SDMB Grrlbrarian recco of second book in series DZedNConfused - "I think The Screaming Staircase is more like Miss Peregrine than Bellairs or even a vSDMB Grrlbrarian recco of second book in series DZedNConfused - "I think The Screaming Staircase is more like Miss Peregrine than Bellairs or even a very watered down The Rook."...more
Thanks to a thoughtful Valentine's Day gift, I've been revisiting one of my favorite childhood book series - the Miss Bianca series by Margery Sharp.Thanks to a thoughtful Valentine's Day gift, I've been revisiting one of my favorite childhood book series - the Miss Bianca series by Margery Sharp. After seeing the 1977 Disney film based on these books (The Rescuers), I got the first 5 books as Christmas and birthday gifts and nearly read the words off the pages. While my original copies are probably long gone, my husband found copies of the Dell Yearling paperbacks with the Garth Williams illustrations, and I spent a couple pleasant hours reacquainting myself with the stories.
This, the third book in the series, actually features the Diamond Duchess' major-domo Mandrake as the prisoner in need of aid; and Miss Bianca (with the help of the local troop of the Mouse Scouts) goes on the rescue without Bernard's help; as he doesn't believe that Mandrake is worth saving. Miss Bianca also recruits a star racehorse, Sir Hector, in her plans to secure Mandrake's escape, and during the attempt, Mandrake proves that he has reformed.
Yes, there's definitely a formula to these books; but the details of each prisoners' situation, along with the trials and tribulations the two mice face, manage to keep things somewhat fresh. Miss Bianca is easily the star of these novels, with Bernard playing the (usually) loyal sidekick. The supporting cast of characters vary from book to book, but are sufficiently well-drawn to fulfill their roles. The objects of rescue are a little less-well-defined; and the villains are also somewhat two-dimensional. The Garth Williams illustrations are utterly charming; although I enjoy Erik Blegvad's interpretations of the characters as well.
The style of writing is a bit dated, and rather British at times; but its gentle humour and generally engaging plotlines make these books good candidates for late elementary readers who enjoy "talking animal" stories with a bit of adventure thrown in. Miss Bianca is a fairly good role model; despite being a mouse of class and breeding, she demonstrates intelligence, loyalty and bravery throughout the series. I quite enjoyed revisiting this series and may pass them along to my nieces (and/or nephews) at some point. ...more
Being a fan of the author & the prevous 2 books in the series, I picked up Jasper Fforde's latest in his Chronicles of Kazam YA series, from the lBeing a fan of the author & the prevous 2 books in the series, I picked up Jasper Fforde's latest in his Chronicles of Kazam YA series, from the local library. Jennifer Strange, indentured orphan and de-facto head of the Kazam consortium of sorcerors and mages, guardian of the two remaining dragons and companion of at least one Quarkbeast, has been summoned to the palace to assist in converting the heir apparent from spoiled princess to wise and just ruler. The Mighty Shandar then sends Jennifer on a quest (not a Quest, as they haven't filled out the paperwork) to find the titular Eye of Zoltar; she complies, on pain of death to the aforesaid dragons. This quest involves traveling to the neighboring Cambrian Empire, whose economy is based on Perilous Tourism.
This novel is very typical of Fforde's offbeat (and rather British) humor, with a good dose of derring-do. The characters are well-written and quite memorable; the world-building continues from the previous two novels, and character motivations continue to evolve. Note that this novel does end on a bit of a cliffhanger, and it seems the next installment of the series isn't due until sometime this year (possibly 2016 for those of us in the USA).
While it seems from its title that this would be the final volume in the Bloody Jack series; I didn't realize until the audiobook intro that its authoWhile it seems from its title that this would be the final volume in the Bloody Jack series; I didn't realize until the audiobook intro that its author, L.A. Meyer had passed away last July. I have truly enjoyed this series and was sad to hear of his passing.
The book itself is another delightful romp with Miss Jacky through various trials and travails; unjustly accused of treason, she must flee Boston and go into hiding. First she takes a job as a governess to the Polk family in Plymouth. Going by the name Annabelle Lee, she must face off against a "high-strung" (aka spoiled brat) boy named Edgar Allan Being her devious self, Jacky manages to outwit Edgar and eventually win him over. Events force her to run away and join the circus as an Russian aerialist. However, as the cover of the book portrays Jacky standing on the deck of the gallows, moments away from the noose, it seems Jacky's bloody past will finally catch up with her.
While L.A. Meyer may have stretched history a bit (I'm not sure the lyrics Jacky sings to the Hooche-Coochie song existed before the 1890's, for example), the overall story feels true to the era. Meyers also makes multiples callbacks to minor characters from the entire series and wraps the overall story arc up in a satisfying way.
Despite not exactly being target audience; I have loved this series and am sure I will be revisiting it again in the future - especially with the superb narration provided by Katherine Kellgren. ...more
I checked out this novel from the library recently. It's Ransom Riggs' follow up to Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, which I quite enjoyedI checked out this novel from the library recently. It's Ransom Riggs' follow up to Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, which I quite enjoyed when I listened to the audiobook back in 2011 (yes, I realize that I missed out on the photos & I've since rectified the matter).
I wish I had re-read the first novel beforehand though, as Riggs dumps us right back in where we left off and I found myself floundering a bit, much as Jacob and his friends in their small boats, crossing the strait from their island to the mainland. After the invasion and destruction of their loop, and the conversion of their protector to her bird-form, the children's only hope is to find their way to London and another ymbryne. However, travelling across a war-torn country is difficult enough, without the hollowgasts and wights in pursuit.
While the novelty of the peculiar children and their world has rubbed off a bit, Riggs still manages to keep a clear focus on his characters and move the larger story arc along as well as provide additional world building. The photos chosen for this novel were perhaps not quite as striking as the original novel, but still supported the story nicely. The children continue to veer from one perilous situation to another, and (fair warning) this installment ends on quite the cliffhanger. I'll have to re-read the first two novels before the next one drops, but I'm pretty sure I will be reading it when it arrives. ...more
While at first glance, it feels like a spin off of the Hunger Games/ Divergent/ Maze Runner fad - the Korean culture eAmazon First Reads acquisition.
While at first glance, it feels like a spin off of the Hunger Games/ Divergent/ Maze Runner fad - the Korean culture elements add something new to the plot and I found the worldbuilding fairly solid. I would consider checking out the sequel for free/from library. ...more
Thanks to a mention in the "Top Ten Books You Read in 2013" thread over on the SDMB, I checked out the audiobook version of this novel from the localThanks to a mention in the "Top Ten Books You Read in 2013" thread over on the SDMB, I checked out the audiobook version of this novel from the local library. While I missed out on the illustrations by Randall Wright, I did quite enjoy the narration by Katharine Kellgren (she could read the phone book and I'd listen!) with Robin Sachs contributing the Charles Dickens interludes.
Skilley, a street cat living in Victorian London schemes his way into a mousing job at the Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese inn, despite not actually wanting to eat mice at all. He finds an ally in Pip, a mouse residing at the inn who has some unusual talents. Together, they deal with a missing "person" whose disappearance has potential foreign relation repercussions. They must also cope with a cranky cook and a an evil tomcat bent on exposing their friendship as well as the secrets of the mice of the inn. Charles Dickens makes a cameo appearance as a frequenter of the inn and an astute observer of the animals' interactions.
It is a middle grade book - aimed at 8-10 year olds, so the story isn't terribly complex, but still quite charming. Adults will get the references to Dickens and Wilkie Collins, while kids will enjoy the story of the friendship between the mouse and the cat, which develops organically with some bumps along the way. There are some moments of peril and a couple of minor characters die, but it's handled well and there's some good lessons to be learned.
Recommended to fans of animal fantasies and stories for all ages....more
Picked up Patrick Ness' latest novel from the library -- thanks to a mention by Dung Beetle & being a huge fan of Ness' writing -- and devoured itPicked up Patrick Ness' latest novel from the library -- thanks to a mention by Dung Beetle & being a huge fan of Ness' writing -- and devoured it in just a few days.
Seth has just drowned in the ocean off the Pacific Northwest coast... but awakens to find himself alive in the front yard of his childhood home in England. Not only is he weak from hunger and thirst as well as nearly naked (except for some odd bandages wound around him) but the neighborhood is deserted and overgrown. Is he in Hell? Why does he dream so vividly of his past life every time he closes his eyes? The story follows Seth as he explores his surroundings and relives elements of his past life - weaving them both together in a surprising (at least to me) conclusion.
I really enjoyed this story - it's quite different from the [i]Chaos Walking trilogy[/i] (no dialect, for one thing, which I know turned some people off), but IMHO, as well written and as powerful. This novel is more Man vs Himself than Man vs Man, but still has some interesting twists and turns and some genuinely thrilling moments. ...more
Found myself quite engaged by this novel. the second in Bachmann's Victorian-era urban fantasy series. It carries over some of the characters from TheFound myself quite engaged by this novel. the second in Bachmann's Victorian-era urban fantasy series. It carries over some of the characters from The Peculiar, while giving us new characters to become entranced by. If you liked Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, consider giving these books a shot. ...more
Another seasonally thematic read - I picked up this YA vampire novel from the local library after reading about it last month in Amazon's Sep 4 OmnivoAnother seasonally thematic read - I picked up this YA vampire novel from the local library after reading about it last month in Amazon's Sep 4 Omnivoracious blog.
I'm no fangbanger, in fact, I tend to get a bit ::rolleyes:: regarding the modern/YA take on vampires. Nevertheless, the worldbuilding in this novel intrigued me - not only the Coldtowns where vampires and the infected (along with starstruck wannabes) are quarantined, but the fact that once bitten, you aren't necessarily doomed. If the infected can be kept from consuming human blood for 88 days, they are safe. They can consume regular food (and, oddly enough, vampire blood) during this time However, their overwhelming craving usually overcomes the best intentions of family and friends.
Tana was an occasionally infuriating protagonist - making stupid, teenage decisions, for example, but still projected a strong, indomitable spirit. Gavriel had an intriguing backstory, and I can totally see how younger readers would swoon over him. I can also see something like the Eternal Ball and the Coldtowns overall becoming an internet media hit, with live feeds and umpteen bloggers discussing the "Cold" lifestyle.
I enjoyed the novel for what it was - while I probably won't be returning to it specifically, I may see what other Holly Black novels are available thru the library. ...more
I quite enjoyed the audiobook of Who Could that Be at This Hour? by Lemony Snicket - it's the start of a new series, apparently - YA similar to A SeriI quite enjoyed the audiobook of Who Could that Be at This Hour? by Lemony Snicket - it's the start of a new series, apparently - YA similar to A Series of Unfortunate Events but told in first person, as it's supposedly Snicket's adventures as a young man.
Set very much "in media res", there's a lot of unanswered questions (possibly wrong ones), but the style is as amusing as ever, if you're into this sort of thing. Both the story and characters are entertaining, IMHO, and the world building is wonderfully quirky! Liam Aiken's narration is just how I expected Lemony Snicket (as a world-weary tween) would sound. ...more
I downloaded a free audiobook version of this novel early last month, thanks to www.audiobooksync.com - I wasn't familiar with the story or the authorI downloaded a free audiobook version of this novel early last month, thanks to www.audiobooksync.com - I wasn't familiar with the story or the author, but the description intrigued me.
This book is set in an alternate-history Dickensian England, some time after an invasion by the Fairy Folk and the Smiling War (so named due to the innumerable grinning skulls in the aftermath of the fighting). The humans and the Fairy Folk have come to an uneasy truce, with highborn members of the Fae as representatives in Parliament, but each group generally keeps to themselves. What mixing there has been resulted in The Peculiars - half-breed children scorned by both groups.
Bartholomew Kettle is one of these Peculiars - living a semi-secluded life in the fairy slums of Bath. However, strange goings-on in his neighborhood may somehow be connected with a string of half-breed children being found in the Thames as empty sacks of skin. Arthur Jelliby, a somewhat feckless junior member of Parliament finds himself in danger after accidentally stumbling upon another part of this same sinister plot. He becomes a reluctant hero, eventually teaming up with Bartholomew to save England from disaster.
The world-building is a fun mix of fantasy and steampunk - and quite British. Apparently there's some connection between Bath and the supernatural, as this is the second novel I've read recently that has strange goings-on there (The Rook is the other). This novel reminds me a lot of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell - a YA version of that world, if you will. I am a bit embarrassed that I didn't realize the first few times that the narrator referenced "the she" - he meant "the Sidhe" - guess I'd only ever read the word before!
I really got to like Arthur - he turned out to be quite brave, despite his nebbishy start. Bartholomew also showed some nice character development. Both protagonists are pretty well-rounded, and the villains of the story were also well-written. The plot goes along well - no huge surprises or reveals along the way, but there's some fun bits of action. My only complaint was the narrator's vocal choice for the Fairy characters - high and grating & not very pleasant to listen to.
I'd recommend the novel to fans of period urban fantasy looking for something on the light side. ...more
I picked up this YA novel per a SDMB recco & despite Skip's 2 star review. Apparently the intro to a newSkip gave 2 stars; SDMB recco: Barking Dog
I picked up this YA novel per a SDMB recco & despite Skip's 2 star review. Apparently the intro to a new series, as it's not set in either the same world as Fforde's Tuesday Next books, or the Nursery Crimes; but in a similarly skewed British Isles - here referred to as the Ununited Kingdom.
We meet Jennifer Strange, an indentured foundling who is the current first in command of Kazam - an employment agency for magicians. The actual first in command has gone missing, and since the wizidrical power in the world is slowly drying up, so is their business. A prediction of the death of the Last Dragon at the hands of an unknown Dragonslayer throws Jennifer's life upside down. With her faithful Quarkbeast ("9/10th velociraptor and kitchen blender and 1/10th Labrador") at her side, she finds herself entwined in some very Big Magic indeed.
While it's marketed as a Young Adult book - it's a fun romp for any age, in my opinion. Fforde's quirky sense of humor runs rampant thru the novel, but Jennifer is a down to earth heroine who reminds me a bit of Pratchett's Tiffany Aching (even if Jennifer herself can't do magic). Worldbuilding is something Fforde excels at (tho as a Yank, I occasionally feel I'm missing some of the in-jokes) and his supporting characters are quite enjoyable. The second in the series - The Song of the Quarkbeast - is due out next month & I'm quite looking forward to it. I listened to the audiobook version (performed wonderfully well by Elizabeth Jasicki) and bought the Kindle version as it is on sale this month - definitely worth the $2.00! ...more
Almost done with the audiobook version of this novel, the first in a new series by Gail Carriger. Set in the same steampunk meets urban fantasy worldAlmost done with the audiobook version of this novel, the first in a new series by Gail Carriger. Set in the same steampunk meets urban fantasy world as her Parasol Protectorate series, we follow 14 year old Sophronia Temminick -- who is rather a tomboy and much too interested in mechanicals for a girl of her station -- to finishing school.
But this school doesn't just teach Young Women of Quality about manners, fashion and marrying well, but also how to become an intelligencer, and potentially an assassin. It's also located on a gigantic airship that floats above the moors, has a vampire for a professor and a werewolf on retainer. Sophronia is thrown into a bit of a mystery right from the start, and (with her unlikely friends) does her best to solve it.
The world building is a treat if you're into this sort of thing, the characters are reasonably well-drawn and the plot jogs along nicely. There's bits of clever writing, and the audiobook performance by Moira Quirk is masterful IMHO, giving the flighty Dimity just a touch of a lisp and Lady Kingair a Scottish burr. It's labeled as YA - and certain elements (sex & violence) are toned down from the Parasol Protectorate. One of my GoodReads friends complained that the main characters are just re-treads of Alexia & Ivy - but I don't quite see it. I enjoying this outing just as much as her previous works & am looking forward to the next novel in both/either series.
That said - Carriger really needs a new cover artist - the character poses are dreadful!...more