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!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Persy -- The Princess and the Hound by Mette Ivie Harrison

In this world of fantasy, animal magic is both feared and hated. Anyone even suspected of the magic is burned at the stake. Prince George learns early on to hide his magic, especially when his mother, who also possesses the forbidden magic, ends up dead and he has no one to confide in.

Many years later, Prince George turns seventeen and becomes betrothed to Princess Beatrice to restore peace between the rivaling kingdoms. When he finally meets her, he finds her cold, and there's definitely something odd about her hound.

Prince George must try to earn Princess Beatrice's trust, and figure out the mystery of her relationship with her hound, Marit. Meanwhile, Prince George's father is dying of a curious sickness, and Prince George is having strange dreams...

I was very excited to read this book, and not just because of its beautiful cover. Mette Ivie Harrison also wrote Mira, Mirror, a retelling of Snow White that I found absolutely fantastic. So, naturally, I had high hopes for The Princess and the Hound. Unfortunately, they weren't all met.

The first half or so of the book was very good, though I figured it out way before Prince George did. Prince George, Princess Beatrice, and Marit are all okay characters, but there's not a bunch to them that makes them really likeable. The deeper George gets into the mystery, the stranger and just plain weird it gets. It almost seems like the author didn't take the time to really tie it all together. By the end of the novel, I was just tired and wanted it all to be over and done with.

If you don't want any spoilers, might not want to read anymore. But almost as soon as you meet Beatrice and Marit, you know what's going on, so I wouldn't worry about it too much.

Most of the time, Beatrice is your typical female character: always striving to show she's just as good, if not better, than all the men. And really, this is understandable. Her father wanted a son, so Beatrice did the best she could to accommodate him. And then when you realize Beatrice is actually Marit transformed into a human, it makes even more sense. She just doesn't know how to be human. And then when you meet the actual Princess (who has been transformed into a hound, and is Marit), she's not like that at all. She's meek and timid, but not exactly weak.

What really bothered me was the ending. Love ended up saving them all. Now don't get me wrong, I love love. Love is good. But the novels where the characters just have to have enough love bother me. They just do not make sense to me.

So I would definitely recommend Mira, Mirror, but not The Princess and the Hound. There are two more books that go along with 'Princess', The Princess and the Bear, and The Princess and the Snowbird. Both of them have the most beautiful covers, but I doubt I will read them. I hate it when books that don't interest me have such gorgeous bindings.


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Persy -- Wednesday Scrolls

So do you want the good news or the bads news first? Let's go with the bad.

Justin Bieber is writing a book.

Are you okay? Need some CPR, advil, a tree to bang your head against? That's kind of how I reacted too.

A press release said it would be a memoir, but Justin Bieber himself said he's "A little too young" to be writing a life story. Which I quite agree with. Instead, it's going to feature never-before-photos of Bieber taken backstage at various performances etc. etc. I saw on that the book would be made up of tweets and doodles as well, but so far that's unconfirmed for me. Duck and cover, people, the Bieb is moving on to the book industry...

Let me just apologize if there's a Justin Bieber fan reading this. I personally don't like him (in case you hadn't figured that out), but if you do, you go ahead and go read his picture book.

And NOW for some news -I- find fabulous!

Neal Shusterman's, who is the author of Everlost, the Dark Fusion series (, Full Tilt, What Daddy Did, and more, Unwind is in the process of being movie-ified. I haven't actually read this one yet (though it's now at the top of my list), but everything I have ever read by Neal Shusterman has been amazing. Everything. Generally, there's at least one or two novels by an author I dislike, but that is not the case with Neal Shusterman. This guy's just amazing.

The movie's ETA is currently set for 2012, but who knows if it'll actually come out then. You can visit Neal Shusterman's Unwind Move website ( for more info.

The novel is about a world where unwanted teens get salvaged for body parts. Three teenagers, all with their own circumstances that will lead to being unwound, are drawn together and attempt to survive until their eighteenth birthday, when they can no longer be harmed. I am definitely looking forward to this.

And for our last bit of Wednesday news, Meg Cabot, author of the Princess Diaries and Airhead (as well as other series' and novels writing as Jenny Carroll), just released a vampire novel listed under horror (on Fantastic Fiction, anyway). If you're like me, this wasn't something you'd expect Meg Cabot to write. When I think of Meg Cabot, I think of sparkly pink covers featuring tiaras or catwalks and strange stories about reincarnation (Avalon High). But her vampire novel, Insatiable, which was released in June, actually looks rather interesting.

Meena Harper doesn't believe in vampires, and is sick of hearing about them, but her bosses make her write about them anyway. She also has the unique gift of precognition and knows how people will die. Now here's where it sounds more like the Meg Cabot I know: Meena falls in love with a modern day prince with a dark side, who *gasp* is already dead! Meena's desperately in love with him, but he might turn into something of a nightmare... dun dun dun.

Insatiable is now on my reading list, but it could be a loong time before I actually get around to it. To be honest, it doesn't sound especially unique or overly interesting, but I suppose we'll see.

Thanks for reading this week's Wednesday Scrolls! Please pop in for this Saturday's book review!