Is it possible to re-read a series too many times?

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

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

I’ve mentioned before (here and here), when the seasons shift from Summer into Autumn, I re-read the Harry Potter series. The crisp air, the Fall colors, and the overcast skies make me think about feasts in the Great Hall, trips to Hogsmeade, and mugs of butterbeer. This year, the hankering to re-read Harry Potter has come two seasons early. I blame it on Al Roker, who has been reciting Harry Potter-themed trivia on Comcast On Demand for the chance to win tickets to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. After hearing Hedwig’s theme for the umpteenth time, I could resist no longer, and I decided to hunt for my books. You’d think I wouldn’t have to “hunt” for something I cherish and read so frequently though. Alas! I am dreadfully unorganized.

I embarked on another re-read around midnight on Saturday. After cracking open the cover of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone for the 8th time, at least, I was struck by a memory of my first, true re-read. My final semester at college, right before Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (part one) hit theaters, I decided to re-read the series from start to finish. I picked up Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone for the first time in probably 10 years, and I was flabbergasted by how much I forgot. I had become so accustomed to the introduction in the movie that I forgot all about Vernon Dursely’s uncomfortable day at Grunnings and the shower of shooting stars over Kent, which was probably bewitched by Dedalus Diggle. Since then, it’s been a rare occasion that more than a year should pass before picking up at least one of the books to read (last year was one such occasion), and I feel I could practically recite parts of the series.

I wonder if there is such thing as reading a book (or in my case, a series) too many times. Is it possible that one day, the spell these books have cast on me will run its course? …Naaaaaah! Surely not. That’s kind of like saying one day I will stop craving my mom’s homemade chicken noodle soup!

What book(s) do you frequently re-read? Have you ever felt like you read a book too many times? 

Book Report: The Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

The Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

The Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

The Clockwork Angel (The Infernal Devices #1) by Cassandra Clare
Released: August 2010
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Age Group: Young Adult
Pages: 479
Source: Purchased

From Goodreads
When sixteen-year-old Tessa Gray crosses the ocean to find her brother, her destination is England, the time is the reign of Queen Victoria, and something terrifying is waiting for her in London’s Downworld, where vampires, warlocks and other supernatural folk stalk the gaslit streets. Only the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the world of demons, keep order amidst the chaos.

Kidnapped by the mysterious Dark Sisters, members of a secret organization called The Pandemonium Club, Tessa soon learns that she herself is a Downworlder with a rare ability: the power to transform, at will, into another person. What’s more, the Magister, the shadowy figure who runs the Club, will stop at nothing to claim Tessa’s power for his own.

Friendless and hunted, Tessa takes refuge with the Shadowhunters of the London Institute, who swear to find her brother if she will use her power to help them. She soon finds herself fascinated by—and torn between—two best friends: James, whose fragile beauty hides a deadly secret, and blue-eyed Will, whose caustic wit and volatile moods keep everyone in his life at arm’s length . . . everyone, that is, but Tessa. As their search draws them deep into the heart of an arcane plot that threatens to destroy the Shadowhunters, Tessa realizes that she may need to choose between saving her brother and helping her new friends save the world. . . . and that love may be the most dangerous magic of all.

My Thoughts
There were two things I liked about The Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare– Church, a cat adopted by the Shadowhunters at the end of the book, and Jem (James), one of Tessa’s love interests (supposedly, but more on that later). The rest was mediocre at best if not just downright boring. 479 pages isn’t that long, but 479 pages of The Clockwork Angel took me five months to plow through.

The beginning was interesting enough. I was mildly intrigued by Tessa’s supernatural ability. And I was even more intrigued by the Dark Sisters, their icky lifestyle, and their desire to please this Magister fellow. Who is he? I wanted to know! (I’ll admit, when his identity was revealed, I was pleasantly surprised).  But then, chapters 3 through 20 happened. As much as I wanted to throw the book down like I did with Heart of Darkness, I couldn’t because I spent my hard-earned money on a hardback copy of the book. I kept hoping that there would be some redeeming quality by the end of the book (besides Church, the cat) that would have made it all worthwhile. But, at the end of my reading experience, I was left wishing I could have had my lunch breaks back to spend doing something more interesting…like taking a working lunch to organize my filing cabinets.

First, the pacing is all off in this book. There are maybe one or two interesting and action packed scenes in The Clockwork Angel (ie. where vampires died and stuff), but everything else seemed to drag on for chapters. Anything interesting was but a blip amongst 479 pages of boring and stuffy writing. Just, not a whole lot happened. Really.

I also found it difficult to immerse myself in the world that Clare created. It’s Victorian England with a vaguely steampunk aesthetic, but the title and the cover might suggest otherwise. Don’t be mislead like I was. There were only two things I found remotely steampunk.

  1. The clockwork angel necklace Tessa wears. In all honesty though, you’ll probably forget all about this trinket until the very last chapter of the book. Nevermind that it’s the title of the book.
  2. The automatons. These automatons are jokes though because MAGIC and the full moon bring them to life, not…well, anything remotely mechanical or scientific.

It’s like Clare discovered Steampunk was popular and thus a viable money source, so she adhered some cogs and brass to the pages of her book and called it good. If you have the audacity to try to pass this off as steampunk, at least give us something more. Like zeppelins or something.

Zeppelin LZ 4 or Led Zeppelin. You pick, either will suffice.

Zeppelin LZ 4 or Led Zeppelin. You pick, either will suffice.

I found the characters to be annoying as well (sans Jem and Church, mind you). Tessa was annoyingly prudent and proper, and all she seemed to do was slander England. Will was an asshole, so naturally the female main character pines for him. Jessamine could have been interesting because she seemed like the only character who had a valid internal struggle. Unfortunately, she acted like a spoiled and superficial brat. As for the rest of the characters? I can’t even remember their names. Or their personalities. Or their involvement with the story line! I think the characters in this book were one-dimensional caricatures rather than a character with any sort of depth. I’m pretty sure there was a tinkerer whose experiments always went awry [EDIT: Yes there was. His name was Henry Branwell].

Finally the romance. The Goodreads summary suggests there is some quality, love triangle action going on in The Clockwork Angel. And maybe this is expanded upon in later books. But, I’m not even spoiling the story for you by saying there isn’t one iota of a love triangle going on in this book. That should be a good thing, right? Instead, Tessa pines for Will Herondale, the book’s biggest jerk, and she immediately friendzones Jem. For shame, Tessa! Will has a shady past that he uses as an excuse to put up his guard. He’s just mean to the other characters in the book, especially Tessa. Jem has a shady past to, but he’s open and honest about it with Tessa. And he’s a really kind, caring, and genuine individual. I wonder why the female main characters never fawn over the guy I would. It leads me to believe that some authors have really poor taste in men. Someone, please explain to me what’s so romantic about a jerk who makes you question your worth. Why is this even trendy?

Overall,
I didn’t like the book. And that really sucks because I’m genuinely interested to learn why Will is such a shifty character and what kind of supernatural being is Tessa. Do they have Cliffsnotes for this?

Cover Story
When I read the synopsis of the book, I kind of scrunched my nose up at it. But, then I looked at the cover and convinced myself that a crappy book wouldn’t have a cover as beautiful as this.

Read…at your own risk. I didn’t like this book, but other people do. Take this book review from Truly Bookish– she says the exact opposite of what I do! But, if you’re a fan of the Mortal Instruments series, approach The Infernal Devices with caution. From what I’ve read on Goodreads, there are many people who loved the Mortal Instruments series but hated the Infernal Devices because it was too similar to the series they adored first.

I’m sad that this is my introduction to Cassandra Clare. So many book bloggers, nay readers, out there seem to adore her characters and the world she created. Maybe I just started with the wrong book. Tell me, should I take a chance and give Clare’s Mortal Instrument series a try?

Book Report: The Demon King by Cinda Williams Chima

The Demon King (The Seven Realms #1) by Cinda Williams Chima
Released:November 2009
Publisher: Hyperion Books
Age Group: Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 506
Source: Won from Heather @ Proud Book Nerd

From Goodreads
When 16-year-old Han Alister and his Clan friend Dancer encounter three underage wizards setting fire to the sacred mountain of Hanalea, he has no idea that this event will precipitate a cascade of disasters that will threaten everything he cares about. Han’s life is complicated enough. He’s the former streetlord of the Raggers—a street gang in the city of Fellsmarch. His street name, Cuffs, comes from the mysterious silver bracelets he’s worn all his life—cuffs that are impossible to take off. Now Han’s working odd jobs, helping to support his family, and doing his best to leave his old life behind. Events conspire against him, however. When members of a rival gang start dying, Han naturally gets the blame.

Meanwhile, Princess Raisa ana’Marianna has her own battles to fight. As heir to the Gray Wolf throne of the Fells, she’s just spent three years of relative freedom with her father’s family at Demonai Camp—riding, hunting, and working the famous Clan markets. Now court life in Fellsmarch pinches like a pair of too-small shoes.

Wars are raging to the south, and threaten to spread into the high country. After a long period of quiet, the power of the Wizard Council is once again growing. The people of the Fells are starving and close to rebellion. Now more than ever, there’s a need for a strong queen. But Raisa’s mother Queen Marianna is weak and distracted by the handsome Gavan Bayar, High Wizard of the Fells. Raisa feels like a cage is closing around her—and an arranged marriage and eroded inheritance is the least of it.

My Thoughts
I love fantasy movies, but fantasy novels? Not so much. I like books that are character-driven, and it would seem that the majority of fantasy novels I’ve read are the antithesis of that. I can appreciate exquisite world building just as much as the next person, but that won’t keep my attention for long unless I fall in love with the characters. But, I’m happy to say The Demon King by Cinda Williams Chima kept me enthralled from start to finish.

I loved the characters in this book. Even though they were a tad archetypal, their attitudes, their motives, their personalities were refreshing. First there is Han “Cuffs” Allister. If ever there was a male protagonist to make me swoon, Han is that character. And apparently he makes several of the ladies in the Seven Realms swoon too. He’s handsome. He’s cunning. He’s mysterious (just what are those cuffs he’s worn since he was a babe, and why won’t anyone let him take them off?). He’s also reformed! He used to spend his days as one of the most feared street lords (see: thief). But, it caused his mother and sister too much grief, so he put his life of crime behind him (d’awww). But, just try convincing rival street gangs and local law enforcement. Even though he’s been “clean”, he’s always finding himself in trouble. Or is trouble always finding him?

Then there is Princess Raisa. I thought she was going to be another stuck up princess in a poofy gown, but this girl has an admirable strength within her that we only begin to see in book one. She’s the kind of female protagonist who gets to get her hands dirty AND she gets to wear the most luxurious gowns. She doesn’t have so sacrifice femininity for strength, and I love that about Raisa. Her mind is more preoccupied about living life among her kin in Marisa Pines (a place of common folk, naturalists, and Demonai warriors) than living in her royal court. She’s more interested in military affairs than debutante balls. And she’s more interested in playing the field than settling down with one suitor (because, you know, she just turned 16, which is the age that most ladies get married off); this especially is refreshing.

Chima also creates some deliciously evil characters. They’re the types of people who use their status and power to strike fear into the hearts of others. They also harbor a mysterious, magical power that was thought to have been banned centuries ago, and they’re now using it to their advantage. But, their true motive has yet to be revealed, and I’m dying to know. And on top of that, Chima kind of blurs the lines between evil and misguided. One moment you’re thinking “burn him at the stake!”, and the next minute you’re thinking, “Awww, now my heart is crying for him”. You’re toying with my emotions Cinda Williams Chima! And it feels so right.

I could prattle on about how great Chima’s world building skills are, but that would take forever. So, I’m thinking you’re going to have to take my word on it. The world building in The Demon King was exquisite. From the vivid descriptions of the locations in the Seven Realms to the hierarchies and the every-day-life of the societies in the Seven Realms, Chima wins at world building. Oh, that’s not to forget the conflicts between the realms or the conflicts between the different social groups. Or the religion or the way magic works. With any book that includes world building, some slow spots in pacing can be expected, but I wasn’t as bothered by it as I thought I would. I love the characters and the action that are in the book, but I also loved reading about the different realms and the folktale that lends its name to the title of the book. Chima’s work was truly wonderful.

Overall,
I loved this book. I loved this book! And, I am very lucky that I have the next few books in the series, so I can dive right into them whenever I want. After the ending (with all it’s plot twists and drama), I’m dying to know what happens next!

Cover Story:
Oh my gosh! Look at it in all its beautiful glory. Look at the colors and that mysterious serpent pendant. Look At It!!!

Read if you’ve ever picked up the Lord of the Rings and then put it down and walked away from it half way through the series because you couldn’t take it anymore. The Demon King is written in a way that’s easier to digest for those who are not normally nuts about high fantasy. Chima figured out the perfect balance between character development, plot, and world building, and it opened me up to try out other books in the (high) fantasy genre. Additionally, read if you’re nuts about Bethesda’s Elder Scroll series. (I’m actually mostly kidding about that last one, but I really couldn’t help but notice some similarities between the book and the Elder Scroll games.)

Did Not Finish (DNF Report) #1

I used to be notorious for not finishing books. I skated through high school and college literature classes by skimming through books and Cliff’s Notes Spark Notes. Post college, I made a resolution of sorts where I basically declared (quietly to myself) that I would finish any book set in my path. The thought process behind it was sometimes books are discouragingly slow, but the ending to book makes up for it. Or, sometimes a book, the language, or the style of writing is dry, but by finishing the book I’ll somehow appreciate the time and effort I put into reading the piece of work (this mostly applies to the Classics). But, like many resolutions, I’ve failed to follow through with this one. So here, my bookish friends, is my very first Did Not Finish Report.

The Shadow Conspiracy II edited by Phyllis Radford and Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff (Anthology)
Released: February 2011
Publisher: Book View Cafe
Age Group: Adult
Pages: 582
Source: LibraryThing’s Early Reviewer

Summary: The soul of the poet who would be king still seeks immortality — but will it find a home? And will that home be flesh or steel?

All new tales of adventure and intrigue in the age of steam, from the authors at Book View Café.

My Thoughts: The style of writing is what turned me off to this collection first. There is no doubt in my mind that each story is well-written, and the plots of the stories I did finish were interesting enough. However, the writing was reminiscent of those classic novels I avoided reading in high school– old-fashioned and stuffy. Don’t get me wrong, I know there is an audience for this book; I’m just not part of that audience.

The second reason why this book and I didn’t mesh was because I felt like I was reading the same story over and over again. From what I read, each story took a human vs. automaton approach with the automaton somehow always coming out on top. I get that it’s an anthology, so there needs to be some sort of cohesion, but this was excessive. I also realize it was an anthology of Steampunk shorts– but just like there is more to Steampunk than brass cogs and goggles, there is more to Steampunk than automatons and the occasional zeppelin.

I made it through five of the eleven short stories. Of those, “Mad Bad Richard Dadd” by Amy Sterling Casil and “The Maiden Mechanical,” by Brenda Clough were the most notable. Despite my “complaints”, I do see the appeal in The Shadow Conspiracy II– It’s a well-written collection that belongs on the shelves on Steampunk aficionados, but it just wasn’t my cup of tea.

 

Dangerous (Element Preservers series #1) by Alycia Linwood
Released: August 2011
Publisher: Self-published/Smashwords
Age Group: Young Adult
Pages: 140
Source: LibraryThing’s Early Reviewer

Summary: Ria is an 18-year-old girl who has just started going to the University of Magic, a special university for those who have one of the four elements: fire, water, air and earth. There she meets Michael, a boy whose element is different from hers, which makes their romantic involvement seem impossible because mixing of elements can have horrible consequences. She also feels threatened by Adrian, a very dangerous magic disease carrier. Magic disease, which surged as a result of bad mixing of elements, turns people into cold-hearted killers, who have a strong desire to take someone’s element as they do not have their own. Ria’s best friend, Paula, is fascinated by Adrian like most of the girls at the University and wants him to help her with her research about the disease. All Ria’s beliefs are put to test when she starts having the symptoms of the disease and the only person she can turn to is Adrian.

My Thoughts: The writing in Dangerous was rough. Now, I do realize that this book is self-published. It’s not likely Linwood had access to professional editors, so I’m not even going to complain about the occasional typo or the occasional coma splice. But there is one word that sums up the writing in this book– “inexperienced”. The simple rule, “Show, don’t tell” was broken frequently, so I didn’t have a rich reading experience. I had a hard time visualizing what was happening in the story. I also found much of the dialogue to be awkward or forced, and a lot of it didn’t really add to the storyline.

This book does have potential though. The only reason why I stuck around for 80 pages is because the story honestly was interesting. I appreciated the tension between people born with an element and those who are born without. There was a consistent sense of danger with each turn of the page. There was also a hint of a mystery when Ria, a young woman from a “pure element” family, starts showing symptoms of Magic Disease. I ended up putting the book down because of gaping plot holes and inconsistencies in the world Linwood developed. Like, how does an 18-year-old girl become a master geneticist? Or, if Adrian is believed to have Magic Disease, why is the dean allowing him to attend Magic University where thousands of lives may be at risk? Or, if the majority of civilization has the ability to wield an element, and to be a magic user is a socially acceptable thing, why is letting one’s element show in public frowned upon?

Inconsistencies aside, I don’t think the world Linwood created was as developed as it could have been. The story takes place on Earth and in a time/society like ours. Technology and customs were similar. But there were some differences. Like how the government made such an effort to cover up what they knew of Magic Disease, but this was barely mentioned. It was just a blip in the novel, but I have a feeling the government plays a greater role than that. And, I really would have liked to know why being able to control an element was important in the world when A. you weren’t supposed to use the element in public and B. all the modern technology that people used. These may seem nit-picky, but they were enough of a reason that I was unable to “willingly suspend disbelief”.

I think in a lot of ways, Dangerous by Alycia Linwood is like a precious gem that hasn’t gone through a rock tumbler yet. I think there is something good here, but it still needs work.

 

Keep in mind, I am not discouraging other readers from picking up these books. My opinion is subjective, so while I didn’t fully appreciate these books, maybe you will. You can check out other reviews for Shadow Conspiracy II and Dangerous on Goodreads where some readers gave rave reviews.

 

Book Report: Wings by Aprilynn Pike

Wings (Laurel series #1) by Aprilynne Pike
Released: May 2009
Publisher: Harper Teen
Age Group: Young Adult
Pages: 294
Source: Free Nook Book

From Goodreads
 Laurel was mesmerized, staring at the pale things with wide eyes. They were terrifyingly beautiful—too beautiful for words.

Laurel turned to the mirror again, her eyes on the hovering petals that floated beside her head. They looked almost like wings.

In this extraordinary tale of magic and intrigue, romance and danger, everything you thought you knew about faeries will be changed forever.

My Thoughts
My introduction to this book was an interesting one. Reviews for this books kept popping up across book blogs, and the cover kept catching my eye. I thought the cover was lovely, but the picture of the cover was kind of small so I would squint at it for a few moments trying to figure out what I was looking at. Admitting defeat, I clicked to enlarge the picture and saw it was two flower petals shaped like wings. A week or so would pass and I would stumble onto another review of Wings, and I would find myself staring at the cover again trying to figure out (or at this point, trying to remember) what was on it. How could I forget so soon? I just looked at it! This happened more times than I would like to admit, which lead me to think this book would be forgettable. (Hey, I’m not saying my logic isn’t fallible).

I decided to give this book a try, and I found myself absorbed into the book. Okay, so for the most part, the personalities of the characters are pretty bland. I mean, the characters were overly perfect. Laurel is the most beautiful girl in the world in school; she’s mediocre in biology, but that’s really the limit to her flaws. Then there is David, her love interest in this book. He’s the All-American type of boy who is good at sports and school, and as far as I’m concerned he doesn’t have a flaw. Then there is Tamani who just seems stoic.

Wait, sounds like it’s turning into a negative review! It’s not, I swear. While the characters didn’t impress me, the storyline kind of did… I really enjoyed Pike’s unique twist to the fairy tale. Without really revealing anything, reading about Laurel’s true origins was a treat, and it was fun learning how she’s coming to terms with who and what she really is. The mystery surrounding Laurel’s old home as well as the Mr. Barnes who seems very interested in procuring the property is compelling. Especially since people who’ve met him seem to lose self-control and think nothing of it.

Overall,
I think Wings by Aprilynn Pike is a good start to the series, and I’m looking forward to reading Spells

Cover Story:
I think it’s lovely, especially when I can remember what it is that’s on the cover! Joking aside, I love the colors, and I find it to be very calming. In this case, it was the cover that encouraged me to give the book a try.
My Rating:  3/5 cups o’ tea!

Book Report: The Alchemyst by Michael Scott

The Alchemyst (The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel #1) by Michael Scott

Released: May 2007
Publisher: Delacourt Books for Young Readers
Age Group: Young Adult
Pages: 375
Source: Purchased from a bookstore

From Goodreads
The tomb of Nicholas Flamel is empty. The greatest alchemist of his day supposedly died in 1418, but rumors continue to swirl that he continues to walk among us. Could it be true that this magician/chemist has access to the secret of eternal life? Could the Book of Abraham, which he purportedly owns, hold the key to this elixir? If it does, the theft of this single ancient volume could destroy the world as we know it.

My Thoughts
Let me be honest here.  The reason why I picked up this book in the first place is because the book is about Nicholas Flamel, and Nicholas Flamel is mentioned in the first Harry Potter book.  Does anyone else pick out books like that?  Silly reasons aside, I enjoyed this book!

The story is about Sophie and Josh Newman.  They are normal twins, working normal summer jobs, but unknowingly working for some really old people.  And by really old, I mean a couple of centuries old– the Flamels, who are famous for concocting the sorcerer’s stone, which makes them immortal.  Then some golems (not to be confused with Gollum) and peculiar men in business attire, Dr. John Dee and his lackeys, show up at the twins’ place(s) of work.  A magical battle and a kidnapping ensues, and now Sophie and Josh’s life is thrown into a whirlwind– they just might be the twins an old prophecy describes, and if that is so, then they are destined to save the world from the evil Dr. John Dee and some really angry Elders.  In their quest to hopefully saving the world, Nicholas Flamel and the twins receive aid from a number of people we know as myths and legends like  Scathatch the Warrior Maiden and the Witch of Endor while trying to outwit the likes of Bastet and Morrigan.

The book is filled to the brim with old myths and legends.  Some of them I learned about in school, while others were unfamiliar to me.  It was those that were unfamiliar to me that encouraged me to do some outside research.  I spent so long browsing wikipedia pages so I could learn more about Scathatch and the Witch of Endor.  The Alchemyst opened up a whole new world that I wanted to know more about; I think it’s really awesome when books have that kind of effect.  It would have been easy for Michael Scott to just simply incorporate the legends and their back stories into the novel; however, he wove them into the story giving each one their own distinct and thorough personalities.

I wasn’t so impressed with Sophie and Josh in this story though.  The characters were a little bland compared to the individuals they have met so far.  But, based on how well the legends were created, I don’t doubt Sophie and Josh will grow into more memorable characters as each book progresses.

Now, I made the mistake of bringing this book to work with me.  I read it during my breaks and during my lunches.  I also sneaked off the floor in between breaks and lunch to read a couple of pages here and there.  But, don’t tell my boss.  In my defense, I couldn’t help it!  This book was so action packed!  There were car chases and magical battles of epic proportion.  Every few chapters revealed the fate of what the world would be if Sophie and Josh’s powers weren’t awakened.  And every chapter left off on a cliffhanger.  Cliffhangers get me every time.  I just needed to know what happened next; I’m sure you understand, right?

Overall, the Alchemyst by Michael Scott was down-right fascinating.  Normally I don’t read more than one book from a series a year, but I’m thinking The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel might be an exception.  I went out just last week to buy the second books from the series, The Magician.  And, even though it’s been only a month since I finished The Alchemyst, I’m thinking of starting the new book very soon.  I have no intention of bring it to work with me though.  If it’s anything like the last book, I’m sure I will find several excuses to leave the sales floor, which isn’t good considering I work off of commission.

Cover Story:
It looks like a tome from the past, which is very fitting for the story.  I love it, and it gets a double thumbs up from me.

My Rating: 4/5 cups o’ tea:

Book Report: The Fairy-Tale Detectives by Michael Buckley

 The Fairy-Tale Detectives (Sisters Grimm #1) by Michael Buckley

Released: August 2007
Publisher: Amulet Books
Age Group: Middle Grade
Pages: 284
Source: Library

From Goodreads:
For Sabrina and Daphne Grimm, life has not been a fairy tale. After the mysterious disappearance of their parents, the sisters are sent to live with their grandmother–a woman they believed was dead! Granny Relda reveals that the girls have two famous ancestors, the Brothers Grimm, whose classic book of fairy tales is actually a collection of case files of magical mischief. Now the girls must take on the family responsibility of being fairy tale detectives.

My Thoughts:
I almost missed work because of this book. 

I started reading The Fairy-Tale Detectives on a particularly rainy day while sipping on a hot mug of Earl Grey tea.  By the first few pages and the first crack of thunder from outside, I was sucked into the book.  I only wish I could mean that literally. 

Ferryport Landing may seem like just a quaint New York town to the unobserving eye, but really it is home to the Everafters (fairytale characters).  Michael Buckley recreated a big cast of memorable fairytale characters; each one had their own unique quirks and personality.   Sabrina and her younger sister, Daphne, learn their Granny Relda and her faithful companion, Mr. Canis, are responsible for keeping magical shenanigans from getting too far out of hand.  And, since the young girls have been reunited with family, that responsibility is now theirs too. 

The youngest of the girls, Daphne, is downright adorable.  She has such a bright and positive outlook on life despite all the negative experiences she’s had.  I wish I could say the same for Sabrina who seems a little too cynical for such a young girl.  At times, her cynicism tried my patience.  But, as the story progressed, she slowly came to terms with her new life.  I actually look forward to reading about Sabrina in the rest of the series because I don’t think she’ll be as negative.  She did a lot of growing in book one. 

Aside from being filled to the brim with magical characters, The Fairy-Tale Detectives is also action-packed!  As soon as Granny Relda and company discover evidence of a dangerous giant poking around in town, the book does not slow down.  There are wild police chases, jail breaks, mortal peril, and covert operations (just to name a few)!  

My only concern with The Sisters Grimm series is the idea of a Grimm Fairytale is rather broad.  Based on the title, readers will expect nothing but characters collected by the Grimm brothers to be in the book, but that is not the case.  Buckley also includes magical characters from Rudyard Kipling, William Shakespeare, Lewis Carrol, and Hans Christian Anderson.  Initially, this did bother me because Puck and Alice are not from Grimm fairy tales.  It’s misleading!  And, I wondered how many youngsters were going to be familiar with Puck from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  I did find, by the end of the book I didn’t really mind.  Grimm fairy tales or not, they were integrated well into the story, and many of them were likeable.

Overall, I adored this book!  Setting the book down with only 80 pages to go just so I wasn’t late for work was difficult to do.  I cannot wait to get back to the library to check out the rest from this series.  Especially since The Fairy-Tale Detectives ended on a cliffhanger!  While the girls are busy solving mysteries in Ferrypoint Landing with Granny Relda, their mysterious past is slowly revealed.  Now, I’m dying to know about the significance of the red hand print!

Cover Story:  It’s wonderful along with the rest of the illustrations found in the book created by Peter Ferguson.  There is so much life and detail in each illustration.

My Rating: 5/5 cups o’ tea

Now until the break of day/ Through this house each fairy stray

The most recent Follow Friday up at Parajunkee’s View posed this question:

In light of the Summer Solstice. Also known as Midsummer…let’s talk about fairies. What is your favorite fairy tale or story that revolves around the fae?

The first story that comes to mind is William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  This probably wouldn’t have been on my list if I hadn’t taken a Studies in Shakespeare class my senior year of high school.  And it probably wouldn’t have been on my list if my class hadn’t been asked to perform the play.  We were supposed to perform the play in 15 minutes.  Ha!  Yea right.  It ended up being a 2 hours performance.

Reading A Midsummer Night’s Dream was fine, but performing it really helped me to understand all the strange things that happened– I was Helena, by the way.  There wouldn’t have been much of a story without Oberon and Titania.  Oh, and of course Puck, who made me feel both frustrated and amused because of all the trouble he caused!

Puck also made an appearance in another book I recently read– The Sister’s Grimm!  Maybe it’s too soon to determine, but it seems like I may have found a new favorite series.  Expect a review shortly!  But, back to Puck!  He’s still around causing mischief in the town of Fairyport landing, but there seems to be a Peter Pan characteristic that wasn’t there in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  Plus, while he still likes causing mischief, Puck does use his powers for some good in The Sisters Grimm.

Favorite stories aside, there is one that I have never read or watched that has fairies in it…I think…well, according to Kingdom Hearts there are fairies in this story.  I am talking about Sleeping Beauty!  Never in my 22 years of existence, at least that I can recall, have I ever heard the story of Sleeping Beauty.  It’s been on my to-read and my to-watch list for years, but I still haven’t gotten around to it.

Image Credit: hellobaby @ deviantart.com

Book Report: Any Witch Way by Annastaysia Savage

Any Witch Way by Annastaysia Savage

Released: April 08, 2011 (That’s yesterday, folks!)
Publisher: Journal Stone
Age Group: Middle Grade/Young Adult
Pages: 186
Source: From the publisher in exchange for an honest review

From Good Reads:
Enduring the teasing and ridicule of her school mates, Sadie struggles through life as a pre-teen on the eve of her 13th birthday. Three years ago, a car crash took her mother, but Sadie never saw her body. She refuses to believe her mother is really gone. Holding fast to that feeling earns her the nickname “Crazy Sadie.”

Despite her one wish to be normal, Sadie only finds solace with a small group of unusual characters. These unlikely friends give her a semi-normal life outside of school in a bookstore where strange and mystical things seem to happen. In fact, if Sadie entertains her deepest suspicions, her friends are a little mystical.

When her birthday arrives however, Sadie finds herself whisked into a magical world that swirls just under the surface of normal, everyday life. Not only does she learn she’ll soon become a witch, but she also discovers she must battle The Syndicate to save her new world.

First Lines:

The bright red lockers lining the school’s hallway became a blur as Sadie started to run. She could smell the all-too-heavily applied perfume of her tormentors, and it made her stomach churn.

My Thoughts:
If I cannot live in J.K. Rowling’s wizarding world pre- or post- Vol-Vol…he-who-must-not-be-named, can I live in the world Annastaysia Savage created in Any Witch Way?  I thought Annastaysia’s world building was superb.  The story starts out in our reality, but as Sadie learns or her true identity, our reality blends and eventually fades into the realm of the magik and fantasy.  Annastaysia incorporates all of the magical creatures and myths we grew up reading about in fairy tale books from imps and nymphs and centaurs to creatures that may be a little obscure.  She also creates her own vivid and terrifying, evil creatures for Sadie to battle.  She introduces these creatures without bombarding the reader with too much back story.

The world Annastaysia created was so vividly described too.  Beautiful images of the magikal realm were painted in my mind as I read.  But, I was confused when the different realms and planes were brought up.  While I have a vague concept of what the planes are, I’m not entirely sure how they work.  This doesn’t really conflict with the reader’s ability to understand the storyline or appreciate the world, but it might make a reader curious.

Any Witch Way was an action-packed novel from start to finish.  Around every corner, enemies, strange creatures, and paralyzing potions confront Sadie as she tries to put the Syndicate at bay.  Even though there is a lot of history to introduce to Sadie and the reader, it doesn’t slow down the plot any.  Oh, and I should mention this story is filled with plot twists.  I totally did not predict what the ending had in store!

I loved the characters in this story.  Sadie grew into a girl who is unsure of herself into a brave and confident witchling.  She achieves it all without a romantic interest helping her along the way which is even more awesome!  All of the race of creatures in the story, and there are a lot, have defining personality traits so they don’t just blend into each other, and it was fun getting to know each one.

Overall, I loved this story!  It was funny and scary and heartwarming and full of adventure– all under one book cover.  Typically I have a difficult time getting into fantasy novels since the world building often outshines the characters, but Any Witch Way had a nice balance of both.  Oh, and I still can’t get over how much I loved the magikal world.

Cover Story:
It’s okay.  I see how it’s relevant to the story, but it’s not my favorite.  Is it me or does the cover seem a little empty?

My Rating: 5/5 cups o’ tea!

Book Report: So You Want to be a Wizard

So You Want to be a Wizard by Diane Duane
Book 1 in the Young Wizards series
Pages: 408 * Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt * Publish Date: 1983

Synopsis:
Nita Callahan, thirteen years old, ducks into the local library to escape the torment of neighborhood bully, Joanne. While hiding in the book stacks, she finds a book titled So You Want to be a Wizard among other career exploration books for children. She brings the book home with her and discovers it is about the art of wizardry. She believes it to be a hoax, but she decides to take the Wizard Oath anyway– just in case. The next day, when she is out trying to do her first spell, she meets Kit Rodriguez, a young Hispanic boy who gets picked on for being too smart.  She finds out he is also a fellow wizard. The two successfully complete a spell together which summons an intelligent white hole, Fred, from space; he informs the young wizards that a book, The Naming of the Lights, has gone missing and the universe may be in danger. Nita’s doubts about the book are gone: she is a wizard.

My thoughts:
 I just finished re-reading the Harry Potter series, and my thirst for fantasy, wizardry, and magic had not been quenched, so I picked up So You Want to be a Wizard without knowing much about it.

I do have to admit, I did have trouble getting into the book. I don’t know if the book was just slow to start up or what, but I did almost put this book down. Once Fred came into the picture though I became intrigued.

I’m still baffled at Nita and Kit’s ability to have what seems to be a sudden understanding of complex wizardry. I mean, the two only had the book for a few days and already they knew exactly what spells to use and when and how to manipulate basic spells into something more complex. It just didn’t seem believable even though it is a fantasy novel. It just seemed like they would have needed more training before jumping into the big stuff– the really big stuff.

I also had a problem with the way certain characters were introduced.  Sometimes the introduction seemed so sudden, most specifically with the Perytons. When Nita and Kit are casting a spell, these villainous creatures begin to approach them. The two know them immediately as Perytons as if Perytons were creatures they passed in every day life. When I initially read the passage first describing the Perytons, I thought they were humans with wolf-like features, but I was very wrong. I later looked them up, and I guess they look just like wolves except more evil…?*shrug*

Confusion aside, I am glad I picked up the book. I enjoyed the characters in the story. Nita and Kit, the protagonists, are underdogs. But they don’t feel sorry for themselves. Instead, they try to find ways to overcome the bullying they endure daily. It just so happens that the lessons they learn through wizardry hold the answers. Fred, the white hole that is summoned, is my absolute favorite though. He is just a fun character! His awe of the new world and the sun (which he describes as “cute”) is so heartwarming, and his comments often evoked a few chuckles out of me.

Sci-fi is as much a part of the book as fantasy is since much of the magic revolves around manipulating the physical environment and time. I was surprised at how complex this was considering it’s a book aimed at pre-teens and young teenagers. For example, Fred says:

[I] have to find a functional-Advisory nexus in a hurry. I found out that the Naming of the Lights has gone missing, and I managed to find a paradimensional net with enough empty loci to get me to an Advisory in a hurry.

I scratched my head at that one and proceeded to look up a bunch of words in that sentence. I appreciated that Duane didn’t dumb the book down though. It certainly makes for a challenging but fulfilling read.

One of my favorite aspects of this book was Nita’s closeness to nature. Her closeness allows her to communicate with and manipulate nature easier than say things that are man made, like cars and planes, which appears to be Kit’s specialty. Nita’s closeness to nature allows for some really interesting dialogue between Nita and the trees that I absolutely adored.

Overall, I enjoyed the book, and I would recommend it to anyone who is looking for a magic or wizard fix. It’s part of a series, and I think I’d like to read the rest, but I’m not in a rush to read them.

Rating: 3/5 cups o’ tea!

-Jackie