20. March 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Apocalyptic, Dystopia, Fantasy, Fiction, Paranormal, Tammy

Annihilation (Southern Reach #1) by Jeff VanderMeer, 195 pages, read by Tammy, on 03/17/2015

annihilation  Book one of a trilogy. Annihilation is set in Area X. An area cut off from the rest of the continent for decades that has been reclaimed by nature. The first expedition returned with reports of a pristine, Edenic landscape; all the members of the second expedition committed suicide; the third expedition died in a hail of gunfire as its members turned on one another; the members of the eleventh expedition returned as shadows of their former selves, and within months of their return, all had died of aggressive cancer.

Now the twelfth expedition is entering Area X. This group is made up of four women, an anthropologist, surveyor, psychologist a biologist. The biologist is our narrator and the psychologist is the leader of the group. Their mission is to map the terrain, collect specimens, record all their observations of their surroundings and one another. And most importantly avoid being contaminated by Area X and watch for signs of contamination in others.

This mystery/adventure story is wonderfully written. The text moves you along quickly and pulls you right into the world of Area X. It is different to read a whole novel and never learn the characters names or much about what they look like. This first book brings up lots and lots of questions. I checked with other staff who have finished the trilogy and some questions are answered but not a lot. If you can enjoy reading for the way it is written and pondering about the mysterious of life and our universe then this is for you. If you need solid answers by the end of the series, skip this one.

 

19. March 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fantasy, Fiction, Kira, Paranormal · Tags:

Carousel Tides by Sharon Lee, 432 pages, read by Kira, on 03/19/2015

Carousel Tides Carousel-Tides-shirt5-outlined I almost gave up on this book, while reading the first chapter – but if you persist it gets better, way better.  The protagonist Kate has returned to the beach town in Maine where she grew up with her Gran, her Gran who runs the carousel, her Gran who has disappeared for several months now.  Kate had pledged herself to be a Guardian of the Land, but after she misused the power of the Land and a friend got killed, Kate fled the land, awaiting a slow death (by breaking away from the land).  This is a magical and inventive world, with a great backstory, that slowly gets filled in, as the narrative unfolds.  I’m really glad to have discovered another fantasy author like this!IMGP1751

19. March 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Mariah

A Gracious Plenty by Sheri Reynolds, 205 pages, read by Mariah, on 03/18/2015

Finch Noble pulled a pot of boiling water down on her face when she was a toddler. This left her face horribly disfigured. As she grew up, she found that other children were either scared of her or made fun of her. To escape from this treatment, Finch pulled away from society and played in the cemetery where her parents were caretakers. As Finch pulls further away from society, she finds she can speak to the ghosts of the cemetery. Among the specters, she finds friends enough to support, encourage and complete her. Finch does not feel that her life is lacking in any way. Throughout the book, though, Finch finds herself pulled into the drama of human lives. A local Baptist do-gooder has decided Finch is her next project. A local police officer, who has also never felt right in his own skin, takes an interest in Finch and tries to heal old wounds and create a friendship. Then there are the ghosts who are working through the problems they did not resolve while alive. As Finch helps others, both the dead and living, she begins to heal herself.

19. March 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Apocalyptic, Dystopia, Fantasy, Fiction, Mariah, Teen Books

Birthmarked by Caragh M. O'Brien, 362 pages, read by Mariah, on 03/16/2015

Gaia is a teenage girl who is pushed into an adult world, with adult problems, when her parents are suddenly arrested by the Enclave. This coming of age story is set in a dystopian future where global warming (called the cool age) has already scarred the Earth and several generations of survivors have hashed out a new way of life. Gaia follows in her mother’s footsteps as a midwife for a group of outsiders who live an archaic life. Bakers, carpenters and weavers are at odds with technological leftovers like movie theaters. Gaia’s life is fairly happy, despite that fact that the Enclave requires that a percentage of all babies delivered be “advanced” to the Enclave. These children are adopted into Enclave families. Though they will never see their birth parents again, it is considered a privilege because the children will go on to live rich, fulfilled lives. Gaia has no qualms with the situation until the evening her parents are arrested with no warning or explanation. As she begins to investigate, Gaia discovers a less savory side of the Enclave and starts questioning the rituals that have always been a part of her life. Leaving behind a prosperous job and the safety of ignorance, Gaia sets off to rescue her parents.

Birthmarked is neither the best, nor the worst, teen dystopian I have come across since the explosion of popularity in the genre began. The protagonist, Gaia, is a bit annoying in her blind devotion followed by startlingly sudden and inept actions. However, most of the characters are likable and the plot is simple and clear. It is an easy and fun read.

18. March 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Historical Fiction

The Zoo at the Edge of the World by Eric Kahn Gale, 240 pages, read by Angie, on 03/14/2015

Marlin is a stutterer and has a lot of problems communicating with people. He has no problems talking to the animals in his father’s zoo however. Marlin’s dad is the famous adventurer Ronan Rackham and he created The Zoo at the Edge of the World in the Amazon jungle. The Zoo attracts wealthy tourists from Europe who come to see the amazing jungle animals and wild circus. Ronan’s latest capture is a jaguar the locals believe is a man-eater. Marlin is drawn to the jaguar and one evening while he is talking to it the jaguar talks back. Suddenly, Marlin can hear all the animals talking and they can understand him as well. This comes in handy when he has to save the zoo from his tyrannical, bullying brother, his crazy father and the scheming duke who is trying to encroach on the jungle.

I was intrigued by the premise of a zoo in the jungle during Victorian times. It is an interesting and plausible idea as the world was expanding for people during that time. Adventurers were discovering parts of the world never before seen by Europeans. I also liked the idea of a Marlin learning to deal with his communication problems and the fact that he is bullied by his brother. Talking animals I can do without, mainly because I thought it took away from the reality of the rest of the story.

18. March 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fantasy, Fiction, Teen Books

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas, 416 pages, read by Angie, on 03/17/2015

Feyre is the youngest daughter of an impoverished merchant. She is the sole provider for her family. When her mother died she charged Feyre with taking care of her older sisters and her father and Feyre has tried to fulfill that promise. One day when she is out hunting in the forest she shoots a wolf. Turns out the wolf was a shapeshifted faerie and she has to pay for his life. She is whisked off over the wall by Tamlin, High Lord of the Spring Court. Hundreds of years ago there was a war between mortals and fae that divided the world. The fae courts stayed behind the wall in the north and the mortals were relegated to the southern most part of the island of Prythian. Recently the fae have been venturing beyond the wall and attacking humans. Feyre finds life in the Spring Court different from what she expected. Tamlin and the other faeries treat her with respect and she is better fed and clothed than she has been in years. She finds herself falling in love with Tamlin. But things are not right in Prythian. There is a blight on the land that seems to be spreading and endangers both fae and humans alike. Feyre has the power to stop the blight if only she would realize it.

I am a big fan of Sarah J. Maas’s Throne of Glass series so I was really excited when I saw this new series. A Court of Thorns and Roses is a Beauty and the Beast retelling with a different twist. Maas has gone back to the old story of Beauty and the Beast, but instead of a troll queen we have an evil faerie queen. The beauty is a mortal girl and the beast is a faerie prince. It is a fabulous story with a fabulous set of characters. My only little quibble is that it is marketed as a teen book, but it has some fairly sexy sex scenes with a bit more detail than teen books usually have. Didn’t ruin my enjoyment of the book, but I might be a bit hesitant to give it to younger, more innocent teens (not that I don’t think they get more graphic information elsewhere). I can’t wait to see where this series goes as this book wrapped most of the storylines up pretty nicely; although there is a nice twist at the end.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publishers for letting me read the ARC of this book. I loved it!

18. March 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Lisa

No Flying in the House by Betty Brock, Wallace Tripp (Illustrator), 157 pages, read by Lisa, on 03/17/2015

Most little girls have parents to take care of them, but not Annabel Tippens.She has Gloria, a tiny white dog who talks and wears a gold collar. Annabel never thought it was strange that she had Gloria instead of real parents. Until one day a wicked, wicked cat named Belinda comes to tell her the truth — she’s not just a little girl, she’s a half-fairy!
And she can do lots of things that other kids can’t do, such as kiss her own elbow and fly around the house. But being a fairy isn’t all fun and games, and soon Annabel must make a choice. If she chooses to be a fairy, she’ll have to say good-bye to Gloria forever. How can she decide between her newly found magic and her dearest friend?

From Goodreads.com.

17. March 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Kira, Paranormal

Vision in Silver by Anne Bishop, 400 pages, read by Kira, on 03/09/2015

Third novel in the series called the Others.Vision-in-Silver-The-Others-3-Anne-Bishop Scenics_coastal_waters_and_landmass  This book focuses less on Megan’s personal journey and more on the larger macro relationships.  The one exception to this is the focus on Officer Montgomery, the police officer transferred to Lakeside because (back in the first of the series) he shot and killed a human in order to save the life of an Other.  I like that they continued the story-line of what had been a fairly minor character.  I like that we get an expanded view of the less-seen 125779491_11n abstract blue dark smoke digital art 2560x1440 wallpaper_wallpaperswa.com_22 m.courtyard.rough.SMOthers. Can’t wait for the next book!

12. March 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction

Lost Children of the Far Islands by Emily Raabe, 288 pages, read by Angie, on 03/09/2015

Gus, Leo and Ila live with their parents in Maine. They have a pretty idyllic life until their mother gets sick. She deteriorates rapidly and suddenly the kids are whisked away to a grandmother they don’t know on a remote island. Their grandmother is the Morai, an ancient being who protects the world from the evil Dobhar-chu. She is also a selkie, a shape-shifter who can go between the human and seal shape. Gus, Leo and Ila are also shape-shifters. Because Gus and Leo are 11 they are taught how to change shapes. Ila is too young to shift, but seems to be gifted in that she has a third shape of a fox. With their mother fading and their grandmother old and weak, the kids are the only ones left between the world and the evil of the Dobhar-chu.

I really enjoy books that delve into different cultural mythologies. There are books about selkies, but you don’t see a lot for this age group. I liked that even though the book deals with the mythology of selkies it doesn’t specify the culture they are from or directly point to a specific culture. I liked the kids a lot. Gus and Leo are twins but very different. The star of the show was little Ila though. She doesn’t speak for the first 5 years of her life and it is only after the mom falls ill that she starts to talk. It turns out she is also the most talented of the family in regards to shifting. She is a fierce little thing and quite entertaining. This is a great stand alone book for fantasy fans.

09. March 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction

Nightbird by Alice Hoffman, 208 pages, read by Angie, on 03/09/2015

Twig has a secret, a secret that means she keeps her distance from everyone. She lives with her mother in the town of Sidwell where Johnny Appleseed gave her family a rare pink apple. Her mother’s pink apple recipes are famous. Twig has no friends her age, but immediately likes Julia when her family moves in next door. Her mom doesn’t want her to be friends with Julia however. It seems that 200 years ago their family was cursed by a witch who just happens to be Julia’s ancestor. The curse is that every male member of the family is born with wings. Twig’s secret is her brother James who has been hidden his entire life because of the wings on his back. James is getting tired of hiding though and starts leaving the house more and more often. Twig and Julia become determined to somehow break the curse and start researching their ancestors for the answer.

I wanted to like this book more than I did. I enjoyed the story and thought it was really interesting, but I also thought it lacked something. There isn’t a lot of character development for pretty much everyone except Twig. There is a whole plot line involving saving the woods from development that seemed like an after thought to get a character into the story. I also thought the ending was just a little too perfect. Even though magical realism is not really my favorite thing I did think it worked fairly well in this story.

I received this book from Netgalley.com.

06. March 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction

The Forgotten Sisters by Shannon Hale , 323 pages, read by Angie, on 03/05/2015

The Forgotten Sisters is the final book in the Princess Academy trilogy. It picks up after the events of Palace of Stone. Miri and the other girls are ready to head back to Mount Eskel. Miri can’t wait to see her family and become betrothed to Peder. Just as she is about to leave she is summoned to the king and asked to go to Lesser Alva and train three royal cousins to be princesses. War is coming to Danland and the only way to prevent it is to offer the enemy king a bride. Miri heads off to the swamp expecting to find a much different situation than she does. The three sisters live in an empty stone house; they are not educated; they have no concept of what it means to be royal. Once their mother died their support dried up and they are forced to spend their days hunting for food in the swamp. Miri takes up the challenge to get the girls ready for their debut in Asland. This involves more than teaching the girls to read and write; she must also figure out a way to get their allowance back from the unscrupulous headman of the village. Unfortunately, war comes before the girls are ready and they are not safe even in the swamp backwater where they live.

Every time I read one of these books I remember how much I like Shannon Hale’s writing. I could not put this book down. I loved getting to see Miri on her own in an unfamiliar situation. The swamp offered a great background to the story as Miri learns to catch caimans and survive in the mud and the muck. I liked the royal cousins, but didn’t think they were developed as well as they could have been. Miri is really the focus of the story as she teaches the girls how to survive as princesses and she learns how to survive in the swamp. I actually loved the ending of the book and really didn’t see the twist coming. I had other ideas about the girls that ended up not being true. I thought the ending really suited the spirit of this series and wrapped up the characters’ stories really well.

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley.com.

05. March 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Leslie

Sojourn by R.A. Salvatore, 309 pages, read by Leslie, on 02/16/2015

Far above the merciless Underdark, Drizzt Do’Urden fights to survive the elements of Toril’s harsh surface. The drow begins a sojourn through a world entirely unlike his own–even as he evades the dark elves of his past.

In this 3rd and final book of the trilogy, Drizzt leaves the Underdark for a life on the surface, or so he hopes.  At first, he again lives the life of a hermit and although the sun makes it difficult for him, he is determined to find his place in this world.  He eventually meets a blind Ranger, who befriends and teaches him what he needs to know about his new world.  Drizzt comes to the conclusion, with some help, that not all deities are bad, and that living the life of a Ranger is what he is meant to do.  Although tragedy dogs him through the first part of the book, he learns his way and finds the place he is meant to be.

A very good conclusion to the trilogy, in my opinion.  While it does leave open the chance for his character to appear in other Forgotten Realm books, it was finished in a satisfactory manner.  I thoroughly enjoyed the whole series and recommend it to anyone.

05. March 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Lisa

Bigger Than a Bread Box by Laurel Snyder, 223 pages, read by Lisa, on 03/04/2015

A magical breadbox that delivers whatever you wish for—as long as it fits inside? It’s too good to be true! Twelve-year-old Rebecca is struggling with her parents’ separation, as well as a sudden move to her Gran’s house in another state. For a while, the magic bread box, discovered in the attic, makes life away from home a little easier. Then suddenly it starts to make things much, much more difficult, and Rebecca is forced to decide not just where, but who she really wants to be. Laurel Snyder’s most thought-provoking book yet.

Description from Goodreads.com.

05. March 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Leslie

Exile by R.A. Salvatore, 343 pages, read by Leslie, on 02/11/2015

 “As I became a creature of the empty tunnels, survival became easier and more difficult all at once. I gained in the physical skills and experience necessary to live on. I could defeat almost anything that wandered into my chosen domain. It did not take me long, however, to discover one nemesis that I could neither defeat nor flee. It followed me wherever I went-indeed, the farther I ran, the more it closed in around me. My enemy was solitude, the interminable, incessant silence of hushed corridors.”

In this second book of the trilogy, Drizzt decides that his only way to escape his family and the dark elves way of life, is to live by himself in the depths of his underworld.  He is afraid to interact with any others he meets, until he comes to the realization that he is slowly becoming that which he hoped to avoid.  He decides that he needs to reverse this by hoping that if he goes to the dwarven city and living with whatever fate they decide for him.  He had saved the life of one of them and wants desparately to find out if he is the good person he wants to be.  After living with them for a time, he and his companions learn that his mother has sent someone after him, to try and appease their goddess. Drizzt then decides that he needs to set out again, hoping to outrun his heritage and his mother’s determination.

I enjoyed this book, as much as the first, and it was much faster to read, maybe because the tempo of the book was not as much set up and explanation as it was actual action.  You get to really feel for Drizzt and the fate of his life.  It’s easy to see parallels in real life, to compare what people you know have overcome to be the people they want.  A very good read if you enjoy fantasy settings.

 

05. March 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Kira, Mystery · Tags:

The Mist-torn Witches by Barb Hendee, 326 pages, read by Kira, on 03/02/2015

mist tornTwo sisters living in a small village are barely hanging on.  The elder Celine, pretends to be a seer like her mother (though her mother was a real seer).  The prince of the realm bribes Celine to tell a rich girl that marrying him will be a good choice.  As Celine pretends to read for the rich girl, she has her first real vision, in which the girl is brutally murdered, if she marries the prince.  Will the sisters survive the wrath of the evil prince?  so begins the tale.  This book was much more enjoyable than the 2nd in the series (which I read beforehand).  
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04. March 2015 · 1 comment · Categories: Adult Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Mariah

Haunted by Kelley Armstrong, 495 pages, read by Mariah, on 03/02/2015

Eve Levine was a witch who practiced black magic when she was alive. Her reputation proceeded her throughout the supernatural world. When she died attempting to escape a prison for supernaturals, Eve left behind a teenage daughter, Savannah. Most of her time since death has been spent trying to continue to watch over her daughter, though they live in separate worlds. Now, however, the Fates have a different, and far more dangerous, task for her. Eve has been asked to track down and help capture a demonic creature known as a Nix. As the tale progresses, it turns out that Eve was not quite the dark magic practitioner she had been painted by her peers. While willing to cross a lot of lines and stand up for herself among the magical crowd, Eve has a strong moral code. During her job, Eve mends hurt feelings and regains lost trusts that occurred while she was alive. She comes to terms with her new place in the universe and, by the end of her quest, Eve realizes she can let go of the past. The book ends with Eve starting an exciting new future with a job that many might consider the polar opposite of her earthly work. Eve Levine now guards the earth as an angel.

This is the fifth book in Kelley Armstrong’s Women of the Otherworld series. It takes a darker turn than her previous books because of the characteristics of the Nix that Eve is hunting. While Armstrong has always been happy to explore the mayhem that allowing a werewolf or sorcerer to revel in their baser instincts can cause, Haunted focuses on a serial killer. Darker and much more intricate, Armstrong arranges a plot line that brings more mystery and suspense into her fantasy world.

25. February 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Brian, Fantasy, Fiction, Horror, Literary Fiction, Mystery, Paranormal, Short Stories

Trigger Warning: short fictions and disturbances by Neil Gaiman, 310 pages, read by Brian, on 02/24/2015

Neil Gaiman is possibly to best writer of today’s literature.  Everything he writes is magic.  Neil writes another beauty in Trigger Warning a group of short stories to amaze and wonder about.  It is worth reading.

 

25. February 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fantasy, Fiction, Kira, Paranormal · Tags:

Black Wings by Christina Henry, 295 pages, read by Kira, on 02/24/2015

Madeline Black is an agent of Dblack wingseath, guiding souls to the door of the afterlife.  Shortly after she rents out the lower rooms in her house, to hot-looking Gabriel Angeloscuro, demons wanting to kill her start showing up near her house, including her evil half-brother Antares.  The author does some interesting world-building, building a genealogy of residents of heaven, but mostly hell.  I picked up this title on accidB0351_BlackWings_coverent, thinking it was another by Barb Hendee – both have call # HEN.  Enjoyable enough of a read, but I doubt I’ll continue the series.fantasy-and-gothic-pictures-girl-with-black-wings-and-blue-dress

24. February 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fantasy, Fiction

The Castle Behind Thorns by Merrie Haskell, 332 pages, read by Angie, on 02/23/2015

Sand has a fight with his father so he runs away and makes an offering at a shrine. The next thing he knows he is waking up in the sundered castle. Thirty years ago something happened at the castle that caused everything from the walls to the last apple to split. The castle was then surrounded by an impenetrable wall of thorns. Sand has no idea how he got in the castle, but once there he decides to use his skills as a blacksmith to start fixing things. He fixes everything from doors to buckets to spoons. He even puts things back to rights in the crypt beneath the chapel. Sand spends weeks alone in the castle working and trying to find enough food to get by. Then a girl appears; she is the same girl he put to rights in the crypt. Seems that Perrotte has been mended as well. She was once the daughter of the castle before she was murdered by her stepmother. Once Perrotte and Sand get past their surprise at the new circumstances, Perrotte helps Sand with the mending of the castle. They notice that the more they mend the lower the wall of thorns becomes. They are determined to find a way out of the castle and back to their lives.

This is a magical fairy tale with a twist. I really enjoyed Sand and Perrotte and how their relationship develops. Perrotte goes from being a snobby lady who looks down on humble Sand, to a warm human being who considers Sand her best friend and protector. I liked the discovery of Sand’s magic and why it came to be. I also enjoyed Perrotte’s tragic story of her past and how she came back to life. The one thing I thought was rushed was the ending though. We spend the majority of the book in the castle with Sand and Perrotte as they are working together and rebuilding the castle. Then in the last few chapters Perrotte’s stepmother comes with her army; then a peace is established; then they leave the castle. It is all very hurried and didn’t seem to fit the pace of the rest of the book. But as this is a fairy tale everyone lives happily ever after and all is well.

24. February 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction

Witherwood Reform School by Obert Skye, Keith Thompson (Illustrations), 240 pages, read by Angie, on 02/23/2015

Tobias and Charlotte play one too many tricks on their nanny which causes their father to have to take action. He dumps them in front of Witherwood Reform School and leaves them. Witherwood is not like other schools. They seem to already know who Tobias and Charlotte are and there are many mysteries surrounding the school including its staff and students. It was built on top a mesa that was created by a meteor impact. The school has dangerous guardians on the grounds who attack intruders. The head of the school Mr. Withers has a hypnotic voice that causes the students to accept their place at the school with joy and contentment. Tobias and Charlotte want nothing more than to leave the evil school, but are soon under its spell like the other students.

This is a quirky, quirky book. Tobias and Charlotte seem like normal kids but they find themselves in anything but normal situations. Everything just keeps getting stranger and stranger the more you read of this book. This is the beginning of a series and the book reads more like a set up for that series than a series opener. There is no resolution of any kind at the end of the book and the reader is left with way more questions about what is going on then they like. Witherwood is bizarre to say the least and we don’t find out why or what purpose it is serving. I think my enjoyment of the book dipped a lot when I realized there was no good ending. The kids are in much the same position they were at the beginning of the book. I wanted more answers and don’t like the fact that I will have to wait until the next book to get them. Not sure I am interested enough to wait however.

I received this book from Netgalley.