[Book Review] An agent and an assassin go time traveling

The Reluctant Assassin (W.A.R.P., #1)

Chevie is seventeen and already an FBI agent – except ever since a mission went disastrously awry, the FBI has done its best to bury their not-very-legal underage agents program, and Chevie along with it. Now Chevie’s been banished to London, assigned to babysit an old house with a weird steampunk-looking pod.

Two hundred years away and into the past, Riley finds himself clutching a knife, with Garrick, his master, urging Riley to make his first kill as his assassin apprentice. Except, Riley’s first kill goes terribly awry, and he is suddenly on a collusion course with Chevie and her modern reality.

Take a pinch of time travel, a dash of two words colliding, a secret government program, and two spunky character. Then add a murderous villain obsessed with a betrayal, a gang of angry rams, and a conspiracy that goes back to the future and forward to the past. And it’s up to Riley and Chevie to team up and stop all the crazy. Continue reading

[Book Review] The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan

(Book four of the Lost Heroes Series)

This review will contain spoilers from Son of Neptune.

Remember how much I raged at the cliffhanger for The Son of Neptune? Well, that ending now looks like rainbows and cuddly butterflies compared to what Riordan left us with in The Mark of Athena. I’m officially back to being pissed at him for being so good at leaving readers hanging.

Athena picks up right where Neptune left off, with the giant flying Greek battle ship hovering over the Roman demigod camp. The Romans are none too pleased with situation, but they allow the Greeks to come down to the city unarmed. Not that demigods need to be armed to do damage.

Less than two chapters in, and we have Annabeth MMA-launching Percy to the ground in order to threaten his life should he ever leave her side again. It was a lovely reunion between the two star-crossed lovers, and an even better treat to finally be inside Annabeth’s head and seeing the plot through her eyes at least some of the time. Continue reading

[Book Review] Kane Chronicles Closure

Meg’s Review: The Serpent’s Shadow by Rick Riordan

Audiobook read by Katherine Kellgren and Kevin R. Free

  

I can plow through a novel much faster reading than listening to the audiobook. Often times, if it’s a book I have been dying to read, I’ll double-fist it: audiobook at work, Nook at home. This was totally my game plan for The Serpent’s Shadow. I even had it in hardback and Nookbook form. (I’m not Riordan obsessed; no, not me.) And I know I could have had the story done faster and the review up quicker if I had switched over to reading, but I couldn’t — just couldn’t — tear myself away from the audiobook.

Continue reading

[ Book Review ] Diving into the Cabinet of Earths

The last time I read a children’s book was circa January 2008, my freshman year of college. Over that bitter winter break, I read (and fell in love with) Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden. After that, I was up to my ears in Modernist literature and 19th century Russian philosophy, with nary a moment to spare for anything unrelated.

As I was about to graduate, I discovered that a professor in my favorite department – Slavic Studies – was about to release a children’s book of her own in January 2012. Intriguing! How would this professor, with myriad scholarly articles to her name, transition to children’s literature? Naturally, I had to find out for myself. Continue reading

[ Book Review ] Lions and Tigers and Zombies, oh my!

Kat’s Review: Hollowland by Amanda Hocking

In Hollowland by Amanda Hocking, hardcore teenager chic Remy travels with a Canadian, a rock-star, and a fashionista teenybopper through a post-apocalyptic, zombie-ravaged landscape on a quest to find the military quarantine holding her brother. Romantic subplots are plentiful, but for a post-apocalyptic tale of horror and adventure, there aren’t enough zombies to fertilize a garden. The true monsters the companions encounter are their fellow man (in the form of polygamous cults, armies of psychopaths, and military law). But while these subplots are tense and suspenseful, it was a downer that the slow-moving zombies never made me fear for the character’s lives or health. In part, this was because they had a lion in their car.

Wait, what? Is that a typo?

Nope. It’s a lion. Lioness, to be precise.

Though Hollowland starts out with a modified T.S. Eliot quote, and the title is a nod to his melancholic poem “The Hollow Men,”  I would have pulled a more tonally appropriate title and quote from Old Possum’s Practical Cats.

Ripley (the aforementioned lion) is a very practical, zombie-eating feline. When Remy (the teenager) takes pity on a chained-up lion, the cat ends joins their party rather than eating it, and then goes on to display a remarkable preference for rotting, undead flesh. The tigers show up later, but they seem to prefer to make friends with evil humans.

This entire Lion-Tiger thing may have caused some fatal suspension of disbelief issues, but that’s a chirp for another day.

Let’s shift back to the reading experience: Continue reading

[ Book Review ] Love, hate and zombies

Meg’s Review: Deadline by Mira Grant

(Newsflesh Series, Book 2)

Reader Advisory: This review will contain major spoilers for Feed.

I’m beginning to think that the Newsflesh series was put on this Earth to push my buttons. If you recall, the first book had me so flustered that I couldn’t even give it a proper rating. The same almost happened with its sequel, Deadline. I hate the protagonists; I hate the pseudoscience that’s passed off as the real deal; and dearlordalmighty, I hate the constant idolizing and pedestalizing of journalism and its maligned search for the capital-t Truth.

And yet, I am absolutely engrossed by the story. Mira Grant has a knack of drawing out the reveal of pivotal information to almost intolerable limits. There were points when I was mentally screaming at the audiobook of Deadline to just get on with the story, to tell me what was really going on in this whacko conspiracy/zombie thriller. But it was a good sort of yelling, the kind that is both eager and afraid to discover the next level of hell the overarching plot is about to deliever. I could not stop listening to the audiobook (read wonderfully Nell Geislinger and Chris Patton) and was more than a little frustrated with its cliffhanger ending.

And yet (again), when I talk about the book to people, I always start with the negatives. I can’t get away from them. A positively wonderful story is there, but it’s so bogged down by narrative slop that it is, at times, difficult to get at.

Deadline begins nearly one year after the conclusion of Feed. Georgia Mason is long dead–at least in the real world. But in the mind of our new first-person narrator Shaun Mason–her adoptive brother, her maybe lover, and the one who killed her right before she went full-blown zombie–she is alive and well. Having the dead character fully interactive in Shaun’s mind is a great idea; we still have Georgia’s astute observations to go along with Shaun’s glib ones, and Shaun came off as so batshit crazy for constantly talking to the dead sister that lives in his head that it adds in a nice dose of levity to the dark proceedings of the book. Continue reading

[ Book Review ] A Trilogy’s Promising Part One

Melissa’s Review of Wildwood, by Colin Meloy, illustrated by Carson Ellis

An epic for middle readers? Sure. If those middle-readers keep a dictionary or app handy to recall the meaning of stevedore, stoat, mullioned, or culvert.

Read the first few chapters, and you may think you’ve fallen down a rabbit hole and into a vaguely British den of articulate animals whose furnishings and adventures closely resemble those of most of your childhood fantasies. Ramshackle treehouses linked by precarious bridges and ladders? Check. Frequent opportunities to fly? Check. Heroics achieved by Radio Flyer and bicycle? Check, check.

In this Book One of the Wildwood Chronicles, we meet brazen Prue McKeel: twelve-year-old bird fan and quasi-loner; older sister to one-year-old Mac; yoga-practicing, messenger-bag-wearing, bicycle-repairing Portlander with a capital…well, P.

While baby-sitting one rainy day, Prue watches in horror as a murder of crows kidnaps baby Mac. She vows his rescue—even if it means braving the legendary Impassable Wilderness: the thorny, charmed (fictional) thicket of forest in the middle of (actual) Forest Park.

Its inhabitants call the territory Wildwood, and it turns out to be a much-contested piece of forest over which tribal factions war, armed variously with pitchforks, colanders, and packs of coyote soldiers. When her classmate Curtis tags along, Prue finds herself scrambling against time to save Wildwood and the lives of many—including her own. Continue reading

[ Small Chirp ] An Indie short story worth checking out

As a general rule, we at tCR do not review author requests for short stories. We are wing-deep in novels and rarely have time to spare to read even the shortest of one-shots. So it was pure serendipity that Tracy Marchini’s review request for The Engine Driver came through at the height of my work-place boredom. I clicked on the attached PDF before I’d even read the blurb. And I must say that I’m quite happy I did—partially because the blurb needs a little Pitch Slapped lovin’, but mostly because it was an absolutely delightful story.

The story follows Brig, a depressed teenager in a world where any negative emotions are attenuated by an internal playlist of music meant to adjust mood.  When her best friend is selected to be a Musician, someone who can actually craft music, Brig sees an opportunity to finally hear a song that she wants to listen to—rather than one that has been carefully selected to attenuate her constantly sad existence.

That explanation actually makes the plot sound about 800% more emo than the story actually was. The characters were engaging even while wading through the subplot of wanting to hear a love song played when standing near a boy. The fact that a 6,000 word story has a flipping subplot should be an indication that Marchini has a knack for story-telling. The Engine Driver had nice subtleties to it, enough to gloss over a couple of places where the narrative stumbled.

Since this is just a Small Chirp and not a review, there’s no official Canary rating, but an unofficial rating would put it solidly in a four happy canaries territory. I hope this is the first of many forays that Marchini takes into Brig’s life. I would happily read an entire novel set in the music-controlled world she lives in.

Read More Indie:

[ Book Review ] Almost like the lovechild of Twilight and Shakespeare

Meg’s Review: Divergent by Veronica Roth

The reading experience of  Divergent fell neatly into the ‘like watching a train wreck’ category. I could not look away, not even though I was way, way too close to the tracks. When the train flipped, surely it was going to take me out as well.

My Nook went everywhere with me in hopes that I might be able to sneak in a few pages during lunch breaks and line waits. Because I had to know–had to know–whether or not the world was simply going to implode on itself by the final chapter.

In post-apocalyptic (or at least future dystopian) Chicago, the city’s dwindled population is split between five factions, each devoted to a certain positive characteristic of humanity. Beatrice was born in Abnegation–the faction devoted to selflessness. But as that would make for an amazingly boring book, on her Choosing Day, she selects to transfer to Dauntless–the faction that believes that courage is the order of the day. She must go through their abrasive and violent initiation–and, in the process, discover what the hell to do with herself. Because she doesn’t belong in just one faction. Her aptitude test shows that she is the most dangerous of all citizens: a Divergent with traits of more than one faction. Continue reading

Back to the Book: Tamora Pierce

Growing up in Tortall 

in which I return to one of my favorite childhood authors —

When I became a sixth grader and first stepped into my middle school, a wondrous thing happened. I discovered that the squat, red-bricked building with square-maze corridors contained its very own library. So. Many. Books.

Eventually, I noticed several titles by an author whose name I have been mispronouncing as Tamora Pierce right up until two weeks ago. (It’s Tamora, by the way.)

Should I get one? It was a tug of war between the part of me that judged a book by its cover (right), and the part that judged it by the title. Alanna: The First Adventure didn’t sound nearly dramatic enough. But…there was a picture of a horse and a glowy main character there too.

Picking that book up might have been the best reading decision I’ve ever made. It took me into the fantasy lands of Tortall and marked the beginning of over a decade of my hopeless (and happy) obsession with the fantasy genre. Continue reading