Sunday, March 27, 2011

Tortall and Other Lands

Collected here for the first time are all of the tales from the land of Tortall, featuring both previously unknown characters as well as old friends. Filling some gaps of time and interest, these stories, some of which have been published before, will lead Tammy's fans, and new readers into one of the most intricately constructed worlds of modern fantasy.

Beth says 5 Stars...

I will make absolutely no effort to hide my absolute adoration of Tamora Pierce here. I've loved her books since I stumbled upon them in my middle school library and refuse to stop reading them now, more than a few years later. Somehow she always manages to make the characters insanely believable without sacrificing the plot. This book is a collection of her short stories, some old and some new. There's one that has no magical elements at all, but the rest fall within the realm of fantasy. I'd read some of these before (The Dragon's Tale rather recently), but that doesn't make the book any less amazing.

I will say that my favorite story was the one about Nawat because it offered a return to the Copper Isles and some beloved characters. Honestly, how can you not love the combination of a crow-man and his wife the spy. I also found it particularly interesting because we finally got to see something from Nawat's point of view. It was definitely different than any other voice I'd read and completely made sense for him. Some of the other stories centered around themes of how to be a woman in an oppressed world, with two girls taking completely different approaches to how to do just that. I really loved the story Lost, which involved a math genius and an adorable Darking. What's not to like? There weren't any stories that I didn't appreciate, but I did find Time of Proving to be rather odd and short. I would have enjoyed it more had it been fleshed out a bit as the characters felt slightly underdeveloped.

Overall this is something that no Tammy fan can miss! As an added bonus there's a brief excerpt from Mastiff in the back, which is just enough to make you want the rest immediately. If there's someone here who hasn't read any of her books, shame on you. Go buy Alanna: the First Adventure as soon as possible, and get on with the glories of Tamora Pierce. Now to begin the agonizing wait for a new book of hers anew...
Book from Library

Saturday, March 12, 2011


Dana Hathaway doesn't know it yet, but she's in big trouble. When her alcoholic mom shows up at her voice recital drunk, again, Dana decides she’s had enough and runs away to find her mysterious father in Avalon: the only place on Earth where the regular, everyday world and the captivating, magical world of Faerie intersect. But from the moment Dana sets foot in Avalon, everything goes wrong, for it turns out she isn't just an ordinary teenage girl—she's a Faeriewalker, a rare individual who can travel between both worlds, and the only person who can bring magic into the human world and technology into Faerie.

Soon, Dana finds herself tangled up in a cutthroat game of Fae politics. Someone's trying to kill her, and everyone seems to want something from her, from her newfound friends and family to Ethan, the hot Fae guy Dana figures she’ll never have a chance with… until she does. Caught between two worlds, Dana isn’t sure where she’ll ever fit in and who can be trusted, not to mention if her world will ever be normal again…

Beth says 4 Stars...

I had tons of fun reading this book. I'd read a good bit of realistic fiction just before this novel, so the fantasy came as a delightful change of pace. I found the setting a nice blend of the real and imagined. I'd never thought of Avalon in the way it appeared here and I enjoyed its unexpectedness. The plot moved along nicely without any major interruptions, but could have had a bit more engrossing. I did appreciate the way Black gave out information; it didn't feel contrived or forced. Instead of simply dumping it all at once she placed small pieces and had Dana constantly asking for more. I also loved the intrigue component of the plot. I'm a total sucker for court drama so that got my attention quickly. I appreciated the levels that were hinted at, including the rigid class structure and conflict between the courts.

I found Dana to be a much more engaging heroine by the end of the book than I initially thought she would be. At first she rather bothered me for some unknown reason. However, after watching her struggle in a completely unfamiliar environment and not break down into a ball of angst, I turned in her favor. Her narrative was well done and helped bring her out of the page. However, she didn't quite strike me as someone who could be real. Perhaps she'll develop more in the later books; I'm holding out hope for that. Dana's relationship with both of her parents could be classified as strained to say the least, so those both had a feature in the novel. I thought that the romantic relationships were confused and really lacked a spark. It felt as if Black couldn't figure out where she wanted the characters to go and didn't know who need to be with whom. In that aspect the book really lacked appeal; the issue was that it tried to put the romance in but didn't do a good job of it.

I enjoyed this book a good deal. It's not the most amazing thing that I've ever read, but it's fun and quick. I'm also excited that Black is an author from North Carolina, so that makes it even better! I'm always glad to see talent that's close to home for me. This would be good for people who find themselves drawn to authors like Melissa Marr, but without a lot of the darkness, or just love faerie stories like me.
Book from Library

Friday, March 4, 2011

Bitter Mellon

Frances, a Chinese-American student at an academically competitive school in San Francisco, has always had it drilled into her to be obedient to her mother and to be a straight-A student so that she can go to Med school. But is being a doctor what she wants? It has never even occurred to Frances to question her own feelings and desires until she accidentally winds up in speech class and finds herself with a hidden talent. Does she dare to challenge the mother who has sacrificed everything for her? Set in the 1980s.

Beth says 4 Stars...

I found this book rather fascinating and disturbing at the same time. I can only liken the relationship between Francis and her mother to a train wreck; I both wanted to and couldn't look away. The setting of the book was fine, but not that astounding. Although the apartment where Francis lived became relatively well described, most of the actual scenery wasn't terribly well defined. I found it interesting as well that I couldn't tell the time period when the book took place. In fact, if I hadn't read that it was set in the '80s I honestly would have assumed it was meant to be contemporary. I have yet to decide if this is a good or bad thing, because although it allows for a closer connection with readers it shows a lack of definition which could spell trouble in another novel. I will say that it didn't harm the book, but just should be something to keep in mind for future books. The plot did wander more than a bit, but a good bit of that was Francis attempting to figure out what she wanted to do. A highly linear narrative would have made the story feel contrived and pained.

Francis by herself could pass for a respectable character. She did have some depth and didn't fall flat, which counts. The meat of the story was in both her process of self discovery and in the changes in her relationship with her mother. I must say that I couldn't believe that a mother could treat her daughter so harshly. From my perspective it really felt more than slightly abusive. I really hope that this is a case where reality becomes embellished for the sake of a narrative, because if not then that sort of maternal behavior poses a problem. I will say that it made me appreciate my parents all the more for not trying to run my fate. There have always been parameters set, but nothing so blatant as choosing a career for me. I pitied both Francis and her mother because even though they did everything for one another, they had no emotional closeness. All of the other characters merely circled around the two of them in some way, shape or form.

This book surprised me in many ways, both good and bad. I was shocked at the central relationship of the book and how brutal it was. However, I got sucked into the novel and just kept reading it once I picked it up. Also, the cover is fantastic. It's striking and not ordinary in the slightest, which sums up this novel.
Book from Publisher

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Girl, Stolen

Sixteen year-old Cheyenne Wilder is sleeping in the back of a car while her mom fills her prescription at the pharmacy. Before Cheyenne realizes what's happening, their car is being stolen--with her inside! Griffin hadn’t meant to kidnap Cheyenne, all he needed to do was steal a car for the others. But once Griffin's dad finds out that Cheyenne’s father is the president of a powerful corporation, everything changes—now there’s a reason to keep her. What Griffin doesn’t know is that Cheyenne is not only sick with pneumonia, she is blind. How will Cheyenne survive this nightmare, and if she does, at what price?

Beth says 3 Stars...

There are some books that I just don't care for that much. I can't find any specific sort of huge flaw to point to, but something doesn't quite sit well. That's how I felt about this novel. Nothing was horrendously wrong or specifically lacking, but I couldn't connect with the book. The plot should have been harrowing and nail-biting, however, it wasn't. I could predict a lot of the major twists and turns, which sounds the death knoll for any type of thriller. I will say that the writing itself was fairly good, in particular when it described Cheyenne's view of the world. Instead of constructing a world to be seen, Henry created one from everything else. The detail with which she made the rest of Cheyenne's senses compensate for her lack of sight really was fantastic. I didn't really enjoy how the point of view switched back and forth from Cheyenne to Griffin; it interrupted the flow of the story without adding anything.

Cheyenne didn't have anything really spectacular that came through to me. She did have a vast amount of strength, but it somehow became disconnected. I did want her to escape and be okay, although it was just because I felt it was something good, not because of a powerful connection. The relationship between Cheyenne and Griffin simply creeped me out. Stockholm anyone? I couldn't move past my discomfort to see if what they shared had anything deeper or more profound.

Overall this novel didn't get it quite right. Something felt off throughout the entire thing. I couldn't quite put a finger on it, but I wasn't able to immerse myself completely in the world of the book. It didn't suck me in at all. This wasn't really one of my favorites and I wouldn't really recommend it.
Book from Library