Monday, June 30, 2008

Evil Genius

by Catherine Jinks

Cadel Piggott is a genius. Unfortunately that genius only gets him in to trouble. At the age of 7 he hacked into the Pentagon's computer system. By the age of 14 he has graduated from high school and needs some place new. His therapist, Dr. Thaddeus Roth, suggests the Axis Institute, a university that works with special cases and focuses on smaller classes, etc. Turn out, this university isn't all that it seems. It's more like the University of World Domination and classes include: Accounting (embezzling), Applied Physics (explosives), Law (Loopholes), etc. But when Cadel discovers that all is not what it appears, and when the choice comes down to whether or not he can have a friend, will he choose to follow the path of evil or good?

I am a bit undecided how I feel about this book. The premise is clever and on the whole I really enjoyed the story. The idea behind the Axis Institute is fascinating. I don't completely understand how the activities of people at the Institute went unnoticed by the outside public, but I can suspend reality for a fun storyline.

I also thought Kay Lee's character was interesting. I hope she makes a bigger appearance in the sequel.

Yet, there were times that I felt like the characters acted, well, out of character. Especially Cadel. We go through the story and he seems to have very little conscience. He doesn't want to kill anyone, but he likes messing with people. Especially people that mess with him. Yet, by the end he has had a complete change of heart (that can be explained by Kay Lee) that just doesn't quite fit. I like the nice Cadel better, but he seemed to change so much that it was weird thinking he was even the same character.

I also really didn't appreciate the language. Nothing too strong, but a decent amount of swearing. I'm not sure why swearing is ever necessary in a book, but I think that it is always inappropriate in a book aimed towards kids.

Anyway. On the whole, I really did enjoy the story and it was a quick read. I think it could have been better if certain things had been explained better (mostly Cadel), but it was fun to suspend reality and watch the attempted creation of an Evil Genius.

3.5 out of 5 stars

Friday, June 27, 2008

The Adoration of Jenna Fox

by Mary E. Pearson

inspired by Chain Reader, a four word review:

Just who is Jenna?

or (in not quite 4 words)

How far would you go?

4.5 out of 5 stars - highly recommended!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


by Laurie R King

The year is 1926 when Harris Stuyvesant, an investigator for the U.S. Justice Department, arrives in London to investigate a man suspected in a series of bombings in the U.S. Unfortunately, this suspect is a respected, up and coming member of the Labor party and Stuyvesant has a hard time finding any sort of answers. After nearly giving up due to dead-ends, Stuyvesant meets up with Aldous Carstairs, a government man that is willing to help Stuyvesant out. Carstairs knows a man with "special" abilities who might be able to help them. This man, Bennett Grey, has a sister that works fairly closely with Stuyvesant's suspect. After meeting with Grey, Stuyvesant finds himself spending the weekend with Grey, Grey's sister and the suspect (Richard Bunson) at a blue-blood English estate for the weekend. When Stuyvesant finds out there might be a bomb planted at a top secret meeting intended to prevent the great strike, he ends up back at the estate trying to save the lives of those around him.

I am a pretty big Laurie King fan. My favorite detective is her Mary Russell, but I have to admit that I haven't read any of her other works. However, the description of Touchstone really peaked my interest, so I decided to try it out.

Overall my response is mostly "meh." The mystery itself was rather fun, and the narrator rotates between Stuyvesant, Carstairs, and Grey which I really enjoyed. I thought Bennett Grey was a fascinating character that was fairly well developed, and I was sorry when the story ended that his story had to end as well. I would love to know how his everyday life will be. While quickly paced, the end sequence with the bomb didn't quite have the thrill factor that I was seeking either. It's kind of hard to explain, but usually when I get to the ending sequence and we don't know who will live or die I can't put the book down. This time I had to (for various reasons), but I didn't jump back in as quickly as I could have.

The book was also very slow. It takes a long time to get into the story and figure out what's happening. While I liked the characters (even the bad guys) and wanted to know what happened to them, I kept thinking "Ok! get on with it!"

I also thought there was a lot of sex/sexual references throughout this book. Once or twice they were used to move the story along, but mostly it just seemed to be there to be there. Probably it wouldn't shock anyone other than me, but I felt like it was there for the shock factor. It really bothered me, though I should be clear that I am pretty much a prude. There is also a fair amount of harsh language that again, I didn't really think added anything to the story. Both of these things really took away from the story, and I didn't enjoy the book nearly as much as I would have without them.

3 out of 5 stars - mostly for the characters

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Battle of the Labyrinth

Percy Jackson and the Olympians book 4

by Rick Riordan

This has been a month of sequels, hasn't it? I can't tell you how happy I am to live close to a big library that actually has the books I want! And, they have enough of them that even super popular new releases, like Percy, still only take about a week to get your hands on. So nice!

I don't want to give anything away, so I won't go into too many details about this one. It starts at the end of the school year, but Percy's new high school is having a new student orientation. Before dropping him off, his mom cautions Percy to be careful and try not to have any "incidents" as it is her boyfriend's school and he had pulled some strings to get Percy in. But, alas Percy can't seem to step foot in a school without having some problems. After pretty much blowing up the school, Percy and Annabeth head off to Camp Half-Blood in an attempt to hide out while they wait for the furor to die down. In the mean time things are not all well at Camp Half-Blood, and it is eventually decided that Annabeth will lead a quest into the heart of the labyrinth, in an attempt to reach Daedalus before Luke and his Kronus buddies can get to him and gain access to Camp Half-Blood.

Contrary to most of the other reviews that I read about this one, The Battle of the Labyrinth is not my favorite in this series. I enjoyed it quite a bit, but I thought the ending was a bit cheap and that prevents it from being my favorite. I don't want to really explain my displeasure, but I should add that this book basically concludes as well as the other three have - the main battle of this story is resolved with the impending battle with Kronus still at hand.

Even with the cheap edning, I did really enjoy this story, especially the workings of the labyrinth (ever changing and evolving) and the appearance of lesser known Greek monsters. It was fun to go back and re-read the myth about Daedalus and Icarus and to learn about the empousa, which are kind of like a precursor to vampires. I was also thrilled to see more of Rachel Elizabeth Dare and to learn more about Nico.

Overall, I highly recommend this book, though you definately need to read this series in order (The Lightning Thief is the first in the series). And, I can't wait for the fifth and final adventure to come out next year!

4 out of 5 stars

Friday, June 20, 2008

Win ALL of Stephenie Meyer's books

not from me though :)

So, I've debated about whether I should post about this. I'm not a huge Twilight fan (you can read my review here), and while I might finish that series once the final book is published this summer, I don't really feel the need to own her books.

But, I know several people that read this blog really like Stephenie Meyer, and I don't know if they read Maw Books Blog, so I thought I would mention it for their sakes.

Natasha (over at Maw's) is having a mega Stephenie Meyer giveaway. Five winners will win a copy of The Host and a few little things along with it, and one grand-prize winner will win Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse, and The Host by Stephenie Meyer, a I Heart Ian button, a I Heart Jared button, a Twilight Lexicon Magnet, and a t-shirt of your choice from the Twilight Lexicon Shop. There are lots of ways to enter and you have until June 30th to do so. For full details, check out Maw's blog here.

PS. I do realize that this post could be counted as an entry for the contest, but I don't count it as such.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Wizard Heir

by Cinda Williams Chima

Seph (as in Joseph) is a 16 year old, powerful wizard that has yet to learn control of his gifts. He's one of those kids that has been kicked out of every school that he's ever been in for "incidents" that the anaweir (or non-magical) can't really link to him, but seem to plague him, so when his guardian finds a school known for reforming delinquent boys, Seph is sent off to middle-of-nowhere Maine. Seph quickly learns that not all is as it seems when the headmaster turns out to be a wizard, who offers to train him. But he will only train him if Seph will agree to some sort of blood sharing, creepy ceremony that Seph is just unwilling to participate in. Thus begins the school year from hades where Seph is dogged by constant nightmares, pressure from the other wizard students (aka alumni), and eventually beaten in an attempt to get him to conform. When he finally escapes, he is forced to lay low in Trinity, OH, which was named a safe-place in the first book. When a conference between all the weir is called, will Seph be able to stop his former headmaster from taking over everything?

I really liked The Warrior Heir, and I was excited to see that my new library had the sequel on the shelves. I think I liked this one just as much or more than the first.

Seph was an interesting character to follow. He grew up knowing that he was a wizard, but the sorceress who raised him had deep seated issues with wizards (as is common) and didn't teach him how to do anything with his powers. When she died, his guardian (an unknown attorney in London) begins shipping him to various schools where he is always kicked out. My favorite incident that got him kicked out of school was the wolves he set on the nuns in Philadelphia. The image just made me smile :) Seph is a particularly powerful wizard and he desperately wants to learn to control his powers. That's what made his headmaster's offer so frightening - it's something he wants, but he is unable to give the full commitment the headmaster requires. Fortunately, Seph also has a good head on his shoulders and was able to avoid getting linked to him.

I thought Madison, Seph's "girlfriend" (in quotes because they only kind of date) in Trinity was also really interesting. She is non-magical, but has some sort of special magic-related ability, which adds a really interesting new dimension to the world Chima has created. I was sad that by the end of the book she was avoiding Seph - she was the one that wanted to use her gift. Hopefully, it is just some female drama that will resolve itself in the next book.

All of the major players from Warrior Heir make an appearance in this book as well. More is learned about Aunt Linda and Leander Hastings' relationship. Most of which I found really interesting. Jack and Ellen are still battling it out, and Will and Finch are around too.

There are parts of this book that I found slightly disturbing. Mainly the blood ceremony that Seph was asked to participate in. Because Seph calls it off, we don't see any of it, but the feeling and tone of that particular chapter kind of creeped me out. Other than that though, this book has lots of adventure, is fast-paced, and I would highly recommend it!

4 out of 5 stars

Monday, June 16, 2008

The Time Thief

book two of the Gideon Trilogy

published as The Tar Man in the UK

by Linda Buckley-Archer

Earlier this year, I reviewed The Time Travelers, which I thoroughly enjoyed and highly recommend. It's taken until now for me to get my hands on the sequel (thank heavens for larger libraries!), but it only took about a day for me to finish it.

There are a few spoilers from the first book in this review. Again, I just can't talk about the second without mentioning the first...

The Time Thief starts off immediately where The Time Travelers ends. Dr. Dyer, Kate, and Dr. Pirretti are driving back to the Dyer farm and trying to come up with a story to tell the police. The most obvious solution, and the on they choose, is to simply say that Kate can't remember anything that had happened since before she disappeared. Kate sleeps through most of the journey back, so she misses most of the conversation her father and Dr. Pirretti are having on whether they should attempt to back in time, again, to save Peter. Or, as Dr. P would prefer, simply destroy the machines and try to prevent anyone from discovering that time travel had been invented. Once Kate discovers that they are not planning on rescuing Peter, she sets of with Peter's father to try and rescue him.

In the mean time, the Tar Man is roaming free in a London that he both recognizes yet cannot figure out. Soon he has stolen a horse and attempts to flee through London by jumping on top of cabs (hence the cover art), and quickly determines that he will need some sort of guide to the 21st Century. While the 21st Century is very different from 1763, the Tar Man sees it's potential and looks forward to finding a guide to help him fit in with the 21st century. He also sees the potential of "fading," and begins tormenting Lord Luxon back in 1763 until he eventually needs some help.

I really enjoyed reading about the Tar Man in the 21st Century. It was fun watching him learn the system and attempt to become a crime lord in modern London. There are a few scenes near the beginning where he is trying to figure out this new London where he talks about streets and where they go that got a bit tedious. Possibly if you know and love London it would have been fun to picture, but to me it was just a bunch of street names that meant nothing. I also had a hard time believing his renewed relationship with Lord Luxon. It seems like someone as shrewd and cunning as the Tar Man should have seen what Lord Luxon was doing a mile away.

It was nice getting a glimpse of Peter's dad and seeing more of Kate. I also really liked the view we got of Peter. It wasn't what I had expected, but I enjoyed it a lot. I really think that Peter is such an interesting character. I can't wait to see what happens to him in the next book. I wish that Gideon had been a more prominent character; he was my favorite from the first book. You hear about him, but you only really see Gideon for a few chapters near the end. It does look like he will be a more prominent feature in the final book though.

When I started reading The Time Travelers, I was a bit nervous because I don't really like sci-fi type books, and time traveling is pretty sci-fi. However, other than that actual time-travel device, there is very little sci-fi weirdness in it. That is not the case for the last half (or so) of this book. It started getting weirder and weirder with parallel worlds, someone from a parallel world speaking through her counterpart on the original world, time quakes, Kate beginning to fade away, etc. For people that read a lot of sci-fi/time travel it may not be too big of a deal, but for me, it just felt weird and I didn't really enjoy it. I will still probably read the final book in the trilogy - just to finish it off - but it has lost a lot of the pure enjoyment that the first book had.

3 out of 5 stars

Monday, June 9, 2008


by Brandon Mull

Kendra is not excited to visit her grandparents while her parents are away on a cruise. She hardly knows them, and she overheard her grandfather trying to talk he mom into having someone else watch them. When Kendra and her little brother, Seth, arrive, they discover that grandma is away tending to a sick sister. Grandpa gives the kids some strict rules (under no circumstances can they go into the forest or the barn), but allows them free reign of their bedroom and the gardens. Unfortunately, Seth is a bit of a mischief maker and is quickly exploring the forbidden areas, dragging Kendra along for the ride. Eventually, the kids discover that the place they are staying at is actually a preserve for magical creatures that their grandparents are the caretakers of. When Seth brakes another rule, he allows some evil mythical creatures to kidnap his grandfather, and the two kids must work together to try and save him and the magical preserve, Fablehaven, as well.

There's a lot to like about Fablehaven. I thought Kendra was a rather intriguing character. There was a lot about her that reminded me of me - especially her inability/unwillingness to break rules, willingness to tattle on disobedient little brothers, etc. Her determination to figure out the secret of the keys was impressive though - I'm not sure at 11 I would have continued looking after the first day or so. I thought as the story progressed she seemed to grow up and mature a bit, though there is a lot of potential for more growth in the sequels. Especially with some of the new developments at the end of the story.

I struggled more with pretty much every other character. Grandpa was pretty grumpy. Even once we learned why (trying to protect the kids and all), it was kind of frustrating. Especially since most of the problems would have been easily resolved if he had just been honest with them. The whole time I just kept thinking "tell them the truth!" Hopefully now that the big secret has been released (the house being a magical preserve), grandpa will be more honest with the kids.

I also really didn't like Seth much. I know a foil was needed for Kendra's goody-two shoes character and Seth fit that well, but it was annoying how little punishment there was for him. Like I said, I'm a rule-abiding citizen (to a fault) and it just kind of grated on me.

In general, it seems like when an author wants to show character development in kids, the kid has to start off pretty annoying (Lloyd Alexander's Pydain Chronicles are a good example of this one). Has anyone else noticed this?

However, even with the fussy characters, I really enjoyed the story as a whole. The magical creatures were all really interesting, and I hope the future books will focus more on them. We really only interacted with some fairies (never named), a nasty old witch, and some demons. It seems that there should be a lot more creatures on a preserve, and hopefully that will come out as the series continues.

Overall, it was a fairly quick and easy read, and I would recommend it.

4 out of 5 stars

Tuesday, June 3, 2008


by Angie Sage

Merrin Meridith is back and seeking revenge on Septimus. There's also an evil ghost out to take control of the wizard tower, someone (unnamed for spoilers sake) is still missing, and Septimus has been sent on the dreaded Queste, from which no one has ever returned. Typically the opportunity to draw the Queste stone isn't until the end of the 7 year apprenticeship, but things never seem to go quite right where Septimus is concerned.

First of all, there a few slight SPOILERS relating mainly to book three, Physik, of this series. I don't think there is anything directly spoiling about Queste.

I really like the first and third book in this series. In fact, the third book was my favorite by far and I have been really looking forward to Queste ever since. Sadly, it appears that the even numbered books in this series are no good. Queste nearly bored me to tears for the first 250 or so pages. In fact, it wasn't until page 243 that the word Queste is even brought up. Until then, it's just a bunch of people moving about, in an attempt (?) to set up the story. Even after the Queste is originally brought up, it isn't until about page 300 that Septimus begins the Queste, and not until about page 450 (of 570) that I actually started caring about what the characters were doing.

As my husband says. "If it takes you more that half-way through a book to get un-boring, then it's a boring book." Maybe not completely fair (and usually used to reference classics), but it was so true in this case.

I think the first half of the story needed to be heavily edited. Sage uses her traditional back and forth between characters, but so much of it seems unnecessary. Even after finishing the story, I don't know why we care about a lot of it. By cutting the first half by at least half, I think the story would have been so much better as a whole. Instead, I had to push myself to finish it. After all, I did want to know what had happened to Nicko and Snorri.

Merrin spends most of the first half of the book trying to Darken Sep's destiny. As far as I can figure, there was not point at all in that storyline, unless it's going to play a major roll in the next book. Nothing came of it, and it just didn't make sense why so much time was spent on it.

Once the Queste actually starts, the book picks up. There is danger, adventure, mystery, and Septimus saving the day. The House of Foryx was very interesting, as were the people. I wish more had been explained about the workings of the house though. And, while the story didn't end quite like I predicted (a plus), it all wraps up rather well.

I also wish that more time had been spent on Marcia and Sep's relationship. They can't seem to get along at all, yet Sep is super talented - he doesn't seem to need to study and do the things that Marcia demands in order to perform magyk. A fairly big deal is made regarding his projection and how amazing it was for a first time projection, yet Marcia is immediately mad at him again. It just doesn't really make sense, and got frustrating. Maybe that will all be resolved in the fifth (and final?) book?

Overall, I wouldn't really recommend this book. If you are a fan of the series and want to know how everything turns out with Nicko and Snorri, go for it. Otherwise, you can probably skip it. It didn't really seem to set anything up for the final book, and was more of a chore than a pleasure to get through.

2.5 out of 5 stars (.5 stars were gained during the last 80 or so pages).

Sunday, June 1, 2008

May Book List

Picture Books
Goodnight Moon, by
Margaret Wise Brown *
The Velveteen Rabbit, by Margery Williams

Middle Readers

Walk Two Moons, by Sharon Creech
The Mysterious Benedict Society, by Trenton Lee Stewart

The Secret Country, by Jane Johnson
Queste, by Angie Sage

Young Adult

Ranger's Apprentice book 4: The Battle for Skandia, by John Flanagan *
Dragon Slippers, by Jessica Day George *
The Warrior Heir, by Cinda Williams Chima *

The Alienist, by Caleb Carr
The Beekeeper's Apprentice, by Laurie R. King (re-read) *

Non Fiction
Enchantment of the World: Turkey, by Tamra Orr

* = a favorite