Friday, December 19, 2014

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making is a middle grade fantasy for all ages by Catherynnne M. Valente.

Twelve-year-old September has gotten rather tired of the sameness of each day – washing the same dishes, sleeping on the same pillow, etc.

That is why she leaps at the chance to go to Fairyland when the Green Wind and his flying leopard extend an invitation.

Adventure at last!

Yet Fairyland is in turmoil – things are not as they once were now that the evil Marquess is ruling after the suspicious disappearance of the beloved Queen Mallow.

With the help of a dragon-like creature who has memorized A-through-L of the encyclopedia and a blue boy who is almost, but not quite, human – September will try to restore Fairyland back to its former glory.

Days after finishing The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making I am still thinking about it!

The prose and plot is astonishingly rich in its cleverness, inventiveness and beauty. I had to extend some effort, initially, to get a grip on this unwaveringly intelligent and charmingly multifaceted tale. Just as in the marvelous Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, you have to absorb not only the amusing wittiness but embrace the oddities, the puzzles and the deeper layer that slowly reveals itself to be incredibly thought-provoking.

Stunning.

With that early effort came an extremely rewarding reading experience. The distance that my reading brain felt at the outset to this elegant story was overcome by an enchantment that forces the reader to slow down and savor.

Valente creates a truly new, magnificent Fairyland that is imaginative, visual and heart wrenching. It’s a perfect book for reading aloud – which I did often – with its complex dialogue and excellent, omniscient narration.

There truly are some new magical presentations – and a genuinely creepy, chilling villain in the hair-color-changing Marquess.

I found The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making to be remarkably moving and effective – and I cannot WAIT to read the next books.

Because – ever so happily – there’s many books to come!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Percy Jackson and the Olympians # 1: The Lightning Thief

The Lightning Thief is the first book in the middlegrade contemporary twist on Greek mythology series Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan.

Considered a troublemaker, twelve-year-old Percy has been thrown out of more schools than he can count – with his dyslexia and penchant for a temper he finds it difficult to fit in. Even at a school for misfits.

Before being kicked out of his latest school, though, he notices some rather odd occurrences. He knows weird things have happened around him before – but having a teacher turn evil, attempt to kill him, dissolve into tiny bits when defeated and then no one remember her being a teacher at his school in the first place is only the latest.

And, admittedly, the strangest.

Before long, Percy realizes that the mythological monsters and gods of Mount Olympus are not just something to be studied in his textbook – but are real and walking around.

Or trying to kill him.

Pulled into this stunning revelation, Percy is brought to a place where others are aware of this alarming truth – and advise him that the gods believe Percy has stolen from them.

Go figure.

So now he needs to find the stolen item – Zeus’s master lightning bolt – before it’s too late.

Wow – what a FUN book!!!

Obviously I’ve heard of The Lightning Thief as it’s a pretty popular series, so I finally read the first one here and I am pretty tickled!

The Lightning Thief is a thoroughly entertaining and satisfying adventure! It has many laugh-out-loud moments due to excellent, clever writing and a witty hero in Percy. It’s also at times quite creepy and suspenseful – but always oh-so-fun!

Percy Jackson and the Olympians first entry introduces a new, fresh way to mash up Greek mythology and modern times – being imaginative, well written and very engaging. Truly a book for ALL AGES, it’s a delight as we become invested in these characters and situations!

As The Lightning Thief continued it seemed to get better and better. I absolutely loved the essence, the setting, the vibe, the characters and plot! Essentially everything about it.

It’s a hilarious book with a surprising edge – and I am very, very, very ready for the rest of the books in the series.

Awesome news is not only are there four more books in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series but there’s a spinoff series that I may jump into as well called the Heroes of Olympus!

Friday, December 12, 2014

What Happened to Goodbye

What Happened to Goodbye is a YA contemporary novel by Sarah Dessen.

When Mclean made the decision to live with her dad after her parents painful, shocking divorce a couple of years ago she knew she was taking on a life of moving.

As someone who is assigned struggling restaurants to get back in tiptop shape or close up, her dad is sent to various different towns – and so is she.

From the first move, Mclean decided it was an opportunity to reinvent herself. Each move, each short stint at a new high school, Mclean introduces herself with a different nickname and quickly picks a persona – cheerleader, drama crowd, etc.

She makes easy, quick exits when a new assignment come up – never saying goodbye or feeling particularly attached to anyone or anything.

With their most recent move, though, it doesn’t go as smoothly. She finds herself struggling to pick a new identity and her real name begins being used before she manages to correct them with a new nickname.

Mclean soon recognizes that it’s been so long since she’s just been herself that she doesn’t even fully remember who she really is anymore.

And her conversations with the brilliant boy next door begin to become a little too honest, making Mclean face – for the first time in a long time – the realization that she might miss him when they leave…

Oh, Sarah Dessen…

I have now read (and own) ten of Sarah’s eleven books and have YET to be disappointed.

Yes, there are some that affected me more deeply than others – but not one of them was a dud, in my opinion.

What Happened to Goodbye continued that trend marvelously!!!

First – BIG SHOCKER! This book does NOT take place during the summertime! To date, all of Sarah’s books have been set in summer when there’s an “anything can happen” vibe. Here we begin in a wintery season – during the school year. Big change, but necessary for the plotline for sure.

What Happened to Goodbye has an instantly intriguing start with a unique situation. Mclean’s family life – as Dessen always so expertly portrays – presents a subtle but searing pain that cuts through the broken mother/daughter relationship. Mclean’s continual reinvention of herself is a compelling, denial-ridden issue that is hurting her more than she knows.

Sarah Dessen again provides excellent characters – in particular Deb is very memorable – and a fantastically realistic plot that is drama in its purest sense.

Swept away by writing that is gorgeous – just gorgeous – and a story that is human, raw, simplistic yet beautiful and heartfelt – I fell in love with What Happened to Goodbye.

Lovely, lovely, lovely.

Highly recommended!!!

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Fire Wish

The Fire Wish is a YA fantasy novel – the first of the Jinni Wars – by Amber Lough.

Princess Zayele of Zab does not wish to leave her little brother or her home but has been selected to be the bride of the prince of Baghdad. As she travels to the palace in a locked caravan, she longs for nothing more than to return home.

And she won’t pass up an opportunity.

Jinni Najwa has just been admitted to a band of spies as her unusual ability to access an area of the human word no other Jinni can is revealed.

When Najwa uses her magic to glimpse the human world for a mere moment, Zayele sees her, captures her and makes a wish.

The wish does not go according to plan.

Zayele and Najwa – already remarkably similar in looks – have traded places. Najwa is now the princess on her way to marry and Zayele is suddenly expected to help with the war against humans by using a talent she does not have.

Now they are both in terrible danger amongst their enemies…

The Fire Wish is covered in flattering quotes from authors I admire and the cover caught my eye.

Well, you can’t judge a book by its cover – or by its fans.

Sadly, The Fire Wish didn’t work for me.

It was kind of Freaky Friday meets Aladdin – but without the fun of either movie, for me.

It was confusing and hard to get a grasp on because – in my opinion – the author failed to develop the narrative world well. I never felt there was a strong sense of environment, time or plot that really centered the novel.

For quite a while it was tough keeping everyone straight, also, as there are so many out-of-the-ordinary names and the characters personalities alone weren’t unique enough to differentiate them.

Lacking any connection to the characters – whom to me felt weak, cliché and one-dimensional – I also struggled to become interested in the plot. Though later on in the book there is an attempt to explain more how the war between humans and Jinni began, it was still very jumbled in my opinion.

Many people seem to love this book – its exotic tone, romance and intrigue. I am happy for them!

On my side of the fence, The Fire Wish did not have any pull, sparkle or impact on me. All the words simply lay flat on the page and never became alive for me – didn’t sweep me away anywhere.

I eventually had to start skimming The Fire Wish.

You know that everyone is different and this could be your favorite book – so don’t take my word for it!

Read The Fire Wish for yourself!!!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Love, Lucy

Love, Lucy is a YA contemporary novel by April Lindner that will be released in January 2015.

In exchange for giving up her dreams of being an actress to become a business major in college, Lucy’s father has funded a backpacking through Europe trip.

Desperate to soak in as much culture and beauty from a trip that traded away her aspirations, Lucy finds herself absolutely besotted with Florence, Italy.

…Not to mention a certain handsome traveling street musician named Jesse Palladino.

Before long, Lucy is swept into a whirlwind summer romance that feels like more – though Lucy steels her heart as much as she can.

After all, she has to return home. She has to go to college and take business courses.

She has to be practical.

But are their feelings more than a vacation fling?

Yet again, I am impressed with Lindner’s ability to create just the right atmosphere.

In Jane and Catherine she had that gothic vibe mixed with a contemporary setting – here we have a fantastic sense of Italy and traveling. Her descriptions are lush without being too much – I could almost imagine I was in Florence!

Lucy is a likable, nice character that is trying to respect her father’s wishes but cannot help but be saddened by the loss of her true interests in acting and singing. There’s realism there, as with the current economy a lot of people have to make that choice.

Here, though, with the addition of some engrossing romance, we get to see practicality meet with some compromise – and a couple of believable people fall for each other in the meantime!

Love, Lucy was a very fast, captivating read – I cared about Lucy and found the story easy to read (a.k.a. gobble up).

Plus, there was a subtle little tie-in to Jane that made me smile!

Really a great, enjoyable novel to look out for in early 2015!

*I received a review copy of Love, Lucy free of charge from NOVL in order to write an honest review.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Parched

Parched is a sci-fi dystopian YA novel by Georgia Clark.

Born and raised a privileged Edenite, sixteen-year-old Tessa Rockwood left everything behind after the sudden, violent death of her scientist mother to escape to the Badlands.

The Badlands are outside the lush borders of Eden – where water is a precious, rare commodity, as is privacy, prosperity or nearly anything that comes easy in Eden. After years of the Trust – those that govern Eden – leading Edenites to believe the Badlands are simply an exotic, humbler place, Tessa now knows the ugly, brutal truth.

So, when she is approached to return to Eden and secretly fight the inequality by joining a rebel group called Kudzu, Tessa does. She attempts to swallow down her gnawing guilt at the secrets only she knows about her mother’s death and tries to slip back into her old life by showing up at her uncle’s home.

It’s tougher than she expected to return, though.

And as it’s revealed that the Trust may be tinkering with artificial intelligence after a prior epic failure, Tessa is faced with torn loyalties…

Parched provides an interesting, quick thrust into a dystopian, sci-fi future filled with creepy robots. Both within and without Eden robots have taken many of the labor jobs that used to employ humanity and there’s an unsettling feeling that - despite the assurance that they could never kill a person – they are dangerous.

Quickly, I felt the edgy, compelling, suspenseful vibe of Parched and appreciated the way the writing and pacing allows us to get to know the characters and gain an understanding of this futuristic world.

Tessa is different than many YA heroines. She’s secretive and haunted in a Jack Bauer type of way. She’s sarcastic and hardened – yet also vulnerable. She might think she’s tougher than she really is.

Parched is a little bit Ocean’s Eleven and a little bit Elysium, from a movie perspective.

There’s a big shocker that impressed me and a lot of dark, psychologically fascinating twists.

Not to mention a ton of action.

All of this plus a little romance makes for a very good read. I enjoyed Parched quite a bit.

The end, for some reason, felt a little anti-climactic to me – not that it was bad, I really don’t know what I was expecting – but I would recommend Parched to any sci-fi, dystopian, action fans!

Friday, November 28, 2014

The Iron Trial

The Iron Trial is the first middle grade fantasy novel in Holly Black and Cassandra Clare’s new Magisterium series.

All of Callum Hunt’s life, his father has been adamant about steering clear of magic – that it’s dangerous, that it’s something to be avoided entirely.

So, though most kids are excited to be going to the Iron Trial – a test for children exhibiting possible magical abilities to be entered into apprenticeship education at the Magisterium – Callum is entering into it with the intention of failing.

Failing on purpose.

Yet the tests end up being more obscure than Callum expected – and though he does poorly, somehow he still manages to be selected to be a student.

Tearing Callum aware from his shouting father, Callum’s mind thunders with all of the warnings and fears his father pounded into his head over the years.

Now he has no choice but to face those forewarnings and try to get thrown out and go home before it’s too late…

I could have given even more information in that synopsis – but I’d say less is often more when you enter a novel. Might as well be surprised as often as possible, huh?!

The Iron Trial has left me with a rather split opinion.

On the one hand, Callum is an interesting character – he’s sarcastic, distrustful and both loyal to his dad while also longing for a place to belong. Having dealt with a disabled leg since birth, he’s built up defenses against the cruelty of others and has come out the other end as he is.

On the other hand, the plot often feels very familiar. Of course one obviously easy comparison is Harry Potter. Now, really The Iron Trial is not all that similar to Harry Potter – besides being a magical boarding school.

In The Iron Trial the magic is elemental and the school is – intentionally – nowhere near as fun as Hogwarts. There’s a sense that the Magisterium is not concerned with the students safety at all, which is rather attention-grabbing.

However, at the same time, there are some scenes in which I felt a marked déjà vu – Callum works primarily with one other boy and girl student. The primary villain is the “Enemy of Death”, someone who has become immortal. Certain scenes at the end - no details here - felt eerily similar to scenes at the end of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

I’m not saying that The Iron Trial is trying to be Harry Potter or that there’s any copying going on – it just left me with an odd impression.

Part of me is interested in continuing with the series – which is being approached as five books – and another part of me is not. How much familiar ground are we going to cover? Why do I have such a strange sense of déjà vu?

Like I said, I’m of a split opinion.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Blue Lily, Lily Blue

Blue Lily, Lily Blue is the third book in The Raven Cycle, a quartet of YA contemporary fantasy, by Maggie Stiefvater.

Being that they are stunning books that are highly serialized, I urge you to read the books in order. You can read my review of The Raven Boys here and The Dream Thieves here.

Being in a family of gifted females – gifted meaning clairvoyants, psychics and other type of weirdness – as well as having her own ability of increasing others’ power by her presence, Blue has always been an outsider.

But then she met her Raven Boys.

Now fully accepted into their exclusive group and part of the quest to find the long lost king Glendower amongst the ley lines, her experience in weirdness is coming in handy.

Things are not rainbows and sunshine, however.

Her mother has disappeared – and Blue doesn’t know whether to be angry or worried.

Dangerous people have tracked down Blue and her Raven Boys – people that are getting too close to following their footsteps to Glendower.

Their quest seems to be becoming an increasing risk to their lives.

Plus there’s the ongoing disturbance of knowing that if she ever kisses her true love, he will die…

Blue Lily, Lily Blue is a bit of a tough book to write a synopsis for. There are far too many things going on, really. It’s hard to describe in a short paragraph. Hopefully all of you reading this are already fans of The Raven Cycle!

As I started Blue Lily, Lily Blue – I was initially confused. I struggled to remember where we left off in The Dream Thieves, since I sadly didn’t have time to re-read it. It didn’t take long for things to come back to me, though.

Blue Lily, Lily Blue and the entire Raven Cycle is, in my opinion, very, very accessible to older readers. These are mature, brainy, sophisticated books with characters that are psychologically fascinating, a setting that is superbly atmospheric and a plot that is uniquely supernatural.

Really I have become a Maggie Stiefvater superfan! Her writing is so elegant, unassuming yet undeniably powerful. She sweeps me away with these novels and creates a story that is mesmerizing, suspenseful, creepy and always, ALWAYS new.

Blue is an awesome heroine – reminding me of some other recent favorites, such as Kami in the Lynburn Legacy by Sarah Rees Brennan and Madeline in The Colors of Madeline by Jaclyn Moriarty. Witty, quirky, compassionate but tough and principled.

Steifvater has created a full cast of three-dimensional, layered characters and an incredibly magical, dark storyline that is truly captivating.

All I can say is that I hope the wait for the final book is not long!!!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Fox Forever

Fox Forever is a YA sci-fi novel – and the third in the Jenna Fox Chronicles – by Mary E. Pearson.

Happily, I was able to take the time to re-read The Adoration of Jenna Fox and The Fox Inheritance before reading Fox Forever. Yet again I was moved and amazed by the originality and characterizations that made both books so stunning.

I recommend reading these books in order to get the whole effect – so refrain from reading this review if you haven’t yet read The Adoration of Jenna Fox and The Fox Inheritance.

Locke Jenkins has left the relative comfort of Jenna’s home to live the life he’s been robbed of for the last 260 years – time that Jenna has lived, despite still looking a young seventeen-years-old.

But he has a Favor to repay – from the time that he and Kara were escaping from the monstrous Dr. Gatsbro and the Network – those who are on the fringes of society as non-civilians in this futuristic, split United States - helped them.

They seem to think Locke would be a great participant in their latest assignment – and possibly their most important. In order to pursue the rescue of a Resistance leader long thought dead, Locke is tasked with infiltrating the home of a government official by befriending his teenage daughter, Raine.

Locke wasn’t trained for espionage, however – and he’s finding it difficult to perform the increasingly challenging “favors” the Network requires of him and deceiving Raine…

Fox Forever was fantastic!

It took me a few pages to get used to the more political intrigue angle of Fox Forever – but it didn’t take long to grasp on to the humanistic, lyrical, character-centered science fiction that I have come to adore from Pearson.

As we delve more into the situation of this high-tech world and what the Network is doing to try and work toward change – it really shows how much imagination the author put into it. I am continually spellbound with the intricacies of the involvement of different types of Bots in everyday life – and the way some are dreamers and some aren’t – as well as many other types of thought-provoking science fiction.

Fox Forever is a deeply moving, creative, intelligent and breathtaking final novel.

It ties up these three superb novels with an elegant, gripping, suspenseful, meaningful finale.

Now more than ever I am ready for more books from Mary E. Pearson!

Monday, November 17, 2014

House of Many Ways

House of Many Ways is a middle grade/YA fantasy novel by Diana Wynne Jones and the sequel, of sorts, to Howl’s Moving Castle and Castle in the Air.

Due to this, I recommend reading the books in order to get the full, fun effect.

When Charmain’s great-uncle, the royal wizard of their land, becomes mysteriously ill and is carried off by elves to be tended to, Charmain is volunteered by her wealthy aunt to look after his house in his absence.

To Charmain this is an opportunity to read nonstop without pesky, bothersome parents about to disturb her – but she soon discovers that time to read at this unique house may be tougher to come by than she expected.

A humble, ordinary dwelling on the outside, Charmain’s great-uncle’s residence is a wonder from the inside – with the ability to bend space and time. There’s also a clingy, stray dog in residence that may or may not be magical and an inconvenient arrival of a clumsy wizard’s apprentice.

To top all of this off, Charmain becomes involved in the king’s search to find clues on how to locate a mysterious Elfgift to save her country, meanwhile avoiding a menacing purple Lubbock with bad intentions.

All in all not the reading paradise she expected it to be…

House of Many Ways has that eccentric, quirky vibe that I love – and despite not having the faintest idea what was going on for a while, I was still thoroughly delighted with the novel. The writing style alone brings a smile to my face!

An interesting aspect to House of Many Ways is that except for being a book lover, Charmain is not the most likable of heroines. She’s selfish, brash, impulsive and insensitive. However, as always, Jones is fantastic at weaving character development and growth into what initially seems to be just fantasy fluff.

There are a few great shout-outs to Castle in the Air, as well as Howl’s Moving Castle. I felt the follow-up with those characters were charming and definitely entertaining.

I can’t say that the plot in House of Many Ways was as clearly concise as the first two books – but as it began to near the end I saw how it all started coming together. Difficult not to appreciate the intricacy!

As with each Diana Wynne Jones novel I have read thus far – I see strong re-read potential here!!!