Laura has been living in a convent ever since her father put her there. She is surprised when he pulls her out and sends her back home. Turns out her beautiful sister Beatrice has drowned and Laura is to take her place. She is to marry Vincenzo, Beatrice’s betrothed, who turns out to be an old, lecherous man. She is recruited by The Segreta. In return for a secret, they will help her get out of her betrothal to Vincenzo. The plan works, but Laura feels like she might now be in an even worse situation. The Segreta is a group of women who control the secrets of Venice. If they can topple great men like Vincenzo what else can they do? Laura also finds herself drawn to an artist she meets. Giacomo makes her think about love, but a marriage can never happen as long as her father wants to use her to make connections.
This was a fast-paced, fun novel. I liked the glimpse of Renaissance Venice and actually wished there would have been more. I also enjoyed the idea of The Segreta and the power the women yielded. The story does get a bit complicated by all the twists and turns and some of those are a bit far-fetched, but the story is still fun. The one thing that kept throwing me off however was the name of the main character. Everyone in the book has names like Bianca and Vincenzo and Giacomo and Allegra, but the main character is named Laura which seems so far from a traditional Italian name. Even changing it to a more Italian sounding Loretta would have helped. A name is a picky thing but it did seem very English in an Italian setting.
Maus tells the story of Vladek Spiegelman and his experiences during World War II. His son Art listens to the story in order to create this book. Along the way we learn not only what happened to Vladek before the war and how he met his with Anja, but also during the war and after they came to America. Vladek’s story is not dissimilar to other Holocaust survivors in that he survived and most of those he knew did not. He was very good at working the system and always finding the best possible way to survive. His story of survival is at times hard to read but not as hard has his present life. Vladek as an old man has lost the confidence and gusto he had as a youth. He hoards things and doesn’t get along with his second wife Mala who he believes is after his money (we don’t really learn if she was or not). He and his son Art love each other but have a hard time being with each other. You get the sense that Vladek wants nothing more than to be with his son and Art wants nothing more than to not be there because his father drives him crazy. He would drive me crazy as well, but I also felt very sorry for him. I was moved by how personal this story ended up being. I thought it was going to be just an Holocaust survivor’s tale, but it ended up being so much more. It is really about the relationship between a father and son both racked with survivor’s guilt. Vladek because he survived when so many others didn’t and Art because he never suffered. It is a deeply moving story and well worth the read.
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.
Shy is working on a Paradise Cruise ship when a man jumps overboard right in front of him. The story picks up on the next cruise and this time people are asking questions. A mysterious man in a suit starts asking about Shy and what the suicide victim might have said to him. Shy’s room is searched and the man keeps following him. We have no idea what this is about. Then a big storm approaches the cruise ship and we learn that “the Big One” has hit the west coast of America. A tsunami is headed towards the ship and in fact three waves hit and cause it to sink. Shy ends up on a broken lifeboat with no supplies. He rescues an older man and a young girl. The man has been bitten by a shark and eventually dies. The girl is a rich snob who picked on Shy on the ship. Addi and Shy have to come to terms with each other and fight to survive. Just when all hope is lost they are rescued and taken to a mysterious island where things just get even stranger.
This book felt really disjointed like it wasn’t sure what kind of book it was going to be. The beginning was a realistic story about people from different backgrounds and socioeconomic status mingling on a ship and how they react to each other. The second part was pure apocalyptic with the earthquake and the tsunami and having to survive at sea. The end was a bit sci-fi mystery with the secret island and the weird scientists and the sickness infecting survivors. I think any of those books would have been interesting but together they were a bit of a mess. I wish the whole evil corporation bit would have been left off of the story because I think it would have been stronger with just the other two storylines. However, since this is the beginning of a series I guess you really needed somewhere to go.
Weird, wonderful, confusing, lyrical, strange, magical, incomprehensible…how to describe this book. The language of the story is beautiful and lyrical. The journey of the book is magical and schizophrenic. The story is a bit of a mess mixed with the Odyssey. On one hand I liked it, but on the other I thought it was a disaster of a book.
This is the story of Pen (Penelope) who lives in LA with her mom, dad and brother Venice in a pink house by the sea. The end comes in the form of an Earth Shaker which destroys the world. Pen is left alone in her pink house with the sea even closer. She hides out until she is forced to leave. Then she sets off on a journey that mirrors the journey of Odysseus in the Odyssey. She blinds an one-eyed giant, gets stuck in the lotus-eater hotel, meets sirens and witches and seers. She is joined on her journey by beautiful Hex (boy who used to be a girl with a lot of problems) and tragic Ez and Ash. She is searching for her family. Turns out their is also an evil genius who created and cloned these flesh-eating giants and has a vendetta against Pen’s family. There is all kinds of crazy going on which just forces Pen to toughen up. She loses an eye but that only makes her able to see even more. And of course her entire journey is based on the path of orange butterflies.
If you are confused by the description, just imagine how confusing the book is! The writing is beautiful and Pen’s story is fleshed out through flashbacks to her life Then (before the Earth Shaker). This is not your typical post-apocalyptic novel. There are magical forces at work here that make the story just a bit incomprehensible. It is interesting and beautiful, but definitely confusing. I thought there was just a little too much reliance on The Odyssey. The characters quote from it constantly and are way more familiar with the story than your average teenagers; they also say things like “this is just like the Odyssey” which I thought was a little too obvious. I’ve finished the book and am still not 100% sure what I thought of it. I liked it and disliked it.
How They Choked explores the failures of fourteen historical figures. Obvious failures like Anne Boleyn and Benedict Arnold and George Custer are compared to some less obvious failures like Susan B. Anthony and Isaac Newton and Thomas Edison. I am not sure you can compare the failure of Montezuma to realize Cortez wasn’t a god which led to the death of his people to the fact that Susan B. Anthony failed to get women the vote in her lifetime. Some of the facts were really interesting however. I knew Amelia Earhart hadn’t learned how to read her instruments correctly, but I had no idea she wasn’t really that great of a pilot and had crashed a lot. I don’t think I even realized that Magellan hadn’t actually made it all the way around the world but had died in the Philippines. I think fans of gruesome history will enjoy this one as well as those who like to learn obscure trivia about people. Definitely not as interesting as How They Croaked, but a fun read nonetheless.
Felicity Pickle has been wandering her whole life. Her mama has a wandering heart and they barely get settled in a place before they are moving on. Felicity is hoping Midnight Gulch will change that. This is a place that feels like home. They are staying with her aunt Cleo and she learns that their family has a history in the mysterious Midnight Gulch. It is a place of wonder and magic. In the past magic bloomed everyone and in everyone, but since the Weatherly Brothers’ famous duel all that’s left is little snickers of magic. Felicity wants nothing more than to break the Weatherly Curse and stop her mama’s heart from wandering. It will take a whole cast of curious characters to help her out and another duel to settle things once and for all.
I was charmed by this quirky book. It is full of strange and wonderful characters both in the past and the present. I love the everyday magic that inhabited the people of Midnight Gulch and the snickers of magic that were left behind. It seems like there are lots of books in this genre: quirky, small town folks who band together out of love and hope and community. My only complaints were the overuse of specific words. Felicity sees words in the air and captures them in poems and her notebook. These words are wonderful and unique; however, her vocabulary is not. I got sick of reading spindiddly and what the hayseed and factofabulous. They were overused and unnecessary when such a rich vocabulary was introduced throughout the book. Other than that I really enjoyed it.
Creel and Luka are engaged to be married and the dragons are safely living in the Far Isles. Creel is working hard on her wedding dress, but wants to visit Shardas and Velika before she gets married. While they are visiting Velika is kidnapped and spirited away to a far off land. Creel, Luka, Shardas and the others follow them to try to get Velika back. She has been kidnapped by rogue dragons who are failing and believe they need a queen to make them better. Problems arise because Velika is so close to giving birth to her clutch of eggs. Then the volcano blows and things go from difficult to impossible.
I loved this conclusion to the Dragon Slippers trilogy. We get even more information on the dragons and we get to visit yet another exotic locale. I really enjoyed seeing Creel’s aunt again; it added a lot of comic relief to a somewhat dark book. I also really had to laugh at the saga of the wedding dress. This series just reinforced the fact that Jessica Day George is one of my favorite authors. It was fun and entertaining.
It has been a year after the events of Dragon Slippers. Creel has become a famous dressmaker and is still friends with the dragons and Prince Luka. They find out that dragons are being trained in a neighboring country and invasion is imminent. Creel and her friends and dragons must try to figure out a way to free the captive dragons and stop the war. Turns out dragons are being bred for war and there are thousands to save. It also turns out that the the country is under the control of a rogue dragon who wants revenge on the King of the Dragons Shardas.
Yet another fun book by Jessica Day George. I liked the continuation of the Creel story. I also really enjoyed getting to know more dragons and finding out more about their culture. Creel is again the heroine of the Dragon War with the help of her friends. She also gets a little closer to Prince Luka, who she has a big crush on.
Creel has been sacrificed to a dragon by her aunt. Since her parents died she is just an extra mouth to feed for her impoverished family. Creel goes into the dragon’s lair, but the dragon doesn’t want her. So he gives her a pair of blue slippers from his hoard (not gold) and sends her on her way. Instead of heading back to her family, she takes off for the capital city. There she makes friends with another dragon and a prince of the realm. She finds a job in a dress shop because of her amazing embroidery work. She also runs afoul of the princess-to-be who is going to marry the older prince. The princess turns out be evil and steals Creel’s slippers. Turns out the slippers are dragon slippers and control dragons. War comes to the realm and it is up to Creel to figure out how to stop the evil princess.
I am a huge fan of Jessica Day George and this series is another winner. While it might not be quite as charming as the Castle Gower series, it is still pretty awesome. I loved Creel as the spunky, talented heroine. I also really loved the dragons. They all have unique personalities and I loved the different things they hoarded like shoes and dogs and stained glass.
Battle Magic is the story of Briar, Rosethorn and Evvy in Yanjing. The events that are alluded to in The Will of the Empress are explained here. They become involved in a war between countries; fighting on the side of the God-King of Gyongxe. They are forced to become battle mages and use their ambient magic to help win the war.
It has been a while since I read The Will of the Empress and Melting Stones (the two previous books in this series), but I do remember that Briar is portrayed as suffering from horrible PTSD because of the things he was forced to do in this war. He is so traumatized that he can’t sleep alone and has flashbacks and nightmares. Imagine my surprise on reading this book to find nothing that truly traumatizes him, except maybe thinking Evvy is dead. I was happy to return to the Circle world even though I have always enjoyed Pierce’s Tortall books more. However, I am not sure this book lives up to her others. For one, the narration skips around a lot. I am fine with multiple narrators because it gives the story more depth, but the narrators not only switch between chapters but within them as well. It ads a level of confusion that was unnecessary. The other thing that was surprising was that there was really no character growth for Briar, Rosethorn or Evvy. They all seemed exactly like the characters they have been in the previous books. The secondary characters also seemed to fade together and no one is a real standout.
That is not to say that I didn’t enjoy reading this book. I did and stayed up way too late reading it. I liked learning more about what Briar and Rosethorn have been up to. However, I wasn’t impressed with the story or the battles really. The way it played out the group was essential to winning the war. Sure there were soldiers fighting and even some other mages, but Briar and Rosethorn and Evvy’s magic was the deciding factor, because they are so powerful and no one knows how to combat their ambient magic. Seemed a little to perfect to me.
I received a copy of this book from Netgalley.
I really enjoy this series by Vicky Alvear Shecter. The Anubis one was certainly entertaining and this Hades follow-up is just as fun. Hades takes us on a personal tour of the Land of the Dead. He is sarcastic and funny and very informative. In between tales of how his younger brother Zeus causes him no end of misery, he imparts all kinds of historical stories from Greek and Roman times. There is a lot of humor mixed in with all the historical information. I think kids will appreciate the fact that they are being entertained and educated at the same time. I can’t wait to see who comes next in this series.
I received a copy of this book from Netgalley.
Josie lives in New Orleans in 1950. She is the daughter of a prostitute and has no idea who her father is. However, she doesn’t get along with her mom and lives on her own above a bookstore where she also works. Charlie, the owner, has been like a father figure to her. Charlie is now sick (with dementia or Alzheimers) and his son Patrick runs the store. Josie’s second job is to clean the house of Willie Woodley, the madam of the local whorehouse. Willie is like a mother to Josie; she provides for her and protects her. Josie meets a nice gentleman in the bookstore one day and has an instant connection to him. She dreams he might be her father. So she is disturbed when he turns up murdered. The police think her mom may have something to do with it. Mom skips town with her abusive mobster boyfriend Cincinnati. Josie also dreams of leaving town and going to college. She is focused on Smith after meeting a nice Uptown girl who goes to Smith. Josie tries to figure out if her mom really did have something to do with the man’s death and how she can escape and go to Smith.
Ruta Sepetys really has a way of making a story come alive. Once I started reading this book I was enthralled. I wanted to know how the Memphis man was killed and why. I rooted for Josie to get into Smith. Josie was such a well-developed character that you couldn’t help but root for her. She was a tad naive when it came to some things, but also very aware of the underbelly of New Orleans. I thought it was interesting that all the prostitutes who worked for Willie where shown as happy and healthy. It was a bit of “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” vibe. They were all prostitutes with hearts of gold; they looked after Josie and tried to help her when they could. Really Josie’s mom was the only true whore among them. She was a murder and a thief, even stealing from Josie. I thought this book really brought New Orleans to live; it showed the fabulous parts of it as well as the nasty bits.