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  • Books, Grimm, Reviews

    Best of 2012: Grimm’s Pick

    10.12.12 | Permalink | Comments Off on Best of 2012: Grimm’s Pick

    The Raven Boys, Maggie Stiefvater

    All her life, Blue has been told if she kisses her true love he will die. But! Blue’s not too cut up about this, because there are more important things to worry about when you’re a feisty, creative, intelligent young woman who lives in a house full of quirky psychics (therefore the prediction of future doom). Blue’s not psychic herself, so she’s surprised when on St Mark’s Eve – when the spirits of those who will die in the next twelve months walk the Corpse Road – she sees Gansey. The psychics say this is either because Blue will kiss him or just plain kill him, one or t’other. When Gansey turns out to be a Raven Boy – a student at the elite Aglionby academy – Blue decides it’s probably the latter. When she meets him, she’s fairly sure this is the case (best to steer clear then). But Blue’s drawn to Gansey and his Raven friends, who are on a quest to discover the resting place of the long-dead (or rather long-sleeping) Glendower. Gansey is convinced Glendower is around these parts, and that he will grant his waker (being, if all things go to plan, Gansey) a favour.

    The Raven Boys is like a supernatural double mystery story (one obvious, one that gradually reveals itself), and if the start sounds like a romance, you might be surprised (don’t be deterred!). There’s a large cast of characters, and they’re all distinct and interesting: I couldn’t decide who I liked best, the competition was stiff. The final sentence is really very good. This book received a lot of advance publicity (um, some of it from me here) and is on its way to being a film.

    I also particularly liked this year:

    Grave Mercy, Robin LaFevres

    Code Name Verity, Elizabeth Wein

    Bitterblue, Kristin Cashore

    Quintana of Charyn, Melina Marchetta


  • Books, Raewyn, Reviews

    Raewyn Reviews:

    05.12.12 | Permalink | Comments Off on Raewyn Reviews:

    Changeling (Order of Darkness book one), by Philippa Gregory

    Luca Vero, the changeling. Or so the people of his village called him, for he was a very brilliant boy and his parents only peasants. The church of 1453 find him, always asking questions and put him to the task of Inquirer into some of the strange happenings the church has become aware of lately. He arrives at an abbey where the nuns are having visions and stigmata are appearing on their hands. All of these things began when the new abbess arrived but is she the evil temptress they think she is? Luca must discover the truth or watch an innocent girl burn at the stake.

    Written by the renowned historical author of The Other Boleyn Girl and many other books, this is an easy read with interesting outcomes and images.

    ~ Raewyn


  • Books, Grimm, Reviews

    Braveheart

    30.07.12 | Permalink | Comments Off on Braveheart

    Code Name Verity, Elizabeth Wein.

    “I AM A COWARD,” begins Verity. “I wanted to be heroic and I pretended I was. I have always been good at pretending.”

    “Verity” has been captured in a town in France because she looked the wrong way crossing the road, crashing into a truck right outside Gestapo headquarters in 1943. So, she’s not the most talented spy the British have ever seen then, or is she? Tortured by Gestapo Captain von Linden and his underlings, Verity has cracked under the intense pressure, and agreed to give up British war secrets in exchange for her clothes (“The warmth and dignity of my flannel skirt and woolly jumper are worth far more to me now than patriotism or integrity”). She tells her story on recipe cards, music scores and doctor’s prescription forms, gradually revealing the truth about herself, the British espionage effort, and her best friend Maddie – who flew her across the Channel to begin her short-lived mission – all the time loathing herself for her cowardice, and being loathed by her fellow prisoners. Her story reaches its stressful conclusion about half way into the novel, and I shall say no more!

    Except, Code Name Verity is an awesome World War II espionage novel. “Verity” is a wonderfully unreliable narrator (would you trust a spy?), and her story is of two heroic young women who throw themselves headlong into the war with unexpected and frightening consequences. Bring your hankie, or two.

    Elizabeth Wein has said this novel was inspired by her research into female pilots in World War II (as a pilot herself – cool! – she wondered what role she could have played), and you can read about her other literary inspirations for the story in this Book Smugglers post here.

    If you’re also interested in reading more about women’s participation in World War II (the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force, for example), then here are some titles.

    Also, Flygirl by Sherri L Smith is about an African American woman who pretends to be white in order to be accepted into the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots (WASP).

    ~ Grimm


  • Books, Fantasy, Grimm, Reviews

    It’s not easy being queen

    14.07.12 | Permalink | Comments Off on It’s not easy being queen

    Bitterblue is the third book by American writer Kristin Cashore (blog here), and acts as a companion to Graceling and Fire.

    Bitterblue has been Queen of Monsea for eight years when the novel opens. Being Queen of Monsea, in practice, means struggling under a great weight of paperwork supplied by her trusted advisors, who assure her that it is indeed essential to the running of her kingdom. It also means she is isolated from her friends (who are busy overthrowing kings in other countries), and increasingly frustrated by how little she knows about Bitterblue City and Monsea. It is hardly surprising then, when one night she snatches the opportunity to escape the castle and explore the streets in disguise, finding herself drawn to a pub where a storyteller has his audience enthralled.

    This begins an intricate journey of discovery for Bitterblue and the people of Monsea, who have been kept from the truth first by Leck (Bitterblue’s heinous father, as seen in Graceling and Fire), and then by a misguided assumption that sweeping things under the carpet and quietly moving on is the best way of dealing with attrocities. Bitterblue is about secrets, lies, and the truth that slowly wangles its way out of hiding. (And also adventure and romance.)

    Bitterblue is a quiet, page-turning read. There’s a large cast of characters, all with strengths and weaknesses – it’s hard to separate the goodies from the baddies, which is mostly the point. Bitterblue herself differs from Kristin Cashore’s other two heroines (Katsa and Fire), in that she doesn’t have a special power and isn’t (she thinks) particularly beautiful (describing herself as being built like an eggplant), but she does have a large amount of pluck and courage and wit, proving that you don’t have to be magic to be strong, and being strong is an admirable quality in a heroine.

    Apart from being a great story, Bitterblue has some other features:

    • – Cyphers! I never really understood how cyphers work, but now I do! Just don’t ask me to explain.
    • – Illustrations – some nice pictures by Ian Schoenherr, including of Monster Bridge, Winged Bridge, Winter Bridge.
    • – “A Who’s Who of the World as We Know It” (a list of characters) – compiled by Bitterblue’s excellent royal librarian, Death (which rhymes with teeth, you see).

    You can read the first couple of chapters here. There’s also a website with extras.

    ~ Grimm


  • Books, Fantasy, Raewyn, Reviews

    A review from Raewyn!

    12.07.12 | Permalink | Comments Off on A review from Raewyn!

    A Confusion of Princes, Garth Nix

    Imagine knowing you are one of ten million princes throughout the Empire! Imagine knowing you could die twenty times and be ‘reborn’! But you can only be reborn if you are connected to the Imperial Mind, so the first task for Prince Khemri is to dodge any stray bullets and explosive devices to get to a base where he can ‘connect’! He becomes a naval cadet and a target for his fellow cadets, as he seems to be privileged with 12 priests and a senior Master of Assassins assigned to him. His first death comes during a raid by their enemies the Sad Eyes, whilst stopping the invaders from blowing up the base. More adventures follow but will he accept his Imperial-chosen destiny or change it for himself? Good sci-fi adventure by a favourite author.

    ~ Raewyn


  • Books, Library Serf, Reviews

    Reader Review by Katie

    22.05.12 | Permalink | Comments Off on Reader Review by Katie

    The Catastrophic History of You and Me, Jess Rothenberg

    Dying of a broken heart is just the beginning – Welcome to forever! This enchanting story of 16 year-old Brie starts with her dying and being catapulting into the afterlife. This novel is inspirational, heart wrenching, romantic and difficult to put down. Brie is a relatable and charismatic character who is journeying through the 5 stages of acceptance, with a little help from the charming, off- beat, and gorgeous Patrick who is a resident lost soul. With soaring highs and bottomless lows, this story takes you on the roller coaster ride of the afterlife, in novel which is called “gorgeous, funny and heart-breaking” by Lauren Oliver (New York Times best seller, and writer of Before I Fall). The Catastrophic History of You and Me is a novel I highly recommend.

    ~ Katie, Churton Park


  • Great Reads, Jesi, Reviews

    Starters by Lissa Price

    21.05.12 | Permalink | Comments Off on Starters by Lissa Price

    Set after a war where most adults have been killed by a biologogical weapon, the people remaining are mostly either children or teenagers (Starters) or the elderly (Enders). The Starters are unable to work and if an adult doesn’t claim them they can’t get accommodation, and can be arrested if they are caught. Enders are at the other end of the scale. They have health care to keep them alive until well into their hundreds, near limitless wealth and live in huge mansions.

    Callie lives in an abandoned building with her friend Michael and her younger brother Tyler. Tyler is only seven, and unwell but they have no access to any kind of health care and no way of getting help. However, Callie has heard of one way she might be able to earn enough to get them a house and some safety. Prime Destinations run a body bank where Enders can rent the bodies of Starters, be young again, play sports, all that sort of thing. Callie should be asleep while the Ender is having fun being her, but the chip used to control her is defective and she wakes up to find out that the Ender who hired her wasn’t just planning on playing tennis or going dancing – she wants to use Callie’s body to kill someone.

     

    Starters is a really good read, highly recommended if you are looking for more dystopia, and especially if you liked Scott Westerfelds Uglies trilogy.

    Lissa Price’s blog is here.


  • Books, Reviews

    A Disappearance, A Woodpecker and A Missionary

    14.05.12 | Permalink | Comments Off on A Disappearance, A Woodpecker and A Missionary

    Where Things Come Back, John Corey Whaley

    I can’t remember the last time I got so much enjoyment out of a book!

    Where Things Come Back is made up of two separate narratives which eventually come together in a way I never expected. The first narrative is that of 17 year old Cullen Witter, whose widely-liked younger brother suddenly disappears. While his brother’s disappearance is in the forefront of his mind, the people of the small town he lives in are obsessed with the alleged sighting of a Lazarus Woodpecker, a bird not seen in the area for more than 50 years. The other narrative follows Benton Sage, a young university student who takes up a position as a missionary in Africa but loses his faith and any sense of meaning in his life along the way. It’s very well written and the multiple storylines are interwoven carefully. One issue I had was the narrative perspective change towards the end which came out of the blue. It took me four pages to click to what was going on before I realised it was something clever. There are a lot of smart, witty and heartfelt observations throughout the book as well as a lot of elements to the story, so I look forward to reading it over again.

    I really can’t recommend this book enough!

    ~ Rachel


  • Books, Grimm, Reviews

    From turnip eating peasant to assassin nun

    05.05.12 | Permalink | Comments Off on From turnip eating peasant to assassin nun

    Grave Mercy, Robin LaFevers

    Ismae is a peasant girl living in 15th Century Brittany. Just after her wedding to a violent pig farmer, Ismae is rescued by the herbwitch who tried to poison her before she was born (but you wouldn’t quibble: the pig farmer is horrid) and whisked away to a mysterious convent. The sisters of the convent of St Mortain aren’t your average nuns. Mortain is merely masquerading as a saint: he’s an ancient god; Death, actually. Ismae is, she learns, a daughter of Mortain; immune to poison and with a natural gift for killing, and the sisters are assassins, using their skills to ensure the Duchy of Brittany remains independant from the looming, malignant France.

    That’s basically the background to Grave Mercy, the first book in the His Fair Assassin series, which is getting great reviews from the lofty New York Times to blogger-reviewers, like here or here. I read the whole book in pretty much a day. It’s an action-packed historical novel with some romance, mystical magic, and a few gory endings, and I liked it!


  • Raewyn, Reviews

    An unbecoming review!

    12.03.12 | Permalink | Comments Off on An unbecoming review!

    The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, by Michelle Hodkin

    How is it that Mara escaped the totally destroyed building with a sore head and all her friends died? Who bashed in the head of that dog-beating hulk of a man near her school? What strange things are happening to the wildlife in their new home town? So many alligators dead all at once! Could these incidents be related? And why does she have to be attracted to the best looking guy at school who can only mean trouble!

    A strange and haunting tale of life with amnesia and self discovery.

    ~ Raewyn


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