Drop what you're doing and read this now! I've been raving about this book for the past week and am finally able to sit down and put all my flailing into words.
"For heaven's sake, boy, put your mask on," Mr. Socrates snapped. "No one should see your face."
Mr. Alan Socrates hears about an odd little child and buys him. It sounds remarkably cruel - and it is - but it's as simple as that. He takes Modo (a terribly sweet but horribly deformed boy) to his estate, Ravenscroft, and there the child is raised.
While Modo views Mr. Socrates as his father figure, the man is hardly around. He's always off traveling and on the rare occasions that he does decide to drop by, he quizzes Modo in order to see how his studies are going.
Modo is raised by a wonderful woman, the caretaker of the estate. Whereas Mr. Socrates only allows Modo to read "approved" material (certain articles from the newspaper, for example), Mrs. Finchley will go out of her way to sneak in a picture book or two, something fun and light-hearted. She was the first person to truly care about Modo and it broke my heart when Modo had to leave Ravenscroft.
Modo undid the knots and removed the mask, setting it on a table. He felt naked. This was not a face for the world to see, Mr. Socrates had told him so.
The masks are vital. Until Mr. Socrates decided Modo was to leave to estate, Modo had no idea what he looked like. All of the mirrors and anything remotely reflective were to be removed. I wanted to rush to Modo's side the day Mr. Socrates forced him to see himself for the first time.
Modo has a wonderful gift: shape-shifting. He's able to see a portrait or merely use his imagination and his entire body will change and take on the features of another person. Mr. Socrates is determined to use Modo's ability to his advantage.
Mr. Socrates is the head of a secret organization that employs agents to do various tasks. From the time he was bought, Modo had been trained to become Mr. Socrates' ultimate agent.
When Modo is 14, Mr. Socrates takes him to London - the very first time Modo has ever been outside - and leaves him there. ...just leaves him. He tells Modo he'll check back soon and that Modo should put his training to use and fend for himself.
At various times throughout the book I wanted to throttle Mr. Socrates. This scene was one of those times. Here was Modo, a terrified boy who has never been outside before, suddenly dropped off in the middle of London and told to have a nice life. Throughout it all, Modo was such a sweetheart, I wanted to reach into the book and give him a huge hug. :( Don't let the jerks get you down, Modo. ♥
Modo only nodded, but smiled idiotically under his handkerchief.
Oh man. Modo's crush on Octavia (another agent employed by Mr. Socrates) is so, so, so insanely adorable. They were just too cute. I was really hoping their romance storyline would have been given a bit more attention, but there are other books, so yay! So cute.
Dr. Hyde is a mad scientist who took orphaned children (and Prince Albert), surgically enhanced them by placing large bolts into their shoulders, and fed them all a tincture, rendering them fully conscious, yet completely unable to control their bodies. There was a fascinating chapter where a character was under the influence of the tincture. He was aware, yet could not move a limb. Instead, his body moved on its own with its own purpose.
The action was fantastic! The Iron Giant-type machine was so cool and the fact that a prince and little children were all connected to it - literally - and forced to pilot it was neat.
Mr. Socrates gathered up the paper. "As a rule, I prefer no descriptions of my agents to appear in print." "It won't happen again, sir," Modo said. "Next time I'll just let myself burn up in the blaze."
I adored watching Modo grow. In the beginning, he was a tiny, timid boy who had no idea what the real world was like. After Mr. Socrates comes back into Modo's life, Modo is different - but in a good way. He's no longer scared and naive. He's a character you get to know and come to care about and multiple times I was honestly worried for him. I wanted things to work out for him, I was rooting for Modo the entire journey. When his transformations began to wear off or his masks slipped, I was scared for him. When he started having flutter feelings whenever he was around Octavia, I squealed in delight.
"Marvelously boring. Though there is a good sword fight at the end."
♥ One of my favorite scenes in the book was an Octavia/Modo scene. Modo is reading Hamlet and Octavia walks in on him. She immediately begins to mock Modo for reading not just Hamlet, but Shakespeare in general. Modo unsuccessfully attempts to defend himself, but Octavia isn't having it, although in the end she gives in and mentions the one part of the play she enjoyed.
This book was so, so, SO wonderful! I can't wait to tear into the next!(less)
I was born in 1904 and on my nynok the fate of Mother Russia was written.
It's no secret I have a slight obsession with The Romanovs. When I saw this book on a shelf at work, I had some reservations (the cover doesn't appeal to me at all - it's hard to see in the picture, but on the pendant is a very obvious pasted-on portrait of Alexei Romanov, the author was completely unknown to me although that necessarily isn't a bad thing, and the plot seemed a little iffy), but knew one way or another I'd wind up reading it. It's an extremely quick read: the main story is only 247 pages with another 26 pages of author's notes. Had I read it on a day I was off it would have been a great afternoon read. Instead, it took all of two days.
The book opens with Alexei Romanov, heir to the throne of Russia, penning the 'true story' of his family. With a revolution on the horizon, many rumors and false truths are being spread about his family and their treatment of their people.
One thing I thought was really neat about this novel was the way the footnotes were presented. They were added into the margins, rather than the bottom of the page. This made reading much faster. Unfortunately, it seemed that after a few chapters, the footnotes stopped altogether, despite a fair bit of Russian thrown into conversations.
Nynok means belly-button!
Just then Papa's face lit up in an angel's smile. And I knew that my mother must have walked into the room.
Only she could make him smile like that.
♥ I've said it before and I'll say it again: Nicky & Alix = my OTP y'all.
War has hit Russia and the Romanovs are no longer safe. Add to this the threat of Alexei's disease - hemophilia - being discovered. No one outside the palace knows of his affliction and the only one able to heal him is Grigory Rasputin, a monk. For the first half of the book, facts presented followed the actual history quite nicely, which I enjoyed. Then the odd time-travel aspect came into play.
Rasputin lets Alexei in on a little secret: Alexei only has to close his eyes and concentrate and he'll travel through the waters of time (pretty literally in fact). However, he must only travel with his mind. Should he travel with his body, he will become stuck and unable to return home.
After as assassination attempt gone wrong (it's actually really fascinating reading about all the tries made to end Rasputin's life. The man seriously could not be killed!), Alexei finds himself at the river's edge with a none-too-pleased monk.
"Look, you can use this to reach me anytime you want. You listen here, and you talk here. Just press this button and it'll ring the spare phone I've got on me. You know - 'telephone?'" "Of course I know telephone! I am not from Stone Age!"
Alexei awakens to discover he did not drown like he had assumed. In fact, there is a strange girl kissing him. After a few confused moments, he finds out that the girl was not kissing him, she was simply administering CPR and he is in America. New York to be precise.
Varda, the girl who rescued him from the river, insists on taking him to a nearby hospital. However, Alexei adamantly refuses; no one can ever know the tsarevitch is unwell. In the end, she offers to take him to her house instead and it is at this point the book lost me.
From the very first page Alexei informed the reader he is writing in English in the event his notebook were to fall into enemy hands. The tsarina was Queen Victoria's granddaughter and she grew up speaking English. She spoke exclusively in English to her children. Alexei's writing for the first half of the book was fine, fluent. The moment he found himself in New York, however, his English (both his writing and his speech) became very stunted and broken. While it wasn't hard to understand him, I had a difficult time believing it. There are stacks of letters that Nicholas & Alix wrote to one another (that still survive to this day) that were in English. The fact that Alexei's English would suddenly be anything but fluent didn't sit right with me.
I also had a difficult time believing that Varda, a regular 15 year old girl, would have the resources to conduct her own experiments on gene therapy and have a possible cure for hemophilia. When she finds Alexei, she tells him she's set to attend a hemophilia conference where she'll announce her findings. This girl is fifteen. And with all of her 'likes' and 'dudes' thrown into her sentences, I just don't see this girl being the brilliant scientist she's purported to be.
Varda understandable doesn't believe that the boy before her is actually the tsarevitch of Russia who was murdered in 1918. However, she whips out her handy dandy science lab and runs a DNA test. Surprise! He actually is a Romanov! Double surprise! So is Varda. The two are distant cousins, but true love laughs in the face of genetics. The day after they meet, Alexei has breakfast with Varda's mother and mentions wanting to marry Varda. Yeah.
Alexei attends school with Varda one day and nearly has a meltdown in history class. The subject of the day is Russian history, specifically the revolution. Because Alexei had left his time a few years previously, he was unaware of the "new" revolution and is horrified upon finding out the tsar and his family were brutally murdered.
There's a random subplot thrown in with Rasputin. He somehow survived and follows Alexei through time. He appears at Varda's school and disguises himself as a janitor. Later - and I didn't like this part at all - he pulls the "I am your father" card with Alexei.
The pair go back in time and attempt to rescue the Romanovs. Alexei and Varda wind up getting separated, but they still have their phones and Alexei is the one to text that lovely declaration of love. There was much eye-rolling on my part.
I won't give away the ending, but I will say that part of me was surprised. I could see the story going two ways and I guess I subconsciously hadn't wanted what actually happened to happen. But it did and that's what the reader is left to deal with.
There were many overly cheesey parts in The Curse of the Romanovs, but it was an extremely quick read and the first half was far more enjoyable - and based in fact! The second half didn't appeal to me nearly as much and I had to push myself to get through certain scenes. The author has a few other books - none of them dealing with the Romanovs it seems - but I don't think I'll be reading any of them.
"They will think I'm a coward if I don't fight! Father Grigory's son is a soldier! How can we ask the people to send their sons if you won't send yours?"
"Romanov family trust me some day to run whole country. I think you can trust me with telephone."
I have a special fondness for books that feature famous literary characters. Jasper Fforde does this expertly and I love him for it. Last year one of my favorites reads was Arthur Slade's The Hunchback Assignments. When I came across Facing the Hunchback of Notre Dame, I instantly wanted to read it. I couldn't wait to jump back into a book featuring Quasimodo! (Embarrassingly enough, I have never read The Hunchback of Notre Dame. However, now that I've got a few books under my belt with Quasimodo as a main character, I feel as though it's definitely time to read the book that started it all.)
Ophelia and Linus Easterday are sent to live with their uncle and aunt while their parents go off chasing butterflies for five years. Being shipped off to live with strange relatives can put a damper on any fourteen-year old's day and this case is no exception. Uncle Augustus and Aunt Portia are...odd. They have a huge interest in themed parties & dinners (for example, a pea-green dinner - every dish contained a green color, whether it was real or artificial) and force the twins to partake in the events.
The only saving grace to their new living arrangement is Aunt Portia's bookshop. She specializes in antique and rare books (she's a lady I could definitely be friends with!) and Ophelia is an avid reader. There's also the exciting rumors that surround the house's previous owner. Cato Grubb, a devious mad scientist, had owned the house before Augustus and Portia moved in and his bizarre disappearance was so sudden all of his belongings were left behind.
One day the twins come across the remains of Cato's laboratory, complete with a wide array of bottles and potions and interesting drawings on the floor. After Ophelia happens to fall asleep in the attic (where the lab is hidden), she discovers something truly amazing: a flesh-and-blood Quasimodo is on the floor in front of her.
In YA novels, it seems to be convenient to have the parents absent. That's not the case with this book: Portia and Augustus ever-present! Despite what the twins think, I'd love to spend a week living at their house. Old books and medieval parties and right up my alley!
I was surprised by how fast-paced this book was! It actually was a bit too quick for my liking. And, unfortunately, once the magical element became introduced the story was bogged down with a number of rules and regulations (many of which didn't seem to be fully explained).
There's a boy staying for the summer at the nearby boarding school who the twins befriend. Walter is charming and British and has a past! These boys tend to be my favorite characters, but it seemed that all Walter did was exercise. There were a few pivotal moments in the book (huge, HUGE scenes) where it mentioned Walter started doing push-ups. Or Walter decided to do sit-ups. His lack of character development was upsetting.
Quasimodo was easily my favorite character. Such a sweetheart. Since all that bell-ringing has made him deaf, Walter 'borrows' a pair of hearing aids for Quasi. Hee! Quasi also develops quite a taste for tea and peanut butter & jelly sandwiches.
The rules dictate that Quasi only has sixty hours before he needs to get back to his world, lest he be vaporized. Those sixty hours went far too fast and despite the kids determination to show Quasi their world, they aren't able to do much other than eat snacks.
The climax was, well, anticlimactic. The story has built up to that moment and it was such a letdown for me. In the end there were many questions left unanswered, but I know this is the first book in a series, so hopefully problems will be settled in the next book.
Overall, I enjoyed Facing the Hunchback of Notre Dame. The writing style in the beginning reminded me of Roald Dahl novels (never a bad thing!). However, the narrator quickly wore out his welcome: he was always using 'big' words and then defining them. I definitely could have done without that. I'm still not entirely sure what the narrator had to do with the story other than the main characters were too busy to sit down and write out their adventure.
While this wasn't a bad book at all, there were some things I didn't love. However, I'll probably check out the second book (especially if it deals with Moby Dick - the book Ophelia was reading at the end of this novel).(less)
If you're a long-time follower of The Pretty Good Gatsby, you know I basically adore the Romanov family. Tsarist Russia holds a special place in my heart and the end of the Romanov dynasty is both fascinating and heartbreaking. For decades rumors surrounded the survival of one of the royal children - Anastasia in particular - and it was only a few years ago that the rumors were finally laid to rest when, in the summer of 2007, the final two skeletons were discovered. Despite evidence confirming the deaths of the entire family, we remain a society full of What Ifs. One of my favorite mystery/thriller 'sub-genres' if you will, is the survival of one of the children (and name me a little girl who watched Anastasia and didn't fantasize about being a long-lost princess). Naturally, when I came across The Romanov Cross, I zeroed in on it and needed it in my life.
"If any relation to your family takes my life, then woe to the dynasty. The Russian people will rise against you with murder in their hearts."
Grigori Rasputin knows his time is coming to an end. He utters a prophetic message to the Grand Duchess Anastasia and shortly after, he is murdered. The Imperial Family's days are numbered and the political climate in Russia is chaotic. Numerous factions are vying for control and once Nicholas II abdicates, the family is carted around the country before a swift execution and careless burial - if it can be called that - in a large grave in a forest.
In the present day, Dr. Frank Slater's days are also numbered. After recklessly punching a superior officer, he's stripped of his Major rank and declared an average citizen. It's only because he's among the best in his field (Epidemiology - the study of diseases and how they're distributed) that he's kept on and soon finds himself taken from the hot desserts of Afghanistan to a frozen tundra in Alaska. St. Peter's Island, home to a long-forgotten Russian colony and a pack of wolves, is suddenly one of the most dangerous places on the planet. When the loose soil released a coffin into the sea, it was discovered Spanish Flu had claimed the body. Worried that the virus might still be alive and well - albeit in a frozen state - Slater quickly arranges a team and, with the utmost secrecy, heads to the tiny island.
Unfortunately for Slater, Port Orlov, the closest town, is home to Harley Vane, disgraced fisherman and petty burglar. It was one of the crab pods on his boat that hauled in the coffin and when Harley peeked inside, he saw a nice prize: a silver cross with giant emeralds. The rocky shoreline of St. Peter's Island sunk the boat and as the sole-survivor, Harley found himself an instant celebrity. The citizens of Port Orlov, however, know the reputation of the Vane brothers and aren't quite buying Harley's story.
The Romanov Cross was a chunkster of a novel. The past few books I've read have been quick, easy novels barely over 300 pages. This one clocks in at 500. Despite it's length, the book chugged along and I got through it without any difficulty. Three main storylines: the Romanovs imprisonment, Slater and his team, and Harley Vane, all converge on the small coastal town of Port Orlov, Alaska. The community is rich with history and many of the citizens are descended from the original Inuit tribe who called the land home. Those same Inuits were said to be among the only survivors of the Spanish Flu, a deadly 1918 pandemic that claimed the lives of an estimated 100 million people. A few of the townsfolk have suddenly developed coughs and it's looking like history will be put to the test once more.
While I enjoyed this novel, there were a few things that bothered me: for a novel about the Romanovs, their chapters were few and far between. I had expected alternating chapters, or at the very least, every few chapters. Sadly, there were only a handful of Romanov scenes. Also, I was a bit confused. Was this supposed to have supernatural elements? Granted, you can't mention Rasputin without entertaining the notion that he had otherworldly powers, but Anastasia is alive and well on this island. Anastasia was born in 1901. She's well over 100 in the book and living on a desolate island in the harsh Alaskan wilderness. It was mentioned in a chapter that Rasputin said she was unlike the others and gave her a cross to protect her. Was it enchanted or somehow able to prolong her life? That part confused me, as well as the wolves (the souls of the other Russians who had died on the island) and the multiple appearances of ghosts. If The Romanov Cross was intended to be a supernatural or paranormal novel, okay. If not, I'm left scratching my head.
This book has a huge cast of characters and, surprisingly, they're all very well developed! It always worries me when books have such a large amount of characters, but The Romanov Cross put my fears to rest. Each character - whether they were a central figure or minor townsfolk - had a distinct personality and individual traits and strengths. I really enjoyed that.
The ending definitely seemed rushed and a bit too tidy. However, The Romanov Cross was still an entertaining read and definitely one to spread out over a relaxing weekend.(less)
The Bone Season has received an insane amount of hype leading up to its release. Personally, I'm extremely hesitant to give in to any book labeled The Next ______ (especially when it's the next Harry Potter). While I definitely wouldn't say this series is the next HP, the hype is certainly deserved!
2050s London is far different than it is today. In the late 1800s, a seance-gone-wrong (or right, depending on how you look at it) ushered forth clairvoyants, normal humans with abnormal abilities. 200 years later, clairvoyants are still on the run from the Big Brother-esque Scion. With a father in the government, Paige Mahoney has a lot to lose if her true nature is discovered. Using a false job as a cover, she spends her time in London's seedy underworld, working for a man with questionable ethics.
Some clairvoyants can read tarot cards or palms. Paige is a dreamwalker, a person with the ability to not only enter others' minds, but - as Paige discovers - their bodies as well. A rather disastrous train ride sets Scion's sights on Paige and she quickly learns there's much more to her world than she ever thought possible.
If you're a fan of massive world-building, The Bone Season is for you. In fact, there's so much to learn it can be slightly overwhelming. Initially I was a bit confused - the first few chapters are bogged down with lots of info and terms - but as the novel progressed these ideas and phrases became second nature and by the end of the book I was fully immersed.
NOTHING makes me happier than opening a book and finding a big ol' map staring at me. I absolutely love it and this one was a complete surprise. It's not as large or as detailed as some of the other maps I've come across in books (although those typically encompass entire worlds rather than a single city), but it made me feel right at home. There's also a chart in the very beginning of the book - even before the map! - that I didn't fully understand until later in the story. It breaks down the seven orders of clairvoyance and once you understand what each ability means, this chart becomes absolutely fascinating. Probably the most helpful though was the nine-page glossary. Trust me on this one: you'll need it. Between words like mime-crime, threnody, and Amaurotic, there's a LOT to learn and you'll quickly become good friends with those nine pages.
The characters were another hit and each one was beautifully crafted (particularly Warden ♥). Whether they were minor, one-scene characters or main characters seen throughout the course of the novel, I got a feel for every single one. Yes The Bone Season is a fantasy novel, but when you get down to it, these characters are still human (some of them at least!) and they're not without flaws and strengths and fears.
I don't want to give away any spoilers, but the ending seriously left me wanting more (plus the romance I was starting to suspect wouldn't happen!). While I'm a bit unsure of how the story will play out over seven books, you can bet I'll be eagerly awaiting the sequel! Don't go into The Bone Season expecting to return to the world of Harry Potter. Honestly, apart from the same publisher and series length, the two are nothing alike. If you go into it with thoughts of Hogwarts and Quidditch you will be let down. However, if you're looking for a fun and exciting new series with an excellent world and class system, The Bone Season is for you!(less)
Sky Jumpers was available as a Read Now on netgalley and y'all know I can't pass up a good Middle Grade. Sad...morethis review will go live on the blog10/11
Sky Jumpers was available as a Read Now on netgalley and y'all know I can't pass up a good Middle Grade. Sadly I didn't make it more than a few chapters in before setting this book aside.
World War III nearly wiped out civilization. A small settlement was formed in White Rock, Nebraska - in a large crater - and has since flourished. The war was devastating, not only wiping out nearly every bit of technology, but also leaving behind deadly pockets of gas known as Bomb's Breath. Many people have died after walking into the gas, yet the kids view it as a toy. Leaping off cliffs and into the gas - holding your breath, of course! - slows your fall and feels like flying.
There was far too much going on in the chapters I read. All technology has been wiped out in a matter of years and it's up to 12-year-old Hope's class to come up with new inventions. There was some cliff-jumping, lots of exposition detailing the loss of technology, and a large info-dump explaining that this poisonous Bomb's Breath was actually the result of a green bomb - US citizens learned their lesson after WWII and created a 'green bomb' in an attempt to save people..? I didn't get it.
Perhaps I didn't read enough - admittedly I stopped about four chapters in (though that was a sizable portion of the less-than-200-page book) - but Sky Jumpers just didn't cut it. I had a difficult time grasping the idea of this new world and, quite frankly, didn't care enough to read about the new inventions these children were creating.(less)