Monthly Archives: March 2014

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Jasper, distant and withdrawn, is still mourning the events in New York.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

Origin

Origin

Origin, by Jessica Khoury, explores life, humanity, and the promise of immortality.  Pia is a seventeen year old girl who is perfect.  She is the first of a new and immortal race, born of science and a special breeding program designed to capture the essence of a special flower found deep within the Amazon jungle.

Pia lives in Little Cam – a secret compound hidden away from the world within the rainforest.  There she is surrounded by scientists, her “Aunts” and “Uncles” who are pursuing the ultimate goal of creating a new an immortal race. They wish to cheat death, and after years it seems like they have succeeded.  Pia has been raised to take on this task, but until she passes a series of tests the secret of her immortality (and the secret “catalyst” required to transform the deadly elysia nectar) won’t be shared.

Her life, and her quest to help create others like her seemed enough, until one night she notices a hole in the electric fence surrounding Little Cam.  The temptation is too great for Pia, who had never left the compound before.

Out in the jungle, Pia meets Eio, a boy from a nearby village.  No longer content with her structured, sterile life, Pia continues to sneak out to see him.  As the two begin to fall for each other, Pia also starts unraveling some of the mysteries within Little Cam, including her own origins.

Thoughts:

  • I really like Pia.  She’s believable: a sometimes cocky, self-important girl (who has constantly been told that she is perfect) who struggles with the knowledge she is the only one of her kind in the world.
  • This book really explores morality and science.  No one in Little Cam questions the ethics of what they are attempting to do, and it’s really interesting to see people go so far for what they believe.  They are driven by their mad purpose.
  • You kind of have to wonder if Eio and Pia would have fallen for each other if it wasn’t for the fact that he is the FIRST boy of her age that Pia has ever laid eyes on!  Even so, it was a sweet love story.

I really enjoyed Origin and Jessica’s next book, Vitro, looks equally as interesting. 4/5

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Filed under Science Fiction, Young Adult Books

Starclimber

Starclimber

Starclimber, by Kenneth Oppel, is the third Matt Cruze novel (following Airborn and Skybreaker).  Matt has taken a summer job working on the Celestial Tower in Paris – a huge structure designed to reach up into space. When the opportunity arises to train for a Canadian expedition into space, Matt eagerly signs up.  It helps that Kate De Vries has also been picked for the ride.

Matt must make it through grueling training, where there is stiff competition to make it on the crew of the Starclimber.

(Spoilers)

Then, when Matt somewhat unexpectedly is made a part of the Starclimber’s crew, he must navigate both the dangers of being in love with Kate de Vries (after she has suddenly announced her engagement to someone else) and the dangers of space, including some interested and unforeseen company in it’s inky black depths.

I didn’t find this third book as compelling as the first two.  Airborn in particular was a fantastic adventure story. Starclimber is still an adventure, but there is more emphasis on the relationship between Matt and Kate, with less emphasis on the adventure.  There are still some quirky characters, but there is no defined foe, other than the dangers of space.  As a Canadian, I appreciated that Canada was front and center in the space race – ahh fiction.

It’s worth reading to end up the series, but I will only put it at 3/5.

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Filed under Adventure, Science Fiction, Young Adult Books

The Bride Wore Size 12

The Bride Wore Size 12

Another Heather Well’s mystery! I finally came up on the library wait-list for The Bride Wore Size 12 and punctuated my day of errands with some very enjoyable book-time. (Sometimes there are advantages to long train rides!)

Heather Wells, former pop-star now Assistant Director of Fischer Hall (student residences for New York College), is back again.  She’s determined that this new school year will be a fresh start – and one devoid of student deaths. Unfortunately for Heather, “Death Dorm” earns it’s moniker before classes even start.  Heather has another mystery to solve PLUS a wedding to plan PLUS the unexpected (and very unwelcome) arrival of her mother to deal with. (You know, the mother who stole all of Heather’s money and fled the country?)

I quite enjoyed the added tension (i.e. “are they actually going to pull this wedding off??”) to this book.  I find Heather still fresh and interesting, and I love love love that she is a kick-ass character!

This one is definitely going on my list of “to-buy” favourites! (Although, for the simple fact that its mostly a fluffy chick-lit type of book, I can’t bring myself to give it a 5/5).

4/5!  I definitely enjoyed this one!

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Filed under Chick Lit, Mystery, Romance

A Corner of White

a corner of white

I just LOVE it when a book you don’t necessarily have high expectations for turns out to be FANTASTIC!  A Corner Of White was just that for me!

Although I have loved Jaclyn Moriarty’s books in the past (Feeling Sorry for Celia in particular), I picked this one up a while ago and it sat on my shelf waiting … mostly because I was just not convinced by the blurb on the book-jacket that it would be good.   I’m quite glad the book proved me wrong, and even happier that it appears to be the first in a SERIES (and I do love a good series).

I’ll start off by saying this book definitely mixes fantasy with real-life.  Often I’m not the biggest fan of that sort of thing, however it worked quite well here.

Madeleine Tully and her mother, Holly, have run away from their former glamorous, word-class life and settled in Cambridge, England, The World.  Madeleine has not quite determined if she means to stay  in Cambridge – or if she can go back and pick up her old life where things left off.  In the meantime, there are relationships to navigate and her mother to worry about.

One day, Madeleine finds a mysterious note wedged in a broken parking meter.  On a whim, she replies.

Elliot Baranski is a well-liked young man in the Kingdom of Cello.  He is searching for his father, who went missing a year ago, along with one of the teachers from town. Elliot’s uncle went missing the same night – and was found later, brutally murdered.   It’s not clear what happened, but rumors abound.  Was it an attack, or did Elliot’s dad run away with the town’s physics teacher?

Elliot happens across Madeline’s note and the two begin to exchange messages in a crack between their worlds.   As each deal with their own problems, the two build a friendship.  Who knows? They might even be able to help each other out.

Some thoughts:

  • The Kingdom of Cello is not like Cambridge, England.  For one, the seasons seem to switch randomly and rapidly (for example, it can go from winter to summer in the span of a week, and then back again). For another, the Kingdom is plagued by dangerous Colors.  Some Colors are nice, but others are dangerous and powerful (e.g. a second-level Gray can shred you, and a first-level Yellow can blind or kill you). This was incredibly confusing, at first.  It took me longer than I’d like to admit to wrap my head around the whole Colors thing.
  • I like how neither Elliot or Madeleine are perfect people.  They are well rounded characters – they have fears, flaws, and weak points.  At the same time, they have personality.  They are also both likeable (bonus!). They also grow and develop as characters, which I really appreciate.
  • The dual storylines are complimentary.  They go well together.  They have some nice but not too-obvious parallels.
  • The book ends on a high note!  Not everything is completely wrapped up, but enough was given a tidy “conclusion” that it’s not PURE torture to wait for the next Madeleine book.  Which I assume is coming, given that this one is “The colors of Madeleine, Book One”.

Fabulous!  5/5

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Filed under Fantasy, Young Adult Books

Graceling / Bitterblue

Graceling Bitterblue

I love Kristin Cashore.  I LOVED Graceling  which I recently decided to re-read, and then I also loved my re-read of Bitterblue.

Quick synopsis of Graceling:  Katsa is an energetic, serious, and deadly young woman.  Used by her uncle, the king, she has become an enforcer of his will – a gruesome role which takes advantage of her Grace.  Gracelings are rare – marked by eyes of two different colours, each Graceling is extremely skilled in one area (for example, one might have a Grace of cooking, or healing, or opening one’s mouth extremely wide, or swimming really fast, etc.).

Katsa, uncomfortable with her role, is trying to define her life.  When she meets the Lenid prince, Po, things start to change.  Together, they brought together by the search for Po’s grandfather, which turns into a quest which leads them into neighboring Monsea – a country with some dark secrets.  Once their mission becomes clear, both Katsa and Po must learn the true extent of their respective Graces in order to survive.

Katsa is such an intriguing, strong, interesting character.  She’s pretty different  than you’d expect from a main character – perhaps it’s being her uncle’s thug – but she brings such a unique flavour to the story.  I couldn’t put it down!

And Po! He warms my heart!

As does Bitterblue, who you meet in Graceling and who then gets her own book.

5/5

Quick synopsis of Bitterblue:

Bitterblue, now Queen of Monsea, is trying to find answers to help her to help her country. Monsea is still reeling from the reign of her father, Leck, and his terrible rule.  Leck was a sick and twisted man, who could influence people through his speech, and used his power to force his subjects to do his evil bidding.  Bitterblue only knows the fringes of what Leck did to his people – her people.  She is both trying to figure out what kind of ruler she will be, and what happened.  This is not an easy task, for some force is actively trying to keep the past in the past.

This is a much more difficult read.  I like the character of Bitterblue, but Leck was such an awful, horrible, psychopath, that learning about what he did is pretty disturbing.  The story moves along, and it almost seems like not much happens because the truth is unraveled so slowly.  There is some great character development, as well as some tangled love stories, and overall it’s a good read (though not for the faint of heart).

4/5

Anyway, just wanted to share the love for these books, two of my favourites.  (I also loved Fire by Kristin Cashore, which is technically book #2, but I didn’t have time to do three this time around, and the stories of Graceling and Bitterblue are much more directly linked (though Fire is a companion and does have links to both, just more tangential).

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Filed under Fantasy, Young Adult Books