Category Archives: sci-fi/fantasy

Far Far Away by Tom McNeal

far far awayJeremy Johnson Johnson was rather unlucky.  Not only did his mom leave him and his dad, but his father became so crippled by depression that he became a total recluse.  Jeremy became, in essence, the adult of the household and started taking care of things to the best of his abilities.  After Jeremy was involved in a prank gone awry, though, he was ostracized by the townspeople who had previously given him enough work to get by.  With the final “balloon payment” of the mortgage on his father’s bookstore [aka his home] coming due very soon, Jeremy began to panic.  Fortunately, he had a friend, Ginger, who had a crazy plan and a guardian angel of sorts, Jacob, looking after him.  Whether he was actually an angel is debatable, but there was no doubt that Jeremy could definitely communicate with the ghost of Jacob Grimm — one of the famous Brothers Grimm.  Jacob was pretty sure he had not yet passed on completely because he still had a purpose on earth, and he was certain that his purpose was to keep Jeremy safe.  Readers who are familiar with Grimm fairy tales will surely guess that something “grim” is in the cards, but they’re not likely to guess exactly what until it’s already too late.  This clever combination of old-fashioned fairy tales and modern storytelling has plenty of suspense and plot twists to keep readers on the edge of their seats, and I’m glad I can finally settle back in mine again.  :-)

Happy Reading!

The Sword of Summer (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard #1) by Rick Riordan

sword-of-summerI can’t even begin to explain how happy my son and I were when we found out that Rick Riordan was going to have a new series based on Norse mythology!  When we read Loki’s Wolves, we actually lamented the fact that Riordan didn’t have a Norse mythology series yet and just prayed that one was coming.  We’ve really grown to love Riordan’s ability to weave snarky and silly humor into books that actually teach readers quite a bit about mythology.  As a mom and librarian, I have loved seeing kids flock to the non-fiction section to find out more about the characters of Greek and Roman mythology they encountered in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians and Heroes of Olympus series.  As a reader, though, I have simply enjoyed the way that the stories of characters in the different series were so artfully woven together and worked so well with the existing myths.

In this book, we are introduced to a character named Magnus Chase — a homeless kid from Boston who has been on the run ever since his mom died.  Though she was actually killed by supernatural wolves, Magnus was fairly certain no one would believe him and decided that running from the law was easier than trying to convince people he didn’t murder her.  When his cousin, Annabeth — Yes!  *That* Annabeth! — and her dad come to Boston to look for Magnus, he ended up running into another uncle, Randolph.  His mom was always adamant that Magnus should stay away from him, but it was too tempting to find out what Uncle Randolph knew.  Randolph tried to convince Magnus that he was a demigod and that his father was a Norse god, but that didn’t really make sense.  Only after he was killed by a demonic villain and woke up in Valhalla did Magnus begin to believe this could all be true.

Especially with the in-story pronunciation help (via other characters helping Magnus correctly pronounce the names of legendary places and characters), I think this series makes Norse mythology a lot more approachable and is likely to create a huge surge in interest.  (I can only hope they do a better job if and when they turn this series into a movie!)

Happy Reading!

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

when-you-reach-meThis book was an interesting blend of historical fiction, mystery, and science fiction.  I can certainly see why it won the Newbery Award, since it was well written, pays homage to a “classic” children’s book, and has a nostalgia factor for the teachers and librarians who grew up in the 70s and 80s — especially with all the references to Miranda’s mom practicing for her appearance on the game show $20,000 Pyramid.  I have a sneaking suspicion, though, that a lot of tweens and teens would find it difficult to really get hooked on this story.  I was curious about how things would play out in the end and all, but the story didn’t exactly keep me on the edge of my seat.

One day, as Miranda walked home with her best friend, Sal, he got punched in the stomach.  The kid who punched him was new to the neighborhood and didn’t even know Miranda or Sal, so there didn’t seem to be any reason for the attack.  Even worse?  Right after that incident, Sal began to get distant.  Miranda felt lost without Sal, since the two of them had been constant companions since their early childhood.  And then, when the hidden/”emergency” key to her apartment went missing and she found a strange note hidden in a library book, Miranda got understandably freaked out.  Especially since the author of the note seemed to know things about her — even things that hadn’t happened yet.  Fans of A Wrinkle in Time are sure to enjoy the way Miranda’s life experiences drew parallels to that book and made her question the real possibilities of time travel.  I think there are enough details, nevertheless, that the story will still make sense to readers who aren’t familiar with L’Engle’s work.

Happy Reading!

Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman

shadow-scaleSo, I know that I said I wasn’t going to post reviews about sequels/series books anymore… but it’s been ALMOST THREE YEARS since Seraphina came out.  And I seriously love this story, so I want to be sure fantasy readers realize this awesome book is out there.  So… Yeah. I’m reviewing it anyway!  :-P

Growing up, Seraphina never realized there were other ityasaari (half-dragon/half-human beings) like her.  Her father had always done his best to keep her true identity a secret, out of fear for her safety, so she lived a very sheltered life.  After people found out her secret, though, and because there was a major conflict brewing between humans and dragons, Seraphina and Queen Glisselda have decided that tracking down the rest of the ityasaari might be their best chance to put a stop to the war in Goredd.  Richly imagined and full of action, this book should be well received by fans of other dragon tales like Eragon and The Last Dragonslayer.

Happy Reading!

Burn for Burn [trilogy] by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian

burn-for-burnLet me just start off my review by stating that I refuse to read any further books if this trilogy suddenly becomes a series with four or more books, like The Selection.  As far as I am concerned, this trilogy is complete, there is no more story, and Jenny Hand and Siobhan Vivian should leave it alone!  ;-)  (Who am I kidding?  I’m sure I would eat it up if they published anything else because I tore through these books!)  Oh… And there is one other thing I would like to clarify before starting my actual review.  Some people might start reading the first book and think the “sci-fi/fantasy” classification is unjustified.  Even at the end of the first book, I was a little unsure if the supernatural element was quite enough to justify being in the “sci-fi/fantasy” section of the Teen Area.  But, trust me when I say that it will make sense if you keep reading. Continue reading

Undertow by Michael Buckley

undertowI really enjoyed the fact that book didn’t fit neatly into a single category.  I could probably book talk this a few different ways, depending on the reader seeking a recommendation!  Readers who enjoyed the fantastic, blood-thirsty mermaids in Lies Beneath will likely be enthralled by the different races of the Alphas and their various body types, weapons, and powers.  Fans of The Hunger Games are sure to appreciate the various layers of societal resistance, government involvement, and fighting for survival.  And, of course, readers who prefer their dystopias with a side of angsty/forbidden love, like in the Delirium series, will not be disappointed! Continue reading

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

fangirlCath was not just a Simon Snow fan.  She was an über Simon Snow fan who actually had followers of her own.  How?  Cath wrote fan fiction.  More specifically, she wrote Simon/Baz fan fiction.  And her story, Carry On, got tens of thousands of hits every time she posted a new chapter.  While I wasn’t at all surprised to learn that Cath entered college with the intention to be a fiction writer, I was interested in how she struggled with creating stories all her own even though the fan fiction flowed so easily for her.  And even more than that, I was impressed by how wholly I found myself being absorbed into Cath’s everyday life and her struggle to adjust to the new realities of her life as a college freshman.

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