Saturday, March 20, 2010
I just reviewed Venetia Kelly's Traveling Show in my last post and now the publisher is offering a free copy to the winner of my contest! Very exciting.
If you would be interested, just comment on the review (found here) before April 3rd and I will randomly draw a winner!
Friday, March 19, 2010
Venetia Kelly's Traveling Show: a Novel
by Frank Delaney
"She sprang from the womb and waved to the crowd. Then she smiled and took a bow." And so we first meet Venetia Kelly, the beguiling actress at the center of this new, spellbinding, and epic novel by Frank Delaney, the bestselling author of Ireland and Shannon.
January 1932: While Ireland roils in the run-up to the most important national election in the Republic's short history, Ben MacCarthy and his father watch a vagabond variety revue making a stop in the Irish countryside. After a two-hour kaleidoscope of low comedy, Shakespearean recitations, juggling, tumbling, and other entertainments, Ben's father, mesmerized by Venetia Kelly, the troupe's magnetic headliner, makes a fateful decision: to abandon his family and set off on the road with Miss Kelly and her caravan. Ben's mother, shattered by the desertion, exhorts, "Find him and bring him back," thereby sending the boy on a Homeric voyage into manhood, a quest that traverses the churning currents of Ireland's fractious society and splinters the MacCarthy family.
(copy taken from inside jacket)
Delaney does a marvelous job in this lyrical and interesting book. Deftly interweaving the political roil of the early 1930's in Ireland, into the story of one family, Venetia Kelly's Traveling Show both captivates and educates.
The main character, Ben, becomes embroiled in a web of scheming and incestous relationships, unable to fully entangle himself, even as he writes his story as an old man. As I read, I marveled at the way that he reacted to the others around him, at their expectations of him, and the way that many of them depended upon him - he, the youngest character in the entire book.
Venetia Kelly and her mother, Sarah, both seemed entrancing and undeniable. I felt myself drawn into the circle of their world with ease, following Ben blindly as he wanted to learn more. Nuances of their relationships with each other and the other people that surrounded them (i.e. - King Kelly, Mrs. Haas, Cody, etc.) were compelling and drew me deeper into the novel with every chapter.
At first, I attempted to skip over some of the political pieces mentioned in this novel, but soon realized how intregal they became to the story so I started really paying attention. Once I picked up on some of the smaller details, I found that I learned a lot about Ireland's political history in this time and that was very interesting.
This 400+ page novel is definitely an adult, not YA book, but it is beautifully written and worth the read. Eventually, I plan to go and check out some of Delaney's other novels. (I think I will miss Blarney - the ventriloquist doll that was almost elected to office - in the next one that I read, though!)
Full disclosure: Hardcover provided by publisher/author for review
If you would like more information, you can check out Frank Delaney's website at www.frankdelaney.com or his Facebook fan page at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Frank-Delaney/400446510051?ref=ts
Sunday, March 14, 2010
Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant
Adapted from the Cirque du Freak series by Darren Shan.
I just watched this movie tonight and I have to say it was pretty good. I haven't read the books so I don't know how it is comparitively, but I definitely enjoyed it just as a movie. The special effects were pretty good, it wasn't too gross, and I liked 95% of the casting choices. In fact, this movie did it's job, as I now want to go and read the series!
Just a little FYI, if you are thinking about showing this movie in your library, with proper licensing, of course, there are a few blantant swears and there is quite a bit of violence. Just warn your viewers that it is rated PG-13.
A Pearl Among Princes
by Coleen Murtagh Paratore
Welcome to the island where Princes learn to be charming...
Gracepearl Coal is the Cook's daughter on Miramore, the island all Princes visit for their summer program in the Charming Arts. Each year Princes-in-training arrive on gallant seacraft, guided by captain's trained to navigate the island's treacherous waters. Passage on one of these boats is the only way to leave the island - thus betrothal to a royal is the only way for Pearl to find her far-off destiny, the one that's started haunting her dreams. Luckily, this year's crop of Princes include some promising prospects, but how will Pearl leave behind her ailing father or - hardest of all - marry a boy other than her long-time beloved, Mackree...who now finds it too painful to even speak to her?
This was a charming book. I found Gracepearl to be a likeable character. She was nice, sweet, conscientious, but also balanced. Her love was true, even if it was confused. She never led on the boys she was considering and she took her friends feelings into consideration all the time.
The other main characters were all likeable as well. Some were gruff, some misunderstood, some shy, but all were true to themselves. This is a good book to give to a tween or less self-assured teen who needs a little dose of a "nice" book where the characters treat each other fairly well and remember who they are when all's said and done.
Parts of the plot were a little predictable, and it all seemed to work out very well at the end, but it is such a nice story that I was left smiling at the end anyway. I think there are a lot of readers who would have this same reaction. A good read!
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Kiss in the Dark
by Lauren Henderson
Book Three in the Scarlett Wakefield Series
With Dan McAndrew's murder finally behind her, Scarlett has high hopes for a fresh start at Wakefield Hill Collegiate, the elite English boarding school her grandmother runs. Unfortunately, those hopes are dashed when her nemesis, the infamous Plum Saybourne, is transfered to the school.
Plum wastes no time turning Scarlett's impressionable classmates against her. Scarlett has dealt with Plum's nasty schemes before, and she can handle her archenemy very nicely, thank you - until Plum sets her sights on Scarlett's best friend, Taylor, and her new boyfriend, Jase. Then Scarlett is more than willing to fight for what's rightfully hers.
Things only get worse after Scarlett becomes entangled in a mysterious death on campus. Scarlett is compelled to investigate because she wants to protect someone close to her. She never imagines that she'll uncover secrets related to her parents' fatal accident so many years ago...
Publication date: April 13, 2010
Monday, March 8, 2010
Sunday, March 7, 2010
by Catherine Fisher
Incarceron is a prison unlike any other: Its inmates live not only in cells, but also in metal forests, dilapidated cities, and unbounded wilderness. The prison has been sealed for centuries, and only one man, legend says, has ever escaped.
Finn, a seventeen-year-old prisoner, can't remember his childhood and believes he came from Outside Incarceron. He's going to escape, even though most inmates don't believe that Outside even exists. And then Finn finds a crystal key and through it, a girl named Claudia.
Claudia claims to live Outside--her father is the Warden of Incarceron and she's doomed to an arranged marriage. If she helps Finn escape, she will need his help in return.
But they don't realize that there is more to Incarceron than meets the eye. Escape will take their greatest courage and cost far more than they know.
"Incarceron...A Prison like no other...It gives life...It deals death...It watches all."
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It's an intriguing new idea...a prison that governs itself. One that's not too far from a possibility in our future. That's what I really love about most of the YA dystopias out right now; the realization that these stories are possible...maybe not probable, but possible.
What I really enjoyed, too, about this particular dystopia was that it also had a steampunk feel. Once their society advanced too far, the ruling King decreed that the realm would live in a state of "Protocol." Though they had developed technology, they would no longer be allowed to use it. Society was repressed to the simplicity of a society like our Victorian Age. By all appearances, society obeyed, but underneath the surface, most still used their technological advancements to make life easier.
I loved Incarceron as a character. It was creepy and philosophical at the same time. Cool.
I liked Claudia, Jared, Finn, Attia, and even the Warden as characters. I was not as fond of Keiro, but then, I don't think I was supposed to like him...:P
I did not always enjoy their interactions with each other, though. I found the "revelation" that Finn may be Giles was a little predictable and unexciting. I was much more impressed with the revelations that Claudia was born in Incarceron, that the Warden could enter Incarceron, and that Sapphique had not really escaped his imprisonment.
All that being said, though this book took me a few more days than I had expected to read and some bits felt slow, I definitely look forward to reading the next book. It ended on a high note!
Tuesday, March 2, 2010
Books of Umber: Book 2
by P. W. Catanese
Happenstance would like nothing more than to stay in the comfort of the Aerie, Lord Umber's spectacular cliffside home, without having to worry about the secrets of his past -- or the undetermined role he must play in Umber's desperate mission.
But adventure beckons when Umber receives two mysterious messages. One is a desperate plea for help from Caspar, the man who stole precious documents from Umber's archives that could unlock the mysteries of Hap's powers. Caspar is trapped on a forbidden island, the victim of a nightmarish curse. He is willing to reveal his secrets to Umber and Hap -- but what he demands in return may be impossible to achieve.
The second message is from an oppressed kingdom ruled by a brutish monarch, where an old rival of Umber's has stolen a cache of dragon eggs. The eggs have begun to hatch, and the question is, what do they plan to do with those infant dragons?
I give P. W. Catanese a lot of credit for writing an excellent fantasy series! I loved the first book, Happenstance Found and the followup Dragon Games definitely lived up to its predecessor. The author has created a whole new world full of interesting creatures, characters you can't help but become drawn to, and an overarching mystery that sucked me in completely. There is so much detail in the plot of each book that they could almost stand alone, but discovering little bits about Happenstance and why he exists truly is the intriguing and dazzling focus of the series. I can't wait to read the next volume.
Sunday, February 28, 2010
Shiver - Maggie Stiefvater
Eragon's Guide to Alagaesia - Christopher Paolini
When You Reach Me - Rebecca Stead
Sea Glass - Maria V. Snyder
The Last Dragon - Silvana De Mari
Firespell - Chloe Neill
Melody's Dream - Kate Barrington
The Betrayal of the Blood Lily - Lauren Willig
The Virgin Queen's Daughter - Ella March Chase
Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Ultimate Guide - Rick Riordan
The Viper's Nest - Peter Lerangis
Darklight - Lesley Livingston
The Magykal Papers - Angie Sage
Pandora Gets Heart - Carolyn Hennesey
Mistwood - Leah Cypess
Flirt - Laurell K. Hamilton
Hush, Hush - Becca Fitzpatrick
Fantasy in Death - J.D. Robb
Carter Finally Gets It - Brett Crawford
The Dragon Games - P.W. Catanese
Total: 20 books
February 2010 Favorites:
Mistwood - One of the best fantasies I've read in the last six months. Full of adventure, intrigue, character growth, mystery, and a hint of romance.
Carter Finally Gets It - Laugh out loud funny...full of heart and raunchy teen boy humor.
When You Reach Me - An excellent mystery. Wonderful characters. Heartwarming.
The Virgin Queen's Daughter - Fantastically plausible, gut-wrenching alternate Tudor history.
The Dragon Games - A great continuation to the "Books of Umber" series. Love the adventure, mystery and creativity of the author!
Friday, February 26, 2010
TheVirgin Queen's Daughter
by Ella March Chase
As captivating now as it was more than four centuries ago, the reign of Elizabeth I - with its scandal, intrigue, and resilience - has sparked the imagination of generations. In her sweeping historical debut, Ella March Chase explores a thrilling possibility: that the Tudor bloodline did not end with the Virgin Queen.
Tucked away in the country estate of her beloved father, Lord Calverly, young Nell de Lacy feeds her hungry mind with philosophy, language, and studies of science. Her mother, once a devoted lady-in-waiting to Henry VII's last wife, Katherine Parr, would rather her daughter stop dabbling in the grand affairs of men and instead prepare for her eventual duties as a wife. She knows all too well what menace lurks in royal courts.
But Nell's heart yearns for something more, and a chance meeting with Princess Elizabeth, then a prisoner of the Tower of London, pushes her closer toward finding it. Now, years later, Nell's chance arrives when she is summoned to serve as a lady-in-waiting to the newly crowned Queen Elizabeth. Nell is entranced by the splendor and pageantry of royal life, unaware of the danger and deception that swirls around the monarch and her courtiers.
But a lingering rumor about nine unaccounted for months in the Virgin Queen's past reignites when the flame-haired Nell - a mirror image of Her Majesty both physically and intellectually - arrives at court. Quickly she catches the eye not only of the cunning Elizabeth, but of those who would see the Queen fail. With strong evidence to connect Elizabeth to her newest maid of honor and the politics of England in turmoil, the truth could send Nell and those she loves to the Tower to join the wretched fates of those who've gone before her.
I had heard about this book on someone's blog...I can't remember whose, exactly...and was intrigued. I love alternate history books. This one was brilliantly done, as well! Chase blends historical rumor, fact, and her imagination in such a way that I was almost convinced that Nell de Lacey truly existed.
The details about court life, the descriptions of court dress, the activities presented to readers, all contributed to a rich and wonderful dive into the reign of Elizabeth I. All of the main characters were wonderfully developed and interacted in a truly believable way.
I laughed, I cried, I yelled at Nell to see that yes, Gabriel did love her. I was sucked into this book completely. Highly recommended for historical fiction fans.
Monday, February 22, 2010
Wow. Okay, just had to get this out there...did anyone else watch the new Disneychannel Original Movie, "Starstruck?"
It was very cute. I love most of their movies...but I noticed that the lead female role, played by Danielle Campbell, bore a striking resemblance to Vanessa Hudgens, aka Gabriella from all the High School Musical movies.
All I could think was we've gone from the Barbie blond mold to the Gabriella brunette mold! They are both beautiful girls, and Disney made sure to play up their intelligence and innocence, but hmmm...I can't help but think maybe all the Disney starlets are starting to look similar...
Am I just crazy?