Category Archives: sci-fi/fantasy

Enchanted by Alethea Kontis

enchantedSunday Woodcutter, like her six sisters, was named for a day of the week.  I assume it was the day of the week on which they were born, though I cannot honest recall at the moment.  I do remember, though, that her sisters all seemed to be the embodiment of the old nursery rhyme “Monday’s Child,” which predicts children’s characteristics based on their days of birth:

Monday’s child is fair of face,
Tuesday’s child is full of grace,
Wednesday’s child is full of woe,
Thursday’s child has far to go,
Friday’s child is loving and giving,
Saturday’s child works hard for a living,
But the child who is born on the Sabbath Day
Is bonny and blithe and good and gay.

The number seven always seems to hold some magical and mystical powers in fantasy stories, and this story is no exception.  Being the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter has set Sunday up to be especially magical.  She loves writing, but is hesitant to do so because what she writes often comes true.  After meeting a talking frog, and telling him about her stories, Sunday finds that she finally has a friend to confide in.  He disappears, of course, when Sunday bestows a kiss on the his little froggy head — turning back into Prince Rumbold, whom her family despises.  Prince Rumbold is certain he can make Sunday fall in love with him, though, if only he can get a chance to talk to her and explain…

Happy Reading!

The Here and Now by Ann Brashares [ARC]

The Here And NowI am pretty sure the only Ann Brashares books I had read before this ARC were from the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series.  It looks like I never reviewed them on this blog, though, so I can’t simply link to what I thought of them.  Instead, I will quickly summarize by saying that they are basic contemporary “chick lit” books.  They primarily dealt with friendship, dating, and body image — and they were both realistic and well written enough that I’m not surprised to see that they’re still popular.  While this book was also well written and has a romantic element to it, it was VERY different in that it has a science fiction angle.

Prenna James is an immigrant, but she didn’t come from another country — she came from another time.  She, along with the rest of the people in her tight-knit community, traveled back in time from a future in which global warming had destroyed the world.  Warmer temperatures melted the polar ice caps, caused massive floods, and also allowed mosquitoes to thrive.  Even though cancer had been cured, human existence was threatened by a blood-borne plague reminiscent of AIDS.  Prenna’s time-traveling community has many rules, but the most important rules are to blend in, to avoid making any changes to “the past,” and to avoid intimacy with outsiders.  Despite worries about getting in trouble, Prenna has a hard time following the rules.  She just can’t understand how they can just sit by and watch people destroy the world instead of trying to make a difference.  Plus, of course, there’s the fact that she’s falling for an outsider named Ethan…

Happy Reading!

The Paladin Prophecy by Mark Frost

Paladin ProphecyI thought this book was kind of like a Davinci Code for tween and teen readers.  There is a lot of mystery, tons of action, and a “bigger picture” that readers catch glimpses of throughout the story.  (This is the first in a series.)  Although I feel this book probably could have been edited down to be quite a bit shorter, I think the fast-paced action is likely enough to keep even reluctant readers turning pages.  Plus, the movie rights have been bought by Reliance Entertainment and Kintop Pictures, so I have a feeling this book will be in high demand as soon as the trailer starts making the rounds.

Will West’s parents constantly remind him to be as average as possible.  They won’t tell him why, but they think it is very important for him to fly under the radar.  So, he stays in the middle of the pack in cross country, he gets average grades, and he doesn’t do much else.  All his careful calculating is wasted, though, when he slips up and scores off-the-charts high on a national standardized test.  As a result, he gets invited down to the principal’s office for a meeting with a woman named Dr. Rollins, who extends an offer for a full scholarship to a secret, elite prep school… and men in black also start following him.  When his mom starts acting like a robot/zombie and his dad sends strange text messages, Will decides he needs to run for it.  With the help of a local taxi driver, who assumes Will is on the run from the police, he makes a mad dash for the airport — where he boards a plane for the secret prep school with the hope that he will soon begin to make sense of what is happening to him.

Happy Reading!

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

peculiar-childrenI made it a point to listen to this audiobook last June because it had been added to a local summer reading list.  Since I had already been thinking about reading it, I didn’t even feel like I was doing homework as I sometimes do when I am trying to familiarize myself with summer reading titles.  How lovely!  While I am willing to admit that it wasn’t quite what I expected, though I can’t quite put into words what exactly that means, I was far from disappointed.

Jacob grew up listening to his grandfather’s outrageous stories about strange children with amazing powers — like invisibility, super strength, and levitation — as they looked through pictures from the home in which his grandfather had been raised.  He believed his grandfather when he was very young but, as he got older, started to think that the pictures “proving” their peculiarities looked so fake.  After all, what sane person would believe that there was a girl with a mouth on the back of her head and another who could float like a helium balloon?  Still, it was kind of fun to imagine.  That is, until the day his grandfather called him absolutely terrified about being unable to find his guns when the monsters were coming to get him.  When Jacob found his grandfather’s body in the woods, and saw something he couldn’t explain, he had to decide whether he would choose to believe in the bizarre stories his grandfather had told him or if his grandfather had simply been suffering from delusions or dementia.  And only one thing would set his mind at ease — a trip to Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.

Fans of this book should be happy to learn that movie rights have been sold to 20th Century Fox.  According to Ransom Riggs’ blog, Tim Burton is set to direct and the screenplay with be adapted by Jane Goldman [who also wrote the screenplays for X-Men: First Class, Kick-Ass, and The Woman in Black].  IMDB has a projected release date of July 31, 2015 but no further information. I, for one, am pretty excited to see how this develops.

Happy Reading!

Gorgeous by Paul Rudnick

Gorgeous18-year-old Becky Randle, a recent high school graduate, works for a local grocery chain and lives in the trailer she inherited when her mom died (from complications of diabetes/being morbidly obese).  One day, Becky thinks she hears her mom’s ringtone and, while searching for the phone, unearths a phone number on a scrap of paper inside an otherwise empty jewelery box.  She wonders if the phone number has anything to do with the cryptic thing her mother said on the day she died — “[S]omething is going to happen to you. And it’s going to be magical.”  So Becky decides to take a chance and calls the number.  It’s almost too good to be true when the person on the other end of the line offers her $1000 and a plane ticket to New York City, but she has nothing to lose and decides to check it out.

Upon her arrival in NYC, she is brought to see fashion designer Tom Kelly, who offers to make her three dresses and to transform her into the most beautiful woman in the world.  Becky doesn’t believe him at first, but her best friend Rocher uses some extremely colorful language to convince her to go for it.  (Rocher’s expletive-laden exclamations were often hilarious, and one was so good that I actually pulled over and recorded it with my cell phone so I could later play it back for my husband.  AFTER the kids had gone to bed, of course!)  Anyhow… Tom comes through and works some sort of crazy magic and Becky really is transformed!  She becomes Rebecca — who is tall, thin, and gorgeous, with perfect skin and hair.  She can eat anything she wants without gaining an ounce, and this gives her loads more confidence than Becky ever had.  The only problem is that Rebecca needs to fall in love and get married within a year or everything will go back to the way it was before.

Happy Reading!

The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fford

The Last DragonslayerI was initially going to read this by myself, but I had to keep stopping to read things out loud to my son because he kept asking, “What’s so funny?”  After a few chapters he asked me, “Can you just start over and read that book out loud to me?  It sounds really good!”  Well, I couldn’t say no to that!  And, I must say, even though this book is cataloged as YA, it really didn’t have anything in it that made me uncomfortable reading it out loud to an 8-year-old.

15-year-old Jennifer Strange works as the manager for Kazam Mystical Arts Management.  Since wizidrical power has been dwindling for quite some time, wizards are reduced to using their power for more mundane purposes, like delivering pizzas and rewiring houses.  Jennifer spends her time and energy trying to find enough work for the Kazam employees, but demand seems to be drying up just as quick as magic.  Until, suddenly there is a magical surge and people start whispering about the possibility that Big Magic is involved.  When “precogs” start picking up on the impending demise of the last dragon, Maltcassian, everyone in the UnUnited Kingdoms starts going mad about claiming a portion of the untouched Dragonlands — and Jennifer learns that SHE will become the Last Dragonslayer.  Reluctant to believe that she will have to kill Maltcassian, since he hasn’t yet done anything to break the Dragonpact, Jennifer does her best to wield her power as Last Dragonslayer with integrity.  This book has a winning combination of a strong female character with a good moral compass and plenty of wry humor.  I can see this book being a hit for fans of Harry Potter who want a lighter fantasy read.

Happy Reading!

Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner

Maggot MoonThis was one of those audiobooks where I didn’t really feel like I completely “got it” but I kept on listening anyway.  It won a 2014 Printz Honor, so I figured it must have literary merit even if I wasn’t feeling it, right?  Either way, I now have the ability to “booktalk” it to any library patrons who might ask what it’s about, and that is always key.

Standish Treadwell lives in an alternate reality in which “the Motherland” [England?] is in a race to the moon and operates much like WWII Germany — with ghettos of people segregated from the rest of the population and forced to work in labor camps for mere scraps of food. (Especially since I had just listened to Rose Under Fire, the constant deprivation and brutality definitely reminded me of the Holocaust.)   He lives in Zone 7 (one of the poorest areas) with only his grandfather, since his parents ran away in an attempt to escape the totalitarian regime.  Standish attends an all-boys school in which teachers openly favor kids from well-to-do families and those who come from families of government informants.  It’s not uncommon for kids to pick on or beat up on one another, and teachers often discipline via corporal punishments like caning.  Though he seems to be concerned that he has a learning disability of some sort [dyslexia?], Standish is quite clever and determined to figure out a plan to stand up to his government for the good of all mankind.

Happy Reading!

Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson

Tiger LilyTo be completely honest, I chose to read this book last summer because it counted for a square on the Adult Summer Reading BINGO card!  (It was a gardening theme, and the book had the name of a flower in the title.)  The fact that I didn’t get around to reviewing this book until now, nevertheless, is not any indication of the quality of the story.  I am just *very* bad at reviewing books as soon as I finish them.  I have such a back-log to get through that I often play “eeny, meeny, miny, moe” to pick which one to do!  :-)

Though this book tells the story of a 15-year-old girl named Tiger Lily, it is actually narrated by a fairy named Tinkerbell.   [Yes, the same Tinkerbell you've heard of before!]  Tiger Lily, a native girl who has always lived as an outcast of sorts within her tribe, is desperate to find a way out of marrying a horrid man to whom she has been betrothed.  Tiger Lily spends time in the woods to avoid her tribe and to try to escape her life, if only for short periods of time, and ends up running into Peter Pan and the Lost Boys.  Not only does she fall for Peter, fully knowing she can’t actually make a life with him, but then Wendy Darling shows up in Neverland…  If you aren’t don’t get your heart broken at least once by the end of this story, you don’t have a heart.

Happy Reading!

The Water Castle by Megan Frazer Blakemore

Water CastleI know I am always telling people not to judge books by their covers, but I am certainly guilty of this infraction from time to time.  Somehow, I saw the cover of this book and thought it would be more fantastic than it was.  Maybe it was the banner that says “Believe in the unbelievable…”  Maybe it was the castle in the background.  But, somehow, I had my mind set that those kids would be involved in mystical time travel.  Yeah…  Not so much!  Although, there were chapters that took readers back to the early 1900s to discover the history of the Water Castle and the ancestors of the main characters, those main characters most definitely did not travel through time themselves.  And that was OK.  Even though this story wasn’t what I thought it would be, I still thought it was extremely cool.

Ephraim Appledore-Smith’s family relocated to Crystal Springs, Maine, after his father had a stroke.  Though his mother had inherited the house quite some time ago, Ephraim and his siblings had never been there before.  His mother decided to move to Crystal Springs because she had hopes that a specialist who lived in that area would be able to help her husband with his recovery.  After their arrival, though, Ephraim became obsessed with the possibility that the local water had special, mystical properties and that he could use it to cure his father.  After all, that was how the “Water Castle” came to be in the first place; his ancestor, Orlando Appledore, built the house because he was convinced that the Fountain of Youth was in Crystal Springs.  After floundering to find his niche in the new town/school, Ephraim became part of an unlikely trio — with Mallory Green, whose family has always worked as caretakers of the Appledore property, and Will Wylie, whose family has long feuded with the Appledores.  First brought together by a polar explorers research project, the three banded together with a determination to find the fountain of youth themselves.

Happy Reading!

A Very Grimm Series [A Tale Dark & Grimm, In a Glass Grimmly, and The Grimm Conclusion] by Adam Gidwitz

a tale dark and grimmIt’s no secret that I read to my children all the time… I’m a former teacher who became a librarian, so books and reading are kind of my thing!  When I report that my son loved a book or a book series, some people take it with a grain of salt.  They say, “But he loves everything!”  Well, he kinda does… And that’s OK.  For the people out there who haven’t yet convinced their children how awesome books and reading can be, though, THESE BOOKS might be a breakthrough!  Not only does Adam Gidwitz trust that many kids can handle the gory old versions of the Grimm fairy tales, but he also understands just how often to give little reassurances and asides [as the narrator] to take the edge off for kids who might get a little nervous about what is going on in the story.

Here are a few things you need to know before reading these books:

1) You don’t necessarily have to read them in order, since each book has different main characters — though you may want to read A Tale Dark and Grimm before The Grimm Conclusion, because the latter references the Hansel and Gretel’s stories in the former.

2) If you plan to read these stories out loud, you may want to establish a separate “narrator” voice, so the listeners can tell when the narrator is interjecting without you having to say so every time.  (Especially because it happens A LOT!)

3) These books are HILARIOUS… in a dark and disturbing way.  My son has inherited my sick sense of humor, so he and I often found ourselves cracking up so hard that we had to put the book down and just laugh [or risk losing our place].  We were even scolded a few times because my daughter was trying to sleep and we were being too loud!  ;-)

Happy Reading!