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


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 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.


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!!!!!


--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.