Saturday, December 25, 2010

Persy -- Let It Snow

Merry Christmas everyone! Hope everyone had a wonderful day (it's SNOWING where I live! Snow on Christmas is a miracle at my locale)!

Let It Snow is a Christmas anthology containing three stories by John Green (Paper Towns, An Abundance of Katherines), Maureen Johnson (Devilish, Key To The Golden Firebird), and Lauren Myracle (TTYL, Twelve). I originally read it in the Summer of last year, because I was reading all of Maureen Johnson's work (that woman is amazing) and I'd finished all her actual books. So this Christmas I decided to actually read it on Christmas.

Maureen Johnson's story, The Jubilee Express, is first. Jubilee (yes, she knows her name is strange, and no, she's not a stripper) was all set on going to her boyfriend Noah's Christmas smorgasborg, but then her parents get arrested (long story), so she's put on a train to Florida to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas with her grandparents. But the train doesn't make it because of the snow storm, and Jubilee finds herself stranded at a Waffle House in a small town called Gracetown. In the Waffle House, she meets Stuart, who invites her home so she won't have to spend Christmas in a Waffle House with a gazillion cheerleaders (also long story). Hijinks ensue, and Jubilee wonders if she'll get a Merry Christmas after all.

Next is John Green's A Cheertastic Christmas Miracle, in which Tobin's parents are stuck in Boston because they can't get a flight home. Tobin is all ready to spend his Christmas Eve having a James Bond marathon with two of his best friends, JP and the Duke (who is actually a girl). But then their other friend calls and tells them about all the cheerleaders in the Waffle House, and it becomes a mad race to get there with a crucial game of twister. A hilarious struggle ensues, during which Tobin realizes something about the Duke and the Duke gets more than just hash browns.

And last, but not least, comes Lauren Myracle's story, The Patron Saint of Pigs. Addie broke up with her boyfriend, Jeb, just a week ago, so her Christmas isn't going very well (she gets her hair chopped off and dyes it pink, for starters). While having a fight with her two friends (who both tactfully hint that Addie might be a bit self-centered), she promises to pick up her friend's new pet pig from the pet store the day after Christmas. But things start happening, and Addie forgets until it's almost too late, and the pig has disappeared. Does she really always make it about herself? Addie starts to have a Christmas epiphany...

Maureen Johnson's was, naturally, my favorite story (she's one of my favorite authors for a reason). Then, following the chronological order, I liked John Green's, and finally Lauren Myracle's. But what makes this anthology really great is how all three stories are connected. They all happen in the same place (Gracetown), and they're all the result of the train wreck.

Admittedly, it's a bit late for you to read this around Christmas, but it's still good no matter what time of year you read it. It's a lot of fun, the characters are smart and developed, and each story could stand by itself (though being together makes them even better). Whether it's Christmas or not, these are great stories.

Merry Christmas!

P.S. I CANNOT get over the snow!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Arty -- Comes A Horseman by Robert Liparulo

A possible serial killer who decapitates his victims. An Italian politician who desperately wants - needs - more power. And... Antichrist.

How in the world are these all connected? You'll just have to read it and see, because I honestly cannot sum it up.

The main characters - Brady Moore and Alicia Wagner, two FBI agents who are trying to make sense of the grisly murders of five people. The victims are completely different; there are no obvious similarities to give the serial killer theory credit. But, of course, Brady and Alicia keep trying to uncover the mystery... and find themselves in the middle of Vatican secrets and prophecies thousands of years old.

Sound complicated yet? There's way more.

I have to admit, I'm a huge fan of Liparulo just from reading his Dreamhouse Kings series (a YA six-book series that I simply cannot plug enough - it's that good). So I had high hopes for him, despite this being a Christian adult novel. I've said in two previous reviews that I don't usually hold much hope for those. Even now, I'm not sure if I like it just because I have a special place for Liparulo in my heart and my library, or if it was really good. But I'm pretty sure it was the latter.

Crime procedurals are standard Christian fic material; add in some Satanic cults and spiritual warfare as well as physical, and that still accounts for a lot of bad-review fodder. And no, Comes A Horseman isn't the pinnacle of originality. But it's just good. Liparulo's style is clear and interesting (though maybe not as punchy as Ted Dekker). The pace is usually good, keeping it along at a quick but not rushed pace.

The characters are good, too. You have Brady, a guy still neck-deep in grief for his dead wife, hanging on only for his nine-year-old son Zach (who, by the way, is adorable). Alicia is a gung-ho gal who tends to remind one of the Energizer Bunny. Of course, you have the hints of romance between the two. But it's realistic, taking a back seat to the action; or, rather, it enhances the action by giving the two characters someone else to fight for and not just fawn over.

Another note on characters - the author is not afraid to beat them up. I was practically groaning for Brady by the final ten chapters or so of the book.

I was starting to get worried by the last chapter; this novel just keep going and going, the action showing no sign of slowing down. And yes, the end was abrupt, and more than a little too easy. It wasn't quite the apocalypse I was hoping it to be. That might have been the point - I'm not sure.

Perhaps it won't win any awards, but Comes A Horseman is definitely a keeper for fans of Christian fic. And, even if you're 'too old' for YA, I strongly urge you to check out the Dreamhouse Kings series, beginning with House of Dark Shadows. Robert Liparulo, obviously, is not an author to be missed.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Persy -- Last Stop by Peter Lerangis

Six months ago, David Moore's father told his family "I'm going home", walked out, and wasn't heard from again. Since then, the Moore's have been something of celebrities, invited to talk shows and interviews to talk about David's father. David hates it. David just wants his dad back.

Then, one day while riding the "subrail", the train suddenly stops and the lights go out. Through the window, David can see a landing that definitely wasn't there before, and standing on the landing is his father. Before David can do anything, one man exits the train (dropping a business card as he does), David's father waves, and the train continues on its way.

With the help of his superstitious friend, David starts to unravel the curious mystery surrounding his father's disappearance and the strange visions on the subrail. And all throughout the journey, the Watchers are watching...

Which, I suppose, is why they're called the Watchers.

This story was intriguing and cryptic. It's quite short (I read it in less than an hour), but if it'd been longer and a little more detailed, it would've been amazing. But it's geared towards 9-12 year-olds, so it's only about a hundred pages and isn't high in the realistic scale.

I didn't like either of the main characters, but only because there was nothing special about either of them. They're just your generic main chars. I would've liked to know more about the Watchers themselves (you eventually figure out that the Watchers are the people making vague, imperious comments on the black pages), because at the end of the book you still don't know who the heck they are or what their purpose is.

But the ending was good. It was surprisingly surprising. I love a good plot twist, but only if it's done right, and I have to say, Peter Lerangis did it right.

All the books in the Watchers series seem to be about different people and different things, and I don't think they all even happen in the same place (and if you read Last Stop, you'll know what I mean by 'place'). But, unfortunately, I don't have access to any of the other Watchers books. So if you can find this one, I'd recommend it to science fiction fans, but just remember it's juvenile fiction. It shouldn't take you that long, though, so give it a go.


Sunday, November 28, 2010

Arty -- Song of the Sparrow

The Lady of Shalott, known also as Elaine of Ascalot. Her story, most famously told in Alfred, Lord Tennyson's poem, is a mysterious classic. Anyone who's read the poem or anything else relating to the Lady knows that a retelling/spin-off/whatever would be ripe with promise.

In Song of the Sparrow, Elaine is a fiery-haired eighteen-year-old girl, the only girl in the military camp where she lives with her father and two brothers (predictably, her mother is dead). There, she rubs shoulders with other names of legend - Arthur, not yet king; Lancelot, her secret love; Tristan, one of her best friends; and Morgan, Arthur's sister, who comes to the camp at times to advise Arthur.

Elaine's peaceful existence is broken when Lancelot, previously gone off to persuade more nobles to Arthur's cause, comes back with one lord... and his daughter. Though Elaine is at first delighted to have another female in the camp, Guinevere turns out to be 'cold and cruel.' Worse yet, despite Guinevere's betrothal to Arthur, Guinevere has her sights set on Lancelot, and Lancelot doesn't seem to mind this.

But guess what? Elaine, because of her snoopiness and unwillingness to follow simple orders, is suddenly thrust into a situation where she has to save Arthur's men from a horrible mistake Arthur has made in attacking their enemies. With Guinevere. Cue dramatic music and teary eyes.

If you caught my rather blatant sarcasm, which I hope you did, you'll probably guess that I didn't enjoy Song of the Sparrow. Sadly, I didn't. I really wanted to. It's written in free verse poetry, a bit like old epics. And the Lady of Shalott - how could it get better?

The answer? Easily. Very easily.

Elaine is your typical 'strong, spirited heroine' - which is to say, as I mentioned, she can't stand to abide by rules if someone of the male persuasion presents them. She dislikes having only men for company, but hates almost all work that falls under the category of housework. She cries, runs away, and breaks rules, and is rewarded and called brave for it. And, of course, she's gorgeously red-haired. There is nothing original about Elaine - or any of the characters. Tristan is likable, but even he has his moments.

Technically speaking, Sandell hasn't quite mastered the art of free verse. She breaks off in random, illogical places, impeding the natural cadence of poetry. Her emphases don't quite work, either. In some places, you can tell Sandell had a burst of genius; usually, though, I read it as oddly formatted paragraph form, which was quicker than agonizing over the lack of... of flow.

There's really not much going for Song of the Sparrow. The plot was predictable, and, honestly, a little slow. Add to that cardboard characters and a complete slaughter of an ending, and I really cannot urge you enough to avoid this book. Though I haven't read anything else of the Lady of Shalott, Tennyson's poem is a must-read. Also, if you're a music fan, folk singer Loreena McKennitt put the poem to music - it's gorgeous. You can find that here, among other places.


Monday, November 22, 2010

Persy -- A Company of Swans by Eva Ibbotson

Ballerinas sailing down the amazon in the year 1912. Do I have your attention?

Meet Harriet Morton, daughter of a strict an intolerant professor who is strongly against female students. And that wouldn't be that bad for Harriet, since she isn't greatly interested in school, but when she is invited to go on a ballet tour of South America, her father bans her from her ballet lessons. Harriet has never fought her father for anything, but she does for this. If she stays, she will most likely be forced to marry the very uninteresting Edward Finch-Dutton.

Harriet is sure that she will never be able to go on the tour, but her mind changes when she meets young Henry St. John Verney-Brandon, who tells her all about "The Boy" who left many years ago and went to travel the Amazon. The strange coincidence makes Harriet even more determined to go on the tour, especially after promising young Henry that she will try and find "The Boy".

So Harriet cooks up a little scheme and runs away from home, leaving her guardians thinking she is off visiting a respectable friend. She joins the the ballet company, and off they go to Manaus, South America.

Through various happenstances, Harriet meets Rom Verney, a wealthy Englishman living in Manaus. She soon confirms that he is "The Boy". They also soon fall in love. But alas, things are not so simple. In fact, things get so complicated that I'm not going to put it all down here, because I really don't know where to start. Suffice to say that Edward Finch-Dutton comes after Harriet while other people come after Rom. There are misunderstandings and wrong assumptions, and everything goes to pieces in the end (or does it?).

Now, you all know I'm a dancer (or, you do now), so perhaps this book appeals to me more than the average reader. But despite any prejudices I might have, this book is AWESOME. It's much more of a romance than I was expecting (never judge a book by its back summary), but I wouldn't classify it as a romance novel. Besides, Rom is awesome and Harriet isn't all that bad. Generally, I strongly dislike at least one of the main characters in most books (especially romance novels), but these characters were great.

The story also was quite well down, full of plot twists and even a few surprises I didn't see coming. Like I said before though, some of it gets a little complicated and you have to be paying attention in order to fully understand everything.

So if you're a dancer, a romance-reader, a historical-reader, or a character-reader, go find this book. I breathe a happy little sigh every time I think about it, and it's on my "Buy ASAP" list. I mean really, how can you go wrong with ballerinas in South America during 1912?


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Persy -- Wednesday Scrolls

Everyone loves a good classic (or... everyone should). Those that have a mild liking for it have probably read Shakespeare, Jane Austen, maybe some Charles Dickens. If you love classics, you probably shouldn't even read this post because you'll know more about it than me.

And no, this isn't a post analyizing various works of literature. I'm not quite that studious when it comes to reading. I'll just be bringing several good classic books to your attention. Some of them might be widely known, but not actually widely read.

For instance, everyone knows about The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo, but have you actually read the (unabridged, obviously) book? All 500+ pages?

Please do. Victor Hugo's writing is amazing (though it depends on your translation, I'm sure). He'll spend numerous pages just describing the whereabouts of the story, which is indeed sometimes tedious, but often interesting.

And the, story, well... don't expect the Disney version. Several differences: Quasimodo is deaf in the book, but not the movie; there are no magical gargoyles in the book; Esmeralda ain't that bright in the book. Seriously, she is not the cleanest sock in the laundry. Most of the time she's just exclaiming about her wonderful Phoebus, no matter who else is eloquently proclaiming their love for her, or saving her life, or just treating her much nicer than Phoebus.

I love Quasimodo, but it's hard to feel anything but pity for the poor man. Both he and Don Claude Frollo were unfortunate enough to fall in love with the gypsy girl Esmeralda, and Esmeralda never, throughout the entire book, gives a straw about either of them. Frollo goes a bit overboard in his efforts to win her affections, but Quasimodo just saves her life and treats her with kindness and respect. Frollo, on the other hand, quite literally goes insane. I admit, I really liked him too, but... He's not much of a charmer.

I really loved how Victor Hugo led up the end. He built the stories of all the characters, described the time and setting, and then got deep into the story. It was very nicely done. While I might not read The Hunchback of Notre Dame over and over again (mostly just because of its length), it's definitely a favorite.

Robert Louis Stevenson is known for Treasure Island and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, but I'm currently reading his little known The Black Arrow, set in the time of the War of the Roses.

Young Richard Shelton (which is how he always seems to be introduced) is a ward of Sir Daniel Brackley, ever since his father was killed many years ago. But when Sir Daniel is targeted by the outlaws known as the fellowship of the Black Arrow, many things start coming to light that divide Dick's loyalty.

While all this happens, he meets Joanna Sedley. During his first encounter with her, she's disguised herself as a boy and is trying to run away from Sir Daniel and her arranged marriage to Dick himself. Dick, poor guy, doesn't realize she's actually Joanna for a long time. But after that, they both realize they're in love with each other and promise that if they ever both escape from the clutches of Sir Daniel, they will get married.

About halfway through the book is when Dick joins the Black Arrow (sorry if this is considered a spoiler), and fights to get Joanna back from Sir Daniel and avenge his father. His first attempts usually fail miserably, but he gets better every time.

I haven't finished this book yet, but I'm confident that it will end well. The story and writing are both wonderful, as are the characters. Dick, while he might be a bit thick (poor thick Dick) at times, is actually pretty cool, and the same goes for Joanna. Lawless (ex-sailor, ex-friar, and now thief) is also awesome. This is my first Robert Louis Stevenson book, and he has definitely piqued my interest.

The last book is Shakespeare. Now, everyone's heard of Shakespeare, and Hamlet, and Romeo and Juliet, but have you heard of The Comedy of Errors? If yes, then have you read it?

There were once twin boys, who had twin servants. When these two pairs of twins were just babies, they were separated and grew up in separate countries. Many years later, one of these brothers, with his servant, goes in search of his lost family. When he gets to the foreign country, he is taken to be the brother that already lives there. But, neither the brothers nor the two servants ever actually meet in person.

As a result, things get very mixed up. One brother will vehemently say that he did not buy a necklace, while everyone around him is insisting that he did. When more and more of these strange occurrences add up, it is decided that the man and his servant have both been possessed.

I've heard that people don't consider Shakespeare's comedies to actually be funny, and I don't understand what those people think humor is. 'Cause Shakespeare is freakin' hilarious. I was grinning throughout the entire story, and if I had actually seen the play, it would've been even funnier. I strongly recommend this under-rated play to Shakespeare lovers (and pretty much everyone else, actually).

These are just a few of the many classics I enjoy, but maybe these are some you never really knew or thought about. If you're a lover of classics, or if you just dabble a bit, these are some you should definitely check out.


Saturday, November 13, 2010

Arty -- The Wish List by Eoin Colfer

Yes, I know just about everyone knows Eoin Colfer, but I've been reading mostly series for a while - this is the only stand-alone I feel like reviewing.

Meg Finn is too bad for Heaven and too good for Hell. That pretty much sums up The Wish List. During an attempted heist on an elderly man's house, Meg and her partner-in-crime Belch blow up a gas tank, which kills them both. Because of a random act of goodness, though, Meg finds herself perfectly balanced between Heaven and Hell. So, to tip the scales, Meg is sent back to Earth as a ghost, to assist the man she and Belch assaulted before they were killed.

If you've read any of the Artemis Fowl series, you know what you'll get from Eoin Colfer - witty dialogue, sharp action, and lots of twists and turns. One of the characters instantly reminded me of Foaly, with his technological doublespeak. All fairy references aside, however, Wish List stands on its own.

Meg isn't overly endearing unless she's bantering with Lowrie, the old gentleman she has to help. Lowrie is more likable, even if a little cliché, as a crusty old guy with lost dreams he wants to fulfill before he too kicks the can. The supporting cast, of course, is typical of Colfer's style.

Also predictable is his loose regard to morals and lawbreaking. To fulfill one of Lowrie's wishlist items, they have to break into a football stadium. The next item has to do with getting revenge on a childhood bully; though he doesn't actually follow through, Meg herself gets her revenge on her stepfather through Lowrie. It annoyed me a little; but if you don't mind that kind of thing, you'll be fine.

Lawless antics aside, The Wish List was a fun, short read for people who have exhausted Artemis Fowl. Colfer's fairies are better, but his ghosts aren't half bad either.


Sunday, November 7, 2010

Persy -- The Declaration by Gemma Malley

It's the year 2140, and everyone lives forever.

Well, that's not strictly true. In fact, I'm not even sure if you call what they do living.

A while back, a new drug called 'Longevity' was created, which had the power to extend one's life, theoretically allowing anyone to live forever. But pretty soon, a problem was revealed. People kept having children, and everyone kept on living forever. The world was becoming overpopulated. So The Declaration was created, allowing each family to have only one child and no more. But pretty soon, they decided that was too much too, and so no one can have any children at all.

Of course, some people still dare to defy the law, and those people are hunted down and arrested while any children (called 'Surpluses') are sent to special facilities where they are trained to hate their parents, think of themselves as trash, and to serve Legals.

Surplus Anna is what they call Useful. She Knows Her Place, and is bound to end up a Valuable Asset. That is, until Peter shows up at Grange Hall. Peter is full of strange thoughts and ideas, and insists on calling Anna 'Anna Covey' (even though everyone knows Surpluses only have one name, not two). Peter turns Anna's carefully organized world upside down, and soon she's confused and lost.

I'm really not sure what else to say about this book. From there it goes on as you might expect: Peter finally convinces Anna that her world is screwed up (though it takes incredibly long to convince the poor dense girl), and they run off into the night, etc. etc. There's a dramatic plot twist about Peter's ancestry, and there's various betrayals all throughout the book. So this story isn't exactly overflowing with originality.

Despite that, it actually isn't a bad novel. It's surprisingly disturbing at times, like all dystopian novels should be, but it just didn't pull me all the way in. Peter and Anna were cute, but Anna isn't all that bright and Peter's a tad on the reckless/aggravating side. When I really think about it, there isn't actually anything redeemable about this book except for the thought, "it wasn't bad."

Bottom line: it was good, but not anywhere near great. It doesn't leave a lasting impression, and I'm not going to bother reading the rest of the books in the trilogy. If you want a really good, really disturbing, really thoughtful futuristic/dystopian novel, check out Neal Shusterman's Unwind.


Monday, November 1, 2010

Arty -- Incarceron by Catherine Fisher

Finn has lived in Incarceron for as long as he can remember... almost. He's one of the tremendous prison's many, many cellmates - one the others think was actually born from the ever-recycling Incarceron. But Finn and Gildas, one of the prison's Sapienti Wise, don't think so. His dreams and seizures can only point to a life Outside Incarceron.

Claudia Arlexa is the daughter of the Warden of Incarceron. Trapped in the sterile Era of their world, Claudia is doomed to an arranged marriage, planned her entire life. But, of course, Claudia is having none of that. What she wants to do is find Incarceron - even if her father is the Warden.

Cliché novel? It sounds like it. But rest assured, it is not. Both worlds - that of Incarceron and of the Era-world - are original and exciting. While more description could have been used at times to describe these fresh settings, what Fisher gives gets the reader by.

The book's pinnacle and downfall are its characters. Yes, they're both. Finn and Claudia seem like stereotypes at first, especially Claudia. But they show different, deeper sides I rarely see in other novels. Also, Gildas, Keiro, Attia, and Jared (my personal favorite) are all flawed, all too human, all too likable characters. Gildas is obsessed with the legend of Sapphique (supposedly the only man to escape Incarceron), but he really does care about Finn, even though it seems at times he uses him. Jared, a Sapienti on the Outside, is intelligent and wise, and daring to a degree, but he's a self-admitted coward. And yet you love just about every single person.

And yet... they feel cardboard. You're not really feeling what they're feeling; you're seeing it narrated. So perhaps Incarceron's downfall isn't it's characters, really. It's the writing. Crisp and to-the-point, it's amazing for the action; for character development, not so much. It's not that we don't get character development. It's just... hard to feel it. If you didn't already like the characters from reading about them, then I doubt many people would really care.

The ending is... different. The revelation of Incarceron's secret isn't a smack-your-forehead, I-should-have-gotten-that kind of revelation. It's more a wow-that's-a-really-interesting-idea kind of revelation. In short, there's not much real foreshadowing involved. Unless you're an in-depth scientist, I doubt you'll guess. This could be a good thing, or a bad thing, depending on your taste.

All in all, Incarceron wins. There's also a sequel, called Sapphique, coming out December 28, which I will be getting my hands on as soon as possible.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Persy -- Story Time by Edward Bloor

All Kate Peters wants is to star in her school's fall performance of Peter Pan. She doesn't want to go to the 'Genius School', Whittaker Magnet School, and besides, she's not a genius anyway. Her uncle George is, though, and Whittaker wants him.

To clarify, Kate's mother, June, and George are siblings, but they were born about thirty years apart, so George is two years younger than Kate.

When George goes online to look at school districts, he finds some disturbing information about Whittaker. Their district is in the shape of a mutant octopus, with branches reaching out seemingly at random. Kate and George later discover that this is because Whittaker changes it's borders in order to lasso in all the intelligent kids. That's why Kate is being made to go to Whittaker: she and George live at the same address. Whittaker can't have George without Kate.

There are plenty of strange things going on at Whittaker: every day they have a test. In fact, that's really all they do. Whittaker isn't actually teaching them anything, just training them to be good test-takers.

But the real trouble doesn't start until several people begin to act strangely. During one story time, one of the librarians suddenly jumps up from his chair and starts telling a story that is not in his voice. And just as he finishes, he collapses back into his seat, dead. As time goes on, one boy pretends to be a monkey, a girl continues running into a wall until she passes out, and a woman behaves very inappropriately in front of the First Lady.

There has always been talk of Whittaker Magnet School being haunted, but could there really be a demon running around? Kate befriends Pogo, a librarian who can only speak in nursery rhymes, and who definitely knows something about what's going on.

This is a satirical novel, which you might want to realize before finishing the book. I didn't realize it for a while, which was why I had a rather low opinion of the believability of the story. But I love satire, so now a lot of the book makes more sense!

In the very beginning, I really wanted to murder Kate. She was an arrogant little brat who was rather mean to her uncle George (who of course is awesome). But as it all continues, she gets over herself a little and isn't as annoying. The story isn't really a character-developing one, though, so it's not like she went through a huge, inspiring change. My favorite characters are definitely George and Pogo. George is always pointing out when things are redundant (like saying 'ISBN number' or 'space-age NASA technology'), and Pogo's nursery-rhyme speech is so much fun! But of course, most of the novel was told from the view point of Kate.

I wasn't very happy with the ending of the book. Kate and George really didn't do much throughout the entire thing except listen in to what everyone else was doing. They might've solved the mystery, but they didn't solve the problem.

If you don't understand satire, you probably shouldn't read this book. You might find it enjoyable (it's a really easy read and has lots of humorous parts), but you would probably get annoyed at how unrealistic it is. But if you do like satire, or just want to give it a go, go ahead! I read this book in practically one sitting, so it shouldn't take up a ton of your time (though you might stop several times and wonder what all happened in the last twenty pages, because it won't seem like much).


Saturday, October 9, 2010

Arty -- Eyes Like Stars by Lisa Mantchev

Beatrice Shakespeare Smith lives in a world any thespian or writer would dream of - the Theatre Illuminata, where all the characters of every play ever written reside. Bertie, though not a Player herself, has lived there most of her life, left there by her unknown mother. She and her cohorts, the fairies Peaseblossom, Moth, Mustardseed, and Cobweb, are constantly making trouble, breaking rules, and causing general destruction.

But it's still a surprise when the Theatre Manager decides to kick Bertie out of the Theatre, unless she can come up with a way to be useful. So Bertie, the fairies, and Bertie's friend (crush), the pirate Nate, put their heads together and come up with... Hamlet set in Egypt.

But the Egyptian Hamlet isn't the main idea of the book, or it's not the only one. There's also Ariel, the air elemental from The Tempest, who may or may not be 'good.' Of course, there's Bertie's inevitable questions relating to her parents, how she came to the Theatre, etc. And then there are... the hungry fairies.

As a disclaimer to any negative points I give this book, let me make it clear that I did enjoy it. It's utterly original, the writing is excellent, and (most of) the characters shine with backstory and ulterior motive. The fairies are hilarious, even if you can just ignore the names because of their uniformity. And Ariel... you will hate his guts, while loving him at the same time.

That said, I was disappointed in Bertie. All the reviews said that she is a 'strong, spunky heroine,' which is generally code for 'whiny, stubborn, self-absorbed heroine.' Bertie wasn't that bad, but she wasn't anything special, unless you count her penchant for swearing and dying her hair odd colors. She just didn't seem like anyone you would look up to, appreciate being around.

The language was another problem that I didn't especially like. It wasn't that bad, but it was coarse, and annoying. Bertie's relationship with Ariel was also a bit... too fleshed out for my taste, especially in one part. I know there have been worse scenes. But then there are much better.

The story handles its several plots well, though sometimes Nate was forgotten (not a tragedy, really). The end, however, was perhaps too easy - not all the questions are answered, leaving it wide open for its sequel, but nothing came as much of a surprise. Still, the resolution left me dying for the next book.

Eyes Like Stars has its fair share of problems. But for discerning readers, I'd have to recommend it. The sequel, Perchance to Dream (which has a cover just as beautiful as the first), came out this May.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Persy -- Dead End Dating by Kimberly Raye

Lil Marchette is not your average vampire. She doesn't like black (she's a pink kind of girl), and she's one of the biggest believers in love.

All born vampires are looking for in a mate is how well they'll be able to produce children. Lil, however, believes that everyone deserves an eternity mate that they love. So she starts her own dating service (against her family's wishes) called Dead End Dating, open to clients of all kinds (born vampires, made vampires, humans, werekind...).

But then Ty Conner, a made vampire and a bounty hunter, turns up and tells her about a serial killer/kidnapper who seems to go through singles ads and dating services. Lil agrees to help Ty in keeping a lookout for the killer/kidnapper.

I originally got this book because it kind of resembles Maryjanice Davidson's Queen Betsy series, which, while not the most serious and interesting vampire series, is pretty darn hilarious. The Dead End Dating series has similarly drawn covers, and the titles are even alike. But Dead End Dating isn't nearly as good.

In the beginning, Lil was just plain annoying. She's a perky, ditzy vampire (which is pretty close to Betsy from Queen Betsy, but Betsy wasn't quite as bad) who reminded me of shallow teenage girls. But after a little while I got used to her and she wasn't so bad. She ends up being almost cute with her firm beliefs in L-O-V-E and determination to not be the stereotypical vampire woman.

But Ty Conner is definitely a cliché. Boots, long black coat, rugged good looks, lack of a real personality. Kimberly Raye doesn't seem to really dig deep into her characters, so they're all rather flat and one-layered. And I love characters with toons of depth, so this bugged me a little.

It certainly wasn't a bad book, and I do plan on reading at least the next book (mostly just out of curiosity), but if you want a funny adult vampire series, I'd definitely point you towards Queen Betsy instead. And if you want a serious series, I definitely wouldn't even mention Dead End Dating (though the pink cover probably should've hinted at that).


Note: this is an adult book and contains adult content, such as language and a few 'graphic' love scenes.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Arty -- The Kneebone Boy by Ellen Potter

There are three Hardscrabble children. Otto is the oldest, and he hasn't spoken aloud or taken off his scarf since he was eight years old. Lucia (pronounce it Lu-CHEE-ah or she'll get annoyed) is in the middle, and she keeps the two boys in line. Max is ten years old and probably too smart and thoughtful for his own good.

They live in Little Tunks, with their father, Casper, who paints dethroned royalty for a living. Classically, their mother is missing or dead, and no one seems to know which. Fortunately, nothing else about this book is very classical. When their father leaves suddenly and the Hardscrabble children are left alone in London... well, a lot happens. Castles and castle follies, missing sultans, bikes in the air, and perhaps a misshapen freak of a boy haunting the woods... and more.

While the plot (or plots, really) is definitely complex enough to keep your attention, it's really the characters that stand out. In fact, all three main characters were amazing. If that's not a feat, I don't know what is. There's silent, mysterious Otto (my favorite), with his sign language and penchant for animals and perhaps a few secrets up his sleeve. Lucia, who could have easily turned out horrible, was perfect as a business-like but sweet sister (look at her picture on the cover - that's pretty much her). Max was cute and believably intelligent without being too over-the-top. And they all work perfectly together. The other characters, though perhaps not as fully developed, are almost as engaging.

There are several plot points at work in The Kneebone Boy. Curiously, the titular entity isn't the main point - or is he...? Then there is of course the missing mother, the castle folly where the Hardscrabbles stay, even their relationships with each other (Lucia and Otto - one of the most priceless pictures of sibling relations I've ever read).

Sadly, Kneebone Boy is one of those books that reminds you not to celebrate over a book until it's over. The ending wasn't disappointing, per se; it was just... easy. It was so easy that I had to read through it a couple times to make sure I hadn't missed something. Yes, it all makes sense; but it was drab compared to the caliber of the previous adventures. In the words of an Amazon reviewer, "...All Is Explained. And this is the kind of book where you kind of wish it weren't."

Don't look for a happily easy ending, either. It's really rather sad once you get past the shock of not being shocked. But it fits somehow. And honestly, the colossal fun of this American-written-British-quirk book is worth the ending.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Persy -- Night Gate by Isobelle Carmody

Rage Winnoway's mother is in a terrible car accident, and she falls into a coma. The doctors say there's no reason why she shouldn't wake up, but she remains asleep. Everyone expects her to die, but Rage will not accept it.

And if her mother does die, Rage will have to give away all her dogs. Mr. Walker, a small chihuaha who tends to be in charge; Bear, an older, cold dog who has had a harsh life; Billy Thunder, Bear's cheerful puppy who just wants some love; and Elle, an unattractive but loyal and brave dog with limitless energy.

No one will let Rage visit her mother, so she runs away with her dogs to try and get into the hospital. Maybe if her mother can just hear Rage's voice, she'll wake up!

But Rage and her friends don't get to the hospital. Instead, Rage finds a strange gateway in the forest and a mysterious creature called the Firecat appears to her and tells her to go through. On the other side, the Firecat says, is a wizard with extraordinary powers, and the only hope of saving her mother. Believing it all to be an elaborate trick, Rage goes through the gateway with her dogs. But when she wakes up on the other side, She finds that there's definitely something strange going on.

Mr. Walker is transformed into a tiny, furry little man. Bear turns into a real bear, Billy Thunder is a teenage boy, and Elle a brave warrior woman. And then Goaty, the neighbor's goat, seems to have wandered after them and gone through the gate as well, and is now a sort of faun!

With only the Firecat's cryptic directions and explanations, Rage and co. set off through the strange land of Valley in search of the wizard, who can hopefully both send them home and save Rage's mother.

Let's start off saying that Isobelle Carmody is Australian. Unfortunately, she's not quite as awesome as, oh... Garth Nix or Catherine Jinks, to name a few other Australian authors. Apparently, Carmody is more well-known for her series Obernewtyn, which I've actually never heard of before now. Though I hadn't heard of Isobelle Carmody herself until stumbling across Night Gate in the library the other day.

I honestly wasn't expecting much from this book. The cover wasn't all that interesting (I know, I know, don't judge a book by its cover...), and the plot didn't sound very fabulous either. But I was pleasantly surprised to find this story enjoyable and oddly thoughtful at times.

The whole thing has this strange dream-like atmosphere that was kind of disconcerting at times, and which would've been awesome if the ending had different. But the ending wasn't different, so it just made the book seem a little off. The characters weren't very impressive either. Rage seemed a bit forgetful and just plain uninteresting, while most everyone else did nothing but argue. Goaty is definitely my favorite, with his adorable, pessimistic self.

Billy Thunder does have one of the most interesting and, let's just go ahead and say, coolest quotes ever. "'I don't think I'd like to be completely human ... I thought I would, but now I can see that human minds are growing all the time, until they are like enormous houses with thousands of rooms and twisty passages and dark hallways all full of cobwebs and shadows and forgotten things. No wonder there is so much confusion in human minds. Dog minds are like standing outside. There are no walls, the wind blows freshly, and the light falls everywhere.'"

Carmody's writing really is very pretty. She's built herself a pretty cool world, with a city that sounds an awful lot like Billy's description of the human mind. I don't know if she did that on purpose or not, but either way it's cool.

I'd give this book to kids maybe 10-14 who like simpler fantasy stories. It certainly wasn't a great book, but I do think it's worth reading.

There are (supposedly) two more books in the trilogy (which would make sense). The second book is Winter Door, and the third book is supposed to be Firecat's Dream. But it doesn't look like Firecat's Dream is actually published, and isn't even listed in the Gateway trilogy on some sites. Since Night Gate was published ten years ago, I really have no idea if Firecat's Dream will ever actually exist or not. Isobelle Carmody doesn't have her own website, so there's really no source to go to.


Saturday, September 11, 2010

Arty -- Un Lun Dun by China Miéville

To try to sum up Un Lun Dun's plot would be a futile effort, achieving only your confusion and a 'why in the world would anyone want to read this book?' But I'll try, and then explain my reasons for loving it later on.

There's London. And then there's UnLondon. That's what Zanna and Deeba find out one day when they take a trip underground and find themselves in place that's both familiar and unfamiliar. UnLondon is where the trash of London goes. Broken umbrellas. Milk cartons. Clothes. Washing machines. Anything you could think of that people throw away, it's there.

There are people in UnLondon too, odd people. There's also a prophecy (in a talking book, no less). Supposedly, Zanna is the Schwazzy, the long-awaited Chosen One that's going to conquer the Smog, UnLondon's gaseous enemy. Deeba finds out she has the role of 'funny sidekick.'

Or does she?

The front blurb describes Un Lun Dun as "London through the looking glass, an urban Wonderland of strange delights..." and I have to agree. The world is a totally strange, unfamiliar, sometimes scary place, like Wonderland. Unlike Wonderland, UnLondon is also vividly real. You can feel it, almost taste it, in the best parts. Even in the most ridiculous of situations - binjas, pet milk cartons, a man's body with the head of a birdcage - you don't stop to think about it, unless it's to marvel at the genius of the author.

The characters are full-bodied, with motives, personalities, and traits that make them seem even realer. Though it's hard to really picture them, it's easy to imagine the weird people that come and go in UnLondon's world.

At nearly 430 pages, Un Lun Dun is not a book for the faint of heart, but once you've started, it's not going to be put down. The pacing isn't slow, and it isn't fast; it simply tells the story with the necessary details and descriptions. The chapters are short and sweet, making it easy to think 'Oh, just one more and then I'll put it down...' Most readers know what happens when they think that.

That said, at a few points, it felt as though Miéville was trying too hard to mimic the backwards logic found in Alice in Wonderland. There were a few scenes that could have been at least shortened, without the 'subtle' points he tried to inject.

There is also something of an environmentalist agenda hidden inside Un Lun Dun - the main villain is, after all, the Smog. But in most cases, the villain is simply the villain; there are no we-awful-humans-are-destroying-the-earth moments. In fact, one of the Smog's associates is the Minister of Environment.

The bottom line? Read this book. It won't let you down.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Persy -- Wednesday Scrolls

Is that not the prettiest thing you have ever seen? I think it's positively beautiful. And it just came out a week ago. Have you ordered your copy yet? I have.

This is the first novel in Cassandra Clare's new series, Infernal Devices. This series takes place in Victorian London, centuries before Clare's first series, Mortal Instruments. She's still writing Mortal Instruments, and the cover of the fourth book, City of Fallen Angels, is supposed to be released later this year. In my opinion, I think that series should end while it's still going good. The third book, City of Glass, ended rather nicely, but whatever. Clare has already signed on for two more books in the series after City of Fallen Angels, so she's obviously not tuning into my thoughts. But hey, they could be fabulous, so let's not read too much into my pessimistic predictions...

Clockwork Angel (I go SQUEEE inside every time I hear that title) follows the story of Tessa Gray, a young woman of Victorian England. She ends up in London's Downworld, a place full of Vampires, Werewolves, Warlocks, and more. Her only help (and probably hope) of finding her brother are the Shadowhunters, a mysterious group of people dedicated to fighting demons.

I'm a little apprehensive about Clare's new series. I mean, Mortal Instruments was fantastic, but I'm sort of wondering if her new main character, Tessa, will be exactly the same as Clary. Like she just moved all the characters back in time a few centuries, turned them all British, and added a bit of a different plot. Hopefully, this isn't the case and Clare is fully able to create new characters.

Some more news in the world of Cassandra Clare: Mortal Instruments is (supposedly) going to be made into a movie. I say supposedly because it's listed as one of those "can only be seen if you have IMDbPro" on In my experience, those movies hardly ever come out. Maximum Ride, for instance? That was originally set to come out in 2010. It's actually still listed on IMDb, but is now set for 2013.

Anyway, back Mortal Instruments. I am very uneasy about this. Perhaps my 'faith' in book-movies has been shattered by the atrocities of Prince Caspian and Percy Jackson (to name a few of the many), but I just have a baaad feeling about this one... Honestly, this is a book I'd rather remained a book. You ever read a book like that? It's a hard feeling to explain, but it's like you have it all imagined in your head already, and you don't want to end up with someone else's image stuck in your head (that's what happened with Twilight: Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart erased my pictures of Edward and Bella). Mortal Instruments isn't supposed to come out until 2012 (and like I said, it could keep getting postponed for eternity), so I've got a while to... I dunno, let my unease fester.

Another book-movie that's actually coming out next month is It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini. This is the story of Craig, a teenager who is enrolled in a pre-professional high school. Before this school, Craig was considered a genius, but in this school, he's just average. Eventually, the stress ends up too much and Craig attempts suicide. He can't quite do it, though, and calls a help line, checking himself into a mental hospital.

I read this book a loong time ago, probably before I should've. I was like, eleven or twelve, and lots of things in there didn't make sense back then. Let's just say they do now. So don't give this book to someone under thirteen or fourteen, kay?

My first thought when seeing it had been turned into a movie was, "Huh..." and I went on about my business. Needless to say, this isn't one of my top-priority movies to see. I don't remember a ton about the book; it wasn't fabulous, but it wasn't awful. At times it was funny, but in general it was just "okay".

The movie stars Keir Gilchrist, who hasn't really been in anything of note, as Craig. Co-stars include: Zach Galifianakis (playing Bobby), Emma Roberts (playing Noelle), Lauren Graham (playing Lynne), and Zoe Kravitz (playing Nia). The movie comes out October 8.

And for the final piece of news... The eighth book in the Bloody Jack Adventures by L.A. Meyer (who is in fact a dude; I thought he was a woman for the longest time...) just came out! It's called The Wake of the Lorelei Lee, which sounds preetty interesting. I myself am only on number five (Mississippi Jack), so I've got some catching up to do.

The Bloody Jack Adventures follows the story of Jacky Faber, a very impetuous young woman of the early 1800s. In the very first book (Bloody Jack), she disguises herself as boy and becomes a ship's boy on the HMS Dolphin. Hijinks ensue.

I was an... 'adventurous' kid, so I read this book when I was barely into my double digits (maybe even before then), but I'd recommend it to maybe thirteen and up. But these have always been some of my favorite books, even if the basic plot (reckless and feisty girl disguises herself as a boy and gets in tons of trouble and saves the day, etc. etc.) isn't the most original. Sometimes, it's not about originality.


Sunday, September 5, 2010

Persy -- Unwind by Neal Shusterman

In the future, a terrible war is fought over abortion. It ended with a compromise: that once a child had been conceived, that child was legally alive and illegal to terminate, but between the ages of thirteen to eighteen, a child's parents could sign him or her over to be unwound. It's not technically killing a child, they claim, since every part of the child is bound by law to be reused for someone else. The Unwind is still alive, just in many parts.

Connor Lassiter discovers that his parents have signed him over to be unwound, and resolves to run away. During his escape, he turns a tranquilizer gun on a juvey-cop (police assigned especially to Unwind runaways) and earns the nickname of "The Akron AWOL", and so becomes a legend among Unwind runaways.

He also meets up with Risa Ward, a ward of the state of Ohio, and Levi (Lev) Calder, a tithe. Tithes are children raised to be Unwound. They grow up hearing about how they're "special" and are a tenth of the family, so they are given to God. Trying to save Lev, Risa and Connor kidnap him and they end up on the run.

First of all, this is Neal Shusterman we're talking about, so of course it's going to be awesome. What I forgot about when I started this book, though, is that Neal Shusterman is also creepy as heck when he wants to be. This book was puh-retty disturbing at times.

In the beginning, none of the characters are all that awesome. Connor has a bit of an angery issue, Risa's just meh, and Lev is annoying. But as the story progresses, they all gain more depth and I think they actually mature as they continue on their journey. I have to applaud Mr. Shusterman on not only making his main characters round, but giving orotundity to the less important ones as well.

At first I really couldn't see where the plot would go. It seemed like the trio would just wander around eternally and never get anywhere, but there's a reason they call Neal Shusterman "The Storyman". Several points in the story felt a bit strange, but other than that, it was all smooth and perfectly paced, never dragging out boring scenes or rushing over something too fast to figure out what was going on.

I don't want to say too much about the ending, because I really don't want to ruin it, but let's just say it was fantastic. About three quarters of the way through, I had no idea how it was going to end. It was all set up for an unhappy ending, but... well, I'll let you find out for yourself.

It's also written in present tense, which can be confusing at times. After about two seconds, you get used to it and it's fine, but sometimes it'll abruptly pop out at you and you'll have to pause to orient yourself. In my opinion, only really good books can get away with present tense, so thumbs up to Neal Shusterman.

This isn't my favorite Neal Shusterman novel, but a not-as-awesome Neal Shusterman novel is still really awesome. It's one of those science fiction/futuristic novels that's not the space kind of science fiction (in case you didn't get that from the summary), so I wouldn't recommend it to fantasy or hard sci-fi fans. Also, I wouldn't put it in the hands of anyone under thirteen.

Now, you might remember a Wednesday Scrolls ( mentioning Unwind being made into a movie. It's still set to come out in 2012, but I haven't found any new news about it. You can still check out the movie website ( for various contests, links, and such.

After reading the book, I'm not sure if it'd make the kind of movie I'd really enjoy. I can certainly see it as a movie, but it seems like there's a bit too much thoughtfulness in there to make anything other than a "meaningful" movie without a lot of diologue, if you know what I mean. So I'm a bit apprehensive... but still hopeful. I guess we'll just see in 2012.


Saturday, August 28, 2010

Arty -- The Night Tourist by Katherine Marsh

Jack Perdu is a ninth-grade Classics prodigy, living with his father on the Yale University campus and spending his time translating Ovid's Metamorphoses. He doesn't spend much time with the other kids, preferring to bury his nose in the old Greek legends - especially his favorite, the story of Orpheus and Eurydice.

Then Jack is hit by a car. He should have died, but he pulls through. That's when he starts to see things - odd things. His father sends him to a doctor in New York City, just in case.

That's where Jack meets Euri, a girl his age, who leads him down to the underworld beneath Grand Central Station. But the people that live there aren't quite right - and Jack's about to find out why.

As a Greek mythology fan myself, I found the story especially interesting, though, as a few Amazon reviews have noted, those who aren't familiar with the basics of Greek legend might miss half the fun.

The Night Tourist takes all the best of both legend and ghost story and blends them together. There's the New York Underworld (as opposed to the Greek Underworld), the three-headed guard dog, the 'Now That You're Dead' seminar, the ways the ghosts mix with the mortals... it's all delightfully morbid without being depressing.

Jack was extremely likable, and, surprisingly, Euri was as well; their chemistry felt natural and sweet, without being forced or even romantic - a welcome change from most stories. Few characters were important enough for a great deal of building, but the ones that were - Jack and Euri, mainly - Marsh revealed at a good pace.

That said, Marsh's underemphasized, simplistic style didn't compliment the characters very well. Especially at the beginning, it was almost hard to read with interest. The writing gets better the farther along the story progresses, but there's always the nagging feeling that it could have been better.

The story has a few different subplots, and at times it can be hard to keep them all in mind. The subplot revolving around Jack's 'deceased' mother and his living father gets especially confusing at the tail end of the novel, but the persistent reader will be able to sort it out after a while.

A few more notes for cautious readers: The idea of the afterlife in this novel is a very popular one, with ghosts being stuck in their underworld until all their 'problems' have been solved. Then they 'go on;' wherever that is, we're never told. A few ghosts toy with the living, who are trying to communicate using a Ouija board. Suicide was addressed, briefly, but in an... well, an interesting way that I'm not sure I really agree with.

Despite all that, The Night Tourist really was a good book - the ending, especially. Marsh does not sugarcoat, and she does not give you a happily-ever-after. But there's a certain bittersweet finality that makes you want to read it all over again.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Persy -- Wednesday Scrolls

So instead of giving y'all 'new' news, I thought we'd take a blast from the past. Today I'll draw your attention to three books that were written back before 2000, none of which are particularly well-known, but all of which are spectacular. I think sometimes when people think of 'older books' they think waay back to Charles Dickens and Jane Austen, and skip right over the late 1900s. Allow me to bring a few novels to your attention.

The first is historical fiction set in Ancient Egypt, entitled Mara, Daughter of the Nile, by Eloise Jarvis McGraw. Mara is just a slave when she gets pulled into the dangerous profession of a double agent. As she finds herself working for two different supporters of different contenders for the Egyptian throne, she finds herself falling in love with one of her masters.

This book has always been one of my favorites, and is one I will read over and over again. In my opinion, it should be required reading for everyone, for either history, literature, or both.

It was published in 1953 and was one of McGraw's earlier works, and the only one I've read. McGraw herself was born in 1915, and died at the age of 84 in 2000, leaving behind numerous novels and contributions to the Oz series. She won three Newberry Honor Awards, along with the L. Frank Baum Memorial Award and the Edgar Award from Mystery Writers of America. As far as I can tell, Mara didn't actually win any of these awards, though I can't see how anything else by McGraw could be better.

The next book is Chicken Trek by Stephen Manes, possibly one of the least-known books of the last three decades. It was published in 1983, and I'm pretty sure it is no longer in print.

Instead of going on an exciting, adventurous vacation like his best friend, Oscar Noodleman is going to be spending his summer working for his strange uncle. He expects to be mowing grass and cleaning toilets, but his uncle has something different in mind... A chicken-eating competition. That's right, the competitors will be traveling across the country, trying to be the first to eat a certain amount of meals of chicken at specific restaurants.

Oh, and if they don't win, Oscar's Uncle's neighbor (who is a witch) will give them a lot more to worry about than a throbbing in their big toes.

So that explanation probably doesn't make much sense, but that's just too bad. Chicken Trek is a work of art, featuring evil witches, teleporting pickles, and tons of tasty chicken meals! It's a pretty small book, so as long as you can find it, it won't take you long to read.

And last, but certainly not least, I bring you Dragon's Bait by Vivian Vande Velde.

If you know me at all, you know that I am a huge fan of Vivian Vande Velde. In my opinion, she is one of the greatest fantasy writers of all-time, whether she's writing simple wizards, vampires, ghosts, or dragons.

Fifteen-year-old Alys has been accused of being a witch, and is tied to a stake as a sacrifice for hungry dragons. But the dragon that finds her does not eat her, but in fact helps her. She discovers that he can change his shape to that of a young man, and she learns a lot about dragons she hadn't even considered as the dragon helps her get her revenge on the townspeople who tried to kill her.

This was published in 1992 and was one of Vivian Vande Velde's earlier novels. She's written about a million of them, and is still writing today. Her next novel, a retelling/interpretation of Little Red Riding Hood (Cloaked In Red) will be coming out this October.

So maybe instead of rushing for the new releases shelf this week, go in search of the good old stuff. I certainly won't deny that there are some fabulous books still being written, but they just don't write books like they used to.


Saturday, August 21, 2010

Persy -- Into The Looking Glass by John Ringo

There's nothing like the good old science fiction with actual science and alien invaders. Nor is there anything like soldiers blasting said aliens to heck. And there's definitely nothing like a great Alice In Wonderland-inspired novel. Please tell my you're interested by now.

One normal day on planet earth, a huge explosion blows up a large portion of Florida, specifically centered around Florida University. The National Guard immediately jumps into action, thinking it's a nuclear bomb from terrorists, but when they finally reach the scene, there is no traces of radiation or EMP (electromagnetic pulse, a form of radiation). What is there startles and confuses everyone. A large, circular something made of an inky black substance, resembling a black hole, stretches across a huge crater. It is soon determined to be a gate to another planet, possibly another universe.

Just as everyone's getting used to the one gate, more and more start opening up, and not all of them are as docile (if you can use the word) as the first one. A denomic race of aliens starts pouring through one of the gates, rapidly pushing the soldiers and other volunteers away and gaining ground.

Dr. William Weaver (Bill) is both brilliant and from the South, so it's natural that I fell in love with him at once. It's his job to figure out where the heck the gates came from and how to close them before the demon aliens take over the entire planet. Well, that was his job at first. He tends to get stuck in the middle of the action, and has to rapidly learn how to aim a gun, but that's beside the point.

One note: if you pick this book up in a bookstore or library, don't even bother reading the back, because the book is nothing like what it makes it out to be. After reading the back, it sounds kind of like it'll be a somewhat perky, fun book with a main character with mixed priorities, but half the stuff the back of the book mentions take up no more than two paragraphs of the entire book.

Now, I haven't read much hard scifi, with actual science and such, so maybe I don't have anything to compare Into The Looking Glass with. But that definitely does not stop me from adoring this book to death. As I mentioned before, I love Bill, and SEAL Command Master Chief Miller is also pretty dang awesome. I love how there's both a lot of scientific explanations and details about high-tech weaponry and huge shoot-outs and awesome mecha and aliens and explonations and all get-out. And you can tell John Ringo really does know what he's talking about (though in the beginning, he says that lots of the science isn't actually quite right, both to protect secrets and because he's probably made some mistakes).

I originally got this book from the library because of the title, but really, it doesn't have a lot to do with Alice In Wonderland. You can only see the resemblance because you're already thinking about Alice from the title. So if you're looking for an Alice In Wonderland retelling, this probably wouldn't be my first recommendation (try the Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor, and I could also go on for hours about the various Wonderland-themed music and allusions in all kinds of stuff). Also, if you aren't a fan of science-fiction, hard science-fiction, or military fiction, this probably isn't the book for you.

That's not to say, of course, I wouldn't thrust this book upon you no matter how much you protested.

Into The Looking Glass is the first book in John Ringo's Looking Glass series, followed by Vorpal Blade. The last three books are also contributed to by Travis S. Taylor who helped John Ringo with some particular forms of science. In Vorpal Blade, Bill's got himself a spaceship and goes flying around hunting down aliens, as far as I understand. Oh yeah, it's gonna be freakin' awesome.


NOTE: This book contains some adult content such as language and some violence.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Arty -- Love Me If You Must by Nicole Young

If you read my earlier post on Kiss, you know I don't like Christian adult authors, except for some exceptions. Nicole Young is now an exception.

"A run-down Victorian to renovate, a past to leave behind--who has time for romance...or murder?" Patricia "Tish" Amble has just moved to the small town of Rawlings, and she thinks she's finally got her life together. The police aren't on her, she's nicely isolated in her new fixer-upper - everything seems to be falling into place.

Then she meets her two neighbors - handsome Brit David, and rugged policeman Brad. And both of them want more than a friendly neighborship. Did I mention that Brad's a policeman? So Tish stays away from him in favor of the more elegant David.

But there's more to the old Victorian house than Tish knows. Faces appear, and voices come out of nowhere. The high point of the hijinks is the body she thinks she sees in the basement cistern. But when she gets the police to look... there's nothing there. They tell her it was a trick of the light. Tish isn't so sure.

To say any more would give away a lot of the surprises in Love Me. Suffice it to say that there are murders, scandals, doppelgangers, and a lot of lovely confrontations with the said love triangle.

Love Me is written in first-person, which is a definite plus. Tish's sometimes wry, sometimes manic, sometimes naive voice is consistent (and very, very amusing at times). The characters are all more than they seem - I can't remember more than one or two people who didn't have ulterior motives, and the ones that didn't were very minor.

As a mystery, the story falls a little flat. There are no brilliant revelations, no stunning red herrings, no shocking betrayals. But, just as a suspenseful, interesting novel, it shines - at least among adult novels. I especially enjoyed the ending - to say anything except that it was utterly different would spoil a surprise.

There are two more books in the Patricia Amble Mysteries series, with equally interesting titles: Kill Me If You Can and Kiss Me If You Dare. I'm waiting to get them from the library, but I've heard that Kill Me ends on a cliffhanger. Definitely a series to watch.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Arty -- Wednesday Scrolls

If you're anything like me, you love a good, long series.

Really - what can be better than book after book - after book - of awesome settings, plots, and characters? There aren't too many feelings better than looking on Amazon and seeing that Book #7 or 8, Pre-order Here.

Luckily, 2010 seems to be a pretty good year for long series continuations.

Let's start with my personal favorite - Artemis Fowl, by Eoin Colfer. The story arc consisting of the Irish teenage genius's interactions with the fairy People has been around since 2001 and has won numerous awards - well-earned awards, for once. Suspenseful, hilarious, and oddly insightful at times, it's kept me entertained through two complete series re-reads. Complete, that is, until August 3, when Artemis Fowl: The Atlantis Complex came out. In this new addition, it seems that Artemis has contracted the titular Atlantis Complex, a psychosis triggered by his earlier dabbles in magic. "Symptoms include OCD, paranoia, multiple personality disorder, and, in extreme cases, embarrassing professions of love to a certain feisty LEPrecon fairy." Throw in a plot to destroy the city of Atlantis, and you have a book that I can't wait to read. (It's sitting right there... right there! Perhaps my current book to read will magically change... for some odd reason...)

Next is John Flanagan's Ranger's Apprentice series, about the eponymous orphan Will's experiences. In the first four books, he is under the mentorship of the gruff Ranger Halt; in books five and six, he's out from under Halt's wing. The seventh goes back in time, so to speak, to when Will is an apprentice again. Now, in the eighth book, The Kings of Clonmel, released May 18 in USA, Will is on his own again. According to Amazon's blurb: "Mankind puts its faith in many things—gods, kings, money—anything for protection from the world’s many dangers. When a cult springs up in neighboring Clonmel, promising to quell the recent attacks by lawless marauders, people flock from all over to offer gold in exchange for protection. But this particular group, with which Halt is all too familiar, has a less than charitable agenda. Secrets will be unveiled and battles fought to the death as Will and Horace help Halt in ridding the land of a dangerous enemy." Though, as good series often do, Ranger's Apprentice has been losing my interest, it's definitely a book I will get my hands on soon.

A note: John Flanagan lives in Australia, and his books are published sooner there than in America. Kings came out November 8, 2008 in Flanagan's country, and the ninth book, Halt's Peril (which I am absolutely dying to read, as a firm Halt fangirl), has been out since last November. It's destined for an October Stateside release.

Another foreign implant into popular American literature is the Children of the Red King series by Jenny Nimmo - probably known more commonly as the Charlie Bone books. Something of a Harry Potter stand-in for those not quite ready for Hogwarts, but by no means any less interesting, these books have many characters, many subplots, and a lot of potential for re-reads. Sadly, all good things must come to an end, and this fascinating series met its own this May, when Charlie Bone and the Red Knight came out. In this eighth and final chapter, Charlie and his friends have to discover "the fate of his family, the evil intentions of the Bloors, what has become of Septimus Bloor's will, and, most important, the destiny of the Red King's heirs." (Amazon) Sounds like a worthy finale to me.

Speaking of magic, the Sisters Grimm (author Michael Buckley) are up to it in their ears. Though perhaps not classic material and suffering from acute cases of corny dialogue, this series about fairytales come to life is a definite must-read. I haven't read the seventh book yet, but I understand that The Inside Story, the newest installment - also book eighth - picks up right where The Everafter War left off. Sabrina and Daphne have apparently met the Master of the Scarlet Hand, and now must save their baby brother (??) by going into something called the Book of Everafter. (Excuse me, I now must go put the seventh book on my reading stack.)

Finally, there's the prolific Warriors series. No - series, plural. No - franchise. Yes, this acclaimed super-network of four base series (and there are whispers of a fifth); three published Super Editions with two more on the way; three OEL manga series and one OEL manga standalone; and four field guides will release its latest effort later this year in November, with the third book in the fourth base series Omen of the Stars. Not much about this book, entitled Night Whispers, is known, except that it centers around a prophecy given to Dovepaw, and that a new point of view will be introduced. Will it get back to whatever made the original Warriors series so great? Only time will tell...

That's the end of my rather long list. But if you know of another series that's been going on for a long time, I'd love to hear about it!