Tuesday, September 30, 2008

One last diabolical scheme...

In the previous two books in the Artemis Fowl series, the boy genius has been in that most enviable position of young heroes: his parents are out of the way, not interfering with his adventures. But all that is about to change. His father is back, and what's worse is that he no longer is obsessed with finance, the family fortunes, and money-making schemes. During his long ordeal, Artemis's father realized that his family is more important to him than anything, and he is determined to mend his ways.

Thirteen-year-old Artemis is not sure exactly how he feels about this turn of events. Part of him is pleased, but the other is worried that life from here on out will be boring, boring, boring. So he decides to carry off one last diabolical scheme. After all, with a mind like his, perfect planning, and Butler, his faithful bodyguard, by his side, what could possibly go wrong?

Using fairy technology he'd "acquired" in a previous adventure, Artemis has developed a technological marvel that makes the iPhone look like a couple of paper cups connected by a string. He takes the prototype to a meeting with a sociopathic American businessman, but instead of being the quick money-making deal he so confidently expects, the plan explodes in his face. Artemis is left with the sickening realization that he has made a huge mistake and may lose the things that truly matter most - and he has also inadvertently rendered the entire fairy world vulnerable to a very dangerous adversary.

This is another rip-roaring adventure tale, excellently narrated by Nathanial Parker, who tells the story in such a compelling way that I wouldn't consider choosing anything but the audio versions of these books. Artemis's fairy "friends" are back, including Captain Holly Short, Mulch Diggums and Commander Root, and I was pleased to become better acquainted with Butler's little sister Juliet, who is quickly becoming one of my very favorite characters, providing many priceless laugh-out-loud moments. I'm enjoying watching Artemis become more human as the series progresses, changing and growing as he learns tough life lessons. It is also great fun to witness the masterful way his brilliant mind manages to turn dead-end situations into brilliant - and risky - runs for the gold.

Books in the Artemis Fowl series:
1. Artemis Fowl
2. Artemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident
3. Artemis Fowl: The Eternity Code
4. Artemis Fowl: The Opal Deception
5. Artemis Fowl: The Lost Colony
6. Artemis Fowl: The Time Paradox

Artemis Fowl: The Eternity Code (#3 in the Artemis Fowl series) by Eoin Colfer; narrated by Nathaniel Parker (Listening Library, 2004)

Also reviewed at:
But What These Unobservant Birds

Monday, September 29, 2008


Don't you love it when you're having a trying day (or week, in my case), and suddenly, when you least expect it, you see something that gives your heart a lift? That happened to me when I stopped by one of my favorite book blogs, Fuzzycricket, to see what she'd been up to. ( I'm nosy that way.)

What did I find but that she'd awarded my blog with the very sweet "I love your blog" award, and said such nice things about my little corner of the bookblogosphere! Thanks, Fuzzycricket!

I really had no idea what to expect when I started writing a book blog. Would anyone even bother to read what I was writing about? Who knew? Mainly I was writing for myself - I find that often the best way to examine how I feel about something is to start writing about it and see where that takes me. Next thing I knew, people were actually leaving comments, and before long I'd discovered a whole new world of people to talk about books with! Not only that, but I discovered that, aside from all the great discussions and book recommendations, I have become a better reader, more critical and more aware. I also have a much better recollection of the books I read - before blogging, I'd move onto the next one, and the next, and wouldn't stop to reflect as much on what I was reading.

Now that I've been given the award, I'm supposed to do the following:
  1. Add the logo of your award to your blog.
  2. Add a link to the person who awarded it to you.
  3. Nominate at least 7 other blogs.
  4. Add links to those blogs on your blog.
  5. Leave a message for your nominees on their blogs.
There are so many blogs out there I'd give this award to! Many of them, it appears, have already received it (as well they should!) My nominations for the award go to:

Nicola at Back to Books - I love to stop by and get all kinds of great recommendations on books, particularly good read-alouds for my children, who seem to enjoy the same kinds of books as her son. I always add something to my list when I visit Nicola!

Valentina at Valentina's Room - I've been reading her blog for almost as long as I've been blogging, and I've gotten all kinds of great recommendations from her, particularly things I might not have bothered reading had I not read her insightful reviews.

The Reader Rabbit sisters - first of all, they crack me up. Secondly, they are sisters, blogging about books, and I think they are both in high school. How amazingly cool is that? Third, they write great reviews that make me go running out for the books.

Ms. Yingling Reads - Ms. Yingling is a middle school librarian who tries to read everything she buys for the library - plus every hardcover fiction book that's there. I like her attitude! She writes lots of great short reviews that help me stay aware of all the great things that are out there that I haven't gotten around to reading yet.

The Book Smugglers
- I love the way they review books together, in a conversational format - especially when they don't agree with each other! They are smart and funny and are always adding books to my TBR list.

Ladytink at The Movieholic and Bibliophile's Blog - hers is another blog I've been reading since the very beginning of my blogging "career," and not only does she add piles of books to my list, but she also does very fun movie reviews, with all kinds of images and links. Plus she leaves sparkly pixie-dust comments all over my blog, and who doesn't love that?

And last but definitely not least, Rhinoa at Rhinoa's Ramblings - we see eye to eye on just about every book we've both read, and she adds so many great books to my reading list. Plus she clearly likes Zelda (one of my current obsessions) and is great fun to talk books with.

I tried to poke through everyone's blogs to make sure you aren't getting double awards (not that you don't deserve it!). There are so many other blogs out there that I also heart - I could go on and on, but it's late, and I'm off to bed!

Mystery on the rooftops of London

I fell in love with Chris Riddell's whimsical Ottoline and the Yellow Cat this summer, so I was excited to see that he has written two other series (with co-author Paul Stewart): The Edge Chronicles and Far-Flung Adventures. I also noticed a new series they are writing together, so I ordered the first one from my library, and I'm glad I did!

Barnaby Grimes is a tick-tock lad: "a sort of cross between a messenger and a delivery boy, only a tick-tock lad has to be faster than the first and twice as sharp as the second." He carries messages and items quickly and competently from one place to another in foggy, soot-covered Victorian London, often leaping madly across the rooftops to get to his destination.

One night, up on the roofs, he encounters an enormous, slavering beast that attacks him with its dagger-sharp teeth. This encounter sparks a chain of events that involves scientists, patent medications, expensive furs, glue factories, disappearing friends, street thugs, and eccentric and colorful characters, including a very pretty dressmaker's assistant. Barnaby is a quick study, luckily for him, but it's going to take more than fast thinking to save his skin in this gripping (and funny) mystery!

The illustrations were a wonderful accompaniment to the text, making the book appear extremely spookier than it actually is (and thus, one hopes, encouraging many devotees of "horror" fiction like the Goosebumps series to branch out and take a chance on something new). The print is nice and large, but the authors do not pull any punches with vocabulary, so that Barnaby, who tells the story, uses language that feels natural to the Victorian setting.

I am very much looking forward to trying the other two series these talented authors (and illustrator) have written. And yes, now I'm in the unenviable position of having to wait for the next book in this enjoyable new series to be published! Ah, well - I'm certain it will be worth the wait.

Barnaby Grimes: Curse of the Night Wolf (#1 in the Barnaby Grimes series) by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell (David Fickling Books, 2007)

Also reviewed at:
Making Stuff up for a Living

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Four-leaf clover girl

Yotsuba is a little girl whose name means "four-leaf clover" - and the name fits her very well (note the four little ponytails in her bright green hair). We meet her as she and her father are moving to a new town from somewhere that must be very rural, as Yotsuba is unfamiliar with playground equipment, doorbells and air conditioning, among other things.

She is an irrepressible little kid, who reminds me in many ways of Ramona and Clementine - she is a free thinker, can easily get the wrong impression from something someone says, then run in an unexpected direction with it, with hilarious results. The book has many laugh-out-loud moments, yet is touching and, at times, bittersweet. My library places this series in the YA section, but the humor and story would definitely be accessible to much younger children. In fact, I was reading this one in the car during a long drive, and my giggles kept my 7 and 9yo girls wondering about what I was reading. The 7yo is halfway through it now and is loving it!

Yotsuba's father is very funny, and he gets himself into some amusing situations, too. But he is also a compassionate man who is able to accept Yotsuba's quirky nature and appreciate her for being exactly who she is. This opening volume also introduces us to their new neighbors, three sisters who each fall under Yotsuba's spell in one way or another. What a delightful beginning to a series. I can't wait to see what happens next!

Books reviewed in the Yotsuba&! series so far:
Volume 1
Volume 2

Yotsuba&!, Vol. 1 by Kiyohiko Azuma (ADV Manga, 2005)

Also reviewed at:
Aleph Naught and the Null Set

Friday, September 26, 2008

Coming to grips with magic

In this second volume of the Magic or Madness trilogy, fifteen-year-old Reason Cansino has survived her first brush with her magical heritage. Now, even though she still doesn't trust her grandmother, she realizes that if she is going to survive, she needs knowledge. Her grandmother is willing to teach her and Jay-Tee, as she's been teaching Tom - but Reason believes her grandmother has her own agenda.

Before they can progress very far in their lessons, someone - something - attacks the house. Whatever it is, and not even Reason's grandmother seems to know, it's something extremely powerful - could it possibly be Reason's grandfather? Or something else entirely? Whatever it is, Reason seems to be the only one who is able to combat it. Then she is pulled through that magical door that between Australia and New York City, and finds herself facing a being of unimaginable power with intentions she cannot begin to understand.

This volume of the trilogy acts as a bridge between the first and third books, and its narrative arc does not conclude until the end of the third volume, which may be why the storytelling didn't feel quite as focused to me as in the first book. Even so, I found it gripping and enjoyed the continuing development of the relationships among Reason, Tom and Jay-Tee. Reason's grandmother is a complex and fascinating character, and I enjoyed seeing how Reason's perceptions of her changed as the story unfolded. Good and evil are not categorical constructs in this book - characters have flaws and strengths, and these things drive the plot, giving the books depth and resonance. I found this one hard to put down, and I couldn't wait to get to the next one to see what happened next!

Books in the Magic or Madness trilogy:
1. Magic or Madness
2. Magic Lessons
3. Magic's Child

Magic Lessons (#2 in the Magic or Madness trilogy) by Justine Larbalestier (Razorbill, 2006)

Also reviewed at:
Needs More Demons?
Off the Shelf

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Comics take flight

I discovered this graphic novel anthology when Volume 4 arrived among the new books at my library. One look at its beautiful cover, and of course I had to put a hold on Volume 1 to read first.

Just flipping through the pages is a visual treat. The anthology consists of short stories in comic strip format, beautifully rendered in color illustrations. The stories are mostly fantasy, and every one of them involves the theme of flight in some way - sometimes overtly, sometimes in a more subtle fashion.

In "Hugo Earheart" by Jake Parker, a little boy, a winged pig and a flying whale must deliver an important parcel (via airmail, of course). Along the way they encounter some enemy boltships, and a hair-raising adventure ensues.

In Khang Lee's "Outside My Window," a little girl wakes up one morning to find herself completely alone in the house. She searches everywhere for her mother, finally going outside to look. When she opens the front door, she sees an enormous robot (or is it an alien life form?) . It wants to be her friend, but it doesn't quite understand the meaning of friendship...at least, not yet.

Another one Iparticularly enjoyed was "Faith" by Erica Moen - it's one of the understated stories in which it took me a moment to understand the connection to the "flight" theme - but once I got it, it gave the story even greater depth.

This is a fine collection of very interesting stories in a variety of genres. I very much look forward to reading the subsequent volumes. What a wonderful assortment of compelling artwork and intriguing storytelling!

Flight, Vol. 1, edited by Bengal, Bill Mudron, Catia Chien, and Clio Chiang (Image Comics, 2004)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

One creepy town

Claire Danvers is a freshman at a small college in a small town. She could have gone to a prestigious university on a full academic scholarship, but because she's only sixteen, her parents want her closer to home, and they think a small school is the best choice. Unfortunately, they have no way of knowing that Morganville is not the typical small town. Claire doesn't know that either - at least not yet.

Her immediate concerns involve a nasty girl named Monica, a beautiful but malicious student she inadvertently humiliated in front of a bunch of other students. Now Claire's laundry has disappeared down the garbage chute, and the next thing she knows, she's been beaten to a pulp and shoved down a very long, hard flight of stairs. Monica and her friends tell her that they'll be back to finish the job that night. Calling her parents for help is not an option - Claire knows they will just drive up and take her home, and her college "experiment" will be over.

Instead, she decides to look into moving off campus. And that is how Claire ends up on the doorstep of Glass House and becomes friends with goth girl Eve, handsome but apparently directionless Shane, and Michael, older and incredibly good looking, but with a few secrets of his own. The Glass House turns out to be one of the few places in Morganville where Clare can be absolutely safe. At least for a while...

This was an interesting opening to a series, which introduced the main characters and the creepy small-town vampire-infested setting, came to a bit of a conclusion, but left lots of loose ends to be explored in future volumes. There were things that worked well - the sense of isolation that Claire feels, the sense of foreboding the imbues so many of the scenes, the characters and their relationships with each other - those things kept me reading.

At the same time, there were times when the plot strained credibility. For example (and you might want to skip this part to avoid possible smallish spoilers): everyone in the town has been searching for an important book for decades. Claire decides the book will solve her problems, and it takes her less than 48 hours to track it down. Claire learns Michael's big secret within a few days of living in the house with him, but Eve and Shane have been living there for months and have no clue that he even has a secret. Claire's parents show up, find that she's not only living off campus without their permission, but living with underage boys who, they discover, have beer in their fridge. Instead of whisking her off with them, they tell her she must come home but give her two days before she has to leave, ostensibly so she can file her transfer paperwork (much needed time for the plot to work out, but simply unbelievable to this reader). My other issue was that the mean girls were scarier than the vampires, which seemed a bit odd in the scheme of things.

Still, it is an intriguing beginning, and the characters are compelling enough that I'm curious to see what will happen next. Many thanks to Reader Rabbits for recommending this series, which I hadn't even heard of before I read their review of one of the books.

I can't believe it's not even October, and I've finished my books for Carl's R.I.P III Challenge already! This is my fourth book, but I'll still be looking for fun, creepy reads this wonderful time of year! Don't forget to check out the review site to see the books other challengees are reviewing!

Books in the Morganville Vampires series:
1. Glass Houses
2. The Dead Girls' Dance
3. Midnight Alley
4. Feast of Fools

Glass Houses (#1 in the Morganville Vampires series) by Rachel Caine (NAL Jam, 2006)

Also reviewed at:
The Book Bag
My Inked Pages

Monday, September 22, 2008

A couple of art musuem sleuths

Lucas and Kari, both fourteen years old, are very best friends. They met at an art class, Kari astounded by Lucas's ability to render what she saw onto the page in incredible detail, and Lucas impressed by Kari's skill at creative interpretation of the subject in question. Lucas has a photographic memory, and Kari possesses a creativity that Lucas just doesn't quite have.

The two friends complement each other in other ways, as well, so that when they stumble across a puzzling event at an art museum, they turn out to be the perfect team in pursuing and solving the mystery. Who is the nasty man they saw in the Minneapolis art gallery, and again in the National Gallery of London, copying a Rembrandt painting - and why is he wearing a disguise? Why is he so careful that no one can catch a glimpse of the canvas he is working on? If it weren't for Lucas's photographic memory, the two girls might never have noticed.

Their travels with Kari's mother, a fashion journalist, take them around Europe, and the more they delve into the mystery, the more their safety is at stake. But how can they give up when they seem so close to discovering the truth?

There were many things about this book that I loved: the girls' friendship, which at times ran down a bumpy road; their relationships with their families; the character of Kari's mother, who is portrayed (as is much more common in children's fiction these days, happily) as a real, three-dimensional person, not just a shadowy authority figure in the background to be trotted out as the plot necessitates); the consequences of the girls' behavior; and the whole art history theme. The plot did contain enough coincidences to strain the suspension of my disbelief, and it was completely unrealistic that a newly discovered painting by an art master would only be authenticated by one "expert" in the field - but still, the novel was highly enjoyable, a fun romp through the art world from the point of view of two intelligent, likable teenagers.

My library shelves this book in the children's fiction area, but I do believe it would appeal to younger teens as well. There are some allusions to prostitution (that famous quarter in Amsterdam) and sexual abuse, but it is more a subtext that only readers in the know would understand. I love art history mysteries, and this is a fun addition to that growing genre.

The Mystery of the Third Lucretia by Susan Runholt (Viking Juvenile, 2008)

Also reviewed at:
Knights Read Books
Reading with My Ears
Thumbs Up 2009

Sunday, September 21, 2008

A bookworm, a perplexing house, and a mystery in the Royal library

When Diana Wynne Jones comes out with a new book, I do the happy dance! And I've been waiting very anxiously for this one, which is billed as the sequel to Howl's Moving Castle. Who doesn't want to see more of handsome, charismatic Howl? House of Many Ways is the sequel in the same way that The Tombs of Atuan is the sequel to A Wizard of Earthsea - eventually we get to see Howl and Sophie, but the main character of this book is a young girl named Charmain.

Charmain has always sat around the house with her nose stuck in a book. There are plenty of things she'd also like to be doing, but her mother has definite ideas about the "proper" things a young woman should do. Magic, unfortunately, is not among them. Neither is dish washing, laundry, cooking, dog ownership, or anything else that might either be fun to do or useful to know. One day Charmain's formidable Aunt Sempronia sweeps into the house, and before Charmain and her mother know it, Charmain has been sent to house-sit for her great uncle, a wizard who is ill and must go away for medical care. Charmain is torn between annoyance that she has had no say in the matter and excitement that finally she'll have a bit of independence.

Her great uncle is a kind old man, but Charmain has only a moment with him before he leaves. She is faced with a huge mess - bags of laundry, piles of dishes, no food in sight - and her lack of any sort of practical experience leaves her despairing of ever setting things straight. The house appears to be small, but in fact consists of many strange and mysterious layers of rooms that somehow manage to fit into the space of a small cottage. Charmain finds herself in very unusual (and sometimes dangerous) places, but luckily her uncle has left magical directions (his disembodied voice speaks out of thin air) to help her find her way around. Soon she is joined by Peter, who has traveled there to be her uncle's apprentice, a very tiny white dog named Waif, and gets a job helping the king and the princess in their library up in the royal mansion. It is immediately apparent that something is seriously wrong in the kingdom - they seem to barely have enough money to survive, and soon Charmain and Peter are caught up in an intriguing mystery, which must be solved quickly - but luckily they have a little help from Sophie and Howl (although he looks quite a bit different from the last time we saw him).

This book was so much fun! I loved the sense of wonder that is so evident throughout the entire book. Who wouldn't have a house that works exactly like that one if they were a wizard? Jones clearly had a lot of fun with it, and it was delightful to read about. I loved Charmain - even though she was a bit of a grump, she had a good heart, and she was quick to do the right thing when she finally understood what was going on. It was wonderful to see Howl and Sophie again - and to meet their little "darling," too! What a hoot to see them descend on the kind old king and his prim and proper daughter, setting the royal masion upside down. I thoroughly enjoyed this one, and I highly recommend it. While I'm waiting for Jones to write something new, I'll have to go back and revisit some of my old favorites.

House of Many Ways (the sequel to Howl's Moving Castle) by Diana Wynne Jones (Greenwillow Books, 2008)

Also reviewed at:
I Read What??

Other B&OT reviews of Diana Wynne Jones books:
The Game
Deep Secret
The Pinhoe Egg

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The secret child

Eleven-year-old Maud lives in an orphanage in the early 1900s. It is a cheerless place, with harsh teachers who consider her a troublemaker, and in fact the opening scene of the novel shows Maud locked in the outhouse as punishment for her outspoken, unladylike behavior. Not one to be unduly cowed by such punishment (and also in an attempt to keep her mind off how very cold she is), she sits in the dark belting out "The Battle Hymn of the Republic."

Her singing draws the attention of Hyacinth Hawthorne, an elderly woman who has come to the Barbary Asylum for Female Orphans in order to adopt a child. The director of the asylum, a thoroughly unpleasant woman, insists that Maud is most unsuitable, but Hyacinth and her sister bring Maud home with them nonetheless.

Maud is delighted to be away from the Asylum, and is astonished when she is presented with books and lovely new clothes. However, something is a bit odd about her situation. No one is to know that she lives with the Hawthorne sisters; she must remain indoors or in the rear walled garden at all times, and never go close to the curtained windows in the evening. She is told that when they feel they can trust her, they will let her in on the secret. For now, Maud is content to read her books and spend a few glorious minutes with Hyacinth, her favorite of the sisters, whenever she can. Maud is determined to be good in a way that she never was at the orphanage, and she does everything she can in order to please Hyacinth, who is funny and irreverent, not at all what she expected an old woman to be. Little does she know what shadowy pathways Hyacinth will lead her down...

I won't say any more about the plot, because it's best to let it unfold on its own, complete with twists and turns, dark secrets revealed. Maud is a feisty, likable heroine who makes plenty of mistakes (after all, she hasn't been given much guidance in her short life), but she has a good heart and is willing to learn from experience. I loved the characters in this novel, particularly the depth of characterization of the adults. The Hawthorne sisters are presented as real people with real failings but also positive qualities, and Muffet, their deaf maid, was my favorite character in the book besides Maud. I enjoyed this one very much. It is gripping, compelling, and often touching, with a timeless quality that reminded me of The Little Princess and The Secret Garden, although it delves a bit more into the darker side of human nature.

A Drowned Maiden's Hair: A Melodrama by Laura Amy Schlitz; narrated by Alma Cuervo (Recorded Books, 2007)

Also reviewed at:
Becky's Book Reviews
Book Nut

Friday, September 19, 2008

Mercy Watson, porcine wonder

Even though my children are well past the stage in their reading abilities of sounding out the words as they did with the first Mercy Watson book, aided by Chris Van Dusen's charmingly whimsical illustrations, they are still delighted when I bring a new book in the series home from the library.

This installment involves Mercy discovering that the neighbors' newly planted flowers taste delicious. an animal control officer who is unimaginably dedicated to her job, a tea party with invisible enchiladas and cream puffs, many laugh-out-loud moments and, of course, plenty of toast with a good deal of butter on it.

Di Camillo's storytelling is always masterful, and with the combination of Chris Van Dusen's marvelous portrayal of the characters and situations, what reader wouldn't be delighted to join in and think like a pig? The Mercy Watson series are great books to read aloud, but they are also wonderful trasistional books for readers who are anxious to move away from simpler easy readers but aren't quite ready for more densely written chapter books. Hooray for Mercy!

Books in the Mercy Watson series:

1. Mercy Watson to the Rescue
2. Mercy Watson Goes for a Ride
3. Mercy Watson Fights Crime
4. Mercy Watson, Princess in Disguise
5. Mercy Watson Thinks Like a Pig

6. Mercy Watson: Something Wonky This Way Comes

Mercy Watson Thinks Like a Pig (#5 in the Mercy Watson series) by Kate DiCamillo (Candlewick Press, 2008)

Also reviewed at:
The Alphabet Garden

Thursday, September 18, 2008

One-of-a-kind wolf

Elena Michaels is, on the surface, a lovely, successful young woman. She has a boyfriend who adores her, a job she likes, and, best of all, an ordinary life. On the surface. What her boyfriend and her friends from work don't know is that every so often she finds herself in wolf shape, skulking through the city, hunting. She is unable to reconcile this wild, violent part of herself - a part that was given to her forcibly, not something she chose - with the resulting fact that it prevents her from living the sort of life she has always wanted.

Even though she has found a sort of routine for this "ordinary" life of hers, there are ties to her past - her werewolf pack - that are not easily undone. So when she gets a call from them, even though she resists at first, she knows she has to go back. She dreads returning to the place where she became a werewolf, having to face her packmates - and certain events from her past. Once back, she is asked to help in a matter that requires her expertise. People she cares about are dying, and she must put her fears and feelings aside.

She is ambivalent in her feelings for her packmates because she can never know if they truly care about her, or just the fact that she is the only female werewolf. She believes she can resist the pull of her wolf, of her ties to her packmates, particularly to one certain wolf, the one she'll never forgive - the one she is attracted to in a very unsettling way. Elena's search for the rogue wolves opens up doors to her past that will be difficult to close - if, indeed, she and her pack manage to survive at all.

I enjoyed this first book in the Women of the Otherworld series - Elena is an interesting, complicated character, and the novel has a nice tight pace (if slightly predictable plot), memorable characters, and an interesting premise. There are many more books to come in this series, and I'm looking forward to seeing the direction it takes. I'm also wondering about the name of the series, though - I see that book two is about Elena as well, but will there be other heroines featured as well?

This is my third book read for Carl's RIP III Challenge (click here for other participants' reviews).

Books in the Women of the Otherworld series:

1. Bitten
2. Stolen
3. Dime Store Magic
4. Industrial Magic
5. Haunted
6. Broken
7. No Humans Involved
8. Personal Demon
9. Living with the Dead

Bitten by Kelley Armstrong (Viking, 2001)

Also reviewed at:
All Booked Up
Books 4Ever
Readers in Thongs
Reading Adventures
Rosie Demario

Have you reviewed this book on your blog? Let me know, and I'll add a link!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Dream or reality?

In this installment of CLAMP's xxxHOLIC series, Watanuki is having strange dreams that seem very real. He meets up with Domeki's deceased grandfather, a character who has appeared in his dreams before, and who has often manged to help him out in difficult - and dangerous - situations. When Watanuki asks him if it is all a dream, Domeki's father, who was a Shinto priest, says, "Yes. But you could also consider this its own world."

He goes on to tell Watanuki a parable about a butterfly and a dreaming man from (we're told in the notes at the back of the book) the ancient Chinese Daoist philospher Zhuangzi. The theme from this story about the perception of reality and the reality of dreams is woven throughout this volume of the series - to the point that it becomes difficult to tell them apart.

I always enjoy these books, mainly because the characters are so interesting, and their interactions are so touching and humorous (often both at the same time). I also love the way Japanese folklore influences the storyline, which is never predictable.

There is always a note at the beginning of each volume of xxxHOLIC noting that it "crosses over" with the manga series Tsubasa, which I have been meaning to read but haven't gotten to yet. "Athough it is not necessary to read Tsubasa to understand the events in xxxHOLIC," the note continues, "you'll get to see the same events from different perspectives if you read both series." I used to agree with that statement, but starting with the previous volume, I've been feeling a bit out of the loop, and I now believe that in order to understand it, you really do need to read both series. Not that I mind - I love the illlustrations, the humor, and the intricate plot of this and the other manga I've read by CLAMP, so I'm sure I'll enjoy Tsubasa as well. Plus it'll tide me over till my library gets the next installment of xxxHOLIC!

xxxHOLIC, Vol. 12 by CLAMP (Del Rey, 2008)

Also reviewed at:
A Clever Literary Reference
Slightly Biased Manga

For B&OT reviews of previous volumes of xxxHOLIC, see:
xxxHOLIC, vol 9
xxxHOLIC, vol 10
xxxHOLIC, vol 11

Monday, September 15, 2008

An intriguing prequel

Young Peter is one of a group of orphans being led aboard a decrepit old ship called the Never Land. They are on their way to be servants to a despotic king across the ocean, whether they want to or not. Meanwhile, two old sailors are sent to a warehouse to pick up a trunk to bring aboard the ship. When the canvas cover shifts to the side, one of the sailors is flabbergasted when all the pain in his weary old body suddenly vanishes, and he hears the sound of bells.

Peter can tell by the sailor's behavior when he brings it aboard that there is something odd about the old trunk, and when mysterious events occur near it during their sea voyage (one involves a floating rat), he becomes determined to discover the trunk's secrets. On board he meets a very nice girl named Molly Aster. Her father is sailing on a different ship, the Wasp, which also carries a special trunk in its cargo. A third ship, The Sea Devil, crewed by pirates, is in hot pursuit of the Wasp. Black Stache, the formidable pirate captain, is delightfully diabolical, and Mr. Smee, his first mate, is hilariously inept.

If the names of some of these characters seem suspiciously familiar to you, that is because this rollicking seafaring adventure is a prequel to, of course, Peter Pan. It is obvious that Barry and Pearson had a wonderful time telling this story, which not only serves to explain many things from Barrie's Peter Pan, but is packed full of all kinds of fun and exciting elements: talking dolphins, mermaids, magical lockets, shipwrecks, jungle adventures, and more. I particularly enjoyed their characterization of Peter, which has a depth that made me come to care about him, as well as the developing relationship between Peter and Molly.

I did feel that the trunk-as-MacGuffin device became a bit tiresome after a while - where's the trunk, who has the trunk, they have the trunk, we have the trunk, where's the trunk? Ack! I have to say, though, that my girls (7yo and 9yo) did not have any problem with that aspect of the book. We listened to this in the car, and they were riveted from beginning to end. I had to laugh, too, at how long it took them to realize that Peter was Peter Pan! I guess when you aren't old enough to have experienced that many books, such things are still surprising (unlike for the rest of us jaded adults). Jim Dale's narration was, as always, masterful - his storytelling, as well as the different voices of the characters he uses, paints a vivid picture of the book so that it almost feels as though I've seen it on film! We are all looking forward to Peter's further adventures, and we'll definitely be listening to Jim Dale read them.

Books in the Starcatchers series:
1. Peter and the Starcatchers
2. Peter and the Shadow Thieves
3. Peter and the Secret of Rundoon

Peter and the Starcatchers (# 1 in the Starcatchers series) by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson; narrated by Jim Dale (Brilliance Audio, 2004)

Also reviewed at:
For the Love of Books

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The cost of magic

I knew nothing about this book before reading it, and I think that is one of the reasons it worked so well for me. So I will reveal as little as possible about the plot in this review. The story is told from multiple points of view, starting out with Reason, a fifteen-year-old Australian girl who's spent her entire life moving from place to place with her mother. They are on the run from Reason's grandmother, who, from the stories Reason's mother has told her, is a wicked, deluded woman who believes she has magical powers, and she wants custody of Reason.

The book opens with Reason, terrified in her grandmother's car, being taken to her grandmother's house. She refuses to speak to her grandmother, and she knows she must find a way to escape. But how to rescue her mother, who has now been admitted to a mental hospital?

Of course there is more to her grandmother than meets the eye, and possibly less truth in her mother's stories about her horrible childhood. Or is there? Reason is flung into a world that she never imagined, having lived in remote villages in the Australian outback her entire life. She meets Tom, her grandmother's teenaged neighbor, who seems to worship the ground her grandmother walks on, and before long finds herself swept away to another world, where everything is cold and snowy, and there are dangers to be feared even more than her grandmother.

I loved this book, its intriguing premise about magic, the characters, the dialog, the pacing. It drew me in immediately, and the point-of-view shifts were an effective way of giving the story depth and tension. Often I take a little break between reading books in the same series, but I couldn't wait to see what happened with Reason and her friends, so I picked up the next volume of the trilogy as soon as I finished this one (review to follow). I highly recommend this book - it's definitely going to be on my list of favorites read this year!

Books in the Magic or Madness trilogy:

1. Magic or Madness
2. Magic Lessons
3. Magic's Child

Magic or Madness (#1 in the Magic or Madness trilogy) by Justine Larbalestier (Firebird Books, 2005)

Also reviewed at:
A Reader's Year
The Holly and the Ivy

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Parents with a dark secret

A group of teens who have known each other from the time they were very little are gathered together for their parents' annual get-together. Now that the kids are older and their interests have diverged, they don't have a whole lot in common anymore, and they are not thrilled with having to hang out together while their parents discuss their fund-raising charity work.

They sit around, bored, until they find out that there is a one-way mirror in the house - a window into the room where their parents are meeting. Why not see what they are up to? It doesn't seem like an idea that's terribly exciting, especially given how dull their parents are - until they take a look and see them discussing "off world enemies" and wearing interesting outfits. "Our parents are superheroes!" exclaims one boy. Then, to their horror, they witness a murder - the sacrifice of a young woman. Far from being superheroes, they realize their parents are supervillains, complete with super-villainous powers. When the parents realize the kids have discovered their secret, they fully expect them to join them in whatever dastardly deeds they have in mind.

The teens, however, are decent people, and they run away, discovering they seem to possess some superpowers of their own. But they are a long way from mastering those powers, and in the meantime, their parents are hot on their trail. Their dilemma is that, should they have a confrontation with their parents, what can they do? They still love them, and can try to defend themselves, but they really don't want to harm them. But do their parents have those same scruples?

The story is told with humor, and the characters spring to life through snappy dialogue and lively illustrations. The teens are an unlikely mix of allies, stock types ranging from an uppity goth girl to a computer geek to a jock. But they are sweet and funny, and as their relationships with each other grow and develop, they rise above their stereotypes, creating a promising start to this exciting twist on a superhero series.

Runaways, Vol. 1: Pride and Joy by Brian K Vaughan and Adrian Alphona (Marvel Comics, 2004)

Also reviewed at:
Crowy Reads

If you've reviewed this book, let me know and I'll add your link to the list!

Friday, September 12, 2008

A creepy southern gothic ghost story

Eden Moore has always been able to see ghosts - not ghosts all around her, but three specific ghosts she thinks of as the sisters, and while she finds their decayed appearance terrifying, they occasionally offer words of caution to her, even to the point of saving her life.

There is a mystery surrounding her past, her dead mother, her relatives - something that has to do with the ghosts. Eden turns to her Aunt Lulu for answers, only to be stonewalled with excuses: "When you're older;" "When you're ready." So it's no wonder that when Eden grows up and still no answers are forthcoming, she takes matters into her own hands in a search for the truth - a search that grows desperate as she comes to understand that her beloved aunt's life hangs in the balance, not to mention her own.

Eden's quest takes her to creepy abandoned medical facilities, haunted abbeys, and the desolate swamplands of Florida. She is an admirable heroine, determined, headstrong, and confident. Not one to be reduced to the typical quivering blob of feminine terror often portrayed in horror novels, Eden is determined to meet things head on and, as much as is possible, on her own terms. Not that she isn't afraid at times - she just refuses to be cowed - even when she's being hunted down by a psychopath who has already tried to kill her:
I almost felt like I owed him fear. He'd worked so hard to kill me, the least I could do was be just a tad nervous. But no, I couldn't muster it. The best I could do was summon up a healthy sense of caution, and toss him a minor, grudging respect for his persistence.
This book had me from the first page - it has an evocative, haunting feeling that leaked out into the everyday world after I put it down, tantalizing me to keep reading (and to look over my shoulder when I found myself alone in the dark). Many thanks to Chris for recommending it in his excellent review, which prompted me to add it to my list of possibilities for the RIP III Challenge. I was delighted to learn that it is the first book in a series of Eden Moore books, of which there are currently three.

Click here for links to other RIP III Challenge participants' reviews!
Books in the Eden Moore series:
1. Four and Twenty Blackbirds
2. Wings to the Kingdom
3. Not Flesh nor Feathers

Four and Twenty Blackbirds by Cherie Priest (Tor, 2005)

Also reviewed at:
Stuff as Dreams Are Made On

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Alchemyst

Sophie and Josh Newman, fifteen-year-old twins, are staying with their aunt in San Francisco for the summer. Their parents are archaeologists, and will be away on a dig in Utah for the entire summer. Sophie has found a job at a coffee shop, and Josh works at a used book store right across the street. They are both enjoying the city and their jobs, and everything is going great -- until Sophie sees some strange men enter the book store. There is something unsettling about them, dressed in bulky dark coats on such a warm summer day.

Josh, meanwhile, watches in astonishment as the bookstore owner is attacked by creepy men with dead-looking skin and flat, stony eyes. Everything they touch becomes putrid and rotting. The owner, Nick Fleming, fights back with amazing green fireballs. Sophie meets up with Nick Fleming's elegant wife, Perry, and when the windows explode in the book shop, they run across the street. Perry is kidnapped by the golems, and Sophie and Josh are left fleeing with Nick Fleming (aka Nicholas Flamel), cast into an adventure that brings with it startling revelations and devastating consequences.

The distant past comes to life, bringing with it beings and creatures from Egyptian, and Greek mythologies, to name a few. Everyone has an agenda, it seems, and no one seems willing to explain matters to the twins. How can they possibly know who to trust?

This first book in The Secret of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series opens with a bang and never lets up. The twins are thrust into one dire situation after another, and the plot proceeds at a breakneck, page-turning pace. While the book does come to a sort of conclusion, much of the story is left unresolved. Happily, the second volume in the series, The Magician, is now available. I'm looking forward to the further adventures of Josh and Sophie - and to revisiting the unusual and interesting characters they've met so far.

Books in the Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series:

1. The Alchemyst
2. The Magician

The Alchemyst (#1 in The Secrets of The Immortal Nicholas Flamel series) by Michael Scott (Delacorte Press, 2007)

Also reviewed at:
Books for Teens
Rona Books
Valentina's Room

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Mysterious happenings at a creepy seaside hotel

Fifteen-year-old Mariah Mundi is on his way from the boarding school where he's spent most of his life to a seaside hotel called the Prince Regent. His parents are missing, presumed dead, and now he is to be employed by the hotel as assistant to the magician who performs there. But Mariah learns that every other boy who's held that position has mysteriously disappeared.

And so Mariah's adventures begin in the strange old hotel perched on a cliff by the edge of the sea. He encounters the feisty Sacha, a girl his age who fills him in on the oddities of the hotel, including the steam-powered elevators and the mysterious caverns beneath the building. Mariah discovers clues left by the previous magician's assistant, and soon he learns that there is a diabolical plot afoot that has Mariah slated to disappear, too. In his search for the truth, he encounters a creepy doll that seems to move about on its own, magical objects that offer glimpses into the future, hidden rooms, lifelike waxworks, and nightmarish creatures with a taste for human flesh.

This is the first book I've read by G.P. Taylor, and I'm already planning on reading his earlier book, Shadowmancer, because I enjoyed this one very much. The evocative Victorian setting was a perfect backdrop for this taut tale, full of twists and turns and sudden revelations. Mariah and Sacha make an interesting pair whose strengths and weaknesses complement each other, and the villainous characters are quirky and interesting. It appears that this may be the first book in a series, and if so, I'll definitely be on board to follow the further adventures of Mariah Mundi.

The Midas Box: Mariah Mundi by G.P. Taylor (G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2007)

Also reviewed at:
A Walk in the Dark Woods

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Simple. Fun.

This is one of those delightful picture books that appeals to kids - and adults - of all ages. The language is simple - wonderfully simple, so that beginning readers can have a great time with it - and the illustrations effectively, humorously tell the rest of the story.

The life of a cat is not a simple one. The world is out there to be explored, but nothing is what it seems, and seemingly innocuous objects can act in surprising, mystifying - and hilarious - ways. Join cat as he journeys through a day out and about in his neighborhood

The combination of simple text, vibrant illustrations and abundant humor make this book ideal for groups of children of mixed ages, and I have added it to my own personal list to use for story-time programs at my library. It can be challenging to find a book that appeals to toddlers through five-year-olds, but this one certainly fits the bill.

I was unable to find a high resolution cover pic online for this one, but my kitty helpfully modeled for this photo, which turned out to be appropriate for the book, and much more fun!
Cat by Mike Dumbleton; illustrated by Craig Smith (Kane/Miller, 2008)

Monday, September 8, 2008

A dark Halloween adventure

Meg and Sue, two sisters who have recently moved from England to Long Island, New York, go to an evening Halloween party at their school. Meg is grumpy because she isn't having much fun. Even though she's older, she's been having much more difficulty adjusting to their new life than Sue, and she resents Sue for having lots of friends already. Meg takes her bad mood out on her sister, and then, when Kenny the bully begins teasing her, she humiliates him in front of everyone.

Meg runs from the school, followed by Sue, with Kenny hot on their heels. As he grows closer, they duck into a creepy, dilapidated old cottage and find themselves in a strange place and time, on an adventure with living legends from Celtic mythology that are amazing and dreadful - and undeniably dangerous.

I had vague memories of reading this book when it first came out, and when I came across it in my library recently, I thought it might be a fun RIP Challenge book, so I brought it home to reread. I enjoyed the intertwining of mythology with the present day, and I think young readers would be intrigued and eager to learn more about it. I did find Meg to be a difficult character to like, however, and she came close to losing my sympathy altogether. Yet her grit and determination made me stick with her - not to mention the tension and pace of the story. This would make a good Halloween read-aloud. It's creepy and exciting, and the mythological references give it a depth that readers are sure to appreciate.

This was an excellent book to start my RIP III Challenge with. Click here for links to other RIP III reviews!

On All Hallows' Eve by Grace Chetwin (Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Books, 1984)

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Irresistible Review Challenge Wrap-up

The Irresistible Review Challenge is officially over, and I must say it was a lot of fun to host a reading challenge! I do apologize for being so absent during August and not updating everyone's links as often as I'd have liked. I enjoyed reading everyone's reviews, and their links to the original review that had inspired them to read each particular book were a great introduction to many new book blogs and bloggers, as well as great books to read!

Thanks to everyone who participated in the challenge! Here is a list of those who participated and links to the books they reviewed. Please let me know if I've overlooked any reviews, and I will update as necessary. Also, if you haven't finished the challenge but want to keep reading, just let me know, and I'd be happy to add links to future reviews of books you didn't manage to get to over the summer.

Those of you who participated in the challenge, did you have a favorite book that you read for it? I think mine would have to be Savvy and The Hollow Kingdom. Thanks to Cath and Becky for recommending them - and keep those recommendations coming! Life just wouldn't be the same if I didn't live in the shadow of a towering book pile...

Becky's reviews (at Becky's Book Reviews):
  1. The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson
  2. A Countess below Stairs by Eva Ibbotson
  3. The Floating Circus by Tracie Vaughn Zimmer
  4. Hero Type by Barry Lyga
  5. I Am Scout by Charles J. Shields
  6. Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott
  7. The Underneath by Kathi Appelt
  8. The Viper Within by Sam Mills
  9. The Willoughbys by Lois Lowry
Bellezza's reviews (at Dolce Bellezza):
  1. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
Chris's reviews (at Stuff as Dreams Are Made On):
  1. Bonk by Mary Roach
  2. Crossroads: Tales of the Southern Literary Fantastic edited by Cox and Duncan
  3. The Dead and Gone by Susan Beth Pffeffer
  4. The Host by Stephanie Meyer
  5. Looking for Alaska by John Green
  6. Mouse Guard: Fall 1152 by David Peterson
  7. This Is What I Did by Anne Dee Ellis
  8. The Translator by Daoud Hari
Heather's reviews (at Age 30: A Year of Books):
  1. Dracula by Bram Stoker
  2. In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan
  3. King Solomon's Mines by H. Rider Haggard
  4. Last Chance to See by Douglas Adams
  5. Life Is So Good by George Dawson and Richard Glaubman
  6. Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie
  7. Pyongyang by Guy Delisle
  8. Stone Creek by Victoria Lustbader
Rachael's reviews (at Fuzzy Cricket):
  1. The Blue Girl by Charles de Lint
  2. The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly
  3. City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
  4. Dragon Flight by Jessica Day George
  5. Journal of Curious Letters by James Dashner
  6. Nobody's Princess by Esther Friesner
  7. The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood
  8. Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr
Reader Rabbit sisters' reviews (at Reader Rabbit):
  1. Confessions of a Triple Shot Betty by Jody Gehrman
  2. The Declaration by Gemma Malley

Rhinoa's reviews (at Rhinoa's Ramblings):

  1. Beauty by Robin McKinley
  2. The Book of Ballads by Charles Vess
  3. The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman
  4. Messenger by Lois Lowry
  5. The Three Incestuous Sisters by Audrey Niffenegger
  6. Transformations by Anne Sexton
  7. Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
  8. Zel by Donna Jo Napoli
Serena's reviews (at Savvy Verse and Wit)
  1. The Adoration of Gemma Fox by Mary E. Pearson
  2. Baby Proof by Emily Giffin
  3. Blind Submission by Debra Ginsberg
  4. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  5. The Braid by Helen Frost
  6. Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk
  7. Mr. Thundermug by Cornelius Medvei
  8. Polysyllabic Spree by Nick Hornby
And here are my reviews!
  1. Castle Waiting: The Curse of Brambly Hedge by Linda Medley
  2. Castle Waiting: The Lucky Road by Linda Medley
  3. The Dangerous Alphabet by Neil Gaiman and Gris Grimley
  4. The Hollow Kingdom by Clare B. Dunkle
  5. Lord of the Fading Lands by C.L. Wilson
  6. Me, the Missing and the Dead by Jenny Valentine
  7. Mouse Guard: Fall 1152 by David Peterson
  8. Savvy by Ingrid Law
  9. Secret in the Tower by Candice Ransom

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Stephanie Plum, undaunted

Stephanie Plum is back, and this time she is involved in body-guarding a country-western singer, taking care of the son of a kidnapping victim, and searching for money from a long-ago bank robbery. All the usual suspects are back and, as always, become in all sorts of absurd situations that leave me laughing out loud.

I have read a few reviews of this one, and it's hard to believe they're all talking about the same book! So much of our opinion about books, I think, results from our expectations. It's hard to feel terribly disappointed in a book if you just pick it off the shelf at the library on a whim. But when you are invested in a series (and its characters), there's a huge build-up when the next book comes out. I think that was why I was a bit disappointed in the latest Sue Grafton mystery.

When I open a new Stephanie Plum book, it feels a bit like unwrapping a chocolate bar. My expectations are there, sure, but they're not overly demanding. I simply look forward to a whirlwind ride out and about in Trenton, with quirky characters I've come to enjoy spending time with getting into all sorts of outrageous situations. I find Evanovich to excel at a nice, tight plot with dialog that makes me laugh - not to mention funny little surprises that keep me giggling along the way. This book delivered, and I had a great time with it. I'm ready for number fifteen!

Other B&OT review of Stephanie series:
Lean Mean Thirteen
Plum Lucky

Fearless Fourteen by Janet Evanovich (St. Martin's Press, 2008)

Also reviewed at:
Kevin's Corner
Love Romances and More Reviews
Maira's Books

R.I.P. III Challenge

I missed participating in the first two R.I.P. challenges, but this year I'm happily able to join in! Many thanks to Carl from Stainless Steel Droppings for hosting this challenge again. I love the banner he's created for this year!

I have elected to join Peril the First, which is: "Read Four books of any length, from any subgenre of scary stories that you choose."

And instead of posting a list of books that we definitely intend to read for the challenge, Carl has invited us to create a "pool" of possibilities that we can choose from. I love this approach, because I don't always know what I'm going to feel like reading, and I hate feeling locked into reading something just because I said I would. I love that feeling of choosing the next book I'm going to read, once I've finished a book. I call it the "book buffet" (which is why I always have so many library books checked out) - I love running a finger down all the spines and picking the one I feel most like reading. Yeah, I take this way too seriously! :-)

Anyway, here is my pool of possibilities, with more to be added as I think of them:

Tamsin by Peter S. Beagle
Glass Houses by Rachel Caine
Bitten by Kelly Armstrong
On All Hallow's Eve by Grace Chetwin
The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury (possibly a read-aloud to my girls)
Once Bitten, Twice Shy by Jennifer Rardin
Maybe some Lovecraft
Four and Twenty Blackbirds by Cherie Priest
The Devil Inside by Jenna Black
Marked by PC Cast and Kristin Cast
M is for Magic by Neil Gaiman

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Not the usual adolescence

Jennifer Scales is fourteen years old and considers herself a typical teenager. She has a few good friends, loves playing soccer, fights with her parents - but not excessively - and things are going fairly smoothly. Then, in the wake of a soccer game in which she astounds her teammates with an unbelievably acrobatic maneuver, she finds herself the object of uncomfortable scrutiny at home. Her parents seem to know something about her that she doesn't know, and it makes her angry and frightened at the same time.

Then certain changes start happening to her - but they're not exactly the kind of changes she'd been expecting to happen as she grew older. Jennifer learns - although she can't quite bring herself to believe it - that she is some sort of shapeshifter, and that the change is coming earlier than anyone expected. Suddenly her father's frequent absences are explained, along with many other things about Jennifer's life that were a bit odd, but nothing she'd ever thought much about before. When the evidence becomes impossible to deny, Jennifer is faced with saying goodbye to her typical teenage life and embracing an altogether different destiny. She is not a complacent, accepting kind of girl, but her stubbornness and anger are accompanied by fierce determination, which made me root for her even when she got a bit too full of self-pity.

I read this book because I was curious to see what sort of YA novel the author of the Betsy, Queen of the Vampires series would write. She writes the Jennifer Scales series with her husband, and this first book is written in a completely different style, in a more serious vein than the Betsy books (pardon the pun!).

I wasn't bowled over by this one, but it was an interesting premise, and it had some fun twists and turns and characters that I do think I'll want to read more about. I found Jennifer's reaction to the change to be a bit puzzling, especially her continued ambivalence in spite of all the way cool things most teens would probably delight in, were they in the same situation. I also found her parents' behavior to be a bit baffling. It didn't make sense to me that they would keep her in the dark about her situation, and then be so unsympathetic about her reaction to it - almost blaming her for not figuring it out herself.

I also found the cover to be rather unappealing - it looks more like an advertisement than the cover of a book. And was it absolutely necessary to write"USA TODAY BESTSELLING AUTHOR" on the spine of the book, as well as splashed across the top of the front cover? At any rate, I am curious to see where Jennifer's adventures will take her, especially as the there are still many unanswered questions and unresolved issues.

Books in the Jennifer Scales series:
1. Jennifer Scales and the Ancient Furnace
2. Jennifer Scales and the Messenger of Light
3. The Silver Moon Elm

Jennifer Scales and the Ancient Furnace by MaryJanice Davidson and Anthony Alongi (Berkley Jam Books, 2005

Also reviewed at:
Very Occasional Book Reviews

Monday, September 1, 2008

The conclusion of the Bartimaeus Trilogy

This novel concludes the Bartimaeus Trilogy, which I highly recommend. Please refer to my reviews of the first two books (listed below) to avoid any unintentional spoilers.

As with the preceding volumes in the trilogy, the narration alternates between the points of view of the young magician Nathaniel, the djinni Bartimaeus, and Kitty Jones, former member of the magical resistance. Nathanial is as self-involved as ever, anxious to keep his position of power in an increasingly inept, unpopular wizard-run government. Yet he is coming to realize that his life is not all he might wish - especially when he sees his beloved former art teacher. Their meeting sets his thoughts along unfamiliar, uncomfortable paths.

Meanwhile, Bartimaeus is in terrible shape. Nathaniel insists on keeping him nearby, even though prolonged exposure to the mortal world has weakened Bartimaeus to the point at which he can barely carry out his duties. Events are coming to a head, and he realizes that he will be in no shape to protect Nathanial, let alone himself. But what can he do about it? And Kitty, in her determination to weaken the despotic wizard government, has hatched an audacious plan: she has been studying magic, and, what's more, she's quite good at it! She has no ambition to become like the dreaded wizards, however. She is the first mortal to suspect a connection between the djinni Bartimaeus and the shape he so often chooses to wear, that of a young, brown-skinned boy. Kitty has a plan that just might work, if her suspicions turn out to be true.

The three characters, whose lives have been entwined since the first book in the trilogy, find themselves caught up in a whirlwind of political intrigue, magical attacks and unexpected revelations. Simon Jones, as with the two previous books, does a marvelous job of narrating the story, particularly when Bartimaeus sardonically recounts his side of the story.

This book completes my participation in the Mythopoeic Award Challenge, and I must say I had a wonderful time reading books for it. I enjoyed them all, and I know I'll be returning to those lists for future reading suggestions.

Books in the Bartimaeus Trilogy
1. The Amulet of Samarkand
2. The Golem's Eye
3. Ptolemy's Gate

Ptolemy's Gate (#3 in the Bartimaeus Trilogy) by Jonathan Stroud; narrated by Simon Jones (Listening Library, 2006)

Also reviewed at:
Becky's Book Reviews