Archive for the ‘Alternate History’ Category

Review of York: The Shadow Cipher, by Laura Ruby

Friday, September 29th, 2017

York, Book One

The Shadow Cipher

by Laura Ruby

Walden Pond Press (HarperCollins), 2017. 476 pages.

The Shadow Cipher is set in modern-day New York – but in an alternate universe. This world has very different technology than our own, including genetically engineered pets and therapy animals. But the biggest differences came from innovations built into New York City by the brilliant Morningstarr twins in the 1800s.

The Morningstarr twins also supposedly left a cipher in the city – that leads to a treasure. Tess and Theo Biedermann, who are named after the Morningstarrs, live in one of the original buildings constructed by the Morningstarrs.

When an evil real estate developer – named Darnell Slant – buys their building and they have to get out in 30 days, Tess and Theo are horrified. At the same time, they come upon an original letter written by Tess Morningstarr. It seems to be a new clue – leading to a whole new chain of clues. Working with Jaime, another kid who’s getting evicted from the building, the three of them plan to find the treasure to save the day.

This book has a good puzzle story and adventure yarn. It’s not like the reader can solve the clues themselves, but it’s fun to read about the kids going from one clue to another.

Now, could a cipher really stay intact for more than a hundred years? They try to get around this amazing coincidence by commenting on them and saying that it seems like the Cipher is solving them. That wasn’t quite good enough for me – but I’m a more-skeptical-than-average reader.

There was one incident that pulled me out of the book. At one point, Tess was so upset from being evicted, she had trouble sleeping.

She’d tried her favorite guided meditation video for an hour. She’d organized her underwear drawer by color. She’d tried counting backward from one million. When the sun rose that morning, she was on number 937,582.

I’m sorry – I don’t buy it! 937,582 is more than 60,000 less than a million. If Tess were able to count one number per second (which would be incredibly fast for such big numbers), it would take her more than 16 hours to get to such a relatively low number!

Now – I posted my complaint on Facebook in general terms. One of my friends speculated that Tess may be an android. And you know what? Even after finishing the book, that is a possible explanation. In fact, as the book goes on, Tess gets an uncomfortable feeling that many of the machines made by the Morningstarrs are alive! Perhaps Tess herself is a machine made by the Morningstarrs, and this is our first clue.

All the same, I have my doubts. I think it was probably a mistake rather than a cleverly planted clue to Tess’s real identity.

But the book is fun. And full of surprises. The story doesn’t finish, in fact the book ends on the threshold of further adventures. So this is part of a series you’ll certainly want to read in order.

The science in the book seems iffy to me – but any time machines seem to come alive, I’ll have some trouble with it. Also the coincidences. In general, the book is more like fantasy. But I didn’t mind it too much while I was reading it. You’ve got an imaginative alternate world, an intriguing puzzle, and a fun story of three children on an adventure trying to solve the puzzle and save their home.

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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.

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Review of Arabella and the Battle of Venus

Friday, September 22nd, 2017

Arabella and the Battle of Venus

by David D. Levine

Tor (Tom Doherty Associates), 2017. 416 pages.
Starred Review

It took me a long time to get around to reading Arabella of Mars, which meant I could immediately pick up the sequel, for more adventurous fun. A blurb on the back cover calls this “Regency space opera,” and that’s about right. We’ve got an alternate history where sailing ships fly between the planets during the Napoleonic Wars.

In this book, Arabella is still on Mars, but her fiancé has traveled to Venus – and there was captured by the French. He sends Arabella a letter telling her not to worry about him, but of course Arabella comes up with a scheme to try to save him. She hires a privateer to fly her to Venus. Her brother permits this plan as long as she brings along a chaperone, Lady Corey.

This second book isn’t mostly about adventures between the planets, as the first was (though they definitely have some). Instead, the privateer’s ship – and everyone on board – also gets captured by the French and held on Venus. But there’s something big afoot in the shipyard where some of the prisoners are laboring. Now there’s more to do than simply plan a mass escape.

Arabella’s character is so much fun! She’s resourceful and smart. And not slow to act. I was surprised how much I came to enjoy Lady Corey, too.

The science of this interplanetary travel and “interplanetary atmosphere” is iffy, but seems to be consistent with itself. I still roll my eyes a bit at the automata magically gaining personality and coming up with results the programmer doesn’t understand. It can even hear Arabella speak without having ears!

But it’s all in good fun. This is an adventure yarn with a memorable heroine who tries to rescue the man she loves and faces danger, capture, and even dinner with Napoleon.

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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.

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Review of The Empty Grave, by Jonathan Stroud

Saturday, September 16th, 2017

The Empty Grave

Lockwood & Co. Book Five

by Jonathan Stroud

Disney Hyperion, 2017. 437 pages.
Starred Review

I finished The Empty Grave today, and with it the entire Lockwood & Co. series – and Yes! The series ends well. I can now officially say that from start to finish, this is one of the best children’s book series ever. These books make good family reading, since adults will enjoy them every bit as much. Children need to be old enough to be able to not be afraid of all the murderous ghosts (and murderous people). If your child doesn’t mind some severe spookiness, I highly recommend this series.

This series deals with an alternate reality England where there’s a “Problem” with ghosts roaming the countryside and haunting buildings and places where they died. These aren’t friendly ghosts – if they touch you, you’ll die. And only children can see them. Lucy, Lockwood, George, and Holly still have their independent agency for dealing with ghosts – but powerful forces are ready to put them out of business – or perhaps simply kill them.

In this final installment, all the threads come together. Can the smallest agency in London expose what’s at the root of the Problem? Or will they be silenced? We’re told at the beginning of this book that Lucy survives. But will any of her friends survive with her?

I really mustn’t say any more about the plot. Yes, this is a series you should read from the beginning – It’s brilliantly crafted, with important pieces revealed at just the right time. In this book, it all comes together in a satisfying, and very suspenseful, way.

Jonathan Stroud’s Bartimaeus series is brilliant – but Lockwood & Co. goes far beyond it. You come to care about all the characters deeply (even George!) and to understand the complex situation and all that’s at stake. This series is magnificent! Read it!

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Review of Arabella of Mars, by David D. Levine

Saturday, September 2nd, 2017

Arabella of Mars

by David D. Levine

Tor, Tom Doherty Associates, 2016. 350 pages.
Starred Review

It was a year ago now that my sister Becky recommended this book to me – and in fact I’d had it checked out to read – but then I became a Cybils judge and needed to focus on reading Young Adult Speculative Fiction. I’m not completely sure why this particular book is marketed to adults rather than young adults, since Arabella is 17 years old – but since it’s fiction for grown-ups, I had to put it aside – and just managed to read it before I start reading for the 2019 Newbery Award.

Like my sister told me, this book is simply good fun. The premise is that instead of seeing an apple fall, Isaac Newton watched a bubble rise from his bathtub – and discovered flight. In the 1810s world of the novel, space ships are very like sailing ships, navigating the atmosphere and currents between the planets for interplanetary travel. How this could actually work is rather murky to me – but the implications of this world are a lot of fun.

The book starts with Arabella, who has grown up on Mars, being trained, along with her brother, by her Martian nanny in hunting and fighting and strategic thinking. But alas! A small accident results in a bloody cut on her head, and all is revealed to her mother, who uses this to finally convince Arabella’s father that Mrs. Ashby and her three daughters should go home to England.

Not long after arriving in England, they receive the sad news of Arabella’s father’s death. Then when she is visiting her cousin Simon, she unwittingly gives the cousin the information that at this time the passage to Mars would be at its quickest – so he is going to go to Mars, win her brother’s trust, and kill him for the inheritance of the family plantation, which is entailed on the oldest male heir.

He and his wife lock Arabella in a closet, but she didn’t receive all that training from her Martian nanny for nothing. When she escapes, though, she reasons that she must find passage to Mars and get there before Simon so she can warn her brother. But how to book passage without money? That’s when Arabella decides to disguise herself as a boy, and she gets a position as captain’s boy – because of her skill in working with automata, a passion she shared with her father. The ship she serves on has a mechanical navigator, and she is trained on how it works.

And so her adventures begin. The voyage isn’t at all uneventful. There were times I forgot it was a spaceship, the descriptions were so like a seagoing vessel. She must learn the ropes (literally) and about navigation. Along the way they deal with attack by French corsairs and mutiny, and there are new challenges when they finally land.

Like I said, the science is very iffy, but the story is told with enough confidence, you don’t often notice. I’m skeptical of the automaton acquiring sentience, but the atmosphere and currents between the planets was merely interesting.

This story is a whole lot of fun, and the advantage to being so slow to getting around to reading it is that now I can pick up the sequel.

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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.

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Review of Thick as Thieves, by Megan Whalen Turner

Monday, May 1st, 2017

Thick as Thieves

by Megan Whalen Turner

Greenwillow Books (HarperCollins), May 16, 2017. 339 pages.
Starred Review

Here’s how eagerly I’ve been looking forward to this book: First I reread three books in the Queen’s Thief series in the week before ALA Midwinter Meeting in January. (I couldn’t find my copy of the first book, The Thief. I am going to order myself a new copy.) I looked up the number of the HarperCollins booth at ALA, and on opening night of the exhibits, I went straight there, without passing Go. I asked for and received an advance reader copy of Thick as Thieves. I had my reading material for the rest of the conference!

There’s a note at the front of the advance reader copy from the author. She says, “If you’ve read any of the other Queen’s Thief books, there are characters here you might recognize and be happy to spend time with again. If you haven’t read any of my other books, you can start with this one if you like. Every book spoils some other book, just a little, so there are advantages and disadvantages no matter where you begin.”

On the back of the book, it says that Megan Whalen Turner is the “bestselling and award-winning author of four other stand-alone novels set in the world of the Queen’s Thief.” The “stand-alone” part is arguable. I think you’ll enjoy them more if you read at least the first three books in order.

However, they have a case about this book being stand-alone. I think I might have enjoyed it more if I hadn’t been so impatient for Eugenides (the Queen’s Thief) to show up and for me to find out what he was up to. (I knew he was up to more than met the eye.)

Anyway, this book is set in the Mede empire, focusing on Kamet, the slave of the Mede ambassador to Attolia, who was a part of the second book, The Queen of Attolia. Now they are back home, and Kamet is again close to great power. His master, whose affairs he manages, is the nephew of the Mede emperor, and brother of the emperor’s chosen heir.

As the book begins, Kamet is accosted in an alleyway by an Attolian, who tells Kamet to meet him at the docks after dark. The Attolian will escort Kamet to freedom.

Kamet pretends to go along with it, but he’s laughing inside. Here are some of the reasons why he is happy in his place:

As a slave in the emperor’s palace I had authority over all of my master’s other slaves and most of his free men. I had my own money in my master’s cashbox. I had a library of my own, a collection of texts in my alcove that I carefully packed into their own case whenever my master moved households. I not only could read and write, I could read and write in most of the significant languages of the empire. My master had paid good money for it to be so. Someday he meant to make a gift of me to his brother, and then, as the next emperor’s personal slave, I would be one of the wealthiest and most powerful men in all the empire. I wouldn’t have taken the Attolians’ offer even if I’d believed it was sincere – and I didn’t. They meant to slice my throat and toss me in a sewer, I was sure.

But that same day, something happens to change Kamet’s mind. A friend in the household informs him that their master has been poisoned in his room.

When a man is murdered, his slaves are tortured. If any confess, then all are executed whether they share in the guilt or not. No one will buy them and they can hardly be freed – what a temptation that would put before the enslaved population. In the case of a poisoning, where the administration of the poison is unclear, the slaves are put to death on principle. The Medes fear little in quite the way they fear their own slaves.

So Kamet lets the Attolian help him escape. Most of the book deals with their adventures trying to escape the Mede empire and get to Attolia. All the while, Kamet has not told the Attolian that his master is dead and he’s a wanted man. The Attolian thinks that the emperor’s elite guard are after them because an important slave has escaped. They must deal with pursuit, slavers, hunger, illness, and many other pitfalls along the way.

As with the other books in the series, Megan Whalen Turner has her characters telling each other myths about the gods. I enjoyed that this time, as tales from the Mede empire, they are in a completely different style from the tales told in the earlier books. Those resembled Greek myths, and these resemble Assyrian tales. As before, the tales told mirror situations the travelers face.

Now, I wanted the journey to finish a lot sooner than it did. I suspect that might not be as much of a problem for folks who aren’t already familiar with the series. Also, the Advance Reader Copy has blank pages that it says will be filled with maps. I think maps would really help me enjoy the story of the journey more, so I could see that the two are making progress. As it is, without a map it feels like the journey is going on and on, facing obstacle after obstacle. This is enough motivation for me to preorder the finished book, despite having this advance copy. (And advance copy isn’t enough for one of my very favorite series!)

In the big picture of the series, we know that the Mede empire is eventually going to attempt to annex the three kingdoms of the peninsula. In the previous books, the big picture story focused on getting those three kingdoms to stop fighting one another so they could deal with the Mede threat. In this book, we saw one small step in holding off that threat a bit longer.

The author says at the front that she’s not done with the world of the Queen’s Thief, and she’s definitely not done with the Queen’s Thief. I’m so glad! Of course, she spends so much time crafting her tales, it’s time to settle in for another long wait. Good thing the wait is always worth it!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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!