It was a dark and stormy night . . .

Thus begins one of the most popular series in children’s literature – The Time Quartet by Madeline L’Engle. It had been forever since I had read these books. One day, I just felt the need for something comfortable and familiar, so I picked up A Wrinkle in Time. I had almost forgotten how good that book was, so of course, I had to read the whole series. Just because.

Oh, and just to keep track of my reading goal, I finished the first two books in 2012 and the last two books in 2013. So that’s how I’m counting them. 🙂

a wrinkle in timeThe first three books focus most on Meg Murry, a young girl who is gangly and awkward in the first book, but grows into herself by book three. In A Wrinkle in Time, we learn that her father is a physicist who was working on a top secret project for the government. He has gone missing. No one knows where he is and no one will give any information on what he was doing. Her youngest brother, Charles Wallace, is something of a prodigy, but also has the ability to read people almost like a book. He can tell what they’re thinking and feeling. On that dark and stormy night, they get a visit from a strange character named Mrs. Whatsit, who tells them that they will need to be brave in order to help their father, and that there is such a thing as a tesseract.

They are also joined by a boy from Meg’s school, Calvin, who stands out from his family of  misfits. He ends up joining Meg and Charles Wallace, and with the help of Mrs. Whatsit and her two friends, Mrs. Who and Mrs. Which, they go off on a mission to save their father.

a wind in the doorThe second book, A Wind in the Door, has Meg and Calvin battling evil once again. Traveling between the immensity of the stars, to the tiniest of places (a part of a cell inside Charles Wallace), they fight to stop the forces that are trying to kill Charles Wallace from the inside out. They are joined this time by a strange creature called a cherubim, which looks like many dragons lumped together. They all discover how important Charles Wallace is, not just to his family, but to the fight against evil itself.

a swiftly tilting planetThe third book, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, focuses much more on Charles Wallace. He is older now, in his teens, and Meg is all grown up, married to Calvin, and expecting her first child. The family hears of a terrorist in South American who is threatening to start nuclear war, which will destroy the planet. Charles Wallace goes outside to think and is greeted by a unicorn named Gaudior. They travel in and out of time, looking for the threads that caused Mad Dog Branzillo to become who he is today and try to change the Might-Have-Beens in order to save the world.

many watersThe fourth book, Many Waters, is completely different. It focuses on the two other children in the Murray house, the twins Sandy and Dennys. They fiddle with one of their father’s experiments and accidentally send themselves back in time to the era of Noah and the flood. During that time, there are angels still on the earth – both good angels (the Seraphim)  and fallen angels (the Nephilim). Sandy and Dennys have to figure out how to survive and, oh yeah, get back home before it starts to rain.

None of these summaries do the books justice. I read these books so much as a kid, I had to replace them. I now have a nice new box set. The spines aren’t all shredded with use, the covers hanging on by the barest of threads. What I love most about these books is how they bring together two seemingly incompatible views – religion and science – and show how they can work together in perfect harmony. The characters are fun, the adventures creative and exciting. If you missed reading these books as a kid, go ahead and pick them up now. Adults can enjoy them just as much as children, if not more.

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The Iron Fey

Trying to finish up reviewing books from last year so I can start 2013 fresh. Reviewing four books at once will help. 🙂

I feel like I’ve talked about these books a lot, but it might have been mostly on the podcast. Most of the mentions on the blog have probably been my attempts to find copies of all four books in the series. And then I broke down and bought them all. Why? Because they’re that good!

Iron Fey-2

The Iron Fey series by Julie Kagawa consists of four books: The Iron King, The Iron Daughter, The Iron Queen, and The Iron Knight. Since I have been reading a lot more books about fairies lately, these had a lot to live up to. They didn’t disappoint. The series tells the story of Meghan Chase, a teenage girl whose little brother is kidnapped by the fey and taken deep into the Nevernever, or the fairy realm. While trying to rescue him, Meghan not only discovers that her best friend Robbie is actually Robin Goodfellow (or Puck, as most people know him from A Midsummer Night’s Dream), but that she is half-fey herself, an illegitimate offspring of Oberon, king of the Summer Court.

She also discovers Ash, the youngest son of Mab, queen of the Winter Court. The two fairy courts are uneasy allies, but their hatred for one another adds a whole other layer of tension throughout the books. The one thing that could unite them – a common enemy – is found in the Iron Fey, a new generation of fairy born of mankind’s dreams of modern technology. Since iron is usually poisonous to fairies, this new enemy has a very powerful weapon and their very existence is threatening to destroy the Nevernever. The Iron King is behind stealing Meghan’s brother and it is him she must face in order to get her brother back.

That all takes place in the first book alone! In the later books, Meghan develops feelings for Ash, only to have him betray her to the Winter Queen, who takes Meghan prisoner. The Iron Fey are still lurking out there, slowly taking over the Nevernever, while both Courts try to turn a blind eye, focused only on their hatred for each other. There is also my favorite magical feline since the Cheshire Cat – Grimalkin, the cat saith, a fey catlike creature who is always there to help Meghan, but for a price.

The best thing about these books for me though was the treatment of the fey themselves. Julie Kagawa does something pretty unique here, by giving us both a very classic, traditional fey, but also something completely different and new. If the fey are created from the stuff of dreams, why shouldn’t a new type of fey spring up based off mankind’s ever growing love of metal and technology? It makes perfect sense, and it’s this conflict between the two that makes the series so interesting and engaging. Add to that a great supporting cast of fairies and other creatures, and you’ve got a really good story.

Since finishing this series, I found out that Julie Kagawa has started another series that is based off Meghan’s brother. Must add that to the list! If it’s anything like the Iron Fey, it will be an enjoyable read.

2012 Reading Challenge

Two posts from me today! This time, a redux of my 2012 reading challenge. As you can see, my goal of reading 60 books this year has been more than met, which makes me very happy!

1. The Sapphire Rose by David Eddings
2. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
3. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
4. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
5. Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien
6. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
7. Hellsbane by Paige Cuccaro
8. Domes of Fire by David Eddings
9. Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw
10. Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey
11. The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson
12. Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare
13. Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers by J.R.R.Tolkien
14. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
15. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
16. Queen of Shadows by Dianne Sylvan
17. Shadowflame by Dianne Sylvan
18. Shadow’s Fall by Dianne Sylvan
19. The Magicians by Lev Grossman
20. Lord of the Rings: Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien
21. Path of Fate by Diana Pharaoh Francis
22. The Shining Ones by David Eddings
23. The Princess Bride by William Goldman
24. The Sandman Vol. 1 – Preludes and Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman
25. Phantom by Susan Kay
26. The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux
27. The Hidden City by David Eddings
28. The Magician of Wall Street by Minta Hall
29. Lament: The Faerie Queen’s Deception by Maggie Steifvater
30. We the Animals by Justin Torres
31. Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins
32. The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
33. The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman
34. The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman
35. The Fairy Godmother by Mercedes Lackey
36. Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder
37. The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud
38. Magic Study by Maria V. Snyder
39. Fire Study by Maria V. Snyder
40. Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
41. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
42. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
43. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
44. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
45. Hood by Stephen Lawhead
46. Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce
47. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling
48. Angelfire by Courtney Allison Moulton
49. The Demon King by Cinda Williams Chima
50. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling
51. In the Hand of the Goddess by Tamora Pierce
52. Ballad: A Gathering of Faerie by MAggie Steifvater
53. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
54. City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
55. The Iron Daughter by Julie Kagawa
56. Feed by Mira Grant
57. Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis
58. City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare
59. The Iron Queen by Julie Kagawa
60. Regina’s Song by David & Leigh Eddings
61. The Iron Knight by Julie Kagawa
62. Touch of Frost by Jennifer Estep
63. Kiss of Frost by Jennifer Estep
64. Dark Frost by Jennifer Estep
65. Crimson Frost by Jennifer Estep
66. Tithe by Holly Black
67. Night Train to Rigel by Timothy Zahn
68. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
69. A Wind in the Door by Madeleine L’Engle

 

Mythos Academy

My friend Jess and I have a little project that we’re working on. It’s a podcast called Bibliophiles Anonymous. I might have mentioned it a few times. Insert the obligatory “please-listen-and-subscribe-to-us-on-iTunes” here. Anyway, Jess got us signed up for a website called NetGalley which gives out digital ARC’s to people for reviews. Thanks to this, I have now discovered a new series that I think I am already addicted to – the Mythos Academy series by Jennifer Estep.

How I had never heard of these, I don’t know. They are just the kind of thing that I would like – mythology, magic, romance, adventure. They also follow the rule that anything that happens at a boarding school is infinitely more exciting and fun than anything that happens at a normal school. The Mythos Academy, near Asheville, North Carolina, is a special school that from the outside looks like nothing more than an overpriced prep school for a bunch of spoiled rich teenagers. But inside it’s walls is a whole new world, full of the ancient warriors of old. Valkyries and Vikings, Spartans and Romans, and everything in between – their descendants attend this school to continue to learn how to fight to protect the world from the forces of evil.

Enter Gwen Frost, a teenage girl sent to Mythos Academy with no warrior heritage at all. She’s a Gypsy and, although she does have some cool magic talents, she doesn’t understand why she would be sent to such a crazy school where she has so little fighting talent and everyone thinks she’s weird. She wants nothing more than to go back to her old school and live with her Grandmother. Unfortunately, that nice, normal life is a thing of the past for Gwen as she’s pulled into an ancient battle between good and evil.

Here’s where it gets interesting (translation: awesome). Turns out, years and years ago, all the gods and goddesses from all around the world (that’s right, they’re all real), joined forces to stop Loki, the Norse god of chaos, from, you guessed it, taking over the world. Led by Nike, the Greek goddess of victory, the other gods are able to defeat Loki and imprison him. But his helpers, the Reapers of Chaos, are still out there, still causing trouble, and trying to free their god from his prison. Their plots all of it seem to center around Gwen, who is baffled by it.

She isn’t a warrior. She’s a Gypsy. Her magic is centered around being able to touch things and get flashes of who had touched them and what they had done with them. She also finds out that her family has been much more closely involved in the Chaos War than she ever thought possible and that maybe, just maybe, her mother didn’t die in a car accident.

The mythology is fun. The characters are awesome. There’s Daphne, the Valkyrie who’s magic manifests in pink sparkles and super strength. Her boyfriend Carson, a Celt and a total band geek. And then there’s Logan. He’s the most gorgeous bad boy in school, a Spartan who could probably find a way to kill you with a matchstick. He also seems to have a thing for Gwen. And a whole host of others.

Crimson FrostI had to read books one, two and three (Touch of Frost, Kiss of Frost and Dark Frost) pretty quick so that I would be ready to review the latest book (Crimson Frost) for the podcast. At some point, I need to go back and re-read them because I’m sure I’ve missed things. At the same time, these books demanded to be read quickly because I HAD TO FIND OUT WHAT HAPPENED!!!!!!!!! Seriously. Crimson Frost will be released on December 24th (just in time for Christmas!) and I’m already chomping at the bit for the next book.

So go read them. You won’t be disappointed.

Rise up while you can . . .

My God, this book!

This is another one that I’ve wanted to talk about ever since I finished it, because it completely blew me away. After the last page, I just sat there, staring at the book, thinking to myself, “What just happened?” I am referring to Feed by Mira Grant, the first book in the Newsflesh trilogy.

Special thanks to the folks over at Mark Reads for introducing me to this book. I would never have picked it up otherwise.

FeedThis is a zombie book. Except that it isn’t really. This is a political thriller that just happens to have zombies in it. The book opens several decades after “the Rising” and tells the story of Georgia Mason and her twin brother Shaun. They are both journalists, but not in the way you think. They are bloggers, but more on that later. They get assigned to follow the campaign of a presidential candidate and, while there, they uncover a conspiracy that will change everything about the world as they know it.

That’s the bare bones synopsis. Here’s what makes this book amazing.

The story world that Mira Grant creates is astounding. Sure, it’s just the U.S.A., which you wouldn’t think would be that different from the way things are now. But the country post-Rising is an entirely different place. Let’s start with the two main characters. Like I said, they are journalists who run the site “After the End Times.” The reason that bloggers are held in such high esteem is because no one trusts the mainstream media with news anymore. The mainstream media lied to the public during the Rising, telling everyone that things were fine, that there was nothing to worry about. The Internet told a different story. The blogosphere became where you went to find out what was really happening, where the zombies were, and what to do to be safe. To find out the truth.

Grant has also done her homework in the bio-science field, creating a zombie virus that seems frighteningly plausible – the Kellis-Amberlee virus. What started out as two separate viruses, created in two different laboratories,  aimed at ridding the world of its two most prevalent illnesses (cancer and the common cold), was accidentally combined during a terrorist attack. As the virus mutated, it became a nightmare, causing the dead to reanimate, consumed only with the need to feed.

Do you see yet why this book is so terrifying?

The entire story holds a level of tension and suspense that never diminishes. Reading it one chapter at a time with Mark Reads was SO HARD! I actually gave up in the last five chapters because I couldn’t take it any more. I had to know what was happening. And I will tell you this – not giving away anything – the ending was something that I have never, ever read before. It took me completely by surprise. It was never even anticipated. I was stunned. The bad thing was that I finished this book during my lunch hour and had to put it back in my purse and actually work, all the while thinking of nothing else but this book. It was a long afternoon.

If zombies are your thing, you should definitely give this book a shot. It’s the most realistic portrayal of the genre I’ve ever read. If zombies aren’t your thing, you might still want to check it out because, even though the zombies are there, they aren’t the main focus of the story. I’m so glad that Mark is reading the next books in the series as well because I NEED TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS!!!

I swear we were infinite . . .

Today’s review is one that I have been looking forward to writing ever since I finished this book – The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. It’s a hard review to write though because, honestly, where do I begin? There is so much in this book, and it’s not a big book! My copy only has 213 pages!

Perksofbeingwallflower1The story is told through a series of letters written by Charlie, a fifteen year old boy heading off to high school for his freshman year. We are never told who he is writing to, as the letters all start with “Dear friend.” Charlie confesses that this is a person he has never actually met, but who he has heard is a good supportive friend. I had the feeling throughout the book that maybe this person didn’t really exist, but was just Charlie’s way of expressing himself. Regardless, these letters chronicle Charlie’s freshman year of high school and how he learns to fully “participate in life” and not just be a “wallflower.”

There are so many relationships throughout this story. Charlie’s family has an interesting dynamic, and don’t always get along, but it is clear that Charlie does know that he is loved. He also falls into a group of friends at school, most notably two seniors – Patrick and his stepsister Sam. Charlie instantly falls in love with Sam, who sort of takes Charlie under her wing. I think my favorite relationship was between Charlie and his English teacher Bill, who sees potential in Charlie and gives him harder books to read and papers to write. He is the one who encourages Charlie to break out of his shell and live his life to the fullest.

There is a bit of a darker undertone to this story. Charlie is clearly not well. He has a lot of mental issues, partly because his good friend in middle school commits suicide, and partly because of another issue which I won’t go into here because it’s a pretty big reveal towards the end. This book has been banned or challenged many times, and I can understand why. There is a lot of alcohol and drug use, as well as very open discussions of teenage sexuality, from Patrick’s relationship with Brad (the high school quarterback who is still very much in the closet) to Charlie’s relationship with Mary Elizabeth and later Sam. This book doesn’t pass judgment on any of these topics. They aren’t really shown in a positive or negative light. These are just things that happened, which gave the book a strong feeling of honesty.

This book made me laugh and it made me cry. It also made me feel incredibly nostalgic, not because I had any of the experiences that Charlie had, but because it makes me remember what my life felt like when I was his age. How wonderful it felt to see your future stretching before you, full of infinite possibility. Anything could happen, back then. This is why I read a lot of young adult fiction, even though I’m well into my 30’s – to regain that feeling, even if just for a little while.

This is a great book and, although it may not be for everybody, I think most people would benefit from reading it.