Monthly Archives: March 2013

Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan

What can I say? I LOVED Tender Morsels. The name and the cover really caught my eye and happily, the story inside lived up to my expectations. Set in the late middle ages (by my closest approximation) TM follows several very different characters.2662169

The first quarter of the book talked about Liga–a fifteen year old girl being sexually abused by her father. Several children are conceived during this terrible abuse, but her father visits the local mud witch–Muddy Annie–for “remedies.” Except Liga–after drinking his disgusting “tea” a few times and suffering miscarriages–finally catches on. When she falls pregnant again, she decides to keep the baby. No matter what.

She hides her pregnancy for six months, and by the time he finds out it’s too late.

Luckily for Liga, fate intervenes and he is killed in an accident shortly thereafter. Life is looking up.

Except, in those times there was no way for a single girl to explain a baby. And there is no one left to protect her. After giving birth to her daughter Branza, Liga suffers a incident that makes what her father did to her pale in comparison. So she decides to kill herself and her baby to escape her terrible world.

But their world is not everything it seems, and there is magic afoot. We’re talking bears who are really men, dwarfs, inter-dimensional travel, natural magic, and witchcraft. The point of view jumps from character to character, and illustrates how Liga’s decision ripples outward to those she loves the most.

I could totally give away this whole book, but I won’t because I want you to read it. TM had a tendency to drag a little towards the middle, but it was never boring. Even the “boring” parts were interesting. I really liked all the characters and how they fit together. Lanagan really handled some touchy subjects very delicately, and in a way that shouldn’t be offensive to anyone.

I was a little confused by “Bear Day” and why the magic in the world seemed to jump around in spurts. I wish Lanagan had provided a little more backstory on that. The ending made me yell WHAT?? because it caught me so off guard and was not your typical fairy tale ending. But all in all, amazing prose.

It’s a book for all of us who’ve ever wanted to run away.

4 bear claws of 5

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Witchlanders by Lena Coakley

“An assassin’s first murder is himself. He kills the man he was.”

I have to admit that out of all the YA fiction I’ve read recently, Witchlanders has the most original concept. (I keep wanting to call it The Witchlanders, I don’t know why).

The story’s perspective switches back and forth between two very different young men. Ryder is a simple farmer. A Witchlander. His mother is an outcast boneshaker who thinks she can foretell the future. Too bad she’s addicted to a mind-altering flower, so when she predicts disaster befalling the village… Ryder and his two sisters have a hard time believing her.

Falpian is the lone surviving wealthy son of a Baen lord. His twin brother, supposedly his magically “soul mate” is dead. Not that they could ever produce songs or magic together anyway. 9917925

The two young men are enemies by birth. Witchlanders are the sworn adversaries of the Baen, and neither side trusts the other. So, it’s pretty crazy when they chance upon each other and find that their minds are connected in… mysterious ways.

Not to mention, Ryder’s skepticism about the witches who live in the mountains above them. He thinks they’re lazy con artists. But he may have more in common with them than he once believed…

I don’t really know how to feel about this book… It had some major good points and had some major… “eh” moments. I liked that Coakley used a more original form of magic–song. I also liked that she focuses on the (platonic) relationship between these two boys and the whole story wasn’t bogged down with some hopeless teeny-bopper romance. It’s nice to have someone steer away from that.

(Boys aren’t everything, young readers!)

I also liked the drug addiction of Ryder’s mother. That made it extra hard on him since his father was dead. I really liked Falpian’s dog Bo.

I don’t generally like high fantasy, so I won’t really delve into that, but this book was kind of a shrug to me. The idea of the song magic was cool, but it seemed strange coming from two guys. I could picture them breaking out into some Disney-esque power ballad, and that’s just awkward. There was never a moment where I felt really invested in the characters, and I think the witches’ culture could’ve been explained in more detail.

I also hated that Falpian’s twin brother was named Falbian. Kinda cheesy. Plus Falpian just sounds like a new anti-depressant. (Feeling tired? Sad? Like you just don’t care? Ask your doctor about NEW 10mg Falpian!)

The ending just kinda left me hanging. It seemed like there should be a sequel because of the stopping point, but when I researched it, turns out Coakley is not under contract for a sequel and is currently working on a different story. Hmmm…

I’m also not sure why the cover has a girl or a sword on it, because this book didn’t focus on either of these things.

I could take it or leave it.

2 maiden’s woe of 5


Freaks: Alive, on the Inside! by Annette Curtis Klause

Oh Annette Curtis Klause. How I LOVED Blood and Chocolate all through my teenage years–it’s still actually one of my all time favorites. Definitely one of the greatest werewolf books of all time in my opinion. That’s why I was SO disappointed with Freaks: Alive, on the Inside! 

Not only is the title awkward and confusing, the cover is super cheesy. Ok, ok, never judge a book by its cover. I get that. Too bad the inside is just as cheese-tastic as the outside. 9780689870378_p0_v1_s260x420

The story is set in 1899 and follows Abel Dandy, a “normal” 17 year old boy born to circus freak parents. They live and perform in “Faeryland.” (This mislead me into believing he lived in a land of fairies–he doesn’t, it’s a midget town). Abel decides he wants to leave his circus and pursue his knife-throwing act in a bigger show. So after a palm reading from a tiny fortune teller, he sets off.

What he doesn’t realize is that there’s a seedy underbelly to many traveling shows, and a tagalong friend puts both of them in danger. And the “older foreign lady” he is predicted to fall in love with is A LOT older than anticipated.

I get the idea Klause had and the direction she was trying to go. I really enjoyed the Egyptian theme, but I hated Abel’s voice. He was a horny 17 year old boy, but the vernacular sounded like a goody-two-shoes little kid. And the names! Oh my lord. So lame. Besides Abel Dandy, we have: Billy Sweet, Ruby Lightfoot, Willie Northstar, Mr. Bopp, Dr. Mink, Mr. Marvel… The list goes on. If the book was more tongue-in-cheek maybe it would’ve worked better.

I would’ve totally guessed this was Klause’s first novel, not one of her more recent. Skip it.

2 dog-faced boys of 5


Long Lankin by Lindsey Barraclough

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I refuse to watch scary movies, because they ALWAYS give me nightmares (I’m a wimp, I know) but I really enjoyed creepy books. I guess because nothing can JUMP me, I don’t feel as scared. Long Lankin was the perfect combo of creep factor meets the real world. Set in the 1950’s, two small girls, Cora and Mimi, go to live with their Auntie Ida after their carefree father decides he can’t take care of them on his own. Their mother has been admitted to what we assume is a sanitarium.

But the girls’ presence in Aunt Ida’s creepy old house awakens an evil presence that has been lurking for years.

Said my lord to my lady, as he rode away:

“Beware of Long Lankin that lives in the hay.” “

Let the doors be all bolted and the windows all pinned,

And leave not a hole for a mouse to creep in.”

So he kissed his fair lady and he rode away,

And he was in fair London before the break of day.

The doors were all bolted and the windows all pinned,

Except one little window where Long Lankin crept in.

Based on a freaky folk song originating in Europe, Long Lankin is some sort of unholy monster that preys specifically on young children 2-4 years of age. Mimi’s presence is enough to attract the villan and it’s up to Cora and her new friend Robert to stop him. But how will they be able to break an age old curse? Dozens have children have been stolen and consumed by Long Lankin, what makes Mimi’s fate any different? Cora finds out some hard truths about her family history along the way.

Long Lankin didn’t really begin to pick up until about a hundred and fifty pages in, but then I could NOT put it down. It’s not scary at all until page 219–the imagery illustrated there seriously made me sleep with the light on. The creepy-crawly inhumanness of him is what really makes it so terrifying. He is a man, yet not a man. A monster. A baby-eating, roof-climbing, scritchy-scratchy, get-in-your-house-if-you-ever-dare-open-a-window thing. 

Good stuff. I highly recommend. Stick it out, it’s well worth the read.

If you’d like to hear the song Long Lankin performed, click here. 

4 long dirty nails of 5

 

 


 


The Kingdom on the Waves, Octavian Nothing Book II by M.T. Anderson

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I read Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation The Pox Party several years back and I thought I’d finally give it’s ending a go. But PHEW, The Kingdom on the Waves is not a joke. I give mad props to Anderson for researching American history as much as he did, even the language he got spot on. But damn. I have a MUCH higher than average vocabulary and even I found myself reaching for the dictionary every few pages. The fact that this book was written for teenagers is kind of staggering.

It follows the adventures of well-educated mulatto Octavian after his and his tutor’s escape from the College of Lucidity–where he previously learned they had educated him and studied him only to determine if Negros were an equal race to whites. Dr. Trefusis and himself stumble into British-occupied Boston during the Revolutionary War and must quickly take sides. They decide to get on board with Lord Dunmore, who promises freedom to any black man who joins his counter-revolutionary army.

Too bad Lord Dunmore’s offer isn’t as great as it seems. A dirty politician?? Who would’ve guessed it?!

Parts of TKOTW read as Octavian’s personal diary and his experiences with the war. He also learns some new information about his late mother. The other part is predominately letters from politicians and generals trying to bring the war to some conclusion. Meanwhile, Octavian is reduced to laboring and killing and watching his friends be cut down beside him. Nasty stuff.

I think Anderson gets 5 out of 5 stars for research and linguistic accuracy, but for readability… not so much. The book wasn’t as boring as it was difficult and too wordy in many places. Sometimes I caught myself reading aloud to piece together what they were talking about. I get that this demonstrated the supreme intelligence of Octavian and his tutor, but come on!

If you’re writing a book for youngsters, make it a little more digestible, will ya?

3 musket balls of 5

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(See? Cairo even found it tiresome!)


Darkwing by Kenneth Oppel

As you can tell by my recent Kenneth Oppel onslaught, I pretty much had a weekend marathon of reading all of his bat books. I was mislead, however, to believe that Darkwing was somehow a continuation of the Silverwing series. It isn’t. In fact, as a stand-alone book I think it’s better.

It follows our strange protagonist, Dusk, in a nearly post-dinosaur world set sixty-five million years ago. He’s a chiropter (a small species of gliding mammal). But something about Dusk is different. Instead of the sail-like membranes his family uses to glide from tree to tree, he has stiff membranous… wings. darkwing

Rather than embracing Dusk’s differences, his colony is disgusted and suspicious. It’s only the fact that Dusk’s father is the colony’s leader that’s kept him alive so far. It doesn’t help that the birds are suspicious too and don’t take kindly to sharing the skies. When the colony is forced out of their home sequoia after a vicious attack by a new breed of carnivores, the chiropters must rely on Dusk’s unique abilities to help them find a new home.

But will that really be the key to acceptance?

This was a GREAT book. I was supremely interested in Oppel’s prehistoric world and all the strange creatures in it. They were all based on animals that existed during that period, and I enjoyed the fable-like quality of the story. I could totally see “How the Bat Got it’s Wings” or “The First Carnivore.” Awesome.

I was also really surprised to see some really great illustrations at the start of each chapter and scattered throughout the book. That really added something special. Plus, Dusk accidentally went “tripping” on psychedelic mushrooms–how funny is that?

But most importantly, it seems like the common theme in Oppel’s bat books are that it’s ok to be different. It’s ok to be the small one, it’s ok to be the strange one, it’s ok to have big ideas. Follow your heart. There is someone for everyone. Love conquers all.

And that’s something I think we can all get behind.

5 sails of 5


The Silverwing Trilogy by Kenneth Oppel

I cannot even begin to tell you how much I loved these books growing up. I got Silverwing by chance at one of those old school Scholastic book fairs. (Those were the shit, right?) Suffice it to say, I couldn’t put it down and rushed out to buy Sunwing as quickly as possible. Flash forward about, umm… 15 years. Imagine my surprise and delight when I discovered that Oppel had reopened that little batty vault of his and unleashed Firewing on the world. I was STOKED.

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Too bad I could hardly remember what had happened to my favorite little nocturnal protagonist Shade 15 years prior. So of course, I had to reread them.

The first two books in the Silverwing trilogy follow a little bat named Shade and his misadventures and near brushes with death. He was the runt of the newborns, but from the start he was the most clever and the feistiest. Too bad that boldness caused a war between the bats and the owls when he decided to steal a forbidden glimpse of the sun, thus breaking an age old law. When his colony’s nesting tree is burned down by the angry birds (haha) the bats must migrate south immediately. Of course Shade gets lost on the way.

sunwingOh yeah, did I forget to mention the escapee cannibalistic bats? And the royally pissed birds that are on to the bats’ every move? But don’t worry, there’s a cute female bat named Marina and an all-seeing albino bat named Zephyr to help him along the way.

The third book is actually just a companion novel, not a continuation of Shade’s story. It follows his son Griffin, who accidentally gets sucked into the bats’ version of the Underworld. It’s up to Shade to save him within two days, before the life is extinguished from both of them and they’re forced to stay forever.

SO GOOD.

I was really worried that rereading this series would be one of those adult let downs. You know when you watch a cartoon from your childhood and then think, Man, I remember that being a lot funnier back then. I was concerned I’d read Silverwing and go eh… 

Luckily, they were just as good as I remembered them. Although geared for middle grade children, this trilogy can be enjoyed by adults and kids of all ages. It’s full of action and plenty of wholesome adventure. Silverwing does for bats what Watership Down did for rabbits. Anthropomorphism at its finest. Firewing

I don’t really want to color the series by saying there’s a religious undertone to them, but you can clearly see the parallels at some points. The “good” bats worship and have faith in Nocturna, a benevolent yet silent bat goddess. The cannibal bats worship Cama Zotz, ruler of the Underworld, who is trying to use his minions to help him “kill” the sun. Shade and his friends find their faith tested when all appears to be lost and Nocturna is nowhere to be found. Zotz has helped their enemy, yet they are left to their own devices.

I highly recommend this book to everyone. I enjoyed it as a child and rediscovered it as an adult. Parents should really consider reading this trilogy to their kids because it’s not only interesting, but very educational as well. Without question it should be a new children’s classic.

5 tiger moths of 5