Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Changelings & Other Stories by Leah Cypess

Changelings & Other Stories 
by Leah Cypess
January 2012 

Book Jacket Summary
Laura is telling the truth about being from Faerie. But not about anything else.

Darri has been waiting years for her brother’s return… because only she can protect the rest of her family from him.

Sarli is one of a long line of abandoned girls chosen to be a human sacrifice. But she’s planning for her turn to go a little differently.

Seven previously published fantasy stories by Leah Cypess, author of Mistwood & Nightspell.

My Thoughts
Creepy and thought provoking Cypess makes worlds where the magical is not that far removed from our daily lives. Changelings are sent from fairy as punishment or to help their race survive. There are companies that can send you on a quest but it might be more real than originally anticipated. It is a scary world full of stories that are not quite explained from our past and Cypress makes the most of it. This is a short anthology and I enjoyed having a quick read for an afternoon. I am looking forward to reading more of Cypress, especially if she can keep up the creepy atmosphere in her novels. I would recommend this one to those looking for an atmospheric collection and only have a limited time.

Book Pairings
Lip Touch: Three Times by Laini Talyor
 Red as Blood, or Tales from the Sisters Grimmer by Tanith Lee
 The Beastly Bride: Tales of the Animal People by Ellen Datlow


Friday, September 12, 2014

Ghost Knight by Cornelia Funke

Ghost Knight
by Cornelia Funke
translated by Oliver Latsch
narrated by Elliot Hill
Middle Grade
May 2012

Book Jacket Summary
From international phenomenon Cornelia Funke, the bestselling author of Reckless and Inkheart.

Eleven-year-old Jon Whitcroft never expected to enjoy boarding school. Then again, he never expected to be confronted by a pack of vengeful ghosts, either. And then he meets Ella, a quirky new friend with a taste for adventure...

Together, Jon and Ella must work to uncover the secrets of a centuries-old murder while being haunted by terrifying spirits, their bloodless faces set on revenge. So when Jon summons the ghost of the late knight Longspee for his protection, there's just one question: Can Longspee truly be trusted?

My Thoughts
Jon is sent off to boarding school after constant fighting with his mother's boyfriend. I can understand Jon's resentment but it is still a bit over the top because "The Beard", as Jon calls him, really does nothing overtly wrong. Jon is just mad at being replaced in the eyes of his mother and sisters. He is used to being the man of the house but is acting petulant and using his childish anger to get back at The Beard. He ends up in Salisbury, England at a boarding school and is soon caught up in a ghost hunt with him at the center of it. Ghosts are looking to kill anyone of his bloodline and he is encouraged by his new friend Emma to look for another ghost to protect him. Enter Sir William Longspee who made an oath to protect those who are endangered after his death. 
I really enjoyed this audiobook and I'm glad I found a way to actually enjoy Cornelia Funke's books. There is just something off with the translation when I try to read them. Maybe it was the years of taking German but the structure of the sentences throw me off. It was easy to slip into the story and not get caught up in the grammar and structure.
The story itself is fun and I like that Jon seems to grow as a person through the story. He starts off as a big brat but as he gets to know Sir Longspee and Emma he wants to change. That is a big part of a middle grade book for me. I want the character to solve the mystery or save the day but they also grow as a person with the experience. Funke has that balance quite underhand with this book. Plus this one takes pace in England and has an under current of suspense and gloom.
I recommend this one to those who love a good ghost story!     

Book Pairings
Inkspell by Cornelia Funke  
Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
All the Lovely Bad Ones: A Ghost Story by Mary Downing Hahn
The Ghost's Grave by Peg Kehret


Thursday, September 11, 2014

Miss Marple:The Complete Short Stories by Agatha Christie

Miss Marple: The Complete Short Stories
by Agatha Christie
387 pages
November 2013

Book Jacket Summary
This collection gathers together every short story featuring one of Agatha Christie’s most famous creations: Miss Marple. Described by her friend Dolly Bantry as “the typical old maid of fiction,” Miss Marple has lived almost her entire life in the sleepy hamlet of St. Mary Mead. Yet, by observing village life she has gained an unparalleled insight into human nature—and used it to devastating effect. As her friend Sir Henry Clithering, the ex- Commissioner of Scotland Yard, has been heard to say: “She’s just the finest detective God ever made”—and many Agatha Christie fans would agree.

My Thoughts
I believe this was a Kindle Daily Deal that I bought on a whim and I am glad I had the foresight to do so. I love a good mystery and Agatha Christie is generally my go to read for them. I have had such a  short attention span lately and this was the perfect book to set down and pick up again. This short story collection was so much fun to read because it held so many juicy little stories of crime and passion or plain cold blooded murder.
It is easy to slip into the time period and situate yourself for tea while you hear about village gossip from the ladies in town. Miss Marple is the most observant person when it comes to human nature and how people react. She uses this to help the inspectors of the town solve crimes in a highly unusual manner. She sits backs listens and can tell you everything you need to know from things that have happened in her past. I adore Agatha Christie and her stories. In fact most of them could have been fleshed out and made into novels. I highly enjoyed this set and want to really sink my teeth into one of her full length novels.

Book Pairings
Lord Peter by Dorothy L. Sayers
Partners in Crime by Agatha Christie


Thursday, September 4, 2014

Guest Post: The Arnifour Affair by Gregory Harris

The Arnifour Affair 
(a Colin Pendragon mystery)
by Gregory Harris
Pub year: 2014
ISBN 9780758292674

Jacket Summary: 
When a carriage bearing the Arnifour family crest - a vulture devouring a slaughtered lamb - arrives at the Kensington home of Colin Pendragon, it is an ominous beginning to a perplexing new case. Lady Arnifour's husband has been beaten to death and her niece, Elsbeth, left in a coma. Is the motive passion, revenge, or something even more sinister? Police suspicions have fallen on the groundskeeper and his son, yet the Earl's widow is convinced of their innocence. Even as Colin and his partner Ethan Pruitt delve into the muddy history of the Arnifour family, a young street urchin begs their help in finding his missing sister. Ethan regrettably familiar with London's underbelly, urges caution, yet Colin's interest is piqued. And in a search that wends from the squalid opium dens of the East End to the salons of Embassy Row, the truth about these seemingly disparate cases will prove disquieting, dangerous, and profoundly unexpected...

My Thoughts:  
The most obvious thing about this book is that it is rather shameless Sherlock Holmes fanfiction. Not only is it about a genius detective and narrated by his trusty sidekick, but they also have to deal with their own inept inspector and come home to their long-suffering landlady/housekeeper. This can be frustrating because the story assumes the reader to be familiar with Holmsian conventions and sometimes doesn't explain itself, like the utterly random and unexplained appearance in the middle of the book of what I'm assuming is this version's take on the Baker Street Irregulars. 

The story might be set in the Victorian period, but other than the trappings of setting and general plot it has very little to do with Victorian England. This book reads like a modern movie reinterpretation of a Holmes' style story. The setting is excellently drawn, but it is very obviously populated by actors working through their 21st century scripts, not people native to the Victorian era. The author is a former television and movie writer, and it shows. The language is very modern in places, often using phrases that would not have existed at the time period in question. Also, the actions of the characters are very modern, and very American; several characters physically assault each other at the drop of a hat, including Colin. Colin is also rather indiscreet about the nature of his relationship with Ethan in some of his comments. While it's nice to read a story where being gay isn't an issue, their relationship is still illegal at this time period. It is implied that the Inspector is aware, and it is never really explained why he doesn't arrest them. Colin's father is a highly placed government official which would offer him some protection, but, again, it is never discussed. It is made clear that the Inspector strongly dislikes Ethan especially, for various reasons, and Colin's father's position should not protect Ethan if the Inspector wanted to make life difficult for him.

When the novel opens, Ethan and Colin have been partners for 12 years. This was a really nice touch, as I find stories not about burgeoning romance to be far more interesting. They work together believably well for long time partners. Ethan's narration is surprisingly unobtrusive; for a first person narrator, he reveals very little of himself. His favorite subject is obviously Colin, and he only reveals bits of his own shadowy past as it relates to the situation at hand. Their relationship is also extremely understated; if you are bad at reading subtext, and you sneezed during the single line where Ethan joins Colin in the bath, then you could have entirely missed the fact that they are sexual partners as well as work partners. While I would have liked to see more of them interacting as a couple, it was refreshing that their being gay has nothing to do with the story.
There are two separate mysteries at the heart of the story. While the "whodunit" of the central mystery is pretty obvious (to my extremely jaded eyes), the "why" of it is so convoluted it still kept me entertained. The second story is interwoven in a way so that the two connect, but aren't really connected. One issue with the book is that, outside of the main characters, there are no redeemable people in this entire novel. The most difficult part of trying to find out who killed the lord is eliminating suspects, because he was, apparently, an extremely offensive person and his entire group of family and business relations are terrible people as well. Everyone involved in the plot is a prime example of at least one of the seven deadly sins and is involved in the sale and distribution of opium and/or human trafficking. While the characters depicted are a very limited pool, it's slightly depressing when not a single person exhibits a shred of human decency and, to an extent, even Colin and Ethan are only redeemed by the fact that they truly care about each other.
In the end I enjoyed the story for what it was- a modern reinterpretation of a Holmes style story- and, in some ways, in spite of itself. If you're interested, check it out, but I wouldn't call it a "must read." Personally, my interest is piqued for the rest of the series.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Delicious! by Ruth Reichl

by Ruth Reichl
narrated by Julia Whelan
May 2014

Book Jacket Summary
In her bestselling memoirs Ruth Reichl has long illuminated the theme of how food defines us, and never more so than in her dazzling fiction debut about sisters, family ties, and a young woman who must finally let go of guilt and grief to embrace her own true gifts.

Billie Breslin has traveled far from her California home to take a job at Delicious, the most iconic food magazine in New York and, thus, the world. When the publication is summarily shut down, the colorful staff, who have become an extended family for Billie, must pick up their lives and move on. Not Billie, though. She is offered a new job: staying behind in the magazine's deserted downtown mansion offices to uphold the "Delicious Guarantee"-a public relations hotline for complaints and recipe inquiries-until further notice. What she doesn't know is that this boring, lonely job will be the portal to a life-changing discovery.

Delicious! carries the reader to the colorful world of downtown New York restaurateurs and artisanal purveyors, and from the lively food shop in Little Italy where Billie works on weekends to a hidden room in the magazine's library where she discovers the letters of Lulu Swan, a plucky twelve-year-old, who wrote to the legendary chef James Beard during World War II. Lulu's letters lead Billie to a deeper understanding of history (and the history of food), but most important, Lulu's courage in the face of loss inspires Billie to come to terms with her own issues-the panic attacks that occur every time she even thinks about cooking, the truth about the big sister she adored, and her ability to open her heart to love

My Thoughts
I have been listening to more audiobooks and I love it! There is just something soothing about having someone read to you while you work on mindless tasks. This was great book to sit back and enjoy over two weeks, it is over thirteen hours long. This was also a perfect book to read for librarians because of hidden letters and a card catalog that contained the clues to which files held the next letter.   

It is not all mystery though but a woman coming to New York to step away from her life and escape a tragedy that has made her have panic attacks at the thought of cooking. She is embraced into a family of eccentrics in both a food magazine publishing company and an old school shop in New york. Billie is ready to leave her past behind but also not ready to embrace the changes that could help her. It is a complicated book but it is more emotions rather than plot. You really feel for Billie and it was fun to watch her transform into someone with more confidence. 

This book had almost everything I love in a book. There is significant character development, mystery, cooking, letters, and a beautiful library. I was actually sad when this one ended because I loved the characters and the setting. New york is so much fun to read about and the restaurants there really are as amazing as Reichl made them sound. This is a highly recommended read and I a not usually a big fan of the standard adult fiction novel. It was just so much more to it than a straight forward romance or divorce story that they cater to the public. I guess it helps that Reichl really is a food critic and worked with major food magazines. Pick it up for a long flight or to laze around the house. Just make sure you have a few snacks handy because this book will make you crave food!   

Book Pairings
A Paris Apartment by Michelle Gable
Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
Remembrance of Things Paris: Sixty Years of Writing from Gourmet by

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Memoirs of a Goldfish by Devin Scillian

Memoirs of a Goldfish
by Devin Scillian
illustrated by Tim Bowers
32 pages
Personal Copy
Picture Book
April 2010

Book Jacket Summary
With his bowl to himself, Goldfish loves his life...until one day...
A personal account from a goldfish on life in his bowl as other intruders crowd him.
My Thoughts
The highs and lows of having a family are highlighted in Memoirs of a Golfish in a cute and fanciful way. My grandfather has always had a giant fish tank that I would spend time looking at and wondering what is going on in their little world. Well, this is a great book for those inquistive minds that wonder just that. Our little gold fish starts out by himself in a nice little fish bowl but soon gets over crowded by various other fish and decorations. All he wants is some room to himself and get away from all those other fish. His wish is granted but does he still want to be alone?
This book reminds me of Finding Nemo but in a good way. The way the fish interact and the crowded bowl just maked the movie pop into mind. I really like the illustrations in this book and the epressions that the little goldfish produces are rather funny. He is confused by a recent addition on a suba diver decoration and calls him Mr. Bubbles. It is an adorable book that even makes me want an aquarium.

Book Pairings
This is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen
Paul Meets Bernadette by Rosy Lamb
Swimmy by Leo Lionni


Monday, August 18, 2014

Professor Whiskerton Presents Steampunk ABC by Lisa Falkenstern

Professor Whiskerton Presents Steampunk ABC 
by Lisa Falkenstern
32 pages
Personal Copy
Publisher: Two Lions
April 2014

Book Jacket Summary
Steampunk is fun! Steampunk is imaginative! It's making something new out of something old. It's dressing up in clothing from long ago. It's inventing machines out of hardware and found objects. It's creating a make-believe world! In Professor Whiskerton Presents Steampunk ABC, two mice dressed in Victorian clothing use gadgets and found objects each starting with a letter of the alphabet to build something fantastic - which is revealed at the end. A wonderful and delightful surprise!

My Thoughts
This is a gorgeously illustrated themed alphabet book! I love the genre of steampunk and I knew I had to pick this up the minute I saw the cover. The mice are adorable as they build a project out of gears and rivets. A is for anvil and the mice bend spoons for their project. It all builds up to the last letter which you can guess starts with a Z and is steampunk themed... Yes, a zeppelin. 
This is for the parent who is looking for something unique or quirky for their growing reader. The mice are impeccably dressed and a dapper little gentlemen with waistcoats and top hats. Falkenstern really goes to town in the background with gears and pipes that spell out the words.
This is a cute book to add to any steampunk collection. 

Book Pairings
Steampunk Alphabet by Nat Iwata
Extraordinary Jane by
The Most Magnificent Thing by

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