Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Book Thief

My mom and I both wanted to read Marjkus Zusak's The Book Thief, so we picked it up from a local used bookstore.  She read it first, then gave it to me.  The book's a bit long (550 pages), but I thought I'd get through it pretty quickly because it's YA.  Obviously that didn't happen - I started it just after finishing Teeth, and just finished reading it now.

The Book Thief is the story of Liesel Meminger as told by Death.  Liesel stole her first book at her little brother's funeral.  From there, she went on to steal several other books between 1939 and 1943 while living in Molching, Germany with her foster parents, Hans and Rosa Hubermann.  While Rosa is extremely gruff, Liesel immediately takes a liking to Hans (her papa), the accordion-playing painter who has a kind soul.  Liesel and the boy next door, Rudy Steiner become best friends and partners in crime, getting into all kinds of mischief together.

Life changes when Max Vandenburg appears. Hans had made a promise to Max's mom years ago that if she ever needed anything, he would help.  That promise comes back to haunt him during the Nazi's reign of terror when she asks Hans to help her Jewish son.  While this puts their family at risk, Hans and Rosa unquestioningly take Max in, hiding him in their basement.

While I liked The Book Thief, I ran into problems reading it because I felt like it dragged at times.  It didn't help that the narrator (Death) would often say what was coming, but then take his time to get there.  But that aside, The Book Thief was an excellent story about the 10% of Germans who did not agree with the Nazis during World War 2.

Saturday, May 17, 2014


A friend of mine told me I should read Hannah Moskowitz's Teeth quite awhile ago.  According to her, Teeth was one of her favourite books of 2013.  I finally got around to reading it (in its entirety today.  And wow, she was right: Teeth was an amazing read!

Rudy's little brother has cystic fibrosis.  In an effort to cure him, Rudy's parents have moved their family to a little island where eating the fish is purported to cure anything.  While a diet of fish seems to be doing his brother wonders, Rudy finds himself growing lonelier and lonelier on an island full of adults.  But then he meets Diana, the only other teenager who lives on the island, and Teeth, the half-human, half-fish secret of the island.

Slowly, Rudy starts spending more and more time with Teeth.  He's frightened by how he feels while hanging out with the fish-boy, because no one has made him feel this way.  Yet Teeth has dedicated his life to saving the island's fish from the fishermen.  As Rudy finds out, loving Teeth may mean sacrificing his brother's life.

Teeth was an absolutely fantastic read.  I am so glad my friend recommended it to me!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Dragon's Bait

Vivian Vande Velde's Dragon's Bait caught my eye several weeks ago at work.  I finally sat down and read it today.  I read most of it this afternoon, then finished it off after work.

Dragon's Bait is the story of Alys, who is accused of witchcraft by her neighbours.  Her neighbour was after her father's land, and accused Alys of witchcraft after her father refused to sell.  During her trial, her father passed away, leaving no one to defend Alys (some of the villagers tried, but the Inquisitor confused them into believing she really was a witch).  Rather than burning her at the stake, she is sentenced to be used as a sacrifice to appease a dragon that's been seen in the area.  But rather than eat her, the dragon decides to help her get revenge on the people who accused her of witchcraft.

I honestly don't have a lot to say about this book.  While I liked Selendrile (the dragon), I found the book to be entirely too predictable. I also thought it was taking place on another world, and so got disappointed at how very Earth-like the setting was.  That may not be a fair criticism, but it's still how I felt.  That being said, Dragon's Bait was a fast read.  And I'm probably not the intended audience for it (it felt like more of a kid's book, even though the library marked it as young adult).

Monday, May 12, 2014


There seems to be a hold war going on at the library for Kevin Hearne's Iron Druid Chronicles.  I managed to get my hands on Hammered pretty quickly, but I only got it for a week (which wasn't a big deal seeing how I read it in two days).  I may have to wait a few weeks for the fourth book, Tricked (but we'll see!)

Hammered begins roughly where Hexed left off.  In exchange for Laksha's help in killing 12 of the Bacchants, Atticus has to steal one of Idunn's apples from Asgard; the apples preserve the gods' youth, and so Laksha wants one for herself.  Atticus also promised to help the vampire Leif kill Thor in exchange for some more help, and so the druid is treating the apple-snatching mission as a reconnaissance one as well.

Unfortunately things go horribly wrong right off the bat.  Using a hidden entrance into Asgard (which bypasses both the Bifrost Bridge and the god Heimdall) and befriending Ratatosk, the guardian of the back way, Atticus is attacked by the Norns upon entering Asgard.  The Norns accidentally kill Ratatosk and try to kill Atticus, but he slays them with Moralltach (Aenghus Og's sword).  From that moment on, Atticus knows he has to hurry; once the other Æsir discover the Norns are dead, they will start looking for their killer.  

Atticus manages to get the apple without incident.  But on his way back to his escape route, he discovers Odin and some Valkyries are chasing him.  He manages to get away (and is happy to realize that the Valkyries' death powers do not work on him thanks to his amulet).  

Back in Arizona, Atticus makes plans to leave town, knowing that thanks to his adventures in Asgard (and the planned killing of Thor), there are going to be a LOT of people and gods after him.  After making all of the arrangements, he meets up with Leif and Gunnar.  The three of them make their way to Siberia (where the backdoor to Asgard is located on our plane), where they meet up with the remaining three members of their group: Vainamoinen (a Finnish folk hero), Zhang Guo Lao (an immortal wizard) and Perun (the Russian Thunder god).  Together, the six of them recruit the help of the frost giants, then storm Asgard (even though both Jesus and the Morrigan have warned Atticus to abandon this foolish plan).

Just before Atticus and company meet the frost giants, they sit around a fire and tell each other stories to strengthen the bonds between them (this is so Atticus can move them all between the planes).  This was my favourite part of the entire book.  All five of Atticus's friends tell the story of why they want to kill Thor.  Hearne's writing here was absolutely amazing: all five characters spoke in their own voices and had very compelling (yet different) reasons for wanting to kill Thor.  I think my favourite was Vainamoinen's story; he befriended a sea monster, which Thor showed up out of nowhere and killed.  I really wish these five stories were available as standalone short stories on Kindle or something because I would love to reread them all.

Hammered was, in many ways, a very different book from the previous two in the Iron Druid Chronicles.  My one complaint was that there weren't a whole lot of women in the book (his apprentice Granuaile is in it for a bit, as is the Morrigan and Mrs. MacDonagh).  But no one in the group who wants to kill Thor is a woman).  Other than that though, I really enjoyed it.  And now that Atticus is on the run once again, I can't wait to see where book four takes him!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

A Pixie Pilgrimage

Today I read the second book in Scott Butcher's The Fairly Stillwart Chronicles, A Pixie Pilgrimage.  Like Stillwart and the Southern Fairies, book 2 was a super fast read.  I think I finished reading it in less than an hour.

A Pixie Pilgrimage picks up where the first book left off.  A pixie knight from the Northern Pixie Queen has arrived, informing Stillwart that she is a princess.  The Pixie Queen needs the fairies' help because her people are dying.  When pixies and fairies live together, both are strong.  But the Pixies have been without fairies since Fiona left them to track down the missing fairy grains.  Unlike fairies, pixies mourn their dead; without the presence of the fairies, these mourning pixies are following their loved ones into the afterlife.

Bellinda, Appleblossom, and Stillwart agree to help the pixies by bringing several new fairy grains to the Thorn Tree.  And so, along with the pixie knight and Mr Sooty the owl, they set out to save the Northern Pixies.

I really, really liked this story.  Where Stillwart and the Southern Fairies was more of an introduction to Stillwart's world, A Pixie Pilgrimage was a faster-paced adventure., feeling very much like where the story really begins.  Unfortunately it ends on a sort of cliff-hanger, meaning I need to wait for book 3 to find out what happened to the group on their adventure!

Stillwart and the Southern Fairies

Scott Butcher, the local author who asked me to review An Eagle's Heart, sent me copies of the first two books in the Fairly Stillwart Chronicles, Stillwart and the Southern Fairies, and A Pixie Pilgrimage.  I've had Stillwart and the Southern Fairies for a couple of months now, but just found the time to read it today. 

Stillwart and the Southern Fairies is the story of Still, a pixie found by Fiona, the mother and old Queen of the Southern Fairies.  As a pixie, Still is considered to be an ugly girl, particularly when compared to her cousin, Appleblossom.  On her first day of school, the other fairies nickname her 'Stillwart' because she is so much uglier than them.  But while Stillwart may not fit in with the fairies, she has an affinity for animals; Stillwart makes friends with the owl Mr. Sooty, and ends up in charge of neighbour relations on the fairy council while only a teenager. 

The whole book is narrated by Stillwart's aunt, Belinda, who is chronicling the first part of Stillwart's life.  Belinda tells the story from her perspective, freely admitting that there are events she found out about after they happened.  Overall I thought this was a really interesting way to tell the story, especially since Belinda was able to revisit her feelings, often admitting that at the time she may have been wrong about Stillwart.  But there were a couple of her asides that I wasn't fond of because they knocked me out of the narrative; my least favourite was chapter 10's "oh, I've dropped my glasses...hold on one sec, where have they fallen to" because there's no reason that someone writing a story down would have written that.

Stillwart and the Southern Fairies is a very quick and enjoyable read.  I'm looking forward to starting the second book in the Fairly Stillwart Chronicles, A Pixie Pilgrimage.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy: Angela

So I managed to read the second volume of Guardians of the Galaxy today, too.  I was really looking forward to this one because it features Angela.  I'm not super familiar with her from Spawn, but I was interested to see what she would be like in Guardians of the Galaxy.

To that end, I wasn't disappointed.  Angela was pulled through some sort of temporal disturbance.  She gets into a fight with the Guardians of the Galaxy, who discovered her charging towards the Earth.  It turns out that she was amazed at the Earth's existence; she's heard stories of the Earth (much in the way we on Earth have heard stories of Heaven), and needed to see it with her own eyes (I thought that was an awesome story idea).  She ends up joining forces with the Guardians; in turn they are trying to help her get home.

I also really like how Gamora and Angela become friends.  They start off fighting one another, but in the end grow to respect each other.  That was a pretty fun story arc, too.

But like Cosmic Avengers, Angela suffered from some disjointed storytelling that made it a bit hard to follow.  I think what happened is that parts of the story took place in other comic lines.  So this graphic novel had only the specific Guardians of the Galaxy stories, which did not include those other parts.  That was really disappointing to me because I had no idea going in that parts of the story would be missing (especially since I'm not a huge Marvel Comics reader). 

But other than that, I enjoyed reading these two volumes.  I'm now quite excited for August when the movie comes out! 

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Avengers

Since the movie is coming out this summer, I wanted to read some Guardians of the Galaxy comics.  And luckily the library has both volumes one and two of Brian Michael Bendis's

The one issue I had with this book is that, for volume 1, it sort of felt like I was jumping into the middle of the story.  I have no idea why the Guardians of the Galaxy had separated, or even why Peter Quill (aka Star-Lord) brought them back together, beyond the fact that they needed to save the Earth.  For motivation, I guess that works.  But even reading the shorter stories at the end of the book, which had him reassembling the team, I didn't really get a good understanding of why these characters are willing to work together for this goal (especially since most of the characters in the book aren't human). 

So anyway, the Guardians of the Galaxy are a group of outcasts/misfits who have formed a super team together.  There is the aforementioned Peter Quill, who has a human mother and an alien-king father.  There's Gamora, the daughter of Thanos (a super villain, I think), Rocket Raccoon (an anthropomorphic raccoon), Groot (a plant monster/ent-like being), and Drax the Destroyer (I don't really have a clue what his story is.  He destroys everything?)  Quill's father, the king of Spartex, has declared Earth to be off-limits to the rest of the galaxy's denizens.  But then the Badoon people decide to attack the Earth for unknown reasons a few days later.  So it's up to the Guardians of the Galaxy to stop them.

I apologize, as my summary makes Cosmic Avengers seem rather chaotic and hard to follow.  But the main story really wasn't (I had a harder time with the short stories at the end).  I enjoyed reading it, and am looking forward to reading the second volume soon.