Saturday, March 31, 2012

Jackal in the Garden by Deborah Ellis

Anubis refuses to die. She was left in the desert at her birth because she is horribly deformed, but she survives and grows up hidden from the world. After her mother's death, she is forced to again return to the desert, where after many wanderings, she meets artist Bihzad and his colony of artistic friends. Interacting with kind and cruel people, Anubis realizes that being a scholar doesn't always make you wise and that her looks really have no control over who she is.

Genre: historical

Rating: 4.5/5

Other: What an Animal Challenge

This is part of a series of books made to involve art and historical artists. You never know what you're getting into when it comes to series trying to follow some sort of theme and using lots of different authors, but much like the fairy tale updates series, this novel at least, was successful in its own right. Anubis is a tough, intelligent, very gender neutral voice who doesn't necessarily compliment the famous people around her. She points out Bihzad's flaws and doesn't exactly forgive him for them. He and his friends could have stepped in several times to save her, but they don't either because they are cowards or because they don't want to upset the balance of everything. The book also does a decent job of trying to explain Persian art as well as it can. Ellis has always seemed to have an understanding of that part of the world and she doesn't fail in this attempt either. She made a sympathetic but strong character in Anubis. This is a good bit of world YA historical fiction.

Shelf Candy Saturday (5)

I don't often like books with actual pictures as covers. Many times they're just not attractively presented. Sometimes they're pictures that will age awkwardly. Sometimes they're pictures that just don't seem to go along with the actual novel at all. All that being considered, I like the cover of this book about the family who lived with Anne Frank. It looks appropriate, has a pop of color and the title font doesn't overwhelm it.


Enter Three Witches by Caroline B. Cooney

Mary, daughter of the Thane of Cawdor, is a privileged but neglected member of Macbeth's household. That all changes when her father is found to be a traitor to the king and she is now cast at the mercy of whatever man wants to claim her and her lands. But there are more pressing matters going on in Scotland as the king is soon murdered and his sons blamed. Macbeth is made king, but the court starts to raise suspicions as Macbeth's actions seem more and more questionable. Mary finds herself trapped and unable to get away as events spiral into a final battle between Macbeth and those he has wronged.

Genre: historical

Rating: 5/5

Many books that try to take a different angle on a Shakespeare play end up either being boring or unrealistic. This book was neither because the character chosen to follow fit in so well. There was also a lot of focus on servants, who seemed to know everything that was going on, and a court that is well aware that something is not right about Macbeth's stories. The witches of the title hardly play a part at all while playing a huge part since they're the ones that trigger all the events.

Mary was an interesting character as she starts out timid and weak, but as things start falling apart around her, her sense of self preservation kicks in and she starts being quite a survivalist in the chaos going on around her. I'm not sure how many students would be interested in reading a companion to Macbeth, but it's a good one.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Eden by Keary Taylor

After a virus that turns humans into mindless, homicidal machines is leashed on the world, Eve finds herself with no memories of her past living among a group of survivors. When a mysterious boy shows up who seems to know Eve, she's suddenly caught up in a whirlwind of conflict as it is revealed she is the original experiment that lead to the creation of the Fallen. Eve is faced with deciding whether she wants to be human and feel emotions and also choosing between two men, the one who knew her before and the one she's grown close to now. When their tentative home is attacked, the whole group is forced to find a new place to survive.

Genre: fantasy

Rating: 4/5

This was a surprisingly good book. Eve is a tough character who has a good excuse for not being able to choose between the two males set in front of her. She literally doesn't have emotions and doesn't really know what feeling love is. As her memories start to return she starts to behave more like a human. The main complaint I have is that she chooses the more boring of the two men. This is a book mainly about Eve's journey though. The focus isn't on whether the men are handsome or fawning over her, it's about Eve trying to figure out what she wants and how to stop the Fallen.

The beginning definitely starts out faster and more enjoyable. The books slows down when the romance aspect hits, but it's still well written. It just might give a boy who'd started reading it thinking it was one thing pause when he suddenly realized there was a lot of romance going on. Still a good book and the first novel I've finished on Kindle.

The Elephant Mountains by Scott Ely

First the hurricanes came, then the levees broke and suddenly the larger part of North America is under water. The government has broken down and anarchy rules. 16-year-old Stephen meets up with a college girl and they wander through the newly made waterways looking for somewhere to stop and be safe, always accompanied by the radio messages of the Swamp Hog, urging them farther inland.

Genre: fantasy

Rating: 3/5

Challenges: What an Animal, Magical March

I had high hopes for this book. The cover is lovely and the first chapter seemed hopeful, but I ended up not enjoying the disconnected tone that seemed to be trying to evoke Cormac McCarthy. That tone made this book bleak and almost boring in places. This had the potential to be a REALLY good book, engaging and appealing to teenagers. I honestly can't think of a teenager who isn't already a well seasoned reader who would finish this book for a reason other than that it's short. There's also Stephen's preoccupation with sex, both for himself and his mother and her boyfriends. It was almost like Ely was trying to hint there was some Oedipal thing going on. Any way around it, while it had the nihilism of a world falling apart down, it was as if the author just forgot to bother to add anything exciting. It's a shame because the plot had a lot of promise.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer

Matteo is a clone. Raised on a huge opium plantation, he suddenly finds out he's the clone of El Patron, the powerful ruler of the area. Matt finds himself a valuable possession of El Patron, but the other people in the family consider him a freak and little better than an animal save for the woman who raised him, his body guard, and Maria, a relative of El Patron. Matt finds himself torn, as he loves El Patron as part of himself, but he starts to realize something is terribly wrong with the living situation at the plantation. There's also the mindless, zombie eejits that harvest the opium and are cared about less than animals. Suddenly Matt finds himself betrayed and that there is a far darker purpose going on both when it comes to himself and El Patron's ultimate plans for his family.

Genre: fantasy

Rating: 5/5

Other: What An Animal Reading Challenge; Magical March Reading Challenge

Aside from an ending that felt a little rushed, this was an excellent book that challenges cloning, science and socialism all in one swoop. Matt is surrounded by shadowy characters who seem like something out of the soap operas his keeper Cecilia watches. Most are evil and grasping and even those who seem harmless are out to destroy Matt. Matt has his own internal conflicts as he is the clone of a very evil man, yet that doesn't mean Matt himself is bad. The irony is that Matt isn't judged because he's part of El Patron, but because he's a clone at all. The book makes a good point about human rights, as clones are seen as cattle, abominations, and are generally harvested for parts. Matt proves himself to be resilient as despite abuse and plots to kill him, he finds strength in himself to not only prove he's a good person, but also that he's proud of who he is, clone or not. And the very qualities that make El Patron a bad man actually work to make Matt be able to change things.

This just ended up being a book that was far more interesting and engaging than I'd ever imagined. The only complaint is that the ending felt very rushed for the build up with everything being wrapped up in a chapter. It was a brilliant book though and highly recommended.

Nordic Reading Challenge

Final challenge for a while, this one involves just reading any book that is set or written by someone from a Nordic country. I love hunting down books I previously didn't know about, so I look forward to this one.

European Reading Challenge

This challenge involves reading at least 5 books either set in Europe or by European authors. Considering how much my challenges crossover, this shouldn't be hard.

Truth in Fiction Challenge

This challenge involves reading a fictional book about a topic and then a non-fiction book to go with it and reviewing the books together. I'm not sure what level I'll be able to get done, but being a history teacher, this challenge delights me.

2012 Book Blogger Recommendation Challenge

Using the book blogger book list, I'm aiming for Level II of the challenge. Unfortunately for me, a lot of the books on the top 25 list I've already read, so I'm going to have to use the whole list.


Shelf Candy Saturday (4)

I've found that a lot of covers I like are very minimalistic or stylistic. For one thing, covers like that tend to not age. How many books from the 80s do I have on my shelf that I look at the cover and think "ooooh dear...that's too embarrassing to read in public". Romance novels are especially guilty of that, but a lot of older YA novels have also swallowed that particular kryptonite. So this is my choice for this week. The mass market cover of this book I don't like so well and it won't age well because they've used realistic looking people who will look outdated in a decade or so, but the hardcover is awesome looking to me with its art nouveau style drawing of this alternate version of Macbeth


Friday, March 23, 2012

Twisted Tales Reading Challenge

And one more reading challenge for good measure. Twisted Tales focuses on bizarro fiction, dark comedy, satire, and absurdist literature.

Bitsy Bling Books

I'm going to focus on satire because I at least know that genre well and enjoy it. I'm going for the 1-12 challenge level.

What An Animal Reading Challenge

Also doing the What an Animal Reading Challenge where you have to read 6 books with animals in the title or as a main character. This challenge is more than reasonable. I've already got two books with animals in the title sitting in front of me.

1. The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer
2. The Elephant Mountains by Scott Ely
3. Jackal in the Garden by Deborah Ellis

The Classics Club

I'm joining the Classics Club, that has a set list of classics to read by a given date. Part of the problem for me is that I've read a LOT of classics in my history. I mean a LOT. We had to read a lot of them at the school I went to and I read them just for fun in high school. So my list of 50 is a bit problematic.

1. The Red Redmaynes- Eden Phillpotts
2. Catch-22- Joseph Heller
3. Gone with the Wind- Margaret Mitchell
4. Lord of the Flies- William Golding
5. The Woman in White- Wilkie Collins
6. Brideshead Revisited- Evelyn Waugh
7. Pamela- Samuel Richardson
8. Sylvia's Lovers- Elizabeth Gaskell
9. Cousin Henry- Anthony Trollope
10. The Vicomte de Bragelonne- Alexandre Dumas
11. Quo Vadis- Henryk Sienkiewicz
12. Ben-Hur- Lew Wallace
13. The Lost Estate- Henri Alain-Fournier
14. Little Lord Fauntleroy- Frances Hodgson Burnett
15. The Red and the Black- Donald Frame
16. Wulf the Saxon- G. A. Henty
17. How Green Was My Valley- Richard Llewellyn
18. Man and Wife- Wilkie Collins
19. The Outsiders- S. E. Hinton
20. The Magnificent Ambersons- Booth Tarkington
21. Butterfield 8- John O'Hara
22. The Monk- M. G. Lewis
23. Lucky Jim- Kingsley Amis
24. No Name- Wilkie Collins
25. Anna Karenina- Leo Tolstoy
26. The Castle of Otranto- Horace Walpole
27. Dead Souls- Nikolai Gogol
28. Fantastic Fables- Ambrose Bierce
29. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes- Anita Loos
30. Popular Tales from Norse Mythology- George Webbe Dasent
31. A Journal of the Plague Year- Daniel Defoe
32. The Master of Ballantrae- Robert Lewis Stevenson
33. Riders of the Purple Sage- Zane Grey
34. Sentimental Education- Gustave Flaubert
35. A Sentimental Journey- Laurence Sterne
36. Sister Carrie- Theodore Dreiser
37. The Tale of Genji- Lady Murasaki
38. Kwaidan- Lafcadio Hearn
39. Tarzan of the Apes- Edgar Rice Burroughs
40. The Thirty-Nine Steps- John Buchan
41. The Princess of Mars- Edgar Rice Burroughs
42. The Iron Heel- Jack London
43. The Mark of the Beast- Rudyard Kipling
44. The Red House- A. A. Milne
45. The Insidious Dr. Fu Manchu- Sax Rohmer
46. Fantomas- Pierre Souvestre and Marcel Allain
47. The Golem- Gustav Meyrink
48. The House on the Borderland- William Hope Hodgson
49. The Worm Ouroboros- E. R. Eddison
50. Hide and Seek- Wilkie Collins

Plus Two
52. Wonder Tales- Lord Dunsany
53. The King in Yellow- Robert Chambers

Let's say I'd like to get through these within three years, so I'd like to be done by March of 2015.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Tomorrow Code by Brian Falkner

Best friends Tane and Rebecca get an inspiration for a science experiment and suddenly come across codes from the future. Even more shocking, the codes are from themselves and warn of a coming world disaster that will kill thousands of people. Trying to sort through all the information, the two, with the help of Tane's brother, realizes that it has something to do with the Chimera Project, a seemingly harmless study into an antigen that will cure the common cold. Suddenly they're all in a race against time to divert what could be a world ending cataclysm. But what happens when you don't know to change the future?

Genre: fantasy

Rating: 5/5

With a touch of Outbreak and The Andromeda Strain, this YA novel tackles the difficult subjects of pathogens AND time paradox. And you know, Falkner actually sort of makes it understandable. You don't find a lot of decent science oriented YA novels, but this one is. You really buy into the characters (even though I found Rebecca's tree hugging tendencies sometimes irrational and annoying) and the author doesn't shy away from killing off a LOT of people. He also doesn't shy away from his characters making some very bad choices when they let their emotions get in the way of what they're supposed to do, even when they have clear instructions. Of course the ending is open enough that it could be considered happy, but the sense of losing to an unstoppable force is still there. This was just an interesting and different book. A good thriller along the lines of Crichton, but with smart, realistic kids.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Airman by Eoin Colfer

Conor Broekhart was destined to fly. From the time he was little his life was devoted to developing flying machines and science. But suddenly Conor finds himself in a nightmare when he is labeled a traitor, has all who love him believe he's dead and is shipped off to Little Saltee, a mining prison colony with inhuman conditions. Trapped in hell, Conor exists through his dream of flying. Finally getting his chance to escape, he must now save his family and the princess he grew up loving.

Genre: fantasy; steampunk

Rating: 5/5

This was a real adventure novel with more than a touch of the Count of Monte Cristo to it and a truly horrible villain. Conor is intelligent and brave and figures out how to use his intelligence to break himself from his island prison. There's a mob of memorable minor characters from composer Linus Wynter to thug Otto Malarky. Conor's situation is truly horrible and it takes a lot of ingenuity on his part to break from his prison. Of course he's truly changed when he escapes, as he has no interest in bringing down Bonvilain so much as stealing diamonds and building a new life and has to be coaxed into finally becoming a hero.

This is an excellent adventure for reluctant male readers, as the romance is limited and most of the book focuses on the Monte Cristo-esque plot of a man wronged escaping and turning the tables on his captors. Not a typical steampunk as this is more driven by characters and plot than gadgets.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Enthralled edited by Melissa Marr and Kelley Armstrong

A collection of stories by some of the top YA fantasy authors, all of them featuring some sort of paranormal feature.

Genre: fantasy; short stories

Rating: 4/5

The stories in this collection are spotty. Some of them are REALLY good, some are lackluster and some are hard to understand if you haven't read other works by that author.

Claudia Gray's "Giovanni's Farewell" is a decent story, though sort of bare bones.

Carrie Ryan's "Scenic Route" is EXCELLENT. I can't say enough about that short story. It plays a little bit with her world from her Forest of Hands and Teeth series, but stands completely by itself.

Kami Garcia's "Red Run" is a better short story than her writing partner Margaret Stohl's "IV League", though both have a southern gothic flavor. Garcia's is just a more action packed story.

Unfortunately I didn't like Jackson Pearce's "Things About Love" because it felt like one should know something about her series characters before reading it. Same issue with Rachel Vincent's "Niederwald", though that story was at least fathomable by itself. Kelley Armstrong also ran into this problem with "Facing Facts" which took me a while to figure out until I remember what series she wrote. The story wasn't that interesting in and of itself either. Rachel Caine's "Automatic" ran into the "we're from a series" issue too. The most glaring story with that issue was Melissa Marr's "Merely Mortal" which almost made no sense without knowing the series.

Sarah Rees Brennan's "Let's Get This Undead Show on the Road" was good. So was Kimberly Derting's "Skin Contact" and Mary Pearson's "Gargouille". Jessica Verday's "At the Late Night, Double Feature, Picture Show" was snarky and charming.

Jeri Smith-Ready's "Bridge" and Ally Condie's "Leaving" left me cold as being too high handed and artsy to really fit in.

My favorite though was Jennifer Lynn Barnes's "The Third Kind", a short story I feel like should have a series with it. It was brilliantly enthralling. She's an author who doesn't get enough attention as I've loved some of her other writing too.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Kiss of Frost by Jennifer Estep

Shortly after having killed a Reaper and becoming Nike's champion on earth, Gwen Frost is finds herself again in danger as her life keeps being threatened and there are more Reapers on the loose looking for revenge. Added to that, Gwen is still hung up on Logan, the Spartan who seems to care for her but won't let her get close to him because her psychometry might allow her to see his dark past. Forced along on a ski trip as a third wheel, Gwen tries to get over Logan and find out who is trying to kill her.

Genre: fantasy

Rating: 5/5

I really likes this series. There's a certain amount of Gossip Girl with a little Harry Potter and a bit of Buffy to this fantasy. The mythology of the larger picture is actually interesting and there is a bit more of an edge to Estep's teenagers. They know they're probably not going to live long and death is fairly common. Gwen really is in peril as she is behind everyone else when it comes to being a warrior. Her relationship with Logan is actually interesting. It's not all pining and longing looks. He's a self avowed manslut and even though he deeply cares for Gwen he still dates other girls. Yet somehow he's not obnoxious on that count. You get the impression more of a badboy who has found the something he cares about and is very tentative about giving up his image.

To be fair, the book was relatively predictable. I called the twist crush and who was actually threatening Gwen right away. Doesn't make the book bad though. The book is enjoyable enough without having to break new ground and is a fast read too. I'm surprised I haven't heard more about this series given how much fun it is.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Favored Queen by Carolly Erickson

Kind lady in waiting Jane Seymour is caught in the middle of the messy marriage of Catherine of Argon and Henry VIII. She is completely loyal to the queen and resents Anne Boleyn's machinations and scheming. Jane's own life is in limbo as her father ruins her chances of a good marriage, then she realizes being wrapped up in life at court has left her without much means of being married off. As time goes on, Henry's relationship with Anne sours and Jane finds herself earning the king's favor. While Henry isn't exactly what Jane had in mind for a husband, she desperately wants children and is now considered an old maid. Despite her misgivings, she marries the king and becomes the new hope for a male heir.

Genre: historical

Rating: 4/5

I find Erickson's books enjoyable for the most part and I understand she makes it very clear she takes a lot of liberties with history, but for some reason that still bothers me somewhat no matter how good the writing. Erickson also has a tendency to dwell on the shortcomings of the historical men her books feature. Napoleon is portrayed as an outright villain while Henry is shown as a coward, womanizer and heartless. I'm not saying either man was a paragon of virtue, but I'm not sure one can simply paint them as horrible people. I mean the main characters marry these men after all, so it's hard to portray a sympathetic and intelligent female character who still marries these men. It's just not explained well enough. Erickson is an excellent writer and while I could do without the random made up affairs every woman lead has in every Erickson book I've read, her novels are infinitely readable. They're almost taken better as just well written romance novels though.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Darkhenge by Catherine Fisher

Rob's world is slowly coming apart as his sister has laid in a coma for months showing no sign of improvement. When a wooden henge is uncovered near Avebury where Rob lives and a mysterious poet named Vetch enters his life, he comes to find that Chloe has been taken into the Unworld, a place where she has power. After going after her he realizes that her resentment of him has turned into something ugly and hateful and that she may not want to come back to the real world. As she hovers between life and death, Rob tries to convince his sister that she is as valued as he is.

Genre: fantasy

Rating: 4/5

I've actually read a lot of Catherine Fisher (who I confuse with Nancy Farmer quite frequently). I've read her Oracle trilogy and really liked it and Snow Walker. That said, Darkhenge isn't quite as engaging as those mainly because it just wasn't as deep and the characters not as engaging. The fantasy tries to blend druidism with ancient Celtic poetry and gets a bit too high minded because of that. There's also the issue that Chloe isn't sympathetic a lot of the time. They make explanation that the version of her they find in the Unworld is made of her bitterness and isn't really her, but that version is a brat and we aren't given much else to know about her.

I do give credit to Fisher for trying to take YA fantasy angle of druidism and poetry. It's ambitious, I'll give it that. And it's almost successful, but just a little too overreaching. The book is well written though and for as confusing as the subject matter easily could have been, fairly easy to follow. Their is quite a bit of investment in Rob and his quest, which is why Chloe's jealousy might make her seem more petty. Maybe the biggest fault the book has is that I've liked Fisher's other writing so much. For the average writer this probably would have been an extremely successful novel. For Fisher it's one of her less engaging ones.

Shelf Candy Saturday (3)

I'm mixing it up a little on this Shelf Candy. In finding book covers by going through Google it never fails to amaze me that a book can have an attractive cover at one point, be it hard cover or paperback or in a foreign language publication, but then have what I consider an either hideous one or at least lackluster one in the other forms of publication. I understand sometimes the hardcover jacket lends itself to more artistic or fancier covers (as well as probably the price), but considering we all DO judge a book by its cover to at least pick it up (trust me, there are some books I'm embarrassed to be caught reading because of how unattractive the cover is) it seems like someone would sit down and say "huh, this one cover just isn't that pretty compared to the others".

I'm using Airman by Eoin Colfer as my example today. Don't get me wrong, the US cover isn't all that bad. In fact it's probably a pretty good YA steampunk cover. Looks a little like the Rocketeer. Nothing wrong with that. But then I saw the Spanish language cover and was far more impressed by it. It's not just a steampunk cover, it's an artistic one.



Friday, March 9, 2012

Footfree and Fancyloose by Elizabeth Craft and Sarah Fain

Sophie, Becca, Harper and Kate have all graduated high school and are looking to fulfill their Year of Dreams as they all head off into the real world. Sophie dreams of becoming a famous actress and heads to California. Kate finds herself digging wells in Africa and butting heads with one of the group leaders who assumes she's a spoiled rich girl. Becca finds her relationship with her boyfriend on rocky ground as her home life is turned upside down. Harper is trying to write the Great American novel, but finds herself still dwelling on her almost relationship with her English teacher. The girls all suddenly realize maybe their dreams weren't quite what they thought they were and maybe things they thought they wanted aren't what they need.

Genre: contemporary

Rating: 2/5

This book frustrated me. It was highly readable and I wanted to know what happened to the characters, mainly because I HATED them all so much. They progressively made stupider and stupider choices, acted ridiculous, acted bitchy, used guys and allowed themselves to be used by guys and ultimately didn't seem to learn much. Sophie is vain and shallow and only earns a slight pass as a character as she begins to realize that her behavior IS shallow. She makes assumptions about her fairly nice roommate Sam and refuses to admit she likes him. Harper gets into a messy "friends with benefits" situation with one of her friends and realizes too late that she actually doesn't have the feelings she thought she did about her English teacher. The very fact that this relationship is even presented as acceptable is baffling to me. There is no "this is wrong" presented about her relationship with him. She's presented as being dishonest with her feelings about her best guy friend and goes into a family tailspin when her father breaks some bones. For the way the family acts about her father's situation I thought it would be MUCH more traumatic than someone falling off a roof and being in traction for a while. Then there's Becca, the most annoying of the characters. She ditches her friends in favor of her boyfriend and becomes one of those obnoxious characters who has no identity outside of him, calling him constantly and talking about nothing but him. She eventually freaks out and does something that majorly hurts him a SECOND time as she had hurt him before and is generally just irrational when it comes to him. Kate is the only character I actually really liked and she was made intolerable by choosing a guy who was so vile I kept hoping he'd get killed off. Darby is arrogant, makes assumptions about Kate, treats her like she can't do anything, insults her, yet she still finds herself attracted to him and ends up kissing him because they're angry at each other. No girl with any sense would be attracted to someone as unpleasant as Darby. This was one of the first books I've ever finished reading because I wanted all the worst for some of the characters.

The Secret Life of Josephine by Carolly Erickson

Raised in the Caribbean and forced into a marriage that brings her only unhappiness, Josephine cuts a unique and striking figure in Paris. Managing to survive the French Revolution in spite of coming terribly close to being killed, she, known as Yeyette to her family, makes conquests of men and uses her mercenary talents to be a supplier of goods to the military. Earning the attention of a military man on the rise in Napoleon Bonaparte, she reluctantly agrees to marry him to provide her children with benefits and herself with security. After having other lovers, Yeyette finds that she's earned Napoleon's wrath and becomes the target of his cruelty.

Genre: historical

Rating: 3/5

I preface this by saying I read and liked other work by Erickson. Her novels are engaging. That being said I just didn't like this one. I think the largest problem I had was that too many historical liberties were taken and some of the characters were extremely one note. Much of the book is well researched, but for narrative sake, characters and romances were added and perhaps the biggest problem for me was that Napoleon became a one note villain. I'm not saying Napoleon was any sort of saint and that he was an excellent husband, but I am saying that I'm aware enough of the history to know that Napoleon and Josephine remained friends even after he divorced her. Yes, his attitude toward her changed after he found out she was unfaithful, but from what I've read her attitude towards him changed into appreciating him afterwards even though he was now unfaithful. In this book he's set up as a villain that Josephine is trying to overthrow more than anything else. I was aware that liberties were taken with some of Erickson's other novels, but it just felt like way too much here. There came a point that while it was a well written book, there was just too much glaringly not historically accurate that it became distracting to me.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Agatha H and the Airship City by Phil & Kaja Foglio

In a Europe ruled by Sparks, mad scientists who terrorize the population with bizarre inventions, a pretty lab worker named Agatha Clay seems destined to spend her career doing lowly jobs as every invention she tries to make doesn't work. Things get strange though when ruthless Baron Klaus Wolfenbach takes over the town and Agatha finds herself a prisoner on his massive airship and working with students and the beguiling Gilgamesh Wolfenbach. But suddenly it becomes apparent that Agatha has more than a little Spark of her own and when faced with danger she shows she might just have the mentality of the dime novel legendary heroes who have long disappeared from the world.

Genre: fantasy, steampunk

Rating: 4/5

I honestly haven't read a huge amount of pure steampunk. I've read and liked Leviathan and Worldshaker, but I'm not a devotee of the genre. This was a nice little throwback to the penny adventure novels and radio serials that involve scientific adventure. There's a bit of tongue in cheek about the book too. It's aware of what it is and doesn't take itself seriously. Agatha keeps ending up in front of people in her underwear to her embarrassment because she sleepwalks. Baron Klaus is an evil genius who keeps getting interrupted from his torture. Othar is a swashbuckling hero who is REALLY annoying and not very bright. Gil is supposed to be a bad guy but he's not quite sure he wants that yet. It took a little while to keep straight all the names and the worlds, which is the only reason I marked it down. The book plunges right in from the beginning and in the first chapter or two it was a struggle to keep up, especially with all the technology being thrown around too. The Jagermonsters also talk in a strange German accent that takes a little while to figure out, but they're actually the funniest characters in the book. There's also a delightful talking cat who's smarter than the rest of the people in the book. The story wasn't deep, but it was fun and anyone who likes steampunk would probably enjoy it.

"Fiends!" roared Othar. "Kill her and I'll tell the Baron!"

"Vell mebbe ve keel you too, schmot guy."

The other Jagermonster began to look troubled. "Gorb..."


"Gorb, dis iz turnink into von of dose plenz...The kind vere ve keel efferbody dot notices dot ve's keelink pipple?"

Gorb deflated slightly. "It is?"

The other Jager nodded and slung a friendly paw over Gorb's shoulders. "Uh-huh. Und how do dose alvays end?"

Gorb muttered, "The dirigible is in flames, everybody's dead, an' I've lost my hat."

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Shelf Candy Saturday (2)

Last week I chose an old school looking cover for a steampunk novel. This week I'm going for something more minimalistic. And violent. And perfect for the novel.


Hater is for all intents and purposes, a zombie novel without being one. The world has been rocked by a strange phenomenon that causes some people to spontaneously violently attack people. There is no respect for age, race or gender and suddenly the world is plunged into fear over who will succumb next. People are afraid to go to work, leave their homes and realize that any moment could be their last. Soon the accepted thinking of the day becomes "attack first, ask questions later". The world has literally gone insane and is plunged into chaos. This cover is perfect to me. Simple. Striking. Nothing but blood splatter with finger painted letters. This would catch my eye on the shelf by its stark, brutal simplicity. Not a pretty cover by any means, but I love it.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Poker Diaries by Liza Conrad

Lulu has the best of both worlds. Her mother is uptown New York society and her father is a downtown gambler. Lulu is a poker prodigy herself and despite both her parents' reservations, she enjoys back room games at her grandfathers. Things only get really complicated when one of her uptown friends loses to some shady poker players and Lulu is forced to become involved in a high stakes poker game. Not only does her lying threaten her relationship with her parents and her downtown boyfriend, but being involved with illegal poker puts her at risk of ruining the campaign of her mother's new boyfriend, the mayor of New York.

Genre: contemporary

Rating: 4/5

Fast, cute little read about the world of poker. Lulu is a tough, no nonsense New York girl who doesn't understand why her parents have a problem with her choices of enjoying the less fancy side of her life. She particularly takes offense that they judge her sweet, but rough around the edges boyfriend as someone not good for her. This would be a good book for reluctant readers as the action is fast paced and the book very short. It was nice to see a blended family where everyone got along and a feisty girl who tries to solve her own problems.