28. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Teen Books

Hollow City by Ransom Riggs, read by Courtney, on 02/15/2014

Hollow City picks up almost exactly where book one left off. Jacob and his peculiar friends have left their loop with Miss Peregrine (who is still stuck in bird form) in tow. They’re not sure where they’re headed, but they definitely know that they need the help of another ymbryne to Miss Peregrine return to her human form. Without her, they cannot get Jacob back to his time and they will have no one to protect them from the hollows and wights. In their quest to get help, they meet a bunch of other peculiars from other loops. Along the way, they find that the hollows are collecting the ymbrynes in London for their own needs. In spite of the fact that London (and most of the rest of Europe) are deeply embroiled in WWII, the gang heads off to London.
Overall, this wasn’t really as good as the first book in the Peculiar Children series. It becomes readily apparent that some of the pictures are now requiring a bit more suspension of disbelief to accept them as part of the story. The other loops were interesting, particularly the all-animal loop. The pace, however, drags from time to time and the initial novelty of the format starts to wear thin. This book follows a lot of second-book-in-the-series formulas. The first book set up the world; this book has them hitting the road and leaves their world worse than its beginning. The ending clearly sets us up for the next book in the series. I didn’t hate it; I didn’t love it.

28. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fantasy, Teen Books · Tags:

The False Prince by Jennifer Nielsen, read by Courtney, on 02/11/2014

The False Prince starts out with a teenaged orphan named Sage stealing a slab of meat for the others in his orphanage. On his way home, Sage runs into a man called Connor who shows a great deal of interest in Sage. After a discussion with the lady who runs the orphanage, Sage finds himself along with three other orphan boys his age in the custody of Connor and his henchmen. Connor tells the boys he has a plan. That plan involves one of the boys becoming wealthy and powerful beyond his wildest dreams. The boy that is chosen will be part of a massive and dangerous secret. The boys that aren’t chosen? Well, no one seems to want to say out loud what will become of them. Escape is a tempting option, but when given the chance to leave, one of the boys does and is promptly killed for his decision. Sage decides he will go along with Connor to see just what he is plotting, as much out of self-preservation as his own curiosity.
Once at Connor’s estate, it is revealed that the royal family is, in fact, dead. The eldest son and his royal parents had all been poisoned some weeks prior, but no one outside the king’s inner circle knows. Connor is one of the king’s advisers and is thus privy to such information. Connor decides to take matters into his own hands. His plan is dangerous. There was once a second son in the royal family. The younger of the two boys had been sent away years ago by his parents due to behavior-related incidents. Instead of going to the boarding school he was supposed to attend, the young prince ran off, only to wind up on ship that is overtaken by pirates. According to the official narrative, the prince did not survive. Since no body had ever been found, however, Connor decides that he will create an alternate story where the prince was secretly in hiding. Lacking an actual prince, Connor is determined to train the orphans that he’s tracked down to be as much like the real prince as possible. Then, when the public has been informed that their beloved king and queen (and heir) are dead, Connor will present the rest of the advisers with his version of the prodigal son. Naturally, the boys not chosen will be privy to treasonous secrets, which puts their chances at long and happy lives at a minimum. Sage decides that, even though he really doesn’t want to be the king, he would prefer not to die just yet, so he sticks around and attempts to play Connor’s game.
The False Prince is a delightful series opener. Sage is a fantastic character with wit and cleverness to burn. The rest of the cast of characters are equally intriguing and nuanced. The playful tone of the narrative counteracts the more serious questions of political intrigue and personal identity. The pacing is impeccable and a massive twist at the end will leave readers reeling and hankering for the next book in the trilogy (if they don’t go back and reread the book with different eyes). I had my middle-schoolers read this one for our most recent book group and they all loved it.

27. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Classics, Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fantasy, Fiction, Literary Fiction, Rachel, Teen Books

Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis, read by Rachel, on 02/27/2014

The Pevensie siblings travel back to Narnia to help a prince denied his rightful throne as he gathers an army in a desperate attempt to rid his land of a false king. But in the end, it is a battle of honor between two men alone that will decide the fate of an entire world.

A battle is about to begin in Prince Caspian, the fourth book in C. S. Lewis’s classic fantasy series, which has been enchanting readers of all ages for over sixty years. This is a stand-alone novel, but if you would like to see more of Lucy and Edmund’s adventures, read The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the fifth book in The Chronicles of Narnia.

 

27. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Paranormal, Tammy

Dark and Stormy Knights by edited by P.N. Elrod, read by Tammy, on 02/24/2014

dark and stormyNine short stories from some of today’s most popular paranormal fantasy authors. It’s theme is about “knights” who do dark deeds but for all the right reasons. I picked it up because it contains a short story by Jim Butcher author of the Dresden Files. Though this short story is set in Dresden’s world he does not appear. Instead mob boss, and one of the only human signatory of the Unseelie Accords, John Marcone is the featured character.

Includes stories from: Ilona Andrews,Shannon K. Butcher, Rachel Caine, P.N. Elrod, Deidre Knight, Vicki Pettersson, Lilith Saintcrow and Carrie Vaughn.

24. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fantasy, Fiction, Kira

Princess of Glass by Jessica Day George, read by Kira, on 02/21/2014

princess of glass    Another delightful retelling of a fairy tale by Jessica Day George, this time, we revisit the story Cinderella.  In this version it is the Fairy Godmother who is wicked, and Eleanora (Cinderella) is but a victim.  The protagonist is Poppy one of the Twelve Dancing Princesses from an earlier book.  I think I must read all of this author’s books – they are enchanting!red s red glass

20. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction

Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George, read by Angie, on 02/19/2014

Castle Glower is alive and it has a mind of its own. It can change its rooms, make new ones and kick you out if it doesn’t like you. It also chooses who will rule the kingdom. And it has chosen Celie’s family as the current ruling family for ten generations. Celie loves Castle Glower; she has been mapping it her whole life and she knows the Castle better than anyone. She is the youngest of the royal children and one of those left at home when the King and Queen go off to bring the oldest son Bran home from the School of Wizardry. Celie along with Rolf and Lilah must take care of things while they are gone. Then word comes that the King, Queen, Bran and most of their party have been ambushed and killed. Suddenly the castle is in an uproar. Their are foreign princes and the royal council interfering in the children’s business and trying to take over the kingdom. It is up to them and the Castle to make sure that doesn’t happen.

I am a sucker for fairy tales like this and I have to admit that this one enchanted me from the beginning. I loved Celie and I loved Castle Glower. They are really the heart of this story. Celie is smart and spunky and loyal. Rolf and Lilah are too, but they didn’t quite capture my heart the way Celie did. I loved the relationship between the siblings though. They each had their own personalities that worked well off each other. I really enjoyed how they plotted to overcome all the bad guys trying to take over the kingdom and the Castle. And I have to say that I really want to live in a castle that will work with you and against your enemies.

I would recommend this to anyone really because I enjoyed it that much. It was an enchanting book full of adventure and magic and mystery…and a moving castle!

20. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fantasy, Fiction

The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two by Catherynne M. Valente, read by Angie, on 02/19/2014

This is what I learned from this book:

A proper Empire wants a border and currency and some who are high and some who are low. And a really proper Empire, the best and most enviable kind of Empire, has Criminals. You’re not doing Empire right if there aren’t loads of people who don’t like it one bit!

A silent Library is a sad Library. A Library without patrons on whom to pile books and tales and knowing and magazines full of up-to-the-minute politickal fashions and atlases and plays in pentameter! A Library should be full of exclamations! Shouts of delight and horror as the wonders of the world are discovered or the lies of the heavens uncovered or the wild adventures of devil-knows-who sent romping out of the pages. A Library should be full of now-just-a-minutes and that-can’t-be-rights and scientifick folk running skelter to prove somebody wrong. It should positively vibrate with laughing at comedies and sobbing at tragedies, it should echo with gasps as decent ladies glimpse indecent things and indecent ladies stumble upon secret and scandalous decencies! A Library should not shush; it should roar!

Oh, every place has a Pluto! It’s where a universe keeps the polar bears and last year’s pickled entropy and the spare gravity. You need a Pluto or you’re hardly a universe at all. Plutos teach lessons. A lesson is like a time-traveling argument. Because, you see, you can’t argue until you’ve had the lesson or else you’re just squabbling with your own ignorance. But a lesson is really just the result of arguments other people had ages ago! You have to sit still and pay attention and pantomime their arguments over again until you’re so sick of their prattle that you pipe up to have your own. You can’t learn anything without arguing.

Going straight in a line to anything is the saddest path.

Blood is a word that means alive. You can do without almost anything: arms, legs, teeth, hope. But you can’t do without blood. Life eats life. Blood makes you move, makes you blush, makes the pulse pound in your brow when you see your love walking across a street toward you, makes you r very thoughts fly through your brain. Blood is everything and everything is blood.

Living is a paragraph, constantly rewritten. It is Grown-Up Magic. Children are heartless; their parents hold them still, squirming and shouting, until a heart can get going in their little lawless wilderness. Teenagers crash their hearts into every hard and thrilling thing to see what will give and what will hold. And Grown-Ups, when they are very good, when they are very lucky, and very brave, and their wishes are sharp as scissors, when they are in the fullness of their strength, use their hearts to start their stories over again.

Family is a transitive property.

Love is a Yeti. It is bigger than you and frightening and terrible. it makes loud and vicious noises. It is hungry all the time. it has horns and teeth and the fore of its fists is more than anyone can bear. It speeds up time and slows it down. And it has its own aims and missions that those who are lucky enough to see it cannot begin to guess. You might see a Yeti once in your life or never. You might live in a village of them. But in the end, no matter how fast you think you can go, the Yeti is always faster than you, and you can only choose how you say hello to it, and whether you shake its hand.

I think that about sums it all up. Read this series, you won’t be sorry. It is a literary delight.

20. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fantasy, Fiction, Kira

Fairest by Gail Carson Levine, read by Kira, on 02/19/2014

cover-of-fairest fairestA reinterpretation of Snow White.  In this fractured version, the protagonist, an innkeeper’s daughter, is a larger girl who is sometimes treated poorly by other people because of her looks.  However, she has the most beautiful voice in the kingdom. This was well written and challenged our culture’s obsession with good looks, asking the reader to question our assumptions we make based on physical attractiveness.

19. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fantasy, Fiction, Kira

The Stolen Child by Keith Donohue, read by Kira, on 02/09/2014

A wonderful entrancing story! a hobgoblin, trades places with the real Henry Day, getting a chance to life out a human life, after waiting about 100 years for his turn.  The previous HenrStolen_Childy Day, now renamed Anaday, struggles to make sense of his world, and to fit in with the band of hobgoblins.  Both characters struggle to figure out what to do with the lives that they have.  I like the fact that Donohue took a familiar narrative, that of the stolen/exchanged child, and tackled stochilddeeper questionstlchls of what it meastolns to live a meaningful life.  This book reminded me of both   and Kazuo Ishiguro’s “Never Let me Go” as well as Adam Phillips’ book missing outMissing Out (which had too much psychoanalysis for me to finish).

18. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Eric, Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fantasy, Fiction

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente, read by Eric, on 02/15/2014

Mix equal parts Alice in Wonderland and Wizard of Oz, stir with a Victorian pen filled with modern ink, and soon the outline of this exceptional fairy tale starts to form. September, a twelve year old from Omaha, Nebraska, is swept away to Fairyland by the Green Wind, and eventually ends up Circumnavigating Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making for a purpose which I won’t spoil. What happens between these events is some truly inventive, wildly imaginative wordplay, filled with classic (and very strange) characters, and off-kilter plot developments which can only take place in Fairyland. This is both a bright and cruel place to live, two sides which are contrasted, compared, and even mixed throughout the book.

Normally, it takes a Terry Pratchett or a Neil Gaiman to get me to tap my wife on the shoulder, and repeat sentences aloud. I was sharing bits and pieces from this tale the entire time I read it. Highly recommended.

15. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Courtney, Fantasy, Fiction, Graphic Novel

House of Mystery, Vol. 4: The Beauty of Decay by Matthew Sturges, read by Courtney, on 07/10/2013

A new storyline, “The Beauty of Decay,” begins with this volume!

The House of Mystery has been temporarily relocated to the Space Between, where death rules and the body count continues to rise. Meanwhile, Fig, Peter and Jordan venture out into the city of ghosts to visit the long-abandoned Pathfinder’s Academy where the most desperate specters wail and gnash. But the Pathfinder’s Academy holds more than ghosts – it also contains ancient dark secrets that will change Fig’s life forever.

Will Fig and Peter find a way out? And to make matters even worse, the House of Mystery’s previous owner has returned to reclaim what’s his.

15. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Courtney, Fantasy, Fiction, Graphic Novel

Joe the Barbarian by Grant Morrison, Sean Murphy (Illustrator), read by Courtney, on 07/28/2013

Joe’s mother has gone out to attempt to prevent the bank from foreclosing on the family home that the two have been living in alone since the death of Joe’s father. Joe heads up to his room in the attic, forgetting his backpack on the stairs. This wouldn’t be a problem for most people, but Joe is extremely hypoglycemic and the nearest sugar is in his bag. After hanging out in his room for awhile, he begins to either hallucinate from the hypoglycemic shock or his toys have all come to life. Either way, he begins an epic quest to save the “kingdom” from evil forces. Accompanied by his pet rat and various other “heroes” he picks up along the way, Joe is armed only with his wits as he begins the long and arduous journey downstairs to the kitchen where salvation awaits in the form of carbonated high-fructose corn syrup.
The artwork in this is amazing. Joe’s bedroom is filled with all the toys one might expect a teenaged boy to have accumulated over the course of his short life. All of these details inform the auxiliary characters that Joe encounters throughout his journey. On occasion, the panel will show Joe in his own house, looking increasingly worse for the wear. Joe himself is unsure what is real and what isn’t, but he knows he’s on a mission and he’s determined to follow it all the way through. I love that this is a self-contained comic (it was originally printed as a mini-series); it’s a refreshing change to read the whole thing in one sitting rather than having to wait for each subsequent installment to come out. The story feels fresh and original all while paying homage to the classic adventure stories we all grew up with.

15. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fantasy, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Teen Books

Golden Girl by Sarah Zettel, read by Courtney, on 07/27/2013

In volume two of the American Fairy series, we catch up to Callie LaRoux in Hollywood, the seat of power for the Unseelie Court. Callie and Jack obtain jobs with MGM studios, which seems to be the best way of going about finding Callie’s parents and settling this whole prophecy business. Things start to go awry when Jack and Callie witness a young starlet, Ivy Bright (think Shirley Temple), about to be kidnapped by fairies. They rescue her with the aid of a well-known singer, Paul Robeson, who, in spite of being human, seems to know an awful lot about fairies. In the meantime, Shake is back, but not nearly as powerful as he was. Callie and Jack know they must be getting close to Callie’s parents, but there’s so much going on with Callie’s arrival in Unseelie territory that they get stalled just trying to keep themselves alive.
I was really excited about this sequel since I loved the first book in the series. This one just fell kind of flat for me. The plot has a lot of action, which will surely keep many fans entertained, but it seemed to lose some of the historical detail in exchange for action sequences. I’m still more than a little confused by the Paul Robeson and his role in the whole thing. He appears near the beginning of the book and then disappears from the plot for nearly half of the book. The Ivy Bright storyline is predictable at best, annoying at worst. Overall, the heavy reliance on action makes the book feel convoluted and considerably less magical than its predecessor. Here’s hoping the third book can manage to pull everything back together; I would really like to see the series redeem itself, especially since the concept is so good.

15. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fantasy, Fiction, Teen Books

Crap Kingdom by D.C. Pierson, read by Courtney, on 07/19/2013

Tom Parking is an average guy who’s always dreamed of being the next Harry Potter or Percy Jackson. His life is pretty mundane until he is approached by a curious looking fellow named Gark who tells Tom that he is the Chosen One. Against his better judgement, Tom follows Gark into a dumpster which actually does turn out to be a portal to another kingdom. Believing his wildest dreams have come true, Tom gets pretty excited at the prospect of saving a kingdom. Until he actually gets a good luck at it. The whole civilization is more or less constructed out of trash. The denizens all don mismatched thrift-store clothes and the drink of choice tends to occasionally set its consumers on fire. Tom quickly discovers that this kingdom is kind of, well, crappy. The King is exceedingly cynical, to say the least. He also hates Tom. As it turns out, Gark, though tasked with tracking down the chosen one, is also about the least popular citizen of the kingdom, mainly because he has hope for the future. The rest could care less and have no inclination to change. In fact, the kingdom doesn’t even bear a name; when circumstances require, one can simply “mumble unintelligibly for the length of the average kingdom name”. Tom is less than impressed. In fact, he turns them down as his life proves easier without the nameless kingdom in his life (he was told he could be in charge of the Rat-Snottery, but it wasn’t enough to clinch the deal). So they find someone else: Kyle, Tom’s best friend. Kyle is everything Tom isn’t; athletic, focused, good with girls, etc. Kyle excels where Tom failed to impress and Tom finds himself actually starting to regret his initial choice to turn his back on the crappy kingdom.
While the setup is definitely amusing and unexpected, the rest of the book isn’t as funny as I had hoped. The moral of the story becomes a bit heavy-handed and the pace lags substantially in the middle of the book. Tom can be an irritating character at times, while Kyle is kind of bland. Nevertheless, readers will still be able to relate to Tom’s sense of opportunity lost. After all, haven’t we all regretted turning down an opportunity at some point in our lives? Overall, however, an entertaining read for teens, particularly any teen who has ever dreamed of becoming a “chosen one”.

11. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fantasy, Fiction, Graphic Novel, Teen Books

Tegami Bachi, Vol. 10 by Hiroyuki Asada, read by Courtney, on 09/30/2012

Amberground is locked in darkness. A man-made star casts only a dim light over the land. The pitch-black wilderness is infested with Gaichuu–colossal insects with metal exoskeletons. The Gaichuu make travel between the cities of Amberground extremely dangerous. But thankfully the Letter Bees, a brave corps of messengers, risk their lives in order to keep the hearts of Amberground connected.

The Shining Eye

With Lag out sick, Aria Link, second in command at the Beehive, takes over the job of delivering his letters. But even with Niche at her side, Aria finds that Amberground has become a dangerous place. Can she defend herself armed with nothing but a violin? Meanwhile, Lag’s illness takes a strange turn.

11. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fantasy, Fiction, Graphic Novel, Teen Books

Tegami Bachi, Vol. 9 by Hiroyuki Asada, read by Courtney, on 09/30/2012

Amberground is locked in darkness. A man-made star casts only a dim light over the land. The pitch-black wilderness is infested with Gaichuu–colossal insects with metal exoskeletons. The Gaichuu make travel between the cities of Amberground extremely dangerous. But thankfully the Letter Bees, a brave corps of messengers, risk their lives in order to keep the hearts of Amberground connected.

The Dead Letter Office Lag’s hero, Gauche Suede, has returned to the Beehive; but not in the way Lag had hoped.While Gauche lies injured and unconscious, two mysterious government operatives show up to take him away, arousing the suspicions of the Beehive staff. What is the Amberground government trying to hide from the Letter Bees?

11. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fantasy, Fiction, Graphic Novel, Teen Books

Tegami Bachi, Vol. 8 by Hiroyuki Asada, read by Courtney, on 09/24/2012

Lag has now found Gauche, but Gauche is not himself. Under the moniker of “Noir” he has joined the rebel organization, “Reverse”. Hot on his trail and armed with a letter bullet, Lag infiltrates a convent that he is convinced may be connected to Reverse.
As charming and tragic as ever.

11. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Graphic Novel

The Lost Boy by Greg Ruth, read by Angie, on 02/10/2014

This is an eerie, spooky story about a boy who was lost and then found. The story starts when Nate moves into a new house and discovers tapes under the floor of his room. The tapes tell the story of Walt who lived and disappeared 50 years ago. Walt discovered a world outside of the normal world with talking animals and magical trees that act as gates to this other world. Nate starts seeing the same things Walt once did and with the help of new friend Tabitha sets out to figure out what is going on. They must travel into this other world and defeat the Vespertine and save the word.

This is a complicated story that might be more appropriate for upper elementary students instead of the younger ones. I think if readers stick with it they will find the magic and wonder of the story interesting, but some might get turned off by the complicated dual stories. I loved how this was illustrated in simple ink drawings. They really brought the action to life. You have to really pay attention to get all the details out of this one, but you will be rewarded if you do.

10. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Graphic Novel, Kira · Tags:

Black Orchid by Neil Gaiman, read by Kira, on 02/08/2014

Black Orchid tells or retells the story of one of DC comic’s superheroes (or superheroines).  The Black Orchid had appeared in DC Comics of the 1970′s.  Neil Gaiman performs a twist on the usual narrative of a superhero.  The story begins with our superhero getting killed in the beginning pages.  Then a former friend uses the woman’s DNA to create a plant/human hybrid, that has different superpowers.  It is a very violent story, with death upon death of the both the good and the bad guys.  Lex Luther is the main bad guy, while other superheroes/villains make cameo appearances.  This title is credited with helping to break the way for lessindex traditionalimagesBlackO graphic novels.

10. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fantasy, Fiction, Kira · Tags: ,

Harlequin Valentine by Gaiman, Neil, read by Kira, on 02/09/2014

Harlequin_valentine_cover

Apparently the Harlequin is a stock character in European and British theater specifically, the Commedia dell’Arte format – along with a whole host of other characters – including Columbine – his love interest.  In this retelling of the Harlequin’s usual story, Gaiman adds a twist to the standard narrative.  Even though I was not familiar with the standard narrative, I could see that giving the woman powers and moving her into a main character status is a twist on the standard narrative where the woman is often the object, and Not the subject.  Interesting piece.harqp3