Archive for the ‘Fantasy’ Category

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

September 7th, 2011    Posted in 52 Books in one year challenge, Fantasy, Fiction, Kelly, Middle Grade
 

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children took me by surprise. By the back cover copy, I thought it would more of a ghost story with maybe some light horror type elements. It’s actually a fantasy novel along the lines of an X-Men type story with no technology and a little more magic.

In the present day, teenage Jacob loses his World War II grandfather to what police and his parents call a vicious dog attack. Jacob knows this isn’t true, as he found his grandfather and saw the hideous monster responsible for the attack. Jacob falls apart, and eventually his father takes him to a Welsh island for six weeks. The island is interesting to both Jacob and his father. To his father, it’s a birdwatchers paradise. For Jacob, it’s a chance to research his grandfather’s past, as his grandfather was evacuated from Poland to an orphanage on this island during World War II.

Jacob’s grandfather showed both his son and grandson photos of ‘peculiar’ children, like a girl floating a few inches off of the ground. He told them tall tales of his life in the orphanage before he enlisted in the Army. As Jacob finds the bombed-out orphanage, he realizes that maybe those tails weren’t quite as tall as he’d assumed.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is a great novel for both older middle-grade and younger YA readers. There’s a little romance but it’s inline with novels like Rick Riordan’s Olympian series. The old photos add a nice visual touch to the novel. This is clearly the first novel in a series, with an end that clearly sets up the adventure for the following books.

Title: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
Author: Ransom Riggs
Source: Nook e-book
Read: August 2011

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Where Unicorns Don’t Poop Rainbows

August 31st, 2011    Posted in 52 Books in one year challenge, ARCs, Fantasy, Fiction, Kelly, Young Adult
 

The first thing that attracted me to Drink Slay Love was the title. I hoped the novel had a sense of humor, and thankfully it did.

Sixteen-year old Pearl is the youngest vampire in a powerful family. When she’s getting a “snack” at the local Dairy Hut, she sees a unicorn. Which is a surprise to her, since unicorns don’t exist. She doesn’t take the unicorn seriously, a bad miscalculation since the unicorn stakes her in the back.

Pearl awakes the next day in the not-so-loving arms of her family. Instead of dying, Pearl can now walk in the daylight and more shockingly – she develops a conscience. Of course, she ends up going to high school, and a high-stakes adventure ensues.

Drink Slay Love is campy, kitschy, funny . . . in short, a great summer read. It made me laugh out loud, like when Pearl sarcastically says that unicorns poop rainbows. It pokes fun at other YA vampire novels. Durst adds lots of amusing details, like vampires learning about high school by watching John Hughes movies, and Pearl’s analysis of high school based on hunting and war theories.

Title: Drink Slay Love
Author: Sarah Beth Durst
Source: Publisher E-Galley
Read: August 2011

 

 

 

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Another pre-review: Modelland by Tyra Banks

August 15th, 2011    Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Kim, Young Adult
 

Modelland, which comes out in September, is the first novel penned by Tyra Banks. Though it is likely the success of this book will determine if we’ll see more Modelliterature from Tyra, the book will see strong distribution and predictably decent sales its first week.

Barnes and Noble posted a sample chapter from the novel, providing eager readers with a glimpse of what’s to come. Though it’s difficult to make sense of the world from this single chapter (it’s worth nothing this isn’t the book’s first chapter) you can get a sense of style and prose. So while this review is somewhat of a stunted “pre-review” we thought we’d opine on what America’s Next Top Author (yes, debatable) has to offer the world of books.

The novel follows Tookie De La Crème as she enters the world of Modelland. In the chapter posted by B&N, Tookie attends a runway walk-off/audition to support her sister Myrracle (yes, that’s Myrracle) only to end up being chosen herself. What, exactly, is she chosen for? Although based on the book’s overview and fairly chaotic chapter it’s difficult to tell, it seems each model is hoping to become an Intoxibella: a superstar model that is worshiped by society, ushered into the limelight, and arguable magical. The preview chapter hints that the book does have some fantastic elements and the overview predicts some sinister plot developments, all which could be promising. That does, however, depend on whether or not you can get through the writing, that while unique in style, has some distracting tendencies.

The jury is still out on whether or not we’ll review the book in full when it comes out, but we welcome comments on the preview chapter. For those of you brave enough to read the full text, please, let us know what you think.

Click here for the sample chapter!

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Pre-review of Wildwood

August 8th, 2011    Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Kim, Middle Grade, Urban Fantasy
 

For Portlanders, the word Wildwood will probably conjure up images of the popular restaurant in Northwest Portland. But for everyone else, it is the title of a three-book series written by Decemberists lead singer and songwriter, Colin Meloy and his wife (and illustrator) Carson Ellis.

The book has instant appeal, largely in part to the authors’ strong following in other media, so we thought we’d review the first four chapters (now available online) to see what this “middle-grade fantasy adventure novel” had in store.

Wildwood tells the story of Prue, a slightly unlucky big sister, who loses her little brother to a murder of crows when the birds pluck him off her Radio Flyer wagon and retreat into the Impassible Woods. Trying to avoid trouble, Prue is able to conceal the event from her parents just long enough to come up with a plan: to enter the Impassible Woods and do the impossible—come back out alive… and with her little brother.

The book has an element of instant likability and the sense of environment is very Portland. The first four chapters introduce the reader to Prue just enough so that we’re completely invested in her plight. I thought the cut off for the initial excerpt was well planned, ending with a cliff hanger that serves as the reader’s first glimpse into the fantastic (and possibly terrible) elements of the Impassible Woods. There were some areas that seemed predictable in terms of plot, but overwhelmingly enjoyable and fun to read.

To read the first four chapters yourself, click on the link below. The book is available August 30, 2011.

Wildwood Chapters 1-4 Excerpt <– Click here for the download!

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The Unwanteds: Dystopian Middle Grade novels mixes an idyllic magical world with a cold, repressive regime

August 2nd, 2011    Posted in 52 Books in one year challenge, ARCs, Fantasy, Fiction, Kelly, Middle Grade
 

In Quill, the people are divided into three groups: wanted, necessary, and unwanted. The unwanted are eliminated. Permanently. When thirteen-year old Alex is declared unwanted, he tries to stay strong and be grateful that his twin brother Aaron is wanted.

When Alex arrives at the eliminated site he’s shocked to find that instead of being killed he’s taken to the magical world of Artime. Created to protect the unwanted, who tend to be artists, musicians and other creative folk, Artime is a magical paradise with fun classes, talking statues, and more. Alex is finally able to express himself, as drawing, creative thinking, and expressing emotion are encouraged in Artime while banned in Quill.

Meanwhile, Aaron progresses in the Quill University and has come under the eye of the country’s dictator, Justine. Alex wishes Aaron was with him in Quill, feeling a bond between them that increases over time. This bond could destroy Artime’s very existence.

The Unwanteds would make a nice combination gift pack with The Giver by Lois Lowry and Coraline by Neil Gaiman. Fans of Harry Potter might also enjoy it. The world is a fun mixture of cold, repressive regime and colorful world in which children are taught to use their creativity to solve problems. Alex makes his own choices and faces consequences, yet he also has a strong mentor able to both understand and guide him.

Definitely recommended for middle grade readers.

Read by: Kelly

Title: The Unwanteds
Author: Lisa McMann
Date read: July 2011
Source: ARC

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High fantasy YA: Witchlanders by Lena Coakley

August 2nd, 2011    Posted in 52 Books in one year challenge, ARCs, Fantasy, Fiction, Kelly, Young Adult
 

Ryder is a farmer in Witchland, trying to maintain the farm that’s fallen into his hands after the death of his father. His mother doesn’t help, as she spends most of her time high and trying to tell the future by throwing bones. But Ryder knows that fortune telling is hogwash, and that the witches that take a tithe from his farm each year to protect him are fakes.

In the Bitterlands, Falpian is a disappointment to his father and he’s been sent to a remote cabin on the border with Witchland to mourn the death of his twin brother. Needless to say, they’re brought together.

Bromance ensues.

Well, not exactly. Falpian and Ryder are opposing sides of a conflict, but they have a lot in common. Despite their quirks and different upbringings, they’re both noble and it’s clear they have a shared destiny.

Witchlanders is an interesting read. I appreciated the male protagonists. I also appreciated that while I saw a potential love interest for Ryder, the novel was about so much more and that area wasn’t explored at all. The world-building is strong and nuanced throughout the novel, slowly revealing the beliefs of the two cultures. I enjoyed the magic and the mythology, and I’m curious where the author will go in the rest of the series.

Read by: Kelly

Title: Witchlanders
Author: Lena Coakley
Read: July 2011
Source: ARC

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Mythology adapted to YA Lite-Horror Tale

August 2nd, 2011    Posted in 52 Books in one year challenge, ARCs, Fantasy, Fiction, Kelly, Young Adult
 

The classic mythological creatures the Furies are adapted to a teenage audience in Fury by Elizabeth Miles.

The novel starts out from the perspective of someone—identified later—attempting to commit suicide. One can only assume her attempt draws the Furies to Ascension, Maine for the beginning of the holiday season.

While lead character Emily is popular, she’s in the shadow of her best friend Gabby, and she secretly pines after a boy. Not just any boy: Gabby’s boyfriend, Zach. With Gabby gone for Christmas, will the temptation be too much for Em to handle?

Chase is the quarterback of the football team, and he spends his time trying to fit in with the popular kids and hide his trailer park upbringing. He studies life carefully, dressing and acting act right to create an impeccable facade. But why have the furies chosen him?

I enjoyed the voice of the novel. It felt more like a light horror novel than a paranormal romance. I wish we learned more about the furies and how they chose their targets. The author spends time detailing what the furies looked like without going into their characters. Was Chase’s punishment justified? Does Ty have a different sense of morality from her Fury-cousins? It’s hard to tell without more insight. The novel is clearly the first in a series and the end of Fury sets up the next book.

Read by: Kelly

Title: Fury
Author: Elizabeth Miles
Read: July 2011
Source: ARC

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Heartless is a strong addition to the Parasol Protectorate series

July 24th, 2011    Posted in 52 Books in one year challenge, Fantasy, Fiction, Kim
 

The fourth installment of the Parasol Protectorate series might be my favorite thus far. Alexia’s world is well developed, and the story gets off to a fast and funny start. Eight-months pregnant Alexia taking on the world of werewolves, vampires, ghosts, and Victorian society? Perfect.

When a crazy ghost (because in this world, ghosts slowly devolve into poltergeists as the longer they exist since death) contacts Alexia about a plot on the queen, the soulless one has to dive into action. It doesn’t help that vampires are trying to assassinate Alexia and her unborn child, and they’re not afraid to use demonic hedgehogs and exploding gravy boats.

The storyline is fun, and sheds light into the back-stories of several characters, including Alexia’s father. The resolution makes sense, and it’s a fun journey to get to the end. The novel sets up the fifth and final installment “Timeless” well, since Alexia’s baby isn’t necessarily what everyone expected.

The Parasol Protectorate series is great those who like supernatural novels with a mix of comedy and romance. It’s a great guilty pleasure read, and don’t be surprised if you find yourself craving strong cups of English Breakfast tea while reading this novel.

Read by: Kelly

Title: Heartless
Author: Gail Carriger
Source: Powell’s Books
Date read: July 2011

 

 

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Review of A Clash of Kings, sort of

May 31st, 2011    Posted in 52 Books in one year challenge, Fantasy, Fiction, Kelly
 

Clash of Kings George RR MartinIn a review of the TV show Game of Thrones, New York Times Reviewer Ginia Bellafante essentially bagged on fantasy and claimed that women don’t read fantasy. Her exact quote:

“While I do not doubt that there are women in the world who read books like Mr. Martin’s, I can honestly say that I have never met a single woman who has stood up in indignation at her book club and refused to read the latest from Lorrie Moore unless everyone agreed to “The Hobbit” first. “Game of Thrones” is boy fiction patronizingly turned out to reach the population’s other half.”

As a female reader I found this offensive. As a thinking individual I was a little surprised that the New York Times review of TV show would spend so little time talking about the production values and quality of a show. I’m impressed that HBO took a fantasy saga of this scale and wish the reviewer would have actually reviewed the show.
As far as actually reviewing A Clash of Kings, I don’t want to get too much into the plot of the book since it will give away certain plot points that carry a ton of weight/emotional impact for the end of Game of Thrones.  Given how closely the TV show mirrors the book, getting too much into plot of A Clash of Kings could spoil both the end of the book and TV show. Since I love the book, I don’t want to spoil the end for anyone.

The basic premise: five kings are fighting for control of Westeros. Tyrion Lannister really stole the show for me in this novel. Overall, I really enjoyed this novel and appreciate the world Martin created. A Clash of Kings doesn’t have the same emotional impact as Game of Thrones but it’s really set the stage for the next book. I enjoy the female characters, especially Arya although I appreciate how Martin juxtapositions Sansa’s perspectives against the rest of the female cast.  Sansa has the least power of any of the woman. Tyrion Lannister and Jon Snow also continue to be favorites, and anti-hero Theon Greyjoy brings additional color.

Expect a dual (duel?!?) review of Game of Thrones soon!

Read by: Kelly

Title: A Clash of Kings
Author: George R. R. Martin
Source: Barnes & Noble Nook
Read: May 2011

 

 

 

 

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Mini-Reviews: Monk novel and more FreakAngels

May 22nd, 2011    Posted in 52 Books in one year challenge, Book adaptation, Fantasy, Fiction, Graphic Novel, Kelly, Mystery, TV v. Book
 

TV Tie-In: Monk series

A literary agent complained on Twitter about seeing someone read a Monk TV tie-in novel. The complaint wasn’t that someone was reading, but that the publishing industry could be more creative when choosing novels to publish. This made me wonder about the series, and I checked one of the novels out from my local library.

Mr. Monk on the Road is the eleventh (11th!) book in the series about the TV detective. These novels are based on the TV series, as opposed to the show being derived from the books. The 11th novel takes place after the end of the show, and so Adrian is dealing with life after solving his wife’s murder.

My big question when picking up this novel was does the novel satisfying on its own, or does it rely on the TV series? The novel is told in first person from Natalie’s point of view, and having seen the TV show helped me understand her description of Monk’s mannerisms and other quirky attributes. Natalie and Monk essentially kidnap Monk’s agoraphobic brother Ambrose and take him on a road trip in motor home. (Since Ambrose has only left the house twice in thirty years, a motor home will allow him to see things without having to go outside.)

Of course, they stumble upon murders, and Adrian unveils a serial killer. I knew how the murderers were when they were introduced. The ending is a bit rushed as the murder storyline is resolved, and some of the coincidences are a little much. But overall the novel is fun and I can see how uber-fans of the show will enjoy these books.

FreakAngels: Volumes Three and Four

Since FreakAngels Volume Three ended on a cliffhanger, I had to pick up the fourth installment as well. I’m going to say much about these graphic novels, other than I loved them and really enjoy the series.  They’re fast, fun reads set in an interesting world. The writer and illustrator are still world-building, but the stakes for the FreakAngels are getting higher as they take on responsibility for building a new world in Whitechapel.

Title: FreakAngels Volume Three
Author: Warren Ellis and Paul Duffield
Source: Public Library
Read: May 2011

Title: FreakAngels Volume Four
Author: Warren Ellis and Paul Duffield
Source: Public Library
Read: May 2011

Title: Mr. Monk on the Road
Author: Lee Goldberg
Source: Public Library
Read: May 2011

Read by: Kelly

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