Thursday, October 23, 2014

Review: The Cats of Tanglewood Forest

The Cats of Tanglewood Forest

The Cats of Tanglewood Forest tells the story of Lillian, an orphan girl who lives with her aunt on the edge of the sprawling forest. She spends her time after chores roaming the woods and looking for fairies. But try as she might, she never sees them although she can sense they're there. She's a generous soul and loves the animals, leaving saucers of milk for all the stray cats and even taking biscuits to the old apple tree every day, for the Apple Tree Man that she imagines lives there.  

One day however after venturing deep into the woods Lillian has a terrible accident... and the cats come. Saving her as only they can, Lillian is transformed into a cat. Thus begins a quest to return her to her proper form- but along the way she will meet some unforgettable characters (the fox known as T.H. Lawrence steals every scene he's in) and learn some valuable lessons about love, loyalty and the consequences of decisions. 

I loved this book. It has a fairy- tale quality to it, an ageless feel. Lillian is a classic free spirit, eschewing shoes and girly things and wanting nothing more than to wander free in the woods and race the deer. She's feisty and loyal and brave, but learns that the forest can be a dangerous place as well as enchanting. Will she find a way to set things right and return to her true form? And will she ever see the fairies? 

The Cats of Tanglewood Forest is written by Charles De Lint and illustrated by Charles Vess. Both are World Fantasy Award winners. I've never read De Lint before but I've been a fan of Charles Vess' work for years. He has collaborated with Neil Gaiman on Stardust and other projects. I've seen his work in various comics and he is the perfect artist for a story like this. He has a lush style, so evocative and dreamy. This is not my favorite example of his art, I've seen a lot of his stuff over the years, but it's still so good. I just love the cover.

I highly recommend this book for kids and adults alike. I think kids will love it, but I also think it has a lot to offer adults. The book reads quickly, some pages are full page illustrations and the ending is awesome. I haven't had this much fun with a book in a long time. 

Charles Vess' website Green Man Press can be found here.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Review: The Paladin Prophecy

The Paladin Prophecy (The Paladin Prophecy, #1)

Just another day. That’s what Will West thinks one morning as he goes running before school. Little does he know that soon he will be running for his life. After scoring off the charts on a nationwide exam Will finds himself on the run from men in black sedans and courted by an exclusive academy that no one has ever heard of. Along the way he is guided by the list of rules his father taught him to live by.

Rule #5 Trust No One

Will has always been told by his parents to lie low, not to draw attention to himself. A gifted runner, he hangs back and remains strictly average in all he does. He has no friends. Will’s life changes when, on the run and with his parents being targeted, he has no choice but to accept the academy’s offer of a full scholarship. Will arrives at the Center for Integrated Learning to find that everyone there is the best of the best- top of the line in academics, sports or whatever. Most everyone comes from wealth and privilege, and he is not sure if he’ll fit in. He meets his new roommates- Brooke, Ajay, Nick and Elise. They become fast friends, which is good because Will quickly makes enemies as well. There are those on campus who don’t want him there, and may have a connection to the men in black chasing him.

Will and his friends soon discover there is more to the Center than meets the eye- and its hard to know who to trust. Not only that, but Will realizes that he and some of his friends have special abilities- gifts that set them apart from ordinary humans. Abilities they may need if they are going to survive…

I liked The Paladin Prophecy a lot. It's fast paced and the story is sprinkled with humor. Will is engaging and realistic, and his sarcastic observations keep the perspective fresh. His roommates at the academy are well drawn for the most part. Brooke is smart, beautiful and confident and it doesn’t take long for Will to fall for her.  Ajay is endearing as a tech guru who can juryrig just about anything. Nick is a gymnast and the comic relief, always has a one liner or wry observation- I thought him kind of useless in the early going (aside from the humor), but he has a role to play later. Elise is a mystery girl with a lot of secrets, and easily the most interesting of the bunch.

The academy itself is fascinating- I loved the descriptions, the remoteness of it. I want to go there! The technology there is just a little ahead of society, and the author uses that to make the place unique. A nice touch. There are secret tunnels, strange rituals, and lots of extradimensional weirdness. The kids are the best part, they all have a role to play and they’re a lot of fun. The author seems to really hit his stride with them as the story progresses.

Throughout the story Will’s rules for life pop up at various times, usually before a pivotal scene. We really get a sense for how his parents trained him for this, to be prepared for the day when he would be on the run and have to rely on himself. Most of the rules are common sense but I chuckled at several, and they add a lot to the story.

Rule #27 There Is No Such Thing As Coincidence

As for what I didn't like- first we get a full dose of the boy goes to exclusive academy, makes friends and gets razzed, has to find his place and solve a mystery- perhaps not very original, but the sheer imagination of it makes it fun. Second, I found myself wondering why is Will wasting time getting to know people and settling in to campus life when his parents are in mortal danger? There seemed to be a lack of urgency there. I had to put that aside and go with it.   

There are a lot of cool moments that make this story a lot of fun. There’s a chilling scene where a bird that has been hanging around the house is peeking in the window, but when Will takes a closer look he finds its not your average bird. Later Will finds himself on an airplane winging across country to join the academy- but he is not alone on the plane. Nightmare creatures will do anything to stop him, including tear one of the engines apart! The action sometimes gets over the top but its fun and thrilling.

The Paladin Prophecy is a great read with a lot of great ideas. We get some closure at the end but at the same time the door is open for a sequel. I think Will and Brooke will be a great couple, and I'm looking forward to seeing more of Elise as well.

"I felt something else, too," said Will, studying her. "A couple of times with you." He held her eyes and thought:
Do you know what I'm thinking right now?
She held his eyes steadily: Of course I do, dummy. 
Will gasped. "Damn. What is up with that?"
"Don't know, but it sure beats the hell out of texting," she said, grinning slyly.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Teaser Tuesday #34

Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading. To participate you grab your current read, open to a random page and share (2) teaser sentences from somewhere on that page. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INLUDE SPOILERS (Make sure what you share doesn't give too much away. You don't want to ruin the book for others). Share the title and author.

"I have no secrets from you, Milo." I turned as I reached the door and flashed his smile back at him. "If I had a lover, I would certainly inform you of it." 

Murder at the Brightwell
Murder at the Brightwell

I've just started this one and am not very far along, but I like the slightly snarky tone and the 1930's vibe. I think this will be a good one. 

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Sunday Post The Hues of Autumn

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer.
It's Monday! What Are You Reading is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

The leaves are really turning this week and it's been blustery- we've had rain and leaves flying through the air and it really feels like autumn now.  I didn't get very far along in my reading this week, but I like the book I'm into and hope to get to it more this week. We're not doing much this weekend- just hanging out and relaxing after a pretty hectic week.  

I had two reviews go up last week, one for a book I really liked and the other was fine but wasn't really my thing. I seem to be reading (and acquiring) mysteries at the moment... I just started a new one and so far I like it a lot. 

This week I'm bringing a few older reviews back to the light of day- I was looking through some older ones and trying to find any that looked like good October reads. I hope you stop by and check them out, and let me know what you think. I think there's an interesting mix...  


Review: The Moment of Everything - this one was okay, didn't wow me 
Review: Get Even - loved this, one of my favorite YA reads this year
Teaser Tuesday #33 Get Even 


TUESDAY: Review: The Treasure of Tranicos- a short story about pirates
WEDNESDAY: Review: The Paladin Prophecy
THURSDAY: Review: The Cats of Tanglewood Forest- a girl, a magical wood and lots of cats- a perfect read for October
Teaser Tuesday #34 
FRIDAY: Review: The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester- a great MG read 


 The Twelve Clues of Christmas (Her Royal Spyness Mysteries, #6) Mistletoe and Mayhem (Pennyfoot Hotel Mystery, #18)

The Nine Lives of Christmas

The Twelve Clues of Christmas- this one is for the HoHoho readathon

Yes I'm on a Christmas theme here- the last one I just liked the cover, an impulse buy. And I like that part of it is told from the cat's perspective. 


Murder at the Brightwell


Erin at Quixotic Magpie has a post on the Fall Flavors Fest she went to. Looks like fun... and great pics too. 

Book Journey discusses Gone Girl- book vs. movie

Some fun cosplay this week- Arrow (and who is the girl supposed to be?) 

This seemed appropriate given all the leaves flying around here. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Review: The Moment of Everything

The Moment of Everything

The Moment of Everything was interesting for me. I went into it with high hopes, having heard good things and liking the premise (and the cover, frankly). A contemporary set in a bookstore, with a wonderfully eccentric cast of characters, and a wry, irreverent tone- sounded like a winner. So what did I think? Well, it was okay. This is a book I thought I would like a lot more than I did. I was actually a little disappointed with it, and had to struggle at times to keep going, especially in the middle.

Maggie DuPres has been laid off from her tech job at a Silicon Valley startup and now spends her days reading romance novels at the Dragonfly used bookstore. She's waiting for the next big thing to come along, but she's not trying too hard. She's actually rather enjoying days at the bookstore. Her friend Dizzy is still plugged in to the corporate scene and talks her into attending a highbrow book club meeting- the idea being for her to mingle and get back in the game. The read- Lady Chatterly's Lover. Everyone is reading the Penguin Classics edition, but Hugo, the owner of the Dragonfly, gives her a battered copy he finds in the store. Maggie starts to read it, but is surprised to find notes written in the margins-love notes from a Henry and Catherine, dating back to 1961.

 The longing and emotion she finds in those notes captivates her, and she tries to find out more about them. Maggie posts some of the notes online, and before long the Dragonfly has a surge of new business. Seems that everyone wants t ocome in and share the mystery- but when new love enters Maggie's life she may find truths that ring true for her as well.

Sound wonderful, right? And it is a fine story, well written and smart. It just didn't work for me on several different levels. I thought right from the first chapter that it was a little too self- aware, like it was trying a little too hard- there are long sentences where it's almost as if the author is trying to shoehorn in as many references as possible. I did like the snippets from Henry and catherine, and enjoyed Maggie's insights into her own life and priorities as she contemplated this love affair in words. There are some touching moments, to be sure, and I did laugh at some of the references. I could even relate to Maggie's concerns, and I liked her character, for the most part, and Hugo too- but I didn't like the other characters. Even the cat wasn't very likable, frankly!

The turn that the story takes at the end salvaged it for me a bit- I liked the theme of be who you are, and could relate to Maggie as she had to choose between doing what was perhaps expected of her and who she truly anted to be. I wish I had been as invested in the whole book as I was at the tail end of it. It may just be that I'm not the target audience, or the right person for this one. I would encourage people to try it for yourself if you're interested This one was just not for me.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Review: Get Even

Get Even (Don't Get Mad, #1)

Get Even by Gretchen McNeil is the story of four girls- Bree, Kitty, Olivia and Margot- who take it upon themselves to mete out a little justice at their elite prep school. Bullies, mean girls, even teachers who cross the line are all potential targets. Each of the girls runs in a different social circle, but together they are a secret group called DGM- Don't Get Mad. They're sworn to secrecy and the punishments they come up with are often quite elaborate- to the point that the school administration wants to shut them down any way it can. When someone they are targeting turns up dead, with a bloody DGM calling card at the crime scene, things take a more dangerous turn. Someone is framing them for murder- someone who may know who they are.

To make matters worse, the girls start getting envelopes from an anonymous sender- each envelope contains a photo or other information about the members of DGM. Information not widely known. The envelopes threaten to expose secrets that each girl carries, secrets she has not shared with the other members of DGM- and as the stakes get higher, the girls will have to confront past indiscretions- and decide who they can trust.

Get Even was a fun read, with a fast moving plot and great characterization. Each of the girls has a distinct personality, and each brings a unique quality to the group. At the same time they only trust each other so far, and as secrets are revealed they find the bonds of trust fraying even further. Can they overcome their suspicions and find the killer before he or she strikes again? Or will they end up as targets themselves?

This was a page turner for me. There's quite a bit of suspense throughout, and a lot of characters to keep track of. I likes how the characters' pasts would often intersect and secrets would be revealed to add another layer of complexity to the story. The girls each have a compelling backstory, although I particularly liked Bree, with her caustic wit and fierce independence. She has an interesting relationship with john, her best (and pretty much only)friend who has feelings for her that go beyond friendship. He tends to quote Star Wars every chance he gets and that was a nice touch of humor throughout the story. John becomes a suspect, as do several others (including the members of DGM) and by the end of the story we still don't know the killers identity. The book ends on a bit of a cliffhanger- but what an ending. I thought it was great- and fans of Star Wars will appreciate it as well.

McNeil sprinkles a few pop culture references throughout the story, and a little Shakespeare as well. The drama club is putting on a production of Twelfth Night, but with a twist- they are incorporating elements of the cult movie The Warriors into the story. Interesting combination! The performance happens at the end of the story and everything comes to a head. McNeil certainly seems to be having fun with this- and at the same time she explores issues of bullying, shaming and high school relationships in a way that rings true and that many younger readers may relate to. It's a fun, suspenseful story that takes an unflinching look at bullying and the challenges facing young people in that world we all remember- high school. I can't wait to see what happens next.

Teaser Tuesday #33 Get Even

Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading. To participate you grab your current read, open to a random page and share (2) teaser sentences from somewhere on that page. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INLUDE SPOILERS (Make sure what you share doesn't give too much away. You don't want to ruin the book for others). Share the title and author.

"Try to keep up, Princess," Bree said, exasperated at Olivia's slowness. "We all got one."
Olivia looked utterly confused. "But the other day in the lighting booth you said you didn't?"
Bree shrugged. "I lied." 

Get Even 

Get Even (Don't Get Mad, #1)

I thought I'd do another tease from this book this week. I finished it a few days ago and liked it a lot- and lots of quotables too!