Sigil in Shadow by Constance Roberts

Sigil in ShadowSigil in Shadow
by Constance Roberts
Pub Date: June 12,2016

Thank you Constance Roberts and Sweetwater Books for letting me read a proof of this book!

So, I enjoy fantasy, especially when that fantasy includes a strong female with loyalty and brains. Ellory Dane is one such protagonist. She is not a simpering female waiting for someone to save her: she is a loyal daughter who takes care of her unstable father and makes potions to sell at the local market in order to support her family. Unfortunately, taking care of her father and tending the herbs keeps Ellory so busy she has no time for anything else. Desperately, Ellory even sells her hair to buy enough food and fuel to last through the winter. Between trying to keep her father alive, putting food on the table, and worrying she will never find a man to marry, Ellory has little hope that life will get better.

Then one day, a rumor is spread that Ellory brought a man back from the dead with one of her potions. The king insists on bringing her to the castle to replicate the resurrection potion and to be trained by the royal herbalist. Suddenly, Ellory must learn to maneuver castle politics and hide the truth from everyone in order to survive.

This story was quite a page turner with several twists in the plot. I often found myself saying ‘just one more chapter,’ and then reading another after that to see what would happen next. I enjoyed the focus on medicine and herbs, as well as the way the story examines difficult issues such as social class, addiction, political games, infidelity, and abuse.  The romance is sweet and innocent, with a few funny moments—personally, I got a kick out of the closet scene. Some relationships seemed rushed to me, but all in all I felt it was a well-thought out story with an enjoyable protagonist, a great friendship between Ellory and her mentor Treya, and a sweet romance. I would definitely recommend this to someone who likes fantasy with a strong female protagonist and a compelling story line.

Heartless, by Marissa Meyer

HeartlessHeartless
by Marissa Meyer
Pub Date: November 8, 2016

Usually, I do not read books I know end unhappily. I also didn’t like Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland or Through the Looking Glass. Still, I couldn’t resist Heartless. The story explains how the “off with your head” Queen of Hearts became the ruthless, cruel, intelligent woman she is in Alice in Wonderland. The journey has several twists and turns that explain different stories from Lewis Carroll’s classic and kept me guessing. Even though I knew how it would end, I had to keep reading because I wanted it to end differently. I couldn’t put the book down, and I couldn’t help but cheer for the woman I knew would become the merciless Queen of Hearts.

Before becoming the Queen of Hearts, Catherine was simply a girl who wanted to change her destiny. Instead of being a member of the royal court who must marry the wealthiest man who offers for her hand, Catherine wants to open a bakery and make the most amazing confections in all the land of Hearts. The King loves eating anything she makes, and Catherine hopes she will be able to get the King of Hearts to give her the title “Royal Tart Maker of the Kingdom of Hearts.” Unfortunately, the adage “the best way to a man’s heart is through his stomach” applies with the King of Hearts. He proposes to Catherine, and Catherine knows she can’t refuse even though she doesn’t love him. To make matters more complicated, the mysterious Court Jester may be the kind of man she could lose her heart to.

To give you an idea of how amazing this book is, it made me appreciate Alice in Wonderland and Into the Looking Glass. I found myself remembering passages from the stories, and wanting to reread the books to appreciate this book even more. Catherine is the kind of protagonist I like: intelligent, strong, independent, loving, and loyal. I love how Marissa Meyer is able to create so many ties with the original stories, while still writing something original that can stand on its own. I would recommend this book to fans of Alice in Wonderland, those who love a good romance with a strong female protagonist, and for readers who love a good story plot with intriguing characters. This is definitely a book to put on your future reading list. I am so elated I received a pre-published copy!

Thief of Time by Terry Pratchett

Thief of Time

Thief of Time
by Terry Pratchett
Pub. Date 2001

“They revealed an exquisite mask of a face that had nevertheless been made up by a clown. Probably a blind clown. And one who was wearing boxing gloves. In a fog. The woman looked at the world through panda eyes and her lipstick touched her mouth only by accident.” Pg. 246

Do you like snide, entertaining descriptions like the one above? Do you like stories with multiple parts that feel like they don’t belong, but by the end of the book mesh together perfectly? Do you like wacky worlds that somehow give you a better understanding of yourself and the world in which you live? Last of all, do you like British humour? Then this is the book for you! In fact, any of the Terry Pratchett Discworld series I highly recommend to you.

If you have not heard of the Discworld series, it is an accumulation of about 40 books that does not have to be read in any order because each one can stand on its own, although the more books you read the more references you understand from other books. Pratchett’s world development is complex, and yet able to be understood quickly. I find myself reading slower and slower in order to catch all the puns and references to modern society. His satires are smooth, and I often find myself reading passages multiple times just because they are so clever. There are several times I can’t control my snorts of laughter or my grin.

Thief of Time has three main story lines: an obsessed clockmaker, an apprentice History Monk, and a mysterious school teacher. When the “auditors” decide to have a clock built to stop time and freeze everyone on the planet, each person becomes involved in the situation in various ways. Quirky, imaginative, and flawlessly executed, I find myself going from contemplative to confused to cracked up. It is quite the trip.

This story and others in the series have very little violence, sexual connotation, or foul language. I would recommend these books for strong readers since the plot is so complicated with little dialogue and a lot of description. I would recommend it for both men and women, especially those who like science fiction and/or fantasy since there are elements of both. For those who love books like The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Alice in Wonderland, or just a good satire, try these books.

Twilight 10th Anniversary

We thought we’d read Twilight in honor of the 10th anniversary of its publication and blog about it, and then the Internet blew up with the news that the “bonus material” for the anniversary edition was Stephenie Meyer writing a gender-swapped version of the story called Life & Death, with Beau for Bella and Edythe for Edward (and most of the other characters flipped), and then we had to make sure we mentioned it, too!

Turns out, Maria – our resident teen librarian – had never read Twilight before!

It may be pointless to say, but here be spoilers (for both Classic Twilight and New Twilight). The conversation could definitely go on, so let us know in the comments what your thoughts are on the bonus material or just Twilight in general! Continue reading

Redeemed, by Margaret Peterson Haddix

RedeemedRedeemed
by Margaret Peterson Haddix
Pub. date September 8, 2015

I have been looking forward to this book since the Missing series started in 2008. Eight books later, I am happy saying goodbye to these characters and excited to see what Margaret Peterson Haddix will come up with next.

I can’t do this book review without also including the series. I loved this series because it includes several of my favorite themes: history, time travel, and the hero’s quest. I enjoy watching characters grow and develop through trials and difficult situations. Having those difficult situations include stories about the lost princes from the Tower of London, the Romanovs, the city of Roanoke, and Albert Einstein was especially satisfying.

The series focuses on Jonah, a boy who is adopted and has discovered he and a group of tweens are from the past—children taken from their time periods, turned back into babies, and adopted/raised by families in the future. Unfortunately, this has disrupted the time continuum and could destroy everything. So, Jonah and these tweens go back into time to fix whatever was broken when they were taken from their time periods.

On its own, I thought this book was good; it was not my favorite in the series since this book focused more on wrapping up loose ends then a story from history. Ms. Haddix has constant twists and turns, with cliff hangers at the end of every chapter. She handles the complexities of time travel well, and she does a good job of portraying the mindset of tweens. The ending is not what I expected, but it works with the rest of the series and has a good message.

Overall, I highly recommend this series. It must be read in order since there are so many twists, turns, and cliffhangers. For those who are leery of romance, there are boyfriend/girlfriend relationships that mention kissing and holding hands. Still, the story is interesting, educational, and well-written with a good moral message.

Steelheart, by Brandon Sanderson

Steelheart coverSteelheart
by Brandon Sanderson
Pub Date: September 24, 2013

What if Superman and people like him really did exist? Would the world be better?

Steelheart examines the idea that superheroes would use their power for their own selfish reasons instead of constantly saving the world. The protagonist, David, lives in Chicago after something happened which changed the atmosphere so that the sun doesn’t shine and certain people have strange powers, like the ability to fly or the power to create illusions. People with these powers are called Epics, and the most powerful rule different major cities. Regular people live in constant fear that an Epic will kill them or the people they love. The only people who dare to challenge Epics is a group known as the Reckoners—normal people who study Epics and discover their weaknesses in order to kill them.

Steelheart is the most powerful known Epic, and he rules Chicago with an iron fist while also maintaining it as the most powerful and stable community in the world. David, the protagonist, is a young man who watched Steelheart murder his father and then grew up in Chicago under Steelheart’s reign. David wants revenge against Steelheart, so David joins the Reckoners in order to study Steelheart, learn his weakness, and kill him.

I did not realize how much I would enjoy this book. I knew Brandon Sanderson was a great author, but I am not always a fan of science fiction or blow-em-up action-packed books. Yet, this story grabbed my attention and kept it long past the last page. I found myself on the edge of my seat, wondering what would happen next and how the Reckoners will get out of each scrape. I also loved cheering for regular people working as a team to fight for their freedom against all odds. There is a lot of action, and this action is supported with distinctive characters, strong plot, and a unique premise.

I highly recommend this book for people who like superhero stories, especially since normal people are the heroes in this version. It is also a great book for those who like a lot of action, strong characters, and good surprises with unseen twists and turns. I am excited to read the second book in this series, Firefight, which is already in print.