The animals have taken over Manor Farm. They have kicked farmer Jones off the land and decided to run it themselves. Everything starts out really well. They come up with the seven commandments of animalism and all work cooperatively. Then the pigs, who are in charge because they are the smartest, start changing things. The other animals are working harder for less and the pigs are working less for more. Soon their animal utopia turns into something else.
Animal Farm is a book that has been on my shelf for a while unread. Even though this book was written over 60 years ago there is still something timeless about it. Orwell was a genius at political satire and I think he captured the essence of the communist movement very well. I might not know a whole lot about the rise of communism in the 20th century or about communist nations today, but his description of Animal Farm seemed to ring true. I really enjoyed the progression from cooperative to totalitarian state and the degrading of the seven commandments. This is not a story with a happy ending, nor one where the evil doers get their just desserts. This is a story about a political system that creates an elite at the expense of the people and about a people that allow it.
In a fantasy/alternate Colonial America, Billy Bartram joins his father and other members of the American Philosophical Society in a quest for allies in the coming war against the French. They seek the Kingdom of Madoc, a rumored ancient Welsh colony beyond the Mississippi River. Their mode of transportation, a unique air-sailing ship, is also sought by the French, in hot pursuit of the explorers.
The setting and plot are interesting, and I enjoy alternate history and fantasy. The mix here, however, starts to spiral toward the end, until fantasy completely takes over for the final handful of chapters, and situations get increasingly far-fetched. This is a land of mastodons, and a 12-foot-tall bear-wolf capable of tracking a flying vessel across half the continent. To what end other than destruction, I have no idea. Perhaps colonists are particularly tasty. Secret messages tossed from the air into rivers inerringly find eddies and shores for easy retrieval. Convenient! There is plenty to recommend about this book, but I can’t quite give it full marks.
Continue with the adventures of young Salamandra, the orphaned, mysterious, witch-in-training on the haunted island of Hopeless, Maine! When Sal discovers she might have a grandfather living on the island, she seeks him out, only to find him full of even more mystery than the rest of her past. Before she can unravel the secrets of her family’s past, however, her best friend, Owen, is thrust into a family trauma of his own. Salamandra must choose between helping Owen and finding the home and family she has always longed for.
Kingdom of Little Wounds is a most unexpected book. The setting is in an imaginary Scandinavian country in 1572. Young Princess Sophie is on the eve of her wedding, a grand affair, by all accounts. She dies before the nuptial night is over. Poison is suspected, but since all of her siblings seem to suffer from the same symptoms that Sophie had in the years prior to her death, many believe it to be disease.
Out of the royal spotlight, two women struggle to eke out a life worth living in the palace. One is a seamstress named Ava Bingen. After accidentally pricking the Queen while repairing her gown, Ava is demoted to working with the ailing children. The other woman, Midi Sorte, was taken from her native land and given as a gift to a noble. At some point in her service, her tongue is cut in half (lengthwise), so Midi’s power of speech is gone. She proves, however, that one need not speak to get a point across or to be valuable to the machinations of the palace and its inhabitants. Her position taking care of the youngest royal child keeps her relatively safe.
Queen Isobel and her husband, King Christian, struggle to keep up appearances while their legacy falters before their eyes. Some of the most obvious signs of illness are routinely overlooked at the behest of those in power. Others are executed, imprisoned or tortured as potential poisoners of the children, King and Queen. Bit by bit, all three women, the Queen, Midi, and Ava, will find their lives intertwining in unexpected ways.
We love to imagine history as a romanticized version of itself. This version is far less kind and likely much closer to the realities of life in such a setting. Underneath the veneer of fancy clothing and royal privilege lies a kingdom in peril. The reader realizes far before many of the characters that it is not poison that caused the death of Princess Sophie. Nor is it poison that threatens her siblings. Rather, it is syphilis, a disease that was reputedly quite well-spread at the time (and was considered incurable). Many of the “mad” kings of history were known to suffer from the disease. This story could have been far more graphic and, frankly, gross, but for Cokal’s hypnotic writing style. Cokal herself describes the book as “a fairy tale about syphilis”, which is fairly accurate. The narrative trades off mainly between Ava, Midi and the Queen and each has their own narrative “style”. The way in which the story plays itself out is full of intrigue and danger, though the unexpected ending leaves the reading believing that the kingdom just might survive, after all. The Kingdom of Little Wounds was highly unusual, dark and lyrical. It’s not a book I’d recommend to everyone, but for the right reader, it’s a tale one can really sink one’s teeth into.
Boy is the son of Frankenstein’s Monster and The Bride. He’s lived his entire life in a theater operated by magical beings who cannot pass for human in the outside world. These magical beings are the monsters we know from stories, fables, fairy tales and mythology. Boy, who already doesn’t fit in with the outside world, also has problems fitting in with his own misfit community. He tends to be regarded as more “science” than “magic” is treated with derision from many of the monsters. His main comfort is the online community and Boy is a talented hacker. When the sentient computer program he created flops and relationships at the theater become tense, Boy heads out to try his hand at living among humans. It turns out to be harder than he thought. It turns out that humans require things like photo IDs and SSNs to gain employment, which is necessary for the rest of living on one’s own. After an ill-fated first crush/breakup and the realization that the AI program Boy created worked entirely too well, Boy hits the road, this time with the granddaughters of Jeckyl and Hyde.
This wound up being quite a bit of fun. The details are clever, from the company at the theater to the nature of the program-gone-wrong that Boy creates. My only complaint is that the storyline involving the troll girlfriend feels unnecessary by the end of the book. Otherwise, a nice take on the classics-reinterpretation-genre.
It’s kind of hard to begin to describe what all happens here in Bad Unicorn. Middle school student Max Spencer has been in possession of a book called the “Codex of Infinite Knowability” for as long as he can remember. Little does he know that the mere fact that he can hold the book without getting shocked proves that he is, in fact, the descendent of a very powerful wizard from another universe. As it turns out, there are other universes, and in one of those universes, a carnivorous unicorn named Princess has developed an insatiable hunger for non-magical flesh (human, in particular) and conspires with her wizard to find a way to the Techrus (our world). A very powerful and evil wizard makes a deal with Princess: find they boy with the book and, in exchange, Princess is free to turn Texas into an all-you-can-eat human buffet. Things go pretty awry though. An ill-timed spell lands Max and his friends in the distant future, a time when all machines have become sentient (and Princess has converted to an immortal robot body, because why not?) and both humans and magic are extinct. Princess is on the hunt. Max is mostly clueless and lost. Someone had better figure something out before the squirrels take over.
Some books start out funny and lose steam after a few chapters. There are very few books that can remain consistently funny through and through. This, however, is one of them. It’s extremely clever and occasionally a bit dark. It’s a brilliant skewering of the entire middle-grade fantasy genre while exemplifying everything that’s great about that genre. Bad Unicorn reads a bit Douglas Adams for a younger crowd. Older audiences won’t be disappointed either. A ton of fun and a refreshing change of pace.
The Melancholy of Mechagirl is a compilation of short stories and poems with Japanese-themed undertones. Each story is completely unique and highly literate. Some are more sci-fi, some are more fantasy. Some don’t even have humans as the main subjects. Many are deeply rooted in folklore.
My personal favorites from the collection were “13 Ways of Looking at Space/Time”, which retells various creation stories from a hard science fiction perspective, and Killswitch, a story about a game that deletes itself upon the player’s completion of the game. It cannot be duplicated or replayed. In a sense, it only exists for the person playing the game at the moment.
As it turns out, Valente (author the Fairyland series), spent several years living in Japan and was clearly changed by the experience. She acknowledges that her perspective is not that of one who is native Japan; rather she uses her experience as an outsider to focus her approach. It never feels like she’s appropriating Japanese culture. It feels more like a combination of respect, curiosity and love for the country Valente found herself in when she married a man in the Navy who was stationed in Japan.
Calaena is a beautiful and charming young lady who also happens to be the most feared assassin in her world. When she is captured and sent to a prison labor camp, Calaena fears that her life has come to an end. But the Prince of the kingdom unexpectedly comes to rescue her from her prison with one requirement: Calaena must battle the fiercest men in the land to win the right to be the King’s Champion. She agrees to this task, and the next year of her life is a whirlwind of danger, new friends, romance, magic, and mystery.
Throne of Glass stands out because Calaena is such a dangerous yet compassionate character who is always in the midst of risky situations. This is a quick, fun read for readers who love a strong and witty female lead character.
Sixteen-year-old Lady Ember Morrow fulfills a family obligation by joining her friend Alistair in the Conatus Guard and begins training to help with the order’s true mission, to seek out and stop evildoers and their unnatural creations.
While waiting for the Nightshade series books to become available, I thought I would start with the prequel books. If you like supernatural/paranormal mixed with a bit of historical flavoring, you will enjoy this book. It reminds me of the House of Night series by Cast, the young recruit finds herself enmeshed in something she never expected. Ember has to decide whether to choose love or the darkness.
Lacey Unger-Ware (yep that’s her name) thinks Paige Harrington is stuck-up and mean. Paige is the fastest rising most popular girl in school history. Lacey and her friend Sunny are often picked on by Paige who calls Lacey “underwear girl”. Then there is the fairy incident. Lacey gets glitter stuck in her hair from one of Paige’s glittery posters and accidentally traps Paige’s fairy godmother. Now if Paige’s dreams don’t come true none of Lacey’s will either. So Lacey has to learn how to be a fairy godmother so both of their dreams come true.
With a name like The Glitter Trap I figured this book would be a pretty light read. And in some ways it was, but it also had a wonderful message about family and friendship and who we are on the inside. Lacey and Paige might have started out as enemies, but they become friends as the fairy godmother project evolves. This might be a heart-warming book, but it is also full of all the snarky humor that will make it popular with girls. A great message delivered with humor and fun.
Conor O’Neill has a banshee named Ashling hiding in his game closet. Ashling has come to announce the death of one of the members of the O’Neill family, but doesn’t know who. Conor doesn’t want anyone in his family to die. Grumps wants to be the one to die instead of anyone else. Little sister Glennie doesn’t believe half of what Conor says and is a royal pain. Mom and dad are clueless in so many ways. Mom insists on calling Conor Pixie which doesn’t help his image at all and dad is trying to force Conor out of Southie and into Latin School, Boston College, hockey and economics despite Conor’s dislike of all of the above. Conor travels to the underworld to hopefully stop the death, but things aren’t exactly as they appear.
I liked this book a lot more than I thought I would. The characters are fully realized and the adventure kept me reading. Conor is not your typical hero; he is scared of so many things and a very reluctant hero. At one point he even wears a bike helmet to school. Ashling’s story is revealed throughout the book and it is a tragic one that directly connects to Conor. I thought Grumps was the most heartbreaking. He is obsessed by Irish death culture because of something that happened in his past; something that also caused him to neglect his son which in turn causes Brian to smother Conor. The ending will break your heart and the trip to the underworld will make you laugh. Who knew you could phone a friend from the land of the dead!
Alex/Alexa is a girl pretending to be a boy. When her parents are killed her twin brother helps her become a boy so she can avoid being sent to the rape houses. Because in this world little girls are sent to rape houses and raped until the become pregnant so their kids can either become breeders (girls) or soldiers (boys). Alexa has worked her way up to become one of Prince Damien’s personal guards. She is one of the best with a sword and a bow. However, she can’t stop thinking like a girl when she sees Damien’s dreamy abs. The country is at war with Blevin and the king is determined to wipe them out (thus the rape houses). Prince Damien gets kidnapped and takes Alex and another guard Rylan along with him. Turns out he is in with the resistance and wants to take down his dad. Also turns out Alexa is torn between her hot feelings for Damien and her slow burn for Rylan. There are battles, sorcerers and lots of longing looks.
I had issues with this book from the beginning. I have an intense dislike for love triangles, especially love triangles that really have no point and do nothing for the story. I thought this was going to be more of a fantasy adventure book, but it turned into a lot of long paragraphs about how Alexa can’t decide her feelings about Damien and Rylan. Doesn’t matter that Damien lied to her repeatedly throughout the book. He’s dreamy end of story. Rylan is long suffering and loves her from afar. My other issue was Alexa pretending to be a boy. It is a HUGE deal in the beginning of the story. It saves her from the rape houses and she has been doing it for three years. Yet is seems like everyone knew she was a boy and was perfectly fine with it. So what was the big deal.
I love fantasy books that have amazing worlds built into the stories. You feel like you know exactly where and who the people of the world are. That was not the case here. There is a jungle and sorcerers. That is about all I know about this world. It seemed like the story and world building were second to the love triangle. This could have been an amazing book. The premise was fantastic, but it really went no where and was pretty tedious to read.
I received an ARC of this book from Netgalley and from the publisher.
Beka Cooper is a puppy. A Provost’s Guard in training. She has been assigned to the best dog pair in the evening watch and is ready to get to work. Beka has a good feel for the lower city and its people. She also hears the ghosts of the dead who are carried by pigeons. Through her little birdies she learns about two crimes: someone is hiring people to dig and the killing them and someone is kidnapping children and require ransom from the parents to get them back. Beka becomes a terrier with these two cases and convinces her dogs to investigate.
I have been reading Pierce for years and love how her novels have evolved. The Beka Cooper books are more well written than the Alanna books simply because she has more room to work. When the Alanna books were written there was no way they could be the length these books are today. The length gives Pierce more room to develop the plot and the characters.
I love the fact that Beka is not a high born character like so many of the Tortall characters are. She is from the lower city and that is where she will stay. She is an amazingly strong female and a good role model. The secondary characters are great as well. The rogues and dogs fit together wonderfully and Pierce has created another wonderful rascal in Rosto – I can’t wait to see how he turns out.
Mom has gone away to a conference leaving dad in charge. She left instructions, but those don’t seem to be working out very well. It is breakfast time and there is no milk for the kids’ cereal and no milk for dad’s tea. So it is off to the store for dad. It takes ages and ages and when he finally gets back he has a story to tell. It involves aliens, dinosaurs, pirates, time travel, hot air balloons, pretty ponies, vampires and so much more. But the milk takes center stage in every aspect of the story and fortunately makes it home for the cereal and tea.
This is Neil Gaiman at his most irreverent and creative. It is a story that just gets more and more preposterous as it goes along. Dad is clearly making stuff up to make his prolonged trip seem more reasonable and he does a great job of it. I loved the rambling nature of the story and the pure silliness of it. The illustrations were wonderful and really helped bring the story to life. I can just imagine the kids listening to dad tell his story and rolling their eyes or breathlessly waiting for the next big thing to happen.
Jonathan Stroud has done it again, actually this title is better than the Bartimaeus series (imho). The Lockwood Investigative Company of ghost investigators burn down a house in the process of eliminating a problem specter haunting a house. That’s when things get really interesting, when a wealthy CEO hires them to clean out a mansion where other larger & more experienced agencies have failed. Join Lucy, George, and Anthony as they attempt to stay alive and solve this mystery.
A wonderful read – good plot, and delicious atmosphere, transports you to another London.
In the world of Erdas, on your 11th birthday, there is a ceremony to determine if you will receive a spirit animal. Four children take part in the ceremony in four different countries of the world. Each receives an animal, but not just any animal. They each receive one of the Great Fallen Beasts. Spirit animals that are not supposed to be given to children and whose return signals grave danger for the world. Many years ago there was a great war. A war among the Great Beasts. The evil was vanquished, but four beasts fell. Now the evil is rising again and the fallen are back. It is up to the Fallen and their human companions to save the world. But first they must come together and learn how to bond with their spirit animals. This is the first story of Conor, Abeke, Meilin and Rollan and the world of Erdas.
I actually enjoyed this book more than I thought I would. The story alternates between the four main characters. Each is different, dealing with different issues and with a different spirit animal. They must all make the choice of what path they will follow during this time of trouble. I liked the fact that they weren’t cookie cutter characters. There is room for a lot of growth in this story and a lot of exciting adventures. I think this is going to be a series kids will really respond to.
We all know the story of Atlantis and its destructive end. Many stories have told that tale; however, few have told the beginning of the story. How did Atlantis come to be and what made it so special? Barron takes on that story in Atlantis Rising. In this version of the Atlantis story there is a magical land called Ellegandia. It is a country on the tip of Africa, but separated from the rest of the world by impenetrable cliffs and oceans. It is a land connected to the spirit realm and protected by it. Like in any good story there are villains. In this case, the religious elite are power hungry and greedy. Grukkar is a high priest and wants to rule the world and bring about change in the spirit realm. It is up to Promi, a street thief, and Atlanta, a girl with forest magic, to save the world. They must battle evil both on earth and in the spirit realm. They must figure out the meaning of a prophecy that seems to point to Promi. They must also find a way to stop the invading army and the blight on the forest that Grukkar has brought about.
I thought this book was interesting. I liked the different take on the Atlantis story; however, I thought it went a little long. I didn’t connect with characters and I thought the villain was very one dimensional and like so many others I have read about. I wanted a bit tighter story as I found myself getting bored and wanting the action to move a little quicker. I did appreciate the fact that the ending was not your typical happy ever after. Of course things turn out great, but not perfect and you know disaster is in Altantis’s future at some point. This would make a good series showing the history of Atlantis from beginning to end.
An exchange student who’s really an alien, a secret room that becomes the perfect place for a quick escape, a typical tale of grandfatherly exaggeration that is actually even more bizarre than he says… These are the odd details of everyday life that grow and take on an incredible life of their own in tales and illustrations that Shaun Tan’s many fans will love.
This book is a quick read, but is emotionally exhausting (in a good way!). The short stories play on human emotions and leave you thinking at the end. It reminds me of old-time stories where the meaning was not necessarily written in the words, and the endings left you with nothing but the moral. Some are sad, some are hopeful, and some are just weird!
Bitter Kingdom picks up right where Crown of Embers left off. Hector has been taken to Invierno and Elisa is determined to get him back. She and her companions travel across the world learning more about themselves and what is going on. Invierno is nothing like they anticipated. The Deciregi of the Invierno want Elisa as their living sacrifice to provide power for their magic. Elisa must defeat the Invierno, unite the kingdoms and stop a civil war in her own country.
The Bitter Kingdom ends one of my favorite trilogies. Rae Carson has written such a smart and well-crafted set of books that I really want to recommend them to everyone. These are not your typical teen books, if there is such a thing. They deal with religion and politics and friendship and love and becoming the person you are meant to be. There is heartbreak, but there is also wonder; there is love and loss; mistakes are made and forgiveness given. This is the story of a girl chosen by god who becomes an Empress and brings peace to the world. Elisa is a magnificent character and her growth throughout this series is one of the reasons I love these books. After reading the series a second time, I have to admit I am just as thrilled with these books as I was the first read through. Fabulous series!