Thursday, August 29, 2013

FYRE by Angie Sage


Angie Sage is the author of the Septimus Heap series which includes such books as Magyk, Flyte, Phsik, Queste, Syren, Darke, and her final book in the series, Fyre.  She has also written and illustrated numerous picture books as well as the series Araminta Spookie, for which I have read the first. For those not familiar, the series began when "the seventh son of the seventh son" (Septimus) was stolen but thought to be dead. Over many books, Septimus comes to learn about his family and some of his destiny to become an Extra Ordinary Wizard Apprentice.  There is plenty of charms, incantations and Magyk.  Yet, there is also time travel, ghosts, dragons and deep within mysterious forces and dark wizards that are trying to regain their power.  I don't think I could ever do the entire series justice in one review so, I'm going to focus more on my thoughts. Overall, I thought this would be a daunting task to bring everything together.    Being the last in the series, Fyre has a lot of history and loose ends to tie up.  That and it had been a few years between my reading each of the books.  I mean Magyk was published in May of 2005 and Darke was in 2011.  Yet, I still found it was like coming back to a familiar place.  All the characters I enjoyed were here, all be it now they were taking on more adult like roles.  Princess Jenna was soon to be crowned Queen, Beetle was now the Chief Hermetic Scribe and well Septimus is an Apprentice to ExtraOrdinary Wizard Marcia.  I kinda felt like I did when I read the Harry Potter Series and the Edge Chronicles, sad that it was ending but comforted by the fact that I could start it all over again if I wanted to.  Plus it seems that Angie Sage is also working on a new trilogy that will include the world of Septimus.   My review copy was from the library. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Happy Book Blog Birthday

Birthday Card Stock Photo - Image: 15018120

It's hard to believe that it is already my little blogs Book Birthday.  Just think, one year ago I decided to put you out into the world.  I've watched you grow and thanks for all the followers who continue to follow and comment on the blog.  It is really appreciated and you truly are the best!!

The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani


Today I'm excited to talk about The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani.  I first saw this book as a part of the Harper Collins Browse Inside feature back in June, up for offer were the first six chapters. I was captured by the cover and illustrations by Iacopo Bruno. I also really loved the premise that Chainani set up with the two schools (one for good and one for evil).  Plus there was the bonus feature of this wonderful trailer. Can't say that I've looked at to many of them, but this one catches the eye.  


Trailer for The School for Good and Evil

Within the town of Gavaldon, on the “eleventh night of the eleventh month” the School Master comes and kidnaps two children for the School for Good and Evil. Sophie is most likely girl who will end up in the School for Good. She after all has been dreaming and grooming to be a princess her entire life. With her eye for fashion and love of pink, she is a shoe in. Agatha, on the other hand seems to be destined for the School for Evil. When you grow up in a cemetery wearing all black and chase people away all the time, you really get a reputation for being evil. But good and evil are not just black and white and when Agatha and Sophie seem to be placed in the opposite schools, everything turns to a shade of gray.   

The School for Good and Evil is an interesting take on what constitutes good and evil. In the beginning, Chianani leads us to believe who is destined to be the princess and who is the witch. But Agatha and Sophie don't even know what lies within their hearts. The first quarter of the book Sophie is trying to switch schools with Agatha and Agatha is trying to find a way home to Gavaldon for them. Lots of emphasis is placed on telling the reader how unhappy Sophie is with the circumstance. Both try to convince everyone under the sun that there has been a horrible mix-up. When Agatha and Sophie manage to get into the School Master's tower, they come face to face with the Storian. Once Storian has begun the girls story, they must follow it to its end. The School Master also informs them that a princess and witch can never be friends and the only solution to their problem is to solve a riddle. “What's the one thing Evil can never have and the one thing Good can never do without?” The School for Good and Evils illustrates how beauty is not just how we look on the outside, it is also in the life we live and actions that we take.  Overall, I would say I see a little Harry Potter, Hunger Games, and a smidge of Darth Maul thrown in for good measure. A fun fairy tale retelling and Book Two is set to be published on April 15, 2014 with this new beautiful cover.  
My Review Copy was from the Library.  


Friday, August 16, 2013

The Hero's Guide to Saving your Kingdom by Christopher Healy


Doesn't everyone knows the tales of Cinderella, Rapunzel  Sleeping Beauty and Briar Rose? But, what about the names of all the Princes from those tales?  Believe me, I was struggling with that one too.  I blame it on to many Disney movies growing up. Apparently everyone has just been calling them Prince Charming for years. Now if you asked Prince Liam, Prince Frederick, Prince Duncan and Prince Gustav, they would say it's all on account of those no good bards messing up the way things really went.  After reading the story, I can certainly see their point.  I really like Healy's take on these fairy tales and how each Prince, well and Princess alike is different from the way that I am used to.  Prince Liam is in an arranged marriage to Briar Rose, except she is spoiled, mean and down right rude.  Prince Frederick has his daily routine and Ella (Cinderella) is getting rather bored of it all.  Prince Duncan and Snow White are the only ones that are married but both haven't really settled into that role.  Prince Gustav has tried to stand out among his 16 older brothers but when he is saved instead of Rapunzel, he becomes the laughing stock of his kingdom.  The Prince's are not the only ones unhappy.  If you ask the witch she let Rapunzel go.   So, when the bards begin to go missing one by one, Ella decides she is up for some adventure and plans to go and rescue him.  This was such a fun retelling of the famous fairy tales, packed with humor and defiantly works for kids and adults alike.  I was laughing aloud at the narrators interjections into the story.  Loved the titles in each chapter and I think this would make for a great read aloud.  Lucky for me the next book is already available so there is an added bonus of not having to wait to see what happens next.  Great for 8 year old and up who enjoy fractured fairy tales. My review copy was purchased.  
     Here's the cover of Book 2, Published April 30th 2013.    


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Parched by Melanie Crowder

PARCHED, just the name has ya thinking hot, dry and thirsty.  The cover also captures the tone of the book very well.  Melanie Crowder imagines a barren world in which water supplies have dried up.  What little left is being hunted down by armed thugs.  It is a sad place, one where Sarel losses her parents in a struggle to hold onto the food that they were able to find among the barren soil.   One leaving Sarel to tend to the family dogs and the little knowledge her mother left her about which roots can survive and what left is edible.  It is also a place where a young boy, Musa is kept in chains because of his ability to track down the water that is deep within the soil.   Yet, among this place the two are brought together in hopes that they can find a way to survive.  Ok, so there will be some SPOILERS down below, you've been warned, so stop now if you haven't read the book yet and really should. Parched is classified as Literary Upper Middle Grade Fiction, so right around 5th to 8th grade.  

Parched begins from the view of Nandi, Sarel's dog. (Actually it is told in alternating voices of Sarel, Musa and Nandi.).   It is one of the most heart wrenching moments of the story for me.  This is one of those books that makes you feel.  It isn't so much about the place, although it too is a sad desolate place, but it is the whole circumstance that these two children are left in.  They really have to fend for themselves among some terrible odds. Both have to learn how to trust each other and find courage to overcome those odds.  There is a lot packed into those 151 pages.  I think my only problem with Parched was that I felt to much.  Strange statement, I know, but the ending leaves me feeling sad for the two children.  Although the issue of water is resolved, I can't help thinking that it will dry up too.  Plus the thugs are still out there and eventually they could find these kids.  I guess that is part of what makes this such an engaging book is it makes you feel and think about what a world without water would be like.  

My review copy was provided by the lovely Casey and Natalie over at Literary Rambles as a part of a giveaway from the author and her publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.  So a big thank you to all for the ARC of Parched.

Coming up Next:  The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom (The League of Princes#1) by Christopher Healy.  

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Wish List

The Screaming Staircase (Lockwood & Co, #1)The Book of Lost Things (Mister Max #1)
So these are two books that I am looking forward to.  I really loved Jonathan Stroud's series of books, Bartimaeus was such a great character.  I also really love the illustrations of Iacopo Bruno and this cover intrigues me.  

Monday, August 5, 2013

Two Books by Shelby Bach in the Ever After Series

Of Giants and Ice (The Ever Afters, #1)The first book in the Ever After series by Shelby Bach was this little beauty, Of Giants and Ice.   Readers were introduced to the characters of Rory, Lena, Chase, Rory's family and learned of the after school program that is designed to assist children with finding "their tale."  This first story involved Rory's friend Lena's tale.  Not just any tale, but the tale of Jack and the Beanstalk. 

  Of Witches and Wind (Ever Afters, #2)
In Book Two, Rory is feeling more confident.  She's just finished battling ice griffins after all.  Doesn't that make you a veteran or something?  Yet, the Evil Snow Queen is working against the Ever After Program and Rory quickly finds herself as a companion in a new quest. The stakes in this book are much higher then before as the entire school has been poisoned.  Rapunzel sets forth a prophecy that five characters must travel forth and in seven days time draw the water of life from the spring in order to save the school. Rory begins to have doubts whether she will be able to help to save the school and her friend Lena. Of Witches and Wind is filled with many light moments, snarky comments, puns, humor and a plot that escalates the tension just the right amount.  There are some beautiful moments between Rory and Chase where she finds that she doesn't really know everything about him.  That he has had a lifetime before she was even born.  So yeah, plenty of secrets, prophecies and a story that I really enjoyed reading. Bach has a lovely way of capturing the angst of a middle grader and at the same time developed a beautiful story about friendship.  She captures the voice of a middle grade girl with the doubts, insecurities that they may feel. My favorite quote, "Doubts can conquer a person more quickly then an army.  If you know yours, you can conquer them instead."   In the end, as Bach puts it best in her acknowledgments, "Of Witches and Wind is all about how surviving middle school is so much easier when you have great, caring, loyal friends."   My review copy was purchased and I eagerly await the next in the series.  

Andy Smithson: Blast of the Dragon's Fury by L.R.W Lee

Andy Smithson: Blast of the Dragon's Fury (Book One)Prologue:  Imogenia finds herself in the afterlife terminal contemplating where she is to go next.   She has narrowed her options down to Peace Paradise, and Unfinished Business.  Since her demise and her brother ending her aspirations for being Queen by putting a dagger in her back, Imogenia has been plotting  a way to get even with him.  Imogenia enlists the help of her dearly departed mother and father and sets a curse in motion on her brother (King Heraclon) and the people of Oomaldee.  The curse involves a perpetual dense fog across the land and an immortal King who must watch his kingdom grow further and further into despair.  And so the curse goes on for 500 years, that is until the King and Queen decide that their son has learned his lesson and the curse should end.  The Afterlife Council agrees but if and only if the King can find a way that doesn't break any of the rules of afterlife.  And so King Kaysan has found a descendant who will end the curse.  Yet, the King can not reveal himself to Andy or help him directly in ending the curse. But, both will have to deal with Imogenia's interference.   

During this first part, I kept picturing Beatlejuice sitting on a couch up in the afterlife waiting to go see his counselor. Which for me, made this part amusing.   Imogenia is pretty upset about how her brother treated her and I guess revenge is probably a natural reaction for her.  The story then moves into modern times of Andy.  Just your average kid who loves to play video games and is curious as a cat.  While exploring a mysterious light in the attic, Andy stumbles upon a trunk and then is transported to medieval times where he meets King Heraclon. The King feels that Andy is the one who can break the curse and set everything right. Andy will have the assistance of another boy his age (Alden) and the wisdom of the King's wizard to help him.  The first step in Andy's journey is to find a red dragon scale while avoiding the neighboring King Abbadon who has it out for Oomaldee.     

Disclaimer:  My PDF copy was provided by the author.  L.R.W. Lee approached me because I have reviewed similar types of books in the past.  She also requested that I approach the review from how I think a middle grader would enjoy the book.   

Andy seemed like the kind of character that middle graders would easily relate to.  He is trying to find his place, is insecure and trying to make the best of the situation that he is in but is making mistakes as he goes along.  Andy's mistakes stem from the fact that he doesn't really listen to his conscience, or "inneru" as L.R.W. Lee refers to it.  But, Andy learns that it is important to by the end of the story.  Throughout the book there are messages about responsibility, patience, accepting others which mingled among the plot and at other times came out through dialogue.  There is plenty of action, dragons, Mermen, a Pegasus, and the pace moves along fairly quickly.    Did I mention it also has some very humorous parts relating to passing gas?   Defiantly would appeal to a middle grader. 
My confusion with the book is more in the setting and the overlap between Medieval and modern times.  For example, Alden has neon green hair, the King is wearing modern clothing and knows alot about Andy's time. There are also inconsistencies with the curse and just how terrible it really is on the people of Oomaldee.   Things I know middle graders would over look but I tend to notice while reading.  Overall, there is a lot to really enjoy about this book.  Would put it at around 10-12, mostly because of some dragon killing scenes.  This is the first of a seven part series with Book 2 Venom of the Serpent's Cunning coming at the end of 2013. I will certainly be looking for the next book.  Thank you again to the author for the opportunity to read and review her book.  Those interested in reading the Prologue can go to the authors website at :!prologue/chbo