Saturday, August 27, 2016

Book Review: Shadows by Robin McKinley

Shadows
Author: Robin McKinley
Publication: Nancy Paulsen Books (September 26, 2013)

Description: A compelling and inventive novel set in a world where science and magic are at odds, by Robin McKinley, the Newbery-winning author of The Hero and the Crown and The Blue Sword, as well as the classic titles Beauty, Chalice, Spindle’s End, Pegasus and Sunshine

Maggie knows something’s off about Val, her mom’s new husband. Val is from Oldworld, where they still use magic, and he won’t have any tech in his office-shed behind the house. But—more importantly—what are the huge, horrible, jagged, jumpy shadows following him around? Magic is illegal in Newworld, which is all about science. The magic-carrying gene was disabled two generations ago, back when Maggie’s great-grandmother was a notable magician. But that was a long time ago.

Then Maggie meets Casimir, the most beautiful boy she has ever seen. He’s from Oldworld too—and he’s heard of Maggie’s stepfather, and has a guess about Val’s shadows. Maggie doesn’t want to know . . . until earth-shattering events force her to depend on Val and his shadows. And perhaps on her own heritage.

In this dangerously unstable world, neither science nor magic has the necessary answers, but a truce between them is impossible. And although the two are supposed to be incompatible, Maggie’s discovering the world will need both to survive.

My Thoughts: I enjoyed SHADOWS very much. It is narrated by Maggie who is a new high school senior. Her mother has just married a man named Val who comes from Oldworld where they still practice magic. In Maggie's Newworld magic is so illegal that a couple of generations earlier a medical procedure was developed to remove the magic gene from anyone who had one. Of course, that didn't work quite as expected.

Maggie dislikes Val not just because he is short and hairy and has no fashion sense, but because he is surrounded by scary shadows that only she can see. She stays away from him by spending more time at the Orchard Animal Shelter where she got her own Border Collie Mongo. Maggie seems to have unique understanding with animals.

One day she meets a gorgeous new boy named Casimir who is also from the Oldworld and who has come to study worlds philosophy at the local college. The two of them happen to be together when their is a magical occurrence that which Maggie is able to contain by using origami figures she makes from her Enhanced Algebra textbook. No one is more surprised and confused that this works than Maggie herself.

The military is called in to figure out what happened which raises suspicions about Maggie and Val. When Val is arrested, Maggie and her friends are determined to rescue him. Along the way, Maggie learns a lot about magic and herself.

The story was action-packed. I liked Maggie's relationship with her dog Mongo. I also liked her relationship with her friends Jill and Takahiro who are both closet magic users themselves. The world that the author created was well realized and well rounded.

Fans of fantasy who want an intrepid female main character will enjoy this one.

Favorite Quote:
I wanted to scream or throw up or run away or all three, but I couldn't. Takahiro , as many times as I'd wanted to kill him in the last more than seven years. was my friend. And werewolves were a myth. Like mgdagas. I gut up, a little unsteadily, and picked up the mug of coffee on Val's table. "Coffee?" I said inanely, and held it out toward Takahiro.
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Friday Memes: Shadows by Robin McKinley

Happy Friday everybody!!
Book Beginnings on Friday is now hosted by Rose City Reader. The Friday 56 is hosted at Freda's Voice. Check out the links above for the rules and for the posts of the participants each week. Don’t dig for your favorite book, the coolest, the most intellectual. Use the CLOSEST.

Beginning:
The story starts like something out of a fairy tale: I hated my stepfather.

It's usually stepmothers in fairy tales. Well, equal time for stepfathers.
Friday 56:
There was a mob at the back of Mrs. Andover's homeroom as we all fought to get into the last row. Jill and I lost and were in the middle row, but at least we were together.
This week I am reading Shadows by Robin McKinley. I bought this one August 18, 2013. Here is the description from Amazon:
A compelling and inventive novel set in a world where science and magic are at odds, by Robin McKinley, the Newbery-winning author of The Hero and the Crown and The Blue Sword, as well as the classic titles Beauty, Chalice, Spindle’s End, Pegasus and Sunshine

Maggie knows something’s off about Val, her mom’s new husband. Val is from Oldworld, where they still use magic, and he won’t have any tech in his office-shed behind the house. But—more importantly—what are the huge, horrible, jagged, jumpy shadows following him around? Magic is illegal in Newworld, which is all about science. The magic-carrying gene was disabled two generations ago, back when Maggie’s great-grandmother was a notable magician. But that was a long time ago.

Then Maggie meets Casimir, the most beautiful boy she has ever seen. He’s from Oldworld too—and he’s heard of Maggie’s stepfather, and has a guess about Val’s shadows. Maggie doesn’t want to know . . . until earth-shattering events force her to depend on Val and his shadows. And perhaps on her own heritage.

In this dangerously unstable world, neither science nor magic has the necessary answers, but a truce between them is impossible. And although the two are supposed to be incompatible, Maggie’s discovering the world will need both to survive.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Book Review: Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff

Stormdancer
Author: Jay Kristoff
Series: The Lotus War (Book 1)
Publication: Thomas Dunne Books; 18 edition (September 18, 2012)

Description: Stormdancer is the first in the epic new fantasy series The Lotus War, introducing an unforgettable heroine and a stunningly original dystopian steampunk world with a flavor of feudal Japan

The Shima Imperium verges on the brink of environmental collapse; an island nation once rich in tradition and myth, now decimated by clockwork industrialization and the machine-worshipers of the Lotus Guild. When hunters of Shima's imperial court are charged by their Shogun to capture a legendary griffin, they fear their lives are over. Any fool knows the beasts have been extinct for more than a century, and the price of failing the Shogun is death. Accompanying her father on the Shogun's hunt, the girl Yukiko finds herself stranded: a young woman alone in Shima's last wilderness, with only a furious, crippled griffin for company. Even though she can hear his thoughts, even though she saved his life, all she knows for certain is he'd rather see her dead than help her. But together, the pair will form an indomitable friendship, and rise to challenge the might of an empire.

My Thoughts: STORMDANCER was an amazing steampunk fantasy set in an alternate world Japan. It is a land controlled by a despot Shogun. Our heroine is Kitsuna Yukiko. Her father is the hunter for the Shogun. The Shogun commands her father to find the legendary arashitora - storm tiger - because he has seen himself riding it in a vision wherein her finally defeats the gaijin armies.

Yukiko's father does not believe that there are any living arashitora but can't refuse to do the Shogun's bidding or he will be killed. When the find one, capture it, and clip its wings, they plan to bring it back to the Shogun but the storm ruins the air ship. Yukiko has the ability to talk to animals which happens to be an ability that will get her burned at the stake if Guildmen find out about it. When the ship goes down, she stays aboard to let the storm tiger out of its cage. They manage to fly down to the ground but are separated from the rest of their party.

Journeying together help Yukiko and the storm tiger she names Buruu have to band together to survive. They also become friends. When they run into rebels against the shogunate, Yukiko decides that she will assassinate the shogun to get revenge for all that he has cost her. She finds that there is a substantial underground of rebels who will help her.

This was an interesting story partially because of the Japanese setting but also because of the worldbuilding. The country is in danger of polluting itself to death because of the dependence on the blood lotus crop. While the blood lotus provides everything from medicine, to drugs, to fuels for the technology, it also kills the land where it grows requiring more and more land being devoted to its cultivation. Its processing pollutes the air and the water and causes cancers. People who can afford it wear sophisticated goggles and breathing equipment. The poor wear cloth masks and die of lung cancers.

The rebels want to stop the production of the blood lotus. Buruu also wants to get rid of the blood lotus. He wouldn't really mind if all the humans were eleminated too. At least, he felt that way until he fell in love with Yukiko.

This story is epic fantasy and begins a three book series.

Favorite Quote:
THEY WILL WIN. THOUGH IT TAKE A HUNDRED YEARS, THEY WILL TIPPLE YOUR SHOGUN. BURN HIS FIELDS AND CITIES. FADE AWAY INTO SHADOW. INTO PLACE HIS ARMIES CANNOT REACH. MORE THAN FLESH. THEY ARE AN IDEA.
I bought this one December 28, 2012. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Book Review: Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Illuminae
Author: Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Series: Illuminae Files (Book 1)
Publication: Knopf Books for Young Readers; 1St Edition edition (2015)

Description: This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do. This afternoon, her planet was invaded.
    
The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than a speck at the edge of the universe. Now with enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to evacuate with a hostile warship in hot pursuit.
   
But their problems are just getting started. A plague has broken out and is mutating with terrifying results; the fleet’s AI may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a web of data to find the truth, it’s clear the only person who can help her is the ex-boyfriend she swore she’d never speak to again.
    
Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, maps, files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more—Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.

My Thoughts: ILLUMINAE was an amazing book. It is told through a variety of hacked documents and details what happens after a planet is invaded. Kady Grant had just broken up with her boyfriend Ezra Mason when the attack happened. They watched their planet get bombed, people die all around them, and barely made it to the shuttles taking them up to rescue ships.

Kady and Ezra get loaded onto two different ships. Kady finds herself on the research ship Hypatia while Ezra ends up on the United Terran Authority battlecruiser Alexander. The third ship that took in refugees was the freighter Copernicus. The Alexander was damaged in the fight with the BeiTech dreadnought Lincoln which is actively pursuing the three ships with refugees.

Because of the damage to the Alexander which included damage to the Artificial Intelligence called AIDAN which controlled the ship, they needed to travel for months to get to a place of potential safety. Ezra gets conscripted into the UTA as a pilot for one of the Cyclones which protect the Alexander. Kady is a gifted computer hacker but not a team player. She isn't conscripted but she works secretly with other hackers in the fleet to try to find out what is going on.

They soon learn that BeiTech was using biological warfare on the planet and that many of the evacuees were infected. Because of the level of infection, AIDAN decides to destroy the Copernicus which had the most refugees. The Alexander tries to cover up the destruction by blaming it on the Lincoln.

Despite its unconventional style, this book was surprisingly intense emotionally as we see the kids face loss after loss. Ezra's father didn't make it off the planet; Kady's mother had been transferred to the Copernicus before it was destroyed. Both lose friend after friend too. They do manage to reconcile and try to cling to each other as the only one each of them has left.

Fans of science fiction will enjoy this excellent story with a couple of interesting twists at the end.

Favorite Quote:
Mason, E, LT 2nd: i meant the 1st time i kissed u in my head

ByteMe:...wut?

Mason, E, LT 2nd: yeah. i had to work up the guts to actually DO IT. so i practiced in my head. every time i walked you home.

Mason, E, LT 2nd: you were pretty good, in case you were wondering
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Teaser Tuesday: Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Books and a Beat. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
Share the title and author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Teaser:
"That was very brave, Lady."

Yukiko stared, her tongue somewhere in her sandals.

Gods, he's gorgeous...
This week I am reading Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff. I bought this one Dec. 28, 2012. Here is the description from Amazon:
Stormdancer is the first in the epic new fantasy series The Lotus War, introducing an unforgettable heroine and a stunningly original dystopian steampunk world with a flavor of feudal Japan

The Shima Imperium verges on the brink of environmental collapse; an island nation once rich in tradition and myth, now decimated by clockwork industrialization and the machine-worshipers of the Lotus Guild. When hunters of Shima's imperial court are charged by their Shogun to capture a legendary griffin, they fear their lives are over. Any fool knows the beasts have been extinct for more than a century, and the price of failing the Shogun is death. Accompanying her father on the Shogun's hunt, the girl Yukiko finds herself stranded: a young woman alone in Shima's last wilderness, with only a furious, crippled griffin for company. Even though she can hear his thoughts, even though she saved his life, all she knows for certain is he'd rather see her dead than help her. But together, the pair will form an indomitable friendship, and rise to challenge the might of an empire.

Monday, August 22, 2016

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (August 22, 2016)

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? is a meme begun by Sheila at Book Journey. Kellee at Unleashing Readers and Jen at Teach Mentor Texts have given it a kidlit focus.

It’s Monday!  What Are You Reading, is where we gather to share what we have read this past week and what we plan to read this week.  It is a great way to network with other bloggers, see some wonderful blogs, and put new titles on your reading list.

Other Than Reading...

This has been another week of jumping through hoops to get a mortgage. Lots of phone calls and emails have been flying between my banker, my employer, my insurance agent, and me.

My friend went home last Monday after a nice visit. I spent the rest of the week watching the Olympics and playing lots of computer games.

I just have one week of vacation left before I return home for a few days of workshops and then the start of school. I'm eager to meet all of our new staff. We have 13 new professional staff and still a number of paraprofessional positions to fill.

Read Last Week
A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess begins a new historical fantasy series. I enjoyed this one and can't wait for the rest of the trilogy. My review will be posted on September 22.

Currently
Like a River Glorious by Rae Carson is the second book in her historical Gold Seer fantasy series. I love the 1849 California setting.

Next Week

I am being overly ambitious in thinking I'll read all these next week but they are the next six on my reading list.
Reviews Posted
Want to See What I Added to My Stack Last Week?
Additions to my review stack:
House of Secrets by Stephanie Burgis - novella for my Kindle

You can check Inside of a Dog (my other blog) to see what adult books I read, reviewed, and plan to read.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Book Review: The Silence of Murder by Dandi Daley Mackall

The Silence of Murder
Author: Dandi Daley Mackall
Publication: Knopf Books for Young Readers; First Edition first Printing edition (October 11, 2011)

Description: Seventeen-year-old Hope Long's life revolves around her brother Jeremy.  So when Jeremy is accused of killing the town's beloved baseball coach, Hope's world begins to unravel. Everyone is convinced Jeremy did it, and since he hasn't spoken a word in 9 years, he's unable to defend himself.  Their lawyer instructs Hope to convince the jury that Jeremy is insane, but all her life Hope has known that Jeremy's just different than other people—better, even. As she works to prove his innocence—joined by her best friend T.J. and the sheriff's son, Chase—Hope uncovers secrets about the murder, the townspeople, her family, and herself. She knows her brother isn't the murderer.  But as she comes closer to the truth, she's terrified to find out who is.

My Thoughts: This excellent mystery, an Edgar YA winner in 2012, tells the story of Hope Long who is convinced that her brother Jeremy is not guilty of killing baseball coach John Johnson. Since Jeremy is autistic and selectively mute, he can't explain why he was running away from the barn where Johnson was found. That the murder weapon was his own wooden bat doesn't help either.

Hope knows that her brother couldn't have done that but she is alone in her opinion. Her brother's lawyer and her own mother are trying for a Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity defense. Hope decides that she needs to investigate if she wants to clear her brother.

Her companions in the investigation are TJ who is her only friend in town and Chase who is the son of the sheriff and who spends summers with his father. She and the boys try to find other suspects. Could it be the coach's wife who is dying of cancer? Is it another member of the baseball team that Johnson coached?

This story was intensely emotional. I loved Hope's determination to prove her brother innocent. I loved that she knew about all of Jeremy's quirks but still thought he was special and wonderful. I felt bad for her and for Jeremy because of the mother they had. Rita was extremely self-centered and an alcoholic who dragged her kids all over the country before returning to her home town picking up men all along the way to give her "loans."

The writing was excellent and the pacing in this story helped build the tension as Hope comes closer and closer to finding out who really killed John Johnson. I recommend this mystery to all ages.

Favorite Quote:
I can't take any more of this. Rita knows exactly how to shut me down. I run past her to my room and slam the door. My whole life this is how it's been. I hate the arguing. It's so much easier to just let Rita have her way.

Only not this time. For Jeremy's sake, not this time.
I bought this one on January 25, 2012. You can buy your copy here.