The Moon and More

The Moon and More

Emaline is a Colby girl – born and bred.  It’s the summer before college and things seem to be changing more in a few months than in her whole life.

Emaline has been dating Luke since Grade nine, and he seems perfect.  He’s Colby – along with her friends Daisy and Morris, her mom, grandma, (step)dad and sisters.

Theo is a summer resident – super-ambitious, and from New York, he wears designer jeans and takes life as Big Moments.  Emaline’s father – who hasn’t been around most of her life – is around for the summer too. Both think Emaline should dream bigger than beach-town Colby.

It’s a summer of discovering who she is, and who she wants to be.

I normally really like Sarah Dessen, and unfortunately this book didn’t resonate with me.  (Caution: some spoilers ahead).

  • I liked Emaline, though I didn’t really empathize with her as much as I would have hoped.  It REALLY annoyed me that she leaped so quickly from one relationship to another.  It frustrated me that she seemed to be pulling away from her friends and family a bit (though I did appreciate her new relationship with Benji, her half-brother).
  • I really disliked Theo – from the start and all the way through.  I found him vapid, arrogant, and annoying.  He seemed so full of himself and too wrapped up in Making Things Count to see what was really going on. I also felt leaving Ivy in the lurch was totally a Jerk Move.
  • I liked Luke – even when he made mistakes, which confused me.
  • There were a few heavy-hitting topics here: teenage pregnancy (a past issue, not a present one), parenting (in absentia), divorce.  Some not-so-heavy but definitely worthy topics: the transition to college and worries about the future. Nothing quite as deep as previous novels, however.
  • Since so many of her books seem to center around Summer in Colby, it was nice to get a new perspective on the town.
  • My favourite part was probably having Emaline get to know her half-brother, Benji.

Maybe I didn’t enjoy it enough because I had relatively high expectations, after previous books I’ve read.  Or maybe it’s because I have very little patience for protagonists who can’t seem to be single for any length of time (though admittedly Emaline did have a little bit of redemption in the end).

I’m sad that I didn’t enjoy this one as much.  3/5.

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Filed under Chick Lit, Young Adult Books

Unnatural Issue

unnatural issue

Today has been a sick day for me – and what better way to bolster my spirits than read an oldie but goodie?  Unnatural Issue was first published in 2011 – so it’s not that old, but it’s been on my bookshelf for a while now.  Part of the Elemental Masters series by Mercedes Lackey, it’s a tale that weaves magic and old tales together into something new and delicious.  I am quite fond of the Elemental Masters series, particularly Phoenix and Ashes which I sadly don’t own but plan to remedy that sometime soon.

Anyway, Unnatural Issue takes the story of Donkeyskin and cleverly adapts it.  Donkeyskin, in case you’re not aware, was a fairy tale first published by Charles Perrault.  There is a King and his beautiful Queen.  The Queen falls ill and dies, but makes him promise that he will not remarry anyone whose beauty is not equal to her own.  The King falls mad with grief, and when he is eventually persuaded to take another wife he wants none other than his own daughter, who is the spitting image of the Queen.  The daughter escapes (with the use of a donkeyskin) and flees to a neighboring kingdom where she takes up work in the kitchen (still wearing her donkeyskin so looking hideous and disguised).  She eventually ends up marrying the Prince of that kingdom and all is well.

Donkeyskin also happens to be the basis for one of my favourite fairy-tale adaptations: Deerskin by Robin McKinley.

The basic plot, then, is not really a surprise.

Suzanne Whitestone is the daughter to Richard and Rebecca Whitestone. Unusually, she has never set eyes upon her father, for Rebecca died during childbirth and Richard, mad with grief, has been a recluse ever since.  Suzanne, raised by the servants, had a simple life and learned her craft from Pan himself – for she is an Earth Master.  She is also the spitting image of her mother.

Richard, whose mind has wallowed and twisted in his long years of grief, longs only for his wife and hates the thought of the child who “stole” his Rebecca from him.  Unfortunately, he turns to Necromancy and concocts a plan to get his dear wife back … no matter what the cost.

Thoughts:

  • Suzanne is fiery, stubborn, and clever.  She’s definitely a strong, plucky female character who accepts help when needed but doesn’t passively lay down when there is work to be done.
  • The story takes place in England/Europe just as the first world war is breaking out, allowing for some alternate history and a glimpse of the horrors of the trenches.
  • If you’ve read any of the other Elemental Masters books then you’ve met already some of the other characters who pop up.  I love having characters carry-over!!
  • Magic, action, history – what isn’t there to like?
  • Yes, the cover is hideous. Alas.

Highly recommended! 5/5

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Filed under Fairy Tales, Fantasy, Historical Fiction

The Mysterious Howling (The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place #1)

The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place

The Mysterious Howling is book One of The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place by Maryrose Wood.  The first thought that crossed my mind when I finished the book was “charming” and the second was “I wish it was longer!” (Lucky for me it’s the first of a series).

Miss Penelope Lumley, a recent graduate from the Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females, has taken her first post as governess.  Little did she know that it would be an unusual post indeed! Ashton Place, a huge estate, is home to Lady Constance and Lord Frederick and now to three unusual children.  Found running wild in the woods, the three appear to have been raised by wolves!  Alexander (age 10ish), Beowulf (age 7ish?) and Cassiopeia (age 4 or 5ish) appear entirely wild at first meeting.  It’s up to Miss Lumley to tame and teach these unusual siblings.

And, as the Goodreads summary puts it: “But mysteries abound at Ashton Place: Who are these three wild creatures, and how did they come to live in the vast forests of the estate? Why does Old Timothy, the coachman, lurk around every corner? Will Penelope be able to teach the Incorrigibles table manners and socially useful phrases in time for Lady Constance’s holiday ball? And what on earth is a schottische?”

Penelope is practical, witty, and idealistic.  She’s a tenderhearted young woman who sets upon her task with determination!

The three Incorrigibles are active, interesting, and eager.  They are fast learners but forever distracted by squirrels!

Lady Constance is young, chatty, and perhaps a bit flighty.  She’s also rather miffed at having three foster children suddenly thrust upon her!

Lord Frederick seems to spend a lot of time at his Gentleman’s club, but why?

Old Timothy is mysterious.

All in all, I really enjoyed this book.  It was a light, quick read, meant for a bit younger audiences, and with enough quirky narrative comments that it reminded me pleasantly of “A Series of Unfortunate Events”, though with less unfortunate events.

I’m quite looking forward to trying out the rest of the series!  4/5

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Filed under Historical Fiction, Tween Fiction

Mabel Riley: A Reliable Record of Humdrum, Peril, and Romance

Mable Riley

Mabel Riley: A Reliable Record of Humdrum, Peril, and Romance by Marthe Jocelyn has a title that creates expectations, don’t you think?  I expected it to be a witty, adventurous type of book and I guess it was, a bit. This piece of historical fiction reminded me a bit of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables or Emily of New Moon. It was a similar vein, though not as good (in my opinion).  

It’s the late 1800s and Mable Riley is a young girl in the eight grade.  She has accompanied her sister, Viola, to a new town where Viola has her first post as Schoolmistress. Mable is full of imagination and vim, looking for adventure and romance.  Unfortunately the little Ontario town in which she finds herself is not so different from home.  Still, there are new diversions, such as winning the spelling bee, and finding out more about Mrs Rattle, a widow who lives down the road.  Mrs. Rattle is unusual and shocking – wearing daring new fashions and holding bold opinions. Mable might have found a friend as well as trouble in Mrs. Rattle.

The story is written as a journal entry, which poems, letters, and a love story penned by Mable to fill it out.

I like that the story deals with the every-day life of that era, including real issues of the time, such as women’s rights. Mable makes a sometimes naive narrator, who sees the “shocking” opinions of the suffragettes as bold and dangerous.

It’s a tidy story and  I enjoyed it overall, but I found Mable’s fancies were more irritating than endearing, and although I admired her convictions I wasn’t really drawn in.  I do think that it would suit a tween audience very well, so maybe I’m just too old to appreciate Mable and her quirks!

3/5 for me!

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Vitro

Vitro

Vitro, by Jessica Khoury, is a science fiction novel where science is taken perhaps too far.

Sophie Crue is determined to get to Skin Island, a remote island in the Pacific, to find her mother.  Sophie’s mother is a scientist on the mysterious island.  Corpus, a company with origins and it seems few ethical considerations, has pushed science to new limits.  On Skin Island, the scientists have created a batch of new beings – the Vitros.  These Vitros have special abilities and one huge flaw.

Sophie convinces Jim, a young man she knew as a boy, to fly her out to Skin Island. When there, she discovers that things are not what they seem, and that her mother is not the person she believed her to be.  Sophie also discovers a shocking secret – her twin, Lux. A Vitro, Lux carries their special abilities and their curse.

Sophie’s arrival sets off a chain of events which reveal just how far Corpus may go to protect it’s secrets.

My initial thoughts:

  • Wow!!
  • Action! Anxiety!! Gasping moments! Family! Love!
  • Science – taken beyond ethics
  • Psychopaths!!

My after-thinking-about-it thoughts:

  • This was a brilliant story about what happens when the boundaries of science and greed are pushed past decency and compassion.
  • Sophie is a vivacious character, who can be easily lead, at times, but who will fight passionately for what she thinks is right.
  • Jim is also an interesting guy, an unexpected hero.
  • I was tempted to look at characters in very black-and-white ways.  For example, scientists = bad.  But the family dynamics created many shades of grey that I appreciate even more upon reflection.

This was certainly and exciting book!  I also love how there is a mention of the “South American project” – clearly Origin.  I love links!

I would definitely recommend this one!  4/5
On a remote island in the Pacific, Corpus scientists have taken test tube embryos and given them life. These beings—the Vitros—have knowledge and abilities most humans can only dream of. But they also have one enormous flaw.

Sophie Crue is determined to get to Skin Island and find her mother, a scientist who left Sophie behind years ago. With the help of Jim Julien, a young charter pilot, she arrives–and discovers a terrifying secret she never imagined: she has a Vitro twin, Lux, who is the culmination of Corpus’s dangerous research.

Now Sophie is torn between reuniting with the mother who betrayed her and protecting the genetically enhanced twin she never knew existed. But untangling the twisted strands of these relationships will have to wait, for Sophie and Jim are about to find out what happens when science stretches too far beyond its reach

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The Girl with the Iron Touch (Steampunk Chronicles #3)

The girl with the iron touch

I finally got around to book three of The Steampunk Chronicles, The Girl with the Iron Touch. (You can find my thoughts on book one here and book two here). I feel like the Goodreads Summary, which I read before the book, doesn’t really do it justice AT ALL.  Or at least focuses on weird things which aren’t as big a deal in the book.

Finley, Griffin, Emily, Sam, and Jasper are all back in England.  When Emily is kidnapped by automatons, it seems that their old foe, The Machinist, is somehow behind things once again.

Emily has been summoned to transplant The Machinist’s consciousness into one of his automatons.

Griffin, in the meantime, appears to be suffering but won’t tell why.  What is tormenting him? Or who?

Finley is good at getting mad, and must confront her feelings for Griffin … and for Jack Dandy.

Sam is determined to get his Emily back, and finish an unfinished conversation between them.

Jasper, distant and withdrawn, is still mourning the events in New York.

My thoughts:

  • Better.  Better than the second book (The Girl with the Clockwork Collar) at least.  Maybe I just like Emily better than I like Finley.
  • I still can’t put my finger on what bothers me about these books. Maybe it is that it takes place in a historical setting but doesn’t have a historical FEEL to it.
  • I like Sam a LOT better
  • I feel like the description on the back hypes stuff up too much (i.e. Love triangle) but the story focuses on other things, including a new character.
  • FINALLY Griffin and Finley get to actually confronting their feelings.
  • Happily, there are no new love triangles and the old ones are mostly resolved! Woot!
  • An amusing side note: apparently my mental voice cannot do an Irish accent that is NOT the voice of an old man haha.  It made reading Emily really funny.  I’m going to have to watch clips of a young Irish girl talking to get the old man voice out of my head!!!

3.5/5

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Filed under Historical Fiction, Romance, Science Fiction, Steampunk, Young Adult Books

A Spell for Chameleon

A Spell for Chameleon

And oldie but a goodie, the first edition of A Spell for Chameleon came out in 1977 and marks the first book in the Xanth series by Piers Anthony.  I’ve head this book for ages – along with numerous others in the series, and I enjoy a good re-read now and again.  I love the Xanth series because they are FULL of puns – although not so much the first one, as I realized on my latest re-read. I think they peak around book three and I honestly don’t know how many there are now.

Xanth is a magical land suspiciously shaped like Florida.  All manner of enchantments, spells, and fantastic creatures live in Xanth (Dragons, sea serpents, Tangle trees, zombies, lightning bugs that shoot lightning, centaurs, etc. etc.).  The human population is ruled by the Storm King, and each citizen has a special talent – magic that only he or she possesses.  There are all sorts of these magics – something as mundane as making a dust devil and something as elaborate as summoning huge storms, transforming living things into other living things, or creating intricate illusions that fool all senses but touch.

Bink, a young man approaching his twenty-fifth birthday, is from the North Village.  Unfortunately, he has no apparent magic, which means that he will be exiled from Xanth after his birthday. Bink decides to visit the Good Magician Humphrey.  After an adventure to GET to Humphrey, Bink is heartened because the Good Magician is convinced that Bink does have magic, strong magic, but it is unclear what it is.

The adventure continues from there.  Bink meets some startling women, the Evil Magician Trent, and explores more of Xanth than he ever intended.

The Good:

  • Bink is an impressively moral character – he sticks to his convictions but isn’t afraid to ask questions and consider new ideas.
  • Good Magician Humphrey.  He shows up in pretty much every book after this, and I find him hilariously grumpy, though he’s always got a somewhat minor role.

The Bad:

  • The Evil Magician Trent.  Actually, I don’t think he’s bad at all, but he does have a bad reputation.  Can it be changed?
  • Wiggle Swarms. (Wiggles are these creepy almost invisible grub type things that shoot through the air, creating holes in whatever they pass through. Very problematic).

The Ugly:

  • Fanchon, a spectacularly ugly woman who is as smart as she is ugly.
  • Good Magician Humphrey is pretty ugly as well – he’s pretty much a gnome.

I definitely recommend giving Xanth a try – and would also recommend trying out a few to see what you’d enjoy.  I think my favourite is Dragon on a Pedestal which is actually book 7.  I believe it was the first one I read of the series, so maybe that just biased me. I did find that some of the later books (because seriously there are a TON) were more focused on puns than a strong storyline, but they are all fun, relatively light-hearted fantasy reads.  4/5

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Filed under Adventure, Fantasy