see things that are going to happen or that have happened. Which means they have no choice but to work together no matter how either of them feels about it. Dusty is uncomfortable with feeding on Eli and Eli is seriously angry at her for dragging him into this strange world where he doesn't belong. My concern at the beginning of the book was that it was going to have all the elements I hate finding in YA fantasy: boy and girl bound together by a supernatural destiny neither of them can fight=love, boy half of duo being dangerous and sparking feelings of fear, a love triangle, cliche high school politics (exchange mean sirens for mean cheerleaders). I kept reading though because I did love the concept and I couldn't help but like Dusty's snarky yet vulnerable voice. I'm happy to say that most of my concerns were laid to rest as the story unfolded.
Eli is not at all dangerous or a bad boy. At all. He is actually a really nice guy who wants to be a cop and loves mythology and folklore. He sticks up for the little guy and though he is angry at Dusty he never mistreats her. Dusty and Eli are attracted to each other but both are trying to ignore it. He is dating someone else and so is she. Their characters are not as fully realized as I like my characters to be, but I definitely enjoyed them and their story which is full of action, adventure, and mystery. In addition to Dusty and Eli there are several minor characters who I really enjoyed particularly Selene, Dusty's best friend. I love the way Arnett has given a new spin to old folklore and what she has done with the world here. The book is hard to put down and engrossing to the very end.
The book is a fun mystery with a magical flavor. It is lighter in tone than other books of the same genre and I enjoyed that element. I will definitely be back for more as I'm fairly certain this will be a series.
I read an e-galley received via the publisher from NetGalley. The Nightmare Affair is on sale March 5.(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)
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)
I usually enjoy Erin Dionne's books more than I did this one. I think my disappointment was magnified because I had my hopes rather high for this one...moreI usually enjoy Erin Dionne's books more than I did this one. I think my disappointment was magnified because I had my hopes rather high for this one and was mostly unimpressed. I can see kids loving it though. It has that sort of kid adventure movie feel to it. Kids versus the mobsters, and the kids actually have a chance of winning. The danger never materializes quite like it would in reality. I think I would have enjoyed it more if I could have liked Moxie herself, but I was rolling my eyes by the end of the first chapter. I'm so tired of main characters who are supposed to be unique and special because they like older music and buy vintage clothes. This is so overused that there is nothing unique or special about these characters. It feels like slapping a vintage t-shirt on a character and giving her a playlist her parents would have listened to are acceptable replacements for actual character development. I do like that she was a Math lover though. (less)
Originally posted here at Random Musings of a Bibliophile.
Looking for an adrenaline pumping edge of your seat read? Wake Up Missing by Kate Messner is...moreOriginally posted here at Random Musings of a Bibliophile.
Looking for an adrenaline pumping edge of your seat read? Wake Up Missing by Kate Messner is just the book.
Wake Up Missing is a mind bending twisty ride full of adventure and intrigue. Messner sets the tone perfectly from the beginning. There is a sense that nothing is quite right or as it seems. The reader is kept off balance from chapter one, which fits with Cat's difficulty in keeping hers. The clues are revealed slowly, and just when you think you know what's going on there is a shift. The twisty plot comes with boat chases through swamps, conspiracies, fears of who to trust, quick risky escapes, and some rather seedy bad guys of more than one variety. Messner maintains a real sense of danger for the kids, while keeping it from being too terrifying at the same time. I also appreciate Messner's willingness to show the messy outcomes inevitable in such a plot.
The kids are typical 12 year olds. Some of the things they choose to do (searching offices, sneaking around, taking a kayak out on the swamp in an attempt to escape) are not the best plans, but perfectly in tune with a middle school mentality. They all have different personalities and issues, but have to work together. Cat is telling the story, but all of them are key members of the team. It was interesting to see how each of them reacted to what they discover, and how they chose to deal with it.
Wake Up Missing had my heart pounding in many places and I was frantically flipping pages to see what was going to happen next. My kids were forced to wait for their dinner. I can see this having the same spell binding effect on the kids who read it. Messner is one of my daughter's favorite authors and I know she's going to be thrilled by this one. (She has to wait for the actual copy to come as I wouldn't let her run off with my Nook.)
I read an e-galley received from the publisher, Bloomsbury Walker, made available via NetGalley. Wake Up Missing is available for purchase September 10. (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)
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 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)
Honestly if I were rating purely on liking the book this would be a 1 star for me. But I also take into consideration author craft and Johnson wrote t...moreHonestly if I were rating purely on liking the book this would be a 1 star for me. But I also take into consideration author craft and Johnson wrote the heck out of this book. It is well plotted and paced. Fans of The Name of the Star will find the same thriller-mystery goodness we got in that book. (Which I really enjoyed.) BUT. The end. I know there were people who found it devastating, but could go with it. I am not one of them. I suspected what she was going to do, but was still bitterly disappointed when she did it. I have some major issues with the choices made and the direction the story is going in. So I'm done. Not everyone will have this same issue.(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)
Originally posted here at Random Musings of a Bibliophile.
Earlier this year I read Robin Benway's Audrey Wait! and enjoyed it. When my library got cop...moreOriginally posted here at Random Musings of a Bibliophile.
Earlier this year I read Robin Benway's Audrey Wait! and enjoyed it. When my library got copies of her latest novel, Also Known As, I snapped one right up. It was a cute, fun story of a teenage spy, mystery, and first love.
Following the action of this book requires a large suspension of disbelief, but that is obvious from the first reading of the synopsis. I was willing to suspend and enjoy. I did think Maggie's parents and their willingness to expose their daughter to their dangerous lifestyle, no matter how altruistic, was not the best parenting choice possible. However, Maggie herself is a delightful main character. Confident and knowledgeable of the world, high school is not that much of a hard change for her. She has studied enough to know how to roll with it and to take it all in stride. Her transition may have been a little too easy, but I rather liked this element as she is one who has had to learn to blend her entire life. I also liked her willingness to befriend Roux and actually be a true friend to her. Roux is another wonderful character, full of snark and bitterness, she has a softer side to her too. Jesse and Maggie have great chemistry and I adored their banter. In fact, I was thinking of giving up on this one simply because I was in a weird mood while reading it, but then I hit their first conversation and it turned everything right around. I also enjoyed how round of a character Jesse is. Maggie and Jesse do seem to trip into "love" awfully fast, but it isn't without getting to know each other first and they are teenagers. (Many teens do seem to fall in love awfully fast. Or at least think they do.)
The action in the story is interesting, though I didn't think the big mystery was all that hard to figure out. I had fun watching Maggie get there and the stress over having to target Jesse added to the tension. There are wonderful scenes between the two of them of the romantic sort, but there are also chase scenes, intense moments of safe cracking, and a helicopter. Fun all the way to the end.
When I picked this up, I didn't realize it was the first in the series, but am delighted to discover it is. The sequel, Going Rogue, will be released in January. (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)
This is a fun mystery that involves old family secrets and following clues to hidden treasure. It is one of those books that I think will be an easy s...moreThis is a fun mystery that involves old family secrets and following clues to hidden treasure. It is one of those books that I think will be an easy sell to kids, but not necessarily one all kids will stick with to the end. I did like the way the mystery unfolded, and it had a lot of humor in it. There is a villain and some mild danger, so nothing too scary. It could easily by enjoyed by more advanced younger readers as well. (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)
Like the first three Enola books this was an entertaining read but I didn't enjoy it quite as well as I did the others. The mystery in this one did no...moreLike the first three Enola books this was an entertaining read but I didn't enjoy it quite as well as I did the others. The mystery in this one did not engage me as much and I felt the historical setting was not portrayed as well as before. I did enjoy the interaction between Enola and Sherlock in this book. It was fun to see them working together for a while.(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)
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)
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)