Monday, March 29, 2010

Sabriel by Garth Nix

I've been having trouble writing a review for this book. No fault of the book - just outside influences. Life is busy this Spring.

I bought this book from a used book store at least a year ago. It was sitting on my to-be-read shelf looking sad. So I decided on a whim to pick it up and give it a shot. I assumed it was young adult because of a vague recollection. So bonus, I could screen the book for my seven-year-old (who reads above his level and loves fantasy). Verdict: I really enjoyed this book. I enjoyed it so much that I squealed with delight when I found the second book of the series at a used book store yesterday. As for my seven-year-old, I think he'd like it. But I'm going to put it off for a little while. It has a bit of romance that I don't think he'd care for (not to mention the ginormous list of books he wants to read already).

The premise: Sabriel is the daughter of the Abhorsen - a necromancer from the old kingdom. Unlike most necromancers, the Abhorsen does not raise the dead, but rather ensures that the Dead do not return to Life. Sabriel is raised on the other side of the Wall away from the Old Kingdom and must venture back to save her father and, well, the world.

I particularly enjoyed the way Nix described the descent into Death. The river, the gates, the frost - it was very well done. The characters are thought out and well developed (which I find rare in YA books). I enjoyed the characters so much that I was disappointed to find that the sequel takes place a full fourteen years later! My only bone to pick was the ending. It was too abrupt. I felt that a lot of things that could/should have been wrapped up (or at least embellished) were left to hang. That's probably a personal preference, though.

All in all, Woo! This book was fun. I'd recommend it to just about anyone.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Midnight Fires: A Mystery With Mary Wollstonecraft by Nancy Means Wright

I received this book as a part of LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program.

Mary Wollstonecraft has accepted the position as governess to the King family in Ireland. In a house full of crazy children and neglectful parents, she is charged with the education of the three oldest girls. Along the way she becomes friendly with some of the Irish tenants living nearby. This leads to murder, mystery, and intrigue - all of which she is determined to unravel.

I don't know why I request, borrow, and read mystery novels. I don't particularly like them. However, this one was rather good. While it is, technically, a murder-mystery style novel, it wasn't as formulaic as others that I've read. Mary was an amazingly written character who brought back memories of a paper I'd written about her long ago in high school. Margaret, the oldest of the King girls was also very well formed. A lot of the "extras" were easy to lose along the way, though. Lord and Lady K were so ridiculous that I had a hard time believing in them. Lady K is portrayed as fairly mentally unstable - one minute thinking herself progressive and educated and the next minute acting the simpering, flirting, airhead. I was never sure if she was not a bit insane.

While there isn't a great deal of suspense, I did find myself wanting to read more whenever I had to set the book down. I was also reminded frequently of Bronte's Jane Eyre though that is likely because I'd read it recently and that it was also centered around a governess.

The book was very enjoyable and I would not hesitate in the slightest to recommend it to others. I gather there will be another novel focusing on Mary's exploits in London and I suspect I will, at the very least, borrow it from the library.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Flanders Panel by Arturo Perez-Reverte

I have, for the most part, enjoyed every book I've read thus far by Arturo Perez-Reverte. That being said, I'm not sure I liked this one very much. I guess that I should have looked at it more carefully instead of buying it because of the author. This book is a mystery novel. I'm not a fan of classic mystery novels. The story leading up to the big confessions. Clues doled out and then the long monologue by the detective or guilty party. It's just not my thing.

Here's the premise: Julia restores artwork. She's working on a painting called The Game of Chess. There is a mystery about the people in the painting which transforms into a modern-day murder-mystery involving people she knows. Aided by her adopted father-figure Cesar and a chess player Munoz, Julia works to puzzle things out.

I liked the chess and the style of writing. Munoz was an interesting character, though I always felt that he could have been developed a little more. The chess game governing the direction of the mystery reminded me a little of Katherine Neville's books The Eight and it's sequel The Fire.

If you like mystery novels and can wrap your brain around chess moves, you'll love this book. It's a fairly quick read and definitely keeps you guessing.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Betrayal of the Blood Lily by Lauren Willig

This book is the sixth in the Pink Carnation series. I know I've said this before but.. I love this series. It's my guilty pleasure. I look forward to each and every one of these books and think longingly of sitting down with them all over again (preferably with a nice cup of coffee on a brisk, sunny day).

In this book Penelope (Lady Staines) is taken off to India with her new husband Freddy (Lord Frederick Staines). All is not marital bliss between the couple. They are escorted to Hyderabad by Captain Alex Reid and are later joined by Freddy's old acquaintances from England. Romance, intrigue, and unexpected serpents ensue. Meanwhile, in present day, Eloise is determined to find Colin's sister a new boyfriend while uncovering new and interesting facts about their crazy family.

I never do these books justice. The Regency story was awesome. It was everything I expected and more. Penelope was such a great character. She has weaknesses and flaws, but is amazing and strong and sarcastic. Alex complimented her temper perfectly. Descriptions were vivid, too. Here I was, reading in my bedroom (the coldest room in the house) in February and I actually felt the heat of India and the sting of mosquito bites. The modern side of the story wasn't as involved this time around - it was definitely background music.

Would I recommend this to others? Duh! Of course I would. In a heartbeat, if not sooner. My only complaint is that I have to wait until October for the next book!