Friday, November 30, 2012

Fathomless

Fathomless is a YA modern fairytale retelling by Jackson Pearce.

I read Sweetly last year (read my review here) by Jackson Pearce, which was a retelling of Hansel and Gretel - and AWESOME. Though Fathomless is technically a stand-alone title, it has threads of continuity with Sweetly as well as with the author’s first fairytale retelling Sisters Red, which I haven’t gotten the chance to read yet but will be ASAP. Because of this thread of continuity I do recommend starting with Sisters Red, then Sweetly, and then getting to Fathomless.

But here’s some info on Fathomless:

Lo doesn’t remember who she is. Her name is one she’s chosen because she has no memory of her real one, or the life she had as a human. Before she was a nymph, an ocean girl, a mermaid… It’s all a hazy blur. One thing she does know is that she and her sister sea creatures are becoming something not beautiful… something monstrous.

Celia is a triplet. She and her sisters have only ever had each other, but she’s always felt like the outsider of the three. Yet their special abilities bind them together deeply. Anne can see the future, Jane the present, and Celia the past. Frustrated, Celia feels her power lacks the ability of change or purpose. Until she meets Lo, who doesn’t know her past.

It’s when a handsome musician named Jude falls off a pier into the ocean that their paths meet. Celia and Lo work together to rescue him, to save his life. A friendship of sorts develops between the two, but the mysterious danger of what Lo is becoming strains that…

I don’t want to give any more than that, in fact I wish I could have said even less! But I suppose y’all need to have some idea what Fathomless is about!

I have to say, Fathomless has a creepy cool beginning that definitely sets a darker tone than Disney’s The Little Mermaid. It’s hypnotic with a summery feel. The supernatural powers presented here almost poetically convene in this twisted, mesmeric new mermaid tale.

Jackson Pearce’s expertly crafted story made me deeply curious about Lo’s past and what caused all these girls to become “ocean girls”. The parallels to the Disney movie are delightful, perfectly subtle and warped. The differences really kept it unpredictable and fresh!

I was truly fascinated and entranced by Fathomless! Right up to the last shocking, compelling second of the book I was completely captivated. Very refreshing, very memorable!

I can’t help but home Jackson Pearce continues to release these new fairytale retellings because she does them with a punch of power, suspense, and surprise that really makes me a happy bibliophile!

*I received a review copy of Fathomless from Hachette Book Group. Their generosity in no way influenced, nor sought to influence, my opinion of the novel.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Deadly Sister

The Deadly Sister is a YA mystery thriller by Eliot Schrefer.

Her entire life Abby Goodwin has covered for her younger sister Maya. Even after Maya stopped liking her, maybe even hating her. But Abby just couldn’t stop protecting her from broken curfews, failed classes, and the trouble caused by having druggy friends.

When Maya’s latest kinda-boyfriend shows up dead – murdered – Abby doesn’t know how much she can cover for her anymore.

But she’s going to try.

Abby attempts desperately to clear her sister’s name as the police close in on Maya. She figures the best way to prove her innocent is to prove someone else guilty.

Yet it’s harder than she thinks as she learns she can’t trust anyone… not even those she wants to.

The Deadly Sister was fraught with tension immediately. It doesn’t hesitate in jumping into the edgy drama of murder and whodunit questions, which I love.

Sadly, at some point I had accidentally seen a comment on The Deadly Sister that led me to believe I might know a BIG spoiler. Disappointingly, it ended up being true. Oh, I hate spoilers!! So, that knowledge was distracting. I hope you get to read it without ANY hints.

I really liked the way the author instantly had everything under question and had me involved in the story in real-time, like I was there. I was glued. Even with an idea of what was going on (darn it!!) I was entertained and riveted as it played out.

Clues fluttered about, always intriguing, but tainted by my worries of knowing things I shouldn’t. But The Deadly Sister excelled at giving a look at life amidst an out-of-the-ordinary circumstance. It unfolded excellent and intensely with unpredictable twists and turns up to the final page.

Lots of fun, and a nice change of pace!

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Girl in the Clockwork Collar

The Girl in the Clockwork Collar is a YA steampunk alternative-Victorian-era adventure novel, the second in The Steampunk Chronicles, by Kady Cross.

Yes, it’s the second book in a series. You know the drill! If you haven’t read The Girl in the Steel Corset first, then read that review here instead.

ONLY READERS WHO WON’T BE SPOILED KEEP READING…

Alrighty then! Let’s go over a brief synopsis first:

When at the end of The Girl in the Steel Corset sixteen-year-old Finley Jayne and her “straynge band of misfits” watched as their American friend Jasper was hauled off by bounty hunters, they knew they weren’t going to take that lying down!

After all, this is Finley Jayne, the girl with Jekyll/Hyde complex that is working to combine her two natures into one – with shocking strength and happily violent tendencies, all for the greater good of course. There’s Griffin, the powerful and wealthy English duke that found her and his ability to manipulate the Aether. Emily, their Irish lass with an innate connection to machines and a genius unmatched, and Sam – more machine than man after Emily fixed him up after being killed.

So, of course, they have traveled to New York to rescue Jasper! It’s 1897 and there are many danger and threats to fight as they make sure Jasper will be on his way back to London…

That’s really all I’m going to say in the way of plot. If you’ve read and enjoyed The Girl in the Steel Corset that should be enough.

I absolutely adored the escapism fun that was the first book, so I was THRILLED to get The Girl in the Clockwork Collar in my hands. And I’m happy to say I was NOT disappointed.

The alternative Victorian era that Kady Cross creates with automatons being a normal technological advance is awesome. The supernatural abilities? Beyond cool. This is a book that is rife with romantic tension, spunk, adventure, and pure entertainment!!

With our feisty Finley, brilliant Emily, affluent Griffin, haunted half-robot Sam, and imprisoned Jasper – this is like a new Scooby gang! The Girl in the Clockwork Collar is exciting and fun with a fast-paced, dangerous plot that is full of cloak and dagger scenes, fake identities, mystery, murder, and entanglements!

I did miss Griffin’s English manor and being in Britain, and I did keep hoping for more automatons (I find them fascinating) but it was still AWESOME!!!

I absolutely can’t wait for book three, and as I said before I can’t help but hope for a long-reaching series. I’m up for it, how ’bout you?

Friday, November 23, 2012

The Forsaken

The Forsaken is a YA dystopia written by Lisa M. Stasse.

It’s been six years since sixteen-year-old Alenna Shawcross became a ward of the government of the UNA, a new nation formed from what was left of the USA, Mexico and Canada. Six years since she watched her parents get ripped from their home, dragged away by government soldiers. She assumes they’re dead.

Relatively introverted and mostly unnoticed, Alenna has been getting by fine – doing well in school and so on. That’s why she knows, as the day approaches, that she’ll pass the government personality test designed to detect subversive, criminal tendencies that everybody has to undergo at the age of sixteen.

She’s wrong.

When Alenna wakes up on the Wheel, the mysterious island where all kids who fail the test are sent, she’s scared to death. She’s sure there’s been a mistake, as she’s never had a rebellious, violent thought in her life. And the thought that the island is stuffed full of those who do frightens her.

But when Alenna meets others on the island she finds that it’s not what she expected. There are those that are aggressive – a civil war is raging on the island between different tribes of teenagers. However, the group Alenna ends up with is populated with teens that seem just as normal as her, if harried and hungry.

And when Alenna meets Liam, a striking, magnetic warrior in the tribe, she finds herself facing a decision to join him in his plan to escape – and uncover secrets about her past and the real reason the UNA is sending them to the island…

The Forsaken
has a very intriguing premise, so I was happy to invest time in reading it.

My reaction is a bit mixed though…

Alenna starts off very innocent and naïve, which I don’t mind in a character, but I couldn’t help but want her to be more suspicious of the test, of the government. That’s a personal opinion issue, though.

When Alenna meets up with strange little community of teens she starts surviving in the wild amidst many types of threats. There’s a plotline involving her determination to learn to fight and defend herself. It was interesting, and I liked Alenna more the tougher she became, but sometimes it also bordered on hokey…

The dialogue and narrative occasionally came across as convoluted forced, to me. One particular issue I had is that I felt like Alenna was too self-aware. Unbelievably so, actually. And I continually had problems finding an emotional connection to the characters. I was still engrossed in learning more about the dystopic world Stasse was creating, though! Actually, I wouldn’t have minded more info on the world outside the island. We only got a taste of that, really.

Now, once the romantic element came into play, which I saw coming a million miles away, I was not very impressed, sadly. It was another case of insta-love, I felt. Really was lacking in substance and friendship that builds on attraction, which is my preference. Even chemistry wasn’t there for me to at least feel their connection. So, that whole portion of The Forsaken was limp for me.

Alluring mysteries and twists did continue to keep my interest though! The eventual villain was certainly creepy and freaky, and there are some surprises I did not see coming. Action and excitement increased as it built up to a rather bizarre, but definitely attention-grabbing, climax.

Certainly some big reasons to read The Forsaken for yourself!! Plus, it was super easy to read – I chomped it down in little over a day.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Taken by Storm

Taken by Storm is a remarkable YA werewolf novel, and the third in the exceptional Raised by Wolves series, written by the unparalleled Jennifer Lynn Barnes.

Are my word choices making my opinion clear already?

Maybe that’s because I frickin’ LOVED Taken by Storm just as much as Raised by Wolves and Trial by Fire!!! This is, in my humble, psychotically bibliophile opinion, by FAR the best werewolf series out there.

But, listen to me… I’m getting ahead of myself!

My synopsis will be meager, as I don’t want to give away next to anything about the plot – but even so, I encourage you to avoid this review if you haven’t read the first two books. The reviews of those titles are linked to their names above.

Now, for you fellow Raised by Wolves fans, let us continue…

Bryn is unique in many ways. She’s the alpha of the Cedar Ridge werewolf pack. The only alpha that is female. The only alpha that is young. The only alpha that is human.

This uniqueness makes her a target from the other pack alphas. Especially the ones that covet her array of female werewolves, a rarity in their world. But despite the fact that she is weaker than any werewolf and could not survive a battle against one, though she is Resilient, Bryn will die before she lets any of her pack be taken without a fight.

Unable to ignore an official summons from the werewolf Senate, Bryn has to keep her cool as she comes face to face with the alpha that tried to kill her, by proxy, not too long ago. His actions, and what Bryn had to do in response, have left her pack a little broken – and her mind tortured.

The problem is that he shares news with the group of powerful werewolves that there is a rogue werewolf. A female rogue. Bryn knows that there is a purpose for this insinuation. They might not be able to make a direct attack, but the hobble a plan that is essentially an ultimatum.

Bryn refuses to let the little issue of her feeble humanness to play a role. She will protect her pack, her land, and her life…

Happily, the book’s jacket doesn’t give away much more than I did! Yay for Egmont (the book’s publisher)!! Really, if you are a fan of the series already, why do you need to know anything? All I need to know is that it’s part of this series and I am THERE.

Okay, so Taken by Storm is INCREDIBLE!!!

I wished I could re-read the first two books, but really time is a commodity I have very little of anymore and in order to keep up with this blog I just could not. But, man, was I eager to jump in!

Taken by Storm, like the others in the series, in incredibly emotionally charged, full of edgy tension and truly high stakes – even as I struggled to recall everything that happened in the last books.

It’s stunning, twisty, insanely original, heartbreaking, suspenseful, phenomenal, and AMAZING! Taken by Storm is a reading experience, for me. I was left hanging – desperately wanting more. And, my oh my, am I hoping there is more to this series. I don’t know if I’ll ever have enough. But the conclusion was unforgettable and unpredictable, if it is indeed the end.

Taken by Storm is mature, intelligent, insightful, touching, and utterly engrossing with likable, flawed, realistic, excellent characters.

This is THE werewolf series to pay attention to, as far as I’m concerned. Across age differences, popular authors, whatever. Taken by Storm is a testament to how a fantastic author can keep the level of writing to a superb level even up to a third book.

What say you? Do you agree?

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Shadow Queen: A Novel of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor

The Shadow Queen is a novel of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor – a historical fiction by Rebecca Dean.

The name Wallis Simpson sounded faintly familiar to me – but I really had no idea who she was. Once I found out she was a twice-divorced, destitute socialite in the first half of the twentieth century – and that her love affair with Prince Edward caused him to abdicate his throne for her – I was certainly fascinated.

This is a novel of her life, essentially.

Sadly, my interest wasn’t fully satisfied with The Shadow Queen. Wallis’ story felt like it was being told to me, not like it was actually happening. I’m hoping you, my lovely followers, know what I mean by that.

I loved the background and character development we get a chance to see – what with starting the story when Wallis is very, very young – but more often than not I was left wondering if we were ever going to get to the portions of her life as an adult that are hinted at on the back cover. So many pages are spent on what come across as rather uneventful childhood events that it waters down the more momentous moments.

At times I felt like Rebecca Dean already expected me to know how Wallis Simpson’s life turns out – and that this was a prequel of sorts. Well, in my case this was really my first time learning about this woman so it was a little exasperating for me.

It’s a great time period rife with interesting historical significance. I just wasn’t connecting with the characters, whom often felt flat. The third person narration provides the thoughts of too many individuals, haphazardly I felt, which I think may have detracted from the believability of the story.

Once Wallis is hit with disappointments and betrayal, things started to pick up. The tale became increasingly disturbing and melancholy and I began to feel for her – but I was also frustrated with Wallis. And what was pretty upsetting to me is that at the end of the book the author acknowledges some fictional characters, which I know is likely in a historical fiction novel, and they played a vital role in some of the more distressing scenes. Meaning that the parts that made me finally start to care for Wallis were completely false.

Like Queen Hereafter, a historical fiction novel I read earlier in the year, this upset me. I don’t like it when a fictional character is given such a large role. It kind of ruins the entire effect for me. Very disheartening. Also, in the case of The Shadow Queen, the story cuts off too soon, right when what make her famous begins!

Unfortunately, what could have been romantic and absorbing ended up only being lukewarm for me. But maybe you’ll love it! So, do check it out for yourself.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Graveyard Shift

Graveyard Shift is a middlegrade fantasy novel by Chris Westwood.

Twelve-year-old Ben Harvester has always cared about people. That’s why when one of his strolls through London’s Highgate Cemetary, which he finds soothing and his mother calls morose, brings him across an older man that seems to be having some difficulty, he stops to help.

The man is rather odd however. He calls himself Mr. October and tells Ben he’s sorry to hear about his Aunt. Ben doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

Until he gets home and watches as his mom gets the call about her sister’s death. Then he’s fascinated.

Trying to find Mr. October is harder than he thought, though. But once he does, Ben realizes that there is more to London than first meets the eye. Mr. October actually works for a secret organization called the Ministry of Pandemonium – and he wants Ben to be his new recruit.

Among the amazement and awe, Ben also comes face to face with the dark side of his new extracurricular activities – and finds out that there are those that believe he is working for the wrong side.

He may very well be in danger now…

My description is a little on the ambiguous side. The inside jacket cover gives more information, but as regular readers of the Bibliophile Support Group will know, I regularly don’t read them until I’ve finished the book. In my opinion, finding out what the organization is is a huge part of the fun of this paranormal fantasy-adventure. So, I left out the details. Hope you’re still interested!

Graveyard Shift is a gem. It’s so much more than I initially thought!

Ben is an artistic, kind-hearted, helpful boy living alone with his Mom who is a struggling waitress. Immediately he is likable and sweet, without being overly so. As his ordinary, simple life confronts the eccentric whimsy of the complicated supernatural world Mr. October introduces Ben to, things starts to get really fun and interesting.

At first I didn’t think it was the most original tale, but my opinion changed as the pages turned. I was more than willing to follow charming young Ben as he’s introduced to an entirely separate plane of existence doing what he loves most: helping others.

What really caused a metamorphosis in my estimation of Graveyard Shift was twofold: first off there is an incredibly morbid sense of dark humor that gives the novel a charismatic flavor, and secondly I was rather surprised to find that Graveyard Shift provided genuinely dramatic, emotional moments that gave it a touching core.

So, actually, Graveyard Shift is a unique read. In fact, with its comedy flare and classic feeling sensitivity, I would say that this novel is extremely readable by ALL ages! It’s memorable, special, and truly age-defying. I was won over by Graveyard Shift, and I think you might be too…

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Queen's Lady

The Queen’s Lady is a YA-targeted Elizabethan romantic drama, and the second in The Lacey Chronicles, by Eve Edwards.

This is essentially a stand-alone romance, but to have the full background of the characters and not be spoiled about what happens in the first book I would personally recommend reading The Other Countess first. But it’s not as vital as a regular series. You can read my review of The Other Countess here.

Lady Jane Rievaulx escaped the cruel clutches of her father when a kindly, wealthy older gentleman married her – with only friendship in mind – but now his death has left her vulnerable once more. As much as her deceased husband tried to secure her independence, his greedy sons are determined to take back her portion of the fortune.

Trying to put her trust in her late husband’s will and rise above it all, Jane begins service to the Queen at the Richmond Palace and is stunned, pleasantly, to find Master James Lacey there. He may not know the full reason Jane broke off her engagement to his brother, but there is a mutual attraction and camaraderie that cannot be denied.

Yet he does try to deny it. They’ve both changed since they last met. James is set against anything regarding love when his very core is shaken from the things he has seen. He has plans to sail to the Americas and cleanse his soul of what unsettles him – and he cannot possibly ask Jane to wait for him.

Jane’s father, in the meantime, has figured out a way to control his beautiful daughter for his advantage once more. And despite all attempts to avoid it, Jane finds herself caught in his web of lies and deceit – and forced to face a future that leaves her sick.

Will Master James return from his journey in time to Lady Jane before it’s too late?

The descriptions of romances always come across to me as slight, and this one is no exception. But when a romance is done well it can be a very engaging diversion. And to be clear, when I discuss a “romance” it doesn’t refer to the more, ahem, graphic choices out there… I prefer either YA, like here with The Queen’s Lady, or Christian fiction.

With The Queen’s Lady I found an enticing, well-rounded Elizabethan saga with plenty of family and passionate drama. I actually liked it more than The Other Countess, where I had difficulty warming up to the hero.

One thing I thought was funny was the cameo by Dr. John Dee. His character plays such a forefront role in The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel books that it was almost startling to see his name mentioned in its historical context!

The Queen’s Lady has a true romantic suspense to it as court politics and haunting memories threaten to keep James and Jane apart. It was really quite entertaining with an excellent historical setting. Fast to read and fun, I found The Queen’s Lady to not necessarily be substantial or weighty – but fun is vital to our reading, I believe!

There is a third book in The Lacey Chronicles coming out next year called The Rogue’s Princess. I’ll definitely read it.

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Necromancer

The Necromancer is the fourth book in the YA fantasy adventure series The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel by Michael Scott.

I know that I am quite behind in jumping into this series, so I wouldn’t be surprised if most of you have already read this series. But if you’re like me and are late to the boat, I strongly recommend you read the first three books in the series – The Alchemyst, The Magician, and The Sorceress - before reading this review. You can click on each title to read the corresponding review.

Don’t you roll your eyes at me! I know it gets old – but you KNOW you don’t want to spoil the fun of reading it that first time, not having any idea of what will happen! So, resist temptation! Only read the following review of The Necromancer if, and only if, you’ve read the first three books!

Okay? Okay. Here goes…

The Necromancer, like all the other books in the series so far, picks up almost immediately after the last one ended. We find fifteen-year-old twins Sophie and Josh back in San Francisco, getting a chance to visit their aunt and try to smooth over the fact that they have been absent for days without sufficient explanation.

Not real easy to explain that they suddenly realized their bosses were immortal and they are now part of a long battle for a Codex that could end the world. Let alone that they are apparently the key to everything – being the twins of legend.

While they try to get a bit of rest, Nicholas and Perry are coming to terms with the fact that they may not retrieve the Codex in time to survive the aging process much longer. They’ve decided they must deal with the mass of dangerous creatures of mythology that are housed on Alcatraz and waiting to be released on unsuspecting society.

In the meantime, Joan and Scatty appear to be stuck in a different time period altogether. Will they be able to return to help?

But when their nemesis’ Dr. Dee and Machiavelli come back into the picture, as well as some new faces, nothing goes according to plan…

Hmm. Well, if you’ve been keeping up with my reviews on this series you know that I have had very mixed feelings about The Secrets of Nicholas Flamel. I love the concept. The execution? Not so much. At least not all the time.

The Necromancer
is fast-paced, packed full of riveting history, action, and fantasy adventure – but it’s also kinda all over the place. It can feel disorganized, and sometimes some of the various plotlines can feel pointless… I hate to say that. And I know that there are a TON of fans of this series, so definitely don’t take my word for it!

Sadly, I just still don’t feel a connection to all the characters. I started to in The Magician, but then that was squashed in The Sorceress when they seemed, to me, to revert back to lifeless drones going along with the motions of a convoluted plot.

One of my biggest issues at this point is that the villains really do appear inept. They never succeed at their goal, which makes me wonder how they haven’t been defeated for this long. Our heroes, also, can come across as not too bright when they keep thinking they’ve killed the enemy – only to find out, yet again, that they are still alive and kicking.

So, despite all the reworking of legend and myths (which I love), I still feel disappointed in the series as rushes through great potential to advance a light and nearly non-existent plot. Much of the story seems recycled over and over again – such as Josh’s distrust in the Flamels’. It can be interesting, but also annoying when it continues through four books!

By the last quarter of The Necromancer it finally started to gain some actual momentum with tension and plot when the characters finally had something to DO! It did get better as it went on. But as was the case in a couple of the other books in the series, it often feels like too-little, too-late.

I’ll still read The Warlock and The Enchantress because I’ve gotten this far, but my expectations continue to be low.

Again, you love the series? Don’t listen to me! I’m glad you’re enjoying it!! This is just how one bibliophile feels, i.e. me.

Friday, November 9, 2012

The Unfailing Light

The Unfailing Light is a YA historical fantasy and the second book in the Katerina Trilogy by Robin Bridges.

As is the case in any synopsis of a second book in a trilogy, this summary will contain possible spoilers to book one The Gathering Storm. I strongly suggest you avoid this review if you haven’t read The Gathering Storm yet (instead read my review of the first book here).

You have read The Gathering Storm? Well, then by all means read on about The Unfailing Light!

In St. Petersburg, Russia, 1889, Katerina Alexandrovna, Duchess of Oldenburg, finds she can no longer wish to be what she is not: normal. There are now those in both the Dark and Light courts that know her for her ability and Katerina cannot escape that, especially since she saved the life of the tsar.

But she’s not alone. Katerina has found that many in the royal circle possess supernatural abilities – though hers still tends to be one of the most feared. How can she really blame them? From experience, she knows that her dark gift is much more of a curse – only seeming to hurt those around her, including George Alexandrovich, the tsar’s son and the one she loves.

Wanting to somehow put all the revelations behind her, Katerina is determined to get away from Russia and pursue her true dream of being a physician. But just as she’s almost to her destination she is yanked back. Konstantin the Deathless seems to be stirring up trouble again. So, Katerina is put back in her old finishing school, surrounded by a protective spell meant to keep her from harm.

Instead, though, the spell seems to awaken a ghost.

Katerina may be trapped inside the school with a threat more menacing than those trying to enter…

The Unfailing Light seemed a bit of a insubstantial, disconnected middle novel in a trilogy.

Unfortunately I was unable to reread The Gathering Storm, which did put me in a position of disadvantage when it came to trying to remember everything that happened previously in the plot. I kept hoping for a refresher in The Unfailing Light, which did eventually come in fits and bursts.

I liked The Gathering Storm. There were particular elements involving Katerina’s necromancy abilities and the setting of cold Russia that intrigued me, but I hadn’t been head over heels about the novel. Sadly, The Unfailing Light wasn’t very memorable for me.

It was hard to jump back in. And sometimes the descriptions and mystical occurrences felt awkward and forced when in play. Yet there is opulence to the story and an intrigue that continually kept my interested.

The romantic element of The Unfailing Light is sparse but likable. I loved the fact that the book provides an alternate history – a fantasy in a rich, potential-filled setting – but sadly never really felt that it met those strong possibilities.

I really do like the series in many ways, yet I never reach the level of investment that need and want as I’m reading it. Katerina’s supernatural world lacks depth, detail, and history, I think. That makes it feel more lightweight than the comparable (and very beloved by me) Gemma Doyle series by Libba Bray.

There’s still a third book, though! I’ll read it to see where it all goes. But for a trilogy I don’t feel strong underlying plot linking the novels together. We shall see!

You may very well disagree with me – make sure to read The Unfailing Light for yourself, especially if you were a fan of The Gathering Storm!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Guy Langman: Crime Scene Procrastinator

Guy Langman: Crime Scene Procrastinator is a YA mystery/humor contemporary fiction novel by Josh Berk.

Guy has always been great at doing nothing. And since his dad died, he’s gotten even better at it.

After all, as long as he has his sparkling wit and those one-line zingers (even if barely anyone seems to appreciate them), what else does he need?

But his best friend Anoop is determined to get Guy doing something. So, he gets Guy to join the Forensics Club with coaxing concerning hot girls being there. Especially one particularly hot girl: Raquel.

It works.

Yet neither on them figured that the awesome crime solving talents they begin to cultivate are going to have practical usage.

Until, that is, when a real crime scene shows up in what was supposed to be a staged one to gauge their forensics skills.

In fact, Guy’s life begins to bear resemblance to a daytime soap opera when secrets about his dad’s life become revealed and a break-in leaves him wondering what else he doesn’t know about his unusual dad.

Sadly, Guy is seriously beginning to doubt Anoop’s assertion that the club will help them get girls.

Guy Langman: Crime Scene Procrastinator is a funny, fast-paced book with a believable guy – for better or worse – as our central character.

Though a bit of pleasing mystery crops up, as mentioned earlier, Guy Langman is far more about the entertainment – which it does well! It’s truly hilarious at times with many stand-out characters. This makes it all the more great when the novel takes a more moving turn at times and reminds you that in the end this is a guy that is deeply mourning his father.

Now, Guy Langman: Crime Scene Procrastinator is a lot more guy-oriented (especially in the comedy) than I usually read. Definitely a book that those of the male persuasion would relate to. But girls that enjoy lighthearted laughs and a core of sweetness (don’t tell the guys!) will really like it, I feel.

In the end, Guy Langman: Crime Scene Procrastinator was a good book. Did it blow my socks off? No. Yet I was smiling most all of the time – nothing to scoff at!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Always a Witch

Always a Witch is a YA magical urban fantasy, the sequel to Once a Witch, by Carolyn MacCullough.

If you haven’t read Once a Witch, a stellar book, I strongly recommend that you do so before possibly spoiling some big plot points by reading the synopsis of Always a Witch!

Final warning… You can always read my review of Once a Witch here instead...

Tamsin Greene is struggling with the new knowledge that she is indeed Talented. After spending her whole life feeling ordinary among a family of generations of Talented individuals, she had forced herself to accept her fate and embrace her “normal” life – that is, when she’s away from her family, where she had felt painfully out of place.

But now, since the conclusion of Once a Witch, Tamsin is facing not only her new abilities but also the uneasiness of those in her family that don’t particularly care for her Talent. Guess she’s doomed to be an outcast.

Plus, the knowledge that her grandmother’s prophecy says she’ll soon be forced to make a crucial, terrible decision that will affect her family forever haunts her. Can’t she just study for school?

Then, when Alistair Knight, her new enemy, figures out a way to travel back to the Victorian-age to destroy her family in the past and destroy their future – Tamsin figures it’s her responsibility to fix things. Unwilling to risk the life of her boyfriend or family, she goes alone without them knowing.

But now she’s stranded, pretending (ridiculously) to be a lady’s maid in the household of the evil Knight family – the Greene family’s lifelong antagonist. She’s under the cruel, watchful eye of the legendary matron La Spider. Tamsin only has limited time to stop Alistair Knight from altering the past in a horrific way…

And finding a way back home.

At first I was really worried about not having reread Once a Witch before reading Always a Witch. I’ll admit it was difficult recalling all the characters and various plot lines, without that refresher. If you’re able to reread first, I’d always recommend it. Sadly, I don’t have the luxury of time.

Quickly, though, the eccentric, one-of-a-kind Greene family makes its mark and reminds me of the awesomeness that is Carolyn MacCullough’s world. Then when the high stakes danger that Always a Witch provides causes Tamsin to time travel to 1887, I found the novel to be deliciously both hilarious and suspenseful. There was a relatable fear of chamber pots!

Always a Witch has an urban, down to earth relativity to it throughout and a brisk, fun pace that kept me constantly entertained, involved, and nervous. It’s truly a book that keeps you on the edge of your seat with thrills, shocking twists, and charmingly unobtrusive romance.

Here, I feel, we have an excellent end to a great duet of novels, and an overall excellent story!

Friday, November 2, 2012

A Flight of Fancy

A Flight of Fancy is a Regency era historical romance, the second in the series Daughters of Bainbridge House, by Christian fiction author Laurie Alice Eakes.

Though I would recommend reading the first Daughters of Bainbridge House, A Necessary Deception (read my review here), first for continuity and background – this is one of the rather rare instances that very little is going to be spoiled by reading them out of order. So, the choice is yours on reading my review and summary of A Flight of Fancy before having read A Necessary Deception.

Cassandra Bainbridge does not consider herself a great beauty – certainly nothing like her sisters, especially when she is wearing her spectacles. She’s actually rather odd in comparison to other ladies. She has no strong interest in balls, but would much rather spend time reading and pursuing her scientific passion. And figuring out how to create the best balloon for flight!

Yet whenever she is near her betrothed, Geoffrey Giles Earl of Whittaker, her harebrained ideas (which he isn’t too fond of, possibly his only flaw) are replaced by an ardent passion and attraction to him. An attraction that is met equally by the Earl, causing them both to be anxious for their wedding.

However, when a shockingly sudden accident occurs just days before their wedding, Cassandra ends their engagement while recovering from her terrible injuries. It breaks her heart, but she knows it’s the best thing to do.

Geoffrey doesn’t seem to agree, though, and when Cassandra is healing herself physically and mentally by chasing her ballooning dreams and imagining herself an intrepid aeronaut, he slips back into her life.

But Cassandra knows deep down that she can never be his wife – the extent of her wounds remind her of that every day…

A Flight of Fancy provides an interesting personality for Cassandra. It’s refreshing to have a scholarly, scientific-minded lady as our protagonist. I’ll admit that the considerable events early on in the novel, which alter everything, were much unexpected!

I absolutely adore the Regency period – particularly because of my love of all things Jane Austen – but in the case of A Necessary Deception and A Flight of Fancy there is a nice period feel, yet without that specific language that sweeps me to the time, I have a hard time really sinking into the story. That was my only problem here with A Flight of Fancy.

Nevertheless, there is solid romantic element in A Flight of Fancy and a cool, English intrigue plot that makes for a stimulating mystery. These things helped to make the novel stronger as it went on. So, despite my earlier feelings of slight tedium, I began to feel that A Flight of Fancy was better than I initially thought.

And now I really want to read it again! Because by the end, which sadly felt a bit rushed but still, A Flight of Fancy ended up being a very good read that I think a pair of fresh eyes would really enjoy! Hopefully someday in the future I’ll have those less-tired eyes and get a chance to re-read A Flight of Fancy and enjoy it more thoroughly from start to finish.

This also means I’m more than willing to follow the series to the next book, whenever it comes out!

Side note: As a Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan, I couldn’t help but get a moment of delight when we hear a mention of a “Rupert Giles” later on in A Flight of Fancy!

*Available October 2012 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

*I received a copy of A Flight of Fancy from the Baker Publishing Group. Their generosity in no way influenced, nor sought to influence, my opinion of the novel.

*To read more reviews from the Bibliophile Support Group or comment on them, simply click on my Amazon profile and find a link there. I'd love you to check out my blog, where I post new reviews every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Into the Storm

Into the Storm is the second novel in the children’s historical fiction two-parter Beyond the Western Sea by AVI.

If you read my review of Escape From Home on Wednesday (otherwise known as Halloween), you’ll know that I was definitely impressed and spellbound by the tale of three children desperate to get out of Liverpool and onto a ship to America. You also know that if you have the misfortune of not having read Escape From Home yet, the synopsis of Into the Storm will contain spoilers.

I would strongly suggest avoiding it. If you want to see what I thought, you could scroll to the bottom and read the last few paragraphs, which simply hold opinion. Just watching out for you, bibliophile!

After an arduous ordeal in Liverpool, Maura, Patrick and the kindly actor Mr. Drabble have boarded the Robert Peel to America. Laurence, worn and nearly unrecognizable now as a lord’s son, is hidden below decks as a stowaway – his life at the mercy of Patrick’s ability to go below and release him from the container he’s concealed in.

The secret the O’Connell’s and Mr. Drabble know – of there being a stowaway on board – is one that put’s all their safety at risk. Yet the level of danger to Laurence is unknown to them as of yet – since they’re not aware that Mr. Clemspool boarded the ship with Mr. Grout.

This is only a new beginning, not the end of their passage to America. They may be on the ship, but they need to survive a month or more aboard in a situation that is cramped and ripe with fatal illness.

All three children cannot help but wonder if they will survive the voyage – and if they do, will they find what they’re looking for in America?

AVI has really, really captivated me with these two books! Into the Storm takes place immediately after Escape From Home, and though longer in length it zipped by in suspense from the first page to the last!

The Robert Peel, their deliverance from Liverpool, has miserable, cramped quarters and a continued tension in regards to the ship’s hard stance on stowaways, worrisome strangers, and the desperate hopes of its passengers.

Into the Storm spotlights prejudice, disappointments, tragedy, and loss in a way that yet again proves that despite featuring children as characters – this is a book that should be read by all ages! With the hardships these characters face, their bravery and perseverance make them all the more admirable.

Both of the novels in the Beyond the Western Sea duo made me think of the rich history of the past, the adversities unique to a prior era and those that resonate and identify with this generation still.

What I found with Into the Storm is an epic, unforgettable tale. AVI has penned a touching, moving novel that I actually felt privileged to read! I am much more likely to pick up more books from AVI now.

If you are a fan of historical fiction – the two Beyond the Western Sea novels are a MUST!!!