[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] I can’t tell if the dystopian socio-economics here are better or worse than in the first book

Meg’s Review of Insurgent by Veronica Roth

This review will contain spoilers for Insurgent.

The Goodreads Choice Awards 2012 are in, and Insurgent by Veronica Roth was crowned top YA SciFi Fantasy book of the year. I’m sort of baffled by this – by the fact that it beat out this whopper of a list:

  • Cinder by Marissa Meyer
  • City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare
  • Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore
  • The Golden Lily by Richelle Mead
  • Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
  • Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver
  • Insurgent by Veronica Roth
  • The Rise of Nine by Pittacus Lore
  • Onyx by Jennifer L. Armentrout
  • The Selection by Kiera Cass

I mean come on – beat Cassandra Clare and the wonderful new comer Cinder? Mostly I’m surprised because I read Insurgent and started this review post in July and could never get up the gumption to actually write it because I was just that unimpressed by this follow-up to Divergent.

Insurgent opens more or less immediately after the chaos of the previous book. A quick refresher about this whacko world (you can read more about it here): In some sort of post-apocalyptic Chicago, the city’s population is split between five factions: Dauntless (courage), Erudite (knowledge), Candor (honesty), Amity (friendliness), and Abnegation (selflessness). Well, Abnegation is pretty much not there anymore because of a revolt that led to all of them getting offed (long story), and the Candor and the Erudite are now in this epic pissing battle standoff, while the Amity has shut their doors and poopooed on the whole lot of them. Oh, and most of the Dauntless are mind-controlled zombies. 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

[ Series Review ] The girl who sees ghosts, enter stage left

Series Review: The Darkest Powers by Kelley Armstrong

I first came across Armstrong’s writing when she published Bitten (werewolf, paranormal, romance) so when I saw that she had written a Young Adult series, I was torn between curiosity and a skeptical mistrust of yet another neck-and-lips cover – plus, the books are called “The Darkest Powers.” How in the world was the series gonna pull that off?

It starts with The Summoning.

Chloe Saunders is a regular film-loving teenage girl – right up until she has a psychotic break in the middle of the school day and nearly falls off the school roof. She ends up in Lyle House, a home for troubled teens with its own regimen of meds and surveillance. You can probably guess by the glowing jewel (and title) on the covers above that this won’t be a story about a young girl overcoming mental illness. In fact, as time goes on, Chloe begins to wonder whether the ghosts in Lyle House might just be real after all. 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

[ Advance Review ] Beauty and the Werewolf By Mercedes Lackey

Beauty and the Werewolf by Mercedes Lackey

(part of the Five Hundred Kingdom series)

In a world where the forces of Tradition steer people’s lives to follow the routes of legends and fairytales, Isabella Beauchamps is a merchant’s daughter, wears a bright red cloak, and gets attacked by a werewolf on her way from Granny’s house. Let’s pause for a moment here and let the heroine’s name slowly sink in: Isabella Beauchamps.

However, unlike the sparkle-Bella that we all know and love, Bella-Beau is a practical, strong-willed character who is not at all impressed when a run-amok werewolf turns her world upside down.

But what really keeps this story–and others in the series–so engaging is the dramatic tension between what we know happens in stories of Beauty and the Beast and Red Riding Hood and what the author does. We know there will be a happy ending, but will Bella’s Beast turn out to be the unpleasant Gameskeeper, rather than the werewolf? Will Granny bite it? Will the Gameskeeper get to cut our werewolf open at the end? Who are the invisible servants, anyway?

Lackey walks the line between tipping her hat to the fairy-tales, and creating her own, original, self-contained story, and all without using references for references’ sake. In a typical Lackey fashion, the author builds a world–and characters–of moral ambiguity, probing the deep, deep questions of power and responsibility, family and fate.  It doesn’t stop the reader from figuring out who the main villain is fifty or so pages in, however.

Let me give you a clue. We’re introduced to three major characters, and it’s not Bella, and it’s not Bella’s love interest.

The book itself is romance lite, with a rather universal level of age appropriateness. I would recommend it to younger readers, to anyone looking for a light, feel-good adventure with a spunky heroine and a happy ending, and to all recent Mercedes Lackey fans. Beauty and the Werewolf is a lovely way to spend an afternoon. So if you like her LUNA books, you will love this novel.

And if you enjoy story retellings as much as I do, I would definitely encourage you to try out the first of the Five Hundred Kingdoms series, The Fairy Godmother by Mercedes Lackey, or her other, somewhat more substantial “Beauty and the Beast” retelling, The Fire Rose

Other Recommended Reads:

Galley pdf received courtesy of
NetGalley & LUNA Books.