Monday, August 30, 2010

Blast from the Past


Blast from the Past is Meg Cabot's sixth Allie Finkle's Rules for Girls book, her middlegrade series.

Every time there is a school field trip, something happens so that Allie can't go. So when she finds out her fourth grade class will be having one, she's determined to be there! Sure, the destination isn't as exciting as the truly incomparable Children's Museum she missed in the past - but Honeypot Prairie and their historic one room school house is better than no field trip at all! But Allie's eagerness quickly disintegrates when she finds out that her class won't be going alone, but will be sharing the trip with Allie's old Walnut Knolls fourth grade class - which includes her ex-best friend Mary Kay.

I know that a lot of teens and older readers don't usually have a strong desire to read middlegrade books - especially when the main character is only in fourth grade - but I have to urge any fan of comedic books, or Meg Cabot in general, to rethink that decision. Because Allie Finkle is one awesome, charming, clever, and hilarious character to read about. And I'm going to be 23 years old in October.

Blast from the Past, along with all the Allie Finkle novels (all of which I've read but Best Friends and Drama Queens, but I can assume that I'd enjoy that one too) is clearly and obviously great for little girls - but, as I said, it's totally readable for us older set too. It's thoroughly entertaining and funny - and almost spookily reminiscent of my own memories of fourth grade. Except for the cell phones, that is.

While being unflinchingly lighthearted, Blast from the Past portrays a spot-on accuracy of the age and voice of Allie's character - and epitomizes the thrill of a field trip.

It's a truly delightful, amusing, diverting, fast-paced, quick read - and includes some excellent lessons that don't come across as preachy or condescending.

And as someone who loves to imagine the older, teenage Allie - it's fun to pick up on clues about a potential future, and I mean future, romantic interest for this one-of-a-kind girl.

So, if you want a positive, humorous read - buy a copy of Blast from the Past for your little sister and borrow it. Or, you know what? Buy or borrow a copy for yourself, regardless.

And for those of you who don't know, and like winning FREE books: Don't forget to check out my contest here, where you can win a paranormal book by Lakisha Spletzer (Werelove: Dusk Conspiracy), an e-book version, or a t-shirt!!! Plus, everyone who enters gets a discount code for her book! So check it out and enter before September 10th!

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Shadowmask


The Shadowmask is the second novel in the Stone of Tymora trilogy, authored by R. A. and Geno Salvatore.

Inevitably, this review will give away plot details of The Stowaway, the first book in the trilogy. So, if you haven't read The Stowaway please don't spoil it for yourself by reading this review. My review of The Stowaway is right below this one - read that instead. You only get to read a book for the first time once. Don't ruin it by reading any further! ;)

Okay - here goes: Maimun is suddenly without the very thing that seemed to be causing all his problems and heartaches - the stone. Yet, it feels so horribly wrong to be without it. He can't help but be determined to retrieve what is, apparently, rightfully his. But first, Maimun has to get away from Asbeel, who has tracked him down yet again and isn't any more happy about the stone's theft than Maimun is.

I'm not going to give away any more than that. I can't, without ruining big bits of the cliffhanger! Not to mention, if you read The Stowaway I don't think you need to know what happens in The Shadowmask to want to read it!

The Shadowmask starts right where the first book left off - and I found myself quite worried about Maimun - not to mention wishing and hoping for certain deceased characters to not be deceased. Caring this much is always a good sign. :)

The Shadowmask is different from The Stowaway in that in the first book Maimun was running away from something, and now Maimun is running toward something. More so even than the first book, The Shadowmask is a titillating tale of survival, mourning, and courage. Also unlike the first book, this second novel finds Maimun alone quite a bit of the time - and it works very well as he easily carries the story and finds more growth and maturity because of it.

I will admit that there seem to be quite a few false alarms and story obstacles that seem there for no other reason than to prolong the plot - however, I want to make it clear that most of them feel organic and understandable as Maimun has every reason to be paranoid - and every journey needs its share of detours to really appreciate the destination.

As I was reading, and relishing, The Shadowmask, I found myself thinking how awesome a movie version would be of the trilogy. Of course, there would need to be the right aligning of all the different factors, but the special effects alone would be worth seeing on screen!

The way in which Maimun is telling his story to the pirate is still, happily, in place. I love this portion of the overall plot and continue to be intrigued over how this situation will eventually present itself.

Throughout The Shadowmask I was constantly surprised by the newly introduced creatures, such as halflings, and how they are represented and seem to have their own thorough history. There are many unexpected twists and shockers that occur - and I still have that "I feel like this place is real" sense that I'd gotten from The Stowaway.

Yet again, the last page left me super excited and highly anticipating the conclusion of the Stone of Tymora trilogy: The Sentinels. It's coming out in September of this year! I'm looking forward to it - are you?

Friday, August 20, 2010

Werelove = YA Paranormal Contest!!!

Now that my CSN contest is coming to a close (you still have until 11:59PM PST to enter today), I am here to offer you another chance to WIN something awesome! :)

Author Lakisha Spletzer (to find out more about her and her books go here: www.kishazworld.com) has so kindly offered me a chance to have a giveaway on this blog for all you bibliophiles!

There will be THREE winners!!! And there are THREE different prizes that will be awarded. What are they?

1. A print copy of Lakisha's YA paranormal/sci-fi book Werelove: Dusk Conspiracy
2. An e-book version of Werelove: Dusk Conspiracy
3. A T-shirt with a Werelove logo and quote, which you can see here



As someone who has just finished reading Werelove: Dusk Conspiracy I can assure you that you will never be bored and that it is a fun, fast-paced read! (For more on the book read my review in the next few weeks when it posts, or click here to look at it on the Amazon.com page.)

And that's not all! (I totally sound like a game show host, don't I? Lol.)

EVERY person who enters the contest will receive a discount code for Werelove: Dusk Conspiracy to buy their own copy if they don't win!!!! Is Lakisha generous, or what?!

So what do you have to do, you ask?

Simply comment on this post between now and September 10th 11:59PM PST with your email and where you spread the word about this contest - either on your own blog, Facebook, Twitter, a forum somewhere, etc. Now, as someone who has a very outdated browser and knows how it is to not be able to get much done on the internet - if you have a legitmate reason why you can't spread the word, let me know and I will still let ya enter. ALSO, let me know in your comment if you have the ability to read an e-book. I will only draw people for that prize if they have the capability to enjoy it! :)

Okay - start entering!!!

P.S. If you entered the CSN contest, I will randomly pick a winner on or about Monday, August 23rd and notify the winner - so keep an eye out in your email inbox!

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Stowaway


The Stowaway is the first young adult/middlegrade book in the fantasy trilogy Stone of Tymora, written by the best-selling father and son team R. A. and Geno Salvatore.

In it, we meet a 12 year old boy that has been tracked by the demon Asbeel his whole life - and he doesn't even know why. And when circumstances leave him fending for himself, he ends up a stowaway on the Sea Sprite, a ship holding, among its varied passengers, the unusual elf Drizzt Do'Urden. As he tries desperately to get as far away from Asbeel, sailing down the coast of the Sea of Swords proves itself dangerous as well. But foremost on his mind is the mystery of why he is orphaned and alone - and incessantly hunted.

At first The Stowaway looks to be a heavy duty fantasy fiction novel - filled with so many different creatures and places your brain feels fuzzy trying to keep it all straight. But if, as I quickly learned, you allow yourself to really sink your teeth into it, The Stowaway sweeps you away into a whole other world. A world packed full of adventure, in the truest, most epic sense of the word.

Though the first few lines make it easy to empathize with the main character, it took some patience to get a real sense of him because of the direct jump into action. But before long, the interesting non-chronological way the story is told gives the reader (that is, me) a chance to take a breather and look into this boy's past - and, man, what a difference that makes! Once I got that background insight and came to really care for him as a character, every sword-wielding fight sequence held more suspense and excitement! Not that there was never a action scene that could've, perhaps, been a bit shorter - but with the great quality of writing involved I had no actual complaint.

I began to really enjoy the immersion of elves, trolls, demons, wizards, and pirates - not to mention the mysteries and questions that linger unanswered, yet seem to assure future explanations. Plus the unique storytelling method intrigued me and made me all the more curious about the future books in the trilogy!

By the final pages of The Stowaway, the Sword Coast felt real, completely and fully realized - a place you could go to, if only you knew how.

This is a very good, epic-like journey with awesome character depth - easily recommendable to those of you bibliophiles that love fantasy - and even those of you who don't necessarily go for this "type" of book. Believe me, it's worth a shot!

And if you are an eagle-eyed reader and noticed that I never mentioned the main character's name... that's because the way it was revealed in The Stowaway was meaningful to the overall plot, at least to me (which could mean it'd be no big deal to you, since I'm super spoiler-sensitive). So, I would suggest you don't read the jacket. I know, I know... broken record, right? Well, a bibliophile looks out for her own! ;)

One final note: the cliffhanger end made me very relieved I had the second book, The Shadowmask, ready to rip open right away!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Tyger Tyger


Tyger Tyger, written by Kersten Hamilton, is the first book in the brand new (not coming out until November) YA trilogy called Goblin Wars.

Whoo-boy. I'm giving all you book addicts out there fair warning - you are going to be feeling a lot of book love in this review. And I mean, a LOT. Those of you "occasional" readers might not be aware of how intense book love can be. Well - here's an example.

I loooooooooooooved Tyger Tyger - and officially want it to be as a big of a hit as Twilight!!! I feel it appeals to the same readership, plus extras who enjoy the more mythology-based sort of fantasy/paranormal YA fiction - which is where Tyger Tyger would fit in. It deserves heaps of sales and tons of notice - because it is AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!

Okay, you'd like to know what the book is about? Fine, fine. I'll stop gushing for a second and give you a little synopsis.

Main character Teagan has a great job and a bright future. She's ignored boys to the best of her ability, since she has her focus on a scholarship and doesn't want any distractions. Of course, there are other distractions. Like, her best friend Abby, who swears to be psychic, telling Teagan that her life is in danger - because she dreamed about it. And not just in danger from the regular stuff - but more like from supernatural creatures of myth and legend, like the ones Teagan's mom draws for her children's books. And she actually seems genuinely worried. Then there is the insanely good-looking guy, Finn, that suddenly appears in her life and starts to mess with her "no guys" policy.

Thing is, he doesn't seem much more sane than Abby. Because after some odd things begin occuring, he isn't that surprised about it. In fact, he seems to fully believe that goblins are after them and that his ancestry gives him the namesake of The Mac Cumhaill - the legendary figure that hunts goblin-kind.

But as more strange, horrible incidents happen - Teagan wonders if maybe she needs to start listening.

Tyger Tyger starts off in a fantastic way - letting us get to know Teagan before anything else happens. She is immediately likable, especially since she is an animal lover like me. The novel has some hilarious lines, mostly delivered from Teagan's awesome best friend Abby (I love her!). There seems to be no effort in causing me to care about Teagan and her friends and family. They are all written so naturally, believably, and lovingly - with vibrant, individualistic personalities.

Before I had even finished the second chapter of Tyger Tyger, I was already fully wrapped up in these lively characters and even the quietest beginning hints of supernatural mystery beneath the surface. Kersten Hamilton's writing is easily involving, suspenseful and haunting. Her radiant, beautiful prose enhances the narrative flow of Tyger Tyger and caught me up in the unexpectedly sad turns, the sometimes laugh-out-loud funny dialogue, and the truly creepy, nightmarish beings that begin to appear.

Every plot twist resonated powerfully and was enchantingly mellifluous. Before you can even guess what is going to happen next, the scary, frightening, painful stuff starts building quickly. It is both heartwrenching and impossible to put down. Honestly. There were times when I stayed up reading far too long in bed, only to regret it because I was freaked out enough to not love the idea of trying to sleep. It was that good.

As Tyger Tyger progresses it get better and better, despite that seeming almost improbable. The plot gets deeper and darker as it goes on, having the richness and chilling quality of the original fairy-tales, myths and legends - being both explosive and profound. The fantasy world that Kersten Hamilton creates is elegant and vicious, poetic and cruel. I felt like I was there with Teagan, Finn, and her adorable little brother Aiden.

Every line of dialogue in the book is down to earth and mature - yet still young and current. Through Kersten's extraordinary writing, the descriptions of the goblins are graphically, visually clear to the reader and totally spine-tinglingly freaky. Yes, perhaps "spine-tinglingly" isn't a word. But ya know how I start making up words when I am experiencing book love.

So to summarize: Tyger Tyger is sparklingly refreshing, phenomenally suspenseful, heartwrenchingly believable, nightmarishly creepy, subtly romantic, unexpectedly twisty, lyrically magical, gloriously exciting, sublimely scary - and one of the best books I've read in 2010!!!

You need to seriously mark your calenders for November and make sure to grab up a copy of Tyger Tyger as soon as you see it - because this is a book that needs major notice - and I'm hoping you'll help spread the word.

Now, may I please have my copy of Book 2 now?!?!?!?

I told ya - you totally overdosed on my book love, didn't you? Don't blame me - you were forwarned. ;)

Friday, August 6, 2010

CSNStores.com $50 Giveaway!

So, when CSNStores.com graciously offered me a chance to do a contest on the Bibliophile Support Group I could not help but accept... because one of you will win a $50 promotional code for ANY product on ANY of their numerous sites, including but not limited to: www.csnstores.com, www.allmodern.com, www.cookware.com, www.csnbookcases.com, www.toysandgamesonline.com, and www.diningroomsdirect.com. You could use it toward a le creuset cookware item, Christmas gifts for family and friends, or the ever so necessary bibliophile need: a bookcase!!!!!

In order to be in the running for this awesome giveaway, just comment below from today, August 6th, until two weeks from now, August 20th 11:59PM PST, with your email AND browse one or more of the aforementioned websites and answer this question in your entry comment: What do you think you'd use the $50 towards?

You don't have to buy whatever you say in your comment if you're the winner, of course. I'm just curious! :)

And if you don't win, I'll be having another contest starting August 20th, so no worries!!!

Again - entry period is from today, August 6th to August 20th, 11:59PM PST.

May the best bibliophile win!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Monster Slayers


Monster Slayers, written by Lukas Ritter, is a companion novel to A Practical Guide to Monsters.

My synopsis of this YA fantasy-adventure novel will be less telling as the back cover summary. The reason? Because I didn't read it before I read Monster Slayers and got some surprises that I wasn't expecting, some of which I feel were given away (or hinted at) on the back. So my suggestion is for you not to read the back cover either and instead just start devouring this thrilling, diverting read!

Here goes: Evin longs to be a hero of myth and legend - to battle monsters and seek different lands. He's shared this dream with his brother and best friend Jorick - yet remains stuck in his small village. But right when he decides that he is going to leave and seek out the chance to be daring and courageous, the opportunity meets him first. Tragedy strikes Evin's village and all the residents of his town are snatched away right before his eyes by terrifying monsters. Now, he and Jorick must figure out how to rescue their family members and neighbors - and be the heroes Evin's always wanted to be.

So, that's all I'm gonna say about the premise. ;)

I was already pretty interested in reading Monster Slayers because of how awesome Nocturne ended up being. Now that I have read two books in this series of companion novels (to the Practical Guides published by Wizards of the Coast), I can honestly say that though they have the Dungeons & Dragons label, you don't have to have ever played the role-playing game or know anything about it. I sure never have, and I have now thoroughly enjoyed both of these books!

Within the first few pages I was already connecting with Evin and soaking up the fantasy world, which is filled with magical walls, swords, daggers, monsters, swamp witches, elves, and wizards. There is something truly fun and entertaining about letting yourself be swept up in the advanture and escapism of fantasy like Monster Slayers.

Quickly, suspicions and mysteries are introduced to add to the already excellent, rip-roaring rescue mission plot. Monster Slayers is packed full of frightening fight sequences that are easy to read and almost impossible not to be involved in - especially since Evin is so likable and relatable.

I found Monster Slayers to be a recommendable, fast-paced, quick read - the quest seeming unachievable - which makes it all the more suspenseful. The monsters aren't cheesy - at least not in my opinion. They call to mind mythology and legends - and they are actually pretty darn freaky.

The biggest thing that all you bibliophiles need to know is that there is a HUGE "Whaaaa?" moment that occurs in an awesomely unexpected way that both changes and enhances everything that has happened in the novel so far. It is a big, intelligent, shocking, insanely cool twist that you really just can't miss, and which I can't say much more about.

And then later on - even when you think you've gotten a pretty good handle on what is going on - Monster Slayers throws yet ANOTHER revelation at you - making my appreciation of what started out as a straightforward, fun rescue mission novel into much more.

I thought Monster Slayers was great and is a must-read for all you fantasy lovers.

It made me all the more intrigued in what Wizards of the Coast has in store for the next Practical Guide companion novel.

I think you will be too!