Emperor Mage

Emperor Mage

by Tamora Pierce

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Daine sails to Cathak as part of a peace treaty delegation from Tortall. There she is amazed by strange and wondrous sights, including rooms filled with dinosaur bones and the Emperor Mage’s zoo. But she also senses a darkness beneath all the gold and glitter, a darkness that lies in wait. At the same time, Daine is discovering that her own wild magic is growing again, this time giving her powers both great and terrifying.
Emperor Mage is the third book in “The Immortals” series, which chronicles a time when the world is invaded by immortal creatures and a girl is born with a magical gift that could restore the very balance of nature
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Yes people, the reviews of Tamora Pierce’s Immortals series continues with the third book, Emperor Mage.  This is my FAVORITE book of the series so I actually danced a little when I picked it up last week!

Emperor Mage takes place months after the events in Wolf-Speaker and readers join Daine, Kitten, Numair, and many others on a mission to the exotic, and hostile, country of Carthak.  The group is charged with establishing peace with the dynamic Emperor Ozone and Daine is responsible for healing the Emperor’s pet birds.  Unfortunately, the group arrives just as the gods get fed up with Ozone’s behavior.  Daine is pulled in to the fight with a gift from the Graveyard Hag goddess and must do everything she can to save those she loves the most from the wrath of the gods.

YES!!  Doesn’t that make you want to pick it up!?  Emperor Mage is unique and exciting.  It is the first story where real harm befalls Diane and we see her struggle with loss and the need to compromise.  There are still parts were Pierce wants readers to ‘pay attention to the lesson’ – yes we know slavery and cages are bad – but it is not too irksome as the main story is complex and keeps the storyline fluid.

We get to see Daine grow as a young woman and it is nice she doesn’t grow up to leap straight into some young prince or soldier’s bed.  Instead, we see her become a strong independent woman as she defies a goddess.  We see her develop friendships with unlikely characters – a Prince AND a Stormwing!  Plus we find her expanding her intellectual knowledge through Lindhall, Kaddar, and Numair.  Do not fret if you are one who is interested in the romance aspect; there is a touch of it but it is more a hint of things to come.

Emperor Mage is well worth the read!  Open the pages to join Daine as she tangles with a nosey goddess, marches with dinosaurs, and fights for her freedom all while being the spunky, headstrong young woman that I happily related to in my youth!

Let me know what you think of Emperor Mage!

Lindsay

Sandkings

Sandkings

by George R R. Martin

Sandkings

When Simon Kress returned to his home planet of Baldur from an offworld business trip, he was amused to find that his tank of Earth piranhas had cannibalized themselves into extinction, and of the two exotic animals that roamed his estate, only one remained. Now, in search of some new pets to satisfy his cruel pursuit of amusement, Simon finds a new shop in the city where he is intrigued by a new lifeform he has never heard of before … a collection of multi-colored sandkings. The curator explains that the insect-like animals, no larger than Simon’s fingernails, are not insects, but animals with a highly-evolved hive intelligence capable of staging wars between the different colors, and even religion–in the form of worship of their owner. The curator’s warning to Simon about the regularity of their feeding, unfortunately, was not taken seriously…. “Outer Limits” Episode, Hugo Award Winner, Locus Poll Award Winner, Nebula Award® Winner.

I did not make it through my projected reading list once again.  Who knew that searching for a new house would be so time consuming!  I will get to the books I listed earlier but for now I decided to share one of my favorite short stories to get you ready for next month.  October is my favorite month of the year and I am prepared to spend those 31 days sharing all things creepy, spooky, scary, haunted, and gloriously cheesy!  Be very excited folks!

Now for my review.  I first read Martin’s Sandkings in the Science Fiction Literature course I took during my undergrad.  I can still vividly remember how it felt after finishing the first time.  I found myself daydreaming about the story so I decided it deserved a re-read.  I couldn’t put it down again!

Sandkings is a science fiction short story that documents Simon Kress’ experiences with his new exotic pets, sandkings.  These alien creatures, described as semi-intelligent, are capable of religious devotion and conducting intricate battles between each other.  They are the perfect pets for Simon, or so he thinks.  I hung to every word, paralyzed as I was consumed by the consequences of Simon Kress’s decisions.  It is the only piece by Martin that I have read and I enthusiastically recommend Sandkings as Martin has mastered the art of projecting intensity through his writing.

And that is all the detail I’m giving you!  I don’t want to ruin all the glorious heebie jeebies awaiting you!  Pick it up!

Has anyone else read Sandkings? Let me know what you think!

Lindsay

Wolf-Speaker

Wolf-Speaker

by Tamora Pierce

 Wolf-Speaker (Immortals, #2)

When humans start destroying the majestic Dunlath Valley, the wolves seek out Daine to intervene. She arrives with a small band of helpers–Numair, King Jonathan’s greatest mage, Cloud, her pony, and Skysong, a small dragon–each unaware of the awesome challenge that lies ahead of them. Daine must once more call upon her wild magic, going even deeper, to organize her animal friends to fight in a cataclysmic battle.

I am the type of person who has to read books in order.  The same goes for watching tv episodes and movies; just one of my many quirks!  This is one of the reasons I continued to re-read the Immortals series after finishing Wild Magic last week.  But wanting to revisit one of my all-time favorite series is the main reason I pulled the next book, Wolf-Speaker, off the shelf.  Reader’s follow Daine as she continues her training in wild magic and travels, with her teacher Numair, across Tortall to help her wolf pack.

Wolf-Speaker is my least favorite of the Immortals novels.  This doesn’t mean that it is a bad novel; really I love the story and all the new characters.  Daine is the problem with Wolf-Speaker.  Daine is whiny and mean to the one human girl who wants to be her friend throughout the majority of the book.  It is irritating to read and I remember being frustrated with her childish comments as a teenager.  I now know that these comments are a way for Pierce to teach tolerance of others to her young readers.  It is still irritating to read but luckily the rest of the book makes up for Daine’s behavior.

Be prepared to meat an assortment of animals, all with unique and vibrant personalities, that join Daine in fighting the humans destroying the Dunlath valley!  You will finally get to know the young dragon Kitten, and meet one of my favorite characters of the series, Tkaa.  Tkaa is a basilisk who joins forces with Daine.  His dry humor, witty personality, and ability to teach Daine without sounding too pretentious makes him a keeper.  I also love how Numair’s quirky personality still manages to shine despite limited involvement in the tale.

Wolf-Speaker is definitely a must if you are wanting to read the Immortals series.  It is a very good book, even if it isn’t my favorite, and it would make for a fun weekend read!  What do you think of Wolf-Speaker?

Lindsay

A Time to Reap

A Time to Reap

by Jonas Lee

A Time to Reap (The Legend of Carter Gabel, #1)

Pemberton Academy is not just a school, it’s a gathering place for the children of the future that are afflicted with Temporal Displacement and Telepathy; in short, time travelers and mind readers who have been diagnosed with this “disease.” The Academy is not all as it seems after an explosion nearly takes one of its classmates, but not before Carter Gabel rescues her by using an unknown symptom related to his described illness. An unsanctioned group called the Program begins taking notice as the two classmates exhibit stronger abilities when they are together. Carter’s sense of reality begins to unwind as he learns more about his estranged father’s involvement with it all.

Carter will have to overcome the past of his father leaving, the present of an unknown adversary hunting him down and a future that seems to change with each decision he makes. He will have to learn who to trust out of the people in his life if he wants to conquer the looming notion that the government may be hunting him down because of his developing abilities.

A Time to Reap is the first novel an author requested I review.  My husband can attest to the goofy happy dance that resulted from that request so thank you Jonas Lee for the confidence boost!  I am excited to post a review of A Time to Reap!

A Time to Reap is about a young couple, Carter and Mo, with extraordinary talents who are forced to fight for their lives against the organization known as the Program.  Readers experience the story from Carter’s point of view and are in for a treat as Jonas excels at character development. Carter is a snarky teen who has no qualms with talking to himself and a love for ‘classic’ movies and music.  All of the ‘classic culture’ references left me giggling in nerdy delight!  Mo is just as quirky and delightful to read and the two teens made a great team.  Now I am normally the first person to provide an exaggerated eyeroll at novelized teen romances, but Jonas has made the relationship feel real.  I would have no problem being friends with these two cheeky teens.  Also, Jonas has nailed first-person point of view which leaves me awestruck as an aspiring author; first person POV is hard to write!

The one thing that left me frustrated was having to wait to learn all the complex details.  I am not a patient person, and therefore not a patient reader.  I wanted to know more details about Carter’s situation in the beginning of the book.  I had a hard time waiting for Carter to get all the details so I could know them too!

Honestly, this a great debut novel!  Character development is definitely one of Jonas’s gifts and I enjoyed the complex plot A Time to Reap contains.  The story is fun, fast-paced, and full of smartass remarks!  I definitely recommend A Time to Reap, especially if you are looking for a fun YA novel that is thankfully much different than the typical novels currently flooding the market.  Thank you for providing me with a copy Jonas!  I can not wait to read the next installment and now I need to go watch both Push and Ghostbusters!

Has anyone else read A Time to Reap?  What did you think?

Lindsay

Pet Tortoise Helps Her Human Express Herself Once Again…

Katyusha, or Kata, is pretty much our kid.  She’s annoying, throws temper tantrums, and is just plain weird.  We even dress her up for Halloween.  But we love her and she puts up with us.  I know you’re probably thinking ‘who cares about this woman’s odd pet!  I want to read some book reviews!‘  Well believe me, I want to be writing them, but that would require reading.

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It just hasn’t happened the last two weeks.  Instead I have been left wishing I could follow Kata’s example (this is how she sleeps on the couch) and just hide away from the world.  Alas, it does not work that way.  But, do not fret; all I plan to do this weekend is READ!

So here is what  you have to look forward to in the coming week!

Jonas Lee’s debut novel: A Time to Reap (The Legend of Carter Gabel #1)

The last three books of Tamora Pierce’s The Immortals Series:

Wolf-Speaker

Emperor Mage

The Realms of the Gods

Jacqueline Winspear’s series starter: Maisie Dobbs (Maisie Dobbs #1)

and hopefully…

Jacqueline E. Smith’s debut novel: Cemetery Tours (Cemetary Tours #1)

Rapunzel-books

Wish me luck!  What are your weekend plans?

Lindsay

 

Wild Magic

Wild Magic

by Tamora Pierce

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Young Daine’s knack with horses gets her a job helping the royal horsemistress drive a herd of ponies to Tortall. Soon it becomes clear that Daine’s talent, as much as she struggles to hide it, is downright magical Horses and other animals not only obey, but listen to her words. Daine, though, will have to learn to trust humans before she can come to terms with her powers, her past, and herself.

The last few weeks have been rather stressful; the type of stress that leaves one absolutely drained.  I found myself putting aside all my currents reads and pulling a childhood favorite off of the shelf in the wake of this exhaustion.  I first read Wild Magic, and the rest of Tamora Pierce’s The Immortals series, as a pre-teen.  I instantly connected to the main character because I could relate to her social awkwardness and passionate love for animals.  Wild Magic is the first book I remember actively picking out by myself, and the cover is worn and faded because I have read it at least 15 times.  So, I was a tad hesitant to read it with the intentions of reviewing it.

I still absolutely love this book!

Wild Magic provides the origin story of Daine, a young girl with an amazing knack with animals.  She is escaping a violent past when she, and her trusty pony Cloud, land a job with the horsemistress of Tortall.  Daine soon establishes a happy life in her new kingdom, and even makes some lasting friendships.  Readers follow Daine throughout the start of her new life and are drawn in to the action when she must use her talents to fight immortal creatures and protect Tortall from invasion.

Adventure, immortal creatures, and magic?!  My pre-teen heart just ate this book up!  I would definitely recommend Wild Magic for pre-teens, or teenagers, looking for something different.  I feel that the plot, which is well developed, is even complex enough for adults looking for a light read.  Pierce provides well-developed characters with each remaining unique and separate from the others.  Wild Magic, and the rest of The Immortals books, are set in the same world as Pierce’s other youth series, but it is considered a side-series and is often over shadowed by Pierce’s main book sets.

Now this novel is geared for younger audiences, so some of the ‘teaching’ moments can resemble the end credits of many 1980s cartoon episodes (my favorite example would be Thundercats).  Daine is supposed to be 14 years old but I always felt like she read older and this discrepancy can get confusing at times.  Many characters lack the flawed personalities one comes to expect in YA and adult fiction, but this doesn’t make the characters any less effective.  Wild Magic provides examples of tolerant relationships and friendships, promotes social equality, pushes girls to think outside the box, and doesn’t spend 300 pages describing a tortured crush/lust/love relationship.  All of these are positive traits that make this book worth sharing.

Reading Wild Magic was like being visited by old friends I haven’t seen for years.  My husband noted my giggles and smiles as I read and expressed his pleasure at my uplifted spirit.  Wild Magic definitely holds an honored place on my shelves.

Has anyone else read Pierce’s Immortals series?  Do you have a favorite book that has stuck with you for decades?  If so, what is it?

Lindsay

until next week….

Well folks, I am not posting a book review this week.  I feel weird when I don’t provide a couple of posts a week, but it couldn’t be helped this time around.

Now, this development has absolutely nothing to do with the novels I am reading.  Oh contraire, I have a number of books that I am absolutely loving and can not wait to share!  It has just been one of those topsy-turvy weeks which my mini-Godzilla Kata perfectly demonstrates.  (Don’t worry, I helped her out of her predicament after I took the picture)

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I am personally blaming the crazy week on the full moon!  So don’t worry; you will be overwhelmed with posts next week!  Just keep reading, and writing, those great books until then!

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I hope you all had good weeks.

Lindsay

Love in a Nutshell

Love in a Nutshell

by Janet Evanovich

and Dorien Kelly

Love in a Nutshell (Culhane Family #1)

Kate Appleton needs a job. Her husband has left her, she’s been fired as a magazine editor, and she only wants to go to her parents’ summer house, The Nutshell, in Keene’s Harbor, Michigan, and make a Bed and Breakfast inn. Matt Culhane needs a spy in his brewery for a saboteur, and Kate is new in town. But Kate despises beer and nobody trusts her.

So, Love in a Nutshell is one of the many author collaboration novels that Evanovich has produced outside of her Stephanie Plum novels.  I decided to re-read the novel because of a discussion with a friend about pumpkin beer sparked a desire to read a fun story about beer.  A brewery is the setting for most of the book so it seemed like the perfect read.

I really like the two main characters, Matt and Kate.  Matt is a good guy and great business man who is struggling with the fact that someone is out to destroy his business, Depot Brewery.  Kate is a spunky, stubborn, and happy woman who is determined to save her childhood home, the Nutshell, and establish a good life post divorce.  These two have instant chemistry and I was pleased that the two developed an actual friendship instead of immediately jumping in to bed together.  There relationship just felt real instead of ideal.   Matt and Kate’s banter is fun and provides a light tone to the story despite the two searching for a saboteur.  These characters, and the environment of the brewery and the town, make Love in a Nutshell a quick, light read.

Now, I am not a fan of the title; it doesn’t really pertain to the story and comes off a tad forced.  Also, the book tends to read flat with far too much ‘telling’ language.  This is something I have noticed in many joint authored novels.  Love in a Nutshell is missing the descriptive ‘showing’ language that one usually finds in an Evanovich novel.  A lot of the details just seemed left out and makes the book feel like its flowing too quickly.  I feel like it needed one good edit/adding session before hitting the presses.

Love in a Nutshell is perfect if you are wanting a fun light read that doesn’t require a lot of extra thought.  Take it to the beach on a nice fall day and expect to crave a good beer once you’re done!  Has anyone else read Love in a Nutshell?  What is your favorite book by these authors?

Lindsay

Orphan Train

Orphan Train
by Christina Baker Kline

Orphan Train

The author of Bird in Hand and The Way Life Should Be delivers her most ambitious and powerful novel to date: a captivating story of two very different women who build an unexpected friendship: a 91-year-old woman with a hidden past as an orphan-train rider and the teenage girl whose own troubled adolescence leads her to seek answers to questions no one has ever thought to ask.

Nearly eighteen, Molly Ayer knows she has one last chance. Just months from “aging out” of the child welfare system, and close to being kicked out of her foster home, a community service position helping an elderly woman clean out her home is the only thing keeping her out of juvie and worse.

Vivian Daly has lived a quiet life on the coast of Maine. But in her attic, hidden in trunks, are vestiges of a turbulent past. As she helps Vivian sort through her possessions and memories, Molly discovers that she and Vivian aren’t as different as they seem to be. A young Irish immigrant orphaned in New York City, Vivian was put on a train to the Midwest with hundreds of other children whose destinies would be determined by luck and chance.

The closer Molly grows to Vivian, the more she discovers parallels to her own life. A Penobscot Indian, she, too, is an outsider being raised by strangers, and she, too, has unanswered questions about the past. As her emotional barriers begin to crumble, Molly discovers that she has the power to help Vivian find answers to mysteries that have haunted her for her entire life – answers that will ultimately free them both.

Rich in detail and epic in scope, Orphan Train is a powerful novel of upheaval and resilience, of second chances, of unexpected friendship, and of the secrets we carry that keep us from finding out who we are.

Ok, I am going to try to keep my review short since the Orphan Train synopsis is somewhat long.  I picked up this novel on a whim while shopping in Target.  The history of the orphan train was appealing to me because, well, I am a historian and I remembered reading about it during my pre-teen years.

Orphan Train provides the stories of two very different women who are surprisingly connected by the fact that they are orphans.  Molly is a teenager assigned to helping Vivian organize her attic for community service, and the two soon become fast friends as they share the often painful details of their experiences.

I loved Vivian’s story, which is told in flashback style.  I was hooked on her storyline from the moment she boarded the train until the moment she finished her tale in her dusty attic.  Some moments still give me chills and I sobbed in my pillow on a few occasions.  Vivian led a hard life that was often void of true love and kindness; my heart hurt for her when she was in pain and soared in her brief moments of joy.  Young Vivian is a well written character that I connected with and her development allowed 91 year old Vivian to remain endearing to the end.

I did not enjoy Molly’s story.  Molly’s sole job in Orphan Train was to draw out Vivian’s story.  For some reason Kline also decided to make her a moody Penobscot Indian teenager who hates all adults thanks to the foster care system.  It was too much for this novel;  it felt like Kline was trying to force you to not only examine the moral depravity of the orphan train but also that of Native American relations and the issues of the modern day foster care system.  All things worthy of discussion, but not in this setting.  I actually found myself skimming over Molly’s parts so I could get back to Vivian’s story.

Orphan Train is a good book and I definitely recommend it if you are interested in the history.  I do not recommend it if you are one of those selfless individuals who donate their time and homes to foster children; the modern aspect of the novel will only leave you frustrated.  Has anyone else read Orphan Train?  I know it is a big book club novel.

Lindsay