The Reluctant Assassine: W.A.R.P. #1

The Reluctant Assassin: W.A.R.P. #1

by Eoin Colfer

The Reluctant Assassin (W.A.R.P., #1)

The reluctant assassin is Riley, a Victorian boy who is suddenly plucked from his own time and whisked into the twenty-first century, accused of murder and on the run.
Riley has been pulled into the FBI’s covert W.A.R.P operation (Witness Anonymous Relocation Program). He and young FBI Agent Chevie Savano are forced to flee terrifying assassin-for-hire Albert Garrick, who pursues Riley through time and will not stop until he has hunted him down. Barely staying one step ahead, Riley and Chevie must stay alive and stop Garrick returning to his own time with knowledge and power that could change the world forever.

I grabbed an audio copy of The Reluctant Assassin from the local library because I was in need of a good young-adult novel to listen to while running errands. I was also drawn to the story’s premise; the idea of time traveling chase between present-day London and Victorian London is interesting. I was also impressed to find a young-adult book that wasn’t a dystopian novel. Eoin Colfer is widely known for his Artemis Fowl series which I have yet to read, so I started this novel with an unbiased opinion. This is one of the few reviews that does not compare the two series.

Let’s start with some positive points; Colfer’s world building is spot on. Colfer’s descriptions left me feeling like I was in Victorian London instead of cruising the streets of sunny Florida. I could smell the death and despair of The Nickle. I could visualize the opulence of Charismo’s abode and the technical ruggedness of the time portals. Colfer does an outstanding job of providing each time period with its own distinct voice which allows readers to immerse themselves in the ornate settings.

I have mixed feelings about the three main characters. I loved Riley; he is scrappy, spunky, and downright full of the snarky dry British humor that I adore. Riley is the driving character of the novel and I enjoyed listening to his reactions to all the dangerous situations he encounters. I was equally unimpressed with FBI Agent Chevron Savano. She is shallow and more obnoxious and self-important than the snarky girl I believe Colfer was attempting to present. Most of her lines were so cliché that I got sick of listening to her by the end of the second CD. Albert Garrick is a twisted and dark villain who still manages to bring humor to the story. I liked him but I think I would have enjoyed him more if the novel had been shorter.

Which leads to the main issue I had with The Reluctant Assassin; I am not exactly sure what audience this novel is geared towards. It is too drawn out and violent for a children’s novel, but it drags too much and lacks the character development found in a young-adult novel. I believe it would be a good transition novel for kids working their way in to the young adult genre but it is not strong enough to really compete with other available young-adult fiction.

The second book in the W.A.R.P. series came out last June, so I may pick up just to see how the series progresses. Also, I definitely recommend listening to Maxwell Caulfield if you are a fan of audio books. His voice added depth to The Reluctant Assassin and he is wonderfully gifted at distinguishing character personality with his voice. Let me know what you think of the The Reluctant Assassin or Colfer’s other novels.

Lindsay

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The Night Circus

The Night Circus
by Erin Morgenstern

The Night Circus

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway: a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them both, this is a game in which only one can be left standing. Despite the high stakes, Celia and Marco soon tumble headfirst into love, setting off a domino effect of dangerous consequences, and leaving the lives of everyone, from the performers to the patrons, hanging in the balance.

I enjoyed The Night Circus; it was a pleasant read but not as spectacular as I was led to believe.  Now, Erin Morgenstern definitely has a gift for descriptive narratives because I could vividly picture her world but the novel’s synopsis is misleading.  Le Cirque des Reves arrives in the night and is only open to patrons from sunset to sunrise.  The circus is the setting, and the result, of a competition to the death between two magicians destined for love.

First: This competition is not fierce, once you finally learn what the competition is.  Instead, the event it’s a slow battle that lasts years.  Fierce is just not the proper word; maybe intense is better.  I don’t know.  Second: Celia and Marco do not ‘tumble headfirst into love.’  They are friends with solid respect for each other that can lead to the deep love promised; it just wasn’t there for me.  I felt Celia had a much stronger bond with clockmaker instead of Marco, her rival and supposed lover.  That’s just my opinion.

Le Cirque des Reves is the best part of this novel.  The beautiful circus appears in the night and offers a variety of sweet treats as you wonder among tents full of hidden treasures.  Tents where you can climb the clouds or wander through a frozen forest.  Tents that leave you amazed, and slightly envious, of Erin Morgenstern’s imagination.  My favorite is the clock at the entrance and I actually googled Le Cirque des Reves in hopes that something similar exists.  And yes, I know that the magic would not be real but still!

I recommend The Night Circus. Unless you are craving a swoon-worthy love story; look else ware for that.  I enjoy Morgenstern’s characters, her story twists, and her circus.  Her words had me smelling the smells, tasting the popcorn, and dancing through the circus tents.  I cannot wait to see this book made in to a movie!  Let me know what you thought about The Night Circus.

Lindsay

 

Touched by an Alien

Touched by an Alien

by Gini Koch

Touched by an Alien (Katherine "Kitty" Katt, #1)

Marketing manager Katherine “Kitty” Katt had just finished a day on jury duty. When she stepped out of the Pueblo Caliente courthouse, all she was thinking about was the work she had to get caught up on. Then her attention was caught by a fight between a couple that looked like it was about to turn ugly. But ugly didn’t even begin to cover it when the “man” suddenly transformed into a huge, winged monster right out of a grade Z science fiction movie and went on a deadly killing spree. In hindsight, Kitty realized she probably should have panicked and run screaming the way everyone around her was doing. Instead she sprinted into action to take down the alien.

In the middle of all the screeching and the ensuing chaos, a hunk in an Armani suit suddenly appeared beside her, introduced himself as Jeff Martini with “the agency,” and then insisted on leading her to a nearby limo to talk to his “boss.” And that was how Kitty’s new life among the aliens began…Touched by an Alien is the thrilling first installment of the Alien novels.

Cliché.  Touched by an Alien has everything that is good, and bad, about corny cliché science fiction.  (think Men In Black mixed with all the ‘D’ rated science fiction movies played by the Sci-Fi channel on a Sunday afternoon)  I would not suggest it if you are wanting something intellectual and thought provoking; however, it is the perfect sci-fi book to take to the beach!

Koch takes readers on a whirl-wind adventure where marketing manager Kitty Katt (yes, that is her name) is recruited by Jeff Martini (yes, that is his name) to work with a top-secret alien organization dedicated to protecting the planet from some wicked evil creatures.  What follows is super gorgeous aliens, crazy sex scenes, family conflict, alien butt kicking, and action scenes worthy of being in an Expendables movie.

There are some moments that can get annoying because this is Koch’s first novel.  I cringed at the overuse of the term ‘girlfriend’ by the one gay character; it is a lazy term and one that left him two-dimensional.   Kitty also has this crazy ability to know intimate details of their enemy which are unknown to her alien partners, despite having fought the creature their entire lives.  Multiple aspects of the story are just a little too convenient for my liking.

I still sped through Touched by an Alien because the clichés are fun overall.  I love Kitty’s quirky and convoluted personality, and Koch’s unique take on the alien community.  I was engrossed by the fight scenes because of Koch’s vivid descriptions, never mind the unrealistic qualities.  I picked up a few more books in the series just for the good time they are bound to offer.

It was corny so don’t take it too seriously; enjoy how Koch jokes with her readers. Definitely pick up Touched by an Alien if you are wanting a science fiction tale that will make you laugh!  Let me know what you thought about Touched by an Alien!

Lindsay

The Unnaturalists

The Unnaturalists

by Tiffany Trent

The Unnaturalists (The Unnaturalists, #1)

In an alternate London where magical creatures are preserved in a museum, two teens find themselves caught in a web of intrigue, deception, and danger.

Vespa Nyx wants nothing more than to spend the rest of her life cataloging Unnatural creatures in her father’s museum, but as she gets older, the requirement to become a lady and find a husband is looming large. Syrus Reed’s Tinker family has always served and revered the Unnaturals from afar, but when his family is captured to be refinery slaves, he finds that his fate may be bound up with Vespa’s – and with the Unnaturals.

As the danger grows, Vespa and Syrus find themselves in a tightening web of deception and intrigue. At stake may be the fate of New London – and the world.

I picked up The Unnatuarlists because of the cover (I mean look at how strong and elegant this woman is) and the promise of a fantasy-steampunk adventure. This is right up my alley; the premise is unique and interesting, and I love anything that mentions museums.

Tiffany Trent has built a unique world known as New London, which is located in a different dimension than that of the original London. Magical creatures, known as unnaturals, still exist here and such species are collected in museums, such as the one frequented by girl scientist Vespa Nyx. The steampunk society of New London revolves around science and is fueled by a mysterious substance, while the Tinker, a gypsy community, survives outside of the city walls. Tinkers, including Syrus Reed, survive via trade skills and commune with the unnaturals that still exist. I was all set to follow Vespa’s journey and the struggles of Syrus.

Unfortunately, The Unnaturalists reads like a middle-level draft, and I was frustrated by the lack of character and plot development. The point of view changes at each chapter bouncing between first person and limited third person; multiple POVs can be successfully written but there is nothing wrong with a solid, single POV. The world building was lacking, and I was frustrated because Trent has created a great setting. I just felt that there needed to be more description to better understand New London’s origins, and to establish a strong plot.

Readers follow three main characters: Vespa Nyx, Syrus Reed, and Pedant Lumin. Lumin was confusing because of his four various identities and Vespa was not the strong character that I had hoped for. She became too whiny to maintain her strong-willed female lead. I enjoyed Syrus’ story but it just didn’t not flow well with that of the other two. I just feel that the characters need a tad bit more depth and development.

I finished The Unnaturalists wishing it was as well written as the solid description on the cover. I do not plan on picking up the second book but I hope the best for Trent. She has a wonderful imagination that shines from her story. I just feel that she needs to hone her writing skills to make this a great series.

Let me know what you think of The Unnaturalists or Tiffany Trent’s other work!

Lindsay

Grimspace

Grimspace by Ann Aguirre

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As the carrier of a rare gene, Jax has the ability to jump ships through grimspace – a talent which cuts into her life expectancy, but makes her a highly prized navigator for the Corp. But then the ship she’s navigating crash-lands, and she’s accused of killing everyone on board. It’s hard for Jax to defend herself: she has no memory of the crash.

Now imprisoned and the subject of a ruthless interrogation, Jax is on the verge of madness. Then a mysterious man breaks into her cell, offering her freedom – for a price. March needs Jax to help his small band of rouge fighters break the Corp monopoly on interstellar travel – and establish a new breed of jumper.

Jax is only good at one thing – grimspace – and it will eventually kill her. So she may as well have some fun in the meantime.

Grimspace, the first of the Jax series, opens with Sirantha Jax in prison just days after she is pulled from the Sargasso wreck that killed hundreds of diplomats and the love of her life. Readers meet Jax when she is at her lowest and spiraling the mental drain, and then we are drug along on a wild wide as she is rescued within the next few pages and whisked off on a desperate mission. The rest of the story progresses at a similar speed and Aguirre drops you in to this new universe expecting you to just pick up the pace. And it works folks, because by the end of the novel I was totally invested in Jax’s universe.

The novel reads as a faced-paced space opera and the story revolves around Jax (who is beyond mentally scarred), March (the pilot with a tortured past), and the rest of the odd crew determined to bring down the Corps and establish their own jumper training facility. Jumpers, like Jax, are navigators with a genetic mutation that allows them to ‘plug in’ to the ship’s mainframe and guide the ship through celestial beacons found in grimspace. I spent the entire read wishing that this was a real occupation because I would definitely sign up to do it!

Just know that this is a rough book. The team is stuck on a ship together for an extended period of time and Aguirre has no problems airing all of their dirty laundry. Jax comes with a lot of baggage; she is a tortured and damaged individual who resists human connection and delights in her fantasies of death. I liked her, but some readers may find it difficult to connect with the character. Just remember that Aguirre pulls no punches and enjoys showing the gritty aspects associated with living in space. Grimspace is rugged, jumpy, and at times hard to handle, and yet these are all the things I enjoyed about it.

Let me know what you think about Grimspace and check out the rest of the series!

Lindsay

Cress

Cress by Marissa Meyer

Cress (The Lunar Chronicles, #3)

In this third book in the Lunar Chronicles, Cinder and Captain Thorne are fugitives on the run, now with Scarlet and Wolf in tow. Together, they’re plotting to overthrow Queen Levana and her army.

Their best hope lies with Cress, a girl imprisoned on a satellite since childhood who’s only ever had her netscreens as company. All that screen time has made Cress an excellent hacker. Unfortunately, she’s just received orders from Levana to track down Cinder and her handsome accomplice.

When a daring rescue of Cress goes awry, the group is separated. Cress finally has her freedom, but it comes at a high price. Meanwhile, Queen Levana will let nothing prevent her marriage to Emperor Kai. Cress, Scarlet, and Cinder may not have signed up to save the world, but they may be the only hope the world has.

Cress is the third installment of Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicle series and readers dive in to the tale of Queen Levana’s satellite spy, Crescent ‘Cress’ Moon.  The story opens with the fugitive crew slipping through the stars to save Cress and Meyer takes us to Africa, Luna, and Back to New Beijing on an exciting journey to piece together Cinder’s team and stop the royal wedding.

Cress was a fun, fast-paced story that I could not put down; I had my husband laughing as I jumped up and down on the bed in excitement as plotlines fit together perfectly.  But, I had expected a tad more from Cress and my slight frustration resulted from the lack of character development that stemmed from the characters constantly being on the run.  I was disappointed in Wolf’s meltdown, I expected a little more from Cress as the story progressed, and I was disappointed at Cinder’s lack of leadership throughout the entire story.

I still loved it!  I enjoy the world that Meyer has created and she has a talent for re-telling the classic fairytales (Thorne’s lost eyesight is a quirky example).  Cress and Thorne develop a unique and real relationship as they survive the African deserts together and it is entertaining watching Cress react to her new friends.  Readers also get to spend more time with Kai, Dr. Erland, and Sybil Myra, who I just love to hate.  We even get a glimpse at the semi-sane Winter.  I love the fairytale romances and the intricate plotlines; Marissa Meyer is a master in her genre!  it is going to be difficult to wait for Fairest and Winter!

Let me know what you think about the review and Cress.

Lindsay

Letters Home: 1944-1945

Letters Home: 1944-1945
Women Airforce Service Pilots
by Bernice ‘Bee’ Falk Haydu

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In February of 1944 Bernice Falk was accepted into the Women Airforce Service Pilots of World War II (WASP).  Her mother saved the letters Bee wrote home describing her training and tour of active duty.  They tell a fascinating storyof her military experiences and some of the problems she had to overcome in order to become and remain a professional pilot.  She explains how aviation and piloting continued to be an important part of her life while rearing a family who all learned to love flying.  She also chronicles the WASP struggle to be recognized as veterans during her term as president of their organization.

I was having a difficult time finding a book to share after finishing my thesis last week and starting Camp NaNoWriMo this week. I wanted something uplifting and inspirational for the 4th of July and then I remembered a gem that holds a cherished spot on my shelves.

I purchased my copy of Letters Home from Bee Haydu at the EAA Airventure Fly-In in Oshkosh, Wisconsin a few years ago.  I was inspired by the eighty year old woman and her flight stories.  Letters Home is a collection of personal letters from Bee to her mother during her flight training with the Women Airforce Service Pilots, or WASPs.  The WASPs were ferry pilots for the United States during World War II and Bee includes informational passages about the WASPs, World War II aviation, and the role of female pilots.   She provides readers with a detailed description of life during the early 1940s, when these women were fighting against social norms to fly.  Letters Home documents how Bee followed her dreams into the sky and the life of flight that followed.

Her story is an inspiration to me because I am a fellow female aviator, but I believe non-pilots would enjoy this spunky woman’s story.  I have been blessed to speak with Bee Haydu on multiple occasions, and have heard more stories each time.  Haydu and her fellow veterans are part of America’s greatest generation and her story is a perfect read on America’s Independence Day.  Letters Home can be found on Amazon and please visit the WASP Museum to learn more about the daring female pilots of World War II.

Let me know if you have any questions about the WASPs and aviation.  Happy Fourth of July everyone!

Lindsay