Monday, February 20, 2012

Cover Crazy: The Aviary

Cover Crazy is a weekly meme hosted by The Book Worms on Mondays. The idea is to showcase a beautiful book cover each week.

This week, I'm crazy about...
The Aviary, by Kathleen O'Dell

I am completely crazy about this cover. It stands out and is immediately recognizable. The green background offsets the black foreground, and I love that everything is silhouetted. It both reflects the mystery of the story and creates a unique look that is not easily forgettable. This cover totally wants to make me read the book!

Want to know more about The Aviary?
Summary (from Goodreads):
Twelve-year-old Clara Dooley has spent her whole life in the Glendoveer mansion, where her mother is a servant to the kind and elderly matron of the house. Clara has never known another home. In fact, she's confined to the grand estate due to a mysterious heart condition. But it's a comfortable life, and if it weren't for the creepy squawking birds in the aviary out back, a completely peaceful one too.

But once old Mrs. Glendoveer passes away, Clara comes to learn many dark secrets about the family. The Glendoveers suffered a horrific tragedy: their children were kidnapped, then drowned. And their father George Glendoveer, a famous magician and illusionist, stood accused until his death. As Clara digs deeper and deeper into the terrifying events, the five birds in the aviary seem to be trying to tell her something. And Clara comes to wonder: what is their true identity? Clara sets out to solve a decades-old murder mystery—and in doing so, unlocks a secret in her own life, too. Kathleen O'Dell deftly weaves magic, secret identities, evil villians, unlikely heroes, and the wonder of friendship into a mystery adventure with all the charm of an old fashioned classic.

What do you think of the cover for The Aviary?
Leave your thoughts in the comments!

What are you crazy about this week?

Friday, February 10, 2012

Review: The Iron Knight

by Julie Kagawa
Age Recommendation: Young Adult
Paperback, 1st Edition, 361 pages
Published October 26th 2011 by Harlequin Teen
Series: The Iron Fey #4

Summary (from Goodreads):
Spoilers for the previous books in The Iron Fey Series, highlight to view.
Ash, former prince of the Winter Court, gave up everything. His title, his home, even his vow of loyalty. All for a girl… and all for nothing.

To cold, emotionless faery prince Ash, love was a weakness for mortals and fools. His own love had died a horrible death, killing any gentler feelings the Winter prince might have had. Or so he thought.

Then Meghan Chase—a half human, half fey slip of a girl— smashed through his barricades, binding him to her irrevocably with his oath to be her knight. And when all of Faery nearly fell to the Iron fey, she severed their bond to save his life. Meghan is now the Iron Queen, ruler of a realm where no Winter or Summer fey can survive.

With the (unwelcome) company of his archrival, Summer Court prankster Puck, and the infuriating cait sith Grimalkin, Ash begins a journey he is bound to see through to its end— a quest to find a way to honor his solemn vow to stand by Meghan’s side.

To survive in the Iron realm, Ash must have a soul and a mortal body. But the tests he must face to earn these things are impossible. At least, no one has ever passed to tell the tale.

And then Ash learns something that changes everything. A truth that turns reality upside down, challenges his darkest beliefs and shows him that, sometimes, it takes more than courage to make the ultimate sacrifice.

This review contains spoilers for the first three books in the Iron Fey series.
Read my reviews of the earlier books: 

My Review:
I enjoyed the earlier Iron Fey books, but I never quite got why people loved them so much. Reading The Iron Knight, I got it. the pace was a little but slow for the first third of the book, but there was so much to love, I ultimately didn't care about the slow pace in the face of so many other factors that I loved.

Don't expect to jump right in
Although Kagawa takes no time immersing the reader in the Nevernever  and (re)establishing Ash and Puck's love/hate friendship, the story meanders a bit in the beginning. The book opens with Ash and Puck searching for Grim, who will take them to a seer, who will tell them where they need to go to reach their ultimate goal - to get Ash a mortal soul so that he can live with Meghan in the Iron Realm without being harmed by the touch of iron. There's a lot of figuring out where to go in the beginning, setting up the journey, and while I liked being back with the characters, I wasn't all that interested in the journey while they didn't really know where they were going themselves.

A love... square?
Although Meghan has very little page time in The Iron Knight, Ash thinks about her a lot. But when Ariella turns up alive and joins their journey, everything becomes a mess. Ash is in love with both Ariella and Meghan, Puck is love with both Ariella and Meghan (although I felt bad for him as it seemed like although he was in love with both, he'd have to be satisfied with whoever Ash didn't choose... not that that worked out), Ariella and Meghan are rivals, and Ash and Puck pretend to be rivals but are actually friends. It makes for a tense group, but at some point it was enough. Ash seems to go through the same mental struggles over and over. Thankfully, the square was completely resolved by the end of The Iron Knight, with no strings left hanging.

More about Meghan
I was a little bit surprised at myself for missing Meghan. Although I liked her in The Iron Queen (you know, when she finally got some backbone), I never loved her character in general. But the little snippets of Meghan you get in The Iron Knight made me kind of wish she was there on their journey with them. Admittedly, that would make some of the scenes a little more difficult, but I wanted to see more of her.

Why this book WINS
Character development. Development of Ash, specifically. We, the readers, know Ash from the earlier Iron Fey books, but he's always a little cold, a little distant, never quite open to the reader. We got to know him as an outsider. But now, you really get to know him and you realize you barely scratched the surface before. Ash goes through so much development it is like – it IS seeing a new person emerge. In the beginning, he is The Winter Prince, who, although fun to read about, admittedly does not have as much depth as I like in my favorite characters. By the end, this is not the case. The development of all of the characters is admirable, but with Ash, you get an insight for the first time onto the character that you thought you knew so well.

Even more than simply being inside Ash's head, the memories that he regularly flashes back to, and the trials that he is forced to face in order to ear his soul really lets the reader get to know him as a character. Part of why he was so interesting in the first three books was the constant mystery surrounding him and how it seems like theres always something more to him that you’re not seeing. Reading The Iron Knight was like lifting that veil.

Overall Thoughts: There were some issues, but overall the good far outweighed the bad. If you liked the first three Iron Fey books, you will love The Iron Knight.

**Thank you to Small Review for letting me steal her review format. I didn't mean to, but it worked so perfectly for this review that I had to try it out. So thanks, Small.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Review: The Pagemaster

by David Kirschner
Age Recommendation: Elementary
Hardcover, 96 pages
Published November 28th 1993 by Turner Pub
Series: none

Summary (from Goodreads):
Books didn't really interest ten-year-old Richard Tyler. As far as he could tell they didn't cause mercury poisoning, earthquakes, or any of the host of other things that Richard was afraid of. This all changes, however, when Richard meets the Pagemaster, keeper of the books and guardian of the written word, and is plunged into a land where the world's greatest stories have become reality. Upon entering the realm of classic literature, Richard watches kindly Dr. Jekyll turn into the maniacal Mr. Hyde; comes face to face with Long John Silver, the meanest, most black-hearted pirate who ever sailed the seven seas; and is swallowed whole by a firebreathing dragon.

Timid and overcautious, all Richard wanted was to get out of a rainstorm and call his parents. Instead, he is given an adventure that will change his life forever. Joined by three unlikely companions-library books who have come to life-Richard is forced to confront his fears and find the courage he didn't know he possessed. What began as a young boy's quest for home and safety turns into a voyage of personal growth, friendship, and an appreciation for the power of books. Heeding the advice of the Pagemaste, When in doubt, look to the books," Richard learns lessons about literature, life, and humanity.

My Review:
Had I begun The Pagemaster with different expectations, I think I would have liked it quite a lot. As it was, however, I was expecting a MG with illustrations, and I got a very text-heavy picture book.

Because there was so much text, I kept wanting the writing to be just a little bit more sophisticated, and getting frustrated when it continued to be "dumbed down." Even if the book was written for kids, it could still have writing enjoyable for people who might, for instance, be reading it to those kids. And if it was for kids, it was very long for a picture book, and I doubt someone learning to read or having a book read to them would be able to sit through the entire book. Maybe it would be a good read-aloud book if split across several days. The chapters even provide convenient stopping places.

The pace was a little strange, slowing down at parts to describe a scene, and speeding through others only to get a point across (usually to introduce a character from another book) and continue with the story. Apparently there’s a movie, which might have influenced the style and odd pace.

I did enjoy the whole premise (I've always been a fan of the main-character-goes-into-a-book storyline) and liked the references to famous literary works, although I'm not sure how many of the references kids would get (Moby Dick? Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde?).

Overall Thoughts: Despite the unsophisticated writing and the choppy pace, I really liked both the story aqnd the illustrations, and I'd pass the book on to others to experience Richard’s journey with him.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Upcoming Releases: March 2012

So many great books are coming out soon, I had to talk about a few of them. I couldn't possibly talk about all of them, so I decided to do it month by month. These are some of the March releases that are at the top of my to-read list, in chronological order. Let me know if I'm missing anything good.

7 March 2012
Grave Mercy, by R.L. LaFevers

Summary (from Goodreads):
Why be the sheep, when you can be the wolf?

Seventeen-year-old Ismae escapes from the brutality of an arranged marriage into the sanctuary of the convent of St. Mortain, where the sisters still serve the gods of old. Here she learns that the god of Death Himself has blessed her with dangerous gifts—and a violent destiny. If she chooses to stay at the convent, she will be trained as an assassin and serve as a handmaiden to Death. To claim her new life, she must destroy the lives of others.

Ismae's most important assignment takes her straight into the high court of Brittany—where she finds herself woefully under prepared—not only for the deadly games of intrigue and treason, but for the impossible choices she must make. For how can she deliver Death’s vengeance upon a target who, against her will, has stolen her heart?

My Thoughts:
I've heard nothing but good things about this book. And it seems like exactly my type of book. I already know R.L. LaFevers' writing from her Theodosia books, but even as much as I liked those, I think I'm going to love Grave Mercy even more. The summary is so exciting, and I can't wait to plunge into Ismae's world. What could be awesomer than an assassin and "handmaiden to Death?" Read Small Review's cover deconstruction for seven more reasons I want to get my hands on Grave Mercy right now.

Summary (from Goodreads):
13 March 2012
The Savage Grace, by Bree Despain

Summary (from Goodreads):
A troubled soul. An impossible choice. A final battle.

Wrestling with the werewolf curse pulsing deep inside of her, Grace Divine was finally able to find her brother, but it nearly cost her everything.

With her boyfriend, Daniel, stuck in wolf form and Sirhan's death approaching, time is running out for Grace to stop Caleb Kalbi and his gang of demons. If she fails, her family and hometown will perish. Everything rests on Grace's shoulders.

The final installment in The Dark Divine trilogy brings Daniel and Grace's love story to a breathtaking conclusion.

My Thoughts:
I read and enjoyed the first two books of the trilogy well enough (though now that I'm rereading it, I did sort of smash The Lost Saint in my review), and I am highly looking forward to the third book. I'm want to see the loose ends wrapped up, and the title The Savage Grace is intriguing...

27 March 2012
Peaceweaver, by Rebecca Barnhouse

Summary (from Goodreads):
This is historical fantasy at its best. Sixteen-year-old Hild has always been a favorite of her uncle, king of the Shylfings. So when she protects her cousin the crown prince from a murderous traitor, she expects the king to be grateful. Instead, she is unjustly accused of treachery herself.

As punishment, her uncle sends Hild far away to the heir of the enemy king, Beowulf, to try to weave peace between the two kingdoms. She must leave her home and everyone she loves. On the long and perilous journey, Hild soon discovers that fatigue and rough terrain are the least of her worries. Something is following her and her small band of guards—some kind of foul creature that tales say lurks in the fens. Will Hild have to face the monster? Or does it offer her the perfect chance to escape the destiny she never chose?

Rebecca Barnhouse's companion to The Coming of the Dragon is sure to appeal to younger fans of Tamora Pierce, Esther Friesner, and Shannon Hale.

My Thoughts:
I am really looking forward to Peaceweaver. In my review of the companion book, The Coming of the Dragon, Barnhouse's writing was best when she stuck out into her own story. Well this is a new, non-retelling story. And it centers on Hild! Also, read my cover review for three reasons why this cover is way awesomer than it first seems.

27 March 2012
A Breath of Eyre, by Eve Marie Mont

Summary (from Goodreads):
Emma Townsend has always believed in stories—the ones she reads voraciously, and the ones she creates in her head. Perhaps it’s because she feels like an outsider at her exclusive prep school, or because her stepmother doesn’t come close to filling the void left by her mother’s death. And her only romantic prospect—apart from a crush on her English teacher—is Gray Newman, a long-time friend who just adds to Emma’s confusion. But escape soon arrives in an old leather-bound copy of Jane Eyre…

Reading of Jane’s isolation sparks a deep sense of kinship. Then fate takes things a leap further when a lightning storm catapults Emma right into Jane’s body and her nineteenth-century world. As governess at Thornfield, Emma has a sense of belonging she’s never known—and an attraction to the brooding Mr. Rochester. Now, moving between her two realities and uncovering secrets in both, Emma must decide whether her destiny lies in the pages of Jane’s story, or in the unwritten chapters of her own…

My Thoughts:
This book seems to be popping up a lot on various blogs, and each time I see it, I get more excited. This story seems so interesting, and I'd love to read about Emma's experiences dipping into Jane's shoes. The summary reminds me a little bit of Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu, which I loved. I don't know how similar the story will be, but I'm certainly intrigued.

27 March 2012
Goddess Interrupted, by Aimee Carter

Summary (from Goodreads):
Kate Winters has won immortality.

But if she wants a life in the Underworld with Henry, she’ll have to fight for it.

Becoming immortal wasn’t supposed to be the easy part. Though Kate is about to be crowned Queen of the Underworld, she’s as isolated as ever. And despite her growing love for Henry, ruler of the Underworld, he’s becoming ever more distant and secretive. Then, in the midst of Kate’s coronation, Henry is abducted by the only being powerful enough to kill him: the King of the Titans.

As the other gods prepare for a war that could end them all, it is up to Kate to save Henry from the depths of Tartarus. But in order to navigate the endless caverns of the Underworld, Kate must enlist the help of the one person who is the greatest threat to her future.

Henry’s first wife, Persephone.

My Thoughts:
I really liked the first book, The Goddess Test (see my review), and I'd love to read more. I'm hoping a lot of the minor problems in The Goddess Test will be solved in the sequel. I'm ecited to see how Aimee Carter interprets Kate's journey (which is similar to Persephone's own) and how she incorporates more mythology.

What March releases are you excited for?

Sunday, February 5, 2012

My review of The Near Witch featured on Bookshop Talk!

Bookshop Talk, a fantastic blog run by Jessica Day George, Amy Finnegan, and Kim Thacker, features reviews that people send in of their favorite books. They featured my review of Fly by Night several months ago, and have just posted my review of The Near Witch. I have a few upcoming reviews on the waiting list as well.

Check it out! Links lead to my reviews on Bookshop Talk.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Review: The Wish Stealers

by Tracy Trivias
Age Recommendtion: Middle Grade
Hardcover, 208 pages
Published January 26th 2010 by Aladdin
Series: none

Summary (from Amazon):
Griffin Penshine is always making wishes. But when an eccentric old woman named Mariah gives Griffin a box of shiny pennies, a desperate quest is set in motion. The old woman was a wish stealer, who stole each penny from a wishing fountain decades earlier. Somehow, Griffin has to redeem the lost wishes, or the opposite of her own wishes will come true—and it could literally be a matter of life or death. Griffin’s mission to right Mariah’s awful wrongs allows her to meet some extraordinary people, and to do good beyond her wildest imagination. But can she do enough to reverse the curse in time to save the people she loves the most?

My Review:
Although I ultimately enjoyed The Wish Stealers, it was a debut novel (2010) and it read like a debut. Although the writing was strong, it seemed like Tracy Trivias was still finding her voice.

For one, Griffin, the main character, did not interest me all that much. She was almost realistic and almost  interesting, but it didn't quite cut it for me. I was more intrigued by everyone around her than Griffin herself. I think a story from the point of view of Mariah (the villain) would have been far more interesting. But Trivias seemed intent on keeping the "bad" parts down to a minimum - just enough to make a point.

In fact, the entire story seemed to be teetering between fluffy and serious. I'd have been more interested in a serious story. I understand that The Wish Stealers in MG, but I wanted more of the darker parts - more tension, more mystery, more danger.

I liked the writing style and the general plot, and I can see that Tracy Trivias has potential, but this particular story wasn't quite there. It was almost right in so many aspects. It was almost serious enough, almost developed enough, almost wrapped up well. But it was either too much or not enough. The environmental message was a little too in-your-face at the end, when Griffin holds a rally to raise money for "Pennies for the Planet" (a real organization with more information in the back of the book). Perhaps Trivias was writing too much for kids, without taking into account the older readers who might be interested as well. I would have gobbled The Wish Stealers up a few years ago, and truth be told, I did enjoy it even now, but I wanted just a little bit more than I got.

Overall Thoughts:
This book was almost really good, but it just barely fell short. I wanted a little bit more tension, action, and development throughout in order to really keep my interest. I suspect middle grade readers, however, will love it.


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