Tag Archives: book

The Glass Magician

The Glass Magician Book Cover The Glass Magician
The Paper Magician, Book 2
Charlie N. Holmberg
Fiction
47North
2014-11-04
211

Now well into her apprenticeship with magician Emery Thane, twenty-year-old Ceony Twill is continuing to discover the joy of paper magic. She adores bringing her spells to life in surprising ways, from learning the power of distortion to creating a beloved paper dog. And she secretly hopes that the romance she foresaw blossoming between her and the peculiar yet strikingly handsome Emery finally becomes real. But when one magician with a penchant for deadly scheming believes that Ceony possesses a secret, he vows to discover it…even if it tears apart the very fabric of their magical world. After a series of attacks target Ceony, and catch those she holds most dear in the crossfire, she knows she must find the true limits of her powers…and keep her knowledge from falling into wicked hands. The delightful sequel to Charlie N. Holmberg's The Paper Magician, The Glass Magician will charm listeners young and old alike.

 

Review:

I enjoyed “The Glass Magician”, by Charlie N. Holmberg, far more than I did its predecessor, “The Paper Magician”.

The plot flows extremely well and is engaging from the first chapter, bringing more spark to the world established in the first of the series.  I found myself fascinated with the inner workings of the magical world, all the way from the apprentices to the villains.  All of them are intriguing, and I am looking forward to learning more of their stories in the next book.  There is a surprise point of view changed for one chapter that I loved reading, as well.

The various forms of magic are clever and fun to read about, and much like choosing which house you should be in if you were to attend Hogwarts, I dare you not to give a good bit of thought to which material you would like to bond.  The mix of the steampunk, fantasy, romance, and history works well together to make a world I think many readers would like to visit.

Highly recommended.  Also, if you do not love Emery Thane, I do not think we can ever be friends.

This review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

 

Content Warning:

Brief Language, Brief and Mild Sexual Situations, Violence

Like the Moon

Like the Moon Book Cover Like the Moon
Mary Lewis Deans Foote
Realistic Adult Fiction
S&H Publishing, Incorporated
Paperback
206

In this charming novel, Mary Lewis captures the style, rhythm, and heart of a small, rural community in the South. From the first sentence to the last, she draws the reader in with colorful dialect and lovable, eccentric characters. In vibrant hues, Like the Moon weaves the fabric of a community through its oral storytelling traditions.

 

Review:

“Like the Moon”, by Mary Lewis Deans Foote, is what can only be described as a work of love about the daily lives of those born and raised in the south.

From the dialect to the common disagreements (should you break the leaves before or after cooking your collards?), it is a perfect picture about life in a small farming area.  Everyone born and raised in the rural south can probably say they know all of these characters, by different names of course, in their own communities.

The story is told as though you are sitting around the kitchen table with the narrator, listening to what’s been going on while you were away on a trip.  It is all vividly described and characters well-developed, while taking the time to meander through the stories, weaving in and out of memories of the past.  It’s a true slice-of-life tale, and most likely will not be enjoyable for those who want a speedy plot with a lot of action.

If you want to take the time to savor slow southern living, then this is the book for you.  The only reason I gave it four stars, as opposed to five, is that it is most definitely a niche book, and the dialect may be off-putting to those unfamiliar with the southern way of speaking.

This review is based on a complimentary copy provided through the GoodReads First Reads program in exchange for an honest review.

Content Warning:

No content warning, as this is an adult book.

The Paper Magician

The Paper Magician Book Cover The Paper Magician
The Paper Magician, Book 1
Charlie N. Holmberg
Fiction
47North
2014-09-01
214

Under the tutelage of magician Emery Thane, Ceony Twill discovers the wonders of paper magic, but when her teacher's life is threatened, she must face the extraordinary dangers of forbidden magic to save him.

 

Review:

“The Paper Magician”, by Charlie N. Holmberg, is a fun fantasy novel with some steampunk leanings mixed in for good measure.

The story itself, about a young magician’s apprentice named Ceony training under, well, a paper magician, is imaginative and a new take on magic.  I, for one, would never have considered paper to be used as a form of magic, but with the parallels to the art of origami explored within the novel, it all comes alive.

The world is complex and whimsical, with just the right touch of evil lurking in the shadows.  The characters are well-developed, and their histories are revealed in what has to be the most unique way I have ever read.  Which, while being a high point of the novel, is unfortunately also its biggest flaw.

In the revelation, which is most of the second half of the story, it becomes muddled and bogged down, leading to a sluggish read.  A bit of editing and clarification here and there would have done wonders for the flow.  As it stands, what could have been wonderful became somewhat mediocre by the stilted narrative often throwing me out of the story altogether.

That being said, the ending left me wanting to read the next book in the series, and I am hoping the issues in “The Paper Magician” do not reoccur, as it really does hold the promise of a fun and engaging series that can be read by middle readers on up through adults.

This review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Content Warning:

Mild Language, Violence, Brief Sexual Situations

 

The Walled City

The Walled City Book Cover The Walled City
Ryan Graudin
Juvenile Fiction
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
2014-11-04
448

730. That's how many days I've been trapped.18. That's how many days I have left to find a way out. DAI, trying to escape a haunting past, traffics drugs for the most ruthless kingpin in the Walled City. But in order to find the key to his freedom, he needs help from someone with the power to be invisible.... JIN hides under the radar, afraid the wild street gangs will discover her biggest secret: Jin passes as a boy to stay safe. Still, every chance she gets, she searches for her lost sister.... MEI YEE has been trapped in a brothel for the past two years, dreaming of getting out while watching the girls who try fail one by one. She's about to give up, when one day she sees an unexpected face at her window..... In this innovative and adrenaline-fueled novel, they all come together in a desperate attempt to escape a lawless labyrinth before the clock runs out.

 

Review:

I am not sure what I expected when I first began to read “The Walled City”, by Ryan Graudin, but it was certainly not what I got.  It is gritty, violent, and faces the most unpleasant of subjects head-on, weaving through three different points of view, with totally different lives, to create what eventually becomes a satisfying whole.

While it reads as a dystopia, The Walled City is actually based upon an actual place that once existed in Hong Kong.  Once you finish the book, I highly recommend reading a bit about Kowloon.  It is equal parts horrifying and fascinating, and it will give a real appreciation of how much research the author did to recreate the unimaginable living conditions in her novel.  It’s a history buff’s dream.

All of the characters are well-developed, and all three plot lines are intriguing and filled with detail.  The reader can almost feel the desperation faced by the residents of The Walled City themselves.  There is good flow and almost seamless transitions from one point of view to the next.  The reason I gave it four stars, instead of five, is that some of the relationship dynamics seemed a bit forced, but otherwise it is a good, solid read.

I recommend “The Walled City” for those in high school and above, or very advanced older middle school readers, due to the intensity of some of the subject matter.

This review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Content Warning:

Language, Violence, Child Trafficking, Child Prostitution, Heavy Drug Usage

Undivided

UnDivided Book Cover UnDivided
Unwind Dystology, Book 4
Neal Shusterman
Juvenile Fiction
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
2014-10-14
384

Teens control the fate of America in the fourth and final book in the New York Times bestselling Unwind dystology by Neal Shusterman. Proactive Citizenry, the company that created Cam from the parts of unwound teens, has a plan: to mass produce rewound teens like Cam for military purposes. And below the surface of that horror lies another shocking level of intrigue: Proactive Citizenry has been suppressing technology that could make unwinding completely unnecessary. As Conner, Risa, and Lev uncover these startling secrets, enraged teens begin to march on Washington to demand justice and a better future. But more trouble is brewing. Starkey’s group of storked teens is growing more powerful and militant with each new recruit. And if they have their way, they’ll burn the harvest camps to the ground and put every adult in them before a firing squad—which could destroy any chance America has for a peaceful future.

 

Review:

“Undivided”, the last book in the Unwind dystology by Neal Shusterman, is everything a final book in a series should be.  It is sheer perfection from beginning to end.

All of the characters introduced previously are developed even more, and their stories manage to come full-circle.  All of the plot is consistent with the previous books, without one single detail out of line with what has already been established.  In fact, even small details from the first book, “Unwind”, are brought back in “Undivided”.  I am looking forward to reading all four books in a row so I can fully appreciate all of the details that were sprinkled throughout.

It’s difficult to say much without spoiling everything.  “Undivided” is a deeply disturbing novel, as it should be, and unflinching in the various topics explored, ranging from human rights to abortion.  It will make you question your own beliefs and search your soul.  It may even change you in ways you never expected.

Thank you, Mr. Shusterman, for such an excellent series.  It will always remain one of my favorites.

Five stars.  I wish I could give it more.

 

Content Warning:

Language, Sexual Situations, Violence, Disturbing Imagery

Endgame: The Calling

Endgame: The Calling Book Cover Endgame: The Calling
Endgame, Book 1
James Frey, Nils Johnson-Shelton,
Juvenile Fiction
HarperCollins
2014-10-07
480

Twelve ancient cultures were chosen millennia ago to represent humanity in Endgame, a global game that will decide the fate of humankind. Endgame has always been a possibility, but never a reality…until now. Twelve meteorites have just struck Earth, each meteorite containing a message for a Player who has been trained for this moment. At stake for the Players: saving their bloodline, as well as the fate of the world. And only one can win. Endgame is real. Endgame is now. Endgame has begun. Google Niantic is building a mobile location-based augmented reality videogame inextricably tied to the books and mythology, a major prize will be tied to a puzzle in each book, and Twentieth Century Fox has bought the movie rights. Read the Books. Find the Clues. Solve the Puzzle. Who will Win?

 

Review:

“Endgame: The Calling” is a very unique take on the apocalyptic genre, merging both a story and a puzzle.  The first to solve the puzzle will win a hefty amount, and the gold is actually on display at Caeser’s Palace in Las Vegas.

My review is based on the story itself.  I intend to reread it and try to solve the puzzle at some point.

The story was somewhat slow in the beginning, with so many characters that it was difficult to follow difficult to follow.  Mixed in with a large amount of information clearly meant to be used solely in solving the puzzle, and a very slow revelation of the nature of the story, and I became disenchanted with it.  Having a review copy, I continued to read,  and I really am glad that I did.

The story slowly comes together to make a remarkable and unique plot.  All of the characters take on a life of their own, with complex feelings and backstories, leaving you feeling like you are a part of the “game” they are playing.  Without realizing it, I was emotionally invested in every character’s story.  The ending was a perfect gateway into the sequel, which I very much look forward to.

I recommend this to those who enjoy apocalyptic thrillers, do not mind violence in what they read, and who are willing to play along with the puzzle.  I wish I had from the very beginning, as that would have made it more enjoyable and less difficult to get into.

This review is based on a complimentary copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Content Warning:

Language, Sexual Situations, Heavy Violence

Curtsies and Conspiracies

Curtsies & Conspiracies Book Cover Curtsies & Conspiracies
Finishing School, Book 2
Gail Carriger
Juvenile Fiction
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
2013-11-05
320

Does one need four fully grown foxgloves for decorating a dinner table for six guests? Or is it six foxgloves to kill four fully grown guests? Sophronia's first year at Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality has certainly been rousing! For one thing, finishing school is training her to be a spy--won't Mumsy be surprised? Furthermore, Sophronia got mixed up in an intrigue over a stolen device and had a cheese pie thrown at her in a most horrid display of poor manners. Now, as she sneaks around the dirigible school, eavesdropping on the teachers' quarters and making clandestine climbs to the ship's boiler room, she learns that there may be more to a field trip to London than is apparent at first. A conspiracy is afoot--one with dire implications for both supernaturals and humans. Sophronia must rely on her training to discover who is behind the dangerous plot-and survive the London Season with a full dance card. In this sequel to New York Times bestselling Etiquette & Espionage, class is back in session with more petticoats and poison, tea trays and treason. Gail's distinctive voice, signature humor, and lush steampunk setting are sure to be the height of fashion this season.

 

Review:

As with its predecessor, “Curtsies and Conspiracies” is about the life of Sophronia in a unique finishing school for espionage in Victorian England.  It continues the Finishing School series in a way that leaves the reader looking for more.

“Curtsies and Conspiracies” is a wonderfully written adventure full of imagination and all of the wonderful imagery found in the best of steampunk novels.  The characters are well-developed and relatable in spite of being set in an entirely different period of history.  The one drawback is that while there is mystery, it is definitely setting the plot and character for advancement in the next book in the series.  That provides a little less spark of the first one, but is necessary to further the character development.

The attention to the details of fashion and speech from Victorian England are so vivid that the novel also serves as a history lesson of sorts.  The tongue-in-cheek humor about how things were done is delightful and shows how much society has changed over time.  The strong female protagonist sets a good example, and this series remains an excellent introduction to steampunk that can be enjoyed by middle readers, as well as those far beyond the age of a finishing school student.

I highly recommend “Curtsies and Conspiracies”, with a word of caution that the language of the period may be a turn off for more reluctant readers.

This review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

 

Content Warning:

Violence, Brief and Mild Sexual Situations

Cinderland: A Memoir

Cinderland Book Cover Cinderland
Amy Jo Burns
Biography & Autobiography
Beacon Press (MA)
2014-10-07
216

"Amy Jo Burns grew up in Mercury, PA--a small, conservative Rust Belt town fallen sleepy a decade after the steel industry's collapse. But the year Amy turned ten, everyone in Mercury woke up. That was the year Howard Lotte, Mercury's beloved piano teacher, was accused of committing indiscretions during his lessons. Among the girls questioned, only seven dared to tell the truth that would ostracize them from the community. Amy Jo Burns was one of the girls who lied. Her memoir, CINDERLAND, navigates the impact that lie had on her adolescent years to follow--tracing all the boys she ran from and toward, the girls she betrayed, and the endless performances she put on to please a town that never trusted girls in the first place. CINDERLAND is literary memoir of the highest caliber. A slim, searing feat of narrative beauty, it is full of psychologically nuanced grappling, imagery of fire and steel, and eerily universal shadows of adolescence"--

 

Review:

It is difficult to write a review of a memoir, due in part to it being someone’s life story that was partially laid out for them by circumstances of birth, as well as the fact that the author is an inherently flawed narrator by only having their own thoughts to base it upon.  In fiction, even if written in first-person, at least the author has an idea of what is going on in the other characters. “Cinderland: A Memoir” is particularly difficult due to the subject of molestation.  Anyone being able to write about it deserves credit for that alone.

That all being said, this review took me days to finish, and I finally decided to review as I would any other story, fictional or not.  It is based upon a complimentary copy provided through the Goodreads First Reads program in exchange for an honest review.

The positive of “Cinderland” is that it does an excellent job of exploring the feelings that stay with abuse victims throughout their lives.  It takes an emotional and developmental toll.  It was also extremely honest in terms of the guilt the author felt over not having spoken out about the abuse she suffered, leaving the fallout to the other girls who did speak out.  As uncomfortable as it is to read, I feel that it’s very important to expose the way people blame victims, even if it is unintentional.

Unfortunately, the author comes across as someone who feels like those around her are beneath her in some way, especially those who have no goals to get out of the town.  While she admits to loving to the town, it is implied that those who are content there have no ambition and are trapped.  It is as though she never begins to think that they may love living there and want that life.  In keeping with this trend, while she writes that the need for the spotlight was to hide what she was truly feeling, it is very obvious she was smart and popular.  That is not a bad thing, but again, there was a feeling of dismissal of those who were content to be in the background of things.

In spite of this, the positives would have led me to give “Cinderland” four stars.  That is, until the part that dealt more with Aaron.  For someone who meant so much to her, his deepest scars were revealed with very little empathy and absolutely no follow-up.  I could understand if it was a protection of privacy, but if that was the case, his secrets should have been left out entirely. The broken-hearted boy who was obviously being taken advantage in a relationship by someone in a position of power, physically abused, and had stood by her throughout her life with not much acknowledgement until the end of high school, was in my opinion the most sympathetic character in the book.  As it was written he was used by and disposable to the author.  Of all people, she should have understood his hurt, but all that was written was what he did for her.  Unlike what the author wrote, leaving a town does not mean having to make a clean break from those you love.

I am not afraid to admit that I searched the thank you notes hoping that “Aaron” would have been mentioned.  He helped her through, but apparently did not even warrant that.

The disregard for those around her are what makes me absolutely not recommend this book.  It reads like a self-congratulatory slap on the back and is, quite frankly, grating.

 

Content Warning:

As this is an adult book, the only warning I will included is that there is frank discussion of child molestation, so please keep that in mind if it may trigger you.

A Letter to My Cat

A Letter to My Cat Book Cover A Letter to My Cat
Lisa Erspamer
Literary Collections
Crown Archetype
2014-10-28
176

A follow-up to A Letter to My Dog collects celebrity letters of love, whimsy and gratitude to their feline companions juxtaposed against four-color kitty portraits, in a volume that includes contributions by Dr. Oz, Mariel Hemingway and Jackson Galaxy. Illustrations.

 

Review:

This review is based on a complimentary copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

“A Letter to My Cat” is filled with love letters to, well, cats.  They range from hilarious to heartbreaking, and I was going from laughing to crying every few minutes.  The letters are written from a wide range of people owned by cats, from celebrities to children to a soldier who went to great lengths to bring his feline companion home.  All are lovely and reveal the unique quirks and bonds that make cats so indispensable to those who love them.

Additionally, the photography is absolutely gorgeous and captures the personality of each subject.  As anyone who has tried to photograph a cat knows, it is difficult to capture much more than a blur or a squinty-eyed look of derision.  These photographs are true works of art worthy of being framed.

In short, cats cats cats cats cats.  What’s not to love?  I recommend this book to all but those who believe cats are the portent of evil belonging only to witches, because they are surely the only ones who will not love it.

 

Content Warning:

Excessive Feels