Tag Archives: coming-of-age

A Tale of Two Castles

Levine, Gail Carson. A Tale of Two Castles (2011).336 Pages. Harper Collins. $16.99*

This review is pre-release: It comes out May 10, 2011

Ella Enchanted was one of my favorite childhood books. My mom gave it to me for Christmas in 1998– she’s big on writing dates in books which are gifts– and I’ve read it so many times that a few pages are loose, the spine is falling to pieces, and it’s stained all over. I’ve got an abiding love for Gail Carson Levine, in part because of Ella Enchanted, and in part because she’s got a knack for writing magical stories which children are guaranteed to love.

Synopsis

Twelve year-old Elodie has just set out on her first adventure, and her first step toward adulthood. It is time for her to head to Two Castles and become an apprentice, though she cannot afford a short apprenticeship, so she must commit to the 10-year “free” term. Despite her parent’s wishes– that she apprentice to a weaver, Elodie seeks out an apprenticeship with the Two Castles mansioners.

Things don’t go according to plan, and Elodie soon finds herself working for the dragon Meenore and brushing up on her skills of “deduction, induction, and common sense.” But something is wrong in Two Castles, and Elodie’s job will not be as easy as it first seemed.

First Lines

Mother wiped her eyes on her sleeve and held me tight. I wept onto her shoulder. She released me while I went on weeping. A tear slipped into the strait through a crack in the wooden dock. Salt water to salt water, a drop of me in the brine that would separate me from home.

Father’s eyes were red. He pulled me into a hug, too. Albin stood to the side a few feet and blew his nose with a honk. He could blow his nose a dozen ways. A hong was the saddest.

Continue reading

3 Comments

Filed under Book Review, Children's Fiction, Fairy Tales Retold, Fantasy, High Fantasy, Mystery & Suspense, Young Adult Fiction

Deerskin

McKinley, Robin. Deerskin (1993). 309 Pages. Ace Fantasy. $7.99

Warning: This book deals with rape an other “adult” themes.

From the Cover:

As Princess Lissar reaches womanhood, it is clear to all the kingdom that in her breathtaking beauty she is the mirror image of her mother, the queen. But this seeming blessing forces her to flee for safety from her father’s wrath. With her loyal dog Ash at her side, Lissar unlocks a door to a world of magic, where she finds the key to her survival– and an adventure beyond her wildest dreams…

First Lines

Many years later she remembered how her parents had looked to her when she was a small child: her father as tall as a tree, and merry and bright and golden, with her beautiful black-haired mother at his side. She saw them, remembered them, as if she were looking at a painting; they were too splendid to be real, and always they seemed at some little distance from her, from all onlookers. They were always standing close together as she remembered them, often gazing into each other’s eyes, often handclasped, often smiling; and always there was a radiance like sunlight flung around them.

Continue reading

8 Comments

Filed under Adult Fiction, Book Review, Fairy Tales Retold, Fantasy, High Fantasy

Ash

Lo, Malinda. Ash (2010). 272 Pages. Little, Brown Books. $8.99

Aisling is Cinderella, and not Cinderella at the same time. Her mother died when she was young, and her father not long after– though he survived long enough to marry the cruel Lady Isolde. Without her parents to protect her, Ash is at the mercy of her stepmother and her stepsisters, who use her as a maid to settle her father’s debts. Her stepmother especially grinds her down, allowing freedoms only when she is gone.

It is when Lady Isolde, Ana and Clara are gone that Ash learns to live, exploring the magical woods near her home, where she meets Sidhean, an attractive, and strangely protective fairy* who becomes her only friend in this oppressive world.

When Ash is older, things begin to change. She meets Kaisa– the King’s Huntress– who invites her along on a hunt. Desperate to attend, she asks Sidhean for help, which he grants with a steep price. During the hunt, she meets Prince Aidan, heir to the throne, and eligible bachelor.

The hunt leads to the traditional ball, which she attends because Kaisa asks her to– where Aidan is completely enchanted by Aisling– and Aisling must escape before the magic runs out at midnight. Things progress from here in a not-quite Cinderella-esque fashion, and ultimately Aisling finds that she must fight for what she desires.

First Lines

Aisling’s mother died at midsummer. She had fallen sick so suddenly that some of the villagers wondered if the fairies had come and taken her, for she was still young and beautiful. She was buried three days later beneath the hawthorn tree behind the house, just as twilight was darkening the sky.

Continue reading

4 Comments

Filed under Book Review, Fairy Tales Retold, Fantasy, High Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult Fiction

A Girl, A Ghost, and the Hollywood Hills

Zindel, Lizabeth. A Girl, A Ghost, and the Hollywood Hills (2010). 302 Pages. Viking Juvenile. $16.99

Sometimes I have far too much fun exploring the newly-input lists at the local library, and I end up with my holds maxed out at 10 and more items I still wanted to get. This is one of those books. It’s a Hamlet spinoff, but it follows the interpretation which I don’t entirely agree with.

From the Cover

Something is twisted in the state of Cali

It’s winter break, and Holly has come home from boarding school to face her dad’s new girlfriend, Claudia– who also happens to be her mom’s sister. Gross. Holly’s mom died less than a year ago, and already Claudia has taken over her movie production company, her house, and now her husband.

Then the ghost of Holly’s mother appears, claiming that Claudia murdered her. Holly vows to avenge her mom’s death no matter what it takes, but as the stakes get higher, she starts to wonder: What does this ghost really want from her, and why?

Throw in an adorable college guy named Oliver, an all-night house party with a pack of Australian surfers, and a shopping disaster on Rodeo Drive, and you wind up with a Hamlet-inspired ghost story unlike any other.

First Lines

It was ridiculously early as I sat on the steps of Reed Hill waiting for the cab to take me to the airport. I was bundled in my favorite red peacoat and warm hat with earflaps that looked like some nice grandma had knitted it.

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review, Fantasy, Horror, Paranormal, Realistic Fiction, Urban Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction

Tortall and Other Lands (Anthology)

Pierce, Tamora. Tortall and Other Lands (2011). 369 Pages. Random House. $18.99

Tortall and Other Lands CoverI pre-ordered this book as soon as I heard it was being written. Then, the day I got it, I tore through it. Way too much fun to read this particular anthology. It was made even more bittersweet by the fact that it had a teaser for Mastiff in the back.

For Pierce fans, there are a few old, familiar characters. You might remember Aly and Nawat (Trickster’s Choice & Trickster’s Queen) and Daine & Numair (Wild Magic, Wolf Speaker, etc.)*. There are cameos of characters who you might not remember at first, because they weren’t huge, but they were cool.

So, onto brief summaries and story-specific comments. I’ll try to keep them spoiler-free.

Continue reading

3 Comments

Filed under Book Review, Fantasy, High Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction

Five Flavors of Dumb

John, Antony. Five Flavors of Dumb (2010). 338 Pages. Dial Books. $16.99

When I read Erin’s review over at LitSnit, she made this book sound super interesting, so I looked for it at my library to no avail. But a few weeks later, I noticed it in the “newly input” list, and I jumped right on that. Hooray for librarians who track search terms!

From the Cover

Eighteen-year-old Piper has gotten herself into a mess. Because of her big mouth, she has one month to get a paying gig for her high school’s hottest new rock band, called Dumb. In Piper’s mind, the band couldn’t have a more perfect name. Just look at the members: one egomaniacal pretty boy, one silent rocker, one talentless piece of eye candy, one angry girl, and one nerd-boy drummer– five discordant personalities who, when put together, seem ready to self-destruct at any moment. Getting them an actual gig seems impossible. Add to that the fact that piper doesn’t know if their music is good or not, because, well, she’s deaf.

But Piper is determined to get the band a gig to show her classmates that being deaf doesn’t mean she’s invisible. And as she gets to know the five flavors of Dumb, some hidden talents, secret crushes, and crazy rock music emerge. She doesn’t need to hear the music to sell it, but Piper wants the chance to feel the music too. Does she have what it takes to manage Dumb and discover her own inner rock star?

Continue reading

2 Comments

Filed under Book Review, General Fiction, Realistic Fiction, Young Adult Fiction

Dust City

Weston, Robert Paul. Dust City (2010). 299 Pages. RazorBill. $16.99

From Goodreads:

Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf?

His son, that’s who.

Ever since his father’s arrest for the murder of Little Red Riding Hood, teen wolf Henry Whelp has kept a low profile in a Home for Wayward Wolves . . . until a murder at the Home leads Henry to believe his father may have been framed.

Now, with the help of his kleptomaniac roommate, Jack, and a daring she-wolf named Fiona, Henry will have to venture deep into the heart of Dust City; a rundown, gritty metropolis where fairydust is craved by everyone and controlled by a dangerous mob of Water Nixies and their crime boss leader, Skinner.

Can Henry solve the mystery of his family’s sinister past? Or, like his father before him, is he destined for life as a big bad wolf?

First Lines

Once upon a time, fairydust came from where you’d expect. From fairies. I was only a cub, so I don’t remember much of what the City was like back then. But I have a strong sense that things were different. Dreams could come true. You read about it in the paper. I’ve seen the clippings.

Continue reading

2 Comments

Filed under Book Review, Fairy Tales Retold, Fantasy, Horror, Speculative Fiction, Young Adult Fiction

The Mammoth Book of Regency Romance (Anthology)

Telep, Trisha (ed.) The Mammoth Book of Regency Romance (2010). 592 Pages. Running Press. $13.95

Good lord that was a lot of romance. I do enjoy regency romance quite a bit; it may be my favorite historical era, and it certainly is fun. At just under 600 pages, and 23 stories, it took a while to read. It was worth it, and entertaining, to boot. My biggest complaint might be that several of the stories could have used some more space to grow; they felt rushed with the number of pages they had. Pruning the collection to 20 stories and giving the survivors the extra pages would have done wonders for several of them.

There is no good synopsis for the whole book, and indeed, several which I have found are either inaccurate or misleading, so instead I’ll say a little about each story.

Continue reading

4 Comments

Filed under Adult Fiction, Book Review, Chick-Lit, Fantasy, General Fiction, Historical Romance, Romance

Ship Breaker

Bacigalupi, Paolo. Ship Breaker (2010). 323 Pages. Hachette Book Group. $17.99

I feel like I’ve inadvertently written an essay about this book, but if you’re interested in reading more, by all means, click through.

Synopsis

Mankind has caused the ice caps (or at least most of them) to melt and raise the water levels, in most cases, far more than was ever predicted. As a result, many cities were lost, and much technology is gone. There are two groups remaining; the rich and the poor. The rich are ultra-rich, living on clipper-ships (which are like yachts, but nicer) and controlling the fate of the poor, whether or not they are aware of it. The poor, meanwhile struggle to get by, working at whatever jobs they can find, and dreaming of a better life.

On the beaches of a greatly-expanded Gulf Coast, Nailer works as part of a scavenge crew, breaking down ancient oil tankers for scrap. Specifically, Nailer works on light-crew; the group of youths who are small enough to fit into the ducts and reclaim copper wire*. It is dangerous, dirty work with a high mortality rate, and every time Nailer crawls into the ducts, he hopes it won’t be his last. He dreams of a bit of luck, and hopes for a day when he won’t have to work on the ships to survive.

Continue reading

5 Comments

Filed under Book Review, Realistic Fiction, Speculative Fiction, Urban Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction

Rot & Ruin

Maberry, Jonathan. Rot & Ruin (2010). 458 Pages. Simon & Schuster. $17.99

Don’t let the cover put you off. It’s a creepy book, at times, but not as creepy as the eyeball seems to suggest.

Synopsis

Benny Imura has only vague memories of the night his parents died. What he does remember paints a bleak picture; his father was a zombie, his mother facing imminent death, and his brother was the coward who took him and ran, leaving their parents behind. Despite what everyone seems to think about Tom Imura, Benny knows the truth; his brother is a coward.

On Benny’s fifteenth birthday, he becomes an “adult,” and has six weeks to find a job, or his rations will be cut in half. With hunger looming, and the best jobs long gone, Benny turns to his brother, Tom the Bounty Hunter– zombie killer for hire– to ask for a job. He doesn’t want to join the “family business” but doesn’t see any alternatives.

What he learns about the world outside his town’s fences– the Rot & Ruin– and about his brother will change Benny’s life forever.

Continue reading

2 Comments

Filed under Book Review, Fantasy, Horror, Realistic Fiction, Urban Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction