Archive for the ‘Alternate History’ Category

Review of My Lady Jane, by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows

Saturday, October 8th, 2016

my_lady_jane_largeMy Lady Jane

by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows

HarperTeen, 2016. 491 pages.
Starred Review

This is the first book I’m reading as a 2016 Cybils first-round panelist for Young Adult Speculative Fiction — and it bodes well that this whole reading experience is going to be tremendously fun.

But let me say right up front that while these are Blogger awards so I am allowed to talk about what books I like — please be aware that I am only one member of the judging panel, and I will write reviews before I’ve talked with any of the other judges. So only my opinion is expressed. On top of that, this is the first book I’ve read for the Cybils this year, so I can’t even compare it with the competition yet. I hope the competition will be tough! So I will simply express that I loved this book — but that doesn’t necessarily mean it will be a Finalist.

That said, I did love this book! The premise is exceptionally fun. It’s alternate history, during a very turbulent time in England’s history — with shapeshifting thrown in.

Here’s how the authors begin the prologue:

You may think you know the story. It goes like this: once upon a time, there was a sixteen-year-old girl named Jane Grey, who was forced to marry a complete stranger (Lord Guildford or Gilford or Gifford-something-or-other), and shortly thereafter found herself ruler of a country. She was queen for nine days. Then she quite literally lost her head.

Yes, it’s a tragedy, if you consider the disengagement of one’s head from one’s body tragic. (We are merely narrators, and would hate to make assumptions as to what the reader would find tragic.)

We have a different tale to tell.

Pay attention. We’ve tweaked minor details. We’ve completely rearranged major details. Some names have been changed to protect the innocent (or not-so-innocent, or simply because we thought a name was terrible and we liked another name better). And we’ve added a touch of magic to keep things interesting. So really anything could happen.

This is how we think Jane’s story should have gone.

Instead of Edward dying of Consumption (or The Affliction), he’s dying because he’s being poisoned by his closest advisor. The part I like best though is that instead of conflict between Protestants and Catholics, there’s conflict between Verities and Eδians (“eth-ee-uhns”).

“The Eδians were blessed (or cursed, depending on your point of view) with the ability to switch between a human form and an animal one.” That form is fixed for any individual Eδian. King Henry VIII took a lion form and had a bad habit of eating people who brought him bad news.

But my favorite thing about this book is the character of Jane Grey. More than anything, she loves to read. Because of this, she has an encyclopedic knowledge of many different subjects. And she’s not conventional.

At the start of the book, as part of a plot to take over the throne of England, King Edward’s advisor, Lord Dudley, tells Edward he’s dying. They need to marry off Edward’s cousin Jane quickly so that she can produce an heir before he does.

So, in a few days, Jane is to be married to Lord Dudley’s son Gifford — and nobody bothers to tell Jane ahead of time that during the day, every day, Gifford is a horse.

We’ve got plots and counterplots and people changing into animals at inopportune moments. But there’s also romance and a whole lot of humor. If the sensibilities of the people involved seem a bit modern — well, the narrators make that fun.

I’ll go ahead and tell you that Jane does become Queen of England for nine days. But that’s about all that matches the history we know. What does happen is an entertaining adventure and tremendous fun.

The story is told from three perspectives — Jane, Gifford, and Edward. So I’m not sure if the three authors each took one perspective — they do sound pretty much alike. Though that’s fair because the voice is always that of the narrators. The narrators give things a modern twist throughout, with plenty of humor and perspective dashed across it all.

ladyjanies.com
epicreads.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Teens/my_lady_jane.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage, by Sydney Padua

Tuesday, June 16th, 2015

lovelace_and_babbage_largeThe Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage*

*The (Mostly) True Story of the First Computer

by Sidney Padua

Pantheon Books, New York, 2015. 319 pages.
Starred Review

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a book quite like this. It’s based on a web comic. The comic is based on two actual historical geniuses, Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace. But Sidney Padua invents the existence of pocket universes, where Charles Babbage actually builds his Analytical Engine (In real life, he never built it, always coming up with a better idea before bringing an earlier idea to completion.), and Ada Lovelace actually lived long enough to help him program it.

This book describes their adventures in the pocket universes. Now, in our universe, computers actually got built in the age of electricity, using vacuum tubes and electric current. Babbage designed his Difference Engine and Analytical Engine to run on steam, so that’s what’s drawn here – a grand Difference Engine with cogs and gears and powered by steam.

Other historical figures of the period run through these pages, and some of the most fun to be found here are in the extensive footnotes, endnotes, and appendices. While reading about what never happened, you’ll learn all sorts of facts about what did actually happen. You’ll come to know Lovelace and Babbage, seeing them in action, using words they actually wrote in their real-life lifetimes.

Here’s how Sidney Padua describes beginning to write this comic:

It was in a pub somewhere in London in the spring of 2009 that I undertook to draw a very short comic for the web, to illustrate the very brief life of Ada Lovelace. This was suggested to me by my friend Suw, also in the pub, who was (and still is) the impresario of an annual women-in-technology virtual festival she had named after Lovelace, a historical figure of whom I think I was hazily aware.

As anybody else would do, I looked up “Ada Lovelace” on Wikipedia. There I found the strange tale of how, in the 1830s, an eccentric genius called Charles Babbage only just failed to invent the computer, and how the daughter of Lord Byron wrote imaginary programs for his imaginary computer. It was such an extraordinary story, so full of weird personalities and poetic flourishes that it hardly seemed true; but at the end of it the facts thudded back to dull reality. Lovelace died young. Babbage died a miserable old man. There never was a gigantic steam-powered computer. This seemed an awfully grim ending for my little comic. And so I threw in a couple of drawings at the end, imagining for them another, better, more thrilling comic-book universe to live on in.

She goes on to say, “Almost everybody had failed to realize that my alternate-universe ending was a joke.” And so she began writing these comics.

The result is quirky, full of facts, and a whole lot of fun. I also love the Victorian, over-the-top style used, especially for title pages and diagrams.

And, yes, I will be watching the webpage for more adventures.

And, okay, I’ll admit it. I brought this book to a Book Dating event. It’s like Speed Dating — only everyone brings a book, and you have something to talk about. I thought this book was a nice blend of fiction and nonfiction — and that anyone who thinks it’s cool will be someone I will be able to easily talk with. This turned out to be true.

2dgoggles.com
sydneypadua.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Fiction/lovelace_and_babbage.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of The Falconer, by Elizabeth May

Saturday, December 27th, 2014

falconer_largeThe Falconer

by Elizabeth May

Chronicle Books, San Francisco, 2014. 382 pages.

All the society ladies gossip about Aileana. She was found crouched over her mother’s body, covered in blood. Aileana knows that a faery killed her mother and ripped out her heart. Now she hungers to kill faeries herself.

But meanwhile, she’s supposed to be a proper young lady, and her father wants her to get serious about attracting a husband. It’s tricky when Aileana senses that a faery is hunting one of the guests at the dance. How can she stay for all the dances when she needs to save someone’s life?

Since her mother’s death, Aileana, unlike most people, can see faeries. Like even fewer people, she can kill them. She’s being trained by one of the more powerful faeries, but she’s not at all sure she can trust him. Then her childhood friend comes back from school, and he can see faeries, too. But more and more fearsome creatures are coming after Aileana, and she learns the seal keeping humanity safe is weakening.

Set in a steampunk Scotland, this story is a page-turner. I’m not crazy about books written in present tense, but this one was worth the read. The other thing I didn’t like, though, was that as the first of a trilogy, this stopped in the middle of the action, and didn’t come to a satisfying conclusion at all. However, I have to admit that it hooked me, and I very much want to know what happens next.

elizabethmaywrites.com
chroniclebooks.com/teen

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Teens/falconer.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on an Advance Reader Copy, sent to me by the publisher.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

Please use the comments if you’ve read the book and want to discuss spoilers!

Review of The Whispering Skull, by Jonathan Stroud

Wednesday, October 8th, 2014

whispering_skull_largeThe Whispering Skull

Lockwood & Co., Book 2

by Jonathan Stroud

Disney Hyperion, Los Angeles, 2014. 435 pages.
Starred Review

I was so looking forward to this sequel to The Screaming Staircase, I preordered the book as soon as I heard its publication date. And I was not disappointed.

Jonathan Stroud is a genius for plotting. This book again intertwines many plot threads. We’re back with the 3-person (3-child) agency Lockwood & Co., in an alternate reality England where ghosts plague the populace. Lucy continues to narrate, and in this book she continues to hear from the skull-in-a-jar that George stole when he was working for the Fittes agency.

It is highly unusual for someone to be able to talk with a ghost. This is a Type Three ghost, and only one other Sensitive was ever able to do it. So this could bring Lucy and their agency fame and fortune. But is it worth it? The skull gives them information that almost gets them killed, and it sows doubts in Lucy’s mind about Lockwood and that door he asked them never to open.

Then there are, of course, the cases. The ones in this book are even more gruesome and frightening than the ones in the earlier book. Kids with an especially vivid imagination might want to stay away. Kids who like scary books, however, will be delighted. Mention that a ghost starts falling apart and forming ghost-rats that attack them. If they think they like the sound of reading about that, this is the book for them!

There’s also a rivalry with another agency – and a bet as to which one can solve the case first. There’s the usual fun banter between Lockwood and Lucy and George. (And George shines in this volume, I must say.)

But the meat of the book is the mystery. Who stole the Bone Glass, and what does it do? And can they get it back, yet stay alive?

This is yet another example of Jonathan Stroud’s superb writing. Even though I had my own copy, I checked out the library’s copy so I could read it on my lunch breaks. This is absorbing, clever, innovative, and completely delightful reading.

To give you the flavor, here’s a bit from a scene right at the start, where Lockwood & Co. get in a little over their heads:

“It’s getting close to the barrier,” I said.

“So’s mine.”

“It’s really horrible.”

“Well, mine’s lost both hands. Beat that.”

Lockwood sounded relaxed, but that was nothing new. Lockwood always sounds relaxed. Or almost always: that time we opened Mrs. Barrett’s tomb – he was definitely flustered then, though that was mainly due to the claw marks on his nice new coat. I stole a quick sidelong glance at him now. He was standing with his sword held ready: tall, slim, as nonchalant as ever, watching the slow approach of the second Visitor. The lantern light played on his thin, pale face, catching the elegant outline of his nose, and his flop of ruffled hair. He wore that slight half-smile he reserved for dangerous situations: the kind of smile that suggests complete command. His coat flapped slightly in the night breeze. As usual, just looking at him gave me confidence. I gripped my sword tightly and turned back to watch my ghost.

And found it right there beside the chains. Soundless, swift as thinking, it had darted in as soon as I’d looked away.

I swung the rapier up.

The mouth gaped, the sockets flared with greenish fire. With terrible speed, it flung itself forward. I screamed, jumped back. The ghost collided with the barrier a few inches from my face. A bang, a splash of ectoplasm. Burning flecks rained down on the muddy grass outside the circle. Now the pale figure was ten feet farther off, quivering and steaming.

There you have it: Plenty of adventure, danger from entities living and dead, swordplay, ghosts, mysteries and murders. This will appeal to many for its clever plotting, but is not for the faint of heart.

LockwoodandCo.com
jonathanstroud.com
DisneyBooks.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Fiction/whispering_skull.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on my own copy, preordered from Amazon.com.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

Please use the comments if you’ve read the book and want to discuss spoilers!

Review of Tongues of Serpents, by Naomi Novik

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013

Tongues of Serpents

by Naomi Novik
read by Simon Vance

Tantor Audio, 2010. 10 hours on 8 CDs.

The library finally got this book about Temeraire on CD! They had it in e-audiobook form, but I don’t have a way to listen to those in my car. So I listened to one more book about Temeraire, the celestial dragon.

Naomi Novik’s books are like the Master and Commander books, only with dragons. It’s an alternate world where nations use dragons in their Aerial Corps, with a full complement of deckhands and one captain who bonds with the dragon when it hatches. The books take place during the Napoleonic wars. You really should read them in order.

In the latest installment, Temeraire and Laurence are in Australia. (Besides England, they’ve been to China, Central Asia, Africa, and Europe. So why not Australia?) The book starts with some political posturing, but gets more interesting when they take a crew of convicts into the interior, and a dragon egg gets stolen. They encounter all kinds of new dangers in their journey to get the egg back.

The plot isn’t terribly gripping, but I could happily listen to Simon Vance read a phone book, and this is much more interesting than the phone book. His British accent is a delight to listen to, and I can recognize the voices he uses from the previous audiobooks, even though it’s been awhile since I heard the last one. He’s consistent with a different voice for each character, so they are recognizable, even in the next book.

I shouldn’t say too much about this installment, because if you’ve listened to the other books, nothing I can say would keep you from reading on. Yes, read this series. Or much better yet, listen to this series. Napoleonic Wars with dragons! A reader with a fabulous British accent! A great way to while away a commute.

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Fiction/tongues_of_serpents.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

Please use the comments if you’ve read the book and want to discuss spoilers!

Review of The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, by Joan Aiken, read by Lizza Aiken

Tuesday, July 9th, 2013

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase

by Joan Aiken
read by Lizza Aiken

Listening Library, 2012. The book was written in 1962. 5 hours on 4 compact discs.
Starred Review

Why had I never read The Wolves of Willoughby Chase before? I remember seeing it as a child, and I think I may have even checked it out once, but it looked far too dark for me. (I never have really liked dark books.) This time reading it, I was completely enchanted. Yes, the girls triumph over adversity, but I wouldn’t even call this book “dark” now that I’m an adult. I guess the Edward Gorey illustrations were too much for me.

And this 50th anniversary production is especially delightful in that it’s read by the author’s daughter. And she talks at the beginning about the writing of the book and the adversity her mother faced in her own life. Her mother had a gap of ten years in writing, and read the chapters to her children when she finally took it up again. For me, this inside information made me enjoy the story all the more.

The story is wonderful. As they point out in the introduction, we’ve got orphan girls with everyone set against them. They must figure out a way to escape and somehow set things to rights, and they do so on their own power. The sinister wolves add atmosphere and drama and probably too much darkness for the little girl I once was. But this audio production would make marvelous family listening. (If it gets too scary, you can comfort any little ones listening.)

The story is old-fashioned and melodramatic, but there’s so much to love. This classic was #57 in Betsy Bird’s Top 100 Children’s Novels Poll. I’m so glad I’ve finally read it.

listeninglibrary.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Fiction/wolves_of_willoughby_chase.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library audiobook from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

Please use the comments if you’ve read the book and want to discuss spoilers!

Review of Stolen Magic, by Stephanie Burgis

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

Stolen Magic

by Stephanie Burgis

Atheneum Books for Young Readers, New York, 2013. 383 pages.
Starred Review

Hooray! A third book about the Kat, Incorrigible! These books are a delightful combination of Regency England, with its proper manners and society dos and don’ts, combined with Magic! I recommended it just this week to someone whose daughter loved Sorcery and Cecilia, by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer. The main difference is that Kat is younger, though her siblings get into romantic adventures in each book, so there is still a touch of romance, but Kat keeps it light-hearted.

Kat is the youngest of four siblings. Her mother died when she was ten days old, but left a legacy of two kinds of magic, in conflict. It turns out that her mother was one of the ever-so-proper Guardians of England, with strong magic for protecting the country. But her mother was kicked out of the Guardians for practicing witchcraft. Kat has inherited her abilities in both, but needs to keep from practicing witchcraft if she wants to be initiated into the Guardians.

In this third book, Kat is getting ready for her initiation. But the whole family is also getting ready for her sister Angeline’s wedding. They are staying at Angeline’s husband-to-be’s home, and his family is not at all welcoming. They are high in society and very wealthy and don’t approve of Angeline, and even less of Kat. And if Angeline lets slip that she is a witch? Well, that could very well be the last straw.

Meanwhile, it seems that someone is stalking Kat and trying to hurt the people she loves. And all the “extra” portals have been stolen, so Kat may not be able to join the Guardians after all.

All this takes place in a proper setting seen through the eyes of Kat — who isn’t exactly known for following conventions.

Here’s how the book begins:

Despite what either of my sisters may say, I actually possess a great deal of common sense. That was why I waited until nearly midnight on the last night of our journey into Devon before I climbed out of my bedroom window.

Luckily, my family was staying on the first floor of the inn, so the rope I’d brought along in case of emergencies was more than long enough. Luckier yet, I knew a useful secret: it’s much easier to sneak out in the middle of the night when you can make yourself invisible.

Though you could enjoy this book on its own, I really think you’ll appreciate it more if you read Kat, Incorrigible and Renegade Magic first. And I was very happy to see that this book ends with hints of trouble to come: England is at war with Napoleon, and French magic-users are proving to be very powerful. The story comes to a satisfying conclusion, but I was happy that there is clearly more to come, and I will be waiting eagerly.

This series just makes me smile! Think light-hearted Jane Austen for kids — with magic!

stephanieburgis.com
KIDS.SimonandSchuster.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Fiction/stolen_magic.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a copy sent to me by the publisher.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

Please use the comments if you’ve read the book and want to discuss spoilers!

Review of Goliath, by Scott Westerfeld

Sunday, November 4th, 2012

Goliath

by Scott Westerfeld
read by Alan Cumming

Simon & Schuster Audio, 2011. 9 CDs, 10 hours, 30 minutes.
Starred Review

I finally read, that is, listened to, the concluding volume of the Leviathan trilogy. Although each book does have a reason to be an individual book and the separate episodes are distinct, this is not a trilogy where you’d want to start anywhere but the beginning. So go back and read Leviathan and then Behemoth!

The narration is well done, and I recognized the voices back from when I listened to the first book. There were times when I did get tired of the breathless pace, but I think that was more a function of the writing and it fitting the style of WWI adventure novels. I’d just take a breather between CDs and then be willing to listen again. And to be fair, once I got more than halfway, I couldn’t wait at all between CDs, but was eagerly popping the next one in immediately.

This trilogy provides an alternate steampunk history of World War I, where the Darwinists, who use genetically modified creatures, are pitted against the Clankers, who use fantastical steam-powered creations. Alek, the Prince in exile of Austria-Hungary, is back aboard the Leviathan, the giant British air beast where Deryn Sharp is serving as a midshipman, disguised as a boy, because she loves to fly.

Each book involves a progressively bigger weapon. The first book, Leviathan, was about the giant air beast itself. Then there was a water weapon called Behemoth. In this book, they pick up Nikolai Tesla in Russia. He claims to have leveled miles of Siberian forest with the power of his electrical weapon, Goliath. With it, he hopes to stop the war.

Alek believes Mr. Tesla, and wants nothing more than to stop the war, too. Deryn is not so sure. But either way, the Leviathan is bound across the Pacific and then across the continent on its way to take Tesla back to his laboratory in New York City. The United States is neutral, so they have to go through Mexico, where they are not completely successful getting past revolutionary generals.

Another thing I like about this series is they way they cover the whole world. Leviathan started in Great Britain and Austria. In Behemoth, they spent most of their time in Istanbul. In Goliath they head through Russia to Siberia and then go on to Tokyo. Then it’s across the Pacific, landing in California, flying across Mexico and then up to New York. So we get to see how all the countries are aligned in this steampunk alternate world Scott Westerfeld has created.

There’s plenty of intrigue, peril, and real historical characters put into somewhat different situations than they actually faced. Of course, best of all is the resolution of the story about Alek and Deryn. They can’t possibly have a future together. Or can they?

scottwesterfeld.com
audio.simonandschuster.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Teens/goliath.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library audiobook from the Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I write the posts for my website and blogs entirely on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

Please use the comments if you’ve read the book and want to discuss spoilers!

Review of Black Heart, by Holly Black

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

Black Heart

The Curse Workers, Book Three

by Holly Black

Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2012. 296 pages.
Starred Review

Ah! Holly Black has done a magnificent job tying up her trilogy! I was reading this book while waiting for an appointment with a neurology specialist. I had quite a bit to go, but I read straight to the end. Then I looked up. Oh no! It was an hour after my appointment time! Had I been so absorbed in the book, I hadn’t heard them call my name? That definitely could have happened, because I certainly hadn’t noticed the time pass. No, it turned out that this particular doctor was known for spending all the time with patients that they needed (and he did this for me, too).

I don’t want to say much about the plot, because I might accidentally give away things that happened in the earlier books. And yes, this is definitely a trilogy you want to read in order. It’s an alternate world where people can curse you by touching you. Curse Workers come in many different kinds, like luck workers or memory workers. Even death workers and transformation workers. But there’s always some kind of blowback that affects the curseworker himself.

Cursing people is illegal — so families where many are born with the ability end up as crime families. The girl Barron loves is the presumptive heir to one of the biggest crime families. So it’s still an issue for Barron which side of the law he should be on. And meanwhile, a governor who was cursed by Barron’s mother is trying to institute mandatory testing and make it illegal even to be able to curse someone.

These books all have some kind of clever caper that culminates all the threads of the book. Must. Say. No. More. Since they are clever, and since Holly Black manages to surprise you each time, these books definitely make great rereading as well. One thing I particularly liked is that she made me like the second book better by the way she had things go in the third book.

This is a brilliant series. I will try to listen to books two and three in audio form to get to enjoy them again. (I’ve already both read and listened to the first book.)

So how’s that for a review that says almost nothing about the actual book? But I don’t want to give anything away from the first books! So I’ll leave you with a paragraph from Black Heart:

“Plenty of people get conned because they don’t know any better. They’re just gullible. But lots of people are suspicious at the start of a con. Maybe the initial investment is small enough that they can afford to lose it. Maybe they’re bored. Maybe they’re hopeful. But you’d be surprised how many people start a con knowing there’s a good chance they’re being conned. All the signals are there. They just keep ignoring them. Because they want to believe in the possibility of something. And so, even though they know better, they just let it happen.”

thecurseworkers.com
TEEN.SimonandSchuster.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Teens/black_heart.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from the Fairfax County Public Library.

Review of Renegade Magic, by Stephanie Burgis

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

Renegade Magic

by Stephanie Burgis

Atheneum Books for Young Readers, New York, 2012. 329 pages.
Starred Review

I loved Stephanie Burgis’s first book, Kat, Incorrigible, a marvellous blend of Jane Austen-type society with magic and an incorrigible, irrepressible heroine. So I was delighted when I found an Advance Reader Copy of the second book about Kat at ALA Midwinter Meeting. It went directly on the top of my pile to read after the conference, and I was not disappointed.

I do recommend reading the first book first. I think you can still enjoy the second book without it, but you’ll understand better what’s going on with the Order of the Guardians who protect England and the enemies Kat has already made.

At the start of this book, Kat’s older sister Elissa is going to be married. Her sister Angeline’s beloved, Frederick Carlyle, is the best man. But when Frederick’s mother interrupts the ceremony and accuses Angeline of ensnaring Frederick by witchcraft, with the word of a member of the Order of the Guardians as her evidence, the happiness of the younger sisters is seriously set awry.

Stepmama decides to take them away from the scene of their humiliation, fleeing to Bath, along with Kat’s brother Charles, who always seems to be getting into trouble with gambling.

At Bath, Kat can sense a strange, wild magic, a magic that goes back to the Romans who founded the baths. Someone is trying to stir up a magic that can disrupt all of society. Can Kat fix things, as well as her own family’s happiness? All while learning to use her own powers without proper training? The process is quite an adventure!

These books are outstanding middle grade fantasy with plenty of humor, lots of action, some actual history, lots of suspense, and people you enjoy knowing. I wouldn’t want to be Kat’s Stepmama, but I would definitely like being Kat’s friend.

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Fiction/renegade_magic.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on an Advance Reader Copy I got at ALA Midwinter Meeting and checked against a library book from the Fairfax County Public Library.