Friday, September 30, 2011

Audiobook Review - The Problem Child (The Sisters Grimm, Book 3) by Michael Buckley (3/5 stars)

Reading level: Middle Grade
Genre: Fantasy
Size: 320 pages
Publisher: Harry N. Abrams
Release Date: September 1, 2007
ISBN: 978-0810993594
Stand Alone or Series: 3rd book in The Sisters Grimm series
Source: Audiobook from
Rating: 3/5 stars

This is the third book in the Sisters Grimm series by Buckley. It was a decent book in this series. If you liked the first two books you should enjoy this one as well. I listened to this on audiobook and the audiobook was decently done; the narrator isn't my favorite but he distinguishes between characters voices well.

Sabrina and Daphne are on the hunt for Little Red Riding Hood, who they believe is heading the Scarlet Hand, which is the group who stole their parents. Little Red Riding Hood has a kitty (the evil and dangerous Jabberwocky) that is causing trouble though. Sabrina and Daphne also discover they have an uncle who is full of magical surprises; their uncle is more than willing to help but will he cause more trouble than he's worth?

You learn more about the Grimm's past in this book than in any other book in this series so far. There was also more interesting magic in this book than in any of the previous books.

Sabrina's uncle is an interesting, but mostly obnoxious, addition to the characters. Her uncle acts like a child throughout the whole book, sulking, not listening, and throwing fits. I didn't enjoy him all that much as a character. In fact a lot of the adults in this book act like children; making for unbelievable characters that were hard for me to engage with. I hate it when kids book have adults who act like children; kids can understand more complexity than we give them credit for and adults should act like the role models they are in these books...or at least act in a more complex way that assume kids can understand some complexity.

Sabrina continues to be headstrong and bitter; I keep hoping she will grow as a character but she makes the same mistakes in every book and shows no sign of ever changing. To be honest I am quite sick of her and don't really enjoy reading about her. Daphne was busy giving Sabrina the silent treatment for large portions of the book. Little Red Riding Hood was as obnoxious as Sabrina and made for a luke-warm bad guy.

I did enjoy the mystery and finding out some background on the Grimms. I also enjoyed the nifty magical devices used throughout and I enjoyed the way the story is broadening and not just focused on one little mystery.

This story wraps up much nicer than the second book; no horrible cliffhangers../although things are definitely set up to start a new storyline for the next book.

Overall this was an okay addition to the Sisters Grimm series. I enjoyed the mystery and the magical devices; I also enjoyed learning more about the Grimm's past. I do not enjoy the characters in this book; I find the majority of them to be obnoxious. Many of the adults also act like children; which is annoying to read and also doesn't give kids or adults enough credit. All in all if you have been enjoying the series you will enjoy this book. If you have been finding some of the characters annoying (mainly Sabrina) then you will continue to be annoyed. I personally am not going to read more of this series; I guess it is just not my thing.

This book goes towards the following reading challenges:
- 100+ Reading Challenge
- Audio Book Challenge List

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Early Review - All Good Children by Catherine Austen (3.5/5 stars)

Reading level: Middle Grade/Young Adult
Genre: Dystopia
Size: 312 pages
Publisher: Orca Book Publishers
Release Date: October 1, 2011
ISBN: 978-1554698240
Stand Alone or Series: Stand Alone
Source: ARC from Publisher
Rating: 3.5/5 stars

I got an advanced reading copy of this book through Librarything's Early Reviewer program. This was a great book, well written and engaging, a little scary too. There was only one major flaw with the story that kept me from absolutely loving this book.

Max, his sister, and his mother live together in Middleton. Middleton is supposedly one of the few cities left where humanity is doing pretty well. When Max and his family come back from a funeral in Atlanta, Max notices something strange about Ally's classmates. Ally's classmates don't play, they don't laugh, they are like perfect little robots. Then Max finds out about a vaccination initiative in the school system. The children are being given vaccines that make them easier to teach; they are less likely to question things and obey everything. For now Max and his sister are safe, but it won't be long until the vaccines are given to older kids as well. Then Max and his family will have to make a choice; stay and fight, be vaccinated, or flee.

Max is a fun character. He is super smart but also a prankster and kind of obnoxious. He loves his family though, and despite all the trouble he gets in to, you can really tell. His little sister, Ally, is adorable and also a lot of fun. His mother is a strong woman but is caught between protecting her family by keeping her job and protecting her family by going against the system.

The story is easy to read and very well written, the plot was engaging and the tension was constantly building as more and more kids are vaccinated and zombiefied. It was a hard book to put down and really drew me in.

Parts of this story are very creepy; both from a kid's point of view and from a parent's point of view. The parents aren't given a choice; the vaccination is mandatory (much like most current day vaccinations) but without any science to back them up. When kids have bad reactions to the vaccination it is brushed off and ignored. When Max's mom tries to speak out against the vaccinations it is implied that she is mentally unfit to take care of her children and that if she continues to be a problem they will be taken away from her. As I said very subtly creepy and terrifying.

The book brings up a lot of issues about race (Max and his family are black), freedom of speech, and free will. There is lots to ponder and think about here.

I have one absolutely huge problem with this book that made the story very hard for me to accept. While there are a couple mummers of adults being upset by the vaccinations (one teacher bemoans the lack of creativity in his new zombified class, and Max's mom speaks out against it during an info session at school) the vast majority of adults seem pleased by it. I find this incredibly hard to believe. Knowing how protective parents are of their kids, I can not believe there isn't more retaliation. I mean happy laughing young children are turned into blank-faced robots. Seriously? Is any parent going to tolerate that?

Throughout the book most of the adults are happy that their children are so much easier to handle and take so much less energy to deal with. Really? I understand this is aimed at a middle grade crowd, but how many parents out there would accept their children being turned into robots...and not only accept it but be happy about it? I just can't accept this premise for the story; especially in the given society where people are doing fairly well and not desperately trying to eke out a living.

Another minor problem I had with this book was another thing I had trouble finding believable. How could you get a drug that would react with the majority of kids in such a way that it would make them all talk and act the same? All the kids in this book parrot each other after being vaccinated and are eerily the same. I understand a drug making kids more open to suggestions; but having them all act the same and like robots because of a drug is a bit of a stretch.

So one major flaw, why are the parents/adults so accepting of their kids being brainwashed? Especially when it occurs in such and abrupt way over such a small amount of time. If you can suspend your disbelief of this major assumption, then this is a great book. It wraps up nicely, there could be a sequel to it, but most things are concluded cliffhangers or anything.

Overall a fascinating idea and world. It is super creepy to consider schools requiring parents to zombify/vaccinate their children. I enjoyed the characters, the book was well written, and the premise was interesting. I just couldn't suspend my belief enough to buy into the fact that normal parents would applaud their children having their personalities and creative taken away; there would be more of an uproar. I also had trouble believing that a drug could make all children act and talk exactly the same way. So, while this was well-written and interesting I had a lot of trouble buying into the premise of the story. Still it was a great read; I would recommend for fans of dystopian stories.

This book goes towards the following reading challenges:
- 100+ Reading Challenge

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday - 9/28

Okay "Waiting On Wednesday" is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking The Spine.
This week my Waiting on Wednesday book is The Folded World (Dirge for Prester John) by Catherynne Valente.  I still haven't read the first book in this series, but I love everything Valente writes, so I am planning on getting the 2nd book anyway and can't wait for it to come out!

Length: 320 pages
Publisher: Night Shade Books
Release Date: November 1st 2011
ISBN-13: 978-1597802031

Synopsis from
Anglitora, Prester John's illegitimate, half-bird daughter arrives in the capital and confronts the king with his sexual past and the future of his home to the West. Her life has been spent on the margins of the Kingdom where the magical realm brushes against the Known World. She brings with her news of European ships and wars. The crusades have begun again. Prester John, sees Jerusalem burning and gathers his people to march to the protection of Christ and the Holy Land. Patriarch unable to rally support of the kings and peasants of Europe fails to give him the strength he needs against the forces of Islam, and he sends his appeals to the great Christian king in the East, Prester John The closer Prester John come, the more information reaches the Patriarch as to its nature, and the less comfortable he feels with it. Prester John arrives at Jerusalem with his army, but cannot cross the river--for demons cannot set foot on holy ground. The Patriarch who had sought his help curses him and turns from the Muslims inhabiting the Holy City to attack the man he once loved. Hundreds of beasts and men of John’s army are slaughtered, who never knew death before. Jerusalem is sacrificed by the Patriarch rather than allow it to be saved by an army of demons.

Early Graphic Novel Review - Nursery Rhyme Comics: 50 Timeless Rhymes from 50 Celebrated Cartoonists edited by Chris Duffy (5/5 stars)

Reading level: Children's
Genre: Picture Book/Nursery Rhymes
Size: 128 pages
Publisher: First Second
Release Date: October 11, 2011
ISBN: 978-1596436008
Stand Alone or Series: Stand Alone
Source: Finished copy through Amazon Vine
Rating: 5/5 stars

I got a copy of this book through the Amazon Vine program. It was a very fun read and something that I think kids of all ages and adults will both enjoy.

There are a number (fifty to be exact) of nursery rhymes illustrated and retold in various ways. Some of them are just beautiful renditions of the nursery rhymes, some of them are ironic retellings, and some of them are fantastic re-imaginings.

For example Jack Be Nimble has a little boy making asides about how stupid you would have to be to jump over a candlestick, then when he turns around at the end his pants have a hole burned in them. Three Little Kittens showed how the kittens lost, found, and even made more trouble with their mittens. Little Bo Peep looses her sheep, but her sheep are dream sheep that she counts to stay asleep.

The above are just a few examples of the wonderful collection included. All of them were well done. Some were ironic and surprising, some just plain beautiful. The illustration style is all over the place; some are beautiful fantasies, some are cartoony, some are folk-art-like, there is even a sci-fi themed rendition. All are in full color and wonderful.

My son, who is four, really enjoyed reading through this with me. He loved some of the twists on the nursery rhymes he already knows. Even my husband who walked by while we were reading this, ended up drawn in and sat down to finish the book with us. It was just such a creative take on a lot of the nursery rhymes; very entertaining and enjoyable to read.

Overall I adored this book and am so glad I have it. It will be something I keep in my library so that my son and I can take it out and read it. Fans of nursery rhymes or graphic novels in general should give this a look through. It was wonderful to find something creative like this that both me and my four year old son really enjoyed reading. So if you have kids definitely buy this book and sit down and read it with them! It adds some wonderful excitement to old nursery rhymes and you will see them in a new light after reading this book!

This book goes towards the following reading challenges:
- 100+ Reading Challenge
- Graphic Novels Challenge List

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Audiobook Review - Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi (4/5 stars)

Reading level: Young Adult
Genre: Science Fiction/Post-Apocalyptic
336 pages

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Release Date: May 1, 2010
ISBN: 978-0316056212
Stand Alone or Series: Stand Alone
Source: Audiobook from
Rating: 4/5 stars

This is the second Paolo Bacigalupi book I have read; the first was The Windup Girl.  I liked this book a lot better than The Windup Girl; while The Windup Girl was more complex it was also a lot slower moving.  This book presents us with a post-apocalyptic world which is thought provoking and a story which moves at a good pace with intriguing characters.  I listened to this on audiobook and the audiobook was very well done.  The narrator is a little deliberate and talks kind of slowly, so I ended up listening to it at 1.25x the original speed, so that I could stay engaged.

Nailer works stripping down oilers, he's part of the Light Crew...the crew that strips copper wire out of the ducts of old tankers.  His life definitely isn't the best; he has a father who beats him, barely enough food to survive, and the Light Crew work is grueling.  But when a city-killing hurricane (category 6) hits their beach Nailer's life changes.  After the storm blows over him and his crew boss Pima find a clipper washed up on shore.  There is enough in the clipper to make them filthy rich, but there is one complication they also find a girl who is still alive aboard.  This girl complicates things and throws Nailer into a crazy adventure.

Like The Windup Girl this is a gritty novel.  These people live in an ugly world that is run by corporations who don't care what happens to humanity as long as they are making a profit. I find it a fascinating world (even if it is dark and dank) and it is interesting to read about. The world and the way it is run brings up a lot of political questions and questions around ethics.  With this book though that is less central to the story than the journey of Nailer.

As in The Windup Girl none of the characters are all that likable, although at points Nailer comes close.  They are very gritty and realistic though; they are what I imagine people surviving in those types of conditions might be like. They are interesting though.  Outside of Nailer, we really don't get to see into any of the characters a reader he is the only one we really get to know and connect with.  This definitely isn't a book focused on characterization.

It was an engaging story, so many horrible and lucky things happen to Nailer that it makes the outcome of the story very hard to predict.  There are a lot of twists and turns, lots of action and adventure.

Overall I enjoyed the story more than The Windup Girl.  The world presented is a creative and original one that is fascinating to read about.  Characterization definitely takes a backseat to the plot itself.  The plot is twisty turny and hard to predict, which makes the book very engaging.  It was a decent post-apocalyptic young adult novel; it is mainly about the good and bad turns Nailer's life takes.  In the background issues about corporate responsibility, genetic engineering, and racism are addressed.  People who enjoy dark and gritty worlds and sea adventures in a post-apocalyptic setting will probably enjoy this book.  

This book goes towards the following reading challenges:

Monday, September 26, 2011

Early Review - All Men of Genuis by Lev AC Rossen (5/5 stars)

Reading level: Young Adult/Adult
Genre: Steampunk
464 pages

Publisher: Tor Books
Release Date: September 27, 2011
ISBN: 978-0765327949
Stand Alone or Series: Stand Alone
Source: ARC from Book Expo America
Rating: 5/5 stars

I got an advanced reading copy of this book signed by the author at Book Expo America.  I have been looking forward to reading it for some time.  It was an excellent book; exquisitely written and creative.  It was a slow but wonderful read.

Violet is a genius at building mechanical contraptions and wants desperately to go to the Illyria school for genius students; only problem is Illyria doesn't admit women.  So Violet, along with her twin brother Ashton, and their friend Jack, devise a devious plan.  Violet will pretend to be Ashton and attend Illyria, if she can get in.  Once at Illyria Violet's end of the year project will be the least of her troubles.  There are killer automatons in the basements, the Duke of Illyria's ward has fallen in love with Violet-as-a-man, and Violet is in love with the Duke.  

Fans of Jane Austen or The Importance of Being Earnest that love a bit of a steampunk twist to their witty banter will love this book.  Being that it is written in that more flowery type of Victorian style this is a slow read and things move very deliberately at parts of the book.  That being said the description and writing style is absolutely exquisite.  The witty banter between the characters is wonderful and lots of fun to read.  The mystery behind the school's basement, along with all the crazy "who loves who" twisting of the plot kept me completely engaged.

The characters are wonderful.  I loved them all.  Especially Violet, Ashton, and Jack.  These are smart, funny, heartfelt characters that I really loved getting to know.  Even side characters are complex and fun to read about.  The book switches viewpoint quite a bit, although the majority of the story is told from Violet's point of view.  I didn't find the viewpoint switching distracting or anything, although there were a couple times that I desperately wanted to know what would happen to Violet next and scanned through another character's viewpoint as fast as I could to get back to her.

There are a lot of fun steampunk devices in this book along with interesting chemical and biological experiments.  I enjoyed them all and at times was reminded a bit of the magical shenanigans at Hogwart's with Ron's trickster older twin brothers. Being a chemist/engineer and a woman, I loved that Violet worked so hard to get women at a technical level equal to her fellow male students. This book really clicked with me and I really enjoyed the premise behind it.

When I started the book I hoped that more of it was going to be focused on the mystery behind the school's basement; in the end I thought the whole mystery behind the basement was a bit anti-climatic.  I was surprised that the majority of the story focused on Violet's day to day life and all the excitement that held for everyone involved.  I was incredibly pleased at the ending of the book; the readers are treated to a rather spectacular battle scene that had more action in a few pages than in the entirety of the rest of the book.

The book ended wonderfully.  Everything was nicely wrapped up.  I am not certain if a sequel is planned, but the book was wrapped up well-enough that one isn't needed.  I think the book would be appropriate for older young adults and up; there is some swearing, some bawdy humor, and some discussion of sex acts.

Overall this was a spectacular read.  The book is exquisitely written with beautiful descriptions and witty dialogue that really make the story come alive; this makes this book a slow read but a wonderful one.  The characters are absolutely wonderful; I was especially drawn to Violet and her desire to make it as a technically adept woman in a male dominated field.  The intertwining love stories remind of The Importance of Being Earnest or even some of Jane Austen's works.  Those who love that type of Victorian style of writing should check this out.  Fans of steampunk stories should check this out as well, there are a ton of wonderful devices in this book.  Fans of stories about young woman dressing as men to make it in a all male school may also want to check out The Education of Bet (fluffier than this book but still a fun read).  I will definitely be reading future books by Rossen.

This book goes towards the following reading challenges:
- 100+ Reading Challenge
- The Debut Author Challenge
- Get Steampunked!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

In My Mailbox and Mailbox Monday - 9/26

IMM is a meme started at The Story Siren with some inspiration from Alea of Pop Culture Junkie.

Anyone can participate in IMM and you are not limited to only sharing books that arrive via your mailbox. You can also share books that you've bought or books that you've gotten at the library.

Mailbox Monday can be found at: The Printed Page

Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week (checked out library books don’t count, eBooks & audio books do). Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists.

This week I got four books.  Two were from the Amazon Vine program for review: Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel and Nursery Rhyme Comics: 50 Timeless Rhymes from 50 Celebrated Cartoonists edited by Chris Duffy.  The third book I got for review was from Z: Zombie Stories edited by Kelly Link.

The last book is one that I bought.  I have been absolutely loving Westerfeld's Leviathan series and cannot wait to read the final book in the series: Goliath (Leviathan, Book 3) by Scott Westerfeld.

You can see more about the book below.  No video this week as I am out camping right now.  Hope that you all got wonderful books and have a great week of reading ahead of you.

For Review
Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel
Z: Zombie Stories edited by Kelly Link

Goliath (Leviathan, Book 3) by Scott Westerfeld

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Review - The Battle Sylph (Sylph, Book 1) by L.J. McDonald (4/5 stars)

Reading level: Adult
Genre: Fantasy/Romance
Size: 336 pages

Publisher: DP
Release Date: September 15, 2011
ISBN: 978-1428514843
Stand Alone or Series: 1st book in the Sylph series
Source: eGalley from
Rating: 4/5 stars

This the first book in the Sylph series by McDonald.  The second book is The Shattered Sylph and the third book, Queen of the Sylphs releases on September 23rd.  I got an egalley of this book to review through Netgalley(dot)com.  It was an excellent book.  I was worried that based on the beginning it would be too much of a romance; but was surprised at what a great world McDonald created and at how far-reaching the plot ended up being.

Solie is an independent woman in a nation where females are treated as the weaker sex.  Solie wants more than an old man for a husband and runs away from her arranged marriage seeking help from her aunt.  On the way Solie is kidnapped and brought to the castle to be used as a sacrifice in the summoning of a Battle Sylph.  Solie ends up escaping and accidentally binds the Battle Sylph to her.  Now Solie is on the run from the law with a new Battle Sylph by her side; she has no idea what to far as she knows a woman has never bonded a battle sylph before.

The book started out a bit corny.  Solie is bound to Heyou, the battle sylph.  Heyou is very alpha male and him and Solie have that whole drawn to love each other through fate thing going on.  That whole destined love or love at first sight thing bothers me a bit, so I was worried about what type of book this was going to be.  I shouldn't have worried there is an element of fated romance to the book, but at its heart the book is a solid fantasy set in an intriguing world.

The world building is wonderful, especially the idea of the sylphs.  The relationship between sylphs and humans seems deceptively simple at the beginning of the book; this is expanded a lot throughout the story and I was impressed and intrigued by the complexity of the sylph/human relationship.  The magic system derived from human/sylph interaction was also very creative and interesting.  There are some sex scenes in here, although they are not incredibly explicit, they make this book suited best for adults.

The characters start out a little stereotypical but as we get to know them better I really started to enjoy them.  Solie is an independent girl thrust into a role that is outside of anything anyone has ever known.  She is a very realistic character and has moments of extreme strength as well as moments of weakness and doubt.  Heyou is a bit one dimensional in the beginning too, but as he is exposed more to the human world his complexity increases.  I loved some of the side characters, for example some of the other Battle Sylphs (Mace and Rill).  These are great characters that I can't wait to read more about.

There was one thing that bothered me a little.  The language used in the book oscillates between modern slang and the rather stilted language used by the Sylphs.  But this wasn't all that consistent throughout the book.  Sometimes the Battlers also used slang and sometimes the humans sounded a bit too stilted.  A little more consistency in language patterns would have been nice (a small thing I know).  

I should also mention that the book is told from many perspectives.  It focuses on Solie and Heyou; but other characters' stories are told from other points of view as well.  Usually this kind of bothers me because it makes the story lose focus, but in this case it seemed to work really well.  

The story is nicely tied up, with some possibilities left open for future stories.

Overall I really enjoyed this book.  I was impressed with the world and with the complex human/sylph relationship.  I enjoyed learning about this new world and was impressed with what a solid fantasy story this was, there is romance here but it isn't the focus of the whole story.  I loved the characters; they started out a little weak but developed into characters I was engaged and intrigued with.  I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked this book.  I will definitely be picking up The Shattered Sylph
 to read.  Fans of fantasy with some romance throughout should enjoy this book.  I think fans of paranormal romance will also enjoy this foray into fantasy.  

This book goes towards the following reading challenges:

Friday, September 23, 2011

Audiobook Review - The Unusual Suspects (The Grimm Sisters, Book 2) by Michael Buckley (4/5 stars)

Reading level: Middle Grade
Genre: Fantasy
Size:320 pages

Publisher: Harry N. Abrams
Release Date: April 1, 2007
ISBN: 978-0810993235
Stand Alone or Series: 2nd book in the Sisters Grimm series
Source: Audiobook from
Rating: 4/5 stars

This is the second book in the Grimm Sisters series by Buckley.  I thought the first book was okay, but a bit weak in characterization and plot.  This book was much better than the first book and I enjoyed it a lot more.  I listened to this book on audiobook and the audiobook was well done.  This narrator isn't my favorite but he does a good job of giving the characters distinct voices.

Daphne and Sabrina finally have to start school; they've been putting it off for as long as they can but if they don't start school soon their granny with get in trouble with Child Services.  So off they go to school.  Their first day of school is off to a bad start when Sabrina finds her homeroom teacher dead in the classroom wrapped in a giant web.  Something is killing off members of the faculty and the kids at school are eternally sleepy.  Sabrina suspects foul play from the Ever Afters; Sabrina, Daphne, and Granny Grimm have to wrap up this case before anyone else gets hurt.

The characters were better developed in this book than in the first.  I felt like we got to see more depth to even the side characters like Prince Charming and Snow White.  I still am not a big Sabrina fan; she is an angry and, at times, mean girl that I just don't like.  It looks like Sabrina's bad attitude will be address in future books though.  I enjoyed learning more about the characters, I really like Puck and Daphne and have high hopes for Sabrina in future books.

The plot was excellent, it was very much a fairy tale mystery.  It is a twisty turny plot that is fun and keeps the reader engaged.  I enjoyed the various fairy tale characters that popped up throughout the book and also enjoyed watching Sabrina and Daphne unravel the mystery.

One thing I really did not like was the absolutely obnoxious cliffhanger ending.  The story in this book is very nicely wrapped up, but then another story is started and left in an absolutely horrible place with a "to be continued" added on.  People who read my reviews know I hate this.  I don't understand why an author can't draw readers just by writing a well-written book.  Doing silly cliffhangers with obnoxious 'to be continued' statements is gimmicky and tacky and just plain annoying.

Overall I enjoyed this story more than the first book.  I thought the character development was much better and loved all the fun fairy tale characters (Ever Afters) we bumped into throughout the story.  The plot was twisty turny, fun to read and really kept me engaged.  The fact that this book ends on an absolute cliffhanger annoyed me a lot.  I don't understand why writers have to do that.  I'll read the third book, The Problem Child
, because I already have it on audiobook...if that one ends on another really obnoxious cliffhanger than I probably won't keep reading this series.

This series goes towards the following reading challenges: