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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Kady of Quid by K. Hutson Warrington

Kady of Quid by K. Hutson Warrington
Publisher: Write Words, Inc.
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal, Fantasy
Age Recommendation: 12+
Length: Full (451 pages)
Rating: 5 Suns
Review by: Orchid

“Don’t tell me faeries, elves and dragons don’t exist,” five-year old Kady insisted again and again to her parents, Rachel and Richard Dowd. And Kady’s parents know she is right. As the years pass, they see the small creature darting beneath the dryer. They also see the giant’s shadow outside the windows. And Rachel Dowd has found something even more frightening than glowing eyes from deep within the shrubs. She’s found a letter, one that may involve her daughter. Could the letter folded in her coat pocket be true? If so, Kady must fulfill a destiny far beyond anyone’s wildest imagination. Does she dare? Now, 15-year old Kady must decide. Stay safe at home, in Maine or go? Go to a place told of only in faerie tales. A place filled with spriggans and phookas, dwarves and dragons. In Quid, Kady learns to believe in herself, in the courage of others and the acceptance of those unlike herself.

Kady wasn't like the other girls her age. She saw things other teenagers and adults didn't see.

Kady's mother died when she was eight. She lives on the edge of a forest with her father and her obnoxious older brother Lukus. Palmer lives in the woods and teaches Kady things not taught in school. How to do fight and defend herself, things he says will help her when she comes into her own – whatever that means.

Drawn into the world of Tirn Aill where magic seems to prevail, Kady is astonished to find she is thought to be the Guardian everyone is waiting for. Unfortunately some are glad to see her arrive at last, others are out to destroy her before she can come into her true power.

Kady, her friend Terry and dog Barlow must find and fight their way to Quid the seat of the Guardian’s power. Unknown to Kady her father, Palmer and a leprechaun called Garlic are following behind, trying to catch up and help. Overshadowing everyone’s efforts is Gremig an exiled Diaone Shee elf who wants Kady’s powers for his own. The only ones who can stop him are Kady or the dragon Horcano. But Horcano disappeared many years ago.

Although different from the usual teenager, Kady still has the usual likes, dislikes and feelings that any normal girl of her age has. The fact that she can see creatures from Tirn Aill in her own land seems perfectly normal to her. Palmer instructs her in how to defend herself from these creatures and which ones can be trusted.

This is a very modern fairy tale. Although there are elves, dwarves and giants in the story, they fit in perfectly with Kady’s quest. This is not a soft floaty type of story, it’s a true quest for truth and freedom. Although Kady is the main character, all the other creatures and humans in the book need to be there to help and assist Kady through her problems. Each comes into their own strengths as the story progresses.

Kady gains confidence as she makes her way through Tirn Aill. Although at times exhausted and afraid, she knows she must confront Gremig and defeat him. If she fails not only will Tirn Aill fall, but also Tire Nam Beo – the name given to Earth by the people of Tirn Aill.

Her major problem is if she defends the people against Gremig, she could also lose all she holds dear in the world she grew up in.

This book is an amazing tale of a young teenage girl interacting with another world. What at first seems to be the usual story of goblins, elves and the like turns out to be a quest to save two worlds. I would recommend it to any reader over the age of twelve as a book they will thoroughly enjoy.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Poor Me by Dara Edmonson & Raina Edmonson

Poor Me by Dara Edmonson & Raina Edmonson
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary
Age Recommendation: 14+
Length: Short (19 pages)
Rating: 4.5 Suns
Review by: Cholla

When Jessie’s mother gets a job at an expensive private high school, Jessie can attend free. Trying to fit in with a group of stuck-up rich kids, she denies even knowing the lowly school secretary – her very own mother. Is being part of the in-crowd worth denying the one person Who genuinely cares about her?

Being a teenager is hard enough, but when you’re poor and just barely making it, things are that much worse. When Jessie’s mother lands a good paying job as secretary at a ritzy private school, she does everything she can just to fit in. Until it all goes horribly wrong.

Jessie is your typical teenage girl. She has a good head on her shoulders, works hard, and keeps her nose clean. And then she’s introduced to a group of snobby rich kids who lure her into their mean games. All she wanted was to fit in and she suddenly falls into the keeping-up-with-the-Jones’ trap. Her mental monologue convinces you that she knows right from wrong and you’re just waiting for her to find her way out of the viscous cycle she’s in. However, in the end, she sees the light and gets the sweetest revenge possible.

In this touching and real-to-life story, Jessie’s struggles within herself and in her relationships touch on the things that all teens are faced with, whether they’re rich, poor, or stuck somewhere in the middle. Poor Me is beautifully written and styled in a way that is appealing to both younger readers as well as adults. And, in the end, she learns one of life’s most important lessons – one that will stick with the reader long after they’ve finished the book.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Crystal Rose by Ruth Karas

The Crystal Rose by Ruth Karas
Publisher: Whiskey Creek Press
Genre: Contemporary, Fantasy
Length: Short (132 pages)
Rating: 4 Suns
Review by: Orchid

A young man and woman rebuild new lives out of the ashes of death and loss, with the help of an old sorcerer, a beautiful, powerful dragon, and its ridiculous dragon pup. Together, they guard the secret of Dragon’s Lair and discover the terrible injustice that brought them all together.

Dragons! An evil king! A sorcerer! The Crystal Rose is a true fantasy novel.

An orphan baby prince is hidden away from his evil uncle who takes the throne as his own. The realm suffers under the false king and some of the knights plot against him.

Breanne and her father run the Forest Edge Inn. One night Breanne dreams of a woman's corpse wearing a crown. The corpse shows her a murder, then gives her a rose. A frightened Breanne goes outside to cool off, but while she is gone the inn is set on fire by some of the king's men and her father is killed.

Running into the forest Breanne rests beside a stream. She leans on a rock which turns out to be a small animal. Breanne is fond of animals and pets the little fellow, but a dragon arrives and picks up both of them. It flies to a cave high in the mountains.

In the cave she finds Bevan an orphan boy and the sorcerer who tutors him. The dragon is also part of the group and the small animal is her pup. Breanne joins them and becomes a pupil of the sorcerer but unlike the boy, she is taught magic.

The evil king sends his knights to kill the dragon and the sorcerer. He is helped by his own evil magician. Bevan and Breanne become friends and look after the dragon. The magician takes care of them all. Behind it all is the quest to regain the throne for the rightful heir.

I enjoyed the story which was really a fairy tale. Breanna was stronger than the usual heroine of this type of story, but she and Bevan were typical teenagers. At first shy with one another, they became almost like brother and sister, although Breanne felt something more.

I did feel at times that the story could have had more depth to it. Years were skipped over which left vague questions about what had happened during this time. I don't want to spoil it for readers but I will say that the ending has an unexpected twist to it.

On the whole I would recommend this book to lovers of fantasy books. It's not spectacular in its tale, but it is a very enjoyable read.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Larklight by Philip Reeve

Larklight by Philip Reeve (David Wyatt, Illustrator)
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Genre: Action/Adventure, Historical, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full (400 pages)
Age Recommendation: 10+
Rating: 5 Suns
Review by: Orchid

Arthur (Art) Mumby and his irritating sister Myrtle live with their father in the huge and rambling house, Larklight, travelling through space on a remote orbit far beyond the Moon. One ordinary sort of morning they receive a correspondence informing them that a gentleman is on his way to visit, a Mr Webster. Visitors to Larklight are rare if not unique, and a frenzy of preparation ensues. But it is entirely the wrong sort of preparation, as they discover when their guest arrives, and a Dreadful and Terrifying (and Marvellous) adventure begins. It takes them to the furthest reaches of Known Space, where they must battle the evil First Ones in a desperate attempt to save each other – and the Universe.

Recounted through the eyes of Art himself, Larklight is sumptuously designed and illustrated throughout.

The back cover of this book states Larklight is "A Rousing Tale of Dauntless Pluck in the Farthest Reaches of Space". This statement is intriguing and made me want to find out more.

First I had to put aside everything I'd heard about traveling or living in space, it didn’t apply here. Then I had to set my imagination free to fully enjoy the story.

This tale of space, adventure and mystery is set in Victorian times. The story is told by twelve year old Arthur (Art) Mumby and (from Art's point of view) his irritating older sister Myrtle—or to be more accurate her diary. They live with their father in a house which is in orbit around the moon. Autoservants look after their needs and a gravity generator keeps all in place. The only thing they lack is their mother who died several years before in a spaceship accident.

Different species inhabit the planets and travel through the ether by wooden spaceships. Alchemists perform the "chemical wedding" of the alembum to enable the ship to move through space.

Art is a superb storyteller and relates how spiders cocoon Larklight in a gigantic web and destroy his father. He and his sister escape by lifeboat and land on the moon where they meet the fifteen-year-old pirate Jack Havock and his crew of aliens. The siblings are separated, reunited and separated again as Art and his friends attempt to alert the British Government to the danger coming towards Earth. Their journey takes them around the solar system until they eventually arrive in London in time for the opening of the Crystal Palace.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. It has everything one could wish for. Humor, fainting ladies, horrible nasty creatures, dashing young heroes, and fantasy in a very unusual form. There are battles both in space and on planet surfaces and Art and his friends make discoveries which are totally unexpected. They rocket through space chased by the baddies and the goodies—aka the British Empire Space Navy—and become embroiled with an ancient race that seeks to take over the solar system.

Larklight is unique in its setting and the author and artist have collaborated on a further two books in the series taking the tale of Art and his family to further heights. This book is suitable for Middle Grade and Young Adults and I am positive Adults would enjoy reading it too. I have no hesitation in giving Larklight 5 suns as it is a book I would be happy to see my children to read.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Under the Waterfall by Sally Odgers

Under the Waterfall by Sally Odgers
Publisher: Devine Destinies
Genre: Contemporary, Fantasy, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full (312 pages)
Age Recommendation: Not specified
Rating: 5 Suns
Review by: Orchid

Someone is out to kill Corrie. Athen Bard offers to help her, but why does he look so much like her disabled brother, Ethan? Why does everybody but Athen despise her? If Corrie is to survive, she needs to solve the mysteries, fast.

Athen Bard is amazed to meet a strange girl who looks just like his dead sister, Corrayo. In the world of Sisterin, women rule and men are unimportant. How can Athen deal with a girl who says she comes from another world?

"Be careful what you wish for, it might come true." This phrase is often heard by young people when they are complaining about something not going their way. Unfortunately for Corrie, her wish did come true.

Three years after Corrie's younger brother Ethan is badly hurt in an accident he still hasn't fully recovered. Corrie usually accepts his slowness, but occasionally she feels stifled by the restraints her parents put in place to protect Ethan. A family holiday at a quiet campsite turns into a life threatening journey for Corrie when she swims through a waterfall and finds herself in another world.

The first person Corrie meets looks exactly like her brother, but his name is Athen. The language is slightly different but she discovers she has arrived in a world where women are in control. By a weird coincidence she discovers Athen's sister Corrayo died in an accident three years before.

Everyone in Sisterin has a crede. Crede's can be clothers, bards, scryers, seers, weavers or a member of one of the many other credes. Nullards have no creed and are considered too lazy to work. Males are bois who the women consider to be lesser citizens.

Athen, the bard, looks after the creedless Corrie. Despite several attempts to swim back through the waterfall, Corrie is unable to escape Sisterin and instead joins Athen in a visit to a seer who she dubs Weird Sarah. Corrie is overcome by sickness and even the slightest mishap affects her like a major accident. What awaits them at the seer's will affect the future of Athen, Corrie and the seer.

Under the Waterfall catches the attention from the first page and continues to hold the reader right through to the last page. At first it seems Corrie will return home quite quickly, but when her attempts fail she is faced with a dilemma. Should she resign herself to a life in Sisterin? Or should she keep trying to get home. The similarities between her world and Athen's cause her some confusion and at times put her in danger, but with Athen's help she keeps trying to overcome the difficulties. The journey to the seer makes Corrie realize something more sinister is creeping up on her, threatening to destroy her completely.

The similarities between Athen and her brother Ethan, and herself and Athen's dead sister, make Corrie take a good look at herself. She doesn't like all that she sees but from what Athen tells her she thinks Corrayo was definitely the nastier one. Right to the very end there is no indication that Corrie will be successful in her attempt to return home. She even begins to doubt her very existence.

Ms Odgers has built a brilliant world and society, one which her main character could easily understand once she had overcome the initial strangeness. This is a strong story and it was a pleasant surprise to find the tale did not rely on elves, magic or ogres to carry it along. Well done Ms Odgers. This is definitely a book I am happy to recommend as a good read.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

To Find a Wonder by Jennifer Carson

To Find a Wonder by Jennifer Carson
Publisher: L&L Dreamspell
Genre: Action/Adventure, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short (80 pages)
Recommended Age: 8+
Rating: 4.5 Suns
Review by: Cholla

Mortimer is the best squire in Sir Emberly’s troops, but his liege refuses to recommend him for promotion to knighthood. When Mortimer demands to prove his knight-worthiness, Sir Emberly charges him with an impossible task—finding a wonder in five days. With the help of his faithful mare, a scatterbrained wizard, a frog prince and a very special vegetable, Mortimer creates his own wonder—the first dragon to ever breathe fire! How much trouble could one fire-breathing creature cause anyway? Mortimer certainly finds out and learns along the way that being a knight is more than being talented with a sword.

What would you do to achieve your heart’s desire? That is the question on Mortimer’s mind at the beginning of To Find a Wonder. All he’s ever wanted was to be a knight, but can he really complete the task Sir Emberley has set forth? And in only five days?

Mortimer is a mere squire with dreams of knighthood. While undoubtedly the best squire in the troop, he has something else holding him back – his attitude. In the manner of young boys everywhere, Mortimer sets out on his adventure with a single-minded agenda: to find his wonder and become a knight. However, while along this journey he grows so much internally that he returns a different boy altogether. He gains so much strength of character and a brand new outlook on life. Mortimer begins as a spoiled boy and returns home a true knight.

Written in a fun and exciting style, To Find a Wonder is a treat for any young person or adult. As you travel with Mortimer and his motley band of companions, you’ll laugh out loud and run in fear right alongside them. Enhanced with beautiful illustrations, this novel is highly recommendable to any fan of fantasy or even just a lover of a good laugh.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Eragon by Christopher Paolini

Eragon by Christopher Paolini
Publisher: Knopf Books
Genre: Action/Adventure, Fantasy
Length: Full (544 pages)
Age Recommendation: 10+
Rating: 5 Suns
Review by: Cholla

When Eragon finds a polished blue stone in the forest, he thinks it is the lucky discovery of a poor farm boy; perhaps it will buy his family meat for the winter. But when the stone brings a dragon hatchling, Eragon realizes he has stumbled upon a legacy nearly as old as the Empire itself. Overnight his simple life is shattered, and he is thrust into a perilous new world of destiny, magic, and power. With only an ancient sword and the advice of an old storyteller for guidance, Eragon and the fledgling dragon must navigate the dangerous terrain and dark enemies of an Empire ruled by a king whose evil knows no bounds. Can Eragon take up the mantle of the legendary Dragon Riders? The fate of the Empire may rest in his hands.

It all started with a beautiful stone. A stone that, as in all good fantasy novels, isn’t quite what it seems. While waiting for a trader to come to town so that Eragon could sell it and buy food, the stone hatches into Saphira, a beautiful blue dragon. Discovering that he is the last of the Dragon Riders, Eragon is forced to flee his home and strike out on the adventure of his young lifetime.

Having been thrust from his small-town home and out into the wider world around him, Eragon is like a country bumpkin visiting the big city. With the aid of his world-travelling friend and wizard, Brom, and the ever intelligent dragon, Saphira, Eragon and his companions are in a race against time. Despite being only fifteen at the outset of the story, Eragon is not afraid to do what needs to be done. Having worked hard all his life, he is the first to step up and do his part. He has the makings of a very fine young man and a true hero as he grows older and more experienced.

Saphira, the only known dragon, choose him to be her rider from inside the confines of her egg. She waited many years for him to find her. More than anything, she is his guiding force and conscience throughout. Saphira acts almost as a big sister to Eragon, gently prodding him to stay on the right track, to remain, steadfast, and to have a little fun. In addition, she can keep him in line with a look, help him channel his magic, and crack wise on the most serious of subjects, given the opportunity. She is the perfect complement to such an inexperienced young adventurer.

From the very first words of Eragon you will be swept away into the author’s world. You’ll meet dragons, elves, dwarves, and so many other creatures you never even dreamed of. You will also never know that the author was a mere fifteen years old when he began the adventure. Between the amazing world building, the flowing prose, and the dry wit, you will be hooked from the first page. So, come on over, step into the world of Alagaesia and let the magic flow.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Oh. My. Gods. by Tera Lyn Childs

Oh. My. Gods. by Tera Lyn Childs
Publisher: Dutton
Genre: Contemporary, Fantasy
Age Recommendation: 12+
Length: Full ( 264 pages)
Rating: 3.5 Suns
Reviewed by Asphodel

A modern girl’s comedic odyssey in a school filled with the descendants of Greek gods.

When Phoebe’s mom returns from Greece with a new husband and moves them to an island in the Aegean, Phoebe’s plans for her senior year and track season are ancient history. Now she must attend the uberexclusive academy, where admission depends on pedigree, namely, ancestry from Zeus, Hera, and other Greek gods. That’s right, they’re real, not myth, and their teen descendants are like the classical heroes—supersmart and superbeautiful with a few superpowers. And now they’re on her track team! Armed only with her Nikes and the will to win, Phoebe races to find her place among the gods.

Is it possible for one average American teen to fit in with a class of Olympic heritage? Phoebe has just this question to figure out and answer when out of the blue her mother whisks her off to a secret Greek island as she prepares to be married to a man she only met a week ago. Phoebe predicts colossal failure, her Mom assures her this is a god sent opportunity for her and I was left with the question of why there are so many insinuations about this being such an epic big deal.

The dialogue is quick and shows a real eye (or ear?) for how teens speak. There isn't any forced moments when Childs tried to force me to believe this was how teenagers really spoke or acted. It flowed easily and the transition between scenes made for a quick, light read. The story moved along without dragging down and Phoebe's observations, and sometimes lack thereof, are really funny and her narrative voice is engaging.

Despite the fact this is a novel about the descendents of the Greek Gods, it doesn't veer off of the stereotypes for teenagers too much. Phoebe comes off a little smug, and as if she knows everything. Her stepsister is the typical 'evil' stepsister and the students are of the classic mold. Not that this is a problem, Childs still has dialogue that is fun and witty and there are certainly some ha-ha moments, but I expected a little more by way of fleshing them out. The author relies too heavily on the stereotypes to explain a character's motivations.

The 'surprise' isn't that surprising given the contextual clues and a grasp of Greek mythology, but I found the dynamic of Phoebe and her two friends from America to be more surprising. Throughout the entire novel Phoebe is motivated by her need to get that scholarship and get back to America so that her and her friends can be together. The plan had been in place for years. When things change, it made me wonder if Phoebe had been the driving force behind that decision and her friends didn't want to disappoint her. I wanted to learn a bit more about the time between Phoebe's leaving and the end of the novel.

Oh. My. Gods. was an entertaining novel that gave the gods a spin that would be fun for anyone to imagine as their ancestors. The sequel, Goddess Boot Camp, is set up and the future endeavours of Phoebe amongst the godly descendants promises to be engaging.