In the second installment of Gail Carson Levine'sA Tale of Two Castles series, Elodie, Masteress Meenore, and Count Jonty Um have arrived on Elodie's home island. There they learn that the Replica, a magical object that keeps Lahnt safe, has been stolen. Detection commences.
Stolen Magic introduces a whole new cast of characters and suspects. Elodie, once again, must deduce, induce, and use her common sense to solve the mystery.
Stolen Magic is a cute sequel to Gail Carson Levine's genre-mixing A Tale of Two Castles series, and I, for one, love a good fantastical mystery. This book also reminds me a little of Tamora Pierce'sMelting Stones because the crew is working to keep a volcano from exploding, and it is never a bad thing to be reminded of Ms. Pierce's work.
Allyson and Sydney Tate exist in a somewhat uneasy truce. Allyson is the perfect daughter--interest in her parent's hobbies, baking, and keeping up appearances. Sydney is rebellious, whip-smart, and unruly. She spends most her time skateboarding with her two best friends. The arrival of Graham, the new neighbor, puts Allyson and Sydney back into each others' orbit. There is something about Graham that neither can resist. Allyson with her optimism sees the Graham with innocent eyes, but Sydney is suspicious of the newcomer and just knows there is something off about him.
I quite enjoyed Norah Olson's haunting, psychological thriller. I read it in one sitting. As the reader gets deeper into Twisted Fate it's evident that there is something not only off about Graham but the girls as well. The story is told in alternating perspectives. Each girl has a unique voice. The interspersion of narrations from of secondary characters really added to the story as well, giving the reader access to information that Sydney and Allyson did not possess. Enough clues are laid along the way to keep the reader interested without revealing too much too soon.
Leonora (Leo) and her sister Paris live in less-than-ideal circumstances in Las Vegas with their mother and new stepfather. Paris is the vibrant sister, full of life and enthusiasm. She is an artist and a dreamer. Leo is the more practical sister, set on attending Stanford and becoming a doctor. The two have always relied on one another. Deeply. Emphatically. Which is why Leo panics when her sister disappears from a late-night pie run. Paris has left clues around the city urging Leo to find her and hinting at something more sinister than a late-night prank. Leo must rely on almost-stranger Max to help her hunt down Paris. Finding Paris is a scavenger hunt with high stakes. There are enough clues that something is really wrong, so the reader knows that Leo needs to get this right. However, despite my anticipation of the big reveal, I didn't find myself quite as invested in the experience as I would have liked. Everything about it is solid. It's just missing a real "wow."
Let's talk about Laura Ruby's new book, Bone Gap, and how exquisitely lovely it is. Oh my, I just can hardly even handle this book. The whole time I was reading it I was thinking, "This is so, so beautiful." The writing is glorious. Read it.
In some ways I think that it's best to go into Bone Gap knowing very little. The power of the tale and its beauty were more overwhelming for me because I didn't know what to expect. That said, I almost didn't pick it up because the blurb sounds pretty standard. So, if this write-up convinces anyone to read Bone Gap that was going to pass it by due to its perhaps less-than-inspiring blurb, I will consider my job done. And, if I've already convinced you, wait to read what follows until after you've finished the book. If you aren't yet convinced, keep reading.
Bone Gap takes place in a small town in Illinois. It's about two brothers who have been abandoned by their mother. It's about a girl who is kidnapped. It's about the boy who saw her taken but can't describe her kidnapper. It's about how no one believes him. It's about how abandoned these boys feel. It's about a boy and girl and how they see each other.
Bone Gap made me feel that swelling, tingling sensation that you get when you are reading something truly amazing. I loved the characters. I loved the mystery. I loved the strangeness. I loved the atmosphere and the mood of the book. And, most of all, I loved the writing.
The best way that I can think to describe Bone Gap is that it's as if someone melted together The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, The Vanishing Season, and The Ocean at the End of the Lane stirred them up and then poured out a glittering, new work of art. The language in Laura Ruby's book is every bit as lovely as those novels. And, as with those books, Bone Gap teeters between reality and the otherworldly. There's just a hint, just a glimpse, of magic to these tales, and it's that slight otherworldliness that makes them so utterly captivating.
Although those three books were really the closest to Bone Gap in terms of feel and style, for me, I also came up with a few other connections:
Shadow Study picks up approximately eight years after Fire Study left off. Yelena is the liaison between Sitia and Ixia, keeping the balance between the old enemies. Valek moves back and forth between the two countries and this is how the couple maintains their relationship. The book opens with Yelena on her way to meet Valek. During the journey she is shot by a hidden assassin. All seems well until days later after Valek has already departed. Yelena is hit with a horrible illness and when she recovers her magic is gone.
The chapters in Shadow Study alternate between Yelena, Valek, and Janco. I really enjoyed this about the book. I especially loved spending a little bit more time with Valek. His memories of assassin training and his younger years added so much to his character, and I loved getting to know Valek a little better. Likewise, I enjoyed spending time with Janco. He has a fun personality and his chapters were never dull. Although Yelena, Valek, and Janco seem to be on very different missions, it's clear from early on that the threads of their three stories will come together. It's so gratifying when they do.
For me, the hardest thing about reading Shadow Study was that it's been so long since I've read the other books in the series. You guys, 2008 seems like an age ago. Between then and now I've had two children. The oldest is now five. I wrote a dissertation and finished my PhD. I've moved three times. 2008 was like another lifetime ago and remembering anything but the very basics of the Study series was just not possible. Also, I never read the Glass series that features Opal Cowen or any of the three Study series short stories. Shadow Study seems to do a great job bringing the Study series and Glass series together. And, although I was at a slight disadvantage having never read the Glass series, I never had trouble following the story line. Avid Maria V. Snyder fans will love Shadow Study, but if your reading of this world has been a little spotty, like mine, you won't be in over your head.
My one quibble about the story is that the climatic battle takes place off the page. I felt a little disappointed that I had to black out with Yelena and miss the finale.
Overall, this is a great addition to the worlds of Ixia and Sitia. Study series fans are going to be thrilled. Valek fans, especially, will rejoice. Shadow Study has renewed my love of the series. I am so excited that there's more to come.
I read the first part of Ileni's story last year. The first book, Death Sworn, takes place in the assassin caves where Ileni, whose magic is disappearing, serves as their tutor. Ileni came to the caverns convinced that the assassins are pure evil, but once the assassins have a face and a voice, Ileni finds the situation much more complicated.
The situation in Death Marked is similar. Ileni, having left the assassins at the end of book one, goes to the Empire to learn for herself if it's as evil as she's always been taught. She is accepted into the sorcerer academy and, as with the assassins caverns, she finds things aren't quite as black and white as she's been taught. She finds sympathy and camaraderie with some of the students. Plus, Ileni is tempted. She loves being powerful again. And the academy's cache of lodestones fills the emptiness her lost magic left behind. But at what cost? Those lodestones are filled with death.
In Leah Cypess's sequel, Ileni can't seem to figure out who she is. Is she an assassin? A spy? A traitor? Her internal conflict is expressed quite well. Death Marked, on its own merits, is a very lovely book. Well written with powerful characterization and an evocative setting. However, it just doesn't work as a series conclusion. It doesn't feel like an ending. As I neared the conclusion of the book I started to wonder how it could possibly wrap everything up satisfactorily. The answer was that it couldn't. My first thought after finishing was, "that was the end?" I'm not convinced that anything has changed by the end of the book. What's the situation with the assassins and Sorin? It's all left hanging. At the very end of the book Ileni comes up with a way to fix the whole lodestone problem, but Karyn immediately turns it into something sinister. It feels like a set up for more conflict. There's obviously still much more work to be done. How will Ileni and a couple of sorcerers change the entire Empire? Does Ileni actually have the power to change things?
Death Marked reads like a second book in a trilogy and like a set-up for a powerful concluding third book. I don't know if this series was originally suppose to be a trilogy or if Leah Cypess is trying to upend the fantasy genre with a quieter, less dramatic, less conclusive ending. Either way, I found the ending painfully unsatisfying, and I'm not sure that I would read a sequel even if there was one.
Avery VanDemere has never felt like she fit into the VanDemere clan. The child of a scandal, she never knew her mother and grew up in her grandmother's mansion. Once she turns eighteen she plans to leave the VanDemere world, with all its propriety and privilege, behind. Then Avery and all her VanDemere relatives learn that their Justine VanDemere is dying, and she has engineered a competition to determine who will be her heir.
Kate Kae Myers'Inherit Midnight is a lot of fun. It's kind of a cross between The Amazing Race and Who Do You Think You Are. I got a kick out of the extreme, high-stakes genealogy. Justine VanDemere is obsessed with family history. The VanDemeres are whisked around the world as the competition progresses. Each test takes place at a different location and each has to do with one of the VanDemere ancestors.
As Avery learns about her ancestors, she has some moments of self-discovery as well. As would be expected in a competition like this and in a family such as the VanDemeres, there is back-stabbing, cheating, lying, out-and-out villainy, but there are also moments of bonding between Avery and some of her family members.
I wasn't super swoony over Riley Tate, but I was glad that he was there to help Avery along, and I think he was a good friend to her.
The third and final addition to the Princess Academy series is an absolute delight. It's no secret that I basically love all things Shannon Hale, butThe third and final addition to the Princess Academy series is an absolute delight. It's no secret that I basically love all things Shannon Hale, but this one is extra special.
Miri is on her way back to Mount Eskel when she receives a summons from the king. The neighboring kingdom of Stora is threatening invasion but may be placated with a royal Danlandian bride. Miri is to go to the swamps of Lesser Alva and establish a princess academy there where she will prepare three forgotten royal cousins to wed a king.
Conditions in the swamp are, well, pretty bleak. The girls, Astrid, Felissa, and Sus, are completely wild and not at all interested in courtly affairs or book learning. In fact, they don't have time for any of that nonsense. They are too busy just getting by. Miri, now stuck in the swamp with the sisters, must make this work somehow.
The Forgotten Sisters is full of really poignant emotions. And I loved this best about the book. Miri is miserable in the swamp and fiercely misses Peder and Marda, but then she begins to love the girls and understand their lives. This transition is communicated so eloquently. Astrid, Felissa, and Sus are fabulous additions to the series. Fully developed and every bit as likeable and unique as any of the girls from Mount Eskel.
The Forgotten Sisters is also not without its share of high-stakes drama. Soldiers. Pirates. Snakes. Caiman. The Chief Delegate. Bandits. Epic Escapes. You get the picture. It's all in there.
Miri's linder magic continues to develop in the most intriguing ways. Linder helps her unravel these sisters' secrets. Peder is stalwart and fabulous as ever. And I just loved Miri's educational lessons and how they came to matter in late chapters. As Miri says, "Think of learning as storing up supplies you may need for a harsh winter."
Despite their differences, Nick (short for Nicole) and Dara have always been especially close sisters. That is until a horrible accident changes things. Now everyone is tiptoeing around Nick and Dara won't speak to her. Some wounds take a long time to heal.
Lauren Oliver always wins me over with her writing. She just knows how to use words to their full potential. Vanishing Girls is no exception. The writing is superb. The book alternates between Nick's words and Dara's. Each has a distinct voice. Vanishing Girls is a psychological thriller and, as with all psychological thrillers, it's best to go in without too much forewarning. I will say, however, that the characters and the setting is very well drawn.
As is to be expected in a psychological thriller there is a big twist, and I don't know what the deal is exactly, but I keep figuring out the twists in these books way earlier than I would like! (I knew what was going on in We Were Liars about a third of the way in, for example.) I had my suspicions very early on in this book and then starting paying really close attention to all the details that you are probably supposed to miss. The clues are in there. And really, this is a compliment. Twists should not come out of the blue. The groundwork should be laid. However, I'd really like to be surprised. Maybe I've just read too many books with a similar big reveal, as of late, (view spoiler)[(We Were Liars, Twisted Fate, The Half Life of Molly Pierce.) (hide spoiler)]
However, that said, I was absolutely compelled to finish Vanishing Girls. I had to know if my suspicions were correct. I had to know what was so unsettling about Nick and Dara's relationship. I had to know what was going on with Parker. I would have loved to read Vanishing Girls in one sitting.
One hundred years have passed since Aurora fell under the sleeping curse, and she's just been awakened by prince Rodric of Alyssinia. Everything is different. Her parents are dead. The city is much larger. Alyssinia is full of unrest and rebellion. And everyone seems to think Aurora is a tool to be used. Completely disoriented and with no one to trust, Aurora is mired in a sea of uncertainty.
Rhiannon Thomas's debut novel had a lot of potential. I love fairy tale retellings, and Sleeping Beauty seems to be quite the thing these days. I like the idea of exploring the weirdness of fated love and the reality of missing 100 years. Coming off of Stacey Jay's fabulous Princess of Thorns, I had high hopes for this one. I was not overly impressed. Nothing really happens in A Wicked Thing. Aurora seems to spend most of her time locked in her room. I understand that Aurora is disoriented and overwhelmed, and that part of the story is very realistic. Thomas's tale really did make me think about how different things would be if you missed 100 years. However, that said, Aurora is an incredibly passive character. Things happen to her and she reacts. At the very end of the book she turns the tide a bit and does the unexpected but really it's too little too late.
Red Queen is Victoria Aveyard's debut novel, and it has been getting a ton of buzz. And you know what, it's well deserved, which is such a relief to write.
Mare Barrow is a Red. She lives a day-to-day existence in a Red slum thieving to get by. In Mare's world there are two types of people, Reds and Silvers. The two are differentiated by their red and silver blood and the fact that Silvers possess a wide array of super-human powers. Some are extraordinarily strong; some are telekinetic; some read minds. Silvers live like gods in fabulous palaces expecting Reds to be serve them, worship them, and, above all, be subservient to them. Mare is sick of all of it. She's sick of the feats of strength meant to lord the Silver's powers over the Reds. She's sick of being hungry, dirty, and ill-treated. But most of all she is sick of the mandatory conscription that has taken her brothers to the war front and will soon take her.
Then through a series of tragedies and coincidences, Mare finds herself working in the palace where it's discovered that she has extraordinary powers of her own. Suddenly, Mare, a lowly Red, is a huge threat to the Silvers, who, in order to cover up Mare's powers, bring her into their world. And it is a dangerous world, indeed.
There's so much to love in this book. Red Queen is kind of Red Rising combined with X-Men and set in a dystopian world. If you love dystopias, this one won't disappoint. The setting is pretty well done, especially once we get to the palace. If you love a book with superpowers, like I do, Red Queen is for you. There's a wide variety of supernatural powers, and they make all the court intrigue just that much more dangerous. Mare position in the Silver court is incredibly unstable which makes for a great deal of tension and suspense. And, best of all, the princes are fabulously complicated.
I'm pretty sure that I am going to be in the minority, as Snow Like Ashes has picked up a lot of fans and won some reader's choice awards since it was published in October, but I just could not get through this book. And you guys, I really tried. I started the book three different times. I eventually got more than halfway through, but it was slow going, and I finally had to throw in the towel. The main problem for me was that this book just didn't feel fresh and new.
Snow Like Ashes is set in a land divided between two types of countries, the Rhythms and the Seasons. The Rhythms experience a typical seasonal progression. The Seasons, however, only have one season throughout the year. This is kind of a cool idea. The problem is that we never really get to experience it because we don't spend any significant amount of time in a Season.
Sixteen years ago, the country of Spring decimated the country of Winter. Now it's people are enslaved except for a few compatriots who are fighting to get Winter back. Among this band is Winter's young king, sixteen year old Mather, who was saved from Spring's invasion when his mother gave him to her trusted general. The small band without a homeland is a common trope in fantasy fare, and there wasn't much to enliven it in Snow Like Ashes. This aspect of the story struck me as a less spectacular version of Melina Marchetta's superb Finnikin of the Rock.
Meira is our main character. She wants to be a warrior, but she is constantly told to wait at home. Meira seemed like a decent fighter to me, and I didn't read far enough to find out why Sir wouldn't let her fight. It always irks me when a character isn't given the answers they so desperately need. Why not just explain to Meira why she must stay behind? The lack of answers drives Meira to reckless behavior.
Then Meira is betrothed to Theron, the Prince of Cordell, in order to form an alliance. Enter another common fantasy trope: the forced marriage and rebellious fiancee. To top it off, Meira is not told that this is going to happen or why. Her fellow Winterians just spring it on her. That was never going to work for a girl like Meira.
With the betrothal comes a love triangle between Meira, Prince Theron, and Prince Mather. It's not that I hate love triangles, but at this point they have been done so many times that a love triangle has to be pretty spectacular or I'm over it. And this particular love triangle features Meira, a prince, and a king. It's just a bit much. Plus, I have no idea why anyone likes anyone else.
Sara Raasch's book dangles the promise of cool magic. I just wish I had seen more of it.
Ignite is the second book in Sara B. Larson'sDefy Series. In the first book Alexa helped wrest the kingdom from the evil King Hector. Now that Damian is on the throne things in Antion are looking up. The gross wrongs of King Hector's realm are beginning to be put to right, and Alexa no longer has to hide the fact that she is a girl. However, there is one little sticky issue: she's still in love with him. And even though Alexa has determined that it's best for the country if she and Damian are not together, that hasn't made the decision any less painful. Alexa's personal issues aside, there is still a lot of work to be done in the kingdom of Antion. A regime change such as this calls for a delicate balancing act. Most especially, Damian and his advisers are wary of how the surrounding countries will treat the new Antion. They get a chance to find out right away when the neighboring country of Dansii sends an envoy.
Defy was just okay for me, but I really enjoyed Ignite. I think part of the reason is that this book has a lot more political intrigue. There's abduction, poison, swordplay, and, of course, magic. I liked that we got more up close and personal with the villains in book two. You can't hate a villain with the same venom if you don't really know them.
My one complaint about this book is kind of reminds me of when an interviewer asks about a personality flaw, and the interviewee reports on a flaw that is not really a flaw. Here it is: Alexa does everything in this book. She has to fight everyone, solve all the mysteries, and basically save the kingdom single handed. I know that Alexa is awesome and all, but doesn't King Damian have anyone else that can wield a sword?!
Miriam Foster's newest books in the Bhinian Empire series is a companion novel to City of A Thousand Dolls. Empire of Shadows is, in fact, the story of how Nisha's parents met. It begins as Mara, having been cast out of her family group, enters an order that trains individuals to become warrior-protectors of their charges. Once Mara's training is complete she leaves to seek out someone to pledge herself to.
I love the fascinating and rich world of the Bhinian Empire. We get to read a lot more about the Sune in this installment, and, as they are very mysterious creatures, that was quite a treat. Also, I love a fantasy with a lot of political intrigue, and this one definitely has that going for it. Mara ends up working for Revathi, a noble girl, in the capital city of Kamal. It's the hot season, so many of the nobles are away for the summer. I loved the atmosphere that was created by this half-empty city. Revathi and her grandmother are pros at playing the games of court, and they have these delightfully cynical attitudes. I quite enjoyed them.
The other main story line follows the path of Nisha's father, Emil. He is a Kildi and a member of the Arvi clan, but not entirely comfortable with his role there. Emil, for me, takes a bit of a backseat to Mara. For one, I think that this really is mostly Mara's story, and also, Mara is so kick-butt awesome Emil falters a bit in her shadow.
One of the most pleasurable parts of reading this story is putting the pieces together with City of A Thousand Dolls. I loved seeing the connections between that story and this one. We get some additional insight into well-known characters (Esmer! Stefan!), and it was interesting to see how some of the politics of Nisha's time had their origins in Mara's time.
Graeme Simsion's sequel to The Rosie Project takes Don and Rosie around the world to New York City. Don is a professor at Columbia and Rosie is workinGraeme Simsion's sequel to The Rosie Project takes Don and Rosie around the world to New York City. Don is a professor at Columbia and Rosie is working on an MDPhD. Life seems to be good for the pair until Rosie announces her pregnancy. Then commences a series of, as Don would call them, disasters.
I ended up really loving this book, but, while I was reading the first half especially, I kind of felt like I was watching a train wreck. One disaster after another conspires to derail (to continue the train metaphor) Don. Then his inability to cope with the problem leads to another disaster. It's a chain reaction that you aren't sure Don's going to survive unscathed. However, in the midst of all this problems, it's so lovely to see how deeply Don cares about his old and new friends. Some of the disasters are caused through the best of intentions.
I didn't really realize how much baggage Rosie carried into this relationship until I was well into this second book. I think some readers could be really, really angry with Rosie, and I kind of don't blame them. I guess it's nice to see how Don and Rosie are fully formed individuals, both with big, possibly relationship killing issues. It puts them on more equal ground.
As the disasters begin to be resolved in the second half of the book, I no longer felt the need to metaphorically cover my eyes. I feel like Don grew a lot in this book, becoming a caring individual with lots to offer to so many.
The conclusion of the book takes place at Christmas, which made it a perfect choice for the holiday season.
The Unhappening of Genesis Lee has a really interesting premise. Gena is a member of the Mementi, a small segment of the population that stores it's mThe Unhappening of Genesis Lee has a really interesting premise. Gena is a member of the Mementi, a small segment of the population that stores it's memories in beads or links. They have the ability to remember everything as the bead store memories with absolute precision. The Mementi have an uneasy coexistence with the rest of the members of their society. When someone starts stealing memories the whole town might could very well go up in flames. Gena may have the key to solving the mystery, if only she could remember it.
Shallee McArthur has created a very interesting world. The story as a whole is kind of a science fiction thriller, with the main characters racing to uncover the criminal. However, there is also a good bit of the deeper themes of remembering and forgetting, friendship, family, and loyalty. The questions about what gives an individual his or her identity are all carefully balanced with the fast-paced plot. The book deals with social prejudices and the moral implications of scientific advancement.
I love the title of this book. In addition to being clever, it's very applicable to Gena's situation. I liked how Gena kept forgetting Kalan, and the two would have to work out their relationship all over again. It almost had a fate-like feel.
I've got a several other books on my to-read list that feature a similar situation. I'm eager to see how other author treat the storing and forgetting of memories.
Deanna Raybourn has written four novellas set during traditional English holidays. Last year I read Silent Night. This December I read Twelfth Night.Deanna Raybourn has written four novellas set during traditional English holidays. Last year I read Silent Night. This December I read Twelfth Night. This traditional English holiday marks the coming of the Epiphany and concludes the Twelve Days of Christmas, so clearly, it is perfect for the holiday season. This time the whole March clan is gathered at Bellmont Abbey as it is customary for their family to put on the Twelfth Night Revels for their English village. I love having the whole March clan together because there is always a ruckus and a good bit of eccentricity. It was particularly fun to get to know some of Lady Julia's young nieces and nephews. The mystery this time involves an abandoned baby and a haunted cottage.
This little book was such a lovely breath of fresh air. It's Christmas Eve and Chloe has a shift at the local grocery store, GoodFoods Market. As it is bound to be a busy day, the store is fully staffed. Working along side Chloe are five other teenage employees. The workday has it's usual highs and lows. High: Tyson, Chloe's crush, is assigned to be her bagger. Low: Crashing a cart into a car trying to impress said crush. But the lowest of the low is when Chloe and the other young employees are accused of stealing the charity fund and have to stay late to talk to the police.
Top Ten Clues You're Clueless is so cute. I loved Chloe and her endless lists. Liz Czukas manages to make Chloe both adorable and dorky. Almost the entire book takes place in the grocery store, and that's actually a lot of fun. The reader gets a behind-the-scenes look at the inner workings of a marketplace.
Chloe has a tough time making friends and getting out of her own head. It's nice to see the group rally and open up to one another. I loved them all, snarky Sammi, know-it-all Micah, beautiful Zaina, goofball Gabe, and crush-worthy Tyson. They were kind of forced into their friendship, but that doesn't make it any less sweet. The whole book reminded me of a meme that I saw recently about the bonding that occurs when people are forced together for a long period of time.
Also, I this is just the type of Christmas story that I like best. A cute, fun contemporary with Christmas as the setting. This would definitely be a fun book to pick up this December.
I very nearly gave this book five-stars. Really, I liked it that much.
What if Sleeping Beauty didn't live happily ever after? What if she died leaving two young children and a usurper on the throne? Stacey Jay'sPrincess of Thorns is the story of what comes after Sleeping Beauty's unhappy end. It's the tale of Sleeping Beauty's daughter, a fierce and resolute warrior, who will do what she must to protect her younger brother and regain her kingdom.
Ms. Jay's story uses Charles Perrault's tale as its jumping off point. In Perrault's story, Sleeping Beauty's mother-in-law is an ogress who enjoys eating children, the prince keeps his bride a secret, and Sleeping Beauty's children are named Dawn and Day. Princess of Thorns features an ogress queen who eats human souls, a king who hides a second family, and siblings Aurora and Jor.
Aurora's somewhat reluctant ally on her quest is a prince of a neighboring kingdom, Prince Niklaas. He is searching for a way to break the curse that will turn him into a swan on his eighteenth birthday.
I really enjoyed this novel. It started a little slow for me, but as it picked up, I found myself thinking about it more and more. Aurora is feisty and headstrong. Niklaas starts out seeming overly arrogant, but it doesn't take long to realize that it's all bluster. I love when magic has consequences, and that is certainly the case with this tale. Aurora's fairy blessing was one of the most interesting parts of this tale, for me. Sure Niklaas and Aurora should be more honest with each other, but, all things considered, I can't be too hard on them. And really, I quite liked them together.
Princess of Thorns is a so many things. It's a fairytale, an epic fantasy, a love story, and an adventure. No wonder it has so many connections to other books:
While Beauty Slept and Princess of Thorns: These Sleeping Beauty spin-offs take another character's perspective--the servant and the daughter.
Daughter of the Forest and Princess of Thorns: Contain elements of The Wild Swans by Hans Christian Anderson, in which eleven princes are turned into swans by their wicked stepmother.
Amber Vaughn lives in a small town in the hills of North Carolina. Her world is small. Times are rough, but she has a voice that soars if only she could figure out a way to let it fly.
Jaye Robin Brown's debut novel is every kind of lovely. I read it in two sittings. The descriptive language is spot on. I could picture Amber's home, the surrounding hills, her family and friends. Best of all, I feel like I know exactly what Amber's singing voice sounds like, and. Days later, I am still amazed that Brown can make me hear music with her words.
I really loved Amber. I couldn't help but feel for her and wish she didn't have it quite so hard. Amber makes some poor choices, and, although they are mostly mistakes of the heart, all choices have consequences. I like how real this aspect of the story is.
I also really liked Amber's friends. Devon is a good best friend, and I loved how he called her Amber Plain and Small, although I loved CA (cheerleader Amber) more.
But most of all, Will. Oh, I loved Will. I loved imagining Amber and Will singing together while Will plays the banjo.
All aspiring songwriter Minerva Watson wanted for her birthday was a ukelele. Instead she got an ugly sweater and a mysterious package from the father she thought abandoned her and her mother many years ago. This information is just too much for Minerva to deal with right now, so she pushes it to the back of her mind where it can fester, as these things do. Besides Minerva has more pressing problems, like getting a job at Get Happy so she can buy herself that ukelele.
Get Happy is really a treat. The company does children's birthday parties, and I loved this so much because it was endlessly amusing to imagine Minerva, Fin, and Hayes all dressed up in their off-brand costumes. The parties played the duel function of both providing comic relief and throwing the dad-issue back in Minerva's face.
Get Happy is one of those books that from the moment I started it, I could tell was was going to enjoy it. Minerva has a fresh voice, and her old friend Fin and new friend Hayes are spunky and quirky and full of "vim and vigor."
Mary Amato's book does a nice job balancing the tough stuff with the lighthearted. It's also fun that you can go to Amato's website and see Minerva's songs performed, uke and all!
Ava is a firebug, a magical creature that can start fires with her mind. Not that all that power has caused her anything but trouble. She spent half of her life on the run. Her mother was killed right in front of her. Then she was coerced into becoming a hit man for a magical mafia. Now that mafia wants her to kill Duncan, a man that is practically her grandfather. Enough is enough. But saying no to the Coterie means fighting back.
Lish McBride's story is a lot of fun. The best part is that it's full of fabulous characters. I really enjoyed Ava's voice. She's sarcastic and cynical, but she also had a good head on her shoulders. Her two best friends and partners, Lock and Ezra, make this team a tip-top crew. The different settings in Firebug are also really well done, from Cade's cabin to the insanity of Inferno.
There's a lot of back story that McBride needs to get across to the reader, and I thought it was handled well, for the most part, through Ava's reminiscences. The magical mafia reminded me a little of White Cat, a series I adore. The range of magical creatures is pretty fun. The world is gritty and dark. The characters are whip smart, and I would certainly pick up the next in the series.
The Fire Artist takes place in an alternate United States where some people have developed elemental magic. Many elemental artists aspire to working in a new entertainment industry that is kind of melding of professional sports and the circus.
Aria is a fire artist. She's been training with one of the smaller leagues and hoping to make it into the big time. Aria is different from other elemental artists; her magic is not born from within. She stole it from the sky. This secret puts her in danger because the leagues have a strictly no external magic use policy, which in this case means genies (think no steroids in sports). Aria's theft was kind of a last resort, something that could guarantee her and her family's safety, at least for a little while.
I have been wanting to read a book by Daisy Whitney for a while now, and I really enjoyed The Fire Artist. I love an alternate reality, and this one was certainly interesting. I liked the parallels between elemental magic and professional athletics. Daisy Whitney offers a satisfying twist on elemental magic, as well.
My favorite part about this book is how Aria's dilemma is carefully balanced. The reader really feels for Aria, as it seems that she has no good option. Circumstances, and her reactions to them, have painted her into a corner and consequences are inevitable. There's no way she's getting out of this situation unscathed. You really feel the events of the past catching up with her. However, Aria is one tough girl, and she is going to do everything in her power to fight back and take full responsibility for her mistakes.
Aria's relationship with the Granter (a genie) was just okay for me. The plot stalls a bit as Aria and Taj wander the city, but I did enjoy the infusion of genies into this alternate world.
Genetics professor Don Tillman is searching for a wife. As a highly logical, quirky,The Rosie Project is a book I've been meaning to read for awhile.
Genetics professor Don Tillman is searching for a wife. As a highly logical, quirky, and unusual individual, who's probably on the Autism Spectrum, he's taken a very step-by-step approach to this process. However, along the way he meets Rosie and gets swept up in her energy and intensity. Suddenly, instead of working on finding a wife Don's spending all of his time helping Rosie find her father.
I really enjoyed this quirky and charming tale of a very unusual pair. Graeme Simsion does an fantastic job channeling Don's voice. It's is strong and original and just him. ...more
Willa is the new girl in Hollywood. Her mother married a big time movie director, and the book opens as they move into his Hollywood mansion. Willa starts a new school and tries her best to adapt to her new life. The thing is, things haven't been so great for Willa since her dad died two years ago, and the weirdness that happen to her on a too-regular basis only get worse in Hollywood. Willa starts seeing visions and soon she realizes they are connected to the Hollywood Killer, a serial killer who reenacts famous movie scenes with his dead victims.
Katie Alender really delivers with this book. Willa's interactions with her classmates are just as fantastic as the supernatural elements of the story. And it certainly helped that I read the book at exactly the right time of year. I enjoyed the mystery and the ties to old Hollywood. The ghost scenes are incredibly chilling. And it all ramps up to a nail-biting conclusion.
The Wonder is the second installment in Dinah's story. I did not enjoy it with the same fervor that I loved the first in the story, but that is primarily due to my personal preferences. The first in the series takes place in the palace and is full of courtly intrigue and is full of slippery characters. Book two begins where The Crown left off. Dinah has escaped the palace and is wandering in the Twisted Woods. The woods are beautiful and frightening and weird in the way that only Wonderland can be. The problem for me was that there was just a bit too much solo wandering.
Aislynn is a princess in a fairy-tale world. All women have magic in this world, but it is a dangerous magic, and if it is not controlled it will corrupt a young girl and all she touches, eventually turning her into something evil, a stray. Or so, Aislynn has been told. She spends her life trying to tamp down her powerful magic. When she's unable to do so, she is Redirected to a life as a fairy godmother.
Elissa Sussman's tale is a fascinating take on fairy godmothers, who never really get to be the star of the show in the fairy tale world, despite their powers. In Stray no one would aspire to become a fairy godmother. They are held up as examples to young ladies for what they too could become if they cannot hold back their magic.
At first, I was afraid that Stray was going to be a thinly veiled metaphor. The beginning especially seemed to be a condemnation of the purity movement. Just read the prayer for The Path: “I am grateful for my father, who keeps me good and sweet. I am grateful for my mother, who keeps her own heart guarded and safe. I am grateful for my adviser, who keeps me protected. I am grateful for the Path, which keeps me pure. Ever after.” In the end, I think the magic that the girls possess could be read as ambition, intelligence, sexuality, voice, basically anything that can be seen as threatening in a world which desires to control women.
I felt that the book became more nuanced as it went on, and much more about the story than the misogynistic aspects of Aislynn's world. I love how dark this fairy tale is. It has the same feel as many dystopias with their controlling social structures.
I'm eager to see where Elissa Sussmann will take this series. I'd definitely read more.
Jasper Fforde you are so incredibly weird in all the best possible ways.
In book three of The Last Dragonslayer series The Eye of Zoltar, Jennifer Strange has to head to the Cambrian empire to seek the Eye of Zoltar, a huge and powerful magical gem, in order to keep the occasionally unpretified Might Shandar from killing the two remaining dragons.
As usual, the details of Fforde's book are what make this series so much fun. Jennifer's search (it's not a quest) takes her to the most dangerous of the Ununited Kingdoms where the economy is supported mainly by jeopardy tourism. She brings Perkins and Princess Shazza in Laura Scrubb's body with her. The dangers that befall them and the characters they meet along the way are not your typical quest-story fare.
I didn't enjoy The Eye of Zoltar quite as much as I enjoyed The Song of the Quarkbeast, but that is mainly because I missed the other, quirky magicians who were back at Kazam. Fforde fills this quest with unexpected perils and some fun new characters. I especially loved Princess Shazza and her love of economics and Wilson the wayward ornithologist.
I haven't missed a Jasper Fforde novel yet, and I've yet to be disappointed.
The Eye of Zoltar is out on October 7th in the U.S. I'm feeling bummed that I can't make it to any of his appearances, so go see Jasper Fforde on his U.S. tour for me.
Cecilia Gray's idea to put all of Jane Austen's characters together in one high school is pretty fun. Only With You is the only book in the series that I have read, but I could definitely see that the best part about these books is how all the characters' stories interweave.
The story is told in small bits and jumps forward and backward in time. At times I found this a little confusing and wondered what it would be like if the story was told chronologically. However, my conclusion is that the disjointed narration adds to the suspense and psychological aspects of the horror story.
The details in Griffin's story are what really add to the overall creepiness. In Bethany Griffin's hands the House of Usher comes alive. It is a character in itself, sentient and malevolent and extremely jealous. The doctors are creepy as well. Madeline gets a voice in Griffin's story, and I thought she told the story of her life trapped in a hungry house very well.
The Fall is the perfect read for the Halloween season. It comes out October 7th, 2014.