Jun 28, 2015

A Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy 1)

A Discovery of Witches book cover

by Deborah Harkness
book review rating 2 out of 5

CURSE MY INABILITY to stop reading a book once I’ve started! Double curse that it’s a long, long book!! Perhaps, I was bewitched into finishing A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness?

This book starts out promising. Though descended from a long line of powerful Butler witches, Diana Bishop is determined to remain untouched by her family’s legacy largely in part to her parents' brutal murder. Her life changes in a major way when she discovers a bewitched alchemical manuscript at Oxford’s Bodleian Library. She begins to attract the horde of otherworldly creatures who want to know the secret of the manuscript and will stop at nothing to get it. Chief among them is vampire Mathew Clairmont, a distinguished geneticist, who becomes her protector and forbidden soul mate. Together, Diana and Matthew embark on a journey to understand the manuscript’s secrets that could re-write the very fabric of the future.

Sounds promising, yes? But it falls short.

I really wanted to like this book, so many readers did. I kept hoping that if I turned another page, I would find the magic that others have raved about. Unfortunately, all I discovered was a witch who became weak and dependant on Mathew when faced with challenges; and a storyline that was arduously slow and relatively anti-clamatic. Sadly, I will have to leap off this magic broomstick and part ways with Ms. Harkness and the All Souls Trilogy. It is mediocre at best.

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Jun 24, 2015

The Ascendance Trilogy

AS A PARENT nurturing my young children's passion for literature, I'm always in search of books to add to our library. The Ascendance Trilogy, by Jennifer Nielson, is one of those gems recently added. This is an exciting and adventure-filled series about a remarkable 14-year old orphan named Jaron. Journey with him as he outwits corrupt regents in The False Prince, conquers deadly enemies in The Runaway King, and fulfills his destiny as the Ascendance King in The Shadow Throne. I enjoyed this series very much, and have not doubt my children will too.



The False Prince
JENNIFER NIELSON'S THE False Prince is a thrilling first installment in The Ascendance Trilogy filled with action-packed adventures, secret identities, and a shocking . . . more
The Runaway King
IN THE SHOCKING final revelation of The False Prince, Sage reveals that he is the rightful heir to the throne of Carthya – Prince Jaron. In a strategic and impossibly difficult . . . more
The Shadow Throne
IT'S ALWAYS QUITE bittersweet to reach the end of a series, particular one that I have enjoyed thoroughly and has tucked me into bed quite soundly in the early hours of . . . more

Jun 22, 2015

A Monster Calls

A Monster Calls book cover

by Patrick Ness, Jim Kay (illustrator)
book review rating 4 out of 5

IT DOESN'T HAPPEN very often, but A Monster Calls, by Patrick Ness, is a heartwrenching story that moved me to tears. Winner of both the Carnegie Medal for literature and the Kate Greenaway Medal for illustration, A Monster Calls is darkly comedic and achingly sad.

Connor, a 13-year old boy, has been experiencing the same nightmare since his “mum” began her treatments, “the one with the darkness, the wind, and the screaming.” The one with the hand slipping from his grasp, lost to him forever, that always ended –

And then he wakes up covered in sweat only to be greeted by another nightmare…the monster. At precisely seven minutes past midnight, the monster comes calling. This one is something different – ancient and worldly, wild and destructive. It has come because of Connor.

Here is what will happen, Connor O’Malley…I will tell you three stories. Three tales from when I walked before… And when I have finished my three stories, you will tell me a fourth…and it will be the truth.

Your truth.

When dreams and reality become a blur, A Monster Calls, will keep you guessing who or what exactly is the true nightmare. The answer is in the fourth story – a powerful revelation behind Connor’s truth. Ready your Kleenex, this one is a bit of a tearjerker, and well worth reading!

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Jun 16, 2015

The Shadow Throne (Ascendance Trilogy 3)

The Shadow Throne book cover

by Jennifer A. Nielson
book review rating 4 out of 5

IT'S ALWAYS QUITE bittersweet to reach the end of a series, particular one that I have enjoyed thoroughly and has tucked me into bed quite soundly in the early hours of the morning. The Shadow Throne, by Jennifer Nielson, is the final installment in The Ascendance Trilogy. And, it does NOT disappoint!

Though born into royalty, life has been anything but easy for Jaron. From outwitting Connor Bevin’s treasonous game in The False Prince, to conquering the Avenia Pirates in The Runaway King, Jaron returns in The Shadow Throne as the Ascendance King of Carthya.

But…War is here.

And, it’s here with a vengeance! Three countries launch simultaneous attacks on Carthya with King Vargan of Avenia stopping at nothing until Jaron meets his demise, including the kidnapping of Imogen. Conflicted, Jaron must choose between his kingdom or his heart.

Everything that could go wrong…does. Imogen is imprisoned, the Princess Amarinda is missing, Roden and Tobias are flung far and wide across Carthya. In a desperate attempt to save his country and the people he loves, Jaron embarks on a daring, if reckless, attempt to change the course of the war. Despite the terrible disadvantages that Jaron constantly faces, there is always an undercurrent of something more than Jaron lets readers on. And as the outcome of the war changes its trajectory many-folds, readers will be left guessing until the very end who will be victorious.

By far, this Jaron has been quite enjoyable to read. The lost of those dear to him, the positive people he surrounds himself with, and the responsibilities that he shoulders as king, have groomed him into a remarkable young man full of compassion and some humility. Though, readers will still enjoy his lightening-quick wit. I found myself passing the time in my son’s martial arts class, giggling like an idiot, to Jaron’s remarks punctuated precisely at the right moment in the storyline to deliver the perfect punch line.

It is a difficult thing – to write an ending that appeals to everyone. The last few chapters felt rushed, with a highly unexpected twist that came out of nowhere with a particular foe. Regardless, Ms. Nielson writes with such fervor and excitement that she has a fan in me. Until your next book Ms. Nielson…

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Jun 11, 2015

Outlander (Outlander Series 1)

Outlander book cover

by Diana Gabaldon
book review rating 4.5 out of 5

OUTLANDER IS THE ultimate escape that reads like a dream! New York Times bestselling author, Diana Gabaldon, brings us an epic tale of two unforgettable characters, Claire and Jamie, in a spellbinding novel of unrivaled passion and exhilarating adventure set on the breathtaking highlands of historic Scotland.

Young combat nurse, Claire Randall, returns from her duties at the end of WWII to reunite with her husband, Frank Randall, on a second honeymoon in the British Isles. During a casual morning walk, she visits one of many ancient stone circles scattered throughout the landscape and is inexplicably drawn to enter through two of its standing pillars. When she emerges on the other side, she is a Sassenach – an "outlander" – in Scotland in the year 1743. 

Catapulted through time and space by forces she cannot comprehend, to an unsteady Scotland torn by war and raiding clans, she finds her life at risk and her heart divided.  For in this century is James Fraser, a valiant and stubborn Scots warrior, who will capture her heart so absolutely that Claire is torn between desire and devotion.

This is a mature story that beautifully highlights the complexities of falling in love with two vastly different men in two inconceivably different lives without seeming forced or predictable.  The storyline flows so naturally that by the end of 800-plus pages, I was ecstatic that this is just the beginning of an amazing 8-book series. However, there are parts of the story that is not for the faint of heart. Jamie will make a sacrifice so great to protect Claire that it threatens to destroy him, leaving readers heartbroken for his brutally violent encounter. Can Claire bring him back from the brink of total despair and destruction?

Ms. Gabaldon is a magnificent storyteller writing characters that will linger with you long beyond the last page. Outlander is a love story for the ages.

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Jun 5, 2015

A Glance Back at May

JUNE MARKS THE onslaught of graduation ceremonies, carefree lounging by the poolside, bountiful summer harvests, and my favorite of all – vacation! Whether you're jet setting off to a tropical destination, or simply finding respite with a stay-cation, relax and enjoy with one of these titles from May.

Jun 4, 2015

Gathering Blue (Giver Quartet 2)

Gathering Blue book cover

by Lois Lowry  
book review rating 3.5 out of 5

LOIS LOWRY CONTINUES to create a unique world in her second volume of The Giver quartet. In Gathering Blue, she intricately weaves a society wrought with poverty, where savagery, greed, and deceit prevail, and the weak are mercilessly shunned and discarded.

Kira, born physically flawed, is destined for abandonment in the Field of Leaving. By the fierce protection and love of her mother, she marginally escapes this heartless custom. When her mother unexpectedly falls ill, she finds herself orphaned and in danger of an envious woman named Veranda who seeks to steal her home and leave her to the “beasts.” Kira’s dangerous confrontation with Veranda brings her before the all-powerful Guardians – enforcers of their justice system. Seemingly kind, the Guardians remove her from her rundown home to live under their protection at the Council Edifice, where she is expected to use her skills to do their bidding.

Separated from her home with only the mysterious Guardian Jamison for supervision, Kira's loneliness is abated when friendships blossom with the other artists in residence. Thomas, a young carver who works on the intricate symbols engraved on the Singer's staff, and Jo, a three-year girl with the voice of an angel being trained as the next Singer.

Blessed with an inexplicable and almost magical gift with embroidery, Kira is given the task of restoring the beautiful sceneries of their world’s past on the Singer’s robe. But, she lacks the knowledge to create the missing color blue. With the help of a mischievous boy named Matt and his little companion dog Branch, Kira at last finds the plant that will allow her to create the blue dye. And with this knowledge, she also discovers a far greater secret about her family, the forbidden truth at the heart of the Ruin Song, and the courage to transform the future in her art and creativity.

Gathering Blue doesn’t have the same intensity as The Giver. There are sprinkles of excitement for Kira’s plight and intrigue for the subtle reveal of this world’s secrets. However, the burden of success that Kira shoulders in the creation of the blue thread and the repair of the Song robe seem less urgent. Despite this, I do feel that Gathering Blue is an important piece in the quartet, and that Messenger and Son will continue to tantalize and satisfy.

Digression: As a designer, I find Ms. Lowry’s naming system very creative and fun. As each of the characters in the book matures, they gain another syllable in their name. That would mean my names could be: Lo, Lonna, LonnaBelle, and LonnaBella. What would your names be? Please share them in the Comments.

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