Monday, July 28, 2014

Chinese Whiskers

I spied Pallavi Aiyar's Chinese Whiskers last year at work when it was on the new book shelf.  I marked it as something I wanted to read, but then forgot about it in my rush of reading other books.  But after my cat passed away last week, I was in the mood for a cute cat story. And luckily Chinese Whiskers didn't disappoint!

Chinese Whiskers is the story of two cats, Tofu and Soyabean.  They come from very different backgrounds: Tofu was a dustbin cat, the middle of five kittens; Soyabean was the spoiled only child of a rich cat.  But both are adopted by a foreign couple and end up the best of friends, growing from kittens to adulthood in one of Beijing's hutongs.  Soyabean and Tofu couldn't be more different: the male Soyabean is a friendly cat who loves to eat; Tofu is a small female who takes a long time to trust anyone and anything. 

A chance remark lands Soyabean as the star of a cat food commercial.  But his stardom comes at a bad time: this is when the SARS outbreak was being blamed on cats.  And then Tofu gets locked out of the house and kidnapped by someone who has been murdering pets.  Luckily her older brother, a tough alley cat from the Ghost Street Gang, saw and tells her to escape; he tells her he'll find her no matter what happens!

Meanwhile, Soyabean blames himself for Tofu's disappearance.  If he hadn't been watching his commercial instead of watching out for her, perhaps none of this would have happened!  But while he is moping around the house, he discovers that the people he is modelling for have been poisoning the cat food he's been helping to sell.  Unfortunately he finds himself at a loss when he is unable to communicate this to his owner.  But once Tofu makes it back home, the two hatch a plan to reveal that the food is poisoned to the humans.  It'll take all of Soyabean's talents at acting and more than a little bit of luck to pull off.

Chinese Whiskers was a really cute story.  These two cats reminded me of my two (except that Soyabean and Tofu actually got along).  My one complaint is that the book seemed to wrap itself up about a chapter before it actually ended.  If not for that, I would have given it five stars on Goodreads, instead of the four I ended up giving.

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Pineville Heist

I first heard that a local author, Lee Chambers, had written a book that hit the Amazon bestseller list a few years ago.  I bought the book and intended to read it, but never really got around to it.  But a few weeks ago, a friend from work asked me to read it.  So I grudgingly did; The Pineville Heist was by no means high on my list and I really wanted to read something else.

So I started the book on Wednesday.  I went to Grand Marais with my brother for the day, and started reading it while we were hanging out on the beach.  When I started it, I thought it was going to be an absolutely terrible read.  The writing seemed awkward (for example, one character "waltzed" into the room, then got snippy, turned around and stomped out.  It was a very jarring scene).

But then something happened. I started getting sucked more and more into the story.  Things that I thought were predictable weren't (although I admit, I thought the main character was someone else, so it helped that I kept waiting for a character that never arrived).  And even if the writing remained a bit awkward at times, I stopped noticing it as I got drawn into the story that is The Pineville Heist.

The Pineville Heist is about Aaron.  Aaron is the rich kid in town, unpopular because everyone thinks his father is just getting richer from everyone else's money.  His father is a single parent, too busy to give Aaron much attention.  They get into a fight and Aaron is forced to walk to school.  He cuts through the woods, inadvertently spying the bank robbers who stole his father's money.  After overhearing the local cops talking about the robbery, he brings his two best friends to go recover the money.  Unfortunately they're around when the robbers are murdered in cold blood.  Grabbing one of the bags of money, Aaron makes it back to the school.  Unsure if his friends are alive or not, he ends up running for his life from the cold-blooded killer is after him and the money.

The Pineville Heist ended up a really enjoyable read.  I'm also now really excited for the movie to come out (it was filmed locally back in June).

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Under the Empyrean Sky

I started Chuck Wendig's Under the Empyrean Sky about a month ago. I got it from the library at the time, thinking that as a YA book it would be an easy read. But I couldn't get into it at all. So back to the library it went.

I wanted to try again a few days ago. So I bought it on my Kindle and started reading. To my amazement, I was now into the story and didn't want to put it down!

Under the Empyrean Sky is the tale of Cael McAvoy. Cael is the captain of the Big Sky Scavengers, the second best scavenging crew of Boxelder. Cael's crew flies over the corn fields of the Heartland, looking for anything useful that they can sell to support their families. Cael's tired of being bested in the scavenging game by the mayor's son, the captain of the best scavenging crew in town. But when he spends the crew's ace notes on new panels from his ship just before his ship gets trashed, he's not sure what to do. To make matters worse, he's worried about losing his first mate (and love of his life) when the Empyreans announce their arranged marriages (Obligations) in a few days. And with his mother sick, his sister running off again and his father barely able to scrape by, Cael isn't sure how he'll keep his family afloat. But that's life in the Heartland.

Under the Empyrean Sky was a really interesting book. The world reminded me of The Hunger Games, with the Heartlanders being like the districts, and the Empyrean controlling the world and making the rules from above (quite literally - the Empyrean live on flotillas, flying around above the earth, closing schools and generally making life miserable for the "unenlightened" Heartlanders below them). The Empyrean have outlawed all crops except the corn, which ravages the earth, spreading and killing all other plant life. Their one consolation to the Heartlanders is the Lottery; once a year, a Heartland family is selected to live on the flotillas with the Empyrean.

Cael's crew was pretty great. There's Lane, Cael's helmsman, who lost his family and now lives alone. Lane isn't looking forward to the arranged marriages because he doesn't want to marry any of the girls. The third mate, Rigo, has an abusive father who has sucked the boy's confidence from him. But even though he's afraid, he still manages to find his courage when he really needs to. And Gwennie, the first mate, is the brains of the entire organization. Unfortunately we don't get to see a whole lot of her (spoiler: she's Obligated to the mayor's son; Cael spends a lot of time pining for her or fighting over her, but we don't get to see a whole lot from her perspective). And Cael's dad, Pop, is pretty awesome (another spoiler: he's growing an illegal garden with the help of hobos!)

I guess I was just in the wrong frame of mind when I started reading Under the Empyrean Sky the first time. But I'm super glad I gave it a second chance. And now I can't wait for the second book, Blightborn, which comes out later this month!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Scotti and 'Fairies Don't Exist'

Here we are with The Scotti and 'Fairies Don't Exist,' the third Fairly Stillwart Chronicle from Scott Butcher. The Scotti picks up just after A Pixie Pilgrimage left off: Stillwart and company are still trying to make their way to the Northern Fairies in Ireland. They've managed to go from Vancouver to Montreal, but here they've been stopped by customs because they don't have the proper paperwork. Rather than wait around for weeks, they decide to bust out of the airport and find another way to Europe. Luckily the two daughters of their human friend, Phoebe and Lucy, live in the city; with a bit of convincing that fairies really are real, the gang is on their way to Newfoundland to catch a chartered flight to Dublin.

But along the way, Fairies Don't Exist, the feral fairy Stillwart and company picked up in Vancouver, tells them that a Thorn Tree is calling to her. Following her directions, the company finds a group of fairies named the Scotti. The Scotti's Thorn Tree was damaged by human hands long ago; with its magic blocked, the Scotti have been slowly dying. It's up to Stillwart and company to save the day!

Like the other Fairly Stillwart Chronicles, The Scotti and 'Fairies Don't Exist" is another quick and enjoyable read. Just be warned: this book ends on even more of a cliffhanger than A Pixie Pilgrimage did.  I can't wait for book 4 to read more of Stillwart's adventure!

Friday, June 27, 2014


Hunted, book six, is the last Iron Druid Chronicle I'm going to read for awhile.  I know that book seven, Shattered, is out now (it came out about a week ago).  But I would like to go and read some other things in the immediate future (plus that will hopefully bridge the gap between books seven and eight, whenever eight comes out, a bit better).  So with that in mind, I'm going to be giving tons of spoilers in an attempt to record (and help me remember) the story thus far.

Hunted really started with a bang!  It starts exactly where Trapped left off - after defeating Fenris, Atticus, Oberon, and Granuaile were doing a "druid world tour," checking out the world and all the ways to Tir Na nOg.  But when they returned to Europe, Diana and Artemis, the Roman and Greek immortal goddesses of the hunt, are lying in wait for them.  The Morrigan appears and battles the two goddesses of the hunt, buying Atticus, Oberon, and Granuaile time to run away.  But as she is fighting them, she also talks with Atticus.  It's a moving, beautiful conversation (the Morrigan confesses she loves Atticus and that she was trying to change her ways but discovered that being a goddess made that impossible).  The conversation is abruptly cut off when she dies.  Yes, the Celtic goddess of death is killed in battle.

From that point, Atticus, Oberon, and Granuaile must flee across Europe.  Following the Morrigan's last instructions, they are running as fast as they can to England; according to the Morrigan, getting to Hearne's Forest is the only version of events where Atticus manages to live.  Along the way, they are being attacked by vampires, Svartalfar (dark elves), and an arcane life leech.  The gods have decreed that this is a contest between Atticus and the goddesses of the hunt, so no other gods are able to directly interfere.  Of course that doesn't stop Neptune and Poseidon  from stirring things up when the party has to swim.

Also along the way, Atticus gets shot in the head.  Granuaile and Oberon believe him to be dead and bury him in the earth; luckily his untested soul catcher charm works, keeping his soul in his body until he is healed.
Once they make it to Hearne's Forest, they become the guests of the ghost, who helps them deal with the Olympians.  While they cannot be killed, Atticus was able to dismember them with his sword (he traded Moralltach for Fragarach from Manannan in the previous book) and them "store" them in the earth.  He uses this to catch the two goddesses and force Jupiter and Zeus to come down and speak with him.  From here they are able to settle their differences, meaning the immortal gods will no longer be after Atticus.

After this point, Atticus goes to confront Midhir, a member of the Tuatha De Danann whom he believed was orchestrating these events.  When he arrives, he is nearly killed by some very hungry fairies (he calls them pie-mouths), discovers Midhir dead, and has to get by a manticore who was left to kill him.  This was a really long chapter, made doubly so because he was almost torn apart by the pie-mouths and couldn't heal (and was literally shambling around Midhir's house).  He learned that Midhir was high up in the conspiracy against him, but clearly not the leader.

One last thing: Loki was running around too.  On the run through Europe, Lokie showed up in Poland.  Atticus bargained with Malina's coven (who has relocated to Poland) to charm him - in return he would clear Poland of vampires.  Loki managed to get free, but before he did any major damage, his daughter, Hel, brought him to her world.

Oh yes, and as a parting gift, Atticus went to the time islands and discovered his arch-druid was very much alive.

So that was the events of Hunted.  It wasn't my favourite Iron Druid book, but it had some pretty crazy moments.  I'm looking forward to Shattered when I eventually go and read it.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014


So here we are with the fifth book in Kevin Hearne's Iron Druid Chronicles, TrappedTrapped takes place twelve years after Tricked and about six years after those short stories ("Two Ravens and One Crow," "The Demon Barker of Wheat Street" and "The Chapel Perilous").  Most of the world believed Atticus was dead, giving him the time he needed to train Granuaile.  But train her he did. And now as they're searching for a good place to bind Granuaile to the earth, the Tuatha De Danaan have discovered that Atticus is still alive.  And unfortunately they're not the only ones.  Word has gotten out to Bacchus, the Roman god of wine, merrymaking and ritual madness.  Bacchus swore he would kill Atticus back in Hexed.  And as one of the Olympians, Bacchus is truly immortal.

Unfortunately for Atticus and Granuaile, a new druid can only be bound to the earth on the Eurasian Plate (meaning only in Europe).  And something has closed off all the routes from Tir Na nOg to Europe except one; that one exception is Greece in the vicinity of Mount Olympus. So now Atticus will have to bind his apprentice under the very noses of the Roman gods, all while the entire world realizes that he is actually still alive. 

Trapped was an incredibly good read.  And with gods, vampires, and dark elves (of the Norse variety) all hunting after Atticus, Trapped really kicked things up a notch from Tricked.  The ending (particularly the epilogue) really made me excited to read book six, Hunted - I can't wait to start it (which I'm doing right now)!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

In the Beginning

Earlier today, I was discussing books on Twitter. I had asked Philippa Ballantine if she was going to write anything else in her Books of the Order world; she directed me to "In the Beginning," a short story that also takes place in that world. It tells a story about the first day that the geists broke into the world. "In the Beginning" is a really fast but enjoyable read. It was neat to see the world not from the Deacons's perspective.