Saturday, September 29, 2012

Banned Books Week 2012

Tomorrow, September 30, marks the beginning of the 30th Banned Book Week. This week was started to bring attention to the thousands of books that are challenged every year in libraries across the country. I have never understood why people feel the need to do this. If you don't like a book, don't read it. If you don't want your children to read something, don't allow them. Why anyone feels they have the right to make those choices for other people and families boggles my mind.
So here we are, another year and there is another list. This is the most recent year they have numbers for. The Top 10 for 2011. (Note that these are challenged books, not necessarily actually banned books.You can find more lists here.) Look at the reasons for the challenges.
  1. ttyl; ttfn; l8r, g8r (series), by Lauren Myracle
    Reasons: offensive language; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group
  2. The Color of Earth (series), by Kim Dong Hwa
    Reasons: nudity; sex education; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group
  3. The Hunger Games trilogy, by Suzanne Collins
    Reasons: anti-ethnic; anti-family; insensitivity; offensive language; occult/satanic; violence
  4. My Mom's Having A Baby! A Kid's Month-by-Month Guide to Pregnancy, by Dori Hillestad Butler
    Reasons: nudity; sex education; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group
  5. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
    Reasons: offensive language; racism; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group
  6. Alice (series), by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
    Reasons: nudity; offensive language; religious viewpoint
  7. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
    Reasons: insensitivity; nudity; racism; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit
  8. What My Mother Doesn't Know, by Sonya Sones
    Reasons: nudity; offensive language; sexually explicit
  9. Gossip Girl (series), by Cecily Von Ziegesar
    Reasons: drugs; offensive language; sexually explicit
  10. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
    Reasons: offensive language; racism
Did you read the reasons? Do they make you want to beat your head against something? That's what they make me want to do. Things like "religious viewpoint". Why? Because it disagrees with yours? That "sexually explicit" reason gets tossed around an awful lot too. Last year it was one of the reasons The Hunger Games was challenged (which caused me to wonder if I had missed something or read a different version of the book than these people were). Pretty much all the reasons listed for The Hunger Games cause me to wonder why my version was clearly so different.

And every year that To Kill a Mockingbird is on this list it makes me want to weep.

Is there a favorite book of yours that is frequently challenged?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Assassin's Curse

Pirates, Assasins, and Magic. Oh my. I think my interest in The Assassin's Curse by Cassandra Rose Clark is evident.  It didn't disappoint. It was just as fun as a book about a Pirate Princess reluctantly attached to a Magical Assassin could possibly be.

Ananna is not happy about the future her parents have prepared for her. She is to be married off to another pirate  house in a business deal. When she flees from her wedding her spurned would be in laws send an assassin after her. Ananna then, in an instinctive move, saves the life of the hired assassin and activates a curse. Now he must protect her or die himself. Extremely reluctant companions, Ananna and Naji must travel the desert and high seas, finally arriving at a dangerous and otherworldly island to try and find a cure for their predicament. With, of course, all the requisite adventures and romantic tension along the way.

The story is plot heavy with a lot of action scenes, peril, and blood. Lots of blood. It is a fast paced read and engaging from start to finish. The story has a true sense of place even though Clark did not bog her story down with details regarding the world building. It is there and it is vast. She doesn't explain it. She uses small details to form the world in the reader's minds and it is obvious that there is more behind what is actually being seen. Everything known about the Empire, the Confederation, the Assassins, the Mist people just left me wanting more.  She is good at creating atmosphere too. I felt the sweltering heat of the desert and the glacial cold of the island.

Ananna is awesome. I loved this girl. She is the first person narrator of the story and she sounds like a girl raised on a ship by pirates. In every way. She uses slang and curses like...a sailor. Her grammar is deplorable. She is not unintelligent but her speech and thoughts reflect her education level. She learned the math required to navigate a ship quickly and used it well. She is a tough girl who knows how to fight. She can wield Naji's sword as well as he can. She is completely ordinary looking and has a great distrust of beautiful people. I enjoyed her immensely. Naji is harder to figure out, because the story is told from Ananna's viewpoint and the reader has exactly as much information about him as she does at any given time. He is not forthcoming with more. The result is that I found myself responding to him exactly as Ananna was. Which means I have a serious crush on him now. Their relationship is fraught with tension. He is used to working alone. She is annoyed he doesn't tell her things. He clearly has major issues with things in his past. So does she. They're equally protective of each other by necessity. They need each other to stay alive. Both are equally eager to rid themselves of the curse. Yet a real friendship does develop between them and I loved this. The are wary allies at first. They become friends. Ananna does develop feelings for him, but are the unrequited?

There are other interesting secondary characters too that fill out the story in places.

The book is YA, but is one that I think would find an audience with adults who don't typically read YA as well.

I should warn you that the end resolves absolutely nothing. It's not a cliffhanger, just unresolved. There is going to be a sequel, which I will most definitely be reading, expected out next year. It will be called The Pirate's Wish. The author has another unrelated book out in the spring called The Mad Scientist's Daughter, which sound intriguing. A little creepy, but intriguing.

I read a copy of the book given me by the publisher via NetGalley. It's US release date is October 2. The UK release date is October 4.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There

Last year I was delighted by The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her Own Making (my thoughts) by Catherynne Valente and have been eagerly anticipating the sequel, The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There. The sequel is different, but marvelous in its own way.

If you have not read the first Fairyland book you need to in order to completely understand this one. You will be confused in many places otherwise. In the second part of her story September must come to terms with the consequences of some of her choices during her first journey. Her decision to sever herself from her shadow was not a bad one at the time, but it had far reaching consequences that are pretty bad. And it is in this that the book is quite different from its predecessor. In the first book September was on a quest as a hero to topple an evil queen. Every child's Fairyland fantasy. Now she is a year older and wiser and faces an entirely different challenge. She still has a quest, but can't trust her companions this time around. And how do you go about defeating a foe when it isn't some far removed evil Marquess, but a part of yourself? Yes this is deep stuff indeed. And everything for September is different. She must rely mostly on herself and is often at a loss experiencing this shadow version of the place she loves and the people she loves. The author sympathizes with this but is remorseless in making the young heroine suffer through it:
Oh, September! It is soon for you to lose your friends to good work and strange loves and high ambitions. The sadness of that is too grown-up for you. Like whiskey and voting, it is a dangerous and heady business, as heavy as years. If I could keep your little tribe together forever, I would. I do so want to be generous. But some stories sprout bright vines that tendril off beyond our sight, carrying the folk we love best with them, and if I knew how to accept that with grace, I would share the secret. Perhaps this will help, if we whisper it to our September, as she watches her friend dwindle in the gloomy lilac breeze, borne away on a track of quicksilver tear: "So much light, sweet girl, begins in the dark."

As you can see Valente's signature beautiful prose are still present and she grew her story and world wonderfully. This is a bittersweet tale full of different creatures and new emotions for September. Tied into it are her feelings for her parents and the war that has taken her father so far away. It is a story of a girl coming to face her fears and hopes for the future, one foot in childhood and one on its way to adulthood.

As with its predecessor this is not going to find a home in the hands of just any child reader. But it's a special book and deserves a special reader.

I read a copy made available via NetGalley. The book will be released on October 2, 2012.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Favorite Stand Alone Fantasy Novels

For my last My Favorite Things Post I talked about my Favorite Fantasy Series so this time around I'm going to do stand alone fantasy novels. These are novels that aren't part of a series. They may have a companion novel or novels, but can be read as a stand alone.

So here they are:

This incredibly lazy post brought to you by me being on vacation.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Secret Letters

Secret Letters by Leah Scheier was a book I couldn't refuse. It involves Sherlock Holmes after all, and I am a big fan of Sherlock Holmes. I did enjoy the mystery element of the story even though I had some issues with the book overall.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Inquisitive and observant, Dora dreams of escaping her aristocratic country life to solve mysteries alongside Sherlock Holmes. So when she learns that the legendary detective might be her biological father, Dora jumps on the opportunity to travel to London and enlist his help in solving the mystery of her cousin's ransomed love letters. But Dora arrives in London to devastating news: Sherlock Holmes is dead. Her dreams dashed, Dora is left to rely on her wits--and the assistance of an attractive yet enigmatic young detective--to save her cousin's reputation and help rescue a kidnapped heiress along the way.

The mystery part of the story was a lot of fun. There is more than one Secret Letter floating around in the plot. So many that one of the characters (the "attractive yet enigmatic young detective") makes a joke about it in his own letter to Dora: I would burn this letter if I were you. There are far too many questionable letters floating about in this case, and I don't want to add mine to the pile. Which brings to my favorite part of the book. Peter. I want a book series that is all about Peter. There is really no need for Dora (I'll get to that in a minute). Peter is funny. Peter is brilliant. Peter has a tragic past that has marked him, but doesn't make him. He is  making himself. He is all kinds of interesting and when he was in a scene it was great. 

The mystery is a good one. It is certainly not on the level of some of the Holmes canon, but it is fun and there are several twists and turns along the way to keep the reader engaged and guessing. Though I don't think the whole connection to Dora's cousin's blackmailing was explained as well as it could have been.

My major issue with the book lies with Dora. She is an anachronism, a 21st century girl dropped in a Victorian setting. And it shows. She is a lady of class and wealth who has been brought up in a gentle household, corseted, finished, taught the ways of society. She of course thinks it's all nonsense. I'm sure there are girls who did, but an awful lot of them seem to pop up in historical fiction. More than I think there were actually. And the extent of it here is not so believable. When it is proposed that Dora should go undercover in a house as a scullery maid she doesn't hesitate. She manages to hoodwink her chaperone into thinking she is somewhere else and hoodwink everyone into thinking that she is indeed a scullery maid. This is more than just donning a costume. It is also more than just doing chores she would never have dreamed existed. It is an entire way of life she would have had no prior exposure to. Yet it doesn't require much effort for her to fit in. Then she barely bats an eye when she discovers a fellow maid is pregnant and not married. Then she barely bats an eye again when said maid confesses she is going to have an abortion. THIS IS THE VICTORIAN ERA. I realize that this is a thing of mine being the history nerd that I am. Others might not be so bothered by it, but I'm just too tired of reading YA historical fiction where the main character thinks in such a modern context. It bothered me enough here I wanted Dora completely gone from the story and more Peter. Lots more Peter.

If you are not a hyper sensitive history nerd like me and love mystery, Sherlock Holmes, and Victorian settings this is a fun and engaging story. If you are a hyper sensitive history nerd like me you may enjoy it too. Just be forewarned. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Icarus Project

I came across The Icarus Project by Laura Quimby on NetGalley and was instantly intrigued. It sounded like exactly the sort of book I would enjoy. And enjoy it I did.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
More than anything, Maya wants to discover something incredible. Her parents are scientists: Her mother spends most of her time in tropical rainforests, uncovering ancient artifacts, and her dad is obsessed with digging up mammoths. When her father gets invited by an eccentric billionaire to lead a team investigating a mammoth’s remains in the Arctic, Maya begs to come along. Upon her arrival at the isolated camp, the mammoth is quickly revealed to be a fake, but there is something hidden in the ice—something unbelievable. Along with a team of international experts, each with his or her own agenda and theory about the mystery in the ice, Maya learns more about this discovery, which will change her life forever.

Maya is a great main character. She knows she wants to study science but is unsure of the field she wants to go into. Should she follow in her mother's footsteps? Her father's? Pave her own road? Going on an expedition to the Arctic to dig up a mammoth has never been high on her list of things to do, but when the opportunity comes along she grabs at it. I loved the way Quimby described the Arctic. She did an excellent job of conveying just how cold Maya was and the strange remoteness of such a place. At the station Maya is joined by a boy her age who is there with his anthropologist mother. Kyle is fun and adventurous. He and Maya have an instant rapport and become good friends. There is definitely your typical studious girl/adventurous boy dynamic here, but for the most part is done well. Maya is also quite adventurous in her own right. 

The first half of the book is the story of a typical scientific expedition, but is in no way dry. I loved the descriptiveness of the prose, the mysterious people introduced, and Maya's spirit. Then the plot takes a turn and becomes more of a sci-fi/fantasy. Now normally that would excite me greatly, but I actually ended up liking the second half a little less. It felt a little rushed. The discovery of the fantastic, the quick bonding of Maya and Kyle to it, the way it is resolved had to happen very fast. So much time was spent getting to that point that it felt like an awful lot to squeeze into a short space. But I LOVED the getting there so I don't know what I would do about that.  This may have been just a me problem and  I would certainly recommend it to any young fan of sci-fi or exploring.

I will warning you that nothing is explained in the end. I know this bothers some people. I liked the end and all the different ways you might imagine the explanation to go. I very much liked the way this wasn't so much about having the mystery explained as how it affected Maya.

I read a copy made available via NetGalley by the publisher. The Icarus Project will be available on October 1, 2012. 

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Bit Guestpost: The Black Cauldron

Bit has been a regular contributor of the blog since she was six and declared she wanted to write reviews of the books I read to her. Now for the first time she is being featured with a review she wrote on her own for a book she read on her own. The reading and writing part were required for school. She asked if I could put it on the blog too, so here it is:

The Black Cauldron
Reviewed by Bit (age 8)

When I read The Black Cauldron by Lloyd Alexander I sometimes had to fight back tears or laughter. When I thought about Taran and the sacrifices he made for his friends i smiled and cried at the same time.

My favorite character was Eilonwy. I like Eilonwy because she is a lot like me. She likes cooking and cleaning and also likes adventures. Taran is my second favorite character. I think he kind and sacrificial. The search party Taran and Eilonwy are in is made up of good people. I think the bad person is very scary because he is making dead people alive again.

The book took place in another time and they are in Prydain, a fictional world that I love. The plot is very interesting. The plot of the story is one of my favorites. The cauldron makes dead people into zombie warriors. Taran and his friends need to destroy it with sacrifice. I think it's a twisty sad story with a happy ending.

I think the moral of the story is don't give up no matter what happens which is very good for everyone to learn. It was a very good book. Lloyd Alexander is now on my favorite author's list!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Three Times Lucky

Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage is a novel I wasn't super excited about reading. I admit it. And I was wrong about assuming I would hate it. I didn't. In fact, I found it to be delightful and charming and completely worthwhile.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
 Rising sixth grader Miss Moses LoBeau lives in the small town of Tupelo Landing, NC, where everyone's business is fair game and no secret is sacred. She washed ashore in a hurricane eleven years ago, and she's been making waves ever since. Although Mo hopes someday to find her "upstream mother," she's found a home with the Colonel--a café owner with a forgotten past of his own--and Miss Lana, the fabulous café hostess. She will protect those she loves with every bit of her strong will and tough attitude. So when a lawman comes to town asking about a murder, Mo and her best friend, Dale Earnhardt Johnson III, set out to uncover the truth in hopes of saving the only family Mo has ever known.

So why didn't I want to read it?

1. I understood it to be yet another  MG novel about a girl who has been orphaned/abandoned/has-parent-separation-issues-of-some-kind and the community that embraces her. And yes, it is. And yes, I'm thoroughly sick of these. HOWEVER, Turnage made it work in a way most authors don't (for me-I know there are people who eat these novels up like chocolate-I'm not one of them). This one is different. It may be Mo's voice which is endearing, sarcastic, and vulnerable all at once. It may be how real both her and Dale seemed from start to finish. It may have been the end, which blessedly went the way I was hoping it would. It may be the humor. Mostly I think what made the difference is that it is not one of those introspective-let's-hold-hands-and-sing type of stories. There are murders, kids playing detectives exactly as kids would, race car crashes, hurricanes, dangerous villains, and a mystery. The book is an action packed funny adventure. I could hand this book to a kid and feel assured they would have fun while reading it. 

2. The words "quirky" and "southern" were being used a great deal in conjunction with each other while discussing this book. I, living in the south, have about had it with this too. We are not all that  quirky here. I have spent the majority of my adult life living in North Carolina, where the book takes place. And yes, the  book has plenty of quirky. There are a whole host of quirky characters, and how they all managed to find the same town to reside in together is an interesting thing to ponder. People, don't walk away from this thinking all small southern towns are flowing with this level of quirky, because they're not.  HOWEVER, Turnage made it work. Mostly because the entire book is outlandish. It reads almost like a Tall Tale, so the quirky people work and they fit the story. Mo is a storyteller and this is her telling the story at her best. The contrast of the character from Winston-Salem  helped too. 

If you are looking for a contemporary story of friendship and family and would like those alongside a fun murder mystery-this book is for you. If , like me,  you have avoided this thinking it is more of the same old thing-I urge you to reconsider.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Giveaway Winners

Congratulations to Samantha (winner of Drowned Vault) and Linda (winner of both books)! I have ordered them, but they haven't shipped yet. I will let you both know when they do.

Thanks to all who participated and I hope you are able to get copies of these wonderful books soon!

I'm deleting the original giveaway post as it contains so many people's email addresses. Just to be safe. :)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

House of Shadows

I read Rachel Neumeier's The Floating Islands (my review) and really enjoyed it, so when I saw people begin to talk about her latest book House of Shadows I knew I wanted to read it. I bought it rather than wait to see if my library would ever get it, and boy am I glad I did. I was able to read this wonderful story that much sooner.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Orphaned, two sisters are left to find their own fortunes.
Sweet and proper, Karah's future seems secure at a glamorous Flower House. She could be pampered for the rest of her life... if she agrees to play their game.
Nemienne, neither sweet nor proper, has fewer choices. Left with no alternative, she accepts a mysterious mage's offer of an apprenticeship. Agreeing means a home and survival, but can Nemienne trust the mage?
With the arrival of a foreign bard into the quiet city, dangerous secrets are unearthed, and both sisters find themselves at the center of a plot that threatens not only to upset their newly found lives, but also to destroy their kingdom.

Did you read the synopsis? No? Doesn't matter. This book is about a lot more than that and, in fact, does not focus nearly as much on Karah and Nemienne as it would lead you to believe. True the story starts with them and they are used to introduce us to the world, but there's a lot more going on. And two other characters of far more import. (Or maybe they just seemed that way to me.)  Taudde and Leilis. Don't get me wrong. Nemienne and Karah are both important to the story, but Taudde and Leilis were what kept me reading and wanting more. I loved both of them so much. Taudde is a conflicted foreigner torn between his honor and a need for vengeance. Leilis is a bitter ensorcelled young woman who has given up on her dreams, but uses her wits to her best advantage with the life she has been left. I could have read a book all about these two and been quite happy. But that would have been a typical book, and Rachel Neumeier's books are anything but typical and so she made this one more. The shifting viewpoints and all the angles shown of every story give a richer fuller picture of what is going on. At the same time, Neumeier manages to surprise the reader from time to time. It's marvelous. The world these characters live in is rich in beauty and detail. I would love to read more about these characters and their countries.

Also there are mages, sorcery, politics, and a dragon. So you know, it's all awesome. If you are someone who breaks out in a cold sweat at the thought of reading High Fantasy, if all the strange long names and places distract you, if you don't like kingdom intrigue and political plotting, then this book isn't for you. If however, like me, you will read anything so described and are over the moon excited when it delivers everything you could want and more, then read this book. 

House of Shadows is being marketed as adult but has a definite cross-over appeal for a YA audience which is why I chose to review it here. Nemienne and Karah are both in their teens, and the other characters are in their 20's.

Friday, September 7, 2012


One of my favorite times of the year is here, when the folks at the SLJ blog Heavy Medal gear up and to discuss the potential Newbery candidates of the year. It is a great good fun and I love that I am challenged to read (and often end up loving) books outside of my own personal genre and reading preferences, particularly in the areas of non-fiction and poetry. Plus it's just nice to have a larger group of people to discuss kid's books with.

The first post went up on Tuesday and I'm eager to see which book will be discussed first.

This has been a good year for reading and there are oh so many books I would love to discuss. Here are the ones I'm most excited about that I'm pretty sure will be discussed in some form:
I really hope we discuss that last one anyways. I have a feeling most people will want to dismiss it as too old. Still.

Books I would love to see discussed that I feel are less likely to be:

Then there are all the books I still have yet to read, What Came From the Stars and Twelve  Kinds of Ice among them.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Drowned Vault

When I am asked who my favorite authors are,  N.D. Wilson's name comes out in the same breath as Megan Whalen Turner and C.S. Lewis. I will buy and read anything he writes. Last year The Dragon's Tooth (my review) made my favorite reads of 2011. It's sequel, The Drowned Vault, is even better. Edge-of-your-seat sometimes, jumping-out-of-it sometimes, cringing-in-it sometimes, bouncing-in-it sometimes, good.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
It's been almost a year since Cyrus and Antigone Smith earned their places as Journeymen at Ashtown, home of an ancient order of explorers that has long guarded the world's secrets and treasures. While their studies go well, Cy and Tigs are not well liked since losing the Dragon's Tooth to the nefarious Dr. Phoenix. The Tooth is the only object in the world capable of killing the long-lived transmortals, and Phoenix has been tracking them down one-by-one, and murdering them. The surviving transmortals, led by legendary warrior Gilgamesh of Uruk, descend on Ashtown in force, demanding justice. Cy and Tigs find themselves on the run in a desperate search to locate Phoenix and regain the Tooth. In the process, they uncover an evil even more dangerous than Phoenix, one that has been waiting for centuries to emerge.

In The Drowned Vault Wilson takes the interestingly intricate world he built in The Dragon's Tooth and kicks it into high gear. Or even higher gear as the first book was pretty intense to begin with. The story is an action packed adventure from start to finish. There is a lot going on and a huge cast of characters to keep track of. In addition to the characters we  already know and love (or fear), a whole host of new ones are introduced including Gilgamesh and Arachne. Yes, THE Gilgamesh (as in Epic of) and THE Arachne (as in the myth). There is now not just one super creepy evil villain to deal with, but two. Not to mention the large group of people whose apathy and fear are causing trouble for the heroes. Then there are all the historical references too, which are great fun if you catch them. The genius of Wilson's writing is that he manages to write well developed characters while maintaining a plot that is in hyperdrive. Most writers can do one or the other. It is a rare talent that can do both.

It is about a year since the beginning of Cyrus's journey and he has grown and changed. He grows and changes within the pages of this novel. Toward the end Antigone is concerned that Cyrus is planning to do something dumb, concerned what he might be doing without her there to restrain or talk sense into him. In fact, he is not. The way he handles the trials and choices in this novel shows he has grown in maturity. He learned from his mistakes and is not interested in repeating them. Some of the thing he does in this book are utterly cheer worthy, especially the scene where he tells Diana's dad he is taking his airplane and doesn't really care if he has permission or if the plane comes back in one piece. He is, by no mean, a perfect hero. I wouldn't like him as much if he were. But he is growing, which is what should be happening. The interactions between Cyrus and Antigone continue to be a favorite aspect in this book:
Antigone burst out laughing, "I can't believe how much you screamed. Even after Arachne knocked you out again, though then it was more like you were gargling."
 "Har, har," Cyrus said. "Like you would have done better."
"True. But the things is Rus-Rus"...Antigone slid onto the rock beside him, nearly knocking him off-"when I scream like a girl, at least I am, actually, a girl."
 Their older brother Dan is featured more this time around as well, making this a truly great sibling story.

Another aspect of the book I love is the number of strong female characters who are a part of the team. Antigone is intelligent and tough. She rises to meet all the physical and emotional challenges thrown at her. When she is faced with putting a squirmy squid over her mouth so she can breathe underwater, she winces and prevaricates, but when it comes down to it she straps it on and does it. Diana can fly planes and is a crack shot with a gun. When the time comes for action she is at the front lines taking down enemies with her excellent shooting skills. Arachne is the only female transmortal Wilson spends significant time on and she is now one of my favorite characters.(Despite the spider army that travels with her. Shudder. I had nightmares due to her little friends. More than once.)  She is fierce in her convictions, willing to do what is hard, and makes tremendous sacrifices to overcome the evil being faced.

Again, I like the way the concept of immortality is addressed and am interested in seeing what Wilson does with it and all the transmortal characters. Particularly Nolan and Arachne, both of whom I love. Nolan especially. (He is a deceptively lazy thief. I can't help myself.) I loved this scene where Arachne and Nolan are explaining themselves to their mortal companions:
She glanced at Nolan. "We two still feel like mortals, like death was stolen from us. We are like you, the dying, not like Gil or the Vlads or Radu or Semiramis or even Ponce-those who fought against their own mortality." 
George Livingstone adjusted his short blond bulk on the ground. " want to die?"
Arachne nodded. Her ancient blue eyes were lightless and still. And then, slowly, a sun rose within them. She smiled at George, "Just not today. See, I am like every other mortal."
Nolan climbed to his feet, watching loose pine needles slide off his trousers. His face and  body still belonged to a boy , but to Cyrus, he seemed as burdened as the oldest man. when he spoke, his voice was low. "There are things on the other side of death that we may never see. Thirsts we may never quench. Tastes these mouths cannot consume. But down here, under the sun, there is nothing new."
Nolan. My heart aches for him and I have a feeling it might break on his account before this series reaches its completion.

 I am looking forward to Book 3 more than I can possibly say. It can't come soon enough for me.

I read a version of this book made available via NetGalley. It is released for sale on September 11. 

 Stay tuned tomorrow for news of a Giveaway involving these amazing books.

Monday, September 3, 2012


If any one was meant to bring the atmosphere of a Gothic novel into a contemporary setting and do it well it is Sarah Rees Brennan and that is exactly what she has done with Unspoken.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Kami Glass loves someone she’s never met . . . a boy she’s talked to in her head ever since she was born. She wasn’t silent about her imaginary friend during her childhood, and is thus a bit of an outsider in her sleepy English town of Sorry-in-the-Vale. Still, Kami hasn’t suffered too much from not fitting in. She has a best friend, runs the school newspaper, and is only occasionally caught talking to herself. Her life is in order, just the way she likes it, despite the voice in her head.
But all that changes when the Lynburns return.
The Lynburn family has owned the spectacular and sinister manor that overlooks Sorry-in-the-Vale for centuries. The mysterious twin sisters who abandoned their ancestral home a generation ago are back, along with their teenage sons, Jared and Ash, one of whom is eerily familiar to Kami. Kami is not one to shy away from the unknown—in fact, she’s determined to find answers for all the questions Sorry-in-the-Vale is suddenly posing. Who is responsible for the bloody deeds in the depths of the woods? What is her own mother hiding? And now that her imaginary friend has become a real boy, does she still love him? Does she hate him? Can she trust him?

 You know how in all Gothic novels there is a mysterious manor and an equally mysterious yet strangely alluring person/family who lives in said manor? Now imagine that family was the Malfoys and they had the entire town of terrified normal folk under their power. Now imagine one such normal girl was Veronica Mars. Throw in a paranormal connection between girl and boy from family and wrap it all up in Sara Rees Brennan's signature pithy prose and you have Unspoken.

Kami is a heroine with a mind of her own, even when Jared is invading it and reading her thoughts. The girl is all over the place. (In a good way.) Breaking into buildings to gather evidence. Harassing people for information. Walking into dangerous parts of the woods with eyes wide open. Getting herself shoved down wells. Jared has to rescue her a couple of times. She rescues him a couple of times too. Kami is understandably wary of Jared. He knows all there is to know about her and she knows a lot about him too. However she doesn't trust him. Brennan did a brilliant job of making me feel all the emotions Kami was feeling about who to trust. Like her, I found Jared extremely appealing, in the way all troubled bad-boys-who-may-not-be-so bad are. I wanted to trust him, but I didn't completely. It was an interesting ride to take with Kami.

But this book isn't all about Kami and Jared. Kami has a life outside the cute boys that come to town and so suddenly into her life. She's a busy girl. And she has an entire team of people at her back. Her parents are involved in her life. She has friends. She has adorable little siblings. All of these people better live to see the end of the third book.

The mystery surrounding the Lynburns is solved in an action packed sequence in which much happens and not a lot is resolved. This is the beginning of the trilogy and the end is definitely not neat and tidy. Be warned if you don't like books that leave you wanting to what happens next. This one will. I'm certainly eager to know what happens next and that's unfortunate because I have no idea when the next one is coming out in the US.

If you are a fan of the Gothic romance, creepy families, intrepid heroines, and mystery this would be a fun read. And seriously how can you not want to have fun with a book that contains all that?

I read a copy made available via NetGalley. The book will be released on September 11.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Phantom Tollbooth

When SLJ's Top 100 list was being announced I confessed to never having read The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. Many people told me I should. And I did. It was delightful.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
For Milo, everything's a bore. When a tollbooth mysteriously appears in his room, he drives through only because he's got nothing better to do. But on the other side, things seem different. Milo visits the island of Conclusions (you get there by jumping), learns about time from a ticking watchdog named Tock, and even embarks on a quest to rescue Rhyme and Reason! Somewhere along the way, Milo realizes something astonishing. Life is far from dull. In fact, it's exciting beyond his wildest dreams...

From the beginning Milo is a character you can recognize. His boredom is the sort every child knows and knows well. It is described in such delightful language too. Then there are his adventures, which really are an homage to words and language. A person could learn so much about English from reading this book and never quite realize that is what was happening. I loved the plays on words so much. I do wish I had read it as a child because I think it would truly have been a beloved book if I had.