Thursday, May 28, 2009

Firebirds

The Baby in the Night Deposite Box by Nancy Whalen Turner
This is a story about baby Penny, who one night is dropped into a bank's night deposite box. When the bank manager/owner comes into work the next morning he finds the baby in with the rest of the deposites and decided that it is the banks responsibility to raise her. In this short story we watch as Penny grows from a young baby to a young adult. It didn't have much fantasy in it until the very end. For me it ended right when it was getting good, again I felt this was a great set-up for a full-length novel, but it was an enjoyable story.

Beauty by Sherwood Smith
I was pleasantly surprised to find that this story takes place in the same world of Crown Duel. It follows the daughter of Mel and Danric, who I loved, in the earlier books. Elestra is far from beautiful and is upset one evening and runs to the thrown room to get away, as soon as she enters the evil Flauvic (who had been imprisioned in a tree) takes her captive so he can make his escape. The curse that was placed on Flauvic in Court Duel has been lifted and although twenty years have passed he has hardly aged. All his family, friends and connections are long gone and he is all alone. As they travel toward the border a friendship grows between Elestra and Flauvic and before anything can really happen between them the story ends. I have mixed feelings about this one. Flauvic was such a "bad guy" in the Court Duel book it was hard for me to see him as a good guy in this one. I suppose living twenty years in a tree, losing everyone you know, and knowing that no one cared to rescue you is a pretty good punishment. Maybe he has learned a lesson and will strive to live a better life. The story ended a bit too quickly and I'm left wondering more about him then I ever was with the original story. It was fun revisiting and finding out how Mel and Danric are doing, although it didn't have the same magic from the other stories, it was still a fun read.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Enna Burning by Shannon Hale

"Two years have passed since the events of Goose Girl, and 16-year-old Enna has returned to the Forest to care for her dying mother. Her older brother finds a mysterious piece of vellum that teaches him to set fires with neither flint nor spark. The warm energy of the fire turns destructive as Leifer becomes controlled by the desire to burn. When Bayern goes to war, he wins a battle by burning the enemy, but dies as well. Enna discovers the vellum and its power and hopes that her new knowledge will help her protect Isi and all of Bayern, but it puts her and her loved ones in mortal danger. In some gory battle scenes, Enna burns hundreds of people alive, winning the war, but nearly dying herself. Like her ability to fire-speak, Isi's gift of wind-speak is similarly out of control. In hopes of discovering a remedy to their problems, the two young women set off for a kingdom in the south where fire-worshippers live. The answer lies in balance."

I love this new cover! Anyway, I've read this book a couple times and so I decieed I would try listening to it instead on a recent roadtrip, I loved going back to the wonderful world of Bayern. I had forgotten just how much I enjoyed this second installment in the Bayern series. Enna is a wonderful heroin and I loved her story and the struggles she had to go through. It was a great story of friendship, and also shows the slippery-slope of addiction. Isi and Enna are great friends and I enjoyed seeing their relationship grow. I loved Isi in the first book and was glad she was a major part in this secod story. Overall, I enjoyed the audio version, it really brought the story to life and it felt a lot more intense than when I had read it before. I didn't really love the voice of Finn, I love the character but the actor just didn't do anything for me. I highly recommend this series, and I am SO looking forward to Forest Born (book four) to come out this fall!

Book One: Goose Girl
Book Two: Enna Burning
Book Three: River Secrets
Book Four: Forest Born (This is the story of Razzo's little sister, Rin, who has the ability of people-speaking.)

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Court Duel by Sherwood Smith

"The teenage Countess Meliara finds herself compelled for political reasons to leave her small castle in county Tlanth to stay at the royal palace Athanarel in the capital city, Remalna. She is completely unprepared for court life, preferring to run barefoot over the hills rather than learning how to hold her fan correctly, but luckily her brother's new fiancee takes Meliara under her wing and teaches her the nuances of court etiquette. Mel soon finds herself swept up in a dizzying whirl of flirtation and political intrigue, and she remains confused about both until a plot to take over the throne brings many secrets to light."

Fantastic! I was sad when I finished the first book and didn't have the second one on hand to beging reading right away. So, I immediately went out and bought the "duet" version, where books one and two are combined (with a fun bonus short story at the end). I really enjoyed this version, I think its best to read it all as one book instead of two seperate books. I loved Court Duel! Mel really grows a lot in this installment. I read this on our recent roadtrip and it really made the time fly by. Her relationship with Vidanric is perfect. I won't give anything away, but I loved the direction the author went with their storyline and I was on pins and needles the whole time wondering if they would or would not end up together. I totally recommend this book to anyone would loves a nice, clean romantic fantasy!
(Jess, this means you! I think you'd love these books!)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Firebirds Rising

Wintermoon Wish by Sharon Shinn
This lovely short story takes place in the same world as Shinn’s Safe-Keeper trilogy. I’ve read one of the books ages ago, and when I started reading I soon remembered the wonderful world of Merendon. Lirril is our main heroine, and a bit of a snob. She arrives at her grandparent’s inn heartbroken that her crush in town has fallen in love with another girl. So when Jake arrives on the night of Wintermoon (a mix of Christmas and New Years Eve), she is not the most pleasant company. As the evening goes on Lirril soon lets her guard down and realizes there is more to Jake than what she originally thought. It is a rather short story, and I was disappointed when I turned the last page and realized the story was over. For me it was just beginning and I wanted to read more. I guess that is the problem with short stories, they are never long enough.

Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith

“In a cold and shabby tower room, in a cold and shabby castle, young Countess Meliara and her brother, Branaric, swear to their dying father that they will defend their people from the growing greed of the king. But that promise may cost them everything they cherish. It leads them into a war for which they are ill-prepared, a war that threatens the homes and lives of the very people they are trying to protect. Worse still, it lands one of the pair in a torture chamber and leaves the other with an arrow in the back.”

Okay, I think the first thing I can say is that you really should have the second book on hand before reading the first. I unfortunately only had book one checked out and now I am impatiently waiting for the second. Book one follows Meliara, the countess of a very poor area. The king has continued to raise taxes to the point where even the upper-class are struggling. When he threatens to overtake all their land and their people, not to mention breaking a sacred covenant with the wood people, Meliara and her brother Branaric are furious and decide they must fight. Mel, is soon captured by the enemy camp and then the real adventure begins. We follow Mel as she is captured, imprisoned, escapes, on the run, still on the run, captured again, escapes again, on the run again, and so on. I did enjoy the story and the hint of a romantic relationship with one of her captures. However, the book kind of just ends and there isn’t much resolution. I look forward to reading the second book.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Academy 7 by Anne Osterlund

“Aerin Renning is a scarred fugitive, Dane Madousin a rebellious son of privilege. On the surface, they have nothing in common. But the two most competitive freshmen at Academy 7 share an undiscovered bond. Both harbor a dangerous secret that threatens their own destruction. And while their safety depends upon their staying apart, the two are inexplicably drawn to each other. Even as unknown forces conspire to separate them, their competition turns to friendship, and their friendship to romance. Now not only their lives—but their hearts—are at stake. To survive, the two must unite all their knowledge, skills, and gifts to uncover a secret bigger than either could have imagined. A secret as big as the entire universe.”

I really enjoyed this book; I only wish it had been about 100 pages longer. Aerin has had a very hard life. Losing her father from a plane crash, leaving her all alone on a strange new planet where she quickly becomes a slave. After six years, she has had enough and when the opportunity presents itself she risks everything for a chance at freedom. Dane has also had a hard life, although most think he has come from a life of privilege he has been living in the shadow of his older brother and constantly trying to gain the affection of his distant father. Dane and Aerin are brought together when they both are unexpectedly excepted into the best school in the universe, Academy 7. I enjoyed watching their relationship unfold; they have good chemistry and have started to build a great friendship. I’m assuming this is the first in a series, at least I hope so. I look forward to seeing what becomes of Dane and Aerin.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Suggestions, please!

Tyler and I are heading out for a road trip next week! Our newest adventure will be taking us up the beautiful west coast, from San Diego to Seattle (and then back again). Since we'll be spending many hours in the car, I will need some really good books to keep me entertained in between all our fun stops. So, I'm hoping you can help provide some great road trip book ideas. What is your favorite book? What book do you like to take with you on vaca? Or, just a fun read that you'd think I might like. I look forward to seeing what you come up with!! Thanks!!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Reluctant Heiress by Eva Ibbotson

“Being an heiress in 1920 Austria with nothing but a broken-down castle to your name and nary a penny in your purse could be frustrating for anyone but the Princess Theresa-Maria of Pfaffenstein. Tessa, however, is thrilled with her situation, as it allows her to concentrate on her love of the arts—and no one in the Viennese opera company need know that their delightful and charming under-wardrobe mistress is really a princess. But when the dashing self-made millionaire Guy Farne arrives at the opera in search of suitable entertainment for his high society guests, Tessa realizes that there may be more to life—and love—than just music. And while the attraction between them is undeniable, Guy’s insufferable snob of a fiancée only solidifies Tessa’s determination to keep her true identity a secret. Yet, after a chance meeting with the handsome Englishman, Tessa’s reserve begins to melt, and she starts to wonder if it’s too late for a fairy-tale ending.”

Doesn’t the beautiful cover and book description make you want to read this book? It sounds like it would be a lovely romance. Unfortunately, the author just didn’t do the story justice and the whole thing just felt contrived. The book jumped around constantly from multiple points of view. This was so distracting and it made it so hard to build a proper relationship between Guy and Tessa. If she had narrowed it down to just them, then it would have been a million times better. A HUGE part of the book focuses on different opera’s, unless you know and love the opera this can be extremely boring to read about. There were so many different references to opera, art and even Freud that it all felt cluttered and totally distracting from the story. It was as if the author was trying to show how cultured she was and flaunt her knowledge instead of telling a story.

I am a bit surprised that I found this in the young adult section at the book store. I can’t imagine teenagers being interested in this story, since it seems it was written especially for people who love the opera and not really the general public. Everything just ended up a bit too nicely, any misunderstandings were cleared up too quickly, and although I started out really liking Guy, I ended up bored with him about halfway through.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Fortune and Fate by Sharon Shinn

"For the Rider Wen, peace in Gillengaria has only brought despair. Plagued by guilt for failing to protect her king, Wen has fled the royal city and given herself the penance of a life of wandering, helping strangers in need, making sure they remain just that: strangers. Until the day she helps a terrified young woman abducted by an overeager suitor. The girl, she discovers, is the daughter of one of those who rose against the dead king, and is now heir to the great estate known as Fortune. Once she has delivered her safely home, Wen wants nothing further to do with the girl or her family. But fate has other plans...For behind the walls of Fortune, Wen will find her future - and she will finally confront the ghosts of her past.

Sigh. I guess I went into Fortune and Fate with high expectations, and was kind of disappointed. While I was reading Reader and Raelynx I knew that Wen would be the main character of Fortune and Fate, so I tried to pay a little more attention to her in R&R, and was kind of curious to see what her story would hold. This story picks up two years after the final war in R&R, following Wen on her journey of self-discovery. She has passed her time saving anyone she comes across on her aimless travels. That is how she meets up with Karryn, a serramarra who has been kidnapped. Once Wen saves the day she soon takes up a job working as Karryn’s professional guard.

Wen’s character just didn’t do anything for me. She was too manish, and had no famine qualities at all. She was all business all the time and for me was a bit too harsh. Senneth, Kirra, Amalie and Ellynor all are powerful, strong women and still they are women. You can see that they each have their own charm and still maintain a certain amount of femininity. Wen is just too much a tomboy for my taste. I just couldn’t relate to her. And as for her relationship with Jasper, I have only one word…yawn. I didn’t feel any chemistry between the two, and frankly I don’t really see what he sees in her.

I love the Twelve House series and will probably consider R&R the final book in the series and this more of a companion novel. I just didn’t really see the point of this book. Maybe if she had placed the story way in the future with all new characters it would have been different, but for me it was missing the magic of the other books.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner

“By scheming and theft, the Thief of Eddis has become King of Attolia. Eugenides wanted the queen, not the crown, but he finds himself trapped in a web of his own making. Attolia’s barons seethe with resentment, the Mede emperor is returning to the attack, and the kind is surrounded by the subtle and dangerous intrigue of the Attolian court. When a naïve young guard expresses his contempt for the king in no uncertain terms, he is dragged by Eugenides into the center of the political maelstrom. Like the king, he cannot escape the difficulties he makes for himself. Poor Costis knows he is the victim of the king’s caprice, but he discovers a reluctant sympathy for Eugenides as he watches the newly crowned king struggle against his fate.”


This was definitely my favorite in the series, so far. The other two seemed to have a slow start and then later picked up for me. This one had me hooked from the beginning. I liked hearing the story from Costis’ perspective. Eugenides is still the main character, and surprisingly, I loved learning about him and coming to love him all over again from a fresh point of view. Ever the romantic, I loved the few moments when Gen & Irene (Eugenides and Attolia) were able to be themselves and we see how deeply they love one another. Gen is so clever and not to be underestimated. I simply can’t wait to read the next book!

The Queen in Winter

This is another book which consists of four short stories. I had originally checked the book out for the Sharon Shinn story, but then saw Lynn Kurland wrote one of the stories as well, so I was excited to read both.

When Winter Comes by Sharon Shinn
This is the story of Sosie, a character found in Mystic & Rider. Sosie and her sister Annie are forced to leave their childhood home when Annie gives birth to a mystic baby. Annie is unwell and not entirely herself and soon the responsibility falls to Sosie to get them to safety. They face different challenges as they travel and at one point are rescued by a nobleman, Darryn Rappengrass. I loved reading this side-story; it was fun to see what happened with Sosie and Annie after they were exiled from their home. After reading Reader and Raelynx, it was fun to see just how Darryn and Sosie met and fell in love. It was a great short story, and I loved seeing Gillengaria from a fresh perspective.

I wonder if people would like this story if they haven’t read any of the books in the Twelve House series. It seems like it would be taken out of context and the ending would leave you wanting more. Even though I know what happens, I was still left wanting more. I really enjoyed getting to know Sosie, as well as her relationship with Darryn.

A Whisper of Spring by Lynn Kurland

Once I started reading, I realized that “A Whisper in Spring” takes place in Neroche, a place I came to love in the Nine Kingdoms Trilogy (Star of the Morning, Mage’s Daughter and Princess of the Sword). This story takes place long before Miach and Morgan. Its focus is on Symon the mage king of Neroche and Iolaire, the elf princess of Ainneamh. Once again Lothar is the villain in this story. Lothar kidnaps Iolaire from her home and holds her prisoner until she accepts his marriage proposal. Symon comes to her rescue and attempts to free her from Lothar’s dungeons. I thoroughly enjoyed this story, I loved the opportunity to travel back to Neroche and learn a little more about its history. It made me want to re-read the Nine Kingdoms trilogy again. Kurland has created a wonderful new world to escape to. Although it was short, it was very satisfying. Anyone who loves the trilogy will love this story as well.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Reader and Raelynx by Sharon Shinn

“The young mystic Cammon, a reader capable of seeing the truth in the hearts of others, has been summoned to the palace to read all of the suitors vying for the hand of the Princess Amalie. Cam soon begins to suspect that Amalie herself is a mystic. Her thoughts are opaque to him, and she has an intuitive control over the fearsome raelynx that is kept caged in the palace. And he also begins to fall in love with her, and she with him—a relationship that is, as they both know, doomed. Amalie is royalty. Cam most definitely is not. But their personal concerns are swept aside as the long-brewing rebellion against the king comes to fruition. In the fearsome battle that ensues, Cam and his friends are tested in body and spirit, as they bring to bear all of their skills, magical and otherwise, in defense of their king and his heir, Princess Amalie—the woman Cammon loves, the woman whose secret he must keep, no matter the cost.”

This is the fourth book in the Twelve House series, and it is one of my favorites. It is written almost as the last in the series but I know there is one more left, although that one is from a totally different point of view. Cammon and Senneth are really the main characters in this book, I was once again delighted to hear more from Senneth. The relationship with Amalie and Cammon is no great surprise (although, for me it was lacking some of the passion or intensity of Senneth-Tayse or Kirra-Romar), it is still fun to see how they slowly grow to trust, depend on and love one another. Amalie is a fun character and I was happy to learn more about her and just how powerful she really is. Shinn really ties all the previous stories together and I am continually impressed with her imagination. Justin and Ellynor are present enough, as well as Kirra and Donnal. Though Donnal still remains a mystery to me, I don’t know him as well as the other characters, which is a shame because I think I could really like him. I still haven’t gotten any closure on the Kirra-Romar-Donnal situation, and wish that Kirra would have been put in a position where she really had to chose between the two men and then move on. I’m still left feeling like Donnal is second place, or that she just settled for him, and I think he deserves better. Maybe the next book will clear it up, but I doubt it. Anyway, it was a fun read and I had a hard time putting it down. I’m sad this series is coming to a close; it has definitely been one of my favorite series in a long time.

Book One: Mystic & Rider
Book Two: Thirteenth House
Book Three: Dark Moon Defender
Book Four: Reader & Raelynx
Book Five: Fortune & Fate
Queen in Winter

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Amaranth Enchantment by Julie Berry

“Lucinda Chapdelaine was orphaned as a young child when her parents left for a royal ball and never returned. Ever since, she has toiled away in her uncle’s lonely jewelry shop under the cruel hand of her step-aunt. But now, all at once, Lucinda’s lot is about to change. A mysterious woman, a handsome young gentleman, and an unusual gem all enter the shop on the very same day. The woman is none other than the dreaded Amaranth Witch, and she has a daring task to offer. If Lucinda succeeds, she will not only reclaim all that is rightfully hers, but she will discover a true friend…and perhaps a true love. Family secrets, magic surprises, and another royal ball will test her, but Lucinda is determined to find her own happily ever after.”

This was a cute little story, probably meant for a middle-school age audience. It hints a bit of a Cinderella story, but is unique in its own way. I enjoyed the story, although I would have preferred it if had been written for an older audience where the story and characters could have been developed a little more. I won’t go into too much detail since it was meant for a younger audience so a lot was left out. I will say that I was expecting some kind of explanation for “dog”, her goat side-kick. It’s never really explained where he came from and how he is so loyal to Lucinda and almost intelligent. I would have liked to have a little closure on that. This is Julie Berry’s first book and I’m excited to see what she comes up with next.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Dark Moon Defender by Sharon Shinn

“The King’s Rider Justin has been dispatched to the small town of Neft where he can easily watch any suspicious activity at the nearby Lumanen Convent. Under the rule of Coralinda Gisseltess, the convent houses the fanatical Daughters of the Pale Mother, who worship the moon goddess and believe all magic-wielding mystics are evil. Assuming the guise of a stable-hand, Justine befriends Ellynor, a young novice from the convent. Although her order forbids her to associate with men, Ellynor gladly disobeys. Born in the Lirrenlands, Ellynor has always worshiped the Dark Watcher, the goddess of the night. It is the Dark Watcher’s blessing that has bestowed Ellynor with the gift of healing and the ability to move through the night unobserved. As love blossoms between Justin and Ellynor, he discovers her magical talents. Fearing that her convent sisters may mark her as a mystic, she swears Justin to secrecy. When Ellynor finds herself unable to escape the convent, it falls to Justin to risk everything—his own secret, the trust of his friends, even his very life—in order to save her.”

I enjoyed this third book quite a bit. It was very interesting to see things from Justin and Ellynor’s perspective. The majority of the story takes place in Neft, where Justin is working undercover trying to determine what exactly Coralinda is up to. He comes to the rescue of young Ellynor on the streets of Neft and the two quickly become captivated with one another. Up until now, I had a certain image of Justin in my mind, so it was somewhat odd to see things from his perspective, because he now comes across totally different than the character I had pictured. This is the first time he is completely on his own and he doesn’t like it much. That is one reason why he bonds so quickly with Ellynor. It also gives him a chance to really become independent from Tayse and build his confidence and make his own decisions. I thought Ellynor was a welcome character to the story, she is a bit naive and inexperienced, but has a strength, savvy and kindness about her that makes her very likable. I was happiest when all six characters were together again, the story is at its best when we can see them all interact and it’s nice to see how much they have come to love and respect one another. I can’t wait to read book four.

Has anyone else noticed that Justin kind of got ripped off in the name department? Everyone else has these really cool unique names: Senneth, Tayse, Donnal, Cammon, Kirra and then Justin. I like the name Justin but it seems so plain compared to everyone else’s.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Powers of Detection

This is another collection of short stories from a variety of authors. I only read the one by Sharon Shinn entitled "The Sorcerer's Assassin". This story takes place at the Norwitch Academy of Magic and Sorcery, where a recent murder of one of the senior wizards has just taken place and the headmistresses, Camalyn, must try and figure out which of her four remaining peers has committed the assassination. For only being sixteen pages it was still a fun read, although over a bit too quickly for my liking. A lot is packed into this story in a short amount of time and I would probably enjoy a full novel about these different characters and the Norwitch Academy.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Thirteenth House by Sharon Shinn

“After joining an unlikely band of soldiers and sorcerers to rescue the regent Romar Brendyn from a cabal of rebellious minor lords, the shiftling Kirra returns to her home of Danalustrous—and learns that her half sister, Casserah, has been proclaimed heir to the land. Though Casserah is obligated to attend a circuit of social events held by the great Houses of Gillengaria, she obstinately refuses to go. So Kirra shape-shifts in to her sisters form and makes the rounds for her. In the royal city of Ghosenhall, she unexpectedly joins up with her steadfast compatriots from her previous adventures, and together they embark on a tour of the Twelve Houses, acting as guardians for the enigmatic queen of Gillengaria and her alluring daughter. The motley group of mystics and warriors faces many dangers in their travels. But Kirra places herself willingly in peril when she falls in love with the irresistible—but already married—Lord Romar. Revealing her true identity to him, Kirra begins a tempestuous affair that places them both in mortal danger and leads them both into the stronghold of the devious lords of the Thirteenth House.”

Book Two in the Twelve House series was pretty enjoyable…for the most part. This book has a similar format, in that the six main characters (and a few extras) are again traveling through Gillengaria. Only this time they are escorting the Princess to some of the Twelve Houses to attend the summer balls. It did get a little old as they traveled from house to house, but it was still entertaining and the political intrigue kept my attention. Kirra takes on the appearance of her sister, Casserah, for the majority of the book. This got a little old after awhile, it would have been a good idea for a shorter time period, but I felt it was drawn out a little too long. The other six weren’t really present that much and I missed the “magic” that comes when they are all together. I’m a bit upset about the direction Kirra’s character took and am debating about reading the next books….okay, I’ll still read them because Justin is next and I’m excited to see things from his perspective. I’ve always liked Justin and if it wasn’t for Donnal, I’d want Kirra to be with him. Anyway, overall a good second book, I’d have rated it higher if it weren’t for stupid, womanizer Romar.

Spoilers & Disappointments
Kirra is one of my favorite characters, in book one I just loved Kirra’s character and was so excited to find out book two would be from her perspective. So, I was completely disappointed in her falling in love with Romar…or as I like to call him “roamer” (since he tends to roam away from his loving wife to shack up with Kirra). It was frustrating to read about their growing relationship, which to me was based more on lust than love. What they had was not love and it was unpleasant to read about. It really tainted my opinion of Kirra and I really couldn’t stand Romar. I felt so sad for Donnal, and wanted to shout at Kirra for her double standard. Claiming she couldn’t be with Donnal because he was poor and yet she could be with a married man? Duh. The last thing I’ll say is that they both got off too easy, especially Romar. He felt no guilt, remorse or anything. He got off way too easy. As for Kirra, she also got off to easy, and I don’t feel she really learned her lesson or the seriousness of her behavior. She doesn’t deserve Donnal.

Book One: Mystic & Rider
Book Two: Thirteenth House
Book Three: Dark Moon Defender
Book Four: Reader & Raelynx
Book Five: Fortune & Fate
Queen in Winter
 
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