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

Pennyroyal Academy by M.A. Larson, 304 pages, read by Angie, on 11/01/2014

A girl runs through the forest covered only in spiderwebs. She has no name but is running towards something. Her path is blocked by a cabin which turns out to be the home of a witch. She rescues a boy captured by the witch and together they set off to their destination. They are headed to Pennyroyal Academy. The girl is going to join the princess corps and the boy, Remington, plans to train as a knight. At Pennyroyal, the girl is given the name Cadet Eleven but shortens it to Evie. Evie becomes friends with a few of the other princess hopefuls in the Ironbone Corps. The girls are training to be princesses so they can go out into the world and fight the evil witches. They are walking in the footsteps of the great princesses like Pennyroyal and Snow White and Cinderella. Princesses are the only hope in stopping the evil witches and their plans to take over the world. The boys are training as knights so that they can fight the dragons.

If Evie had known what being a princess was all about she might not have come to Pennyroyal. Turns out Evie is under a memory curse and can’t recall what her life was like. All she remembers is the last few years with her family: her mother, father and sister. She tried to fly like her sister and almost killed her father and that is when she realized just how different she was from the rest of her family. She ran away because she isn’t a dragon and doesn’t want to cause her dragon family anymore pain. At Pennyroyal Evie does learn more about her background and her curse. Everything comes to a head during one of the training exercises when the truth behind her real family is revealed.

I loved this book a lot more than I thought I would. It is one book that when I finished reading it I immediately wanted another book in the series. I loved the different take on fairy tales; princesses are not born they are trained to become who they are. I really enjoyed the fact that Larson was able to so successful intertwine actual fairy tale stories with this tale. Evie is a fantastic character. She makes mistakes and isn’t the most knowledgeable but she has what every good princess is supposed to have: courage, compassion, kindness and discipline. I can’t wait to see where the next book will go and if it will answer some of the other questions that arose during this book.

30. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction

New Orleans! by Giada De Laurentiis, Francesca Gambatesa (Illustrations), 144 pages, read by Angie, on 10/29/2014

Alfie and Emilia are off to New Orleans in this adventure. They find themselves at the La Salle Royale restaurant and staying with the La Salle family. They get to experience New Orleans during the Jazz Fest and help the La Salles solve a mystery. This is again a nice offering from Giada. She really knows a lot about food and the places she writes about. It makes for interesting reading. It also makes me want to attempt to cook some of the dishes she describes.

30. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction

Hong Kong! by Giada De Laurentiis, Francesca Gambatesa (Illustrations), 144 pages, read by Angie, on 10/29/2014

Brother and sister Alfie and Emilia are always excited to see what Aunt Zia is going to cook up for them next. Her cooking is magic and able to transport the kids to a different place. This time they are sent to Hong Kong. They are mistaken for exchange students and stay with a family opening a new restaurant. They get to know Hong Kong and all the exciting things it has to offer all the while eating a lot of great food.

I haven’t read the first two books in this series but I don’t think you need to in order to understand it. It is a great book for fans of Magic Tree House. The kids are likable and Giada includes a lot of good information on the location and the foods available. It really isn’t a good series to read when you are hungry; you are going to be even hungrier after you are finished!

30. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Lisa

Searching For Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede, 242 pages, read by Lisa, on 10/29/2014

Cimorene, the princess who refuses to be proper, meets her match in the not-quite-kingly Mendanbar. With the aid of a broken-down magic carpet and a leaky magical sword, the two tackle a series of dragon-nappings.

30. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Apocalyptic, Fantasy, Fiction, Kira, Teen Books · Tags:

The Finisher by by David Baldacci, 497 pages, read by Kira, on 10/29/2014

index2 I hadn’t read anything by popular author David Baldacci, so when I saw this book in my favorite genre I thought I’d give it a try.  This strategy paid off when I discovered Nora Roberts’ fantasy trilogy Morrigan’s Cross.  It is a very fast-paced read with a rather different world, some sort of apocalypse, I believe, with perhaps magic or maybe its technology.  Things are Not as they seem, it took me awhile to figure out how this universe/world worked.  The main character Vega Jane (an orphan of course) sees her coworker being chased by tracking hounds followed by the City Council members.  Her friend is headed into the Quag – wherein there are only monsters and no sane member ventures into.  Yet things are Not as they seem.  Vega Jane’s transformation seemed a lot more believable than a number of heroes, I’m Not sure why.  I cannot wait for the sequels!

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29. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction

The Nethergrim by Matthew Jobin , 368 pages, read by Angie, on 10/28/2014

Many years ago a band of 60 went into the mountains to battle the Nethergrim. Three returned: the wizard Vithric, the warrior Tristan and the local John Marshall. The kingdom has been relatively peaceful since then. Edmund’s family owns the local inn but he really wants to be a wizard. He hoards his collection of books and tries to teach himself spells. Katherine is John Marshall’s daughter. She loves training horses and learning swordplay from her father. Tom is a slave to a horrible master. His friendship with Edmund and Katherine is the only light spot in his very dark life. Their lives change when several children are taken from the village, including Edmund’s brother, by the monsters of the Nethergrim. John Marshall sets off to rescue them, but the children can’t wait at home. Edmund, Katherine and Tom take off for the mountains on a perilous journey. They will discover scary truths about the Nethergrim, its history and what it wants with the children.

This book reminded me a bit of the Lord of the Rings. There is an evil in the world and a band of heroes must find a way to defeat it. It is a pretty dense book for a middle grade novel and does get a bit slow in the middle. I wanted the kids to set off on their journey much quicker than they did. There is a lot of backstory and preparations to get through before they head for the mountains. The last quarter of the book is pretty exciting with some interesting revelations about the Nethergrim and what happened to the band of men years ago. This is the beginning of a series so the next books will hopefully pick up the pace a bit.

29. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Paranormal, Tracy · Tags:

The Hawley Book of the Dead by Chrysler Szarlan, 352 pages, read by Tracy, on 10/02/2014

Revelation “Reve” Dyer grew up with her grandmother’s family stories, stretching back centuries to Reve’s ancestors, who founded the town of Hawley Five Corners, Massachusetts. Their history is steeped in secrets, for few outsiders know that an ancient magic runs in the Dyer women’s blood, and that Reve is a magician whose powers are all too real.

Reve and her husband are world-famous Las Vegas illusionists. They have three lovely young daughters, a beautiful home, and what seems like a charmed life. But Reve’s world is shattered when an intruder alters her trick pistol and she accidentally shoots and kills her beloved husband onstage.

Fearing for her daughters’ lives, Reve flees with them to the place she has always felt safest—an antiquated farmhouse in the forest of Hawley Five Corners, where the magic of her ancestors reigns, and her oldest friend—and first love—is the town’s chief of police. Here, in the forest, with its undeniable air of enchantment, Reve hopes she and her girls will be protected.

Delving into the past for answers, Reve is drawn deeper into her family’s legends. What she discovers is The Hawley Book of the Dead, an ancient leather-bound journal holding mysterious mythic power. As she pieces together the truth behind the book, Reve will have to shield herself and her daughters against an uncertain, increasingly dangerous fate. For soon it becomes clear that the stranger who upended Reve’s life in Las Vegas has followed her to Hawley—and that she has something he desperately wants.

Brimming with rich history, suspense, and magic, The Hawley Book of the Dead is a brilliantly imagined debut novel from a riveting new voice.

25. October 2014 · 1 comment · Categories: Adult Books, Fantasy, Horror, Noelle, Paranormal

Sunshine by Robin McKinley, 416 pages, read by Noelle, on 10/17/2014

There are places in the world where darkness rules, where it’s unwise to walk. Sunshine knew that. But there hadn’t been any trouble out at the lake for years, and she needed a place to be alone for a while.

Unfortunately, she wasn’t alone. She never heard them coming. Of course you don’t, when they’re vampires.

They took her clothes and sneakers. They dressed her in a long red gown. And they shackled her to the wall of an abandoned mansion–within easy reach of a figure stirring in the moonlight.

She knows that he is a vampire. She knows that she’s to be his dinner and that when he is finished with her, she will be dead. Yet, as dawn breaks, she finds that he has not attempted to harm her. And now it is he who needs her to help him survive the day.

25. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fantasy, Fiction, Noelle

Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin by Liesl Shurtliff, 264 pages, read by Noelle, on 10/07/2014

AWESOMELY FUN CHILDREN’S BOOK!
In a magic kingdom where your name is your destiny, 12-year-old Rump is the butt of everyone’s joke.nbsp;But when he finds an old spinning wheel, his luck seems to change. Rump discovers he has a gift for spinning straw into gold. His best friend, Red Riding Hood, warns him that magic is dangerous, and she’s right. With each thread he spins, he weaves himself deeper into a curse.

To break the spell, Rump must go on a perilous quest, fighting off pixies, trolls, poison apples, and a wickedly foolish queen. The odds are against him, but with courage and friendship–and a cheeky sense of humor–he just might triumph in the end.

23. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Paranormal

Dreamwood by Heather Mackey, 333 pages, read by Angie, on 10/22/2014

Lucy has run away from boarding school and is off to find her father. Her father is a ghost clearer and has gone to the Pacific Northwest on a job. Once Lucy gets there she finds her father gone with no idea where to find him. She discovers that something is very wrong there. The trees that the economy depend on are dying from Rust. She believes it is related to the loss of the dreamwood trees. Many years ago dreamwood trees grew on the Devil’s Thumb in Lupine territory. But they were all cut down and the thumb has been deserted. Anyone who goes there never comes back. Lucy partners with Pete who wants to find dreamwood to save his family. She also got backing from Angus Murrain the local landowner. The thumb is treacherous and full of supernatural powers but Lucy is determined to find her father.

I liked Lucy as a strong female protagonist. She is smart and spunky but maybe just a bit too full of herself. I found myself rooting for Pete more than Lucy. I liked this alternative history version of America with First People Nations and belief in ghosts. I even liked the thought of the first dreamwood being a nature spirit on a warpath. I thought Murrain was pretty one-dimensional and his intentions easy to read I just wish Lucy would have seen him for what he was long before she did. She was so smart about a lot of things but completely blind when it came to Murrain. Overall this was an entertaining book that I sure young fans of fantasy will enjoy.

23. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Brian, Fantasy, Fiction, Graphic Novel

Fables: The Deluxe Edition, Vol 1 by Bill Willingham, 264 pages, read by Brian, on 10/23/2014

fables1Fables is the beginning on long list of books written about characters from all the different fables who now live in secret in New York City.  These magical creatures have created their own secret society called Fabletown.  These fable characters had to leave their fairy tale land when the “Adversary” conquered their land.

 

22. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction

The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan, 502 pages, read by Angie, on 10/21/2014

So the Heroes of Olympus series is now over. I like the fact that this is a more mature series than the original Percy Jackson series. The kids are older, the dangers are more real, and the quests just seem a bit more epic. This book tells about the final battle with Gaea and all the gods and monsters she has gathered to her side. Our team of heroes is split with Nico, Rayna and Coach Hedge escorting the statue of Athena to Camp Half-Blood and Percy, Jason, Annabeth, Piper, Frank, Hazel and Leo on the Argo II heading to Athens. The battle is really one of two fronts with the monsters gathering in Athens to wake Gaea and the Romans gathering around Camp Half-Blood in New York to fight the Greeks. The gods themselves are no help at all because their Greek and Roman aspects are fighting each other so the kids are on their own. It is an epic journey requiring courage, sacrifice and smarts, which these kids all have in spades. I loved the end of this series. I loved the fact that the book is told through multiple points of view so we get a very thorough picture of what is going on. I loved the ending and how everything was wrapped up so nicely. But most of all? Most of all I loved the line after the book was over that said Riordan is now tackling a series on the Norse gods who are some of my faves!

20. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Fantasy, Fiction, Kira, Teen Books

Sinner (Shiver Trilogy Companion) by Maggie Stiefvater, 357 pages, read by Kira, on 10/19/2014

asinnerSinner?  well I usually think of someone much worse than Cole’s character.  It seems something of a boast to label oneself as a sinner with his few “crimes”.  I wish I found out more about Sam and Grace – I don’t really care that much for Cole and Isabel, they are Not as interesting as Sam and Grace, but perhaps their story has played out, maybe it really played out at the end of v1 of the  Trilogy.  Isabel became less and less likeable, really annoying as if parents getting a divorce entitles her to be bitchy and mean.  And I guess Cole’s great self-doubts justify him falling in love with such a mean person.    Much more romance, much less action. Trite.  But if we categorize this as a romance, then it is a much better romance than the majority of romance type novels I’ve come in contact with.

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

Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin by Liesl Shurtliff, 272 pages, read by Angie, on 10/15/2014

Poor Rump. His mother died before giving him his full name. He has always been stuck with half a name and no destiny. He lives with his grandma in The Village on the Mountain. The villagers look for gold in the mines to send to the King (King Barf!). All of their rations come through the fat, greedy miller Oswald. This is a land where names have power, magic exists and pixies and gnomes are everywhere. Rump discovers his mother’s old spinning wheel and discovers he can spin straw into gold. The magic comes at a price and soon he finds himself in the power of the miller. When the king comes looking for the new gold, the miller claims his daughter spun it knowing that Rump would help her. Rump goes to the Kingdom and does help Opal, but at a huge cost. Because of the magic Rump can not give the gold away, he has to receive something for it. He is unable to bargain, he must accept any trade offered to him. When Opal offers her first born child Rump despairs, but he has to accept. He runs away to Yonder to find his mother’s family and to hopefully break the bargain. Alas, it is not to be. Rump has to find his true name in order to overcome the magical curse and be free.

I love fractured fairy tales. There is just something so enchanting about taking a story we all know and turning it on its head. The tales of Rumpelstiltskin are really not that detailed in explaining why things happen. Liesl Shurtliff simply fills in Rump’s backstory for us. She explains his actions and those of the other characters in the story. The miller becomes the true villain in this tale and Rump is simply a boy who has to find his destiny. I loved all the fantastical characters like the pixies, who are attracted to gold, the gnomes, who are messengers, and the trolls who don’t eat people! I thought this was a thoroughly creative and imaginative story and I loved it.

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

Sparkers by Eleanor Glewwe, 336 pages, read by Angie, on 10/11/2014

Ashara is a place ruled by magic. The powerful kasiri wield the magic and have all the power. The magicless halani are relegated to subservient positions and living in slums. Marah Levi is a 14 year old halani girl who dreams of a better life. She wants to study music in secondary school, but she also has a passion for books and languages. It is through her love of obscure languages that she meets Azariah a kasiri boy who also enjoys languages. Together they start exploring ancient books in a forgotten language. All the while a plague starts ravaging their city. The plague turns people’s eyes black and kills them. So far no cure has been found and the powerful kasiri government doesn’t seem to be doing much about it. Marah and Azariah stumble upon the cure and the cause of the plague in the book they are studying. Together they set out to create the cure and save those they love.

This is an interesting book. Because it is set in another land with magic it is able to make quite a few comments on racism and elitist governments. It is pretty heavy stuff for a middle grade book. The kasiri are the minority in Ashara, but wield all the power over the halani. Anytime the halani try to stand up for themselves they are labeled subversive and either killed or sent to prison. It is very reminiscent of some places and periods of history in our own world. I enjoyed the story and the quest Marah and Azariah take in order to figure out the cure for the black eyes plague but at times I felt the story almost took a backseat to the political/social commentary. I am sure a lot of that message will go over the heads of the intended readers so I wish the story would have been just a bit stronger.

09. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Fantasy, Fiction, Kira

The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker, 486 pages, read by Kira, on 10/03/2014

emp imagesssThis was a delightful, enjoyable read.  It is the tale of an old jinni, released from his flask after 1000’s of years imprisonment.  He is released by a tinsmith in New York at the turn of the century in New York.  At the same time, a golem created to be the wife of a ship passenger who dies en route to New York, struggles to pass as human in New York in a nearby neighborhood.   I really enjoyed this tale of historical fiction with a touch of magic.  You get a lot of backstory on several of the characters.  I heartily recommend this title. golemandjinni_pbk  772720 istock_000009314476small.jpg NOL-Read-Sliders-The-Golem-and-the-Jinniimages

08. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Lisa

The Magician's Boy by Susan Cooper , 112 pages, read by Lisa, on 10/07/2014

Only a child can find the way to bring Saint George back to the play.

The Boy works for the Magician, and he wants more than anything to learn magic. But the Magician always says, “Not yet, Boy. Not till the time is right.” So the Boy has to be content with polishing the Magician’s wand, taking care of the rabbits the Magician pulls out of hats, and doing his favorite job: operating the puppets for the play Saint George and the Dragon, which the Magician always performs as part of his act.

Until one day the Saint George puppet disappears, and the angry Magician hurls the Boy into the strange Land of Story to find Saint George. His quest is full of adventures with oddly familiar people, from the Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe to the Giant at the top of Jack’s beanstalk. But the Boy’s last adventure is the most amazing of all — and changes his life forever.

06. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fantasy, Fiction, Teen Books

Sabriel by Garth Nix, 292 pages, read by Courtney, on 09/07/2014

Sabriel has been living on the safe side of the wall, far from the flowing free magic and the undead denizens of the Old Kingdom, for many years. She’s in training to be a mage and her mettle is about to be tested. Sabriel’s father, Abhorsen, has gone missing. Ordinarily, this wouldn’t worry Sabriel too much, but her father sent her his bells and sword. Which means he’s either dead or trapped in the underworld. Which means there’s now nothing preventing the dead from rising back up and wreaking havoc on both sides of the wall. Sabriel at once decides she needs to go and find her father, which means not only crossing the wall, but facing some of the biggest undead threats she’s ever encountered. Armed with her father’s bandolier of bells, each of which holds its own type of power, and her wits, Sabriel heads off into the unknown. She’s eventually joined by a cat-like creature, Mogget, and a young man she’s recently freed from the mast of a long-docked ship.

I’m a big fan of the Abhorsen trilogy, but there’s naturally a soft spot in my heart for Sabriel. Nix does a fantastic job with his world-building. The magic in this trilogy is one that must be learned and directed. Sabriel is clever and self-possessed, in spite of her absentee father and her longing to be on the other side of the wall where she was born. Her bitterness turns to determination as she navigates the river of the underworld and the dangers of the Old Kingdom. Sabriel is a richly imagined and original fantasy suitable for a wide audience.

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

The Fairy-Tale Matchmaker by E.D. Baker, 352 pages, read by Angie, on 10/02/2014

Cory hates being a tooth fairy. She isn’t very good at it and doesn’t enjoy it, but her mom is a tooth fairy and convinced her it was the career for her. When she quits her mom is furious as is the Tooth Fairy Guild. Cory just wants to help people and wants to find a career that will let her do that. She starts taking odd jobs like babysitting (for Humpty Dumpty and the old lady who lived in a shoe), mowing yards (for the three little pigs of course) and doing inventory (for the lady selling seashells on the seashore). She also starts setting up her friends on dates trying to find them the perfect match. The Tooth Fairy Guild does not take quitters lightly and starts a campaign of harassment that follows Cory wherever she goes. They send rain and gnats and crabs and the big bad wolf. None of it convinces Cory that she should go back to being a tooth fairy. As the harassment escalates so does her determination to find something truly helpful to do.

I had high hopes for this book as I really enjoy fractured fairy tales, but this book was a bit of a disappointment. I liked the fact that we got to see such a nice mixture of fairy tale characters, but I wanted more of a story. The story itself seems very disjointed with Cory moving from one odd job with a fairy tale character to another. The only truly cohesive thing seems to be the harassment by the TFG, but even that seems a bit extreme. I liked the ending and how Cory’s matchmaking desires finally makes sense but I also thought it was a bit rushed. There was a lot of story about Cory babysitting and such but very little about what happens when she finds her true calling.

03. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Tracy

The Austere Academy by Lemony Snicket, 221 pages, read by Tracy, on 09/26/2014

Dear Reader,

If you are looking for a story about cheerful youngsters spending a jolly time at boarding school, look elsewhere. Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire are intelligent and resourceful children, and you might expect that they would do very well at school. Don’t. For the Baudelaires, school turns out to be another miserable episode in their unlucky lives.

Truth be told, within the chapters that make up this dreadful story, the children will face snapping crabs, strict punishments, dripping fungus, comprehensive exams, violin recitals, S.O.R.E., and the metric system.

It is my solemn duty to stay up all night researching and writing the history of these three hapless youngsters, but you may be more comfortable getting a good night’s sleep. In that case, you should probably choose some other book.

With all due respect,
Lemony Snicket