Saturday, December 31, 2011

Twilight Robbery

by Frances Hardinge

Grade: To Own
Story: Conmen! Kiddnappings! Plots! Murderous geese!
Sequel to Fly by Night.

Review: Hardinge is one of the few living authors (added to the ranks of Megan Whalen Turner, and until lately Diana Wynne Jones) whose books I will buy without reading a single review or looking up any details of the book whatsoever. I have NEVER known her to write a book that I didn't love almost unreservedly, and this was no exception.

It had the best kind of plot twists: a combination of totally surprising but perfectly suited twists, and twists that I'd guess at the beginning but somehow forget about completely due to the complexities of the plot.

It had the best kind of characters: a plump middle-aged conman with a taste for long words; a strong-willed, black-eyed young ragamuffin with a tendency to change the fate of cities (described once as "This shivering, clench-jawed scarp of damp doggedness"); a goose who frightens even the most hardened of soldiers; plus a plethora of most excellent secondary characters.

It had the best kind of setting: a world of strange names and divided towns and evil locksmiths, of midnight pawn-brokers meetings, strange clawed girls, and invisible musicians.

Plus, in the words of the esteemed author herself:
"[I]t is an adventure story, a sort of crime thriller, with lots of lies, spies, double-crosses, triple-crosses, secret passages, and at least one chase through moonlit streets by lots of people disguised as skeletal horses."
(Taken from this interview: http://www.guardian.co.uk/childrens-books-site/2011/aug/12/fiction-prize-book-club-frances-hardinge?CMP=twt_gu)

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Zombies vs. Unicorns

ed. by Justine Larbalestier and Holly Black

Grade: Good
Story: Short stories exploring the long-standing battle between zombies and unicorns. Which makes for more powerful stories? Which has more creativity and passion? Which is more AWESOME? Read to find out.


Review: Unicorns won. Sorry Larbalestier.
The unicorn stories were, in general:
  • More fun.
  • Equally as creepy without being simply gross and unpleasant.
  • Less concerned with the type of romance which is not to my taste.
  • Definitely as unique and original, and arguably more so. Lots of people do zombies nowadays.




"The Highest Justice" by Garth Nix
Garth Nix is so awesome that Team Unicorn won almost immediately simply from having him on their team. This one wasn't the best GN I've ever read, but it was still interesting and well done.

"Love Will Tear Us Apart" by Alaya Dawn Johnson
Meh. Didn't like this one. Didn't finish it. I find it very difficult to like love stories anyway, and this one wasn't good.

"Purity Test" by Naomi Novik
I seem to like Novik's short stories considerably more than her novels. She's good at unique dialogue and characters, which I find pretty essential for short stories, but I'm never quite interested in them enough to last through a whole book.

"Bougainvillea" by Carrie Ryan
Meh. The changes in time were simply confusing.

"A Thousand Flowers" by Margo Lanagan
Creepy, creepy. Bleh. It was fascinating, but rather horrible.

"The Children of the Revolution" by Maureen Johnson
This one was creepy, but in a good way. I think it might have been my favourite Zombie story. Unlike the two stories before it, it felt very contained and to the point, which I like in short stories.

"The Care and Feeding of Your Baby Killer Unicorn" by Diana Peterfruend
This was lots of fun, though I can see inklings of some of the issues CH might have had with her longer novels.

"Ioculata" by Scott Westerfeld
This was ok--some interesting ideas.

"Princess Prettypants" by Meg Cabot
This one was simply Great Fun.

"Cold Hands" by Cassandra Clare
Probably my second favourite zombie story. Slightly creepy, but not overwhelmingly so, and a love story that was strange, but not too much for me (actually, I'm not even sure if it counts as a love story, exactly).

"The Third Virgin" by Kathleen Duey
Again slightly creepy, but I liked it. Quite a different take on unicorns than even all the other original takes in this book.

"Prom Night" by Libba Bray
I didn't really get this one. Maybe because I was trying to read it and listen to a fascinating conversation at the same time? At any rate, I didn't understand quite what happened, plus it seemed like a not quite as good version of Michael Grant's Gone series.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Spell Book of Listen Taylor

by Jaclyn Moriarty

Grade: All right
Story: Listen Taylor finds a spell book and loses all her friends; Cath Murphy meets a handsome 2nd grade teacher; Cassie Zing runs a lot and plays word games; Marbie Zing has an affair with an aeronautical engineer; Fancy Zing talks to the Canadian next door and sends exuberant amounts of notes to her daughter's school teacher.

Review: It wasn't quite as good as I was hoping, considering how much I've enjoyed some of Moriarty's other books (see The Murder of Bindy Mackenzie, The Ghosts of Ashbury High, Top Ten (Or So): Australian Authors and Books). In fact, I'm rather surprised I finished it at all. The plot was rather sparse, practically only consisting of my summary up above. This wouldn't be so bad if the character study was interesting (as in Hilary McKay's books), but this seemed to mostly consist of women considering having affairs. I don't like affairs, or divorce, at ALL. I would have stopped, except I was hoping if I read to the end, everyone would get back together again and it would all be lovely and ok.

But Moriarty is still lots of fun to read, and I'll definitely read any further books of hers.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Top Ten (Or So): Australian Authors and Books

When making this list, I realized that one of the things that strike me with all these Australian authors is their originality. Maybe Australians don't find it so, but I certainly find all these authors to have fictional worlds which have a distinctness not found elsewhere.
In no particular order:



--Catherine Jinks. Evil Genius is one of my favourite books--I have a soft spot for evil child prodigies, and Cadel such an amazing one (in fact, he's #1 on on my Top Ten (Or So): Evil Child Geniuses list); its sequel Genius Squad contains a character who made it to my Top Ten (Or So) Fictional Canadians; her Pagan books contain one of the awesomest Bromances; her Reformed Vampire and Abused Werewolf books are funny and fresh takes on characters that have become far too cliched recently.

--Garth Nix. Completely awesome and original--I haven't come across someone quite like him before, and this is said among a list of very original authors. Read Sabriel and it's two sequels, Lirael and Abhorsen (this is a command, not a request). Also check out his short stories--he's written lots that are spread out over all sorts of fantasy anthologies.

--Jacyln Moriarty. The Ashbury/Brookfield series is so cool that I can guarantee any one to be a fast and enjoyable read with great characters; see The Year of the Secret Assignments, The Ghosts of Ashbury High, and especially The Murder of Bindy Mackenzie--my favourite!

--Justine Larbalestier. Her Magic and Madness series is quite interesting, with complex characters and a fascinating magic system. Liar and How to Ditch Your Fairy are also pretty good.

--Alison Goodman's Singing the Dogstar Blues. Cool everything: world, characters, language, plot.

--Elsbeth Edgar's The Visconti House. Great Middle Grade fiction. Not my favourite ever, but still great and worth reading. Plus it's Australian.

--Andrea K. Höst, of the Touchstone trilogy, the Medair duology and more. Technically born in Sweden, but raised and living in Australia. Her books are scifi and fantasy with twists and surprises and survival and romance and complex, interesting worlds.

Honourable Mentions: Juliet Marillier (of Wildwood Dancing and Daughter of the Forest) and Karen Healey (of Guardian of the Dead) are both New Zealanders living in Austrualia, so I couldn't properly add them.

How to Ditch Your Fairy

by Justine Larbalestier

Grade: Good
Story: Charlie has a parking fairy. And she hates it. Thus the title of this book. Slight chaos ensues, with plenty of unintended consequences.

Review: This is one of those books that plants you in a world, complete with loads of unknown slang and rules, and doesn't explain it at all. I LOVE that. However, as with Singing the Dogstar Blues, I'm not sure how much of this is Australian and how much is simply made up. From the glossary at the end, I suspect it's made up, which is awesome.

My main problem with this book is that besides the cool and unique world, there wasn't a lot else. The plot was very simple, Steffi didn't seem to have much character at all other than being "pulchy", and the worldbuilding, though unique, was rather limited. I know the point was that the characters were totally self-absorbed with their city and school, but I still wanted to know what the rest of the country/planet was like.

So I guess it was good fun, but not Great Fun.

See: Top Ten (Or So): Australian Authors and Books.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Hold Me Closer, Necromancer

by Lish McBride

Grade: Good
Story: Talking heads! Fairy werewolves! Siblings! Strange uncles! And of course--Necromancers!

Review: Great fun. I'm hoping there's a sequel, especially since it looks like Sam's best friend Ramon might be even cooler now than he was before. And of course, Sam is mega-cool now. And his mother is cool, and his half-sisters are cool, and his girlfriend is cool, etc.

In general, though, despite simply the fun of it all (did I mention werewolves and talking heads? And necromancers??), I loved the relationships. Sam had a group of friends around him, not simply his funny best friend, and they were actual friends with different ages and personalities. And his extended family was pretty darn awesome (with one exception), although they weren't in the book much. And then Brid had her brothers (who were awesome) and her whole pack, of course.

Sometimes it seemed like it could be a little tighter, mostly because the viewpoint switched so much. There were four different viewpoints at least, possibly five if I missed one, and they were rather unevenly distributed. I liked all of them, actually, but it was maybe just a bit imbalanced.

But that's only a quibble, which I suspect might be improved as McBride writes more. This is her first book, after all. Anyway, as I said, Great Fun.


Friday, November 25, 2011

Confessions of the Sullivan Sisters

by Natalie Standiford

Grade: Unfinished
Read: To page 154.

Reveiw: To page 154, because that's where she began to diss Catholic theology. There would be two excuses for this scene here:
1. Standiford is a non-Catholic who thinks she knows what Catholicism is from the media or something. In which case, I stopped reading because the thought of how ignorant people are of Catholicism drives me crazy and I don't need to feel crazy right now.
2. Standiford went to Catholic school herself, and this is based off her experience. In which case, no WONDER there are troubles in the Church. Those nuns were totally ignorant of anything. I mean, the questions Jane asks them are questions that any Catholic should be able to immediately answer off the top of their head. Grrrrrr. And the way they just cut her off and refused to even attempt to answer? "Catholic theology is very complicated", my foot.

(Also, Jane was talking about the Eucharist in a way that made me slightly uncomfortable. I don't know if it was bad, but I didn't feel like reading it. So I didn't.)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Mary, Mother of the Son Vol. I: Modern Myths and Ancient Truth

by Mark Shea

Grade: To Own

Review: Mark Shea is fabulous. Utterly awesome. As might be obvious from the title, this book is in a sense mostly aimed at the Protestant view of Mary. However, I find that most of the secular objections to Catholicism find their root in a Protestant mentality. And Mark Shea is especially good at linking his defense of the Catholic Church against Protestantism with defense of the Church against secularism and atheism. Thus his discussions of The DaVinci Code, and the "pagan" roots of Christmas and other religious holidays, among others.


Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Magicians and Mrs. Quent


by Galen Beckett

Grade: Good
Story: Ivy Lockwell gets drawn into mystery, magic, and love. Plus there's a magic forest, a cryptic riddle, a Mr. Rochester (complete with moors), and an insane asylum.

Review: This was a little uneven for me. Firstly because of the way the book was divided up. The first third was totally Jane Austen, the second third was Bronte, the last third was...I don't know, Charles Dickens? Or more likely just pure Galen Beckett. Whatever it was, it was not as obvious as the first two thirds. Anyway, it was also divided up between view points. There was Ivy Lockwell, poor and eldest of three sisters; Dashton Rafferdy, dashing (what do you know) and rich and bored; and Eldyn Garritt, poor and desperate and strangely attracted to a particular angel statue which hangs out outside the church. So I actually rather liked the interspertion of Rafferdy's and Ivy's points of view. It worked well, especially with how their story lines worked out. But Eldyn? He totally had nothing to do with the story. Ok, so he saved the life of somebody's father, and he met with Rafferdy once or twice, but really he SO did not deserve his own story line. Plus he annoyed me a bit, so there was that. And he was so mean to his sister.

But the story itself was interesting. I like the magic system in this book. I loved all the "umbral" and "lumenal" stuff--the varying lengths of nights and days. It poses a lot of questions, though. What about seasons? Do they have them at all? How on earth do they know enough to have an almanac? I liked the way the Romance turned out, mostly. It was somewhat unexpected in some ways. I liked the characters: Ivy was awesome; her sisters were great too; I started out not liking Rafferdy at all, but by the end I loved him; I didn't like Eldyn, but I already mentioned that.

Besides all this, I think I can really say that historical fantasy really is one of my top genres. "Historical fantasy" as in historical fiction, but from some alternate universe where magic is as common as technology.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Divergent

by Veronica Roth

Grade: Good
Story: Beatrice lives in a dystopian world where you choose the future course of your life by choosing a "faction".

Review: I had been told by someone that this book was so amazingly awesome that it was BETTER than Hunger Games! It's not. Not to say that it isn't engrossing, intriguing, and entertaining. It is. It's just not Hunger Games.

Anyway, now that's out of the way, let's talk about the actual book.
--I love the idea of factions, just like I love the Houses in Harry Potter. They could even be roughly equivalent: Erudite=Ravenclaw, Dauntless=Gryffindor, Amnity=Hufflepuff. None of them quite equal Slytherin, though.
--I love physical training stories, like this and Hunger Games and Poison Study.
--I love dystopia and worlds of the future where you can see hints of the world we live in now.
--I love books that are fast-paced and plot-filled, which I finish in a day.
--I love siblings, but I don't love siblings that hardly show up at all. I was looking forward to Caleb/Tris stuff, and it hardly ever happened.
--I don't love Romance, except when I really love it, which is rare. This was not one of those rare occasions. But the plot and general cool dystopian-ness was enough for me to be able to ignore it.



P.S. Definitely looking forward to the sequel. The cover shows the symbol for Amity on the front, which should be cool. They weren't in this one much, so I'd like to learn more about them.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Entwined

by Heather Dixon

Grade: Good
Story: The Twelve Dancing Princesses. Plus an Evil King, a Bertie Wooster, a Family Tragedy, a set of Magic Sugar Tongs, and Lots and Lots of Dancing.

Review: I almost, almost stopped reading this one on page 18. I was annoyed by the meeting between Azalea and her love interest, as seems to happen so often with me. And then I stop and never finish.
BUT. But, but, but! I may, perhaps, just maybe, be getting over my terrible inability! Because THIS time, I continued! I looked at the back, confirmed to myself that he was the love interest, sighed to myself and thought "Oh well, there goes another awesome book back to the library simply because I have an issue with Romance." But then something came over me, and I decided I did not care. I read on! In fact, I read through almost all my classes (not usually recommended, that) and finished less than 24 hours after I started.

Now before you get too excited and think that I am over my Romance issues forever, it is important to observe a few points:
--The Romance was really quite minimal. In fact, I'm almost glad I didn't love it, because perhaps if I did like it I would have been disappointed. Not that  in the past even minimal Romance hasn't stopped me from reading books before, because it most certainly has.
--However many times his eyes were described (which usually bothers me), he was never described as "sexy" or "incredibly handsome" or any such thing. In fact, the person who was MOST described thusly was...well, spoilers. Anyway, so all the descriptions of him really seemed more like it was simply Azalea falling in love, as opposed to the way so many books seem to be trying to force ME to fall in love as well. And I DO NOT want to love the hero of a book unless I really like him, and not just his sexy eyes. Anyway.
--There were sisters. 11 of them. (This IS the Twelve Dancing Princesses, after all, and in my opinion, you should always try to actually have twelve of them, and not just some "large" number like...5.) And some of them have Romances of their own. Romances that I felt quite free to love very much. If this were not the case, I probably would have put down the book.

And besides all this, there's simply the fact that this was really a story about a family. And they seemed like a family. The sisters were adorable, and I love siblings.

(Plus Lord Teddie = Bertie Wooster. Ha ha!)

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Ghosts of Ashbury High

by Jaclyn Moriarty

Grade: Good
Story: Riley and Amelia show up at Ashbury High, and all of a sudden there's betrayal, Irish folk tales, Gothic literature, and lots of GHOSTS!

Review: I was in a bit of a reading slump, you may have noticed from the lack of reviews recently. But I should have known this would be the one to get me out of it. Jaclyn Moriarty is AWESOME. She's one of the few people whom I don't have to fall in love with a particular character or relationship or plot device, but simply love her story and writing and ALL her characters. (I think...now that I think of it I'm not so sure...DO excuse the vagueness of this review. It's NaNoWriMo and Midterms at the same time. My brain is SHOT.)

I mean:
Emily--Normally I think she would bug me, done by a different author, but SHE. She is hilarious and amazing.
Lydia--Complex, fascinating, awesome.
Toby--Sweet, imaginative, filled with fascinating thoughts on Black Holes.
Riley--Bursting with all sorts of suppressed emotions, thus rather fascinating as well.
Amelia--Not as interesting on her own, but what a presence!

None of these characters, or the myriad of others that show up in smaller roles, are the "types" I would usually like. But Moriarty takes them all past their stereotypes, and writes a cracking good story with mystery, development, lots of school (I love school!), and GHOSTS! (Maybe.)

Not quite as awesome as The Murder of Bindy Mackenzie, but awesome all the same.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Visconti House

by Elsbeth Edgar

Grade: Good
Story: Laura Horton lives in an old Italian house in Australia with her artistic parents. She meets a boy, and together they discover the secrets of the old house, and the reclusive man who lived there.

Review: This is the sort of Middle Grade fiction that perhaps really is better enjoyed by someone in Middle Grade. I mean, it was good--very good. I liked it. But I think I would have liked it better at age 14, or younger. In some ways, it was simply a story of children (teenagers, in this case) and discovery, somewhat like E. Nesbit and such. The mood and atmosphere made it worth the read, though.



Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Throne of Fire

by Rick Riordan

Grade: Unfinished
Read: To page 304.

Review: I tried. I tried and tried. Hey, I got to page 304! But I couldn't quite finish. Ah well. Son of Neptune was excellent, so I know I still like Riordan.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Top Ten (Or So): Fictional Canadians


I always like finding fictional Canadians, and I know there are more of them than one might expect. There's some sort of automatic elevation of a character when I find out they're from my country. So without further ado, here's my list of Favourite Fictional Canadians (that I can remember), in no particular order.



--Rodney McKay, from the TV series Stargate Atlantis. By far the funniest Canadian in the history of fictional Canadians. Scientific genius and terribly egotistical.

--Wolverine, from X-Men. Grumpy, gruff, and much older than he looks. Plus the cool claws.

--Anne Shirley, Emily Starr, and other L. M. Montgomery characters. Montgomery is one of our best authors, and her characters are almost always awesome and unique, without falling into the "kick-ass feisty female" or "beautiful wilting wallflower" tropes that SO MANY heroines tend to fall into.

--Box, aka Madison Jeffries, from the X-Men. I don't know a lot about him, and I must admit that most of the reason why I like him is because he IS Canadian. But still, his powers are cool, and I definitely like what I've seen of him so far.

--Saul Greenius, from the Evil Genius series by Catherine Jinks. A detective who, as with most fictional detectives, is somewhat smarter than one might expect. I really like him, and I'm not totally sure why. Perhaps because he's so calm under pressure, and because he ends up having a very good marriage, and I like married people.

--Frank Zhang, from the book just reviewed: The Son of Neptune. Cool powers, cool history, the awesomest father.

--Charlie Wilcox, from the books by Sharon E. McKay. Awesome WWI books. Read them. Especially if you're Canadian.

--Lester Patel, from the TV series Chuck. Because of Jeffster! and "Imagine David Beckham! Lester's a shorter, feminine version of his wife".

The Son of Neptune

by Rick Riordan

Grade: To Own
Story: Percy Jackson has lost his memory, and somehow found his way to Camp Jupiter. Then there's Romans,  quests, awesome displays of water power, Death, the Canadian Forces, and lots and lots of deadly diamonds.

See the first book in the series: The Lost Hero, as well as the next in the series: The Mark of Athena. Also there's the whole "Percy Jackson & the Olympians" series which comes before this series.

Review: The new demigod characters were pretty cool, though I think Percy, Jason, and Nico are still my favourites. The Roman side of things was awesome (I love Romans), and I hope the exact relationship between the Greek and Roman side of things is explored fully in future books.

Thanatos was an awesome Death. I still don't know whether Hades or Nico could be added to my list of favourite Deaths, because technically they're only in charge of Death, not Death itself. But I like them well enough to add them, if they DO count. Do they count??

P.S. See Top Ten (Or So): Fictional Canadians.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Haunting Violet

by Alyxandra Harvey

Grade: Unfinished
Read: To page 50.

Review: Still planning to finish this one. I was really not in the mood for it while I was working in the summer, which is when I started it. Plus the love interest was obvious, which always seems to put me off. However, there was some promising stuff with her best friend. I always like friends in books. So, as I said, still planning to finish this one.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Snow-Walker's Son

by Catherine Fisher

Grade: Unfinished
Read: To page 44, Chapter 7.

Review: Catherine Fisher can often be hard to start, but once I get into it, I love it. This one never seemed to get to that point. I hate books like that. I always have the feeling that just around the corner, there's that magical point when I'll suddenly start loving it. Anyway, hopefully I'll try again someday and find that point.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Margrave

by Catherine Fisher

Grade: Good
Story: The Master, the Apprentice, the Spy, and the Cat-Person continue the adventures started in The Dark City, The Lost Heiress, and The Hidden Coronet.

Review:
SOME SPOILERS FOR SAPPHIQUE, AND ALSO SOME FOR THIS SERIES
I was immensely satisfied with this ending. For some reason, I thought it would go a similar way to Sapphique. In other words, I thought Raffi would stay stuck pretty much forever with an entity that was mostly evil, in a similar way to Jared and Incarceron at the end of Sapphique. Also for some reason I thought that there would be a sort of not-really-romantic pairing of Carys and Raffi, as with Finn and Claudia. I don't know why.
But nooo! Carys got pretty much the best ending I can think of, and so did Galen. Raffi was never my favourite character, but his ending is absolutely perfect too, in my mind. The only one I would have liked more for was the Sekoi. But he got his grand part in the climax, so I'm not too disappointed. I like the amount that was left undiscovered about the Sekoi race. And how much trouble there was going to be in the future, as they still had to get rid of the Watch and all that. In fact, it pretty much had that "And then they went off and had a lot more adventures just like the ones in the books you just read, only BETTER!" ending, which I LOVE. Pretty much my favourite type of ending. I can't think of many books or movies with that type of wonderful ending right now, except maybe the first Pirates of the Caribbean, but I know there are many.

I am mostly as immensely satisfied with the characters as I was for the first book.
--Carys is still awesome. I would have liked the uncertainty around her to last a little longer, though. I'm glad she went definitely on the side of the good--I do always want that for all the Liars I love--but I so much love that period of uncertainty where you really have no flippin' idea what she's going to do next, or which of her many lies are less untruthful than the others. Ben Linus managed that until pretty much the end of his series. I know I shouldn't compare all Liars to Ben, because it's slightly unfair for them, but I'm afraid I'm going to continue. Because I like Ben. And he's the Ultimate Liar. Anyway.
--Galen continued to be all dark and broody and tortured, and I loved him as much by the end of the last book as by the end of the first. In fact, probably better, especially with that lovely part where he's terribly nasty to Raffi and then feels terribly guilty. And his ending and part in the climax was perfect.
--Raffi wasn't made much more interesting to me through the course of three more books, but his ending was good enough that I'm left with pleasant, happy feelings for him.
--The Sekoi! Was awesome! I wish there was more of it! Or him! Or whatever!
--The Margrave (the character) reminded me of Incarceron (the character) too much. Except Incarceron was better.

Now for issues.
Mostly there aren't any. Because this is such a Middle Grade series, I wasn't bothered by the lack of Romance. In fact, I'm not really ever with Fisher. It's mostly just her attitude on her website FAQ towards Romance that bugs me.
Anyway, as I was saying, there aren't many. But, as with the Oracle Trilogy, the main problem is philosophical. It wasn't as bad here as the Oracle Trilogy, I think. But there seemed to be a lot of Gnosticism  going on. Plus...well, I guess this wasn't really an issue. Religion was treated very respectfully (and Galen, the religious fanatic, was one of the best characters), but just not as true. Which I guess it wouldn't be if this story really did take place, but...I dunno. I've stopped being coherent and logical now. So let's just say "I have a bad feeling about this" philosophical element of all of Fisher's books, and leave it at that. I could be dead wrong. I probably am.


Just as an interesting side note, it's funny that the second Romance found so far in all the CF I've read is AGAIN between one pretty totally evil person, and one extremely flawed and on the evil side, but not actually evil person. Ok, I'm not sure if that makes sense, but compare Quist and Scala in this book with whatever-their-names-are from the Oracle trilogy--you know, the principle evil character and the Speaker lady he loved. They're very similar. And THE ONLY proper Romances in the entire Oracle series, Incarceron series, and Relic Master series.

The Hidden Coronet


by Catherine Fisher

Grade: Good
Story: The Master, the Apprentice, the Spy, and the Cat-Man continue the adventures began in The Dark City and The Lost Heiress.

Review: Since I read the last three books in this series all in about 1 1/2 days, I'm going to review the whole lot in The Margrave.


The Lost Heiress

by Catherine Fisher

Grade: Good
Story: The Master, the Apprentice, the Spy, and the Cat-man continue the adventures began in The Dark City.

Review: So, of course, I read all of the next three books in about 1 1/2 days. So I'm not going to review them separately. You'll have to read all about it in the review of the last book, The Margrave.


Monday, September 19, 2011

Lies

by Michael Grant

Grade: Good
Story: Children die horribly. Children do unspeakably evil acts. But it's a good book anyway! Really! Just rather ... horrible.

See the previous books: Gone and Hunger and the next books: Plague, Fear, and Light.

Review: Aaaaaaaaah.... aaah. This series is almost too intense for me. But really, it's awesome.
And I don't really have much else to say. What could I say? These books fly by so fast, and it's just one intense event after another, you come out of it rather dazed and confused.

Ok, here's one thing I can think of. Edilio is officially now my favourite character. He's totally heroic and awesome, without being Heroic and Handsome like Sam, plus he's Catholic to boot.
Oh, and I like Sanjit too, but I don't know enough about him yet to add him to my favourite characters.
Oh, and Mary's Big Jump! WOW, that was ... I don't know. Her whole slide into insanity thing...I love slides into insanity. They totally freak me out.
Oh, and I hope Caine finds some humanity in the future, because I still rather like him. Mostly because Diana actually does love him, and I have rather a soft spot for Diana.
Oh, and what's up with Justin??

Anna and the French Kiss

by Stephanie Perkins

Grade: Unfinished
Read: To page 16.

Review: Summary of Rachel's reading for far too many books:
--Rachel has pleasant expectant feel. Book looks good, cover is nice, maybe she won't mind the romance this time! Maybe she'll even like it!
--Rachel begins reading. Good start so far! Book is funny, intriguing, etc.
--Book introduces main male character. Main male character is described as beautiful and/or sexy and/or terribly attractive.
--Rachel stops reading.
--Rachel berates herself for her stupidity in not being able to read awesome books simply because the main male character is beautiful. She should like it! It's supposed to make the book yet more awesome!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Lost in the Cosmos: The Last Self-Help Book

by Walker Percy

Grade: To Own
Story: It's Non-Fiction, so, you know, not much of a story-line here. Although through out the book there are "Thought Exercises" whereby you imagine yourself in a hypothetical situation. Which counts as Fiction, I suppose. Now I'm going to quote the first paragraph of the front inside cover, because it really best describes the "story-line":
"How you can survive in the Cosmos, about which you know more and more while knowing less and less about yourself, this despite 10,000 self-help books, 100,000 psychotherapists, and 100 million fundamentalist Christians."

Review: Fabulous. Slightly unintelligible to one of limited intellectual faculties, such as myself. But I loved it anyway. I don't really know what to say in this review, because I'm not sure I understood it well enough to speak clearly on it. Or maybe I HAVE understood it, I just haven't fully absorbed it yet, and thus am not able to regurgitate what I've learned and thought about because of it.
Anyway, I'm planning to buy it and then I can study it some more. I also need to read other people thoughts on it, but I don't know where to find them.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Demon's Surrender

by Sarah Rees Brennan

Grade: Good
Story: Demons! Magicians! Brothers! Unexpected Love! Dancing! Alan Ryves!
Previously: The Demon's Lexicon, The Demon's Covenant

Review: Alan, Alan, Alan. I'm such a huge Alan fan. Is there something about pathological liars that invariably attracts me? But of course, it's not only that. He manages to be simultaneously a pathological liar AND one of the sweetest fictional guys ever (below Rory Williams, the Last Centurion, though). In fact, that's pretty much why I read these books. That, and the relationship between the siblings. Mostly Alan and Nick, but also Mae and Jamie, and Sin and her two younger siblings.

Ok, but besides Alan, this book was perhaps my favourite. Perhaps. On the one hand, I wasn't as surprised and shocked by the ending as I had been for the previous two, especially TDC (I mean, what poor Alan had to do and go through there...), but I read the whole thing through and didn't skip parts this time. It seemed almost more... complete, this time round. I'm not sure quite how to explain it, but I think it's partly due to having Sin as a narrator. I think Sin is my favourite non-Alan character ("I like dancers. Dancers are cool."), and the relationship between her and Alan is pretty awesome.


See: Top Ten (Or So): Conmen.

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Dark City

by Catherine Fisher

Grade: Good
Story: Raffi and his master Galen are on the run from evil members of the Watch, who hate sorcerers such as they. Along the way, they meet up and join with a member of this evil Watch, Carys, (obviously THEY don't know she's a member of the Watch), and also a non-human cat-like person who is never named because they couldn't pronounce its name anyway. They go on a quest of sorts to a) get back Galen's lost power, the loss of which is slowly driving him insane b) capture said non-human cat-like person who is never named, c) find the Crow, who is the messenger to God, and who might help to fix the rotten world they live in.

Review: This is why I love Catherine Fisher. I'm still trying to get through the Snowwalkers trilogy by her, and it's been tough going. But this one immediately has the elements about her writing that make her one of my favourite authors (below Megan Whalen Turner, Chesterton, Diana Wynne Jones, some others I've forgotten, about on par with Jonathan Stroud), namely:
--Very ambiguous and complex characters. Raffi is the only person in the whole book who seems pretty much straightforward. Carys is amazing, and I loved her, and Galen is the type of person I like immediately, always. He's all dark and tormented, poor fellow, without being all sexy with powerful thighs like the last book I read. (Sorry, Enthusiasm. You had lots of good points. I just CAN'T STAND lead male characters who are introduced by their good looks.)
I read a review about the characters which compare them too much with the Incarceron characters, but I disagree. True Raffi might be a bit like Finn, but I'm slightly biased in that regard because Raffi and Finn are not my type. But Galen is completely and totally different than Jared. I mean, they are both teachers, I guess, and they both have a physical sickness or problem of some sort, but otherwise... And Carys is very different from Claudia. Their names start with the same letter, and they're both clever and complex, but Carys is so much more changeable and manipulative.
Ack. Anyway.
--The world. It's complexity and originality. This one was AWESOME. It reminded me of some of DWJ's work, where things we know from everyday are so disguised by the fact that nobody in the book knows what they are, that they seem to be something else entirely, if that makes sense. And oh, I'm not very articulate right now, but it really is cool. Maybe not quite as cool as Incarceron, simply because Incarceron was ALIVE.
--I'm not going to comment on the lack of romance this time, because it's one book out of four that are all closely connected, as far as I can see. But I probably will for the last one, even though I seem to comment on it for every CF book. Just to warn you. And perhaps I really shouldn't for these books because they're Middle Grade, but I don't care because this is MY review and opinion. SO THERE nasty non-existent readers!

So in summary, even if the world weren't intriguing and completely original, I would love it for Carys and Galen. Carys reminds me vaguely of a female Ben Linus (who almost tops the charts of my favourite TV characters ever)--her lying seems to come out of her instinctively, and no one (except maybe Galen, but that's partly because of his religious fanatacism--see next sentence) can ever really tell whether she's telling the truth or not. And Galen is a religious fanatic who's one of the GOOD guys. That's quite refreshing. It doesn't mean his fanaticism is portrayed as a good thing, necessarily, but understandable. At least for me.

Sequels are: The Lost Heiress, The Hidden Coronet, and The Margrave.

Enthusiasm

by Polly Shulman

Grade: Unfinished
Read: To page 45, plus scattered pages around the end.

I'm sorry, it was the description of snugly fitting trousers, close-fitting white jacket (smooth across the chest!), and powerful thighs. So I read a bunch of the end, and decided it wasn't quite my type of book. Ah well.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Bad Catholic's Guide to the Seven Deadly Sins

by John Zmirak

Grade: To Own

Review: Awesome, awesome! I highly recommend this book to any Catholic, or non-Catholic interested in Catholicism. Except maybe those with high sensibilities, who might be offended at some of his humour. Because his humour is hilarious, but not necessarily reverent in the sense  someone who was somewhat puritan might think reverence means. It most definitely is reverent in a real sense (imho)--in other words, he always gives proper deference and respect to God and everything holy, and not very much respect at all to things that think they are holy but are not at all.

But humour is not actually the most important part of this book. I know I always hate it when reviews say this, but I think it's actually true in this case: he brings these ideas to a modern audience. Much in the way that I think C. S. Lewis does, except even more modern. Yet he does this while still quoting St. Thomas and Chesterton and Augustine and lots of C. S. Lewis, and all sorts of old Catholic greats. (Yes, I know Lewis isn't actually Catholic.) And now I must go through the whole book and write down all the books he recommends, because he seems to have marvellously good taste.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Possessed

by Kate Cann

Grade: All right
Story: Rayne is overwhelmingly claustrophobic with her current life in London, so she deserts her boyfriend and mother and runs off to a job in the country. There she meets handsome boys and annoying girls and strange fire people and everything is pretty creepy.

Review: So I read this one quickly enough, but there was something missing for me. Partly it was ...

SPOILER, I GUESS

... her infatuation with St. John. It seemed perfectly obvious to me from the start that he was a totally jerk. But it seemed to take her forever. So I had to read on and on about how hot he was, etc., when I knew she would be taking it all back in a few chapters.

END SPOILER, I SUPPOSE

It may also have just been partly that nothing much seemed to happen. I don't know. Maybe it's my mood. Other book reviewers seemed to really enjoy it. (Actually, upon further investigation, bookshelvesofdoom seems to be the only one who reviewed it. But still, she's one of the best.)

But you know, besides the fact that I didn't LOVE it, there were some good points. Rayne was a good heroine, there was lots of nice creepy stuff (but not really overtly creepy, so still good for people who don't like creepy much), and I liked the fire dancer people and the descriptions of the forest.

SPOILER:
OH! And WHY is it called "Possessed"? I guess because St. John is kind of possessed by that super duper evil guy? It doesn't seem at all obvious to me, though.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Gentlemen

by Michael Northrop

Grade: All right
Story: Four highschool guys: Micheal (sic), Tommy (the nice-ish one), Mixer (the clever one), and Bones (the dangerous one). Their teacher tries a new teaching method one day at school, and all of a sudden, there's murder, mayhem, and teenage boys being teenage boys. (Ok, that last one wasn't exactly all-of-a-sudden...)

Review: I didn't actually like this one much. It's simply not to my taste. The front cover describes it as "gritty". Now, I like gritty things, but ... I don't know. A slightly different kind of gritty. More like Rage gritty. This one--well, it's all about teenage guys. Teenage guys from kind of the bottom of the heap. Anyway, I skipped some parts, but I finished it.
But I still thought it was well done. Moody, accurate, fast-paced, and funny. Mostly. Except it's not quite my type of humour either. And I appreciated that it was not a cliched inspiring-teacher-helps-low-life-boys-with-unique-teaching-method story. I actually really like those stories, but slightly guiltily, and I appreciate it when it's done a bit differently.
BUT ISN'T THE COVER PRETTY? In fact, I must admit, I think I mostly finished it because of its cover. And it's title.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Cardturner

by Louis Sachar

Grade: To Own
Story: Alton Richards becomes cardturner for his very, very rich, very blind, slowly dying uncle who's totally obsessed with bridge. Which means he  informs his uncle which cards he has, and then plays whatever card he's told to play.

Review: I really love books that make me interested in a particular subject. This one is bridge, which I've been interested in, mostly because of Agatha Christie. Thus the "To Own".

Otherwise, it's fun. Much better than I expected, actually.

...

Ok, I'm running out of thoughts here. It's getting late and I'm tired. So: summary. Liked the characters, especially his uncle Trapp and his little sister. But also his crazy (as in actually mentally insane) love-interest Toni, and the slightly awkward friendship with Cliff. The bridge stuff never gets quite as exciting as the Hikaru no Go comics, speaking of books based off games, but it's still fun.


I like this description:

"Have you ever been in a situation where you've been with someone for a while and you don't know that person's name? It's too late to ask, but you know the longer you go without asking, the more awkward it will become. So even though you feel really stupid, you finally just have to bite the bullet and say, "By the way, what's your name?" (pg. 7)
I get this fairly frequently and it's horrible. But I've never heard it described before.


So that's that. Sorry, my ever dear non-existent readers, for the lousy review.

P.S. The only other book I can think of with an actually mentally insane love-interest is Black Jack by Leon Garfield.

Airborn

by Kenneth Oppel

Grade: Unfinished
Read: To some page that I've forgotten because I just lost the book.

Review: This seemed very much like a standard boy adventure story, and I don't feel like reading a standard boy adventure story right now. Good thing I do sometimes or I'd miss awesome books like Airman by Eoin Colfer. So maybe I'll go back to this one someday, in case it's awesome.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Rage

by Jackie Morse Kessler

Grade: Good
Story: Missy cuts herself. Also she's a Rider of the Apocalypse. (See the first book, Hunger, and the third and fourth, Loss and Breath.)

Review: Basically, see Hunger. All my points still apply:
--I still don't like it that Death is described as so attractive and sexy. I mean, I don't mind if he is so much... Because actually, embarrassingly enough, I really like love stories with Death, whether it be grandfatherly affection, as in Discworld, or Romantic as in Keturah and Lord Death. But just ... I really don't like it when he's described as such, especially multiple times. But he's still Death. He's still awesome, even if he IS attractive and sexy. And you know what? War and Death, they do go rather well together.
--And the other three Horsemen are still awesome. They are always awesome and always will be. Why don't more people write stories about the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse? Move over Edward Cullen and the vampires! Move over angels and mermaids and werewolves! Here come the Riders!
--The Issue, in this case cutting, was also handled well, I thought, like the last book. Although, as with the Issue in the last book, I don't really know anything about it, so maybe I'm wrong. I do slightly sympathize more with this Issue than with Anorexia though.

Now here's something that's slightly different from the last book.
This one was about War. War is passionate. In LOTS of different ways. There was a LOT of description of violence in this book, much of it rather gruesome, and a lot of sexual stuff--too much for my taste. Now the violence doesn't worry me too much; in fact, sometimes I almost like it which is slightly worrisome. But I kind of wish there wasn't quite so much lust going around. Anyway.

Anyhow, looking forward to the next one. I believe the next one has a male protagonist, and is about Pestilence, whom I've always been curious about. There's also supposed to be more about the mythology of this world, which would be cool.

P.S. Death shows up on my Top Ten (Or So): Anthropomorphic Personifications of Death.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Abused Werewolf Rescue Group

by Catherine Jinks

Grade: Good
Story: (from the inside cover) When Tobias Richard Vandevelde wakes up in a hospital with no memory of the night before, his horrified mother tells him that he was found unconscious. At Featherdale Wildlife Park. In a dingo pen.

Review: Well, that was fun. I love werewolves. And it was cool to see the characters from The Reformed Vampire Support Group make a return. Especially Reuben who was awesome. (He WAS in RVSG, right? I hate my memory sometimes.)

However, there was something missing to make it an awesome, awesome book. I don't know what exactly. Sometimes it seemed like there was nothing much happening, even though there was plenty happening and all was chaos. And ... I don't know. It lacked something. Something that her other books (at least the first two Genius books) had. It didn't seem to have enough of a point, somehow.

However, how can you resist such an awesome title?

P.S. My brother asked me the other day which I liked better, vampires or werewolves. And I discovered, much to my chagrin, that I couldn't make up my mind. I mean, the werewolves have Lupin (HP) and Oz (Buffy) and Angua (Discworld) and Henry Foss (Sanctuary), and Bigby (Fables)!! But vampires are just ... so COOL. And Spike (Buffy, Angel) and Angel (Buffy, Angel) and Nikola Tesla (also from Sanctuary)? Also Lady Margollatta and Otto von Chriek and Maladict from Discworld. Arghh...this bugs me that I can't decide.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Austenland

by Shannon Hale

Grade: All right
Summary: Jane is in love with Mr. Darcy. From the 1995 A&E miniseries with Colin Firth. Like, seriously obsessed. So her great-aunt sends her to Pembrook Park in an attempt to rid her of her obsession, and help her figure out how the heck to find a stable relationship.



Review: So. Yeah. What I expected.
This isn't really my type of book, but I thought, "What the heck!" and read it anyway. And hey, it was ok. I finished it! That's quite good, actually. Because it was fun.
As I expected, it was rather predictable. But I was happy enough with the ending and (spoiler, visit rot13.com to decode) gur snpg gung fur ershfrq Ze. Aboyl, gura qvfpbirerq gung gur pnfhny frk thl jnf ABG n tbbq vqrn, gura qvfpbirerq gung Ze. Aboyl jnf n terng thl nsgre nyy.

The Scarab

also called "Day of the Scarab"

by Catherine Fisher

Grade: Good
Summary: Everything has gone wrong since the climax of the last book. Even more wrong than it was in the last book. The present evil ruler, General Argelin, is slowly going crazier and crazier. Foreign mercenaries are taking over the land. Everything's a mess. Luckily there is a priestess who speaks to the god, a boy with the god inside him, an ex-drunk musician, an aristocratic lord of thieves, and a clever and ambitious scribe to save the day.
Sequel to The Oracle and The Archon

Review: Awesome, awesome. I think now that I've finished the series, the second book might be my favourite, what with the agonizing journey through the desert. But I finished this one way faster, and this one was by far the easiest to get into, and besides, it was the big finale.

The characters are still awesome. I LOVE LOVE LOVE how her books never properly have villains. Even the very evilest people are somehow sympathetic, and not only to us, but to the other characters as well. And even the most wonderful of the heroes has some rather unlikable flaws. In this case, a good example would be the horrible General Argelin, but also Chryse, the traitoress! That was cool. In Incarceron and Sapphique, almost all the characters are either good but seriously flawed (like Claudia, and the blood-brother guy of Finn's--can't remember his name), or evil but hugely sympathetic, like the Warden and Incarceron itself.
Anyway, as with the other two books, Rhetia and the Jackal are still my favourites by far. Rhetia was not in it quite enough for my liking, but I think the Jackal was firmly established as one of the principal characters. I just wish we got to find out a bit more about what happened to him. Anyway--thieves!!! Did I mention I liked them?

I only really have two small complaints. One is the notion which creeps in (I see it in Terry Pratchett a bunch too) that the gods are somehow dependent on their worshipers' belief in them. I don't like this idea at all. And it's not only because it seems to reflect on my personal beliefs, but also just because I think the gods aren't quite as cool if they need us to exist.

And the second:
Ok, so Fisher obviously isn't completely against Romance. However, it still is rather unusual that in a whole series of books, the only obvious Romance is between the guy who's basically the villain of the whole piece, and a lady who died in the second book. There were definitive hints of it between Mirany and Seth, but not more than hints. And that was it. Rather refreshing, but as I said in an earlier Catherine Fisher review, I actually find it a bit bothersome. Maybe because I like her characters so much, and NONE of them are described as sexy, and I think she could do it tastefully.

Other books with cool thieves: Montmorency: Thief, Liar, Gentleman? by Eleanor Updale, also its sequels; The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner, and its sequels (The King of Attolia in that series is one of my favourite books OF ALL TIME); the Father Brown stories by G. K. Chesterton (Flambeau forever!); The Outlaws of Sherwood by Robin McKinley (also other Robin Hood retellings, but this is the best); The Book Thief by Markus Zusak; Dark Lord of Derkholm by Diana Wynne Jones; the Vicky Bliss series with the Lord-Peter-Wimsey-ish art thief, Sir John Symthe (starts with Borrower of the Night, but I skipped that one because it doesn't have Smythe in it, and moved right to Street of the Five Moons); also many, many more that I can't think of at this time.

The Archon

also called "The Sphere of Secrets"

by Catherine Fisher

Grade: Good
Story: Mirany and company saved their country by restoring the god to his proper rule. But of course all isn't over yet. The Archon, in whom dwells the god, insists on a pilgrimage to find the mythical Well of Songs, and leaves the country to get in worse and worse condition under the tyrannical general Argelin.
Sequel to The Oracle.

I always find it immensely difficult to write about early books in series when I go straight from one to the next until I finish the series. So I'll save most of my review of this one for the review of The Scarab. However, a couple comments.

--It was a bit hard to get into at first, like the first one. They remind me a bit of Diana Wynne Jones books, actually. I often find those slightly hard to begin, what with all the strange names, and children who are a lot younger than me, and lack of immediate plot.
--My two favourite characters, the Jackal and Rhetia, were in this one some more. Especially the Jackal. Yay! I love thieves!
--My favourite part was all of the travelling through the desert. There's just something about a disparate group of people who rather dislike each other travelling through immense hardship and saving each others' lives and accidentally revealing all their inner turmoil, because you can't help but share hidden secrets when you're stuck dying in the middle of the desert or being eaten by birds.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Quo Vadis

by Henryk Sienkiewicz

Grade: Unfinished
Read: To page 321 (chapter 45)

Ack! I meant to finish this! It was awesome! And I still will, really. But it got busy right in the middle of it, so I slowed down, and once I slow down a book, it's really hard to get back too it again, even if it's marvellous.

Hunger

by Michael Grant

Grade: Good
Story: Everyone is starving. And half of them are evil. And people die horribly. And there's an evil monster under the ground. In other words, the world (or at least the small part of it that is FAYZ) is going to hell in a handbasket.


See the previous book: Gone, and the next books: Lies, Plague, Fear, and Light.

And besides that...I don't really know what else to say about it. It was great? I read it in a day? I've ordered the next one? Yeah, that's pretty much it.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Native Star

by M. K. Hobson

Grade: Good
Story: Emily Edwards gets a magic stone stuck in her hand. Smack in the middle of her palm. So she sets off with a pompous Warlock named Dreadnought Stanton  in order to get it out and get back to helping her blind father and marrying her rich admirer. (Who, incidentally, is her rich admirer because she just put an extremely powerful love spell on him...)

Well, this hit the spot. It's always difficult to start new books in the summer, I find, and especially when I'm working full time. So I need something cool, and easy to read, and hopefully with romance. I know, I know. I always complain about romance bugging me, but I seem to need some of it when I'm in this sort of mood. Just so long as it is the right type. This was, and there were a couple of key elements that made it so:
--Dreadnought Stanton has a weird name. I mean, Dreadnought? Not at all romantic.
--Stanton was never once described as handsome or sexy or even really described at all. True, his green eyes were mentioned a couple times, but not until a ways through the book, and they were never said to be electrifying or sexy or deep pools, or any such thing.
--Emily was feminine. She dressed up as a man once, and was not really at all convincing. And she had no particular desire to go about wearing trousers and shooting guns and all sorts of things. It was rather refreshing. (Not that I dislike the other kind of girl, but they seem to be more frequently found these days, so it was nice to read about someone different.)
--It took a while to happen. One of the most important things.
And also just in general I liked the two of them. They both had decided faults. Emily was actually prejudiced against Native Americans, which is something you do NOT see in books very often. And Stanton was really rather stuck up, and not just in an attractive Mr. Darcy sort of way. Plus his backstory! Cool! I won't explain more, because, "Spoilers!" (Said in a lovely River Song way.)

However, I'm not sure whether this is really a book that will last in my memory very long. Normally books that I read at this speed and enjoy this much would be "To Own", but not really this one.
Thoughts on this:
--Apparently the sequel isn't as good. Often this is fine. One can simply ignore the sequels and pretend they are bad fan fiction, or something similar that doesn't really count. But in this case I couldn't. Perhaps because I felt like the romance needed more validation, and there were some definite unanswered questions? My enjoyment of this book reminded me quite a lot of Poison Study, especially since I didn't much like the sequels for Poison Study either. But PS on the other hand, I own and reread and care not a jot that I don't like the sequels.

But all in all, jolly good. I think I may be able to say the historical fantasy is one of my favourite genres of all time. Like Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, and the Bartimaeus trilogy, the combination of emerging science and old magic and some of the awesomest clothes ever is ... well, awesome.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Peter & Max

by Bill Willingham

Grade: Good/To Own
Story: Peter, Peter, pumpkin eater, had a wife and couldn't keep her. Also he picked a peck of pickled peppers. And met a wolf. His brother, Max, is the Pied Piper of Hamelin. They have an epic rivalry spanning centuries.

I was a little worried at first that such an awesome comic book writer wouldn't be able to bring his talents over to novel writing. And it was a bit peculiar at first. Physical attributes such as clothes were described in rather unnecessary detail. But as soon as he got onto the storytelling, he was as amazing as ever. I especially enjoyed Max's decent into evil. True, there didn't seem to be a lot of basis for quite so drastic a descent. But it's a fable. They're like that. And Willingham does it brilliantly.
He's also good at plotting. I was quite pleased with how it all worked in the end. It was one of those twists that you don't see coming, but you really should, because it's been shown since the beginning. Excellent, excellent.

I'm not sure whether the non-flashback scenes with well known comic book characters would make a lot of sense to non-Fables fans. Willingham tried, obviously, but I'm not sure if he quite made it. But for previous fans--Bigby! Snow! Frau Totenkinder in her younger woman form! Other Fables that I, personally, am not quite excited enough about to name personally, but still deserve an exclamation mark!

Now here's why I have that "To Own" up at the top. Firstly the fact that I love Fables and its characters, but Secondly this cover:
Click to make it bigger and prettier.
It is TOTALLY GORGEOUS in my humble opinion.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Red Glove

by Holly Black

Grade: Good
Story: Cassel tries to find his brother's murderer. Meanwhile, several people are in love with him; several people try to hire him; many, many people are conned by him; and his life is generally chaotic and miserable.

This'll be short and sweet because I'M GOING TO BED!!!!!

Ok.


--It was great. Great, great, great. The things I loved about the first book I loved about this one too. Brothers, con men, cool magic systems, high-end schools, and poor Cassel having a lot of miserable stuff happen to him. Also his eccentric family. (HIS MOTHER! I loved her.)

--However, I did like it less than the first one. Unlike most other reviewers, I found this one easier to predict than the first one (except the part about Daneca). Especially the murderer. I guessed that right away. Maybe I'm too familiar with Agatha Christie. Also, because one brother died at the beginning, there was WAY less stuff between the brothers. What there was was excellent. But I wanted more.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Oracle

by Catherine Fisher

Grade: Good
Story: Mirany has to rescue the god, with the help of a thieving scribe and a drunken musician.

I liked this one much better than the previous Catherine Fisher. The characters were better (I especially like Rhetia and Lord Jackal; I hope they're in the sequel a bunch too).

It reminded me a lot of The Queen's Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner. Except without Eugenides. And no Attolia either. Or Eddis. Fisher is good at characters, but you know, I'm talking about Megan Whalen Turner. She is the best ever.
Anyway, back to the similarities. There's a sort of personal relationship with the gods that Mirany and Gen both have, when most other people around have a sort of apathetic half-disbelief in them. There's also the world that reminds you quite a lot of an ancient civilization--Egyptian in this case, Greek in the Thief series--but is obviously not quite the same.

But where I really love Catherine Fisher is her awesome non-romantic relationships (or at least, not explicitly). In this case, it was between Obleck, the drunk musician, and Archon, the vessel for the god, and also between Archon and his brother Kreon.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Darkhenge

by Catherine Fisher

Grade: Good
Story: Rob's sister Chloe is in a coma, and it is ruining his family's lives. Then there's a druid and some weird New Age people and a Catholic priest. Also Avebury.


I'm not sure about this book. I finished it (which, considering how difficult I've found it to read books recently, is quite an accomplishment), but barely. The Darkhenge was dark and creepy, and the characters were definitely themselves (I especially liked one: see below). But there was something missing. I don't know what. It reminded me of Over Sea and Under Stone quite a lot actually, so maybe it's just that it's too young for me. Speaking of too young:

Catherine Fisher seems to have something against Romantic relationships. Not that this book seemed like it needed one. It's just that there isn't really any in any of her books. Plus she is sooo vague on her website about answering questions to do with that sort of thing. Which, even if I am often rather against Romantic-ness, can actually be rather annoying.
I mean, this book is more of a younger book than Incarceron, but still.

However, on the good side.
The Catholic priest was cool. Father Mac. He a) was actually orthodox b) actually had a real personality. Many fictional priests are missing on one of those two necessities at least. The orthodoxy was especially cool in the way it was treated, I thought. In many books like this, the priest or Catholic person will either willy-nilly go along with whatever the druids and New Agers say, or they will be stubbornly and crabbily against anything at all even remotely getting close to strange happenings. But he was more like a C. S. Lewis character, in the way CSL incorporated mythology and legend and ancient beliefs into That Hideous Strength. Which, as I said at the beginning, is cool.

I keep waffling between "Good" and "All right". I've changed it back and forth at least twice now. Well, what the heck. I'll give it a good for Father Mac and sibling relationships.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Rosemary and Rue

by Seanan McGuire

Grade: Unfinished
Read: To page 25.

So. Back to my old issue. I am so definitely over that lovely phase when I enjoyed almost every romance I read, and am back to the really annoying stage when I dislike almost every one of them. So I got to the sentence about the attractiveness of Tybalt, and I couldn't read any further. Grrrrr. Why can't I just get over it?
Otherwise, it was a pretty cool book. I liked the writing style and the main character and the world. So what more can you ask?

Mistwood

by Leah Cypess

Grade: All right
Story: Isabel is the Shifter--un-human and completely dangerous. She is captured in order to protect new king, because of course there is Danger! and Plots!

This was a bit weird for me. When I began, I really liked it, and then half way through I suddenly lost interest. It might be more the time of year right now. It's all I can to do to just keep everything together. It might also be (spoiler--visit rot13.com to decode) gur snpg gung V qrpvqrq V qvqa'g ybir Ebxna naq V qvq ybir Ira. Naq gura Ira qvrq. Noehcgyl. Naq gura jnf onfvpnyyl arire zragvbarq ntnva. Naq gura Ebxna orpnzr gur ybir vagrerfg. Naq nf lbh zvtug xabj, Ebznapr pna or n ernyyl naablvat vffhr sbe zr. Vg qevir zr penml, ohg gurer vg vf.

However, I don't think that was all of it. I don't know what it was. Maybe there just wasn't enough there to keep me going. And yet Tamora Pierce and Megan Whalen Turner both recommended it! So there must be something awesome about it. I do think Isobel was a great character, and I loved the descriptions of her and her fleeting memories of the past.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Gone

by Michael Grant

Grade: Good
Story: "One minute the teacher was talking about the Civil War. And the next minute he was gone." So it's only the kids left, and of course lots of horrible things happen.

It's way too late and I'm exhausted, so this'll be fast.

--Like a mix between Hunger Games and The Lord of the Flies and some YA book I can't think of.
--In other words, kids die gruesomely.
--But it's fantastic. I mean, not the dying, the book. Flies along at a break neck speed, and you can't stop reading for the life of you.
--Weird mix between SciFi and Fantasy. When I was half way through, I couldn't figure out whether the ultimate villain would be an evil wizard, or some random act of physics. I still can't, actually. I would explain more about what I mean, except for the reasons I stated at the beginning of this.
--There are already four sequels. Gracious! Can't wait.

EDIT: Here are the reviews for the sequels: Hunger, Lies, Plague, Fear, and Light.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

The Line Between

by Peter S. Beagle

Grade: Good
Story: Various (short stories).

It was a while ago that I read this, so forgive the lack of quotes and fascinating observations. Not that there is any really when I do write my review immediately after reading the book...

"Gordon, the Self-Made Cat" -- Awesome and funny.

"Two Hearts" -- Excellent addition to The Last Unicorn. Sometimes short stories set in the same world as novels seem slightly weird, like perhaps simply giving in to the desire to have MORE. But this was good. Excellent characters and slightly sad, like TLU. Why weren't Molly and Schmendrick married though? I like married people, so there.

"Four Fables" -- Great, awesome. The last one had weird theology, though.

"El Regalo" -- Reminded me of Diana Wynne Jones. In a good way. Kids and unsuspected magical powers, and the whole tone of the thing. Great fun. Also--Buffy mention! And Willow poster!

"Quarry" -- I think this would be better if I knew the story that this is connected to. As it was, it was good, but I would have preferred to understand the relationship between the two characters better. But the monsters were cool as anything.

"Salt Wine" -- It was slightly boring for me at first, but I loved it nearer the end. It just seemed to take a while to get there. Plus--accents. They're hard to read. This type especially.

"Mr. Sigerson" -- Great! Unusually melancholy for a SH story, though. Because that is Beagle's style, I suppose. Now I'll have to buy this book to add to a future Sherlock collection.

"A Dance for Emilia" -- The switch to fantasy was slightly strange. It really seemed like a real-life story (which it was supposed to be, according to the intro), and then all of a sudden there was a talking cat. I guess that is part of Beagle's style too. I have to figure him out still. He reminds me so much of something, I just can't think what.

Friday, May 27, 2011

The City of Ember

by Jeanne DuPrau

Grade: Good
Story: Lina and Doon live in a city lit only by electricity, and the lights keep going out.


Ooo, claustrophobic! Dark, underground, fear. Not a good combination.
FAIRLY SMALL SPOILERS
But then the description of above the ground--once they got there in the end--was so wonderful and relieving and beautiful.
END OF FAIRLY SMALL SPOILERS

However, even though I'm curious about the people they meet above ground, I'm not sure if I'll read the rest for a while. Mostly because it was so much for younger people, I think. I'm pretty sure I've said this before, but I love children's books quite a lot. But sometimes the style is simply too young for me, as with this book. I think I'll give it my sister C.M.D. though. I think she'd like it.

LATER: She did. And now she's read all three sequels too.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Singing the Dogstar Blues

by Alison Goodman

Grade: Good
Story: Aliens! Time Travel! Blues Singing! Friendship! Cool Computers!


Well this was great! You can tell by the "Story" description. Exclamation marks are always good things.

So let's reiterate what I liked about this book.
Aliens! Aliens are cool. And I liked the way they were presented in this book. Rather like District 9, actually, except not bug-like. In other words, the book started with first contact having already come, and everbody is used to the fact.  (Except the protesters, of course. But even the fact that there are protesters is evidence that it's normal now.) And this is true of the next point which is ...

Time Travel! I always love Time Travel. And this also was treated as a normal everyday thing, which things do become very quickly in this world. In fact, it was almost treated too normally. The climax seemed a bit short in some ways, because the time travel aspect was treated so lightly.

Blues Singing! I don't know much about Blues, but I know about music and singing, and the part where Mav sings was cool.

Friendship! I love it, and far too few books dwell on deep friendships. Only deep Romances.


Cool Computers! Yeah! My favourite part! And they just fed into the whole atmosphere of this future world Goodman has created. Future worlds are cool, but so often authors seem to spend all the time building up details of their world, and not on the story or characters. But Goodman plops you in the middle and explains nothing, and there's tons of slang, and it's awesome. Now I may have thought some of the slang was futuristic stuff when it was actually just Australian. But I have read quite a few Australian books before, and never not understood the slang. So I think it was futuristic. But whatever it was, it was cool.

Nevertheless, this book should not be thought of as among the ranks of the other books whose "Story" style is similar (i.e. multiple exclamation points). Such as Going Postal, which is one of my favourite books ever. Mostly I think because books like Going Postal have amazing, amazing characters who I totally fall in love with. (Think Moist and Vetinari, mostly, but others too.) This one not as much. Not that the characters were bad, or not unique or anything. They were rather good. And I loved Mav. But I didn't fall in love with Mav. (Not that I fell in love in the Romantic sense with all the characters in Going Postal. I meant fall in love in a slightly different sense which I'm not going to define here, because I can't be bothered at the moment, and because I already accidentally posted this, so now I have to finish fast before anyone reads the unfinished version. ANYWAY.) I also quite liked Joseph Camden-Stone's story line. It was very sad.

P.S. Goodman also wrote Eon. Which is weird. I never would have thought. (Not that I've read Eon or anything--just heard of it a whole lot. It was just unexpected, so I thought I'd write it here. I seem to be in a somewhat loquacious mood.)

P.P.S. About elevators: "Riding one of these boxes takes a lot of trust. For all you know, you could be falling to your death or about to be launched through the roof. So you put all your belief in those little numbers marching across the top of the doors." pg.38
Sounds rather Chestertonian to me. It reminds me about what he says about how going on a train is an adventure, because you could end up anywhere. Except it was something way more profound than that.

Other Australian authors: Catherine Jinks, of Evil Genius and the Pagan books fame; Garth Nix of the Sabriel and The Keys to the Kingdom series; Markus Zusak of The Book Thief; Justine Larbalestier of the Magic or Madness trilogy and Liar. And I'm sure there's more. If you, my non-existent readers, can think of any I've missed, you have my permission to tell me.
Australian authors are awesome, aren't they?
See: Top Ten (Or So): Australian Authors and Books.