Friday, December 30, 2011

Review: The Missing Heir - Tracy Barrett

The Missing Heir by Tracy Barrett
Series: The Sherlock Files #4
Genre: Middle Grade, mystery, Sherlockian fiction
Published on June 7, 2011
Published by Henry Holt and Co.
Pages: 176
Read From: 12.9.11 - 12.10.11

Xena and Xander Holmes have just learned that their shy classmate, Alice, is heir to a royal throne. Then they discover that their ancestor Sherlock Holmes had his suspicions about the kidnapping and return of Alice's grandmother, the princess of Borogovia. Alice is to be crowned on her thirteen birthday. . . .but she goes missing days before the ceremony. Who

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Review: Plain Kate - Erin Bow

Plain Kate by Erin Bow
Genre: YA, fantasy
Published on September 1, 2010
Published by Scholastic
Pages: 314

Plain Kate lives in a world of superstitions and curses, where a song can heal a wound and a shadow can work its magic. As the wood-carver's daughter, Kate held a carving knife before a spoon, and her wooden charms are so fine that some even call her "witch-blade" - a dangerous nickname in a town where witches are hunted and burned in the square. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Pretty Prezzies!

I'm extremely sorry that I abandoned you on Christmas! Things just got so very busy, and before I knew it I was stuffed to my nose with candy and gingerbread, and every good thing; the very thought of getting up and retrieving the computer sent my stomach into spasms of pain. The good news, though, is that Shewsbury Cakes are not exclusively for Christmas, so I will be posting the recipe the day before New Year's!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Review: Legacy - Cayla Kluver

Legacy by Cayla Kluver
Series: Legacy #1
Genre: YA, fantasy, romance
Published on August 18, 2011
Published by AmazonEncore
Pages: 464

Obligated to wed her father's choice in successor to the throne, seventeen-year-old Princess Alera of Hytanica believes that she is being forced into the worst of all possible fates - a marriage to an arrogant and hot-tempered Steldor.


When the attractive and mysterious Narian arrives from enemy lands bearing secrets and different ideas about women's roles in the world, Alera's private desires threaten to destroy the kingdom. The discovery of Narian's shocking past plunges Alera into a shadowy world of palace intrigue and ancient blood feuds, leaving her unsure of what to believe in, or whom to trust.In writing this review, I will try to keep the Author's youthfulness in mind, but I confess that even with that continuous fact, Legacy isn't a book I would recommend. Four hundred and sixty-two pages long, the book shouldn't have taken as long as it did to finish, and the reason for my proverbial dragging feet is the plain fact that the book drug its own feet - and continued to do so even when I picked mine up. The prologue promised an interesting enough storyline, and I realize that this is only the first book in a series, and because it is, Legacy ought to have offered a whole lot more than it did. I was so bored by events that I am seriously questioning whether or not I am going to read the rest.

It wasn't just the lack of storyline, though; there were the characters. Alera is a heroine difficult to sympathize with. She causes most of her problems by not effectively communicating her objections. Alera does usually have legitimate complaints, but rather than discussing situations with a cool head, she dissolves into crying and flinging angry accusations. In short, she doesn't help herself. And then her character just becomes flaky as more and more young men are introduced into her life. She hates Steldor, but then she starts to not mind his company too much - and even gives in to his kisses, while still insisting that she hates him. And she has every reason to hate Steldor. He's a genuine toss-pot, completely enamored with himself, flirtatious to a degree that very well borders on sexual harassment and assault, and has a violent temper that makes him a prime candidate for a wife beater. So why doesn't Alera suspect that he's just being manipulative when he starts being a little nicer to her? Good question! And that's why I brand her as being flaky.

The other characters are, at best, dull. Steldor is fun to hate, true enough, but in making his despicable, the Author goes overboard with his egotistical ways, and then has to do a clumsy back-pedal when she wants the Readers to feel a little sorry for Steldor as the book goes on. If she is trying to convince the Reader that Steldor really does love Alera, it isn't convincing, because from the very beginning of Chapter One, the Author sets him up to be a completely despicable character, with not an inch of him to like. I did not mind Narian too much, because I admit that as a Reader - and author - mysterious characters who keep to themselves attract my interest, but then when romance blooms between Alera and Narian, he becomes just as dull as everyone else. Romance just doesn't suit quiet, mysterious characters with tragic backgrounds - not unless the writer handles it very delicately, and in this case, it wasn't handled thus. For one thing, Narian seemed far to sensible to fall for a girl as careless and young as Alera, if he were to fall for anybody. Also, there was the king, who the Reader, I think, was supposed to view as an overall kind father who cared about his daughters, and yet his actions when it comes to Alera's objections over Steldor don't show this. True, Alera doesn't do a very good job explaining to her dad that Steldor is creepy and clearly just wants to bed her, but a kind and caring father wouldn't just say, "Whatever your objections are, they aren't legitimate. You'll marry the creep because I like him or else." If the Author wanted such behavior to suit the king, then he ought to have been a hard-nosed father; not one who professed to care for his daughter's happiness. A wise and good king would see Steldor for what he really was. About the only character I truly liked consistently was London, Alera's bodyguard, whose disregard for chain-of-command isn't out of arrogance, but practicality. If a situation is urgent, London goes to the immediate source, and if his superior isn't taking the correct course of action, he isn't afraid to say so.

Then there is just the overall unbelievability of certain situations. I realize that in worlds entirely made up by the Author, one can design one's kingdoms, societies, and things like that to one's fancy. But, if it is to be believable, even fiction writers must obey certain rules, and one of the main ones when concerning monarchy is the very real fact that a Crown Princess would not be allowed - and certainly not encouraged - to marry the Captain of the Guard's son. Marriages among nobility/royalty were mainly for political gain - lands, money, needed allegiances and troops that would accompany said allegiances, and to keep the royal bloodline purely of the nobility and not peasantry. Just because Steldor shows battle prowess would not outweigh the fact that he was the Captain of the Guard's son, and hardly a title of which to speak. Princesses were betrothed to dukes, earls, princes, and others of equal standing. Even in a fictional world, one cannot ignore the natural laws and desires of royalty, and their desires were political. There's also the free manner in which the bodyguards act with members of the royal family, saying whatever they please to their monarchs and their monarch's children, and even talking back to their superior officers. Sorry, it just wouldn't happen.

And then there is the writing. I dearly wish that Cayla Kluver had waited several years before publishing Legacy. She ought to have stashed it away for a while and then looked it over when she had gained that experience and maturity which comes with growing up, because I really do think Legacy had a lot of potential, but because she didn't wait her youthfulness shows in her writing in all of its aspects - characters, plot development, and descriptions. Here is a book which is bursting with copious descriptions of dresses, hair styles, shoes, jewelry, jerkins, trousers, shirts, cloaks, undergarments, and hats. If a character has changed their shirt since their previous appearance in the book, don't worry - you'll get a full picture of its color, cut, and even how many wrinkles there are. There is a time and place for wardrobe details, and clearly the Author thought it was necessary to do it every time. That's a sign of youthful writing; I know that when I was younger I loved describing what everyone was wearing, and it's a good way to practice writing! But don't include it in your actual published work. The fact that Alera seemed older than her seventeen years at times, and then much, much younger at others, also displayed a lack of maturity in the writing, as did the sudden appearance of big words to replace more common ones. And it wasn't in dialogue, when a character whose idiosyncrasy might be to use unusually large words.

All in all, I wasn't satisfied with Legacy. Given a few more years, it could have been good, and maybe as she matures, the Author's writing will mature with her; I see potential in her writing career if she gives herself time to develop in that area. But Legacy, I am afraid, falls flat of being interesting.

Others in This Trilogy:

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Review: A Curse Dark as Gold - Elizabeth C. Bunce

A Curse Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce
Genre: YA, fairy tale retelling
Published on March 1, 2008
Published by Arthur A. Levine Books
Pages: 396

The gold thread shimmers in the fading light. It promises Charlotte Miller a way out of debt, a chance to save her family's beloved wool mill. It promises a future for her sister, livelihood for her townsfolk, security against her sinuous and grasping uncle. It might even promise what she didn't know she needed: lasting hope and true love. 

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Review: The Name of the Star - Maureen Johnson

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson
Series: Shades of London #1
Genre: YA, mystery, paranormal
Published on September 29, 2011
Published by Putnam
Pages: 372
Read From: 12.2.11 - 12.1.11

The day Louisiana teenager Rory Deveaux arrives in London marks a memorable occasion. For Rory, it's the start of a new life at a London boarding school. But for many, this will be remembered as the day a series of brutal murders broke out across the city - gruesome crimes mimicking the horrific work of Jack the Ripper in the autumn of 1888. 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Review: The Secret of the Rose - Sarah L. Thomson

The Secret of the Rose by Sarah L. Thomson
Genre: YA, mystery, historical fiction
Published on August 1, 2006
Published by Greenwillow Books
Pages: 304
Read From: 11.28.11 - 12.1.11

Rosalind Archer has secrets. Her father is in jail. She and her brother, Robin, are in hiding. Desperate to survive, she cuts her hair and disguises herself as a boy. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Review: Dark of the Moon - Tracy Barrett

Dark of the Moon by Tracy Barrett
Genre: YA, mythology retelling
Published on September 20, 2011
Published by HMH Books
Pages: 310
Read From: 11.24.11 - 11.25.11

Ariadne is destined to become a goddess of the moon. She leads a lonely life, filled with hours of rigorous training by stern priestesses. Her former friends no longer dare to look at her, much less speak to her. All that she has left are her mother and her beloved, misshapen brother, Asterion, who must be held captive below the palace for his own safety. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Review: Coraline - Neil Gaiman

Coraline by Neil Gaiman
Genre: Middle Grade, horror
Published on August 4, 2002
Published by HarperCollins
Pages: 162
Read From: 11.22.11 - 11.24.11

When Coraline steps through a door to find another house strangely similar to her own (only better), things seem marvelous. But there's another mother there, and another father, and they want her to stay and be their little girl. They want to change her and never let her go. Coraline will have to fight with all her wits and courage if she is to save herself and return to her ordinary life.


I saw the movie before I read the book, and I'm neither happy nor unhappy that I did. I've rarely said this, but this story is one those where I liked aspects in the movie better, and I liked aspects of the book better. In many ways, the movie was more sinister, but in other ways, the book was darker. In any case, there is no denying that Coraline is creepy. So Neil Gaiman was successful in that instance, and I tip my hat to him. I wouldn't say the book will give you nightmares - if you're a really young kid, it might; the movie certainly will, - but it will make you shiver pleasantly under your covers, and you might have an issue with buttons for a while afterward. I don't normally like nightmarish-quality stories, but I have to admit that there was something about Coraline - in both the book and the movie - that I liked. It's not demonic or Satanic, and while it certainly is weird, it's a weirdness that works and has a purpose in the story.

There's also the fact that it plays upon a thought we've all had some point in our life, be it when we were five years old and in a rather cross mood because our mom said we couldn't have any ice cream, or when we were seventeen and our dad said we had to be home at a certain hour. At some point, we've thought: wouldn't it be nice if there was another house, with another mother and father who always gave us what we wanted, who cooked our favorite foods, and who let us go out to a late-night movie? And Coraline presents us with this "what if" - and then shows us that something that seems absolutely perfect, there is usually a heavy price. Scary to think about, right? But kind of a fun scary.

The only really big flaw I saw in Coraline was the fact that our heroine, Coraline, seems to take things as they come pretty benignly. Oh, the book says she's scared and she's putting on a brave face, but come on - any child who walked through a door and met a person with button eyes is going to either scream and back up several steps really rapidly. And after all the bad things that happen to Coraline, when a creepy crawly hand comes scratching at her window, Coraline goes back to sleep! Sorry, but no child would react to a hand at the window like that.

So, a heroine who is as cool as a cucumber about things is my main complaint. Other than that, I liked this creepy dark story, and while it may not sound like your cup of tea, I would encourage you to pick it up sometime and just give it try. You may be surprised.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Review: The Case That Time Forgot - Tracy Barrett

The Case That Time Forgot by Tracy Barrett
Series: The Sherlock Files #3
Genre: Middle Grade, mystery, Sherlockian fiction
Published on April 27, 2010
Published by Henry Holt and Co.
Pages: 160
Read From: 11.19.11 - 11.22.11

Xander's classmate Karim tells him about a famous amulet carved in the shape of Thoth, the Egyptian god of time. It as thought to be so powerful that it could turn back time one day every hundred years. 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Review: Shelter - Harlan Coben

Shelter by Harlan Coben
Series: Mickey Bolitar #1
Genre: Young Adult, mystery, suspense
Published on September 6, 2011
Published by Putnam
Pages: 304
Read From: 11.17.11 - 11.19.11

A new school comes with new friends and new enemies, and lucky for Mickey, it also comes with a great new girlfriend, Ashley. For a while, it seems like Mickey's train wreck of a life is finally improving - until Ashley vanishes without a trace. Unwilling to let another person walk out of his life, Mickey follows Ashley's trail into a seedy underworld that reveals that

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Review: City of Orphans - Avi

City of Orphans by Avi
Genre: Middle Grade, historical fiction
Published on September 6, 2011
Published by Atheneum
Pages: 368
Read In: November 2011

The streets of 1893 New York are full of life: crowded, filthy, and dangerous. If you are a newsboy like thirteen-year-old Maks Geless, you need to watch out for Bruno, leader of the Plug Ugly Gang, whose shadowy, sinister boss is plotting to take control of all the newsies of the Lower East Side.  

Friday, November 25, 2011

Review: Lavinia - Ursula K. Le Guin

Lavinia by Ursula K. Le Guin
Genre: YA, mythology retelling
Published on April 21, 2008
Published by Harcourt, Inc.
Pages: 279
Read From: 11.4.11 - 11.17.11

In The Aeneid, Vergil's hero fights to claim the king's daughter, Lavina, with whom he is destined to found an empire. Lavina herself never speaks a word in the poem. Now Ursula K. Le Guin gives her a voice in a novel that takes us to the half-wild world of ancient Italy, when Rome was a muddy village near seven hills. Lavinia grows up knowing nothing but peace and freedom, until suitors come. Her mother demands that she marry

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Review: The Beast of Blackslope - Tracy Barrett

The Beast of Blackslope by Tracy Barrett
Series: The Sherlock Files #2
Genre: Middle Grade, mystery, Sherlockian fiction
Published on May 12, 2009
Published by Henry Holt and Co.
Pages: 176
Read From: 11.5.11. - 11.6.11

Xena and Xander Holmes have been looking forward to their vacation in the peaceful country village of Blackslope. But when a huge monster begins to terrorize the town, the young detectives are faced with a mystery that seems impossible to solve. 

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Review: The Son of Neptune - Rick Riordan

The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan
Series: The Heroes of Olympus #2
Genre: YA, fantasy
Published on October 4, 2011
Published by Hyperion
Pages: 513
Read From: 11.4.11 - 11.5.11

Percy is confused. When he awoke from his long sleep, he didn't know much more than his name. His brain fuzz is lingering, even after the wolf Lupa told him he is a demigod and trained him to fight with the pen/sword in his pocket. Somehow Percy manages to make it to a camp for half-bloods, despite the fact that he has to keep killing monsters along the way. But the camp doesn't ring any bells with him. The only thing he can recall from his past is another name: Annabeth.  

Friday, November 18, 2011

Review: The Outcasts - John Flanagan

The Outcasts by John Flanagan
Series: Brotherband Chronicles #1
Genre: Young Adult, adventure
Published on November 1, 2011
Published by Philomel
Pages: 434
Read From: 11.2.11 - 11.4.11

Hal never knew his father. A Skandian warrior, he died in battle when Hal was a young boy, but his reputation lives on long after death. 
Hal, unlike his esteemed father, is an outcast. In a country that values physical strength over intellect, Hal's ingenuity, and the fact that his mother was an Araluen slave, only serves to set him apart from the other boys his age. 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Review: Inheritance - Christopher Paolini

Inheritance by Christopher Paolini
Series: The Inheritance Cycle #4
Genre: YA, fantasy
Published on November 8, 2011
Published by Knopf
Pages: 849
Read From: 11.10.11 - 11.16.11

Not so very long ago, Eragon - Shadeslayer, Dragon Rider - was nothing more than a poor farm boy, and his dragon, Saphira, only a blue stone in the forest. Now, the fate of an entire civilization rests on their shoulders. 

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Review: Ten Cents a Dance - Christine Fletcher

Ten Cents a Dance by Christine Fletcher
Genre: YA, historical fiction, romance
Published on April 1, 2008
Published by Bloomsbury
Pages: 356
Read In: October 2011

Chicago, 1941

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Author Visit: Rick Riordan

My goodness, I am so sorry it has taken me this long to post about this exciting event, but the week following Sunday has just been absolutely crazy. But now I can report about Rick Riordan's visit to Olympia, Washington!

Friday, August 26, 2011

An Ever-Expanding Collection

Tuesday was quite a treat: I went down to Powell's City of Books - the world's best bookstore, in my opinion; it takes up a whole block and has seven floors!!! Lucky for me, I had washed the cars for some lettuce (money) prior, plus I had a good $15 in change, which I was able to trade for hard cash. I had tons of fun - more fun than one person ought to be allowed to have (I cannot imagine how Christmas is going to be when I go there!) Three hours of browsing resulted in my pockets being completely emptied of cash and two bags full of books. What did I get? Well, of course I won't hide it from you!!! My library now contains:

Monday, June 13, 2011

My New Project

I was so bored yesterday (my current book is barely holding my attention; it's really slow in the beginning), but I felt guilty about just sitting around watching television when it was so nice out. So I finally buckled down and finished a project! Below is a picture of the fancy book-light I got for my birthday in April. It's like a clear page you lay on top of the actual one and there's lights along the side. It never runs out of batteries or bulbs - you just charge it with a USB port! And it lasts up to 15 hours before you have to charge it again.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Review: The Hidden Gallery - Maryrose Wood

The Hidden Gallery by Maryrose Wood
Series: The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place #2
Genre: Middle Grade, historical fiction, mystery
Published on March 1, 2011
Published by Balzer + Bray
Pages: 313

Thanks to the efforts of their plucky governess, Miss Penelope Lumley, Alexander, Beowulf, and Cassiopeia are much more like children than wolf cubs now. They are accustomed to wearing clothes. They hardly ever howl at the moon. And for the most part, they resist the urge to chase squirrels up trees. 

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Review: The Lost Hero - Rick Riordan

The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan
Series: The Heroes of Olympus #1
Genre: YA, fantasy
Published on October 12, 2010
Published by Hyperion
Pages: 576

Jason has a problem. He doesn't remember anything before waking up in a bus full of kids on a field trip. Apparently he has a girlfriend named Piper, and his best friend is a guy named Leo. They're all students at the Wilderness School, a boarding school for "bad kids," as Leo puts it. What did Jason do to end up here? And where is here, exactly? Jason doesn't know anything - except that everything seems very wrong. 

Thursday, February 10, 2011

A Library Greeting

Some of you will recognize this as a quote from Inkheart. It is the same quote that is on the door of Mo's workshop in the farmhouse he and Meggie live in before they have to flee to Elinor's house: "Some books should be tasted; some devoured, but only a few should be chewed & digested thoroughly."

In truth, this is a "redone" version of one of Francis Bacon's sayings, his going like this:

"Some books are to be tasted;
Others to be swallowed;
and some few to be chewed and digested."