Tag Archives: Book 1

Shiver

Stiefvater, Maggie. Shiver (2009). 390 Pages. Scholastic. $9.99

Despite reading about this book in many blogs, and having several friends recommend it, I didn’t pick this book up for a long time. In fact, it took until I was standing in Borders, staring at it (and Linger) on the shelf before me for me to pick it up. When I flipped through a few pages, and noticed that the text was blue, and the paper a true white, I was sold.

I find unusual bindings, or printings, to be completely fascinating. I love when authors and publishers work outside of the box a little bit, and play with a well-established medium. (Within reason– it still has to be readable.) That is part of why I love Alice in Wonderland— things like the Mouse’s Tail, and other such playful printing.

I was hopeful, especially since I had just read Maggie Stiefvater’s “The Hounds of Ulster” in Kiss Me Deadly and had enjoyed it. She manages to use pretty language without going over the top, and it feels like she does get teenage emotions.

Anyway, Shiver is about Grace and Sam, and what happens when they are finally together. Grace has been obsessed with wolf!Sam since he saved her from a wolf attack. Sam has been obsessed with Grace since the same day. But they could not be together– he was a wolf, and she was a human. When he was human (in the summer) he could not find her because he did not know who she was, and because he could not reveal that he was her wolf. So Grace and Sam love each other from afar.

The story is set in motion by a wolf attack; a local high schooler is killed, and his father has enough money to get the town motivated to exterminate the menace. Grace is distraught, and rushes out to the woods to try to save the wolves she has grown to love. Except that she does not really succeed in doing anything. She is escorted home, which is where she finds Sam, naked, and wounded, curled up on her back porch.

It does not take very long for Grace to figure out that this is her wolf– Sam. His grasp on his humanity is tenuous at best, because the wolf-change is caused by cold, and it is wintertime in Minnesota. Grace and Sam cling to each other, desperate to spend every moment together until he loses his ability to stay human. Sam knows that this is his last winter, that when spring comes, he will not be human again, and he wants to spend as much time as  he can with Grace.

Things cannot be that simple though, and there is a lot more going on. Grace’s parents are self-absorbed and negligent. Grace’s friends and classmates are difficult. And there are two very, very dangerous wolves in the woods. Sam has to deal with feelings of ineffectiveness, because when human, he lacks many of his wolf strengths, and Grace finishes growing up, and even calls her mother on her neglect at one point.

I had some reservations– boy and girl are in love but cannot be together. Boy and Girl are different, girl is human, boy is werewolf. Boy and Girl sleep in the same bed, but do not give in to hormones and have sex… for a while*. Boy and Girl are a little obsessed with each other. I mean, a lot of this sounds like Twilight, and in a weird way, it is similar. The overall obsessive tone was a lot less disturbing here, in part because there was a sort of explanation– he’d saved her life.

In Conclusion:

The writing grabbed me; it was fluid, lovely, poignant. Their love was the center of everything, and it was interesting seeing it grow from a distant love to a real, I’ll do anything for you sort of love. I feel like the emotions in the book could have been too advanced for high schoolers, except that neither of them were truly their age. Grace and Sam had both had to grow up far too fast, and had a lot more maturity than other kids their age, and that worked. It could have been obsessive, and a bit creepy– there was a fine line, and I feel like it managed to stay on the good side. This book scores a 5/5, because it manages to be all about Sam and Grace, without being just Sam and Grace.

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* They give in on P. 294, but it’s one of those quiet “we got naked and then… CUT” sorts of scenes that seems to flourish in Y.A. fiction. I think if I suddenly had a gorgeous guy that I had loved for six years in my bed, we would not wait weeks. But that’s just me.

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Filed under Book Review, Contemporary Romance, Fantasy, Paranormal, Paranormal Romance, Romance, Urban Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction

Soulless

Carriger, Gail. Soulless (2009). 357 Pages. Orbit. $7.99

The Parasol Protectorate: Book 1

Alexia Tarabotti is laboring under a great many social tribulations.

First, she has no soul. Second, he’s a spinster whose father is both Italian and dead. Third, she was rudely attacked by a vampire, breaking all standards of social etiquitte.

Where to go from there? From bad to worse apparently, for Alexia accidentally kills the vampire– and then the appalling Lord Maccon (loud, messy, gorgeous, and werewolf) is sent by Queen Victoria to investigate.

With unexpected vampires appearing and expected vampires disappearing, everyone seems to believe Alexia is responsible. Can she figure out what is actually happening to London’s high society? Will her soulless ability to negate supernatural powers prove useful or just plain embarrassing? Finally, who is the real enemy, and do they have treacle tart? ( From the Back Cover)

There’s a lot going on in my brain right now, largely because of this book, which I really enjoyed reading. On the one hand, I hate you– those of you who reviewed Soulless and made it sound so very appealing, so I had to start reading it, which then led to me staying up all night reading it because I just could not put it down— and on the other hand, I wonder how you guys felt about some of the issues brought up by The Book Smugglers when they reviewed it.

“It’s an awful lot like Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody.” (among other issues) which could very well be the case, and which I could perhaps agree with, if I’d ever read the series in question. Coincidentally, I have several Elizabeth Peters books sitting here– I was digging through boxes and boxes of books which my grandmother gave me last time I went to visit. The vast majority are mystery/suspense/thriller, which is not my genre of choice, so they’ve sat, largely untouched, since she gave them to me. I was going through them, trying to ascertain exactly what I had in the boxes, so we could deal with them appropriately. ( My mom and I intend to go through them and figure out which ones we each want to read, and which ones neither of us are interested in, so we can donate/sell those that we are not interested in.) So perhaps my next read will be one of those Elizabeth Peters books.

Disconcerting similarities to already-published works aside, I’m pretty sure I really liked Soulless. I didn’t notice any of the issues which so perturbed the ladies at The Book Smugglers, but perhaps that is because I had no trouble suspending my disbelief, and had no experience with similar characters. Despite the (inappropriate) Fantasy/Horror genre tag which my copy sports, it was definitely supernatural/paranormal period romance. I was expecting that, so it didn’t throw me too badly. I also really enjoyed the characters, their banter, the way it was so clear they did care about each other, even though they didn’t really know it yet.

Lord Akeldama annoyed the hell out of me. (From page 46:)

He minced into the room, teetering about on three-inch heels with ruby and gold buckles. “My darling, darling Alexia.” Lord Akeldama had adopted use of her given name within minutes of their first meeting. He had said that he just knew they would be friends, and there was no point in prevaricating. “Darling!” He also seemed to speak predominantly in italics. “How perfectly, deliciously, delightful of you to invite me to dinner. Darling.”

Gee, wonder what his sexual orientation might be? I mean, he takes more badass out of vampire than sparkling in the sun did. Ugh. I don’t have a problem with gay characters, but I do have a problem with inexplicably flamboyant, annoying characters who are described as speaking in italics. Ugh.

That aside, I think Alexia was an interesting character, to a point. She was a little too inclined to lean on being half-Italian* as an excuse for well, being blunt. What I loved was the whole idea of a preternatural, set in Victorian England. I wish this had gotten a bit more page-time, because it was perhaps the most unique and outstanding thing about the entire book, and it really got glossed over. She’s soulless– enough so that the book is titled Soulless– and per a few early comments, this has a lot to do with her ability to relate to other humans, and her grasp of emotions, but she has absolutely no problems with lust or “love.”

In Conclusion:

I’m pretty sure I liked this book. I mean, I started reading it at about 10pm, and could not put it down until 4am. That is a very good sign in a book, being that involved in it. It gets a 4.5/5 because it wasn’t until well after I was done reading that I began to even think about the flaws (which is a good sign.)

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* No love from me here. I’m basically 50% Irish, 50% Italian. Acting like that’s a handicap? Not cool.

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Bloodsucking Fiends: A Love Story

Moore, Christopher. Bloodsucking Fiends: A Love Story (2008 ed.) 290 Pages. Simon & Schuster. $14.00

I am not allowed to read Christopher Moore in public. I’ll be discreet, I promise myself, I won’t be awkward, I won’t seem like a maniac. I promise myself anything, just get the book out of your ugly purse and start reading, it will make the trip so much more bearable, I think. And for a few minutes, I’ll keep my promise. It will start with a smirk, which will then turn into a silent snicker, which grows into a soft giggle. This is where things get really tough, as I’ll realize that I’m breaking my promise, and will attempt to be serious. So what eventually escapes is a strangled snort, which may or may not develop into full blown idiotic laughter. Soon, the seats beside me are vacant. Eventually, even on an incredibly crowded commuter train full of people with their own books, strangers will edge away ever so slightly. Because as the unwritten rules of the train say– you may read, but only quietly. Laughing aloud and making a scene of yourself, being seen enjoying your book is forbidden. When I let myself read Christopher Moore, I inevitably break that unwritten rule, which is why I am not allowed to read his books in public.

Despite all the public awkwardness and the sideways glances, I am endorsing his books, most especially Bloodsucking Fiends. It was brilliant, and had me laughing loudly and crazily on public transit, and managed to get me laughing just as hard the second time I read it.*

To start with the beginning:

Sundown painted purple across the great Pyramid while the Emperor enjoyed a steaming whiz against a dumpster in the alley below. A low fog worked its way up from the bay, snaked around columns and over concrete lions to wash against the towers where the West’s money was moved. The financial district: an hour ago it ran with rivers of men in gray wool and women in heels; now the streets, built on sunken ships and gold-rush garbage, were deserted–quiet except for a foghorn that lowed across the bay like a lonesome cow. (page 1)

I’ve had problems with books which were “set in” the Bay Area in the past, most notably geographic and cultural annoyances. This book manages to avoid all those pitfalls completely; the neighborhoods (Chinatown, Northbeach, SOMA, etc.) are all represented, and there were no imaginary streets. There were a couple locations which I cannot be sure existed, but it was nothing too major. I even forgave him The Emperor of San Francisco and Protector of Mexico — a not-entirely-imagined character who shows up in A Dirty Job as well– because The Emperor adds an awful lot to the story, and does actually remind me of several San Francisco transients who do exist.

I suppose I really should say something about the contents and storyline, so I’ll give you a quick synopsis. One night after working late, Jody is accosted. She wakes up beneath a dumpster, her hand badly burned, and her senses strangely heightened. Her jerk of a boyfriend proves to be rather worse than she ever realized, and she finds herself in need of help. Tommy is our other protagonist– a farm boy fresh from the midwest, overwhelmed by the city– who finds himself helping Jody before he even gets to know her. Things get complicated as a string of murders seem destined to lead the police to their doorstep. Of course, their entire story is told with excellent wit.

In Conclusion:

I am not allowed to read Christopher Moore in public. Regardless, you should definitely pick this one up and give it a read. Then read its sequel You Suck followed by Bite Me, which both seem rather promising. It gets a 5/5 for being brilliant and funny and just altogether awesome.

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* For some reason, my boyfriend kept looking askance and shaking his head at me as I sat on my couch and devoured the book.

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Filed under Adult Fiction, Book Review, Contemporary Romance, Horror, Humor, Mystery & Suspense, Paranormal, Paranormal Romance, Urban Fantasy

Jane Bites Back

Ford, Michael Thomas. Jane Bites Back (2009). 320 Pages. Ballantine Books. $14.00

Have you ever picked up a book, and not expected anything from it, but been pleasantly surprised? Jane Bites Back was an impulse-grab off the new books shelves at the library. I was just there to pick up my holds. “I promise, I’ll be done in just a minute. I’m only grabbing one book and I’ll be right back!” My unfortunate (and non-bibliophilic) boyfriend does not enjoy trips to the library, so when he comes along I try to hurry. It works well if I’m attempting to limit myself to my holds.

Anyway, Jane Bites Back was on the shelf, and I couldn’t help picking it up. It’s even got a cover-blurb by Seth Grahame-Smith (of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies) mentioning that it’s lovable. Having not loved anything about Pride and Prejudice and Zombies any of the several times I tried to read it, I took it as dubious praise at best. But I let myself get it (and Queen Victoria: Demon Hunter) off the new-books shelves.

I made the mistake of reading it while we drove home. Three chapters in, I realized that we were home, and that I was sitting in the car in our parking space. Whoops. It’s that good though. The premise is silly, but it somehow works– Ford is an author, writing about an author (Austen) who is writing about an author (Constance). Ultimately, Ford is writing an Austen-inspired book about an un-dead Austen who wholeheartedly disapproves of Austen-inspired books. It’s really quite funny how this works out.

A little over 200 years ago, Jane Austen was turned into a vampire. Shortly after, she “died,” and has been living under a series of pseudonyms ever since. In the last few years, she has become Jane Fairfax and purchased a bookstore in the town of Brakeston, NY. Due to a recent Austen craze, Jane has seen a lot of spin-offs and rip-offs appear (making her long for royalties and recognition she will never receive) and as a result is rather irritated that hacks who use her name can get published, while she cannot sell her own manuscript to anyone. It’s a failure, she knows this because she’s been trying to get Constance published since she “died,” and it’s still only a manuscript.

So, when she finally gets a letter from Kelly Littlejohn saying that Constance is brilliantly Austenesque, and that they would love to publish it, Jane is surprised. That is not the only one in store for her, and unfortunately not all of them are quite so pleasant. A “dark man from her past” (back cover) makes an unwelcome reappearance in her life, and makes unwanted advances. Meanwhile, Jane struggles to come to terms with her attraction to Walter Fletcher– a local carpenter– who Jane has refused repeatedly.

As if romantic entanglements weren’t enough for Jane to deal with, she’s also got a publicity tour– to Chicago and New Orleans– for her book. Things get really complicated while she’s away from home, and a surprising new villain appears in the latter half of the book (to help set it up for the sequel Jane Goes Batty from Ballantine Books, due February 2011.)

The book ends well, but leaves some things unfinished. It was clearly setting up for a sequel which will be out next year.

In Conclusion:

I really loved Jane as a narrator and a character– especially the way she changes– and I feel like she is a large part of the reason that I enjoyed this book. You want to like her (not just because she’s Jane-Freaking-Austen) and you root for her. The prose is solid, and the story is really fun, and light. There is a lot which is clearly being set up for future novels– not the least of which is Jane’s revelation of vampirism to loved ones (and how she avoids discovery). Perhaps it is because I didn’t expect anything from it, though I’m more inclined to think that this was just a surprisingly good book, but this novel gets a 5/5.

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Howl’s Moving Castle

Jones, Diana Wynne. Howl’s Moving Castle (2001 ed.) 329 Pages. Greenwillow Books. $6.99

They always say “save the best for last,” so I have opted to save my favorite Diana Wynne Jones book to conclude Diana Wynne Jones week. It’s been nothing but fun, reading long-time favorites and books I didn’t know existed. The book which has stuck with me the longest, and which I think I enjoyed the most out of all of DWJ’s novels is Howl’s Moving Castle, because it so seamlessly melds fairy-tale conventions and adventure and twists and turns to become such a solid and excellent fantasy novel. Let us begin with the beginning:

In the land of Ingary, where such things as seven-league boots and cloaks of invisibility really exist, it is quite a misfortune to be born the eldest of three. Everyone knows you are the one who will fail first, and worst, if the three of you set out to seek your fortunes.

Sophie Hatter was the eldest of three sisters. She was not even the child of a poor woodcutter, which might have given her some chance of success.

So begins one of the few books which I can safely list as a favorite novel of all time.

Sophie Hatter has resigned herself to a boring life, running her family’s hat shop. As the eldest, it’s a “fact” that she will never become anything, that her adventures will fail, and that she has nothing to look forward to but mediocrity. After Sophie’s sisters — Lettie and Martha– are apprenticed away from the shop, Sophie’s life is exactly what she expected; quiet and average. Everything changes when the Witch of the Waste appears at the hat shop, and curses Sophie, turning her into an old lady.

Something about being old makes Sophie fearless, so she heads out to Wizard Howl’s Moving Castle in the waste. There she meets Calcifer the fire demon, and enters into a deal– she’ll break his contract, and he’ll find a way to remove the Witch’s spell. It sounds like a fair enough bargain, so Sophie agrees, and so begins the first adventure of Sophie’s life. Life with Howl is nothing like what she expected, and the “freedom” of old age allows her to grow from the quiet, fearful girl she is at the beginning into the strong adult she is by the end.

There’s a lot more that I cannot say without spoiling the book (which would be a horrible thing to do), so I’ll leave it at that. Almost nothing is what it seems at first glance, and by the end of the novel everything has resolved itself in a thoroughly satisfying way. There are more books which form this “series,” though Sophie only makes cameos later, rather than being the central character.

In Conclusion:

If you like fantasy adventures, then this is not the book to miss. It’s got adventure, intrigue, magic, and romance. The narration is excellent, the characters intriguing, and the story enthralling. It’s one of my all-time favorites, so it gets an unquestionable 5/5.

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On an aside, there is a Studio Ghibli interpretation of Howl’s Moving Castle, which is a beautiful, enjoyable movie. However, it falls into the genre of “inspired by the book” rather than being true to it. Martha disappears, Michael becomes a child, Howl is a bird-monster, Sophie a brunette, the Witch a blob. Calcifer is still Calcifer, but that’s because the whole premise rides upon  his… flames. It is a very, very good movie if you’re interested in animated movies which were inspired by books.

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As part of the Dogeared Reading Challenge, I’ll be documenting the “loved” shape this volume is in with a couple pictures. It’s been pretty well beaten, with that beautiful curve that spines get when they’ve been read too many times. This particular book is worth 5 points on the beaten-scale. The cover is actually a separate entity from the book, it’s held on by tape and a bit of glue. I wish I had a book-repair setup, so I could fix this book before I return it to the library. That’s the thing I miss the most from my student-assistant job.

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Charmed Life

Jones, Diana Wynne. Charmed Life (2001 ed.) 263 Pages. Greenwillow Books. $6.95

The Chronicles of Chrestomanci

Ok, so in reality this is part 1 of the Omnibus edition of The Chronicles of Chrestomanci Volume 1, but in an effort to keep my reviews of a manageable length, I’m breaking the volume up into individual stories. (There are only 2, and they’re each at least 200 pages, so I feel justified in this.) Besides, it took me two full days to read this (in part because I’m working so many hours) so if I were to wait until I’ve read the entire volume, I’d never get the review up.

Gwendolen is all the family Cat has left after a boating accident kills their parents. Because there is nobody else, Cat clings desperately to his older sister, to the point that he has no real identity of his own. He’s the prodigy’s younger brother, the boy who survives by clinging to Gwendolen.

Meanwhile, Gwendolen has aspirations. She’s outgrown their little street, and believes that it’s time that their distant relation, Chrestomanci, takes them in. She writes him a letter, and convinces him to bring them into his home.

Cat doesn’t really know what to make of life in Chrestomanci’s home; Millie immediately makes them welcome, but he doesn’t quite know what to expect from Julia and Roger. Chrestomanci refuses to allow Gwendolen to learn advanced magic, instead insisting that she must first get an elementary education before starting over at beginning magic. She is furious, and spends quite a bit of time getting attention, until she finally angers Chrestomanci to the point that he takes away her magic, which is when everything gets really crazy.

In Conclusion:

The Chronicles of Chrestomanci have a special spot in my heart, because I have read it several times. I’ve owned several copies and editions of most of these stories (at least 2 or 3 copies of the omnibus edition, for example). It’s an excellent descent into a well thought-out world, which is controlled by beautiful prose and strong characterization. It’s also a bit of a page-turner, even when you sort of remember what’s coming next. It gets a 5/5.

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On an aside, I really love the way the universe is introduced in the forward-thing:

There are thousands of worlds, all different from ours. Chrestomanci’s world is the one next door to us, and the difference here is that magic is as common as music is with us. It is full of people working magic– warlocks, witches, thaumaturges, sorcerers, fakirs, conjurors, hexers, magicians, mages, shamans, divinsers and many more– from the lowest Certified witch right up to the most powerful enchanters. Enchanters are strange as well as powerful. Their magic is different and stronger and many of them have more than one life.

Now, if someone did not control all these busy magic-users, ordinary people would have a horrible time and probably end up as slaves. So the government appoints the very strongest enchanter there is to make sure no one misuses magic. This enchanter has nine lives and is known as “the Chrestomanci.” You pronounce it KREST-OH-MAN-SEE. He has to have a strong personality as well as strong magic.

– Diana Wynne Jones (0)

The universes of the Magids does not seem so very different from the worlds of Chrestomanci, and I think it would be interesting if they ever overlapped.

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Moon Called

Briggs, Patricia. Moon Called (2006). 288 Pages. Ace Fantasy. $7.99

Mercy Thompson: Book One

I suppose since I just reviewed book five in this series, I should probably take some time to go back and talk about the earlier books. I keep re-reading this series, and I enjoy it every single time I do. The covers connect with each other, since they have a steady, constant artist. Despite what the cover leads you to believe, Mercy does not wear cropped belly-shirts. She’s above that.

Meet Mercedes Thompson, Volkswagen Mechanic. She’s very aware of the irony of her name, but tends to go by Mercy, so it’s not as much of a running joke as it might be. Mercy is a walker– that is, she can transform into a coyote at will. As far as she knows, she’s the only one of her kind, which leaves her knowing very little about the full extent of her abilities.

Mercy has a long back-story which is revealed very neatly as she explains herself to a new werewolf. It manages to be expository without feeling contrived, and in essence explains that Mercy was raised by the Marrok– the ruler of the werewolves. She knows more about werewolves than any other non-were, and uses this knowledge to her advantage (to both torment and survive her handsome were-neighbor Adam, among other things.)

Anyway, Mercy starts off by picking up Mac- a stray wolf- and stupidly locking herself in a garage with him and a dead body. Adam manages to save her, but things get weirder and crazier with every page until we reach an impressive climax. Of course, there’s a lot going on: Samuel (the Marrok’s son) re-enters Mercy’s life after a long absence. Stefan, the vampire, helps Mercy out. The Marrok steps in. There’s even a Witch. There is kidnapping, mystery, and suspense. By the end of the book, you’re not quite sure what’s going to happen next.

Mercy herself is the reason this book is so great. She has an amazing voice, and a strong personality. She kicks just a little more ass than most girls, without being over-powered and flawless. She’s one of the better heroines out there, and I look forward to her books.

The Quick Version:

I loved this book. (I love this whole series.) I feel like it’s just the right amount of ass kicking (by Mercy and her posse) and mystery. We learn about the characters, and I actually cared what happened to them. It was a well written story which kept you turning pages. It gets a 5/5.

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Eyes Like Stars

Mantchev, Lisa. Eyes Like Stars (2009). 368 Pages. Feiwel & Friends. $16.99

Theatre Illuminata: Act I

Some books, you just have to leap in and keep going, because they take their sweet time revealing themselves. You’re thrown into a new and interesting world, and it takes some time to get it figured out, and as you search for explanation you find yourself in the middle of a book you don’t really want to put down. This strategy is risky; you either grab your audience, or you alienate them. Being a bit of a Shakespeare geek, and a fan of theater (though never an actor), I found myself enjoying this book, once I started to sort it out.

Within the Theatre Illuminata* all the characters of every play ever written exist for the sole purpose of performing their plays. They aren’t actors, they are the characters, allowed to mingle within the confines of the Theatre. The characters from Hamlet appear most frequently– Ophelia and Gertrude have quite a few lines apiece– but there is also Nate, a sailor from the play The Little Mermaid, who is the young, handsome Love Interest. There are only six people who are not characters, though in their own ways they are; five of them are the managers, one is Beatrice Shakespeare Smith, a seventeen year-old girl who is not from any play.

When she was young, Bertie was left on the Theatre’s doorstep, a child in need of a home. The denizens of the Theatre opted to take her in, and she has caused chaos and wrought havoc ever since. She’s not crew, and she’s not an actor, she’s just Bertie. When she turns seventeen, they decide they’ve finally had enough of her and her chaos, so she is told that she must leave the Theatre forever. Distraught at the idea of leaving behind everything (and everyone) she’s ever loved, Bertie fights for a chance to stay, and makes a deal. If she can sellout the theatre, and get a standing ovation with her directorial debut, she will prove that she has something to give back to the Theatre, and can thus stay.

Of course, nothing is ever as simple as it seems, especially when we’ve got characters like Ophelia and Gertrude (to name a few) strutting around. There is a lot going on, and it at times can be overwhelming, but there were a few moments where I found myself laughing out loud;

“I am the queen!” bellowed Lady Macbeth.

“No, I’m the queen. You merely have aspirations for him.” Gertrude pointed at Macbeth, who was holding up a cruller and muttering, “Is this a doughnut I see before me?” Then he noticed raspberry jam on everything and started to shriek. (128)

I cackled. It perhaps says a lot about the quality of my education that I find jokes about Shakespeare hilarious. Or there’s a gem of a scene with Ophelia;

Ophelia followed him, wringing the water out of her clothes while talking to puppet-Laertes. “I spend far too much time toweling off, dear brother.” But the oven mitt didn’t answer, as its mouth was full of her skirt. (135)

And then, there’s Gertrude (again), throwing a dramatic fit about The Ghost of Hamlet’s Father shedding his flowery sheet:

“So, unless Hamlet was an immaculate conception, there’s nothing going on there that you haven’t seen before. Stop playing the dewy-eyed virgin.” Claudius jabbed a finger in Ophelia’s direction. “That’s her job!” (166)

Bertie has a strong voice, and is an interesting (if vaguely described) character. We know more about her hair color (Cobalt Flame), her footwear (Mary Janes) and her socks (Black and Red Stripes) than anything else about her. I don’t feel like I demand all that much of my protagonists, but when it’s in third person, I really don’t feel like I’m asking too much if I ask for description. Anyway, she manages to be a teenage girl without driving me crazy, which is saying something.

I have a bit of an issue, however. There’s not a lot I can say on the subject without spoiling a lot, but Bertie is part of a love triangle with Nate the Pirate, and Ariel the air spirit (from The Tempest, though in this case he’s a very, very handsome young man). She seems in love with Nate, but spends an awful lot of time kissing Ariel, for all she says she doesn’t like him. I have a very, very strong feeling that this only gets worse in Book 2 (Perchance to Dream).

The Quick Version:

You have to be pretty well versed in Shakespeare’s more popular works to get most of the characters and references this book makes. However, if you’re at least mostly familiar with Hamlet, you’re going to be alright. The book starts abruptly, and it feels like you spend the first half trying to figure out what is going on, but it manages to hook you, and keep you reading so you keep going to find out what is going on. Aside from a few issues with the way Bertie’s lovelife plays out, this book is good. It’s not a standalone, and it leaves you needing more, as a rather large story arc is just beginning. It gets a 4/5 for originality and fun.

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* Which is marked with some rather pretentious accents that I will not bother replicating… (Théâtre Illuminata)

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Wild Magic

Pierce, Tamora. Wild Magic (2005 ed). 362 Pages. Simon Pulse. $6.99

The Immortals: Book One

Like so many other books I’ve reviewed, I’ve had this since I was a kid. I really enjoy Tamora Pierce’s work, and The Immortals was the last Tortall series which was complete before I started reading it. I hate waiting for books, so I’m glad when I pick up a series and find out it’s already complete.

Anyway, The Immortals series is about Veralidaine Sarrasri and her Wild Magic. She’s a solid heroine, one who has to grow up abruptly because there is no childhood in war. The details of her past, and her present are slowly revealed to us, as she learns to trust some familiar faces, and as she gains more confidence in herself. I think the slow revelation of details helps to make her a richer character, and it makes her feel more real.

The series starts at a horse-fair in Galla, where Ouna is looking for some fresh new ponies to take back to Tortall for Thayet’s Riders. Ouna is a bit dismayed when she finds herself in charge of thirteen year-old Daine, but figures the girl knows horses, and will be helpful. Daine more than earns her way when they come across Stormwings– human/bird hybrids which are intelligent, but crude, smelly, and more than a little evil. The Stormwings are after a large, black bird which is not what it seems, and it is by using her untrained magic that Daine manages to locate the confused animal.

Eventually, Daine finds herself working for the Queen’s Riders, and studying magic with the mage Numair Salamin. In Tortall, she meets nobles who aren’t “proper” (Alanna, George, Thayet, Jon), and a lot of Rider trainees. She learns to speak to animals, to control them, and even to heal. But this isn’t without a lot of difficulty. Stormwings attack more than once, Daine nearly kills herself, she gets lectured by an angry Badger, is terrified by a Dragon, and brings a Kraken down upon Pirate’s Swoop.

It’s the start to a great adventure, as Daine gets involved in Tortall, and the Immortals War.

The Quick Version:

I was thrilled when Alanna made an appearance; she’s married, and she’s the mother of three excellent children. Thayet, too, shows up, and proves to be an awesome queen, and a good mother. (Motherhood suits these women, proving that just because you have children doesn’t mean you can’t kick ass.*) Of course, this series is about Daine, a character who frustrated me a lot in this particular volume. I like her better later, when she becomes more confident in herself and her abilities. This volume gets a 4/5, because Daine’s story has not even really begun.

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* a la Molly Weasley.

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Filed under Book Review, Children's Fiction, Fantasy, High Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction

Love in the Time of Dragons

MacAlister, Katie. Love in the Time of Dragons (2010). 331 Pages. Signet. $7.99

The Light Dragons: Book One || Dragons Universe Book Eight

Please be aware that though this is the first book in a new series, it is not a stand-alone, and the following may contain spoilers for the preceding books.

Tully Sullivan is Dr. Kostich’s apprentice, a mage-in-training who got dragged into the Dragon’s conflict at the end of Me and My Shadow. Except, she’s not a mage. Five weeks after she first arrives at Drake and Aisling’s house, she wakes up as a guest in Gabriel’s London house. She has no idea what has happened, and does not understand why everyone seems to be insisting that she is Ysolde de Bouchier, Baltic’s mate. But Tully doesn’t remember this– in fact, she doesn’t remember much at all. What she does know is that she has vivid dreams, yearly fugues, and a son (named Brom) who must be very worried about her.

Unfortunately for Tully, nobody is able to wait for her to come to terms with Ysolde. As Baltic’s mate, she is responsible for his crimes, and she is brought to the sárkány to face the charges. However, it is only a matter of time before Baltic figures out she’s back. Ysolde is his mate, and she was dead. Once he finds her, things will never be the same for her again.

The drama which has been building, all the intrigue which has left us wondering as we’ve read the last seven books has hit a crescendo with this book. Questions are (at least in part) answered, while yet more arise. By the end of the book (which is somehow shocking and expected simultaneously) you’re questioning nearly everything which the characters have taken for granted thus far.

The wait for the next book is going to be killer.

The Quick Version:

The drama which characterized the segment about Gabriel and May remains, but things have gotten funnier again. Ysolde and Baltic have that love/hate thing going on that makes things firey and fantastic. There is also something that is just so charming about a domineering dragon, and his willingness to do anything for his mate. I’m dying for the next book, which will be quite some time in coming, since this book was released on May 4, 2010. The book was fantastic, and scores a 5/5.

Please be aware, this is not a stand-alone book.

I know you’ll want to read it, so get it off Amazon or from Swaptree.

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Filed under Adult Fiction, Book Review, Humor, Paranormal Romance, Romance, Urban Fantasy