08. January 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fantasy, Fiction, Science Fiction, Teen Books

Bad Unicorn by Platte F. Clark, read by Courtney, on 12/13/2013

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.

08. January 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Courtney, Fantasy, Fiction, Science Fiction, Short Stories

The Melancholy of Mechagirl by Catherynne M. Valente, read by Courtney, on 12/02/2013

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.

08. January 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Fantasy, Fiction, Kristy, Teen Books

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas , read by Kristy, on 12/10/2013

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.

03. January 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Fantasy, Fiction, Leslie, Teen Books

Rift by Andrea Cremer, read by Leslie, on 12/13/2013

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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.

02. January 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fantasy, Fiction

The Glitter Trap (Oh My Godmother #1) by Barbara Brauner, James Iver Mattson, Abigail Halpin (Illustrations), read by Angie, on 12/31/2013

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.

02. January 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fantasy, Fiction

Texting the Underworld by Ellen Booraem, read by Angie, on 01/01/2014

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!

30. December 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Fantasy, Fiction, Romance, Teen Books

Defy by Sara B. Larson, read by Angie, on 12/27/2013

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.

30. December 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Fantasy, Fiction, Teen Books · Tags:

Terrier (Beka Cooper #1) by Tamora Pierce, read by Angie, on 12/29/2013

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.

27. December 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Science Fiction · Tags:

Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman, Skottie Young (Illustrator), read by Angie, on 12/26/2013

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.

26. December 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Kira, Mystery, Paranormal · Tags:

The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud, read by Kira, on 12/24/2013

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.

 

 

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26. December 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction

Wild Born (Spirit Animals #1) by Brandon Mull, read by Angie, on 12/21/2013

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.

26. December 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction

Atlantis Rising by T.A. Barron, read by Angie, on 12/23/2013

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.

19. December 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Fantasy, Fiction, Graphic Novel, Rachel, Short Stories, Teen Books

Tales From Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan, read by Rachel, on 12/18/2013

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!

11. December 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Kira, Paranormal · Tags:

Graveyard Child by M.L.N. Hanover., read by Kira, on 12/01/2013

Jayne Heller finds out a LOT about her past in book 5 of the series.  Like what happened on her 16th birthday, who was her real father, and was Eric a bad guy, or a victim, and where did the very powerful demon that shares her body come from.fallen-angel-black-dark-female-goth-gothic-scene-winged-78921graveyard childDemon_Hunter_  Creative world-building in another fast-paced enjoyable read.  Loved it!

10. December 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Fantasy, Fiction, Teen Books

The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson, read by Angie, on 12/09/2013

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!

09. December 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Fantasy, Fiction, Tammy, Teen Books

Beautiful Creatures (Caster Chronicles #1) by Kami Garcia, read by Tammy, on 12/05/2013

beautiful creaturesBeautifully written story about Ethan a high school teen living in Gatlin a rural town where nothing ever happens and he can’t wait to graduate from high school and never look back. His mom died several years ago and dad has become a recluse writing in his study and rarely coming out. If not for their housekeeper and cook, Amma no one would be looking out for Ethan. Then a teen girl moves into town to live with her uncle that no one in town has seen in years in his rundown plantation, Ravenswood. Ethan feels drawn to Lena from the start and is shocked to realize she is the girl from his dreams. Lena has other secrets too. Something mysterious will happen to her on her 16th birthday. Lena’s not even sure what it is because her family refuses to give her answers in an attempt to protect her. The whole town turns against Lena as an outsider and a member of the Ravenswood family but Ethan refuses to give in to his classmates and even Amma’s urges to avoid that Lena Duchannes. He is determined to uncover Lena’s secrets and their connection

05. December 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Fantasy, Fiction, Teen Books

The Crown of Embers by Rae Carson, read by Angie, on 12/04/2013

Elisa is now queen of Joya d’Arena. She finds that ruling a country is very different than running a rebellion. Her rule is not as stable as she had hoped however. Invierno still wants her and her living godstone. Her advisors and court are working against her. She must become a strong queen, but she isn’t sure how. She must find the source of her power, but she doesn’t know where to look. This is a story about strength: finding it, keeping it and using it.

Elisa must outwit her opponents and survive her enemies. She must travel to the south to find the source of magic in her world. It is a journey fraught with danger and awakening. The group is pursued by assassins, but Elisa also comes to realize some things about herself. She believes that finding the source of the magic will help her connect with her godstone and rule like she is supposed to. She also starts to acknowledge her feelings for her royal guard Hector. This is a time when Elisa comes to terms with who she can trust and who is working against her.

I love all the political intrigue and court politics that Carson brings into these books. She expertly weaves it into the plot and the adventure. I love the relationship that develops between Elisa and Hector. It is sweet and heart-wrenching and makes you cheer for them. I loved the ending as well…not because of what happened but because of Elisa’s reaction to it. She is finally the kind of queen she needs to be and the kind of queen who will save her land.

04. December 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Courtney, Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fantasy, Fiction, Graphic Novel

Fables: The Deluxe Edition, Vol. 7 by Bill Willingham, read by Courtney, on 11/30/2013

Preparation for war between Fabletown and the Empire begins! The Adversary calls a conference of the Imperial elite to decide what to do about Fabletown and Pinocchio has to face up to his divided loyalties between his friends and his family. Meanwhile, Bigby decides the time has come to confront his father, the North Wind, while the cubs learn more of their family and celebrate their birthday! Plus, Burning Questions by the fans answered!

04. December 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fantasy, Fiction, Graphic Novel, Teen Books

A Flight of Angels by Rebecca Guay, Holly Black, Louise Hawes, Todd Mitchell, Alisa Kwitney, Bill Willingham, read by Courtney, on 11/27/2013

The diverse mythology of angels is explored in this lushly painted graphic novel from high-profile fantasy authors including Holly Black (The Spiderwick Chronicles) and Bill Willingham (FABLES).Deep in the woods outside of a magical kingdom, a strange group of faeries and forest creatures discover a nearly dead angel, bleeding and unconscious with a sword by his side. They call a tribunal to decide his fate, each telling stories that delve into different interpretations of these winged, celestial beings: tales of dangerous angels, all-powerful angels, guardian angels and death angels, that range from the mystical to the mysterious to the macabre.

04. December 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Courtney, Fantasy, Fiction · Tags:

Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman, read by Courtney, on 11/26/2013

“I bought the milk,” said my father. “I walked out of the corner shop, and heard a noise like this: T h u m m t h u m m. I looked up and saw a huge silver disc hovering in the air above Marshall Road.”

“Hullo,” I said to myself. “That’s not something you see every day. And then something odd happened.”

Find out just how odd things get in this hilarious story of time travel and breakfast cereal, expertly told by Newbery Medalist and bestselling author Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Skottie Young.