May 19, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday: A Spy in The House

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

This week's pick is A Spy in the House, the first novel in the Agency series by Y. S. Lee. I've got it on hold at the library but it's still being ordered, so it will sadly be a while until I get it. Anyway, I've read some great reviews of it and I'm excited for any book set in the Victorian time period with a strong female protagonist (and depending on how the mystery is handled, I may enjoy that as well).

Summary from Amazon: "Rescued from the gallows in 1850s London, young orphan (and thief) Mary Quinn is surprised to be offered a singular education, instruction in fine manners — and an unusual vocation. Miss Scrimshaw’s Academy for Girls is a cover for an all-female investigative unit called The Agency, and at seventeen, Mary is about to put her training to the test. Assuming the guise of a lady’s companion, she must infiltrate a rich merchant’s home in hopes of tracing his missing cargo ships. But the household is full of dangerous deceptions, and there is no one to trust — or is there? Packed with action and suspense, banter and romance, and evoking the gritty backstreets of Victorian London, this breezy mystery debuts a daring young detective who lives by her wits while uncovering secrets — including those of her own past."

May 16, 2010

Magic Under Glass: Review

Jaclyn Dolamore's first novel Magic Under Glass was an intriguing fantasy read involving a young girl Nimira who is hired by a sorcerer to sing with an automaton. When she finds out that the "clockwork man" is really a fairy prince trapped by a malicious enchantment, she vows to do her utmost to free him. However, those on the Sorcerer's Council are vowing the opposite... and time is running out for Nimira to save the man she's fallen in love with.

I really liked Dolamore's unique take on enchantment as well as the nature of her characters. Nimira is a gutsy protagonist and the sorcerer Hollin is very ambiguous (I didn't know what to make of him for a good part of the book). I couldn't help pitying the poor fairy prince Erris, and I am eager to read the sequel to find out exactly how his dilemma is solved. In fact, the only quibble I really have with this novel is that it ends with no resolution in sight (but I understand the adventure will be continued in Magic Under Stone, so I suppose I will just have to sit tight and wait!) Altogether I'd say it's a 4 out of 5 stars.

May 12, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday: Mockingjay

"Waiting on Wednesday" is a weekly meme started by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

There are so many books coming out this summer I am waiting for but I have to say Suzanne Collins' Mockingjay is at the top of my list. I thoroughly enjoyed her first two novels - The Hunger Games and Catching Fire - and am dying to know how it all ends. Her approach to dystopian fiction is refreshing and her writing style really packs a punch (I was on the edge of my seat reading Catching Fire for the first time!) Also must have the love triangle resolved! (Though seriously, is there a choice? One word: PEETA).

Book summary from Amazon: "Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has survived the Hunger Games twice. But now that she’s made it out of the bloody arena alive, she’s still not safe. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge. Who do they think should pay for the unrest? Katniss. And what’s worse, President Snow has made it clear that no one else is safe either. Not Katniss’s family, not her friends, not the people of District 12. Powerful and haunting, this thrilling final installment of Suzanne Collins’s groundbreaking The Hunger Games trilogy promises to be one of the most talked about books of the year."

May 11, 2010

In the Name of God review

Paula J
olin's In the Name of God is an interesting look into the pull of Muslim fundamental beliefs on a young girl living in Syria who is struggling to maintain her faith. Nadia has always been an excellent student and a strong follower of Islamic law. When the secular Syrian authorities arrest her cousin for blasphemous talk, Nadia feels she must fight back. A young man named Walid soon has her convinced that violence is the solution to preventing Western influence from taking over the Syria she desperately wants to protect.

While the topic of religious extremism is a touchy issue that is handled relatively well by Jolin, I really felt unable to connect with the main character at all. Her constant criticism of others being not "Islamic" enough grated on my nerves, frankly, and I was unable to relate to her tunnel-visioned focus on putting her religion (and what she believes it stands for) above all else, including her education and her family. The ending redeems the book somewhat (I won't spoil it), but it is a little too abrupt and I could have done with some more resolution to the story. The book did raise some interesting questions I hadn't really considered before then, but it isn't one I would read a second time.

Overall, I'd rate it a 3 out of 5 stars.

The start of a new blog...

I've been following other YA book blogs for a while now and finding them a very valuable resource for discovering new books to check out (and also which ones just aren't worth it). So I thought I'd try my hand at it.

These next few books are all on my "favorites" shelf, so they are all of exceptional quality (and all get 5/5 stars)!

1.) The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale - The action begins when Princess Anidori journeys to the neighbouring country of Bayern to be wed to their prince, and her lady-in-waiting, Selia, incites a revolt. Forced into hiding as a goose girl while Selia pretends to be the true princess, Ani makes new friends among the commoners, develops her powers of "wind-speaking," and falls in love. But when Selia threatens to destroy all that Ani holds dear - will she have the strength to prove herself?

A re-telling of the fairytale, Hale's novel grabs you emotionally and doesn't let go. Her writing is lyrical and her characters are both true to life and true to the magical setting her novel takes place in. Though I've never read the original fairytale, and I don't know how much Hale changed, I thoroughly enjoyed this version.

2.) Feeling Sorry for Celia by Jaclyn Moriarty

The first time I saw this book I actually wasn't too sure what to make of it and if it was really my kind of read. My mom was the one who suggested it and since it was on sale at Black Bond Books I thought, what the heck. So glad I made the purchase! This book is quirky and unbelievably funny, with a main character that teens can relate to, who matures at a realistic pace.

The story details the trials and tribulations of Elizabeth Clarry, in a unique format of notes from her mother, letters from a stranger (who becomes a friend) at another school, and communications from a variety of made-up organizations like "The Association of Teenagers." It's easy to empathize with the challenges Elizabeth faces and you will be rooting for her in no time! I can't promise, however, that you'll feel sorry for Celia - I never did.

Moriarty has written two other books in the series (focusing on different main characters) - The Year of Secret Assignments and The Murder of Bindy Mackenzie. I really enjoyed both of these as well and am eagerly anticipating her fourth, The Ghosts of Ashbury High, that comes out in June 2010.

3.) Sorcery and Cecelia, by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer

This book is also written in the format of letters, this time between two cousins living in Victorian times (which is my favorite era, of course). The twist? This is England with magic. And it has just about everything you could ask for - cunning magicians, evil stepmothers, complicated spells, plucky heroines, dashing gentlemen...and romance! I particularly like this novel because it started out as just a writing game between the two authors, and you can really tell they had lots of fun with it. All the little historical details are spot on and highly reminiscent of Georgette Heyer and Jane Austen (whom they pay tribute to in their acknowledgments). Overall a really fun read for lovers of history and magic alike.

4.) Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith

This is another one of my comfort reads (and sort of has the same feel as Sorcery and Cecelia, in a way). Meliara is a countess with no interest in society's expectations and a passion for righting wrongs and upholding justice. When she refuses to give in to ruthless King Galdran's demands, the result is war - and in the process Meliara is injured and captured by the enemy troops. The man who holds her captive - Vidanric Renselaeus - is difficult to read and his motives seem ambiguous; Meliara can't quite figure him out but isn't sticking around to try. She manages to escape and the adventure begins...

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