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Showing posts from April, 2012

Code Name Verity

Sometimes a book's praises are sung so loudly before it reaches my hands I wonder if it will have any impact on me at all. How could it possibly when my expectations for it are so high? Code Name Verityby Elizabeth Wein was such a book. I don't care how many reviews and bloggers say how amazing, how beautiful, how shattering it is. It is near impossible for it to not meet your expectations. I dare you to read it and not be gobsmacked by its brilliance.

You'll shoot me at the end no  matter what I do, because that's what you do to enemy agents. It's what we do to enemy agents. After I write the confession, if you don't shoot me and I ever make it home, I'll be tried and shot as a collaborator anyway. But I look at all the dark and twisted roads ahead and this is the easy one the obvious one. What's in my future-a tin  of kerosene poured down my throat and a match held to my lips? Scalpel and acid, like the Resistance boy who won't talk? My living skel…

Magic Below Stairs

Magic Below Stairs by Caroline Stervermer is another one of those delightful books that exists in an alternate version of Regency history where there is magic, wizards and the like.

Synoposis (from Goodreads):
Young Frederick is plucked from an orphanage to be a footboy for a wizard named Lord Schofield in Victorian England. Is his uncanny ability to tie perfect knots and render boots spotless a sign of his own magical talent, or the work of Billy Bly, the brownie who has been secretly watching over him since he was little? No matter, for the wizard has banished all magical creatures from his holdings. But Billy Bly isn't going anywhere, and when he discovers a curse upon the manor house, it's up to Frederick and Billy Bly to keep the lord?s new baby safe and rid the Schofield family of the curse forever.

Frederick is a very likable character and the world he inhabits is interesting. Just enough details are given of day to day life without being overly descriptive. It …

Newes From the Dead

Newes From the Dead by Mary Hooper is a fictionalized account of an actual historical event. The nature of said event is so extremely interesting I couldn't help but want to read the book. In 1650 Oxford a young girl named Anne Green was hanged for infanticide (protesting her innocence). Her body was placed in a coffin and given to the University for dissection. Hours later while they were preparing to cut her up they realized she WASN'T DEAD. So they revived her instead.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Anne can't move a muscle, can't open her eyes, can't scream. She lies immobile in the darkness, unsure if she'd dead, terrified she's buried alive, haunted by her final memory—of being hanged. A maidservant falsely accused of infanticide in 1650 England and sent to the scaffold, Anne Green is trapped with her racing thoughts, her burning need to revisit the events—and the man—that led her to the gallows. Meanwhile, a shy 18-year-old medical student attends …

The False Prince

The False Princeby Jennifer Nielsen is one of those books that had me from page one and didn't let me go until the end, with the exception of the couple times I had to get up and walk around the room to let off some pent up energy caused by my intense involvement in the story.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
In a discontent kingdom, civil war is brewing. To unify the divided people, Conner, a nobleman of the court, devises a cunning plan to find an impersonator of the king's long-lost son and install him as a puppet prince. Four orphans are recruited to compete for the role, including a defiant boy named Sage. Sage knows that Conner's motives are more than questionable, yet his life balances on a sword's point -- he must be chosen to play the prince or he will certainly be killed. But Sage's rivals have their own agendas as well.
As Sage moves from a rundown orphanage to Conner's sumptuous palace, layer upon layer of treachery and deceit unfold, until final…

Diana Wynne Jones Tribute

This month marks one year since the death of the amazingly wonderful children's fantasy writer Diana Wynne Jones. There has been a site set up to Celebrate Diana Wynne Jones which contains quotes, pictures, comments, and links to various posts on her works. There has also been a blog tour going on for those in publishing and bloggers to share their feelings on her and her work. My favorites have been the posts on the Greenwillow blog, particularly the one Megan Whalen Turner wrote. You can also post to #DWJ2012 on Twitter. My love for DWJ can not be contained in 140 characters and so I wrote a whole post.  If you are at this point wondering, "Who is Diana Wynne Jones?", well you should definitely go find out. She was writing wonderfully magical British fantasy books decades before Harry Potter was even a germ of an idea. I am truly sad that I did not discover her work as a child. (I LIVED IN ENGLAND. How did that happen???) I have made up for it in recent years, but stil…

Shadows on the Moon

One could label Shadows on the Moon by Zoe Marriott as a Cinderella story. There is an evil step-parent, there is a ball, there is a prince, there is a benevolent helper (two actually), there is kitchen work, and there are even cinders. It is not your run of the mill Cinderella story though. Cinderella is not too terribly concerned in attending the ball to capture a prince. Well, she wants his attention but only so she can use it to vengefully wreak destruction on her enemies. It is complex and dark tale.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
"On my fourteenth birthday when the sakura was in full bloom, the men came to kill us. We saw them come, Aimi and me. We were excited, because we did not know how to be frightened. We had never seen soldiers before." Suzume is a shadow-weaver. She can create mantles of darkness and light, walk unseen in the middle of the day, change her face. She can be anyone she wants to be. Except herself. 
Suzume died officially the day the Prince's me…

Wonder

It is pretty near impossible to have anything at all to do with children's literature and not know about all the buzz surrounding Wonder by R.J. Palacio. There was a big part of me that was only reading it because I felt like I had to. Not always the best attitude to go into a book with, but this is a book that can't be tainted by one's bad attitude, partly because it is so well done, and partly because it is impossible to be negative and cynical while reading Auggie's story.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
I won't describe what I look like. Whatever you're thinking, it's probably worse.
August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school—until now. He's about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, and if you've ever been the new kid then you know how hard that can be. The thing is Auggie's just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new classmates that he's…

Renegade Magic

Stephanie Burgis has combined two of my favorite things with her Kat books. Magic and Regency England. I loved Kat Incorrigible (my review). Bit thoroughly enjoyed it as well. I was going to wait and review Renegade Magic with her too, but we are currently in the middle of a different trilogy so it will be a while before I can read it to her. I didn't want to wait that long. There is always some nervousness when reading a sequel to a book you really enjoyed. There is a chance it won't be as good. Renegade Magic does not suffer that fate. It is even better than its predecessor.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Kat Stephenson is back to cause more chaos! Stepmama drags the family to Bath to find Kat's sister a new suitor. But, unknown to most of its gossipy visitors, Bath is full of wild magic. When Kat uncovers a plot to harness this magic in the Roman Baths, she finds her brother Charles is unwittingly involved. Kat must risk her newfound magical powers as she defies the Or…

The Wicked and the Just

We don't get nearly enough new historical fiction taking place in Britain during the middle ages. Why is that? Why does so much new historical fiction cover the 20th century? I get rather tired of it. Which is why I pounced on a chance to read The Wicked and the Just by J. Anderson Coates. (Plus look at the cover. I like that cover.)

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Cecily’s father has ruined her life. He’s moving them to occupied Wales, where the king needs good strong Englishmen to keep down the vicious Welshmen. At least Cecily will finally be the lady of the house.
Gwenhwyfar knows all about that house. Once she dreamed of being the lady there herself, until the English destroyed the lives of everyone she knows. Now she must wait hand and foot on this bratty English girl.
While Cecily struggles to find her place amongst the snobby English landowners, Gwenhwyfar struggles just to survive. And outside the city walls, tensions are rising ever higher—until finally they must reach …

Listening For Lions

I first heard of Listening For Lions by Gloria Whelan from Kate at Book Aunt. It's been a while but I finally got around to it in the massive TBR. This is a quiet sort of book that tells an interesting story. It is not my typical sort of book but I know several people who would really love it.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Thirteen-year-old Rachel Sheridan is left an orphan after influenza takes the lives of her missionary parents in British East Africa in 1919. National Book Award-winning author Whelan crafts a wickedly delicious story of treachery and triumph, in which one young woman must claim her true identity in order to forge her own future and transform herself from victim to heroine.

I really enjoyed the first two thirds of the book and was fully engaged. Whelan did a beautiful job describing Africa. I really felt as though I could see the places, the land, the animals, the people. Rachel is in an interesting position as the daughter of English missionaries yet doesn'…

The Name of the Star

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson is not the type of book I normally read. I don't usually go in for ghost stories. This one is also a British boarding school story though. And a murder mystery involving murders that follow the exact same pattern as the 1888 Jack the Ripper murders. I do go in for British boarding school stories and murder mysteries. This combination had an irresistible pull on me despite the potential I knew it had to be a disastrous mix. It is not disastrous though, and this book was exactly what I needed to entertain me in the midst of a weekend of sick children.

Synopsis (from author's website):
The day Louisiana teenager Rory Deveaux arrives in London marks a memorable occasion. For Rory, it’s the start of a new life at a London boarding school. But for many, this will be remembered as the day a series of brutal murders broke out across the city, gruesome crimes mimicking the horrific Jack the Ripper events of more than a century ago. Soon “Ripp…

The One and Only Ivan

I don't enjoy animal books. Occasionally a book will come along that causes me to eat these words (The Tale of Despereaux, The Cheshire Cheese Cat). Usually animal books simply remind me of all the reasons I don't enjoy animal books. The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate doesn't quite fall into the category of the former, but it is far removed from the latter.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Ivan is an easygoing gorilla. Living at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, he has grown accustomed to humans watching him through the glass walls of his domain. He rarely misses his life in the jungle. In fact, he hardly ever thinks about it at all.
Instead, Ivan thinks about TV shows he’s seen and about his friends Stella, an elderly elephant, and Bob, a stray dog. But mostly Ivan thinks about art and how to capture the taste of a mango or the sound of leaves with color and a well-placed line.
Then he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from her family, and she makes …

And The Winner Is...

"They’re all first-rate, but for its humour, its poignancy, for its serious heart and lightness of touch, above all for the continual joy it gave me, my choice for this year’s winning book is Gary D. Schmidt’s Okay For Now."

Long Live the Zombie!

You should really read Jonathan's Stroud's entire decision.  He did a beautiful job analyzing the strengths of all three books.



The Ashbury Books

These four books were a delightful treat and reading them all back to back was so much fun.Feeling Sorry for Celia, The Year of Secret Assignments, The Murder of Bindy Mackenzie, and The Ghosts of Ashbury High make up a quartet of books by Australian author Jaclyn Moriarty that cover four years of school at Ashbury High with some characters from the neighboring Brookfield High playing important roles as well.

Feeling Sorry for Celia
This is an epistolary book consisting of letters from Year 9 student Elizabeth Clarry of Ashbury High to her pen pal at  Brookfield High. There is an English teacher who believes this project will teach students the Joy of the Envelope and diminish the distrust and bad feelings between the two schools, one private and one public. There are also notes Elizabeth exchanges with her mother included to round out the story. Elizabeth is a great character to follow as she is an average girl, but has a distinct enough personality to make her more that a projection o…