Sunday, January 30, 2011

Arty -- The Time Travelers by Linda Buckley-Archer AND Wednesday Scrolls

Yes, I'm hideously late, and I'm hideously embarrassed. But I've been busy.

Therefore, I am going to undertake a blend of both review and Wednesday Scrolls, both with the same subgenre of novel - Time Travel.


Gideon Seymour, thief and gentleman, hides from the villainous Tar Man. — Suddenly the sky peels away like fabric and from the gaping hole fall two curious-looking children. Peter Schock and Kate Dyer have fallen straight from the twenty-first century, thanks to an experiment with an antigravity machine. Before Gideon and the children have a chance to gather their wits, the Tar Man takes off with the machine -- and Peter and Kate's only chance of getting home. Soon Gideon, Peter, and Kate are swept into a journey through eighteenth-century London and form a bond that, they hope, will stand strong in the face of unfathomable treachery.

That's all you need to know. For once, the back of a book perfectly sums up the action inside. Time traveling machine, two kids, accident, BOOM, eighteenth century.

Kate and Peter are the main characters, but how can you not love a guy whos
e title is 'Thief and Gentleman'? Gideon was truly the best character, that young-man-with-a-horrible-past-that-he's-trying-to-outrun-while-turning-over-a-new-leaf stereotype that only really bad authors can foul up. But the supporting characters were wonderful too, and the villain - The Tar Man - actually had a painful past. I found myself wincing when his backstory came around.

There are caveats. Buckley-Archer has a nasty habit of switching between point of views, usually Peter's and Kate's (though this usually works just as well as it did with, say, authors in the '40s and '50s because of Buckley-Archer's style). The ending wasn't quite as exciting as I had hoped. And I found the American woman's use of the word 'telly' for television hilarious. But those are minor in comparison to the rest of the amazing book. I squeal every time I think about it. Do yourself a favor, and read the book. (It's the first in The Gideon Trilogy; the second is called The Time Thief, and the third The Time Quake.)


In the seemingly hit-and-miss realm of Time Travel literature, The Time Travelers is truly
amazing. Here are a couple of others that pull it off brilliantly.

I reviewed Robert Liparulo's Comes A Horseman a few months back. His adult novels are good, but his only YA series, Dreamhouse Kings, is really his magnum opus, in my humble opinion. In it, the King family - Ed and G, the parents, and kids Alexander, David, and Victoria - move to a small town in California, to an old fixer-upper house that gives Xander and David the creeps. Naturally, it gets worse than that - the house is actually a gigantic portal, with different doors leading to different periods in time. When Mrs. King is snatched into the time portals by an ancient enemy, the rest of the family has to pull together to figure out the rules of the Dreamhouse if they want to get their mother back.

Okay, okay, so it's the sixth book in a series. But it's an awesome book in an awesome series, so I think it deserves a mention.

In this book, Artemis's mother, Angeline, becomes ill with an unknown disease - a disease that turns out to be Spelltropy, usually a disease that only magical creatures can get. Only antidote? The brain fluid of the silky sifaka limur. Only problem? Artemis killed the last remaining lemur when he was ten. Only solution? Go back in time and prevent Artemis's younger self from killing the lemur. (If you can't guess from picturing Fourteen-Year-Old Artemis and Ten-Year-Old Artemis in a face-off, it's hilarious.)

So that's my Big Three of Time Travel. Do you have any other good T.T. books? If so, comment - I'd love to check them out!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Persy -- A Chalice of Wind by Cate Tiernan

Thais Allard's father dies in a car accident, and suddenly her new guardian is a woman she's never met before, and Thais has to move to Louisiana. There, she meets Clio -- her long lost twin. As if that's not enough, Clio and her grandmother, Petra, are witches, and so is Thais.

But it gets more complicated. Turns out Petra is part of the Treize, a group of Witches with a dark past. Hundreds of years ago, the Treize performed powerful magic and became immortal. Petra is not Clio's and Thais's grandmother at all (more like great great great great great great, etc....).

As more and more questions get asked, there's also the whole drama with Luc/André. Ah, young love.
A Chalice of Wind is the first of four in Cate Tiernan's Balefire series. I read the first three books a long time ago, and then they kind of slipped from my mind until recently and I started rereading them so I could finish the series. Cate Tiernan is more well known for her Sweep series, a collection of fifty million (or, okay, thirteen) books about Wicca which look, honestly, boring as heck.

It's kind of hard to figure out what's wrong with Balefire, or rather, what's right. Neither Clio nor Thais are likeable at all, and there's just something weird with the writing in general. The plot and story is really interesting, especially the pasts and thoughts of all the other characters. Richard is my personal favorite. The thing is, you just don't care about Clio and Thais. They come close to death a few times or heartbreak or joy or whatever, and you just do not care. Or I didn't, anyway. Despite this, it's really easy to get pulled in and keep reading. But at the end, you wonder why you went through the whole thing and why you want to read the next one.

I mostly just want to finish it out of curiousity. I want to know how it ends, and I want to know more about what happened all those years ago with the Treize and everything. I do not, however, really want to listen to more of Clio's and Thais's thoughts, which is unfortunate since most of it is told from their perspective.

I'd recommend this series to light readers who are fans of urban fantasy, even though you really can't classify this as urban fantasy. More just young adult fantasy, I guess. It's not all that memorable or noteworthy, so I wouldn't go out of your way to read it.


Saturday, January 15, 2011

Arty -- Lucy Doesn't Wear Pink by Nancy Rue

It's my firm belief that any serious reader must, at some point, abandon all the well-meaning but tediously thoughtful, serious Eragons and Hunger Games that so permeate the YA market. Thinking is good for you, of course, but sometimes you just have to stop contemplating the meaning of life and be a kid again. Or, still. Or whatever. Hence, Lucy Doesn't Wear Pink.

Lucy Rooney, obviously, does not like pink. She doesn't like anything girly. All she wants to do is play soccer and take care/be taken care of by her blind father. (Her mother was killed when she was seven in the same explosion that blinded Dad.) Oh, and make lists of her problems/issues/whatevers in the book she found that was her mother's.

Then... well, pretty much her life falls apart. Her pseudo-evil Aunt Karen decides that blind Dad isn't fit to raise Lucy. Lucy's class gets a new teacher who turns school - and soccer at recess - upside down. And Lucy's best friend, J.J., starts having even more problems at home than ever.

I didn't hold out much hope for this book. After all, a young girl's Christian novel - how could it be any good? Sadly, those don't have the best reputations. But Nancy Rue managed to surprise me. I couldn't wait to finish the book, to find out how everything fell into place. Because, honestly, I couldn't see how.

I think the best way to sum up the pleasant surprise of Lucy is how much restrain Rue uses, especially in regards to her characters. Arguably none of them were pure black and white. For example, I hated Lucy's new teacher, Mr. Augustalientes, at first. He made them call him Mr. Auggy, for one - that's just wrong. Naturally, he grows more personable, more understandable. But I never quite liked him. It was a curious reaction to a character and I have mountains of respect for Nancy Rue just for that one reaction. She doesn't make you love every single 'good' character and hate every single 'bad' character. It was a balance of grays.

I just have to mention the sort-of villain, Aunt Karen, while I'm on the subject of grays. I loathed her. She had pride and control issues oozing out of every pore. But every time I hated her most, she would do something strange - good or bad, it didn't matter, but it gave her a little bit of ambiguity. I honestly couldn't figure her out, and I felt bad for hating her. Props to Rue for the most confusing antagonist since Ariel from Eyes Like Stars.

The biggest flaw in the book is, of course, the Christian theme. It's devilishly hard to distribute that theme in any book, and I don't think I've found a book that accomplishes it perfectly, unless you count allegory (Narnia, anyone?). Lucy doesn't break the record. But it does a much better job of it than most novels even dream about, and that's another thing I applaud Rue for.

I'm sure Lucy isn't a book for everyone, especially not with the Christian subplot. But if you like it/don't mind it, then I'd say go for it. (Also try out her Sophie series - also good and very original in the same vein.)

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Persy -- A Countess Below Stairs by Eva Ibbotson

World War I has just ended and the Russian country is in chaos. The Grazinsky family of counts and countesses escape to England, where Anna insists on getting a job as a maid, despite her Governess's strong opinion that countesses should not go under stairs.

Anna gets a job at Mersham, home to the Earl of Westerholme, Rupert Westerholme. There, everyone is just beginning the preparations for the Earl's wedding to a young lady named Muriel Hardwicke.

Everyone's first impression of Muriel is wonderful. She's a beautiful young woman with seemingly lovely manners, not to mention she saved Rupert's life when she was a nurse during the war. But it rapidly becomes obvious that Muriel is not as pleasant as she seems, and she has many changes in store for Mersham.

And while all that is happening, Rupert not only discovers Anna's true identity as a Russian Countess, but also begins to fall in love with her, and she with him.

You might remember my review of A Company of Swans, also by Ibbotson, back in November. I raved and raved, because I loved the book SO MUCH. Well, this one's going to get a rave too. Just warning you.

Eva Ibbotson can do what very, very few authors can: she brings out my inner hopeless romantic. "Countess" had me glued to the pages, urging Rupert and Anna on and cursing the vile name of Muriel. Rupert and Anna were both awesome, and they weren't the only ones. Mr. Proom, the butler of Mersham, became my hero, and Tom Byrne is really cool and The Honourable Ollie is just adorable.

And let's not forget the villain. Muriel roused up my loathing gradually, just like she did for the other characters in the story. At first, she seems rather nice, if a little arrogant. But then as you read more, you really start to despise her. She's pure evil in blonde curls and silk.

I'm starting to get the feel of Eva Ibbotson's romance novels. She sets up two characters who shouldn't be able to end up together, then has them fall in love. Sometimes it starts to look like a happy ending, and sometimes it doesn't, but at some point before the ending it all really goes to pieces and the two main chars are on virtually opposite ends of the earth feeling incredibly miserable. But don't go thinking all her books are the same plot and characters with different names; they're not. A Company of Swans and A Countess Below Stairs are similar enough in that they're both historical fiction, romances, and totally awesome, but aside from that they're two separate stories.

I've heard not all of Ibbotson's stuff is that great, though. I've only read three of her books, and so far it looks like either her teen fiction or her historical fiction is what she really excels at her. Her normal fantasy is sometimes pretty good, but I know Arty hates one of her novels (one I haven't read). She's written quite a lot, and I'm working my way through it all. Unfortunately, she died last year. I'm going to be even sadder when I get to her last book.


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Persy -- Wednesday Scrolls -- Best of 2010

Happy New Year! A brand new year full of brand new excursions into the marvelous world of literature. Plus, y'know, whatever else you want to do.

My goal for the year of 2010 was to read more books than I did in 2009, which made my goal 178 books. I read 179. 12 of these were comics, but those count too. I started to add up the number of pages I read, but then I made a mistake halfway through and did not want to go back and start over.

The following are some highlights from my year. It was actually very good, with lots of gems and not too many disappointments. Four books to avoid, and ten to embrace. Plus a whole bunch of honorable mentions...

Books To Avoid

Touch The Dark by Karen Chance.
It's just not worth it. Adult urban fantasy about a clairvoyant trying to run from her past, blah blah blah. It has a few redeeming points (ghost cavalry), but the key to good urban fantasy is the main character. If you have a good MC, the book's worth reading. if you have a lame, uninteresting one, like in this book, it's just not good.

The Magicians by Lev Grossman.
Supposedly Harry Potter for adults; I was quite excited about reading this book. What. a. letdown. Basically, it was just about miserable wizards in a miserable magic college getting drunk all the time and sleeping with each other and pissing each other off (all the while being very, very miserable). Towards the end it gets interesting, but by then I just could. not. stand. another minute of the stupid book. One day I may go back and read the ending, but definitely, definitely stay away from this one.

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen.
I'd heard this was a bad book, but I read it anyway because, hey, Jane Austen. She's always good, right? Wrong. This book is just terrible. Do not come near this thing unless you absolutely have to (or just want the prestige of being able to truthfully say you've read all of Jane Austen's novels). I say someone should've just nuked Mansfield Park and put everyone out of their misery.

The Princess and the Hound by Mette Ivie Harrison.
You might remember my review of it back in August, so I'll just summarize it here. Main characters aren't interesting enough, nothing unexpected ever happens, and 'love saves them all' (pet peeve of mine).

Books to Shower Praise Upon and Read Over and Over Again (sorry, I couldn't resist the picture)

Dealing With Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede.
First of four in her Enchanted Forest Chronicles, this is fantasy at its best. Cimorene, a princess who does not want to be a proper princess, marches into the Enchanted Forest and asks for a job as a Dragon's Princess. She becomes Kazul's Princess, and hijinks ensue. it's funny, well written, and has lots of great characters.

The Awakening by Michael Carroll.
This series is either called New Heroes or Quantum Prophecy, depending on what country you're in (Quantum Prophecy in the USA). It's been ten years since all the superheroes retired, ten years since that fateful day when they all disappeared. But now they're needed again, or rather, their children are. And there are strange prophecies in the works, foretelling a terrible war... What I absolutely love about this book is that you don't know who's good and who's bad. It keeps you guessing and glued to the pages.

Into the Looking Glass by John Ringo.
Did a review of this one too, also in August. Hard military scifi with Alice In Wonderland elements. A treasure trove. I must've declared my love for Dr. William Weaver several times already, and I'm sure I'll do it again.

The Seal of Solomon by Rick Yancey.
Surprisingly, this is the second book in the Alfred Kropp series. Following the laws of literature, this book should not be better than the first, but it is. Oh boy it is. I literally could not put it down. That does not happen often with me. It gets a bit gruesome at times, but that's just to get the point across that the world is freakin' ending.

Eyes Like Stars by Lisa Mantchev.
Brilliance. And a beautiful cover. I love it when the two coincide. Bertie lives in the Theatre and goes through many escapades to protect the Book (which contains all the scripts) and find out more about her past, all with the help of a few fairies from A Midsummer Night's Dream. The fairies are hilarious and Bertie really is likeable. I will just say this may not be public opinion, since Arty didn't like it as much. She reviewed it in October.

Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken.
Okay, okay, so you know how this book is going to end almost as soon as you start it, but that doesn't mean this book is not wonderful. Because it's very wonderful. Sydelle is virtually kidnapped by a wizard named Wayland North, and she ends up getting into a lot of trouble. Now go read this book.

A Company of Swans by Eva Ibbotson.
Again, another that has a full review in November. It's 1912 and Harriet Morton runs away from home to join a ballet company on tour in Manaus where they perform various ballets, Swan Lake included. Now how can ballerinas in the Amazon in 1912 not be awesome? Hmm?

The League series by Sherrilyn Kenyon.
Assassins in the future! Cue awesome music! Okay, so these book stroll the line between romance and science fiction, but they rock. I reviewed Born of Night last July.

Mimus by Lilli Thal and John Brownjohn (translator).
Jesters. Anyone can tell you they're incredibly cool. And these are the best jesters you'll ever find. I also find it interesting how John Brownjohn, who translated Mimus from German to English, is also the translator for the Golden Hamster books by Dietlof Reiche.

My Soul To Take by Rachel Vincent.
Banshees. Oh yes, that's a new one for teenage urban fantasy. And along with the bean sidhes is the awesome grim reaper who likes to interfere and banter wittily. This is yet another must-read.

Honorable Mentions

I could give notes and thoughts on each of the following books, but for the sake of space I'll just mention them. Feel free to ask about them anyway!

The God Engines by John Scalzi; Last Stop by Peter Lerangis (review in December); Moon Called by Patricia Briggs; The Merchant of Death by D.J. MacHale (review in May); various William Shakespeare plays; Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead by Tom Stoppard; Werewolf Versus Dragon by the Beastly Boys (review in July); Lord of the Flies by William Golding; The Black Arrow by Robert Louis Stevenson; Dairy Queen and Princess Ben by Catherine Gilbert Murdock; Mara, Daughter of the Nile by Eloise Jarvis McGraw; There And Back Again by Pat Murphy; Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve; Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway; Fairest by Gail Carson Levine; Unwind by Neal Shusterman (review in September); Happenstance Found by P.W. Catanese; Hôtel Transylvania by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro; Mister Monday by Garth Nix; Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor (Arty's reviewed it in May); The Prophecy of the Stones by Flavia Bujor and Linda Coverdale (translator); Forest Born by Shannon Hale; Rampant by Diana Peterfeund (review in May); Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens; The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex; Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte; The Host by Stephenie Meyer; The Tick: The Naked City by Ben Edlund.

And that's a (short) review of my book year! Can't wait to discover more in 2011. Happy New Year!


Monday, January 3, 2011

Arty -- Wish by Alexandra Bullen

(Yes, I know I'm late. I've had a fever the past couple days, and Persy hasn't been around to poke and prod me to do it even if I had been on.)

The premise of Wish, as is the case with most chick-lit, is simple. Olivia Larsen and her parents have just moved to San Francisco after the death of Olivia's twin, Violet. Introverted, socially awkward Olivia has no idea how to fit in without flamboyant, people-loving Violet - not to mention her parents' growing animosity towards each other - so naturally she isn't having the best time.
Enter Mariposa of the Mission, a seamstress' shop owned by an odd young woman named Posey. Olivia goes there to get an old dress of Violet's repaired. But the dress that is returned is not the same dress. No, as Olivia finds out, this dress is number one of Olivia's three dresses that has the power to grant wishes.

If it sounds like anything more than uber-lite chick-fluff, then I've taken too long explaining it. Or maybe it's just that I haven't mentioned impossibly handsome, impossibly adorable Soren, Olivia's crush interest. Or Calla, Olivia's popular best friend... who also happens to be dating Soren.

Now does it sound like uber-lite chick-fluff? Good.

Not that Wish wasn't good. It was. It's just not going to win awards any time soon. The style is passable, and I actually liked Olivia... sometimes.

The biggest issue I have with Wish is something I can't really put in a review, because, as much as I hate to admit it, it's objective, and some people aren't as sensitive/selective as I am. There are just some social issues presented that I found a little awkward and in-your-face.

I was also disappointed in how much of a fairytale it turned out to be. Bullen had it all set up (to my imaginative mind) for an original ending - where the heroine actually didn't get the hunky demigod and instead went for someone a little more complex and interesting. Nope. Olivia learns her lesson (if there is a lesson, which I'm not quite sure about), sees everyone nice and happy, and then rides off into the sunset with her BF. It was enough to make anyone cry.

So if you want a deep, meaningful chick-lit book, don't go with Wish. This is more the book you read at the beach when you don't want to think too hard.

Note: I got this for free on my Kindle, so if you have a Kindle and still want to check it out, go to Amazon first.