29. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Courtney, Fantasy, Teen Books · Tags: ,

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman, read by Courtney, on 08/02/2014

Gaiman wins again with this gorgeous little gem of a book. The story opens with a man on his way to a funeral in Sussex, the town of his youth. Upon his return, he is inexorably drawn to a house at the end of his lane. A house that he didn’t really remember until he was already walking up to it. As he gets closer, the memories resurface and he recalls a past so strange and mysterious that he can’t really fathom how he forgot it all in the first place.
You see, an evil was released in this sleepy little English town and the only person who could help our young narrator was a girl who lived at the end of the lane. Her name is Lettie Hempstock. She lives with her mother and grandmother. Lettie insists that the pond behind her house is, in reality, an ocean. Our narrator slowly recalls the details of this strange episode in his past as he sits by Lettie’s “ocean” as a grown man.
I don’t even really want to give away any of it, since this book is such a delightful journey to make on one’s own. Fans of Gaiman will naturally love this one. I sensed echoes of Sandman, Neverwhere and Coraline throughout and since these are works that I love through and through, these likenesses only served to make me even more enamored. Gaiman is such a wonderfully skilled writer, he doesn’t need hundreds of pages to create a fully realized tale. Indeed, this can easily be read in one or two sittings, though the atmosphere of the novel will linger long after the last page is turned.

29. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fantasy, Teen Books

To Bear an Iron Key by Jackie Morse Kessler, read by Courtney, on 07/31/2014

During a childhood Midsummer’s Eve, Bromwyn defies her grandmother’s orders and finds herself face to face with the fairy king. He offers her a place within his kingdom, but she refuses. Her refusal is a slight to the fae and it will come back to trouble her in the future. A few years later, Bromwyn is a teenager and has been training with her indomitable grandmother, the town’s witch, for most of her life. She is now engaged to marry the blacksmith’s apprentice in a betrothal arranged by their families. She would prefer to be the master of her own fate, but does little other than argue about it with her mother. Bromwyn would rather go about her business and hang out with her best friend, Rusty, the baker’s son. On that fateful day, Rusty, who has a nasty habit of pickpocketing, manages to pick the pocket of Bromwyn’s grandmother. As it turns out, Rusty has unwittingly stolen the Iron Key that locks the door between their world and the world of the fae. As such, Rusty is now the Guardian and therefore responsible for locking the door at the end of Midsummer Eve, the one night of the year that fairies are allowed in the human world. Bromwyn quickly discovers that her grandmother has set them up; Bromwyn is about to have her abilities tested as she takes on her grandmother’s role of setting the terms and conditions of the fairy visit, a tricky endeavor as the fae tend to find loopholes in just about everything. If Bromwyn and Rusty fail, the door will remain open for an entire year during which the fairies will be allowed to steal children and kill or maim the adults. Rusty takes it all in stride and quickly makes a mistake, causing the fairies to challenge the pair for the right to walk the earth.
This is a great take on the fairy theme. These aren’t cute or pretty fairies; they’re mischievous at their best and deadly at their worst. Bromwyn and Rusty make a great pair. Bromwyn is stubborn and slightly arrogant while Rusty is charming and slightly irresponsible. Together, they’re wholly entertaining. The action mostly takes place over the course of one evening (save for the prologue), which adds a sense of immediacy to the action. For some reason, the structure of the novel feels unusual which, for me, adds to the appeal. There are a lot of elements here that we’ve seen before, but they’re presented in a way that makes this novel feel fresh and unique. Action, romance, fairies, witches and a great sense of humor make this a good choice both for all ages.

28. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Judy, Science Fiction · Tags:

Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman, read by Judy, on 08/27/2014

When Fat Charlie’s dad named something, it stuck.  Like calling Fat Charlie “Fat Charlie”.  Even now, twenty years later, Charlie Nancy can’t shake that name, one of the many embarrassing “gifts” his father bestowed–before he dropped dead on a karaoke stage and ruined Fat Charlie’s life.

Mr. Nancy left Fat Charlie things.  Things like the tall, good-looking stranger who appears on Charlie’s doorstep, who appears to be the brother he never knew.   A brother as different from Charlie as night is from day, a brother who’s going to show Charlie how to lighten up and have a little fun . . . just like Dear Old Dad.   And all of a sudden, life starts getting very interesting for Fat Charlie.

Because, you see, Charlie’s dad wasn’t just any dad.  He was Anansi, a trickster god, the spider-god.   Anansi is the spirit of rebellion, able to overturn the social order, create wealth out of thin air, and baffle the devil.    Some said he could cheat even Death himself.

 

27. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Lisa

Sea-Cat and Dragon King by Angela Carter, Eva Tatcheva (Illustrator), read by Lisa, on 08/13/2014

This is a magical story of the love between mother and child and the gifts of kindness and understanding. Dragon King and Sea-Cat both live under the sea. Sea-Cat lives with his mother who sews him fabulous jewel-encrusted suits that shimmer and capture the attention of all who see him. Dragon King, the ruler, lives a sad and lonely life as he is so ashamed of his ugliness. When he sees Sea-Cat in his beautiful suit, he is overcome with jealousy and wants the suit for himself. But Sea-Cat is clever and kind and befriends Dragon King. Sea-Cat knows his mother can turn the Dragon King’s ruby tears into a most dazzling suit, just for him! 

27. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Lisa

The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier, read by Lisa, on 08/15/2014

This much-anticipated follow-up to Jonathan Auxier’s exceptional debut,Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes, is a Victorian ghost story with shades of Washington Irving and Henry James. More than just a spooky tale, it’s also a moral fable about human greed and the power of storytelling.

The Night Gardener follows two abandoned Irish siblings who travel to work as servants at a creepy, crumbling English manor house. But the house and its family are not quite what they seem. Soon the children are confronted by a mysterious spectre and an ancient curse that threatens their very lives. With Auxier’s exquisite command of language, The Night Gardener is a mesmerizing read and a classic in the making.

23. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Kira

Hunted by Maggie Stiefvater , read by Kira, on 08/23/2014

I love Maggie Stiefvater’s work.  So when I discovered that she had written one of the stories in the Spirit Animal series, I had to read it.  In the series, some individuals are able to bond with animals at their 11th birthday.  4 young children have bonded not just with any animals but with the great beasts from the legends.  Abeke has bonded with a leopard, Connor a shepherd boy bonded with a giant wolf, Meillinthb82245f4ab30dd370f3e95ec7e3954eeeeth kh Animal Spirit Guides 2-T 9th rrth bonded with a giant Panda, and Rollan a street urchin bonds with a falcon.llth eth the This was a fast-paced  enjoyable story.

23. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Fantasy, Fiction, Kira, Teen Books · Tags: , ,

Bras & Broomsticks by Sarah Mlynowski, read by Kira, on 08/22/2014

home_hdrbras-and-broomsticks-sound41eB3vGFWRL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_   9789892310312 Cute story.  Protagonist Rachel learns her younger sister is transitioning into witch powers.  Rachel pressures her younger sister to use her magic for things like making Rachel more popular, getting their dad to Not marry the Stepmonster… Problems are neatly wrapped up, with authentic relationships the prize.home_nav_spellsimages

21. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Historical Fiction

Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz, read by Angie, on 08/20/2014

Splendors and Glooms is a 2013 Newbery Honor Book and kind of reinforces my idea that the Newbery Award is not about books that kids would choose to read themselves. It is about books that adults think kids should read or need to read. Which means the books are generally not popular and are not going to be books kids will pick up on their own. Splendors and Glooms is a heavy book that deals with some very tough topics like child abuse, unwanted male attention, death and evil all the while set in Victorian England. It is a long read with a lot of descriptive language reminiscent of Victorian literature. It is a book that I would actually say is more geared towards older kids because of the situations and language (there are a couple of swear words). 

Splendors and Glooms is the story of three children: Clara, Lizzie Rose, and Parsefall. Clara is a privileged girl who is the only surviving child of a cholera epidemic that killed all her brothers and sisters. Her house is one of mourning even years after the fact. Lizzie Rose is a child of the theater who was orphaned when her parents died who plays at being a lady. Parsefall is another orphan who was rescued from the workhouse, loves being a puppeteer and picks a pocket or two. Lizzie Rose and Parsefall live with Grisini the puppeteer. He doesn’t treat them very well, barely feeds them and makes them work for him. The three meet when Clara begs to have Grisini do a show at her birthday party. She disappears the next day with no trace. Then Parsefall and Lizzie Rose discover a new puppet who looks just like Clara and come to believe that Grisini is a magician who turned her into a puppet. Grisini disappears leaving the children on their own until they discover a letter from Cassandra asking them to come live with her. Cassandra is a witch who has visions of being consumed by fire because of the fire opal she possesses. Grisini tells her that a child must steal it from her in order to free her (thus the request for the kids). The kids arrive at her country castle and start trying to figure out what is going on and how they can get out of it. 

So not my favorite book. The story was overly dramatic and gruesome at times for a children’s book. The ending was way too simple to be realistic and diminished the drama of the previous 400 pages. And the plot got a little convoluted and a bit boring to tell you the truth. 

Neil Gaiman is a master storyteller and listening to him tell this tale was chilling and thrilling. It is a story taken out of legend and the mists of time. It is a story about adventure and greed and revenge and evil and what causes all of the above. Gaiman has a hypnotising voice that makes the story come alive in a way just reading it would not have accomplished. His telling is accompanied by music which really helps to set the mood in this dark tale.

19. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Fantasy, Fiction, Kira, Science Fiction, Teen Books, Teen Books · Tags: ,

Interworld by Neil Gaiman and Michael Reaves., read by Kira, on 08/19/2014

interworld-by-neil-gaiman-and-michael-reaves Inter_World917 itrs 8dd7103b2bb3074baa5d7ad59f963f3a Interworld-neil-gaiman-1548448-258-410 interwrld Interworld_by_Neil_Gaiman_and_Michael_Reaves_200_312 50130_interworldThe setting is the Multiverse or all the different possible versions of realities our world could have taken. Two factions at opposite ends of the multiverse continuum are fighting for supremacy, destroying worlds with impunity.

In our world Joey Harker takes a wrong turn, and first winds up in a world very similar to our own, except that his mother has a fake arm, and her offspring is a girl Josephine, who looks very much like him, just a female version.  In the next world, it turns out he drowned in the river a couple years ago, instead of having a close brush with death, and getting a huge lecture from his father on water safety.  Another look-alike Joe Harker look-alike J is sent to rescue Joey Harker before the warring factions can use his soul for energy in their never-ending war.  The Joe Harker look-alikes vary widely from girls with wings, to cyborgs with implants.  This was a quick and enjoyable read.  It leaves room for a sequel.  Lastly, I liked the mudluff sidekick.

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

Wings by Aprilynne Pike, read by Kira, on 08/07/2014

Protagonist Laurel discovers that she isn’t human, but rather a plant belonging to the fairy kingdom.  Her family has recently moved into town, in part so that Laurel attend a school (instead of being homeschooled), and in part so her father can open and run his dream business a bookstore.  At school she meets David, a calm, smart, good-looking guy.  Then she starts growing a flower from her back.

This was a nice book, a bit predictable, in the plot line, and David and Laurel modeled near-perfect interpersonal interactions, a nice change, if a little unrealistic.  I will Not be reading further into this series, and only “picked up” this book, because choices in downloadable books are limited.wings  XMix7p6N50lraY1LfPibuO3H1Os wings-aprilynne-pike-5966588-348-500th

17. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Fantasy, Fiction, Teen Books · Tags:

The Lost Sun by Tessa Gratton, read by Angie, on 08/17/2014

The old gods walk among us in the United States of Asgard. They are real and they are everywhere. Soren Bearskin is pledged to Odin as a berserker. It is a family legacy he does not want and fights against. Astrid Glyn is a seether pledged to Freya. She reads the future through visions and prophecy. When Balder the Beautiful fails to rise Soren and Astrid team up to find him and bring him back to the world. Their journey will take them all over the United States of Asgard. They find Baldor but he is not the god they know. They have to take him to find Idun’s apple orchard so he can remember the go he was. Their journey is not without its dangers and they are not prepared for the end. 

I really like books that bring mythology to the modern age and this one doesn’t disappoint. It is an interesting if sometimes confusing new world. I like that the Norse gods came to America and pretty much took over and made it their own; however, there wasn’t enough world building for me in this book. I wanted to know how they came here and when and how the United States of Asgard was formed. I truly enjoyed Soren and Astrid’s journey and Baldor was a hoot. I think this is a good start to a series, but I hope the future books explain a little bit more about the world other than giving places new names. 

gaimanThe Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains: A Tale of Travel and Darkness with Pictures of All Kinds is a short story written by Neil Gaiman.  The tale is about two men who travel to find their treasure in a cave.  This cave is protected by the Otherworld and has damaging results for those who enter.  Gaiman also is reading his work and he does a wonderful job.

 

 

13. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Fantasy, Fiction, Kira, Teen Books · Tags:

Dragon Outcast - Age of Fire Bk 3 by E.E. Knight., read by Kira, on 08/12/2014

dragon 550px-LineoftheSiblings2drgsn  This was an enjoyable read.  Rugard, the protagonist, loses the clutch-war, which occurs between all the males as soon as they hatch.  He is crippled and survives just barely.  After a long journey aided by bats to the Lavadome, he finds a haven of sorts.  Here the danger lurks in the form of political alliances and deception.

This is a fast-paced engaging, hard-to-put-down, story.  It tackles a variety of themes from family relationships to slavery,and racism.  I look forward to the other titles in the series.  I had no trouble starting with book 3, the author has done a good job, of making them accessible as “stand-alones”.

08. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Steam-punk

The League of Seven by Alan Gratz, Brett Helquist (Illustrator), read by Angie, on 08/08/2014

The League of Seven is an alternative history steampunk adventure. It is 1875 and the world is much different from the one we are familiar with. The east coast of America is the United Nations: seven tribes united together (six of the Indians and the last Yankees). The old world of Europe has been lost to darkness. Everything runs on steam mainly because lektricity wakes the monsters. That’s right there are monsters imprisoned in the earth. The Septemberist Society keeps the knowledge alive even though most people just think of history as myths and legends. It seems the mangleborn feed of lektricity and every thousand years or so they break out of their prisons and destroy the world. It is up to the League of Seven to imprison them again. The League is always made up of seven heroes: a tinker, a law-bringer, a scientist, a trickster, a warrior, a strong man, and a hero. 

Archie Dent’s parents are members of the Septemberist Society and have been brainwashed by manglespawn as have all the other members of the society. Instead of working to prevent the rise of the mangleborn they are working to free one of them. It is up to Archie and his two new friends Fergus and Hachi to stop the mangleborn and save his parents. Archie believes they are the new League of Seven. Fergus is the tinker, Hachi is the warrior and Archie thinks he is the hero but he doesn’t feel very heroic. Their quest takes them from the swamps of Florida to the streets of New Rome to the ruins of Atlantis under Niagara Falls and back again. They are fleeing from Thomas Edison, who is mad with the power of lektricity, and his evil tik tok ninja (think robot). They are helped along the way by Archie’s tik tok Mr. Rivet, Tesla (who is a Septemberist and quite mad) and a variety of other fun characters. 

This was a great start to this trilogy. The world building is very comprehensive and wonderful. The steampunk is really well done with airships and aether guns and mechanical men and pneumatic tubes. I also thought the alternative history stuff was very well thought out. I love the thought of all these great societies rising and falling because of the mangleborn (Atlantis, Rome, Cahokia, etc.) We don’t learn why Europe has gone dark or who the other Seven are, but those things will probably get covered in the next books. The heroes defeated one mangleborn but there are lots more out there and they are going to need help. Can’t wait to see what happens next.

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley.

The_Truth_is_a_Cave_in_the_Black_Mountains_by_Neil_Gaiman_200_254  imagesimages3  This is a dark tale of a man’s quest into the Black Mountains for the truth.  There is a mystery to be solved.  The narrator is a small man, a dwarf, whom we meet as he is about to hire a guide, Calum MacInnes, to take him to a cave on the Misty Isle reputed to be filled with gold.  I liked the story, it had a haunting quality to it.  It wasn’t entirely fair though.02images2

07. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fantasy, Fiction, Historical Fiction · Tags:

Egg and Spoon by Gregory Maguire, read by Angie, on 08/06/2014

Elena is a poor girl from the Russian countryside. Her dad is dead, her mom is sick and her brothers have left. One day a train stops in her poor village and she meets Ekaterina (Cat). Cat is a privileged girl heading to St. Petersburg to meet the tsar’s godson. The train is stalled while a bridge is repaired. Cat is showing Elena the gift for the tsar (a Faberge egg) when the train starts up again. Cat and the egg are thrown from the train and Elena is left on it. The girls have suddenly switched places and have to make a go of it. Cat sets off to try and get to St. Petersberg and runs into Baba Yaga. Elena tries to hide until she is found out and then pretends to be Cat. She also finds a firebird’s egg in the forest and tries to use it as a replacement for the Faberge egg. Baby Yaga agrees to take Cat to the tsar after Cat gives her the egg. Turns out the firebird’s egg was supposed to hatch and since it hasn’t magic is all out of whack. After the group is reunited and Anton the tsar’s godson joins them, they head north to figure out what is wrong with magic. 

There is a lot of craziness in this story. There is the ibza of Baba Yaga (her chicken house who forgets where she puts things), the matryoshka dolls who unnest themselves and marry the tooth soldiers of the ice dragon, there is the monk narrator who witnesses everything through the eyes of birds, and of course there is Baba Yaga herself. She is perhaps the best thing about this book. She is completely insane but hilarious. She has knowledge of the future and the past and brings it all up with the knowledge of the present.

This is a very complicated story. I am not quite sure who the intended audience is. It is a little long for a middle grade book and the story tends to wander a bit. There is a lot going on in the story and I think younger readers might be a bit confused by it all. It was an enjoyable story but I will admit that I couldn’t read it for long at a time. I kept putting it down and going to something else. It is kind of a convoluted plot. It all ties together at the end, but it took a lot of effort to get there. 

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley.

06. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Leslie

The Ninja Librarian: the Accidental Keyhand by Jen Swann Downey, read by Leslie, on 07/07/2014

21839074

Dorrie and her brother Marcus accidently open a portal to Petrarch’s Library, where they discover a secret society of warrior librarians who travel in time, protecting the world’s greatest thinkers from torture and death for sharing knowledge and ideas.

I picked this one because of the title, obviously!  It is a cute little story that kids might enjoy fantasizing that might happen to them.  You drop accidently into another world you never knew existed and find yourself wanting to spend more time there.  A good read, with both a main girl and boy protagonist, so it should appeal to both as readers.

06. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fantasy, Teen Books

The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani, read by Courtney, on 07/08/2014

Sophie really, really wants to get kidnapped. As the rest of the town prepares to hide away their children before the School Master shows up to make his selection, Sophie is busy pulling the boards off the windows and readying her things. Every so often, the School Master sneaks through the small town, taking two children at a time; one good, the other evil. The kidnapped children are transported to The School for Good and Evil, never to be seen by their loved ones again. Unless they turn up in the storybooks that magically appear in the local bookstore. Agatha doesn’t believe in The School for Good and Evil. She’d much rather keep a low profile and continue living in the cemetery. Naturally, Agatha is a bit surprised when she sees a shadow whisking her only friend, Sophie, away. Agatha grabs onto Sophie and finds herself transported as well. Sophie is elated, until she is dropped off at the Evil school. Agatha is again surprised to find herself delivered to the Good school. Convinced that there’s been a clerical error of some sort, Sophie tries everything in her power to get herself into the School for Good. She doesn’t fit in with the Evil kids; Sophie would never dream of wearing black, after all. Agatha is in a similar situation. She’s uncomfortable with the frilly pink uniform and can’t fathom why all the other girls are so fixated on meeting their princes. It would appear, however, that once the decision has been made, there’s no going back, no matter how badly Sophie wants to end with her chosen prince. Poor Agatha wants nothing more than to go back home to her graveyard where she won’t have to deal with other people or wear pink everyday. Together, they try to find ways to either get back into the “correct” schools or go home.
This was such a cute book. It could easily have felt like a HP spin-off, but it never does. It incorporates tons of fairy tale tropes, but uses them in new or unconventional ways. The twist of the girls being in the “wrong” schools wasn’t a huge surprise, but it poses many interesting questions regarding the nature of good and evil. It’s obvious to the reader that Agatha is anything but evil, in spite of her appearance. Sophie is slightly more ambiguous. She comes across as shallow and inconsiderate, sure, but not necessarily evil. In fact, most of the “good” kids have very similar character traits. The Good school in general emphasizes the appearance of good while the Evil school seems more focused on mischief rather than anything truly evil. The point, of course, is that the kids are fulfilling the traditional roles in fairy tales, but the school presents its dual nature as a preservation of balance. I read this one for my middle school book group and the kids unanimously agreed that it was tons of fun. They loved the sense of humor and the offbeat plot. Frankly, I found it to be a refreshing change of pace in the magic/fairy tale genre.

05. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction · Tags: ,

Odin's Ravens by K.L. Armstrong, M.A. Marr, read by Angie, on 08/04/2014

Odin’s Ravens picks up right after the events of Loki’s Wolves. Matt, Fen and Laurie are headed to Hel to bring back their dead friend Baldwin. They hope that this mission will stop Ragnarok since Baldwin’s death is to start the apocalypse. In Hel they find Viking zombies, a river of acid, giants and Aunt Helen who agrees to help them. Once back in the real world they find that Ragnarok has not stopped and things are still progressing at a dangerous clip. Owen (Odin) enters the picture and decides to help them even though it limits his knowledge. Matt needs to find Mjolnir (Thor’s hammer). There are Valkyries, more Viking Zombies, wolves and battle goats! Seriously there are battle goats! It is an exciting time to be the living embodiment of a Viking God.

I think this series is a lot of fun. It is definitely for fans of Rick Riordan’s books and actually reminds me of them a lot. There is a lot of action and adventure, but you really learn about Norse Mythology. I like how the mythology isn’t shoved down the reader’s throat through a lot of exposition, but comes up naturally throughout the story. It is fun and fast-paced and I really can’t wait to see where the final book goes. The ending of this one was a bit of a slap in the face and I really want to see that resolved.