Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Haunted - Jessica Verday

Title: The Haunted
Author: Jessica Verday
Publisher: Simon Pulse, 2010 (Paperback, UK)
Length: 467 pages
Genre: Young Adult; Fantasy
Started: October 29, 2010
Finished: October 31, 2010

After a summer spent reclaiming her sanity and trying to forget the boy she fell in love with--the boy who must not exist, cannot exist, because she knows that he is dead--Abbey returns to Sleepy Hollow, ready to leave the ghosts of her past behind. She throws herself into her schoolwork, her perfume-making, and her friendship with Ben, her cute and funny lab partner, who just might be her ticket to getting over Caspian once and for all.

But Abbey can never get over Caspian, and Caspian has no choice but to return to her side, for Caspian is a Shade, and Abbey is his destiny. They are tied not only to each other, but also to the town of Sleepy Hollow, and to the famous legend that binds their fates--a legend whose dark truths they are only beginning to guess....

After reading The Hollow and loving it despite the almost agonizing pace it takes to get into the main plot, I knew The Haunted could only get better, and I was right. If anyone read The Hollow and had some reservations about it and continuing with the series, I can promise you that you'll like The Haunted and will probably change your mind about the series after reading it. If you read The Hollow and loved it as I did, you'll be over the moon after reading The Haunted.

The Haunted opens with Abbey preparing to return to Sleepy Hollow after spending months away with her great aunt recovering from the shock to her system she received at the end of The Hollow. As much as she tries to believe that she imagined all the supernatural elements she witnessed, Abbey knows that they are achingly real and she must come to terms with the events of Kristen's death, Nikolas and Katy, and Caspian himself...and Abbey is about to learn things about her purpose in meeting Caspian that will test her courage and her love.

All the plot points that were left dangling in The Hollow get more spotlight here: Kristen's death, the Sleepy Hollow legend of Nikolas and Katy, and Caspian himself. We see why Caspian and Abbey are so drawn to each other, and there's lots of cutesy scenes with the two of Caspian being jealous of Ben is just so funny, that boy has one heck of a sense of humour. I really admire how the author managed to write really sensual scenes (nothing smutty and inappropriate mind you, but not sugary sweet either) even though Caspian and Abbey can't actually touch each that is good writing. The author also writes about Kristen in such a way that you feel her presence as a character even though she's dead and you only hear about her from other characters. I can't give away much more about the plot for fear of spoilers, but it's good, well worth the wait readers endured in The Hollow.

The book ends on yet another cliff hanger that will make you want to time-travel to this time next year so you can read the third and final book, but the first two books will have to tide us over until then. I will definitely be picking up the third book and will be eagerly awaiting it.

If you liked The Hollow, you'll adore The Haunted. If you weren't nuts about The Hollow, give The Haunted a go and see if it doesn't change your mind about the series (I think it will).

Thoughts on the cover:
One thing I love about living in Canada is that we get so many imported products from the UK. The version of The Haunted I read for this review is actually the UK paperback copy (saved me the extra money of buying the US hardcover edition). The covers for both UK and US contain the same kind of image (one of Abbey's perfume bottles), just portrayed differently. The UK cover is oh so pink and girly while the US cover has a bit of a darker edge to it (same as The Hollow's cover just with a perfume bottle). Again, I'm not a big fan of either cover, but at least both these covers use a more unique image (a perfume bottle) as opposed to that darned necklace cliche from The Hollow that graces too many YA covers.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Hollow - Jessica Verday

Title: The Hollow
Author: Jessica Verday
Publisher: Simon Pulse, 2010 (Paperback)
Length: 509 pages
Genre: Young Adult; Realistic Fiction, Fantasy
Started: October 25, 2010
Finished: October 27, 2010

From the back of the book:
When Abbey's best friend, Kristen, vanishes at the bridge near Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, everyone else is all too quick to accept that Kristen is dead…and rumors fly that her death was no accident. Abbey goes through the motions of mourning her best friend, but privately, she refuses to believe that Kristen is really gone. Then she meets Caspian, the gorgeous and mysterious boy who shows up out of nowhere at Kristen's funeral, and keeps reappearing in Abbey's life. Caspian clearly has secrets of his own, but he's the only person who makes Abbey feel normal again...but also special.

Just when Abbey starts to feel that she might survive all this, she learns a secret that makes her question everything she thought she knew about her best friend. How could Kristen have kept silent about so much? And could this secret have led to her death? As Abbey struggles to understand Kristen's betrayal, she uncovers a frightening truth that nearly unravels her—one that will challenge her emerging love for Caspian, as well as her own sanity.

Picked this up at the Simon & Schuster preview night weeks ago and finally got around to reading it. What hooked me was when someone mentioned that it deals with the Legend of Sleepy Hollow (it's one of my favourite spooky stories).

Abigail Browning ("Abbey") is 16, living in modern day Sleepy Hollow, NY; and dealing with the recent death of her best friend, Kristen. Not only does Abbey have to deal with rumours about Kristen's mysterious disappearance and death, she has to face her junior year without Kristen. Doing her best to move on with her life, Abbey revels in her perfume making, producing a fragrance for Kristen and continuing with her plans to open her own store in town after graduation. Caspian comes along after appearing at Kristen's funeral and helps Abbey deal with her loss. Abbey eventually uncovers a secret of Kristen's that leads her to question the circumstances of her friend's death, but before she can get any answers her relationship with Caspian begins to change and Abbey finds herself questioning whether or not she's coping as well with Kristen's death as she thought she was.

The one issue some people might have with this book is that even though it's paranormal and deals with the Sleepy Hollow story, there's no paranormal content at all until the last 50 pages or so. The Hollow is part of a planned trilogy (the 2nd book, The Haunted, is already out), so all the unresolved plot points do continue in forthcoming books, so that issue was resolved for me. If you go into this expecting paranormal to the extreme you aren't going to find it, but what you do get is Abbey, wonderful amazing Abbey...can you tell I love this character? Abbey is amazingly normal and relatable as a character, probably one of the more realistic teenage heroines I've encountered. The first person narration allows readers to really understand Abbey's motivations and really get to know her. She doesn't rely too much on Caspian, confronts him when she's not happy with something he's done, her grieving process is realistic, she's appreciative of her parents but also gets frustrated with them, she's just wonderfully normal. Most of the book is Abbey describing her life post-Kristen, and for those people that can't deal with slice-of-life descriptions (since the real meat of the story is right at the end), they might get really frustrated with this novel since you're going to be reading through 400 pages of Abbey being Abbey. Again, I enjoyed it purely because I loved Abbey, but I can see others hating it for this reason. But for those of you that are willing to wait it out, the ending is one that inspires the "OMG I need the next book now!" type of situation (I have book 2 on order at Amazon as we speak).

This first book in a trilogy takes a while to get to the main points, but when it does, oh boy, it will knock you senseless. Give this a go, it has a lot of potential.

Thoughts on the cover:
The cover of the paperback copy I have is the image pictured at the top of this review, which is different than the original hardcover image (pictured to the left). To be honest, I don't like either cover; the old cover is typical - girl with piece of jewelry, and the new cover is typical too - focus on significant piece of jewelry, cause there's always a special piece of jewelry in books like these, but why they think a cover that is just a piece of jewelry can pass for a decent cover I'll never know.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

This World We Live In - Susan Beth Pfeffer

Title: This World We Live In (Book 3 in The Last Survivors series)
Author: Susan Beth Pfeffer
Publisher: Harcourt, 2010 (Hardcover)
Length: 239 pages
Genre: Young Adult; Science Fiction, Dystopian Fiction
Started: October 22, 2010
Finished: October 23, 2010

It's been a year since a meteor collided with the moon, catastrophically altering the earth's climate. For Miranda Evans, life as she knew it no longer exists. Her friends and neighbors are dead, the landscape is frozen, and food is increasingly scarce.
The struggle to survive intensifies when Miranda's father and stepmother arrive with a baby and three strangers in tow. One of the newcomers is Alex Morales, and as Miranda's complicated feelings for him turn to love, his plans for his future thwart their relationship. Then a devastating tornado hits the town of Howell, and Miranda makes a decision that will change their lives forever.

After plowing through the first two books in the series, Life As We Knew It, and The Dead & The Gone, picking up the third book was a no-brainer, especially since it deals with both sets of characters from the first and second books. This World We Live In was shorter than the previous two, so it took less time to get through, but I didn't enjoy it as much as the previous two. I knew as soon as I found out that Miranda and Alex would meet in the third book that they'd be romantically involved, and I have no issue with that (when you're one of the last teenage girls or boys on earth you aren't exactly going to be picky about who you want to be your boyfriend/girlfriend). The romance, however, wasn't very well developed. Again, I can understand two people just getting together for the heck of it in a desperate situation like the one they're in, but it feels really sloppy...Alex and Miranda are fighting and all of a sudden he kisses her and then they're mutually in love...huh? I'm sorry, but the whole thing needs to be more believable, even as a "desperate situation romance" thingie. I liked the issues the book brought up: feeding more people, trusting people that aren't family, and the necessity of moving somewhere safer but the reluctance to leave your home. The book deals with a lot of the same issues as the previous books and the only new issues come about as a result of the two sets of characters merging together, and a lot of that is the romance issues between the various couples, so it isn't as impressive as the previous books.

Not as impressive as the first two books, but you'll want to read it to find out what happens to Miranda's and Alex's families.

Thoughts on the cover:
Love the continuity these covers have. This one focuses back on the Evans' house in Pennsylvania looking more than a little ragged.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Dead & The Gone - Susan Beth Pfeffer

Title: The Dead & The Gone (Book 2 in The Last Survivors series)
Author: Susan Beth Pfeffer
Publisher: Graphia (Houghton Mifflin), 2008 (Paperback)
Length: 308 pages
Genre: Young Adult; Science Fiction, Dystopian Fiction
Started: October 21, 2010
Finished: October 22, 2010

Susan Beth Pfeffer’s Life as We Knew It enthralled and devastated readers with its brutal but hopeful look at an apocalyptic event--an asteroid hitting the moon, setting off a tailspin of horrific climate changes. Now this harrowing companion novel examines the same events as they unfold in New York City, revealed through the eyes of seventeen-year-old Puerto Rican Alex Morales. When Alex's parents disappear in the aftermath of tidal waves, he must care for his two younger sisters, even as Manhattan becomes a deadly wasteland, and food and aid dwindle.

With haunting themes of family, faith, personal change, and courage, this powerful new novel explores how a young man takes on unimaginable responsibilities.

I loved Life As We Knew It. It made me laugh a little, made me cry more, and also made me want to rush out and stock up on canned soup (seriously, you should see our cupboards now, I could run a food bank). Aside from making me realize we're nowhere near prepared enough for a disaster such as what Miranda's family experiences, I've always loved survival stories and this one was addictive. The Dead & The Gone takes place during the same events of Life As We Knew It, but as a companion novel it takes place in a different location and focused on a different set of characters. Alex Morales lives with his mother, father, and two younger sisters in New York City. On the day the meteor hits the moon, Alex's father is in Puerto Rico for a family funeral, his mother is working at her job at a hospital in Queens, and his older brother Carlos is deployed as a Marine. After his aunt and uncle help him gather canned food for storage and later move away, Alex, Bri, and Julie are left to fend for themselves with only their schools and church to depend on. As food dwindles and resources are scarce, Alex and his sisters rely on their faith to sustain them (in addition to the lunch provided at school and the free bags of food once a week that they stand in line for hours for). When the very air they breathe becomes close to poisonous, Alex makes a plan to take his sisters and escape from the city...the only question is how to do so when he has no connections to rely on.

I really liked how the author chose to focus on how a character from completely different circumstances would survive in the same situation. I also liked how she shows how different locations responded to the disaster. New York City saw more of the daily reminder of the death and destruction than Pennsylvania did; Alex and his sisters see corpses eaten by rats in the streets every day whereas Miranda's family's experiences were mostly contained to their individual home and rarely saw the effects on other people. Alex and his sisters also have a better network of support than Miranda's family did. Whereas Miranda's mother was very untrusting and imposed that on her children, Alex and his friends help each other out and he benefits from aid programs from the school and church.

That's not to say Alex's experience is any easier: he alone is responsible for his sisters, he takes on the gruesome task of body looting to barter goods for food to feed his family, he is never quite sure what happened to his parents, and he has to deal with Bri's health issue. The way the author handled the religion issue was well done. I went to catholic schools growing up, and the way the school and church spoke to the students and congregation reminded me of what we would hear in the midst of some crisis. Whereas Miranda handled things by coming up with a reason to hope, Alex's way of coping was praying; so I like how the author showed a religious response in one book and a secular but still spiritual response in the other.

Apparently Alex and Miranda cross paths in the third and final book, so I'm picking that one up next (this series is sooooo addictive!).

Same advice as the first one, just read this, trust me. Just read them in order or else you'll miss out on certain nuances.

Thoughts on the cover:
Same focus on the moon as the first cover, but with a different but still eerie colour scheme and a city scape to reflect New York City. These covers are very appropriate for these books I think, I just really like them.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

One Year Celebratory Give-Away!

Yay, it's contest time!

In honour of Ex Libris' one year of existence, I'll be giving away several of the books I've reviewed this year. The prizes will be:

- 1 boxset of three adult books (Storm Front, Fool Moon, and Grave Peril by Jim Butcher, the first three books in the Dresden Files series)

- 1 Children's book (The Search for WondLa by Tony DiTerlizzi)

- 2 Young Adult books (The Shifter by Janice Hardy and Plain Kate by Erin Bow)

Contest 411:

1) The contest will be open until November 20, 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(s) 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.

Skinned - Robin Wasserman

Title: Skinned
Author: Robin Wasserman
Publisher: Simon Pulse (Simon & Schuster), 2009 (Paperback)
Length: 361 pages
Genre: Young Adult; Science Fiction, Dystopian Fiction
Started: October 17, 2010
Finished: October 21, 2010

From the back of the book:

Dying was bad enough. But it was better than what came next...

Lia Kahn was perfect: rich, beautiful, popular -- until the accident that nearly killed her. Now she has been downloaded into a new body that only looks human. Lia will never feel pain again, she will never age, and she can't ever truly die. But she is also rejected by her friends, betrayed by her boyfriend, and alienated from her old life.

Forced to the fringes of society, Lia joins others like her. But they are looked at as freaks. They are hated...and feared. They are everything but human, and according to most people, this is the ultimate crime -- for which they must pay the ultimate price.

More science fiction than dystopian (though there's quite a few dystopian elements in this), this series is a theologist's dream. Lia lives in a world where children are selected from birth. Their sex, their hair and eye colour, their body-mass index, their IQ, and their looks are all chosen for them to ensure optimum advantages in life. Credit is everything, diseases and mutations are screened out, everyone lives their lives through devices call ViMs (basically glorified iPhones) and even the cars drive themselves. On Lia's last day however, a truck malfunctions and crashes into Lia as she goes to fill in for her sister at her daycare job. Lia is mortally wounded and has little hope of recovering. Desperate, Lia's parents employ a new technology that turns Lia into a cyborg, keeping her brain, personality, and memories into a completely mechanical body. Called Skinners and Mech-Heads, those like Lia aren't look upon kindly by those in her futuristic society-especially by the Faithers (what we would call Bible Thumpers). Everyone's uncomfortable with the new Lia, she's abandoned by her friends, dumped by her boyfriend, and even the other mechs resent her for not embracing her new self.

A lot of the book is simply Lia being introspective about whether she still considers herself human. Although she still retains her memory and personality, she cannot eat, sleep, feel pain, or experience any of the bodily reactions to stimuli she used to. She'll never die either...if her body malfunctions she can be transfered into another body. She knows she's not like humans anymore, but she isn't quite like the other mechs either, so she's not sure where she belongs. This would be a great book to discuss in a psychology or a theology class since the basic question is repeated in various forms over and over again: If you don't have a human body but have the brain/memory/personality of one, does it make you human? Lia gets into an interesting discussion with one of the Faithers where he essentially tells her that she's programmed, she insists she's not, he asks her how she knows she has free will, she retorts that he can't be sure he has it either. In a way, the whole process makes Lia more human because she begins to care less about what other people think, becomes less self-absorbed, and less materialistic...unfortunately every living person in Lia's time is all of those things so it doesn't help her case much.

The novel focuses a lot on these types of deep questions and is slow to get the plot moving, so by the time things get a move on you're practically screaming "Yes, I get it, you're different now, just move on with it!", but then things start happening rather quickly so it makes up for it.

If you're in the mood for a philosophical sci-fi book, read this! This is the first book in a trilogy, so I'll be picking up the other two to see what happens with Lia's story.

Thoughts on the cover:
Love it. It's difficult to see in the image I posted, but if you turn the cover around in the light, you see shiny imprinted images of circuit boards all over Lia's face and body. I like how the cover shows Lia's new body with her unnatural blue eyes.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Happy One-Year Anniversary Ex Libris!

Aww, my brain-child is one year old today ^___^

One year, over 130 reviews, 4 events, plus some treasured signed additions to the collection. All in all, it's been a good year in the life of this bookworm.

Thank you to everyone who visits the blog, reads the posts, leaves comments, and (hopefully) recommends it to others!

As a better gesture of gratitude, there will be a giveaway posted within a couple of days, so stay tuned!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Life As We Knew It - Susan Beth Pfeffer

Title: Life As We Knew It
Author: Susan Beth Pfeffer
Publisher: Harcourt, 2008 (Paperback)
Length: 337 pages
Genre: Young Adult; Dystopian Fiction, Science Fiction
Started: October 14, 2010
Finished: October 16, 2010

Miranda’s disbelief turns to fear in a split second when a meteor knocks the moon closer to the earth. How should her family prepare for the future when worldwide tsunamis wipe out the coasts, earthquakes rock the continents, and volcanic ash blocks out the sun? As summer turns to Arctic winter, Miranda, her two brothers, and their mother retreat to the unexpected safe haven of their sunroom, where they subsist on stockpiled food and limited water in the warmth of a wood-burning stove.

Told in journal entries, this is the heart-pounding story of Miranda’s struggle to hold on to the most important resource of all--hope--in an increasingly desperate and unfamiliar world.

When I picked up this book and looked to the back for a summary, I didn't find one. All I found were recommendation quotes pretty much saying the same thing, "once you start this book, you won't be able to put it down."

The quotes were right.

From the moment I opened the book, I think I plowed through 150 pages in one sitting. The next day I went through just over 100 pages. I finished the rest this morning. If I didn't need to sleep I probably would have finished it all in one sitting, the book was that engrossing.

Miranda is 16 and living with her mom, 18-year-old brother Matt and 13-year-old brother Jon (Jonny). Her parents are divorced and her dad has since remarried and his new wife is expecting a baby. Miranda's mother is dating Peter, a doctor. She's trying to cope with her new family situation, plus the death of one of her best friends, in addition to going to school and getting good grades, not to mention her activities with the swim team. Pretty normal life for a typical teenage girl. All that changes when an asteroid hits the moon.

Apparently everyone underestimated the size of the asteroid and didn't expect the moon to be completely knocked off it's orbit, pushing it closer to the earth and instantly messing with the tides and weather patterns. Even though their Pennsylvania home is spared from the tsunamis and volcanic eruptions, Miranda's mom takes the kids out of school and stocks up on everything they can get their hands on from the local grocery store. Gas goes up to $13 a gallon and the stores close when product doesn't come in. The schools continue to operate. but in limited capacity after half the student population, the teachers, and their families move to seek better conditions further south. Volcanic ash blankets everything and blocks out the sun, causing crops to die and what should be an August summer becomes the first frosts of winter. Services like electricity, gas, and even water stop completely.

One thing I like about this premise is that most books in a dystopian setting take place hundreds of years after the disasters have wrecked our planet and look at the descendants of the survivors in whatever new world order they've built up. This story examines what goes on with the survivors and how they (hopefully) get around to rebuilding the world.

Miranda chronicles her family's experiences in her journal, as well as the harrowing psychological effects of not knowing if there's even a future to inherit in the off chances you survive. This is where the book really shines, it examines the idea of survival when hope is hard to find, of making yourself have a purpose to keep going when all you want to do it sit down and let the inevitable happen. It's pretty bleak and realistic (the family has an unspoken agreement to eat less to give one individual the best chances of surviving) but there's hope at the end so it's not all depressing. There's two more books in the series (not quite sequels, more like companion novels), so I'll definitely be picking those up so I can get more of this.

Pick this up, trust me, you won't be disappointed.

Thoughts on the cover:
I like it, it focuses on the winter scene with the newly positioned moon full in focus. They continue this theme with the following books, so glad to see there's an attempt at coordinating.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Museum of Thieves - Lian Tanner

Title: Museum of Thieves
Author: Lian Tanner
Publisher: Delacorte Press (Random House), September 2010 (Hardcover) (Review copy is an ARC from the publisher)
Length: 312 pages
Genre: Children's Dystopian Fiction
Started: October 10, 2010
Finished: October 14, 2010

From the back of the book:
Welcome to the tyrannical city of Jewel, where impatience is a sin and boldness is a crime.

Goldie Roth has lived in Jewel all her life. Like every child in the city, she wears a silver guardchain and is forced to obey the dreaded Blessed Guardians. She has never done anything by herself and won’t be allowed out on the streets unchained until Separation Day. When Separation Day is canceled, Goldie, who has always been both impatient and bold, runs away, risking not only her own life but also the lives of those she has left behind. In the chaos that follows, she is lured to the mysterious Museum of Dunt, where she meets the boy Toadspit and discovers terrible secrets. Only the cunning mind of a thief can understand the museum’s strange, shifting rooms. Fortunately, Goldie has a talent for thieving. Which is just as well, because the leader of the Blessed Guardians has his own plans for the museum—plans that threaten the lives of everyone Goldie loves. And it will take a daring thief to stop him. . .

I thought of this as a twisted version of The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, which I love. It's also similar in some ways to The Grimm Legacy, which I read over the summer.

The city of Jewel exists in a dystopian future where all dangers have essentially been eliminated. People live in sterile, uber safe environments, and children are literally chained to either The Blessed Guardians or their parents from the time they can walk until age 12. Golden ("Goldie") is a girl that doesn't fit in, mostly because she's not the type to blindly follow and wait for others to tell her what she's permitted to do. Goldie can't wait for Separation Day, when her guardchain will be permanently removed; but when the event is cancelled, she runs away to the Museum of Dunt inside the city looking for a place to hide to avoid those looking for her.

The Museum of Dunt is a strange place inside the city, where all the horrid things from the past that everyone's managed to eradicate over the years sought refuge. The things living in the museum respond to the moods of the outside world, and the rooms constantly shift and change; which means when the Fugleman tries to take power from the Grand Protector, the barely contained elements in the depths of the museum (hunger, famine, war, wild beasts, sickness etc.), threaten to escape. The museum's Keepers need help and recruit Goldie in their task, harnessing her swiftness and agility (thieving skills).

The world-building in this book is amazing. The set-up of the city itself, with extreme examples of helicopter parents and adults who still don't know how to make decisions for themselves because they weren't allowed to do so for so long, can be viewed as a microcosm of the current trends in our society. The Museum itself isn't really a museum in the traditional sense, more like a magical refuge without any concrete boundaries, the museum literally encompasses worlds and past time periods all in what appears on the outside to be a normal stone building. I loved Broo, both a tiny little yappy dog and a huge terrifying brizzlehound at the same time. The way the Keepers explain blending in to Goldie is really creative: Concealment by Sham (pretending to be someone else), Concealment by Camouflage (taking on attributes of your environment), and Concealment by Imitation of Nothingness (ability to appear invisible without actually being invisible). I also love the names these people name their kids: Golden, Favour, Fortitude, Cautiionary, do I sense a jab at the current trend of completely stupid, ridiculous names?

I really like Goldie as a character because of how she's portrayed. Although she is different than the others in Jewel, comparatively she still doesn't know how to make decisions for herself and is pretty helpless at first. What I like about her is that compared to most other heroines in children's books where they seem to naturally have no fear, Goldie admits she's really scared at almost everything she does, but is determined to do what she has to do to help the Keepers save the citizens of Jewel because she knows no one else will do it. She recognizes that she's weak but acknowledges her attempts to be better.

This is the first of a planned trilogy, with the next installment out next year, so I'll definitely be picking up the rest to see where this goes.

And there's one more nice bonus, the audiobook for this novel is read by Claudia Black, one of mine and my husband's favourite sci-fi actors (Farscape, Stargate). I might actually be tempted to purchase it in that format purely because she reads it oh so well.

If you're in the mood for a really well-developed dystopian universe with a unique premise, plus a museum-y environment, read this!

Thoughts on the cover:
I like how we get a nice shot of the museum and what exactly is in it, and only seeing Goldie and Toadspit from the back is a nice touch.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Fool Moon - Jim Butcher

Title: Fool Moon (Book 2 in The Dresden Files series)
Author: Jim Butcher
Publisher: ROC Fantasy (Penguin), 2001 (Paperback)
Length: 342 pages
Genre: Adult; Fantasy
Started: October 7, 2010
Finished: October 10, 2010

From the back of the book:

Lost Items Found. Paranormal Investigations.
Consulting. Advice. Reasonable Rates.
No Love Potions, Endless Purses, Parties or Other Entertainment

Business has been slow. Okay, business has been dead. And not even of the undead variety. You would think Chicago would have a little more action for the only professional wizard in the phone book. But lately, Harry Dresden hasn't been able to dredge up any kind of work — magical or mundane.

But just when it looks like he can't afford his next meal, a murder comes along that requires his particular brand of supernatural expertise.

A brutally mutilated corpse. Strange-looking paw prints. A full moon. Take three guesses — and the first two don't count...

Okay, this series was more addictive than I anticipated, and I fully admit the only reason I'm reading these books is for Harry, he rocks my socks. The plots aren't anything amazing and neither is the writing but I love the characters, Harry most of all, heck I even love can you not love a anthropomorphic talking skull? Anywhoo, if you liked the first Dresden Files book (Storm Front), then it's a no brainer that you'll like the second. The plot is actually a little more exciting than the premise of the first book: werewolves! I like how the author made sense of all the different names for werewolves (werewolf, loup-garou, lycanthropes etc.) and made it so that each name described a different type of creature and how it came to be. There's a lot more information given about Harry and his background, which leads to yet more questions. I also love the inclusion of "Good Harry", there's nothing funnier than seeing Harry talk to his subconscious and get a lecture in the process.

Again, if you've read the first book in the series, read this!

Thoughts on the cover:
I like it better than the first book's cover, I think zooming out on Harry in front of the huge full moon has a nice effect.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Search for WondLa - Tony DiTerlizzi

Title: The Search for WondLa
Author: Tony DiTerlizzi
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Kids, 2010 (Hardcover)
Length: 466 pages
Genre: Children's Science Fiction/Dystopian
Started: September 29, 2010
Finished: October 7, 2010

From the publisher's website:
When a marauder destroys the underground sanctuary that Eva Nine was raised in by the robot Muthr, the twelve-year-year-old girl is forced to flee aboveground. Eva Nine is searching for anyone else like her, for she knows that other humans exist, because of an item she treasures—a scrap of cardboard on which is depicted a young girl, an adult, and a robot, with the strange word, "WondLa." Tony DiTerlizzi honors traditional children's literature in this totally original space age adventure: one that is as complex as an alien planet, but as simple as a child's wish for a place to belong.

Breathtaking two-color illustrations throughout reveal another dimension of Tony DiTerlizzi's vision, and, for those readers with a webcam, the book also features Augmented Reality in several places, revealing additional information about Eva Nine's world.

This is one of those books that is destined to become a classic purely because of the magic and brilliance that went into its creation. Picture a plot similar to The Wizard of Oz with various alien characters similar to Star Wars, and you've got WondLa. This is a great modern fairy tale because it incorporates the sci-fi and dystopian literature that kids and teens love and turns it into a classic story. Twelve-year-old Eva Nine (I tended to pronounce her whole name as one-Evanine- since she is so often referred to by both her names) lives in an underground Sanctuary cared for by her robot caretaker, Muthr. Eva grows up questioning where all the other humans are, and treasures a ratty photo of a robot, an adult, and a little girl and refers to it as WondLa because of the fragments of words she can decipher on it. Muthr always promised her she could seek out other humans once she is ready to survive outside the Sanctuary. She is forced to leave prematurely when Besteel destroys her home, and encounters Rovender Kitts and Otto on her journey to escape the hunter and discover what happened to the other humans on the planet.

I love the descriptions of the technology Eva uses. She wears a tunic that is wired to her body to control body temperature, read vital signs, and administer basic first aid. Heck, it even tells her when to go to the bathroom. She also carries around an Omnipod, a device that looks like a hand mirror that literally does everything: it's a communication device, message center, encyclopedia, and first aid kit...think a suped-up version of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy device. The alien life-forms and world building around them reminded me so much of the early Star Wars movies, the creatures are so unique and fantastical. The Augmented Reality feature of the book enables people with a webcam and the downloaded program to scan specific images throughout the book that result in 3D pop up maps that track the progress of the characters throughout the book. It's such a cool bonus, and even though I haven't actually tried it yet I've seen videos of it online and it looks amazing. The author's skill as an illustrator really shine here too, each chapter opens with a sepia coloured picture double-page spread of which all of them are gorgeous and wonderfully detailed. This story has the charm of The Wizard of Oz and the technology and type of story that's been upgraded for a more modern set of kids. For hubby and I who plan to raise our kids on sci-fi/fantasy/dystopian lit, this is a keeper that's going on the "save for future kids" bookshelf.

Sci-fi version of The Wizard of Oz with insanely cool aliens, what's not to love? Definitely something kids will be attracted to in their reading, but there are dystopian themes with some minor violence and threats of ever present danger, so be aware if you've got a younger, sensitive kid as the reader. Most kids over the age of 10 should be perfectly fine with the content though.

Thoughts on the cover:
Very nice. I like how all the main characters are placed almost in a coat-of-arms layout with Eva at the top with her hair flowing around and everyone else fitting in nicely beneath her. The dust jacket is made of paper instead of plastic, so the colours have the softer appearance of paintings and watercolours rather than the photo finish look that most plastic dust jackets have.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Storm Front - Jim Butcher

Title: Storm Front (Book 1 in The Dresden Files series)
Author: Jim Butcher
Publisher: ROC Fantasy (Penguin), 2000 (Paperback)
Length: 323 pages
Genre: Adult; Fantasy
Started: September 30, 2010
Finished: October 3, 2010


Lost Items Found. Paranormal Investigations.
Consulting. Advice. Reasonable Rates.
No Love Potions, Endless Purses, Parties or Other Entertainment

Harry Dresden is the best at what he does. Well, technically, he's the only at what he does. So when the Chicago P.D. has a case that transcends mortal creativity or capability, they come to him for answers. For the "everyday" world is actually full of strange and magical things -- and most of them don't play well with humans. That's where Harry comes in. Takes a wizard to catch a -- well, whatever.

There's just one problem. Business, to put it mildly, stinks. So when the police bring him in to consult on a grisly double murder committed with black magic, Harry's seeing dollar signs. But where there's black magic, there's a black mage behind it. And now that mage knows Harry's name. And that's when things start to get... interesting.
Magic. It can get a guy killed.

I can't believe it took me this long to discover this series, it's like a delicious mix of Sookie Stackhouse and Supernatural.

Harry Dresden is a wizard in modern day Chicago, and he's actually listed in the phonebook to boot. He's perpetually broke from lack of work for his unique skills, gets occasional calls from Chicago police as a "supernatural consultant", and causes technology of all kinds to break down around him. Dresden is a bit of a cynic, yet a gentleman, who walks on eggshells for fear that the White Council will find cause to persecute him. When he gets a call from Karrin Murphy, his detective contact on the police force to get his help on a really gruesome murder, he takes the case, which lands him in more hot water than he anticipates.

The book's not Pulitzer Prize material in terms of writing, but it's darn entertaining. Dresden and Murphy have great chemistry, so dancing around that aspect will be a constant thing in future books, which I'm actually happy about. The supernatural characters Dresden encounters are entertaining in their own right, from oversexed vampires to fairies with a sweet tooth. The plot's enough to keep you reading, and when the plot lags slightly the gratuitous violence and less gratuitous innuendo makes up for it. I picked up a box set with the first three novels and book 1 was very entertaining, so the next ones will definitely go in the reading queue.

A smooth-talking modern day wizard who helps solves supernatural crimes, plus a cynical hard-edged cop that's the romantic interest, need I say more?

Thoughts on the cover:
Eh, it's okay. What intrigues me is the backwards katakana on Dresden's staff, which I can read but don't understand the significance, it wasn't mentioned in the book.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Bookworm-y "Squeals of Happiness" Moment

I can literally live for weeks on a moment like this. Remember when I posted on the Mockingjay release party and mentioned the one signed copy of the book that each store got as part of their release kit? The store my nephew and I went to raffled off their copy at the party, and since the author only signed a set number of them specifically for Mockingjay's release, I assumed I'd never see one again. I also assumed that since barely any American authors ever make it up this way into Canada for signings and other events, I was pretty darn sure I'd never see one again.

The gods of printed material proved me wrong.

The Indigo store closest to my house held a silent auction to raise money for a local elementary school to buy books for their library. I glanced at the table of stuff and saw they had a signed copy of Mockingjay! I literally stalked that store for 5 days until bidding closed Thursday night to make sure I had the highest bid on the sheet because I wanted this baby oh so much. I was shocked to find out I was the only person who actually bid on it at all, I was expecting to have to fight for it. But oh well, I have a treasured piece of YA history, the local elementary school has a fair sized donation from me as well as all the other patrons over the past few weeks, and all you can see what Suzanne Collins' autograph looks like!