Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Sometimes I think my bibliophilia borders on obsession...

A little background information is necessary here. I recently reviewed the Library Wars: Love and War manga. I ended up liking the story so much I tracked down the anime and watched all 12 episodes, as well as an English translation of the first novel that the stories are based on. Since my Japanese isn't good enough to read a novel full of specialized military language, an English translation is pretty much my only option to read this baby. The PDF wouldn't load properly on my e-reader, it in fact crashed it twice, so I ended up printing out all 220 pages of it (I hate reading things on my computer). This thing was so thick I had to buy a binder for it (the only spare ones I had were teeny 1 inch ones). I labeled the spine with the appropriate info, exercising my long unused kanji, and even made a impromptu cover much the same way I used to decorate my binders in high school.

All this for the sake of one book. But it's a book with a story I love, and seeing as how it's rare that a Japanese novel I want to read gets a decent and or professional English translation (save for Kino's Journey and The Twelve Kingdoms), I consider myself lucky. Most of the time I'm pretty fortunate that a story I want to read is readily available in the bookstore or library and requires minimal effort to obtain. The odd time I'll run into an out-of-print book or a foreign language novel that I would literally give my right arm to read and results in me doing things like this in order to be able to read it period or read it in a language I can understand.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

100 Books Reviewed! Contest!


I've done 100 reviews, this blog has officially surpassed my expectations. Technically it surpassed my expectations by still being alive and kicking after 3 months, but it's 8 months since I started it and I don't think it'll be dying anytime soon ^^;

To celebrate my 100th book review, I'll be holding a book giveaway contest.

The prizes will be:

1 Adult book ( The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot)
1 Children's book (The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan)
1 Young Adult book (Incarceron by Catherine Fisher)
1 Graphic Novel ( Scott Pilgrim Volume 1 by Bryan Lee O'Malley)

Contest 411:

1) The contest will be open until Saturday, July 10th, 2010.

2) Winners will be chosen by a random draw.

3) To enter, please leave a comment at the end of this post (or email me at and tell me which book you would like to be considered for (whether you only want one or all four etc.), and also your email address so I can contact you regarding where to send the book if you win.

4) Contest is open to all residents of Canada and the US.

Good luck all!

Nightschool: The Weirn Books Volumes 1-3 by Svetlana Chmakova *100th Review!*

Title: Nighschool: The Weirn Books Volumes 1-3
Author: Svetlana Chmakova
Publisher: Yen Press, 2009-2010 (Paperback)
Length: 200 pages each
Genre: Young Adult; Graphic Novel
Started: June 28, 2010
Finished: June 29, 2010

Schools may lock up for the night, but class is in session for an entirely different set of students. In the Nightschool, vampires, werewolves, and weirns (a particular breed of witches) learn the fundamentals of everything from calculus to spell casting. Alex is a young weirn whose education has always been handled through homeschooling, but circumstances seem to be drawing her closer to the Nightschool. Will Alex manage to weather the dark forces gathering?

This is one of the few original English language manga artists I follow, purely because her art is gorgeous and her stories are gripping. I read Svetlana Chmakova's Dramacon volumes a few years back and fell in love with her art style and the fact that I laughed my head off while reading her work. When I found out she was drawing a new series, Nightschool, I knew I would be buying them. I finally got around to doing that (these books are impossible to find in a physical bookstore), and wasn't disappointed. Nightschool follows Alex Treveney, a weirn (a type of witch), and her encounters with the Nightschool where her older sister works. Though Alex is home-schooled for some yet unknown reason, she is drawn to the Nightschool when her sister Sarah disappears. Add in a group of Hunters who keep the Night in check, suspicious teachers at the school whose intentions are questionable, and a group of cloaked children with the potential to burn the city to the ground, and you have a gripping story. There are quite a lot of characters and they all show up at once, and then all the plot threads separate and distinguish themselves before coming together again, so there was a little initial confusion but eventually you can keep track of who's who and what the heck is going on. I love the art style, it's beautiful, and the the artist's chibi drawings never fail to make me laugh, I just love them. Again, I don't read a lot of original English language manga because I find that the artists try too hard to imitate everything they see in original Japanese manga, whereas this artist uses the features of Japanese manga to tell her own story. Anything this artist draws is golden, so read Nightschool (and Dramacon for that matter) and get hooked.

If you're a manga fan but a little hesitant about reading anything non-Japanese, give this one a try, seriously. More volumes are forthcoming, so there will be more to feed your eventual addiction after you finish the existing 3 volumes.

Thoughts on the covers:
Gorgeous. The cover for volume 3 is particularly dynamic, and I like the colour palette for volume 1 and 2.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Library Wars: Love and War Volume 1 - Kiiro Yumi

Title: Library Wars: Love and War Volume 1
Author: Kiiro Yumi (Original concept by Hiro Arikawa)
Publisher: Viz (Shojo Beat manga imprint), 2010 (Paperback)
Length: 190 pages
Genre: Young Adult/Adult; Graphic Novel
Started: June 28, 2010
Finished: June 28, 2010

From the back cover:
In the near future, the federal government creates a committee to rid society of books it deems unsuitable. The libraries vow to protect their collections, and with the help of local governments, form a military group to defend themselves---the Library Forces! Iku Kasahara has dreamed of joining the Library Defense Force ever since one of its soldiers stepped in to protect her favorite book from being confiscated in a bookstore when she was younger. But now that she's finally a recruit, she's finding her dream job to be a bit of a nightmare. Especially since her hard-hearted drill instructor seems to have it out for her!

I was a huuuuuge manga/anime geek back in high school and university, I have various shelves of the stuff in my house to vouch for it (as well as the degree in Japanese and the honeymoon to Tokyo). But in manga and anime, the old saying is true: "90 percent of everything is crap." one of the reasons I've bought so little manga (Japanese comics) and anime (Japanese animated programs) since graduating from university is that I'm a little out of the loop now that I have less time for my hobbies, and that a lot of the story lines in anime and manga are, to be blunt, crap. But the 10% that aren't crap are beautiful, wonderful, creative stories that rival the domestic stuff we produce in comics and television/movies. Once in a while, a story like Library Wars comes along and I know I have to take a chance on it without knowing much about it because I have a gut feeling that it'll be wonderful, and my gut is always right.

Army librarians...need I say more? Library Wars is based off a series of Japanese novels which feature an eerie Fahrenheit 451 atmosphere where the Japanese government has instituted the Media Betterment Act, laws that allow the confiscation and censorship of any media they deem unsuitable. In response, libraries become self-governing, establishing the Freedom of Library Law, which allows libraries to rebel against the national government and secure the public's freedom of access to information. In order to fulfill their obligations, libraries are run by armies, with their recruits trained in combat and librarian skills. The premise sounds so ridiculous, but those of us well versed in dystopian fiction know that anything is plausible if presented properly. The series follows Iku Kasahara, one of the first females ever accepted into the Library Defense Forces (most of the women in the series who work for the libraries do so as librarians) and is a mix of army tactics and action, slapstick comedy, romance, and general book-loving. There's the usual off-the-wall humour that's common in manga, and it might irritate people who aren't used to it, but if you're a manga aficionado it's nothing you haven't encountered before, you probably even have a fondness for it.

Iku is your typical flighty female lead (the Japanese have something against a truly admirable heroine with brains), who's pretty much dumb as a post but she makes up for it with her ambition and heart. Think Sailor Moon, just in an army outfit and without the magic. There's the archetypal scene where she explains why she joins the LDF in order to be like a man who rescued a book for her in her younger years, whom she refers to as her prince and wants to emulate. I just kind of accept these kinds of portrayals of women in manga nowadays, especially since I understand gender relations in Japanese society. Just don't let it bug you as a reader. So there's Iku, determined to protect books and people's right to read them, and her superior officer, Dojo, who it's obvious has a thing for her and expects more from her as a recruit. Anyone with a brain can see that in the flashbacks it's Dojo who was the man she idealizes from when she was younger and that the two are going to get together, but the fun of manga isn't in pointing out the obvious cliches, it's in the details and character development. Iku and Dojo have good chemistry together and are like a pair of comedians insulting each other every time they're together, and the other characters are great supports to the story. The plot actually poses a lot of thought-provoking questions about censorship and freedom of speech, which would be great to pose for classroom discussion on the topics of tyranny and governments having too much control. This particular story is very unique to manga and is one of the more enjoyable stories I've read in a while, even with the moronic yet lovable female lead.

If you're a book lover and love libraries, you'll want to pick this up ASAP.

Thoughts on the cover:
Using the original Japanese cover image = good
Nice red background to match all the green in the image = good
Now hopefully they can keep the covers the same so they all match on the bookshelf.

A Kiss In Time - Alex Flinn

Title: A Kiss In Time
Author: Alex Flinn
Publisher: Harper Teen, 2010 (Paperback)
Length: 371 pages
Genre: Young Adult; Fantasy, Fairy Tale
Started: June 24, 2010
Finished: June 28, 2010

From the author's website:
Talia fell under a spell…
Jack broke the curse.

I was told to beware the accursed spindle, but it was so enchanting, so hypnotic. . . .

I was looking for a little adventure the day I ditched my tour group. But finding a comatose town, with a hot-looking chick asleep in it, was so not what I had in mind.

I awakened in the same place but in another time—to a stranger’s soft kiss.

I couldn’t help kissing her. Sometimes you just have to kiss someone. I didn’t know this would happen.

Now I am in dire trouble because my father, the king, says I have brought ruin upon our country. I have no choice but to run away with this commoner!

Now I’m stuck with a bratty princess and a trunk full of her jewels. . . . The good news: My parents will freak!

Think you have dating issues? Try locking lips with a snoozing stunner who turns out to be 316 years old. Can a kiss transcend all—even time?

I picked this up at a publisher's preview night, and after reading Beastly (by the same author) and finding out that this was a retelling of Sleeping Beauty, I was sold. Luckily for me, my positive opinion of Beastly extends to A Kiss In Time.

I think what worked well for this story was that instead of retelling Sleeping Beauty the way we're used to, A Kiss In Time is mostly concerned with what happens after she's awakened, especially if she were to be awakened in modern times. Talia is the princess of Euphrasia, a little-known kingdom bordered by Belgium. Like all princesses, she longs to be able to exert her own authority over her life rather than be subject to her parents' whims. She's also been warned about the whole spindle thing, a curse put upon her at her birth by a malevolent fairy. She pricks her finger anyway (you all know the story), and falls asleep till awakened by true love's first kiss. Over three hundred years go by, and Talia continues to sleep. When he escapes from a bus tour through Belgium, seventeen-year-old Jack stumbles upon the sleeping kingdom and its princess. Overcome by love for the strange girl, he kisses her. Talia awakes, as does her kingdom. That's where the fun begins. Talia's parents are shocked at their current circumstances and blame Talia for putting them in such a mess, she enlists Jack's help to escape and returns home to Florida with him. She transforms his family life, and both of them realize that neither one of them has it any better than the other, that they both suffer the same problems in life. Although love blossoms between them, Talia's curse is not quite broken, and Jack has to look inside himself to see if he loves her enough to save her.

I found this book funnier than it was probably intended to be. Talia and Jack are wonderful together, and the early parts of the book when he's introducing her to modern life was hilarious, especially her comments on body image and modern female clothing. Try explaining to a 17th century girl that just because you hear someone's voice from a phone, that doesn't mean they're trapped inside it; again, hilarious. I also loved Talia's commentary on Jack's family life, how people nowadays can live together and know nothing about each other because we have so many other things to distract us from really knowing each other. Like she says, in her time, they didn't have tv, the only thing to do was have polite conversation. It's amazing how much she transforms Jack's family over such a short time simply because she has a different perspective on things and isn't afraid to voice what she observes. Another thing I love is how this isn't a typical princess story, Talia shows that being one isn't about always getting your way and being spoiled. For little girls raised on Disney Princesses and being spoiled by mommy and daddy, it's refreshing to see a princess character show that a real princess is polite, intelligent, diplomatic, and kind. I think the only complaint I have about the book was that it was very easy to see how Jack could love Talia based on her interactions with him, she changes him for the better, it would be kinda hard not to. On the other hand, Talia essentially tells readers that she loves Jack, we don't really get to see how she goes from using him as a means to an end to loving him, it just happens all of a sudden. It kind of surprised me because Talia is such a focus of the book, Jack feels secondary, so it felt weird that all parts of her character would be explored and fleshed out except the love aspect. All in all, it was a really enjoyable read; and the author is bringing out another fairy tale adaptation next year which will also be on my to-read list.

If you're a fan of fractured fairy tales and fairy tale retellings, read this!

Thoughts on the cover:
This cover follows Beastly's: a solid colour cover with a title and a flower above it. It worked for Beastly because the rose is significant in Beauty and the Beast, but for A Kiss In Time, the flower thing really doesn't jive. I like how they made the covers a set, almost as if the two books were parts in a series, but for this story it doesn't really make sense like with Beastly's cover. There is another cover circulating (see below) which seems to be the more visible one (perhaps ours is a Canada-only cover and the other is a US one), and out of the two, I like the latter, but I still think the covers could be more impressive than they are.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Summoning - Kelley Armstrong

Title: The Summoning (The Darkest Powers series Book 1)
Author: Kelley Armstrong
Publisher: Doubleday Canada, 2008 (Paperback)
Length: 390 pages
Genre: Young Adult; Fantasy
Started: June 22, 2010
Finished: June 24, 2010

From the author's website:
Chloe Saunders sees dead people. Yes, like in the films. The problem is, in real life saying you see ghosts gets you a one-way ticket to the psych ward. And at 15, all Chloe wants to do is fit in at school and maybe get a boy to notice her. But when a particularly violent ghost haunts her, she gets noticed for all the wrong reasons. Her seemingly crazed behaviour earns her a trip to Lyle House, a centre for 'disturbed teens'. At first Chloe is determined to keep her head down. But then her room mate disappears after confessing she has a poltergeist, and some of the other patients also seem to be manifesting paranormal behaviour. Could that be a coincidence? Or is Lyle House not quite what it seems...? Chloe realizes that if she doesn't uncover the truth, she could be destined for a lifetime in a psychiatric hospital. Or could her fate be even worse...? Can she trust her fellow students, and does she dare reveal her dark secret?

This is one of those series that everyone talks about and that I've been meaning to read and have finally gotten around to it. Yet another example of supernatural/urban fantasy fiction that dominates the YA market, The Summoning isn't the best example of the genre (I have yet to find a supernatural fiction novel that I love to pieces), but it really kept my interest and was a good read. Chloe Saunders sees dead people. Think Ghost Whisperer, just younger. When a really persistent ghost freaks her out, her behaviour lands her in a group home for teens with mental illnesses where she gets diagnosed with schizophrenia. She eventually realizes that she actually is raising the dead, not just seeing them, and that her other housemates have real supernatural abilities too. I loved the premise of the book, I think the whole youth home scenario kept me reading simply because it was different and interesting. Most characters with supernatural powers in books manage to keep it hidden fairly well, so this was unique in that the kids had the primary problem of escaping the home and the secondary problem of keeping their powers under control. Because Chloe is essentially in the dark for most of the book and only realizes that they all have supernatural powers about 3/4 of the way through, we as readers are introduced to the concepts as abruptly as Chloe is, so the explaining of all the concepts could've been a bit smoother, but I'm hoping they get more into it in the second and third books.

The one thing that bugged me about the book was the pop culture references. Between iPods and Macbooks, DSes, Gap, Lizzie McGuire, The Olsen Twins, Firefox, Xbox, PSP, IE, MSN, etc; the first half of this book felt like a constant product placement ad. I can picture myself reading this in 10 years and laughing at it, thinking that it hasn't aged well. I like books that don't date themselves, ones that talk about "video games" and "instant messaging" rather than naming actual brands, it cuts down on the time it takes for the book to become unrelatable to kids. I do have to give the book credit though, this novel contained the best impromptu use of PictoChat (feature of the Nintendo DS) that I could think fact, probably the best use of PictoChat period, that alone was enough to amuse me.

A decent supernatural themed book, which hopefully will get better in further installments.

Thoughts on the cover:
I always prefer covers that show a characters whole face, simply because I think cover artists can do so much with a character's eyes, but that's just me. I'm not quite sure of all the focus on the necklaces, they didn't really touch on that too much, so I'm hoping further books will clear that up too.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Mid-Year Review - Best of 2010 (Thus Far)

Since it's nearly the end of June, I thought I'd compile a list of the books I've read so far this year that really impressed me. Keep in mind that since I've been on a YA kick since starting this blog, there'll be quite a few more YA titles than in other categories, simply because I've read more of them in terms of volume compared to adult and children's books. Since I don't have a rating system (ratings are subjective anyway), you'll have to skim the reviews to see if these will impress you as much as they did me.


1. The Girl Who Could Fly - Victoria Forester

2. Chains - Laurie Halse Anderson

3. The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Mysterious Howling - Maryrose Wood


1. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo - Stieg Larsson

2. The Book of Awesome - Neil Pasricha

3. The Things That Keep Us Here - Carla Buckley

Young Adult

1. The Knife of Never Letting Go - Patrick Ness

2. The Ask and The Answer - Patrick Ness

3. Wintergirls - Laurie Halse Anderson

4. Eyes Like Stars - Lisa Mantchev

5. Perchance to Dream - Lisa Mantchev

6. The Maze Runner - James Dashner

7. Liar - Justine Larbalestier

8. Beastly - Alex Flinn

9. Gone - Michael Grant

10. Hunger - Michael Grant

11. Wondrous Strange - Lesley Livingston

12. Ash - Malinda Lo

13. Brightly Woven - Alexandra Bracken

14. Mistwood - Leah Cypess

The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Mysterious Howling - Maryrose Wood

Title: The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Mysterious Howling (Book 1)
Author: Maryrose Wood
Publisher: Balzer & Bray (Harper Collins), 2010 (Hardcover)
Length: 267 pages
Genre: Children's Classic/Realistic Fiction
Started: June 21, 2010
Finished: June 22, 2010

From the publisher's website:
Of especially naughty children it is sometimes said: "They must have been raised by wolves."

The Incorrigible children actually were.

Found running wild in the forest of Ashton Place, the Incorrigibles are no ordinary children: Alexander, age ten or thereabouts, keeps his siblings in line with gentle nips; Cassiopeia, perhaps four or five, has a bark that is (usually) worse than her bite; and Beowulf, age somewhere-in-the-middle, is alarmingly adept at chasing squirrels.

Luckily, Miss Penelope Lumley is no ordinary governess. Only fifteen years old and a recent graduate of the Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females, Penelope embraces the challenge of her new position. Though she is eager to instruct the children in Latin verbs and the proper use of globes, first she must help them overcome their canine tendencies.

But mysteries abound at Ashton Place: Who are these three wild creatures, and how did they come to live in the vast forests of the estate? Why does Old Timothy, the coachman, lurk around every corner? Will Penelope be able to teach the Incorrigibles table manners and socially useful phrases in time for Lady Constance's holiday ball? And what on earth is a schottische?

After I read the first few chapters of this book, the first things that came to mind were the first half of The Sound of Music and Jane Eyre...because that's essentially what this is. This book is so charming, it's similar to all those old classic stories about governesses and their charges and yet spoofs them at the same time in an intelligent way. I can totally picture a pre-tv era grandmother or grandfather sitting in a rocking chair telling this story to enraptured grandchildren, those of you that get the image will know exactly what kind of book this is. I loved how the children talk in howls and woofs, they even say their names that way (Alawoooooo, Beowoooooo, and Cassawoof), and Penelope indulges them by allowing them to call her Lumawooooo. Penelope herself is only fifteen, so teen readers might get a kick out of her if they're not immediately excited by the concept of children being raised by wolves, although "kids raised by wolves" was all it took to get me hooked. The writing style is reminiscent of the older classics but not enough so as to alienate modern young readers. The plot promises a series to answer the questions of how the children came to be at Ashton Place, and so far it actually seems plausible that this could be a series, which pleases me to no end. This book is immensely charming and quirky, I absolutely love it, this is one book I'd save to read to my future kids or a junior class of students.

Read this! Just trust me, you and any kids in your vicinity will love it.

Thoughts on the cover:
This cover reminds me of really old children's books from the 1960s, it's just so kitschy. The cover artist is also the illustrator for the black and white pictures interspersed throughout the novel, which I also liked.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Mistwood - Leah Cypess

Title: Mistwood
Author: Leah Cypess
Publisher: Greenwillow Books (Harper Collins), 2010 (Hardcover)
Length: 304 pages
Genre: Young Adult; Fantasy
Started: June 18, 2010
Finished: June 21, 2010

From the inside cover:
The Shifter is an immortal creature bound by an ancient spell to protect the kings of Samorna. When the realm is peaceful, she retreats to the Mistwood. But when she is needed she always comes.

Isabel remembers nothing. Nothing before the prince rode into her forest to take her back to the castle. Nothing about who she is supposed to be, or the powers she is supposed to have.

Prince Rokan needs Isabel to be his Shifter. He needs her ability to shift to animal form, to wind, to mist. He needs her lethal speed and superhuman strength. And he needs her loyalty—because without it, she may be his greatest threat.

Isabel knows that her prince is lying to her, but she can’t help wanting to protect him from the dangers and intrigues of the court . . . until a deadly truth shatters the bond between them.

Now Isabel faces a choice that threatens her loyalty, her heart . . . and everything she thought she knew.

This has been on my radar for quite some time (being compared to Kristin Cashore's Graceling caught my eye) and unfortunately was relegated to the bottom of the reading pile. It was such an enjoyable read I wish I'd read it earlier! Mistwood is another high fantasy title, and one of the best things about it in my opinion was it's simplicity. It might sound as if I'm giving it a backwards compliment, but allow me to explain. When I read a high fantasy title, the reason that they are a hit or miss for me is mostly because they're (in my opinion) unnecessarily complicated. Half the time there's so many characters and sub-plots to follow and political alliances to chart out that I just end up losing interest. Mistwood concentrates mostly on Isabel throughout the whole novel, with touches on the political climate and the secondary characters' place in it, so the focus is never far away from her. Most people would think this detracts from the development of the secondary characters, but that's far from it. Clarisse was probably one of the most intriguing characters I've encountered in a long time due to the fact that she's so well developed you have no clue where her loyalties lie. Probably the only character I felt could've been developed more was Kaer, but I was pleased with the development of all the others.

The writing of Mistwood was solid in its simplicity. It wasn't complicated for the sake of being haughty, but still managed to be very eloquent and to the point. Its themes of understanding one's self in the midst of other people's expectations, loyalty, and being careful of who you trust, are well illustrated and woven throughout the book. Isabel's plight is really well explored, plus I love a good story that explores what it means to be human. I have to give the plot a lot of credit, I was guessing right up until the end of the novel, which is saying something. The only thing I had a beef with was that I didn't think the romance was explored enough. It's understandable to think that Isabel could love Rokan because of her nature and the fact that he's the first person she's seen etc. I felt I needed to see some more interaction to believe that Rokan could love her back, it just didn't feel real on his end. Aside from that, I loved all aspects of this book, another one of my best reads for the year so far.

Another good example of YA high fantasy. If you're constantly frustrated by overarching plots and more characters to keep track of than students in your classroom, read this instead!

Thoughts on the cover:
I love the purple colour scheme (purple is an underrepresented colour in your average book cover). I also like how the lavender flowers blend in with the mist/fog of the castle so you think you're actually looking at the Mistwood itself. Isabel's head is photoshopped nicely too, well blended. I like how they showed the Shifter's famous green eyes, and the fact that they used her default hair colour (red-brown) rather than the blonde she purposely uses.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Sky Is Everywhere - Jandy Nelson

Title: The Sky Is Everywhere
Author: Jandy Nelson
Publisher: Dial Books, 2010 (Hardcover)
Length: 272 pages
Genre: Young Adult; Realistic Fiction
Started: June 17, 2010
Finished: June 17, 2010

From the author's website:
Seventeen-year-old Lennie Walker, bookworm and band geek, plays second clarinet and spends her time tucked safely and happily in the shadow of her fiery older sister, Bailey. But when Bailey dies abruptly, Lennie is catapulted to center stage of her own life--and, despite her nonexistent history with boys, suddenly finds herself struggling to balance two. Toby was Bailey's boyfriend; his grief mirrors Lennie's own. Joe is the new boy in town, a transplant from Paris whose nearly magical grin is matched only by his musical talent. For Lennie, they're the sun and the moon; one boy takes her out of her sorrow, the other comforts her in it. But just like their celestial counterparts, they can't collide without the whole wide world exploding.

I never would've read a book like this before my grandmother died, but now that I've experienced grief on that level, I feel like I can actually relate to these types of books. The Sky Is Everywhere is a story of Lennie going through the grief process after her older sister Bailey suddenly dies. It explores what grief does to a person and how it affects your choices. If you've ever experienced a loss like that or know someone who has, you know that grief does crazy things to a person and their behaviour will be affected by it. It's also a story of moving on with your life after a loss, and learning to live your life without that person in it, and this is where the book shines. The book blew me away; it was funny, sad, exasperating, and joyous all at the same time. Lennie is amazingly real as a character, and her feelings are magnified as you read through the snippets of vignettes, poems, and musings that are shown on little pieces of paper or objects interspersed throughout the novel. The love triangle is especially well-handled, Lennie is madly in love with Joe because he represents a new start (it helps that he never met Bailey), but is drawn to Toby because he is really the only one that is grieving on the same level as her. Even though I found myself berating Lennie for getting involved with Toby when she clearly needed to move on and get with Joe, I couldn't fault her for it because I know you do some pretty messed up things when you're grieving. The sky and colour imagery is just all over the place here, and is representative of coming alive after a part of you has died. This book is awesome on so many levels, it's hard to verbalize it, but this is a must-read book, if for nothing else than Lennie's hilarious narrating.

Read this! Just read it!

Thoughts on the cover:
Considering how difficult it would be to pick an appropriate image for the cover, they did all right. Could've done without the heart shaped petal though and just stuck with the brilliant sky photo.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Epitaph Road - David Patneaude

Title: Epitaph Road
Author: David Patneaude
Publisher: Egmont USA, 2010 (Hardcover)
Length: 266 apges
Genre: Young Adult; Dystopian Fiction
Started: June 14, 2010
Finished: June 16, 2010

2097 is a transformed world. Thirty years earlier, a mysterious plague wiped out 97 percent of the male population, devastating every world system from governments to sports teams, and causing both universal and unimaginable grief. In the face of such massive despair, women were forced to take over control of the planet--and in doing so they eliminated all of Earth's most pressing issues. Poverty, crime, warfare, hunger . . . all gone.

But there's a price to pay for this new "utopia," which fourteen-year-old Kellen is all too familiar with. Every day, he deals with life as part of a tiny minority that is purposefully kept subservient and small in numbers. His career choices and relationship options are severely limited and controlled. He also lives under the threat of scattered recurrences of the plague, which seem to pop up wherever small pockets of men begin to regroup and grow in numbers.

And then one day, his mother's boss, an iconic political figure, shows up at his home. Kellen overhears something he shouldn't--another outbreak seems to be headed for Afterlight, the rural community where his father and a small group of men live separately from the female-dominated society. Along with a few other suspicious events, like the mysterious disappearances of Kellen's progressive teacher and his Aunt Paige, Kellen is starting to wonder whether the plague recurrences are even accidental. No matter what the truth is, Kellen cares only about one thing--he has to save his father.

As soon as I read the summary for this book, I knew I had to read it, the plot sounded incredible. It delivers on that front.

Kellen Dent is 14 years old in 2097, living in a world devastated by Elisha's Bear, a virus that killed 97% of the world's male population thirty years earlier. Now an agency called the PAC regulates the remaining men's behaviour, as well as the number of new baby boys allowed to be born. Boys are treated as second-class citizens and options for their futures are limited in a world run by women.

Epitaph Road asks questions my history teachers and professors have been asking for years: would the world be a different place if it were run by women rather than men? There's no question that Kellen's world was headed for disaster before the virus struck-social systems were exhausted, the environment was stressed beyond repair, and crime rates were at an all-time high. Kellen himself even admits that the world he lives in is much improved, except for the restrictions placed upon men, and anyone would sympathize with the male characters when upon reading about the hurdles they have to jump through just to be viewed as safe and suitable to be around the female majority. I loved the plot of this novel, and the world-building is well-established in the first half of the book. Unfortunately, even though the plot is unique and promising, the development of the characters really falls flat. Kellen is easy to identify with because of what he has to go through as a boy, but the young female characters, Tia and Sunday, are so one-dimensional it hurts. Readers never get to see what makes them tick, their actions would've made sense if they perhaps lost a relative to Elisha's Bear and thus wanted to help Kellen because they identified with him, but we never anything that deep. I would've also liked to see the adult characters explored a little more, like Kellen's mom and the director of the PAC, their characters were really intriguing.

There was one really clever thing I absolutely loved: the epitaphs that begin each chapter. The book's namesake is a roadside memorial with revolving electronic epitaphs for all the male victims of Elisha's Bear. The author begins each chapter with an epitaph for a victim, so you get little snippets of the variety of people that died, from infant baby boys to newlywed husbands to abusive ex-partners. It provokes empathy and really makes you feel the scope of the epidemic, it actually made me think about what I would do if all the men in my life were to perish all at once in a similar manner. This books poses some extremely thought-provoking questions, and although I was disappointed about the lack of character depth, I still really enjoyed it.

It's worth a read if just for the thought-provoking plot, but if you're big on character development you won't find that here.

Thoughts on the cover:
The cover is kinda bleh. I like the image of Kellen walking on Epitaph Road, but the girls' faces in the sky don't make much sense unless they're supposed to represent the oppression of men by the female majority, but they just end up looking creepy. An alternate cover (from the ARC I think) is circulating around the internet, and even though it's not fancy either, I like it much better (see below).

Monday, June 14, 2010

Brightly Woven - Alexandra Bracken

Title: Brightly Woven
Author: Alexandra Bracken
Publisher: Egmont USA, 2010 (Hardcover)
Length: 354 pages
Genre: Young Adult; Fantasy
Started: June 12, 2010
Finished: June 14, 2010

From the author's website:
Sydelle Mirabil is living proof that, with a single drop of rain, a life can be changed forever. Tucked away in the farthest reaches of the kingdom, her dusty village has suffered under the weight of a strangely persistent drought. That is, of course, until a wizard wanders into town and brings the rain with him.

In return for this gift, Wayland North is offered any reward he desires—and no one is more surprised than Sydelle when, without any explanation, he chooses her. Taken from her home, Sydelle hardly needs encouragement to find reasons to dislike North. He drinks too much and bathes too little, and if that isn’t enough to drive her to madness, North rarely even uses the magic he takes such pride in possessing. Yet, it’s not long before she realizes there’s something strange about the wizard, who is as fiercely protective of her as he is secretive about a curse that turns his limbs a sinister shade of black and leaves him breathless with agony. Unfortunately, there is never a chance for her to seek answers.

Along with the strangely powerful quakes and storms that trace their path across the kingdom, other wizards begin to take an inexplicable interest in her as well, resulting in a series of deadly duels. Against a backdrop of war and uncertainty, Sydelle is faced with the growing awareness that these events aren’t as random as she had believed—that no curse, not even that of Wayland North, is quite as terrible as the one she herself may carry.

This book has been on my radar for some time and would have read it sooner, but none of the bookstores in my area had it in stock so I had to wait for the library to get it in. As we speak I am ordering my own copy off because I must own it, it's just that good. The summary above from the author's website is the best summary I've found thus far, and is a better summary than I could give, so I won't waste my time on explaining anything plot-wise and get right to the good stuff.

Brightly Woven is high-fantasy (wizards, dragons, medieval-ish far-off places with hard to pronounce place names etc.), compared to the urban fantasy novels that have been dominating the young adult palate lately. High fantasy novels are either a hit or a miss for me depending on how they're written, and this one succeeds because of an almost perfect balance between plot and character development, each is developed just right without sacrificing at the expense of the other. Right off the bat you're introduced to Sydelle (Syd) and North and both develop together as they go on their journey. Sydelle narrates, but you almost forget that because North has a big presence in this novel, which gives readers a more balanced view of the characters, something hard to achieve in a first-person narration. I'm going to gush over the characters for a minute because I just love them. Sydelle (I love her name), is fiery, determined, and just a little naive, a really likable female character. North begins as your typical flawed brute but becomes truly admirable as you see how much he really loves Syd and how committed he is to his task despite how he suffers. Even the secondary characters are great additions, my personal favourite being Owain. The romance between Syd and North is handled wonderfully; gentle and well-paced, the author shows you rather than tells you the point at which their feelings towards each other change. The romance was portrayed with realistic faults, which I liked, it made the relationship that much more believable. My only complaint about this book was that I wish it had been longer, and only because I loved this particular romance so much I wished there was more of it! The book really endears you to it once things start unravelling and everything plot-wise is pieced together, it gives the relationship clarity when viewed in context to the plot. The world-building was very well-done too, I liked how the two nations were shown as revering sister goddesses, each one with a different skill. The plot was so well-done that even though this book is a one-shot, it could easily be made into a series, and this is one of the few books that I've read and actually want to be made into a series, or at least have a sequel. This novel is just beautiful, it actually made me smile as I was reading it, one of my favourite books so far this year.

If you're looking for a fantasy novel with a great plot and a wonderfully portrayed romance, read this! This is one of a very few books that manages plot and character development equally well (always a common complaint of mine while reading high fantasy).

Thoughts on the cover:
For a cover that's just a profile of a character's face, it does it really well. I like the thunder in the background, it brings to mind how the book starts and ends. I like how Syd's skin is so bright (not in terms of colour, more like clarity), and how you can clearly see her red hair (I love red-headed heroines). Lastly, I love the touch of green in the font.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Red Pyramid - Rick Riordan

Title: The Red Pyramid (The Kane Chronicles Book 1)
Author: Rick Riordan
Publisher: Disney Hyperion Books for Children, 2010 (Hardcover)
Length: 516 pages
Genre: Children's Fantasy/Adventure
Started: June 5, 2010
Finished: June 12, 2010

Since their mother’s death, Carter and Sadie have become near strangers. While Sadie has lived with her grandparents in London, her brother has traveled the world with their father, the brilliant Egyptologist Dr. Julius Kane.

One night, Dr. Kane brings the siblings together for a “research experiment” at the British Museum, where he hopes to set things right for his family. Instead, he unleashes the Egyptian god Set, who banishes him to oblivion and forces the children to flee for their lives.

Soon, Sadie and Carter discover that the gods of Egypt are waking, and the worst of them—Set—has his sights on the Kanes. To stop him, the siblings embark on a dangerous journey across the globe—a quest which brings them ever closer to the truth about their family, and their links to a secret order that has existed since the time of the pharaohs.

I loved Riordan's Percy Jackson books, they're one of the main reasons why I started reading children's book again. When I started reading The Red Pyramid and realized it was trying to be a clone of Percy Jackson with a few differences, I didn't really mind so much. The only problem is that it doesn't quite match up to Percy. The Red Pyramid was good mind you, it just could've been better.

The book's narration alternates every few chapters between siblings Carter and Sadie Kane. Sometimes alternate narrations don't work for me, but this one was okay, and it was fairly easy to tell the difference between the voices because both protagonists were very individual and well-developed. I also loved the fact that the kids were bi-racial, it's really hard to find characters in children's books that aren't white, and making them mixed was even better. Carter takes after their father, so he looks black, whereas Sadie takes after their mother and looks white, so the kids have to deal with people thinking they aren't really related and their dad tells Carter that people will judge him differently than Sadie because of how he looks. Carter even relates how he's been followed several times by police since he was eleven, so there's a lot of good discussion topics relating to race and bi-racial heritage. So yes, bi-racial main characters = good.

Aside from those differences, the story follows Riordan's previous books. The Egyptian gods are alive in the modern world like the OLympian gods, except they don't have their own mortal bodies and need to take over a human body to have a form outside the spiritual world. The Kane family is descended from the line of Pharaohs, and Carter and Sadie are born with a lot of natural magical power. Their father tries to summon the god Osiris to bring their mother back from the dead, but he releases five gods instead (Osiris, Horus, Isis, Set, and Nephthys) and ends up being captured by Set who wants to destroy the world. The kids have a few days before Set is powerful enough to accomplish his task, so they seek help from various gods to aid them in their fight against Set. Not only that, Carter and Sadie they find out that they're housing the spirits of Horus and Isis, and are targets of The House of Life, an ancient organization that seeks to prevent the spirits of the gods from having power on earth by taking human hosts. So of course they go on this huge journey from Egypt to Paris to London to the US to find allies and escape the magicians from The House of Life that are hunting them. With them are the cat goddess Bast, as well as other Egyptian gods and goddesses that crop up (Thoth, Anubis etc.). This is where The Red Pyramid loses steam, the book really starts to lag in the last half and I felt that some of the parts could've been cut out to make a shorter story. Not that I'm scared off by a long book, but this book felt long for no reason, a lot of the time I forgot where the kids were and why they were there and what they were supposed to be doing. Granted, the book still kept my attention even though it wandered at times since the plot moves along quickly. The dialogue is colloquial and humorous, so kids'll love it. Carter and Sadie relate to each other more along the way, and it's nice to see sibling characters get along. It'll be nice to see where this story goes, so I probably be picking up the rest of the trilogy (presently planned as a trilogy), although if all the books have the same issues as this first one, they'll be a bit of a pain to get through.

If you're a fan of the Percy Jackson series, read this! Just keep in mind that you may have issues with it's length and pacing.

Thoughts on the cover:
I love the red, brown, and gold colour scheme, the shiny hieroglyphs, and the fact that (at least with Carter), you can tell the kids aren't white (yay for lack of white-washing on the cover!).

Friday, June 11, 2010

Perchance to Dream - Lisa Mantchev

Title: Perchance to Dream
Author: Lisa Mantchev
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends, 2010 (Hardcover)
Length: 333 pages
Genre: Young Adult; Fantasy
Started: June 4, 2010
Finished: June 11, 2010

From the inside cover:
We are such stuff as dreams are made on.

Act Two, Scene One

Growing up in the enchanted Thèâtre Illuminata, Beatrice Shakespeare Smith learned everything about every play ever written. She knew the Players and their parts, but she didn’t know that she, too, had magic. Now, she is the Mistress of Revels, the Teller of Tales, and determined to follow her stars. She is ready for the outside world.


But the outside world soon proves more topsy-turvy than any stage production. Bertie can make things happen by writing them, but outside the protective walls of the Thèâtre, nothing goes as planned. And her magic cannot help her make a decision between—

Nate: Her suave and swashbuckling pirate, now in mortal peril.

Ariel: A brooding, yet seductive, air spirit whose true motives remain unclear.

When Nate is kidnapped and taken prisoner by the Sea Goddess, only Bertie can free him. She and her fairy sidekicks embark on a journey aboard the Thèâtre’s caravan, using Bertie’s word magic to guide them. Along the way, they collect a sneak-thief, who has in his possession something most valuable, and meet The Mysterious Stranger, Bertie’s father—and the creator of the scrimshaw medallion. Bertie’s dreams are haunted by Nate, whose love for Bertie is keeping him alive, but in the daytime, it’s Ariel who is tantalizingly close, and the one she is falling for. Who does Bertie love the most? And will her magic be powerful enough to save her once she enters the Sea Goddess’s lair?

Once again, LISA MANTCHEV has spun a tale like no other—full of romance, magic, adventure, and fairies, too—that readers won’t want to put down, even after the curtain has closed.

Eyes Like Stars was probably one of the best books I've read so far this year, so of course when I found out that the author was writing a sequel, Perchance to Dream became one of my most anticipated reads. It doesn't disappoint either, the same things I loved about Eyes Like Stars are in Perchance to Dream. The dialogue is intelligent and witty with a lot of theatre references, and the fairies (Moth, Cobweb, Mustardseed, and Peaseblossom) are hilarious and steal the show. The book takes place right after Eyes Like Stars ends and there isn't a lot of a recap, so some readers might want to read Eyes Like Stars again for a refresher. Bertie and company are off to rescue Nate from Sedna's clutches and find Bertie's father, and even though everything Bertie writes comes true, things aren't easy for the traveling troupe.

The whole journey motif was a little crazy at times. Since they weren't confined to the theatre anymore it was sometimes hard to follow exactly where everyone was and what was happening, whereas I didn't have that issue in Eyes Like Stars. That was probably my only complaint about the book, everything else just comes together in a wonderful little literary package. The writing is incredible, witty, the love triangle is actually well presented, and of course, there's the fairies. I can't get over how much I love these fairies, I was laughing my head off reading their dialogue. I also liked how this book talks more about Bertie's view of herself, both in terms of her relationships with the boys and her own powers since discovering her parentage. There aren't enough words to describe how imaginative and impressive the story is, it's really something you just have to read for yourself and get on the fan bandwagon. There is still the third book left to conclude to story, so of course that's already on my list of must-reads for next year.

If you've read Eyes Like Stars, you've already read this by now. If not, read the first book so you can get hooked on this series like everyone else!

Thoughts on the cover:
I'm going to take a minute to gush about this cover artist for a minute. The artist, Jason Chan, is officially my favourite cover artist. I didn't realize it at the time, but he's done covers for some books I've already read. I don't think it's a coincidence that I've loved all the books he's done covers for: Eyes Like Stars and The Girl Who Could Fly (both read back in February), and he's also drawn the UK cover art for The Hunger Games (those really well-drawn pics of Katniss and Peeta that are circulating around the internet). His cover for Perchance to Dream is amazing, I love how Bertie is in Ariel's arms but is looking up towards Nate. Can't wait to see the cover for the third book (and he'd better be the cover artist!).

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Ash - Malinda Lo

Title: Ash
Author: Malinda Lo
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company, 2009 (Hardcover)
Length: 264 pages
Genre: Young Adult; Fantasy, Fairy Tale
Started: June 9, 2010
Finished: June 9, 2010

From the inside cover:
In the wake of her father’s death, Ash is left at the mercy of her cruel stepmother. Consumed with grief, her only joy comes by the light of the dying hearth fire, re-reading the fairy tales her mother once told her. In her dreams, someday the fairies will steal her away, as they are said to do. When she meets the dark and dangerous fairy Sidhean, she believes that her wish may be granted.

The day that Ash meets Kaisa, the King’s Huntress, her heart begins to change. Instead of chasing fairies, Ash learns to hunt with Kaisa. Though their friendship is as delicate as a new bloom, it reawakens Ash’s capacity for love—and her desire to live. But Sidhean has already claimed Ash for his own, and she must make a choice between fairy tale dreams and true love.

Entrancing, empowering, and romantic, Ash is about the connection between life and love, and solitude and death, where transformation can come from even the deepest grief.

It took me forever to get a hold of this book from the library, and I probably should have just bought a copy in the first place since it's so good I'll be buying my own copy anyway. This book has received so many accolades and awards, and once you read it you'll see why. To be blunt, Ash is a lesbian retelling of Cinderella, I'll get that out right now. Some people will be immediately put-off by that, and that's okay, but for those of you that don't scare easily, you'll be in for an amazing book. Ash is about more than just a lesbian love story. It follows some parts of the Cinderella story fairly well: Aisling (pronounced ASH-ling) loses both her parents when she is 12, first her mother and then her father shortly after he remarries. Her stepmother is cruel and makes her work as a servant, she has a fairy godparent (of sorts, with a twist), and a love interest, though it isn't Prince Charming. Ash finds herself in love with the King's Huntress, Kaisa (pronounced Ky-sa). The romance is handled beautifully, it's very sweet, not overtly sexual at all, just very sweet but not in a saccharine way.

I love how the author handled the fairy aspect in this book. Ash's mother was a believer of the old magic and superstitions, so she believed in fairies. This was transferred to Ash, especially after her mother dies. She encounters Sidhean (pronounced "Sheen") while sleeping by her mother's grave. All the fairy lore suggests she'll be captured and consumed, but Sidhean just takes her home. Eventually we find out he is in love with her and grants her wishes to spend time with Kaisa in return that she give herself to him. This brings an added element to the story since Ash doesn't really meet up with Kasia until the second part of the book, so from the time she is 13 until she meets Kasia around age 18, Sidhean is the main relationship in her life (though not a romantic one). It's obvious to readers that Sidhean likes Ash and she at least feels something towards him, so you're never really sure if she'll end up going with Sidhean or with Kasia. Not to make it out to be a heterosexual vs. homosexual thing, it's just not obvious right off the bat, I saw it as she can choose either way, the fact that one love interest was male and one female never really mattered in my mind. Homosexuality seems to even be permissible in Ash's world, at least lesbianism. It's commonly accepted that the Huntress will take female lovers, there's even a tale Kaisa tells revolving around that. I don't know if it's just a special thing for the Huntress or members of the Royal Hunt, or if it's acceptable for everyone in Ash's world, but it seemed like nothing out of the ordinary.

The book is written beautifully, the prose reminiscent of older style fairy tales. The characters are very likable: Ash is comfortably headstrong and just a little bit vulnerable and naive. Sidhean is a good old-fashioned portrayal of a fairy, very cold and calculating except when it comes to Ash. Kaisa is a strong female figure, being the Huntress and all. The world building is established quickly and sufficiently, you really get a sense of the contrast between the belief in the old fairy legends versus the teachings of the philosophers.

Again, if you're not put-off by the lesbian aspect, you'll love this book. It has wonderfully well-developed characters, it's exquisitely written, and the author even stuck with the fireplace imagery for her heroine's name (Cinderella/Cinders -- >Aisling/Ashes). If you're open-mined, you'll enjoy this story no matter what your romantic preferences.

Thoughts on the cover:
I like it. Ash is curled up on the ground sleeping just like she is described so often in the book. I like how the cover is in black and white with title being the only hint of colour.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Spells - Aprilynne Pike

Title: Spells
Author: Aprilynne Pike
Publisher: Harper Teen, 2010 (Hardcover)
Length: 359 pages
Genre: Young Adult; Fantasy
Started: June 3, 2010
Finished: June 4, 2010

From the author's website:
Six months have passed since Laurel saved the gateway to the faerie realm of Avalon. Now she must spend her summer there, honing her skills as a Fall faerie. But her human family and friends are still in mortal danger--and the gateway to Avalon is more compromised than ever.

When it comes time to protect those she loves, will she depend on David, her human boyfriend, for help? Or will she turn to Tamani, the electrifying faerie with whom her connection is undeniable?

I wasn't nuts about Wings when I read it last month, but reading Spells has made me reconsider my feelings of this series. Spells benefits from the world building of Wings and it can get right down to business without fussing over reviewing everything. Laurel is summoned to Avalon over the summer for something like a crash course in being a Fall faerie. This was my favourite part of the book because it further developed the faerie universe and of course, more Tamani! Whereas David was the key guy in Wings with Tamani being introduced later, Laurel spends the first half of the book with Tamani and David only shows up in the last half. The love triangle is more developed in this book as Laurel is torn between thinking of living in Avalon in the future or remaining in the human world. Tamani of course wants her to fulfill her responsibilities as a faerie whereas David tells her to do what she wants regardless. Laurel is also realizing that being a faerie living in the human realm isn't so easy. Things that work for her as a faerie don't work so well for humans, she has to hide her blossom, and of course there's those trolls out for revenge. It really developed Laurel, Tamani, and even David as characters and showed that they really are quite conflicted, so I'm very happy my concerns with the first book were fixed upon reading Spells. It really makes me want to finish the series and see what path Laurel will choose, because it could go either way. With that in mind, I love how the author made Shar yell at Laurel at the end, Laurel was being a bitch and needed to know it. The plot is thickened right at the end, so I am eagerly awaiting book 3, whenever it will come out.

If you read Wings and loved it, then you've probably already read this. If you read Wings and weren't nuts about it (like me), give Spells a try before you dismiss the series altogether, it's well worth the read.

Thoughts on the cover:
Good continuity with the Wings cover, but this one didn't wow me like the Wings cover.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Necromancer - Michael Scott

Title: The Necromancer (Book 4 in The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series)
Author: Michael Scott
Publisher: Delacorte Press, 2010 (Hardcover)
Length: 388 pages
Genre: Young Adult; Fantasy
Started: May 31, 2010
Finished: June 2, 2010

From the inside cover:
San Francisco:
After fleeing to Ojai, then Paris, and escaping to London, Josh and Sophie Newman are finally home. And after everything they've seen and learned in the past week, they're both more confused than ever about their future.
Neither of them has mastered the magics they'll need to protect themselves from the Dark Elders, they've lost Scatty, and they're still being pursued by Dr. John Dee. Most disturbing of all, however, is that now they must ask themselves, can they trust Nicholas Flamel?
Can they trust anyone?

Dr. Dee underestimated Perenelle Flamel's power. Alcatraz could not hold her, Nereus was no match for her, and she was able to align herself with the most unlikely of allies.

But she wasn't the only one being held on the island.

Behind the prison's bars and protective sigils were a menagerie of monsters-an army for Dee to use in the final battle. And now Machiavelli has come to Alcatraz to loose those monsters on San Francisco.
Perenelle might be powerful, but each day she weakens, and even with Nicholas back at her side, a battle of this size could be too much for her. Nicholas and Perenelle must fight to protect the city, but the effort will probably kill them both.

Having been unable to regain the two final pages of the Codex, Dee has failed his Elder and is now an outlaw-and the new prey of all the creatures formerly sent to hunt down Flamel.
But Dee has a plan. With the Codex and the creatures on Alcatraz, he can control the world. All he needs is the help of the Archons.
But for his plan to work, he must raise the Mother of the Gods from the dead. For that, he'll have to train a necromancer.

This series is so many kinds of awesome, you just have to read it and join the masses that already love it. The first book in this series, The Alchemyst, first came out in 2007, so it's had a few years to garner readers. I joined the bandwagon when book 2, The Magician, came out in 2008. My nephew, who will be begging me to drive over and let him him borrow this book now that I'm done with it, got addicted last year when The Sorceress came out. For those of you that aren't familiar with this series, let me give you a quick summary. This series is a brilliant urban fantasy that includes mythological figures from every tradition in a unique world-building setup. Essentially the world is ending because waring factions of gods either want to save the world or destroy it. Immortal humans Nicholas and Perenelle Flamel search for the "twins of legend" that have the power to influence the earth's fate in either direction. Twins Sophie and Josh Newman are just those twins, each working under the "Flemings" for their summer jobs. With various historical figures (made immortal in this universe) chasing them, the twins need to come into their natural powers and decide who to trust when all they seem to be hearing is lies from all sides. The whole series thus far has taken place over the course of a week, so there's a lot happening in a short span of time and you really need to keep track of everything that's going on. What's unique about this series is the immortals themselves. The gods chose humans they like and give them immortality, and the immortals are all famous historical figures like John Dee, Niccolo Machiavelli, Billy the Kid, Miyamoto Musashi, Joan of Arc, and William Shakespeare! The combination of mythological figures and historical figures just makes my geeky self giddy, I love when new characters are introduced because it's fun to see how the author writes their personalities. My personal favourite is Machiavelli, not just because he's Italian, but because he's really more complex than he seems. Plus he's a such a jerk, and I love my bastard characters.

Anywhoo, enough of the series in general, on to this specific book. Dee is on the run from his master because he's failed miserably thus far, Nicholas and Perenelle are still aging and the threat of dying very close on the horizon, the monsters on Alcatraz are waiting to be released and wreak havoc on the human population, and everyone wants the twins on their side. I think what's most apparent is the lying. Sophie and Josh both know that they're being lied to by everyone, especially the Flamels, but they can't get a straight answer out of anyone. The twins are purposely kept ignorant by all parties because everyone wants the twins on their respective side because of their power. Being teenagers, they hate being lied to, so you just know this is going to blow up in everyone's face eventually. It's like watching a car crash, you know what's coming but you can't stop any of it. You also see more of how much their experiences and powers have changed the twins, and each in different ways. It doesn't take a brain surgeon to see what's coming, but that doesn't mean you don't enjoy the ride any less. The book is structured just like the previous ones-each chapter covers the perspectives of different characters in different areas (Sophie and Josh with the Flamels, Scathach and Joan in their Shadowrealm, Dee outrunning the various things out hunting him etc). Usually a series this long (6 planned books) starts to lag by this point, but luckily that's not the case here. All the books are very plot-driven, and there's a lot happening so there's no room for things to be boring.

If you're already a fan of the series, you've probably already read this. If not, start with book 1 (The Alchemyst), become a fan, and read this!

Thoughts on the cover:
This series has great continuity between all the covers, this time we have the black colour scheme with the appropriate symbols represented in the novel (including kanji, yay!). With only two novels left, I should take bets on what colours they will be...I say green and orange.