Archive for April 2010
The Fairy-Tale Detectives is the first novel in The Sisters Grimm series. It combines both fantasy and a bit of mystery, but also uses fairy tales we all know and love. Two sisters; Sabrina and Daphne have gone through dozens of foster homes after their parents just happened to have disappeared. One day, their grandmother whom they thought was dead comes to adopt them. It turns out they are related to the brothers Grimm, the well known fairytale collectors. What used to be just stories and myth have become a reality for the two girls and when their Grandmother gets kidnapped. It’s upto the girls to rescue her, with a little help from some very unlikely characters.
The story is certainly filled with fun and a very entertaining read. Nearly every fairy tale or story I’ve read as a kid was featured in this book. I guess you could say, it was like reading something that came out of Shrek, sans the main cast. The concept is certainly very interesting and adding in the idea of making the Grimm family a family of detectives out to solve mysteries caused by the Everafters (characters and creatures from the fairy tales) makes the story all the more fun to read. There were a few parts here and there that made me laugh out loud (the momma bear part was really good).
I have to admit I didn’t like Sabrina at first. Her skepticism got annoying and for someone who’s very young (around 11 years of age) she doesn’t act like it. She’s certainly very mature – however given that they have jumped through a dozen or so foster homes, perhaps that’s what made her grow up so fast. However, I still think she’s a little too skeptical for her own good. All characters though were well done and each had something I liked. Which makes the book even much more enjoyable to read.
The ending of the book is well done, albeit, a little too quick in finishing off the main story arc but naturally it leaves a lot more to do with the Grimm family and leaves me with a lot of questions. I am definitely going to get into this series. It’s a quick read and there aren’t any lulls or anything that takes you away from the main plot.
Overall it’s certainly worth a look into if you want something light and easy to read. It’s filled with adventure and will keep you entertained, and hopefully getting you to pursue the series a little more further.
I give it a 9 out of 10.
Today’s MUSING MONDAYS post is about the war books
With yesterday being Anzac Day, I thought I’d ask a theme question this week. Are you a reader of war books? And if so, do you have any favourites?
- Yes! I read war books since I’m a big history buff. I don’t think I have any favorites although I noticed most of the war books I’ve read gear towards World War Two. I think I’ve read about one or two featuring the Vietnam War – although not as many.
What about you guys?
Emissaries from the Dead is the first novel featuring Andrea Cort. Fans of mysteries who also want some sci fi in the mix would enjoy this novel. It features Andrea Cort who is sent from the Diplomatic Corps to investigate two murders that have happened on One One One – an artificial ecosystem created by AIs. She has to solve the mystery but with a twist; she can’t implicate the AI in the murders and, also, she has to choose a suitable suspect among the indentured human population.
At first, when I started reading this book it was a little hard to follow. I was nearly overwhelmed with such high tech descriptions with hardly any explanation as to what they were and their purpose, so the setting was very hard to picture and the book was hard to get used to at first. However after a couple of chapters the book slowly started to reveal itself and the plot was interesting and engaging to begin with, it was hard not to let it go. First time readers, don’t let the science deter you from reading. Focus on Andrea Cort, as she was a very entertaining character – albeit not very likable. She’s very cold, misanthropic, and used to being hated in return. Yet despite those flaws it makes Andrea a very realistic character and although not likable, you can’t help but warm up to her as you read further into the book.
The plot was good and interesting, and the setting is what makes it most interesting. The system created by AIs, and indentured humans certainly give it a very distinct sci fi flavor to it but also it incorporates the characteristics of a mystery well enough to merge the two genres nice and neat. However, there is more heavier emphasis on the science fiction part, which makes me think mystery lovers would not really attempt to read this novel in the first place (however I greatly encourage them to try!). The setting does take a while to get used to, as it’s not your average everyday planet. Things however do fall into place and start to make sense as you progress through the novel, and it does make for an exciting read as Andrea gets closer to solving the mystery as to who might have committed the murders. It is rather nice when everything does fall into place and it does make sense, it made the story complete and satisfying.
What I really liked about this novel is Andrea actually takes the time to explain about herself, and how she got into her present situation as a Counselor for the Dip Corps. It gave her character a well rounded out background and made her more three dimensional (so to speak). Eventually as the book progressed, I found myself liking her despite her flaws and faults. What I also enjoyed was the subtle changes to Andrea’s personality as time passed through the story. She herself wasn’t prepared for the changes and it was nice to see her try to resist them but at the same time attempting to accept the changes as well. It certainly made her more realistic than other characters I have read in these types of novels.
The only flaw I can see with this book is the beginning, it does get a little difficult to get into the story. It was hard to comprehend but don’t let it scare you away from reading it, it’s certainly well worth reading through. As I have mentioned before, once the pieces do fall into place, it makes a very satisfying read.
Overall, this book is really geared towards sci fi fans, but those who love mystery and are ready to go for something completely different give this book a try. I’m looking forward to reading the next Andrea Cort novel myself.
I give it an 8 out of 10.
Those that are familiar with the Sano Ichiro mysteries know what’s to come in the plot; political intrigue, a mystery to solve, and rich descriptions of feudal Japan. Those that are new to this historical fiction mystery series, you can read this as a stand alone (when I first got into this series I didn’t start at the very first one) although you may find yourself wondering what happened in earlier events. You won’t be lost however, so starting here is fine, and it might get your curiousity piqued enough to read the previous novels (like I did).
The Cloud Pavilion is the 14th novel of the Sano Ichiro mystery series. Sano’s estranged uncle approaches him for help to find his daughter’s kidnapper and rapist. Sano agrees, wanting to establish ties with a family he never got to meet. (Reading The Fire Kimono may help with understanding this book although not really necessary). He finds out other women had been previously kidnapped and raped and may have something to do with the current crime. On the other hand, Sano is still suspicious over Chamberlain Yanagisawa, his old arch enemy who’s acting too nice and who hasn’t been plotting recently. Sano sets spies on him to find out what Yanagisawa is really doing while trying to solve this case and maintaining a good yet very strained relationship with his Uncle.
The plot was good, and I admit I was wondering what in the world Yanagisawa is upto as he’s always constantly plotting and neverending in his plot to get rid of Sano. Although it is getting somewhat stale and repetitive for the last several books and I’m wondering if there’s anything new to this. At least the mystery case is new and different from previous cases. It’s the same format, with Sano dealing with personal issues while trying to solve the case at the same time. It surprised me that this time the shogun did not threaten with his usual death threat when Sano wasn’t doing his job “right”. However, lo and behold, the shogun threatens him later in the book (which induced eye rolling on my part, as it is tending to get extremely formulaic by now).
However, I still enjoy reading the well written historical descriptions of feudal Japan and its social mores and customs. It is interesting to read and I could picture the setting clearly in my head while reading. This is what I like the most about reading these books. The political intrigue was still there and I used to like reading about it in the past, this time however it was subtle and I kept on guessing what was going to happen. It was a nice little surprise once I read Yanagisawa’s vile little plot (and here I thought he couldn’t get any worse).
Regarding the mystery, it was all right to read. Although it wasn’t as exciting as I thought it would be. The suspects weren’t that great to begin with, and I felt myself not really guessing who was the perpetrator. There wasn’t much to it and when it was solved, there was a great big climax which I did enjoy reading as I did sympathize with these women who were violated and then horribly ostracized and treated as if they were the ones at fault by their own families and friends. It offered them closure, and it was a good way of ending the mystery. The political intrigue however just got started and just got really interesting however, it was at the end of the novel and I was stuck pulling my hair as to what was going to happen now to Sano and his family.
What really annoys me in this series lately is Hirata. I’m not into this mystic martial arts thing and it all makes him sound like he’s superman. However I find that he doesn’t do much with the plot and only continues to be annoying with using his powers. Although the introduction of the “mystery ninja” who’s stalking Hirata got my interest, it wasn’t enough to make me accept this mystic martial arts plot. I still prefer the “old” Hirata before he became a martial arts master.
Overall, a long time fan isn’t missing much in terms of mystery but the political intrigue packs a huge punch at the end. I’d say read it just because you’ve probably read the previous 13 books before. Those new to Sano Ichiro may or may not like this one however if you ask me, try reading The Concubine’s Tattoo (which is my personal favorite).
I give it a 7 out of 10.
The Devouring is about the Vours. Demonic beings that inhabit our bodies and take advantage of us by playing on our fears. They stay hidden in our bodies. They could be in just about anybody – even in our families. Reggie, the main heroine of this novel, realizes the existence about the Vours and attempts to fight them off to protect her family. However she realizes, a little too late, that they were already in her town to begin with.
This book was so good I wanted to stay up at night to finish it. The prologue was so good and gripping that I had to continue reading it to see what would happen. The book had all the makings to become a horror movie itself. The writing was great and an easy read. It had very well written descriptions of horror scenes which is enough to put the reader on edge. Some parts were so well written I found myself reacting to it out loud while reading.
Fear is the main theme here, and Reggie has a giant phobia of spiders. Naturally, there are many scenes which include spiders. I’m rather scared of spiders myself and I could just feel my skin crawl as I read the parts where Reggie is constantly terrorized by them. As said before, the horror scenes are excellent and picturing them isn’t so hard. It brings the reader right into the book as if one was beside Reggie herself.
I like Reggie. She’s the typical horror heroine you find in horror movies. Strong, attempting to live life as normal as possible, until the Vours come in and turn her life upside down. Her friend Aaron is also, your typical side kick in a horror movie who is the brains and helps Reggie get to the bottom of understand and figuring out the Vours. Then there’s Eben, who’s the mysterious good guy but with a horrible secret.
However, like any horror movie, it doesn’t stop there. There is a second book out (called Soulstice) which I am definitely getting once I have the chance to. The Devouring is definitely worth reading if you feel like reading something creepy and terrifying. Yet, there are still questions to be answered. There is blood and gore in the book. So those that aren’t partial to it should avoid this book. However those that want a scare should definitely pick this up.
Overall, one of my favorite reads of this year. I am glad I picked this book up. I was pleasantly scared.
I give it a 10 out of 10.
Hooray! this is my first ever book I got from the Librarything Early Reviewers! I’ve actually been wanting to win a book from them for a while now. When I checked into She Walks in Beauty, I had no idea this was a Christian fiction novel. Nevertheless, I just went along and read it anyway, as the plot did interest me and I felt like reading something historical but not involving Tudor England (been having too much Tudor candy lately).
She Walks in Beauty is about Clara Carter, a young girl who’s about to debut during “The Season”. Her goal is to attract the attention of the famous De Vries heir – something her Aunt has ordered her to do and has reminded her quite often. Clara is suddenly mentioned on society papers and she feels the spotlight on her every move at every social function available. Although this helps in achieving her goals, she doesn’t feel like herself, and feels like a puppet being played with no one listening to what she really wants. Clara then learns that she has to marry Mr De Vries as her family depends on this marriage, and failure can result in dire circumstances for them.
All I have to say is, wow. This book was really good! from the start I was interested in Clara, and had taken an instant liking to her. The plot was a nice easy pace that flowed smoothly and descriptions and detailed scenes as to what Clara had to go through to act properly during her debut were well done and very engaging to read. Her social outings were well written and every time one ended, I wanted to keep reading to see what would happen at the next party or dinner she attended. Her social “training” was comical to read at times and some of her social blunders made you want to cringe for her (like when she lost her shoe).
Yet aside from those light moments, there were serious moments as well. I didn’t like her Aunt who treated her like a chess piece, and although Clara’s father wasn’t really a main character, when I learnt more of his true colors, he wasn’t a very likable person at all. It was very interesting to read about the various rules women and men had to go by in order to go about in society. Some rules I found absolutely ridiculous, yet some had very awful consequences (tightlacing corsets for example).
I really did like how Clara developed as a character. From a very naive girl to one who just wanted to be who she wanted to be, and to do what she wanted to do. She wasn’t afraid of the social consequences and at times was brave enough to do something that went against the conventional rules. I also loved her friendship with Lizzie. Although they were “rivals” in their debuts, it was sad to see how they were pawns to their relatives and were even sometimes asked to turn against each other in order to have the greater advantage in attracting Mr De Vries. However I’m glad their friendship meant much more to them and it was just wonderful to read how the two of them got along so well despite social pressures. I actually wanted to learn more about Clara and her mother, although when Clara finds out what happens to her mother, it was actually quite horrifying to read. (I can’t really be specific, it’ll give the plot away).
Albeit a novel in Christian fiction, there isn’t much about God and theology so it’s not preachy. Which makes the novel great for those that aren’t into the Christian fiction genre. It certainly seemed to lean towards historical romance much more than Christian literature. The plot does become a little predictable, but that did not bother me, I was too engaged into the plot.
Overall, a wonderful, beautiful read. I greatly enjoyed it and for those that love to read about America in the 1890′s please give this a try (actually, for those that like The Luxe series, this is definitely for you – no backstabbing involved here though but just enjoy it nevertheless).
I give it a 9.5 out of 10.
Lord Loss is the first in the Demonata series by Darren Shan. It is the story of a boy named Grubbs Grady, whose life is turned upside down when he encounters demons tearing his family to shreds (literally). Living with his Uncle Dervish, he soon finds out who these demons really are and what they have against Grubbs and his family.
Without really giving anything away as it is a short novel, this one really did blow me away in the beginning. When I read the first forty pages into this book I didn’t realize how bloody and gory it was going to be. It was pretty graphically violent and I was wondering to myself if I really did pick up a young adult book. Anyway, if you can read through it, I really did like how the demons were described. They were very different and it read like something out of either the short stories of HP Lovecraft, or out of just a very wild imagination. It was good though as it made the demons seem more evil looking, macabre, and scary. I found it a little hard to picture them at first, but Darren Shan made such wonderful descriptions that it was if these things could only come from nightmares (and they do get really creepy once you finally pictured them).
The storyline is really good and it’s short, and to the point which makes it a fast and engaging read. The characters are few so it’s very easy to keep track of them, although the story centralizes on Grubbs. The character names in this book are rather strange and odd (Grubbs and Dervish to name a few examples) but it adds more quirkiness to the book and it makes it a different read. Although the names are funny and strange, I find them much better than the names you find in other young adult novels that seem to name their characters names that celebrities would give their kids (rather stupid names too). The names just seem to fit this novel more.
The only criticism I can find in this novel is towards the end, where Grubs can “suddenly” do things he could never do. I found it as an easy way out of finishing the book and a little too convenient. Everything ended just a little too quickly and the ending, well, all I ask is: “how did he wake up??!!!!” leave me with asking more from this series. Also, please note, this book is not for those that aren’t into gore. Coarse language may be an issue to some, I expected it, and it does add a bit more realism to Grubb’s character (since when did teenagers never swear in real life?)
Overall, a fast engaging read, with creepy descriptions of demons, and enough action to get you to read the rest of the series of The Demonata. This is a great beginning of what seems like a great series.
I give it a 9 out of 10.
The Stolen Crown covers the lives of Katherine Woodville and her husband Harry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham. The Duke, because of his Lancastrian blood, struggles to gain back his land that is due to him and tries his best to fall in favor with Edward IV. when that doesn’t work, he goes to Richard, the king’s brother for help and support. After the death of King Edward IV, Harry also helps his dear friend Richard obtain the throne. Much to Katherine’s dismay, she feels Richard isn’t a good influence on Harry and fears the worst when Richard does end up becoming King of England.
Well, the book started off a little too slow for me and although it was interesting to read about their lives, I found it not as interesting as some other historical fiction novels I have read in the past. What nearly threw me off of this book was the abundant number of characters, and the majority of them having the same name. So, it was hard for me to figure out who was who. There is a character page in the beginning of the book, detailing who’s who in each family and how they are related. It’s a lot of information to take and I would have preferred it in family tree format (it’s presented as one long list). It did seem overwhelming for me and keeping the characters straight is difficult in this novel. I think one would have to be rather familiar with the history (Wars of the Roses, the Reigns of Edward IV and Richard III, and the Princes in the Tower) to actually grasp the characters and the main events in the storyline. I am not familiar with it, I’m sure if I was, my enjoyment of the novel would be magnified tenfold.
However, I did not give up and continued reading – as I do have a love for history and although the plot didn’t seem to go nowhere, it did pick up the pace halfway through the novel. Especially events after the death of Edward IV, this is where the story gets a lot more interesting. The narration from Harry dominates most of the time but you get an interesting point of view of events (like the Princes in the Tower). It’s hard not to like him. I thought at first he was just a normal spoiled brat who cared about his inheritance and land but as he grew older and realized who Richard really was, it changed him and I felt a great feeling of sympathy towards Harry. I’m not sure how I feel about Katherine. I admired her after having to go through a lot of tragic events of losing her family and loved ones but I thought both Katherine and Harry were indeed fit for one another and ‘looked’ great together.
I loved the ending of the novel, there was a feeling of hope and happiness that Kate deserved after what she had been through. Also, I didn’t realize Jasper Tudor could be such a dashing man (albeit, he had a very small part in the novel towards the end but it was enough to make an impression to me). The author’s note is very informative and extensive but it is well written and a great follow up to those not familiar to the history.
Overall, I would say, don’t give up on this novel if you feel so overwhelmed with the names and characters. If you get the general idea on who is who then reading this should not be a problem. I recommend this novel to those in love with history particularly the Wars of the Roses, Richard III and the Princes in the Tower however those new to that time period like I am, give it a chance. I found myself learning a lot and wanting to read more of the history to understand better of the events portrayed in the book.
I give it a 7 out of 10.
Note, if you follow the Vladimir Tod series, the latest book (Twelfth Grade Kills) will be released this year in September. However, if you’re a beginner like me, you start with this novel; Eighth Grade Bites.
Eighth Grade Bites, is about a young teenage vampire named Vladimir Tod, who had a human mother, and a vampire father. Your typical average teenager except for his appetite for blood. Yet despite that, he still goes through the same agonies and dramas that engulf a normal teenager his age. Bullies won’t leave him alone, he has an enormous crush on a girl but she’s interested in his best friend, and sometimes having to hide his vampire features can get difficult, especially when he’s hungry. Despite these, his teacher suddenly disappears without a word and the substitute teacher beings to question Vladimir – questions of a personal nature. Vladimir fears his cover may be blown…
It’s a quick read, less than 200 pages. It’s certainly an enjoyable read, and Vladimir Tod is your typical teenage protagonist who is easily likable and fun to read about. He does have a sense of humor despite being different from his peers at school, but on the other hand, he feels alone and has moments of emotion. The plot is very quick and fun to read, there’s plenty of wit and plenty of references towards vampires and vampire culture. (Examples such as: Vlad’s school being called Bathory Junior High, a place that’s called Stokerton, and of course Vladimir is a reference to Vlad the impaler).
The characters surrounding Vlad are likable (except his bullies and enemies), and Henry is a perfect sidekick for him – even though Vlad lives in his shadow at school. (Henry is the direct opposite of Vlad, who has girls admiring him from near and far, is part of the student council, but also happens to know Vlad’s secret). Mr Otis surprised me a couple of times during the novel, at one time I was ready to hate him, yet like him the next. The only criticism I have of this book is, it does tend to get a little overboard with all the references to vampire culture (I think I read there’s a street named after Lugosi – which induced a little bit of eye rolling on my part).
The ending was good, and yet I’m still left with questions that haven’t been answered. I will be definitely be pursuing the rest of the series, as this book was an enjoyable quick read, perfect reading especially after reading big large “heavy” novels. If you’re looking for a light read, and are into vampires but don’t want to get into the “heavy stuff” then take this novel, it’s perfect.
I give it a 9 out of 10.