Monday, February 28, 2011

Nightshade by Andrea Cremer

Nightshade (Book 1)
by Andrea Cremer
October 2010

She can control her pack, but not her heart.

I decided to live a little and put all my vampire books away for Calla Tor's "werewolf" pack in Nightshade.  While the romance was, for me, somewhat lacking (how is it that all these teens keep falling in love at first sight of abs?), I very much enjoyed learning about life with the pack and all that entailed.  Ideas about what it means to be a female alpha mated to a male alpha and the differences in power and authority were especially intriguing and will be a challenge for Calla to overcome (perhaps in book two?).  Being comprised almost entirely of forbidden kisses, banned books and a censored history, Nightshade is a satisfying distraction if you're looking for something a little different but you're not quite ready to walk away from the paranormal teen spectacle.

The Nightshade Novels
Wolfsbane (TBR July 2011)

Fallen by Lauren Kate

Fallen (Book 1)
September 2010
Delacorte Books

What if the person you were meant to be with could never be yours?

If anyone is a fan of super hot guys hooking up with somewhat average girls, it's me.  But it gets to a point where it's either completely unbelievable or completely shallow.  Stephenie Meyer's Twilight, for example, I would put in the completely shallow category since Edward is only keeping Bella around for her scent (ahh . . . heroin).  Completely unbelievable would be more along the lines of a hot vampire prince falling for a soon-to-be spinster in Insatiable (he knew her for what, like a day?!).  Fallen crosses both lines in my opinion.

Luce and Daniel have known each other for thousands of years, but every time they fall in love, a curse kills Luce and keeps Daniel from finding her for seventeen years.  Sounds kind of interesting, right?  Well it would be a lot more fun if there was ANYTHING remarkable about Luce or Daniel that wasn't related to her gorgeous black curls or his fetching grayish purple eyes.  In short, Luce's ability to catch a guy like Daniel without doing anything heroic, courageous, brave or anything actually in a remotely non-annoying manner, annoyed me. Because I believe in second chances, however, I do plan to read the next books in the series at some point.  But not right now . . . I have too many other bad-a chicks to read about on my nightstand to bother with this one right now.  

The Fallen Novels
Passion (TBR June 2011)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Glass Series by Maria V. Snyder

Storm Glass (Book 1)
by Maria V. Snyder
April 2009

Opal understands trial by fire.  Now it's time to test her mettle.

Maria Snyder's Glass Series picks up a few years after the Study Series, giving Opal a chance to grow from a frightened, self-conscience girl into a powerful, determined woman . . . who has no idea what to do with not one, not two, but THREE handsome young men all vying for her attention.  After much deliberation she handles this the way I'm sure we all would in such a terrible situation - she simpers and smirks and makes love to them all!  (To quote Mr. Bennett who has no connection to this series apart from his witty insights on love.)  My only consolation after reading three books about a young woman who is all fire and storm when it comes to glass and magic, and all wuss and whine when it comes to men is that in my opinion, she chose correctly.  On page 414 of 424 in book three . . .ah well . . . such is often the nature of happily ever afters.

The best thing about this book is getting to know some of the other old characters better.  Valek, Leif, Janco and Ari all play significant roles in this series - and not as any of Opal's lovers.  Yelena puts in an appearance from time to time as well, but for the most part this is Opal's story.  The plot is intriguing as Opal learns to handle enormous and dangerous amounts of power, both within herself and from within the Council.  If you choose to read this series, do it because you loved some of the old characters or because Opal leaning how to fight dirty and spy is fun to read.  But don't expect the epic, star crossed romance of  Yelena and Valek that we got in the first series.  In a way, I suppose it's nice to see that Snyder can branch out.  Opal's romance is definitely something that falls very far from any trees.  

The Study Series
Poison Study
Magic Study
Fire Study

The Glass Series
Storm Glass
Sea Glass
Spy Glass

Friday, February 18, 2011

FaiRE-Tells (as in fairy tales, retold)

You've probably heard that the three most powerful words in the English language are I love you.  If, however, happily ever after does more for you, then this list is for you.   Books here have been sorted by the fairy tale that they resemble most closely.  Note that many books fall into multiple categories because they cover more than one traditional fairy tale; however, I've made an effort to concentrate on the tales that come out strongest.  Princesses, dragons, fairies, shining armor, noble steeds, romance, duels . . . you name it, these books have got it!  To learn more about reading lists, browse the about pages.

Adult (A): Ages 16+
Young Adult (YA): High School Reading (and Maturity) Level
Tween (TW): Between Elementary and High School
Children (C): Elementary and Middle School Reading Levels

Arabian Nights ~ Aladdin, djinn , original stories every night for three years - middle eastern folktales have classic exotic appeal.  Arabian tales, "like Arabian days, more often than not, are hotter than hot, in a lot of good ways." 
Seven Daughters and Seven Sons by Barbara Cohen and Bahija Lovejoy (YA)
Shadow Spinner by Susan Fletcher (YA)

Asian Folklore ~ Generally includes the appearance of children in strange places.  Like in peaches floating down rivers or in shining stalks of bamboo.
Fortune's Fool by Mercedes Lackey (A)

Beauty and the Beast ~ One of the most popular FaiRE-Tells of all time.  Some authors love it so much they do it twice (or more)!  
Beauty Sleep by Cameron Dokey (YA)
Belle by Cameron Dokey (YA)
Beastly by Alex Flinn (YA)
The Princess and the Hound by Mette Ivie Harrison (YA)
Beauty and the Werewolf by Mercedes Lackey (A)
The Fire Rose by Mercedes Lackey (A)
Heart's Blood by Juliet Marillier (A)
Beauty by Robin McKinley (YA)
Chalice by Robin McKinley (YA)
Rose Daughter by Robin McKinley (YA)
East by Edith Pattou (YA)

Cinderella ~ Ah yes, the poor cinder girl who sweeps away the ashes and can't keep track of her shoes.  You know who I'm talking about.
Before Midnight by Cameron Dokey (YA)
Bewitching by Alex Flinn (YA)
Just Ella by Margaret Peterson Haddix (YA)
The Fairy Godmother by Mercedes Lackey (A)
Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine (YA)

Donkeyskin ~ A less known French folktale told by Charles Perrault about a donkey with golden poo and a father in love with his daughter.  What could be finer?
Deerskin by Robin McKinley (YA)

"Fairy" Tales ~ That is to say, simply a book which puts the spotlight on creatures known as "faeries" but which may or may not have any ties to princesses, dragons or knights in shining armor astride white stallions with the fading rays of sunset in their eyes.
Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier (YA)
Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr (YA)
The Fever Series by Karen Marie Moning (A)
Fablehaven by Brandon Mull (YA)

Fairy Tale Mashups ~ Like on MTV, but with fairy tale characters and settings.
The Sisters Grimm by Michael Buckley (TW)
The Sisters Grimm: The Council of Mirrors by Michael Buckley (TW)
Kill Me Softly by Sarah Cross (YA)
Bewitching by Alex Flinn (YA)
Fables: Legends in Exile by Bill Willingham (A)

The Frog Prince ~ In which an amphibian occasionally gets a hankering for steak and banana splits.
The Frog Prince by Elle Lothlorien (A)
Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier (YA)

The Goose Girl ~ Tales that feature princesses who through unhappy and cruel twists of fate are demoted to tending livestock. May or may not end with a naked villain being drug through the streets in a nail-lined barrel until dead.
The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale (YA)

Greek and Roman Folklore ~ Or in other words, gods who are more fascinated by humans than the humans are by them.
Nobody's Princess by Esther Friesner (YA)
Ever by Gail Carson Levine (YA)
The Percy Jackson Series by Rick Riordan (C)

Hansel and Gretel ~ After a long hike through the woods, nothing refreshes better than eating someone else's house.  
Bewitching by Alex Flinn (YA)
Sweetly by Jackson Pearce (YA)

King Arthur ~ Because let's face it - the man's more legend than history.
The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley (A)
Gwenhwyfar: The White Spirit by Mercedes Lackey (A)
Here Lies Arthur by Philip Reeve (YA)
Song of the Sparrow by Lisa Ann Sandell (YA)
The Arthurian Saga by Mary Stewart (A)

The Little Mermaid ~ Here's hoping she doesn't turn into sea foam at the end.  Versions that end that way are a real downer.
Fortune's Fool by Mercedes Lackey (A)

Little Red Riding Hood ~ She's everything that a big bad wolf could want.  When there's no bacon to be had, that is.
Beauty and the Werewolf by Mercedes Lackey (A)
Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce (YA)

Mythological Fairy Tale Creatures ~ Flying horses and dragon tails . . . okay so you don't have to laugh.  But you do have to acknowledge that these books feature non paranormal, mythological creatures as main characters.
Eragon by Christopher Paolini (YA)
One Good Knight by Mercedes Lackey (A)
Dragonhaven by Robin McKinley (YA)
Pegasus by Robin McKinley (YA)
The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater (YA)
The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede (YA)

Norwegian Folklore ~ Usually includes some aspect of the fairy tale "East of the Sun and West of the Moon."  And a polar bear.
Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by Jessica Day George (YA)
East by Edith Pattou (YA)

Peter Pan ~ Spoiled brats who don't want to grow up and the evil adults who dared to do just that.  
Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson (TW)

The Prince and the Pauper ~ In which there is at least one member of royalty and/or a commoner who just loves to play "dress up".
The Birthday Ball by Lois Lowry (C)
The False Princess by Eilis O'Neal (YA)

Rapunzel ~ More traditional than the beauties who live in dwarf huts or simply sleep away their captivity - we're talking locked in a tower and bored out of her mind.  May also have a fantastic head of hair.
Golden by Cameron Dokey (YA)
Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale (YA)
Rapunzel's Revenge by Shannon and Dean Hale (YA)

Robin Hood ~ Who could forget one of the merriest men in historical fiction?  Done best by those who elaborate on the fictional bits and have a blatant disregard for historical accuracy.
The Outlaws of Sherwood by Robin McKinley (YA)
Lady of the Forest by Jennifer Roberson (A)

Rumpelstiltskin ~ Strange little men, alchemy, name guessing, and staking one's most valuable possessions are all usually involved in these dark tales.
A Curse Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce (YA)

The Six Swans ~ Originally a German fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm.  For its loose connections to Swan Lake, I've included other similar "swan literature" here as well.
Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier (A)
The Black Swan by Mercedes Lackey (A)

Slavic Folklore ~ As in slightly or heavily spiced with Russian.  And no, I'm not talking about Borshch.  I'm talking about firebirds, Baba Yaga, houses made of human bones that walk on chicken legs . . . that sort of thing.
Enchantment by Orson Scott Card (A)
Firebird by Mercedes Lackey (A)

The Snow Queen ~ Tales that follow the "woman with a heart of ice kidnaps a lover or friend who must then be rescued by a lover or friend by surviving harrowing trials" plot.
The Snow Queen by Mercedes Lackey (A)
The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis (C)
The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman (YA)

Snow White ~ Skin white as snow, lips red as blood, hair black as ebony, possessed mirrors, dwarves, inept assassins in the woods, a prince, and a glass coffin all make for one of the most famous fairy tales of all time.
Mira, Mirror by Mette Ivie Harrison (YA)
Fairest by Gail Carson Levine (YA)

Sleeping Beauty ~ Tales with lovely ladies whose bodies are ravaged while they're blissfully unaware . . . sounds remarkably like Rohypnol to me.  Nevertheless, one of my favorites.
Enchantment by Orson Scott Card (A)
Kill Me Softly by Sarah Cross (YA)
The Ordinary Princess by M.M. Kaye (C)
The Sleeping Beauty by Mercedes Lackey (A)
Spindle's End by Robin McKinley (YA)

The Twelve Dancing Princesses ~ Worn out slippers and the late night escapades of juvenile delinquents are the trademarks of these tales.
Entwined by Heather Dixon (YA)
Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George (YA)
Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier (YA)

To learn more about reading lists, browse the about page.

Troubled Waters by Sharon Shinn

Troubled Waters
by Sharon Shinn
October 2010
Ace Hardcover

A world in which people believe that five essential elements rule all things and guide their lives.

Don't be fooled by the title of this book.  Rather than scaling a mountain only to push her readers off, Sharon Shinn takes you on a ride down an easy, peaceful river with occasional rapids, but never anything more violent than a touch of whitewater.  No race to the waterfall.  No careening over the edge only to be dashed to bits by the rocks at the bottom.  Sometimes it really bothers me when authors (*cough* Robin McKinley *cough*) do this; however, this time I very much enjoyed the ride.

Zoe Ardelay is living peacefully in a village, mourning the death of her father when a man comes from the capital and declares she is to be the fifth wife of the king.  Zoe has other things in mind, however, and she walks away from the promise of her new life to blend into the crowded streets of the capitol.  But what she learns about herself and her powers, and the darkest secrets of the kingdom forces her to take part in the political facade and intrigue running rampant throughout the palace.  I love the depth and design of the world that Shinn has created for Troubled Waters.  I only hope that someday she will remove this novel from her list of standalone fiction on her website and place it in a series.  There is definitely room (and demand) for more of Zoe's world.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Pegasus by Robin McKinley

by Robin McKinley
November 2010
Putnam Juvenile

Because she was a princess, she had a pegasus.

As a young adult, Robin McKinley introduced me to the world of fantasy.  I have read every book she has ever written - even the truly awful ones.  McKinley both amazes and frustrates me.  As the years go by, her books are getting harder and harder to get into.  So much so that you can read 300 of 400 pages before anything beyond environmental descriptions take place.  But you keep reading.  And you do it because her descriptions of different lands, people and species haunt you.  She pulls you into worlds so unlike your own, and yet so heartbreakingly similar that you can't stop, can't let go, can't simply chuck the stupid book against the wall and read something you actually want to be reading.

In Pegasus, McKinley has crafted just such a world.  Here, however, is a kingdom where Pegasi and humans have a treaty that allies and binds them to one another.  Being such different species, however, they are unable to speak except through translators.  Until the day that Sylvi meets Ebon.  The floating, dream-like feel of this book was reminiscent of Ursula K. LeGuin and Madeline L'Engle's classic fantasies.  The ending, however, was all Tokien as McKinley herself admits on her blog that she has crafted a cliffhanger that mimics Tolkien's end to The Two Towers:
"It’s going to be a sequel like The Return of the Kings is a sequel to The Two Towers.  Remember the last line of Two Towers? ‘Frodo was alive but taken by the Enemy’? Yes… You’re going to hate me for the ending of Pegasus."
Pegasus II is set to come out in 2012.  I suggest you wait until then to read Pegasus.  Then again, it might just take you that long to finish book one . . .