Terra Tempo: The Four Corners of Time by David Shapiro, Christopher Herndon

This is #2 in the Terra Tempo series, but it was fine that I hadn’t read #1 as they kindly filled me in on everything in a brief intro. This was an enjoyable graphic novel filled with adventure and so much interesting geology and natural history that it almost seemed like a Science Comics at times. At times some of the plot was a little confusing, including how and why a giant bird sometimes saves them, but overall I thought this was good time travel for kids.

Palace of Stone by Shannon Hale

Having recently reread Princess Academy and realizing that a. I thought that book was great and b. I’d never read the sequels, I picked this up recently. I ended up not taking it on vacation with me and had it waiting at home to enjoy recuperating from vacation by lying on the couch reading this. Hale is such a good writer (though I will admit I skip the quarry songs at the start of each chapter, even though I’m sure she worked hard on them.) As a sequel I thought this was great-it built on what we learned about the land and the characters from the first book and introduced a real consequence and new world to them after the victory at the end of the first book. It was hard not to read about commoner uprisings and tyrant kings and not see it in light of the current political landscape! I liked how Hale managed to included details that showed how truly cut off the Esklanders had been for generations, such as they literally knew nothing of medicine. Miri’s lessons in bravery and diplomacy come in handy, along with her new studies in ethics. And the somewhat magical properties of linder become more apparent (and useful.)
I thought this was an exciting sequel and look forward to reading the conclusion.

Princess Academy by Shannon Hale

I had a lull of good books last week and told myself to just look around my house and pick up something. Right there on a ledge was Princess Academy. I’d bought a nice paperback copy for a quarter hoping Tabby would read it and wanting to reread it myself. I read this when I was a new book but it’s been so long I forgot what it was all about and have been having a hard time recommending it at school. So I picked it up and oh it was a delight all over again. Shannon Hale is such a good writer. And now I remember the story! Miri lives in a small village on a mountain, an outlying territory in the kingdom. They are isolated, but happy, digging linder out of the mountain-a beautiful rock that only comes from there. One day a king’s messenger arrives and announces that priests have divined that the prince’s bride will come from that village and all the eligible girls must leave the village to attend a “princess academy.” A mean teacher will whip them all into princess shape. So basically it’s boarding school! With a horrible cruel mistress, girls bickering, and much coming of age and self-discovery.  I loved the mild elements of fantasy (the linder stone is a sort of conductor for “quarry speak” between the villagers), the transformation of the girls as they are educated (no one knew how to read), and Miri’s growth. Very enjoyable and I can now happily recommend this to all!

Never Say Die (Alex Rider #11) by Anthony Horowitz

I have a Lot to Say about this book. First, let’s refresh our memories with my reaction to Alex Rider #10, the conclusion to the Alex Rider series. I read that finale when it came out in June 2011 and loved it. Here’s what I had to say. Since that time almost seven years ago I’ve often mentioned that book (“The Final Mission”) as a great example of a series ending. I loved it. It had all the things we liked about the series, it had callbacks, it had drama, and it made some dramatic but very successful choices. It had closure. It went out with a bang.   Then last week I was poking around in Titlewave and saw…Alex Rider #11. What? At first I thought it was another title like the sort of spinoff he wrote about Gregorovich. But nope. It appeared that Alex Rider was back in a new mission. I had a lot of Feelings about this, but had to get my hands on it. And had to read it.  See, here’s the thing. If you finish off a series, why, years later would you say “oops, no, not over, let’s keep going.”? I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Did fans clamor for more? Did Horowitz try to write other stories but just couldn’t? Did his publisher say “we need money and these books are successful so please just write another?” And here’s the thing…I loved this one. It was fun, filled with adventure, it was just like a Mission Impossible movie on the page. But I feel like it’s very existence negates book #10 (which I really admired the author’s choices in that one.) It makes much of it seem insincere. It definitely doesn’t feel like this was the plan all along. It feels like a character in a season premiere saying “oh, it was all a dream!” (I’d make a “Who killed JR?” reference, but will you get it?) I feel a bit betrayed by the author. And yet, I know that I will read #12 because I think these books are a lot of fun to read, they are totally preposterous, and I enjoy them very much. (For the record, I think the Stormbreaker movie is a terrific family movie and wish they’d make another one!)

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah Maas

thornsAn exciting faerie book that felt steeped in traditional elements of storytelling, especially fairy stories, but was sexy and exciting.  Feyre is so poor her family barely survives, yet she is the only one who does anything about it. She’s a hunter and that’s how they manage to live.  One day she shoots a wolf, but it was no ordinary wolf. Feyre is taken into the faerie world where she lives with Tamlin in a court where magic is changing and everyone has a mask fused to his face. It’s mysterious and she knows there is more going on that she is told. This felt very Beauty and the Beast like to me, but then there was much more to it. Political machinations, revenge, and of course a love story. I thought this was marvelous, vividly created, and can’t wait to read the sequel.

Armada by Ernest Cline

armadaI’ve been waiting with much excitement for this because of how much I loved Ready Player One. And it was great! I had managed to not read anything about what it is about so went in totally blind (which is hard to do with big new books, but lots of fun if you can manage to know nothing about it.) So I’ll avoid saying anything except that it was exciting, fun, plenty of pop-culture, plenty of video games (I don’t even really like playing many video games, and definitely not mmorpg stuff, so I’m not sure why I really enjoy reading about them). Overall it felt like a fresh homage to sci-fi adventure films, in a rather meta way. I had a nice chat with a Game Stop employee who was also excited about reading it, which was nice. Oh, and definitely a movie ready type of book.

Waistcoats & Weaponry by Gail Carriger

I’ve had such a slow start to the year, in part because it’s taken me forever to read this despite being super excited to get it. It’s #3 in the Finishing School series.  Somehow I found it a bit slow? Less compelling? Sometimes it’s hard to get invested in a story where so much is made up and strange. Specifically, the aetherosphere that the Picklemen and vampires seem to fighting and plotting over. I can’t get that caught up in it because it’s all strange and makes no sense. Nonetheless, I still enjoyed all the details of things like Sophronia’s skill with the bladed fan and how all the Intelligencer girls act.  This one barely took place at all up in the air, as most of the story was land bound. Also, specifically, moving train bound! Everyone loves a story on a moving train.  The romantic triangle between Felix, Soap, and Sophronia continues (I’m rooting for Soap.) And there’s also a fair amount of backstory on werewolves which sort of went over my head.

However, I did enjoy this latest installment and hugely admire Sophronia for all her skills.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling

hp2See everything I said about Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone for the set-up of rereading these books.  Ditto the pleasure of the re-read and getting to read from the beginning when you know some things about how it all turns out. I read this one in the two days following seeing the movie, so I was really doing a lot of movie/book comparison as I read.  I loved the movie, but it was very satisfying to read the book right after because I found the book had a much better timeline. Which, it would because she has many pages to write in while a movie only has about 2 hours. So, lots of events that happened apparently quickly in the movie, were very drawn out in the book. Sometimes weeks would go by.  It definitely added to suspense, a build up of emotions, and the boarding school/school year aspect.  One important aspect that was in the book that they really overlooked in the movie, was Ginny’s role in helping Tom Riddle gain his strength.  Fantastic and I’m looking forward to continuing on the series. (I love being able to just go grab the next book! The first time I read these  it was as they came out-a suspenseful wait!)

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

hpIt almost seems silly to write my thoughts about this here and now. I mean, don’t we all know what it’s about? What happened? But, the series has been on my “to re-read” list for this year. I haven’t read the books since they came out, it was just this year that my son read the first four books in the series himself, and last week we all watched the first two movies together for the first time. (Well, Paul and I have seen all the movies, but the kids hadn’t.) While Clark was reading the books I was dying for him to share some excitement with me about the stories, but he really couldn’t say much about what he liked or didn’t like, just that he liked them.  So, it was very satisfying to watch the movie with him and see his excitement, and also see, as he obnoxiously kept saying “oh I know what happens…”, that he did remember a lot of the books. Anyway, it made the time right for me to pick up the first book and begin my re-read. And o! what a delight it was! You know, when they came out (and I was working as a librarian at the time) and the crazy phenomena swept the world I did often wonder why so many people loved them. It was clear to me why I loved them: boarding school + magic=something I like. But, guess what? There are plenty of other very good magical boarding school, orphans and adventures, magical fun, etc. books out there. (that then people “discovered” afterward.) Well whatever.  I found it just as delightful the second time around and was quite swept away into the world of Hogwarts and getting to know Harry and all the Weasleys and the professors and so on.  This time around I had the added satisfaction of knowing that there would be a big story arc and which relationships would be important and so on. And of course there’s more in the books than the movies, so that was fun to remember and rediscover those things.  Super fantastic, and I have extra added pleasure of having all the books published already so I can read the series not spread out over years.

After the End by Amy Plum

end2Oh my God, did I love this. A girl lives in remote Alaska in her village that relies on old-fashioned survival ways, even though it’s the current time.  The elders of the clan moved there in 1984, at the outset of World War 3.  They’ve lived peacefully and successfully there, despite assuming that probably some other survivors roam the outside world.  When Juneau returns from a hunting trip to discover her entire clan vanished she is determined to track them down. And when she does she finds out that there never was a WWIII-the outside world is exactly as it is right now for you and me!! So first you’ve got that wonderful time-travel/culture clash of discovering modern and contemporary society (cell phones, skyscrapers, etc.).  Everything she knows about the world comes from a 1983 edition of Encyclopedia Britannica, so wandering Seattle in her furs and buckskin pants is quite shocking.  Not to mention finding out that apparently she’s been lied to her entire life.
Now, on to the other interesting bits. Like all the children in her clan Juneau has a gold starburst in her eye.  It shows how at one with the Yara she is. The Yara is basically every thing in the world-plants, flowers, animals, humans, nature.  She can connect to it and find out things, and even make things happen. This mystical element seems so at odd with modern society, but it is very real.  An oracle tells her she must find a certain boy to guide her-it turns out that the boy is the son of a man who is determined to get Juneau.  But to what end? It’s an exciting mystery with crazy turns of events that find this book ending in a very different way than it began.  Her starburst and mystical abilities made me think for a bit of Firestarter, though fortunately Juneau doesn’t use her Yara abilities for bad.  I absolutely cannot wait for book #2 as this really left you hanging.