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Archive for the ‘Fantasy’ Category

Code: a Virals Novel by Kathy Reichs and Brendan Reichs  ISBN 978-1595144126 (read by Cristin Milioti )

When many people see the name Kathy Reichs, they think of “Bones” an adult mystery/suspense series revolving around a forensic specialist, Temperance Brennan.  Tory Brennan is the niece of the Temperance and in every book there is a phone call to the esteemed scientist for help with scientific information and translation.

cover art for Code by Kathy and Brendan Reichs

cover art for Code by Kathy and Brendan Reichs

This was a book that I thought was great because I like the concept of mutations and shape-shifting and extra powers; however my teenage son was less than thrilled about … but it could have been the reader that he really didn’t like.  Also, though the teens acquire the heightened olfactory abilities of the wolf and speed — they actually don’t change.  Their eyes just turn color and really where is the cool factor of yellow eyes?

I like this series because Tory and her friends are just your average every day teens who are smart and live in isolation on this island off the coast of South Carolina.  Their families live on an island owned by the University and their families are all co-workers.  The kids take a ferry to school on the main-land and they need to go by boat anywhere they want to travel.  This series shows a group of youth with initiative and intelligence.  A group of teens that like each other and though they may not always agree, willing to work towards common goals.  They overcome hardships and issues and remain committed to the pack.

I would recommend these books to tweens and teens who like to read about the what might have beens.  The ideas of science and questions of solidarity are important recurring themes.

These books are great and may fall under the category of best read if you are sensitive to voices on audio…

From School Library Journal

Gr 7-9-Months ago, 14-year-old Tory and her friends accidentally acquired supernatural abilities while attempting to solve a decades-old cold-case murder. Now, the group has discovered a geocache, left behind by someone they know only as the “Gamemaster.” The Gamemaster leads the gang on a scavenger hunt peppered with puzzles, codes, and riddles. As the treasures they find become increasingly dangerous, Tory and her friends suspect that one geocache may be a ticking time bomb. The Virals must race against the clock to find it before it detonates and kills innocent people. While this sci-fi/mystery mash-up has some plot inconsistencies and implausible moments, it will appeal to fans of the first two books. The four Virals-Tory, Shelton, Ben, and Hi-are well defined in the course of the story. Though they are all intelligent and protective of one another, their actions are not always prudent or legally sound. The group’s “save the world” mentality thrusts them into plenty of perilous situations, and simply letting law enforcement handle the Gamemaster is never a real consideration. Still, the friends admirably stick together and will stop at nothing to protect the innocent.-Leigh Collazo, Ed Willkie Middle School, Fort Worth, TXα(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. –This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger ISBN 978-0156029438 – Read by William Hope (Reader), Laurel Lefkow (Reader)

 

Have you ever listened to a book which was a little confusing in audio but thought that if read from a page would have made much more sense?  I do not know about anyone else but this book fell into that category for me.  I really enjoyed the book and the lovely twists and turns and back and forth; the idea of love that transcends time and place.  Maybe my confusion was something that every reader felt, but I believe that this is one book to be read.

cover art from The Time Traveler's Wife

cover art from The Time Traveler’s Wife

Each chapter opens with a time date and age of Henry and Clare.  The audio book has two readers – one reads Henry perspectives and the other reads Clare’s.  They are excellent readers and my complaint has nothing to do with the readers, but unless you have an eidetic memory, very few people as they are driving down the road can remember “Christmas Eve 1991 (Clare is 20, Henry is 28)”

Henry has a condition.  With no control or planning he will all of a sudden leap from this life into a scene from the past, usually a scene with great emotion.  He has seen the car crash where his mother died on any number of occasions, he goes back to when he meets Clare for the first time.  As he ages, the condition is worsening and he has less and less control.  He has found a doctor who is trying to help and found a friend who concocts drug combinations to try and help him stay in one place; but there comes a point when nothing helps.

Clare is a studio artist and Henry is a librarian in a special collection.  A fitting occupation for one who travels through time.

Henry takes nothing from one time to another and arrives naked. So he has had to adapt — find clothes quickly, be able to pick locks and has a loose moral code to allow himself to survive.  Though I may not agree with theft, I might think otherwise if I continually ended up in a strange place in winter with lots of snow on the ground.

This is first and foremost a love story.  Henry and Clare are truly an amazing couple.  Yet this is also a story of fantasy and the magical “what-if”.

I would highly recommend this book for anyone who enjoys literature with a hint of romance and fantasy.  It is a very well written work with some great characters.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This highly original first novel won the largest advance San Francisco-based MacAdam/Cage had ever paid, and it was money well spent. Niffenegger has written a soaring love story illuminated by dozens of finely observed details and scenes, and one that skates nimbly around a huge conundrum at the heart of the book: Henry De Tamble, a rather dashing librarian at the famous Newberry Library in Chicago, finds himself unavoidably whisked around in time. He disappears from a scene in, say, 1998 to find himself suddenly, usually without his clothes, which mysteriously disappear in transit, at an entirely different place 10 years earlier-or later. During one of these migrations, he drops in on beautiful teenage Clare Abshire, an heiress in a large house on the nearby Michigan peninsula, and a lifelong passion is born. The problem is that while Henry’s age darts back and forth according to his location in time, Clare’s moves forward in the normal manner, so the pair are often out of sync. But such is the author’s tenderness with the characters, and the determinedly ungimmicky way in which she writes of their predicament […] that the book is much more love story than fantasy. It also has a splendidly drawn cast, from Henry’s violinist father […] to Clare’s odd family and a multitude of Chicago bohemian friends. […] It is a fair tribute to her skill and sensibility to say that the book leaves a reader with an impression of life’s riches and strangeness rather than of easy thrills.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. –This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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The House of Hades (Heroes of Olympus, Book 4) by Rick Riordan

cover art from The House of Hades

cover art from The House of Hades

My children have followed Percy and Annabeth through their many adventures and we just HAD to follow into Hades.  Because the library version was checked out, we got the eBook and read it on my phone out loud to each other during our many car trips and rare evenings home.  It was a great story — the Argo II flying over the mountains with the rest of the team meeting all kinds of monsters, Roman prefects and rogue goddesses and Percy and Annabeth drudging through Hades battling fiery rivers and meeting Bob the janitor.

It was amazing.  It was great.  I didn’t want it to end, but it did anyway.

Later, the audiobook was available at the library and since we loved it so much, I borrowed it.

DO NOT DO THIS!

We couldn’t get through the first track the reader was so horrible.

I much preferred reading the whole book from a 2 inch by 2 inch cell phone screen than listen to that reader.  My thoughts — bring back Jesse Bernstein, even Joshua Swanson was better than this fiasco of a reader.

But the story was great and I am SO willing to read the next one out loud too, unless they get a real reader.  Then I will get the audiobook the first time around!

 

At the conclusion of The Mark of Athena, Annabeth and Percy tumble into a pit leading straight to the Underworld. The other five demigods have to put aside their grief and follow Percy’s instructions to find the mortal side of the Doors of Death. If they can fight their way through the Gaea’s forces, and Percy and Annabeth can survive the House of Hades, then the Seven will be able to seal the Doors from both sides and prevent the giants from raising Gaea. But, Leo wonders, if the Doors are sealed, how will Percy and Annabeth be able to escape?

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Dead Ever After by Charlaine Harris (read by Johanna Parker)

cover art from Dead Ever After

cover art from Dead Ever After

The conclusion to the Sookie Stackhouse series was a very interesting.

I enjoyed listening to this book.

The maneuverings of the vampires.  The jealousy of Eric.  The confusion of Sam, brought back from the dead with special elfin magic.  Demons and pacts with the devil.  A death in town that is blamed on Sookie who through the bail hearings and investigation finds out who her friends are.  This story has so many twists and turns that it is hard to find out where exactly you are in the whole book.  You almost need a flow chart.  It wrapped up many of the characters quite nicely — leaving it so that we had a nice feeling of resolution and though we may not liked how things turned out, it made a certain amount of sense.

It holds a logic and sense of continuity that holds to the authors beliefs and follow the story line of the series.

It is hard for an author who has a successful series to hold firm to the thought that this is a good time to end.  I give Charlaine Harris credit for having the fortitude to do that now.

 

Editorial Reviews

Review

“The Sookie Stackhouse series seamlessly mixes sensuality, violence, and humor.”—Boulder Weekly

“Harris’s creation offers a magical and mysterious twist on traditional vampire stories.”—Houston Chronicle

“What sucked me in? Definitely the books’ oddly charming, often funny mix of the mundane and the absurd. And the chills and thrills in boudoirs and various locales around the South aren’t too bad either.”—The Seattle Times

 

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This movie came across my desktop in an email and I decided that, even though I had never heard of it, I would get it.  People love Maggie Smith and will watch anything she is in and I liked the premise.

It is World War II and a young boy moves out to the old family estate to be with his grandmother.  His father has gone missing in the war and his mother is busy trying to learn more of his whereabouts.  It has been many years since he has been out to the family property because of miscommunication between the boy’s mother and the grandmother.  He slowly learns about the history of the home and his family.  He also develops his thoughts and feelings about the woman who is his grandmother.  This movie does a great job of exploring family ties.

From time to timeThis story includes previous generations in a subplot of ghosts and mysteries.  There was some family jewelry and silverware that went missing at some point in the past.  He also learns that the grandmother is about to lose the home for she is unable to keep up with the bills and taxes on such a large property.  Through the grandson’s ability to speak with the ghosts,  he learns what happened to the young girl in his visions and her companion.  He also  learns many things about himself and what he finds important.

This is a wonderful movie with some great characters.  This is highly recommended for all families.

To learn more — explore Internet Movie Database … it is an amazing database of movies and television shows.

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Redoubt: a novel of Valdemar, The Collegium Chronicles by Mercedes Lackey  ISBN 978-1410456328

Redoubt

This is a hard book to describe.  I like it for the characters are fun and I love Haven, Valdemar, and the Heralds and their rich history.  This book seemed a little slow.  Yes Mags is still a Trainee; yes Mags is still playing kirball, which is a great war game preparation; yes Mags is still working on his costumes and working at the pawn shop in the city.  Everything is going pretty much as usual for what seems like most of the book and then all of the sudden out of the blue, he gets kidnapped and drugged and dragged across borders.

With much use of his new skills he escapes his guards and with much use of his past skills as a underfed slave he survives the trip back.  He meets a priest and his cat along the way and this new friendship helps him get to the right place at the right time to be saved.  I enjoyed the story — but I was hoping for a better understanding of Mags past.  I guess there will be one more book?

We shall see …

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Phoenix Endangered (Enduring Flame, Book 2) by Merecedes Lackey ISBN 978-0765355072

cover art from Phoenix Endangered by Mercedes Lackey

cover art from Phoenix Endangered by Mercedes Lackey

I enjoyed this trilogy very much and have actually restarted it to listen with my kids because I thought that with dragons and magic and elves … this was right up their proverbial alley.

That being said the second book is not the most thrilling of books — there is a lot that needs to be studied, there is a lot Tiercel and Harrier need to see and do.  There are many people that need to be introduced to get the pawns in play.  In my opinion, there is similarity with the original Star Wars trilogy.  People like “The New Hope” because that is the first and you meet all the characters and people like “Return of the Jedi” because that is the dashing conclusion and it has Ewoks; however, somehow “Empire Strikes Back” has swamps and teaching and it seems slower.  “Phoenix Endangered” has no swamps … it is all desert.  Sand, sand and more sand and very special mage made wells.

I listened to this story on audio book and it is very well read.  Because of that my spelling of strange city names or characters may be inaccurate!

Tiercel and his dragon partner, Ancaladar, start working together in earnest.  All the battle training and spell work keep them busy whenever they are not in a city for Ancaladar cannot come into cities.

Harrier meets with an annoying unicorn — Kareta.  Kareta gives him the three books in the previous novel and sticks around for awhile to try and encourage (or rather nag) Harrier in learning more about the wild magic.  To be a Knight Mage he needs training in swordsmanship — but since they are traveling in the desert looking for the lake of fire from Tiercel’s dream, finding a teacher is not one of his top priorities until they come upon a wounded man and Harrier heals him.

The reader meets Shaiara a leader of her people from the desert.

We also learn more about Bisochim and his dragon.  His fear of her death and what he chooses to do to protect her and with whom he makes pacts.  This is a very good story — it continues the changing relationship between Tiercel and Harrier.  However mostly — this book sets up everyone to be in place for the next exciting adventure!

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Changes: the Collegium Chronicles (Book 3) by Mercedes Lackey  ISBN 978-1410444172

Changes by Mercedes Lackey

Changes by Mercedes Lackey

Mags is still at the Collegium training to be a Herald with his friends Healer Trainee Bear and Bardic Trainee Lena.  This book reveals a great deal more stress in family relationships.

Healer Collegium has to move heaven and earth to convince Bear’s family that it is more important for Bear to be at the Collegium because of his gifts and talents as opposed to going home to be part of an arranged marriage hoping to procreate children with the Healing Gift.

Bardic Trainee Lena needs to confront her famous father who seems to be stealing others works and claiming them as his own, using his Gift in unethical ways which can cause him to be banned from Haven … where he so desperately wants to be because of his attachment to the limelight.

All of this familial angst makes Mags very happy that he doesn’t have any family.

There seems to be a raising level of angst in the whole city and anyone with any kind of empathic gift can sense it.  People are on tinder-hooks and then Mags finds a room deep in the castle with a stone table.  Anyone who has read the Last Herald-Mage series will remember this stone for it was a focus for mage gift in the kingdom.  This stone is balance and Mags, using his Gift of Empathy, can use this stone to find balance again.

In this installment of the Collegium Series — relationships between friends deepen and the characters continue to mature both on the field and in the classroom.  We eagerly await the final work in this series for we still need to discover the history of Mags and why the bad guys still want him!

Book Description

Release date: October 4, 2011 | Series: Valdemar (Book 3)

Enter the thrilling third volume in the epic Collegium Chronicles.

In Mercedes Lackey’s classic coming-of-age story, the orphan Magpie pursues his quest for his parent’s identity with burning urgency-while also discovering another hidden talent and being trained by the King’s Own Herald as an undercover agent for Valdemar. Shy Bardic Trainee Lena has to face her famous but uncaring father, one of Valdemar’s most renowned Bards. And Healing Trainee Bear must struggle against his disapproving parents, who are pressuring Bear to quit the Healers’ Collegium because he lacks the magical Healing Gift.

Each of the three friends must face his or her demons and find their true strength as they seek to become the full Heralds, Bards, and Healers of Valdemar.

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Foundation: The Collegium Chronicles by Mercedes Lackey ISBN 978-1410414281

Foundations: The Collegium Chronicles by Mercedes Lackey

Foundations: The Collegium Chronicles by Mercedes Lackey

It has been a while since I have read anything by Mercedes Lackey and it was good to revisit her.  I think my favorite work by her was the Last Herald Mage of Valdemar series that starred Vanyel as hero.  In my opinion that trilogy stands out as a masterpiece: rich characters with a great combination of virtue and angst and stunning story lines.  This Collegium Chronicles series may not be as stunning as the works I previously mentioned … but it was enjoyable.  Great? no… but enjoyable.  Mercedes Lackey has written more than 40 books — it would be utterly amazing if they were all able to be called magnificent!

One thing that I appreciate about Mercedes Lackey is that in each book she takes some social issue and points to it in some way.  If it is gay rights, women’s rights or child labor — she brings it to the light and let’s us think about the situation in a fictional setting to help us evaluate what we believe to be true.  I guess I like it because I usually agree with her — but if I disagreed with her I may feel differently!

So Mags, our hero, is a child laborer in a mine.  Since he is slaving in the dark finding gems and lives in the basement of an outbuilding with all of the other child slaves sharing blankets to keep warm and fed on very little — he is not having a very grand life until one day when a white Companion shows up at the gate trying to get into the mine.  The owner is very upset and won’t let in the Companion.  Companions are special animals that look like horses but have great spiritual power and they select the Heralds who become a combination police force, judicial branch and overall helper to the kingdom of Valdemar.  Eventually a Herald shows up and Mags is chosen by Dallen (the Companion) and they rush back to the Capitol so Mags can start his training.  Since he is functionally illiterate and has had no education he needs to start in remedial classes and he has to work hard to try and catch up to his age group.

“Foundations” is just that — an introduction to Mags and his few friends – for he just can’t understand why his peers complain about everything when they have food and a warm place to sleep.  An introduction to the problem of politics and spies.  I found it a pleasant read on a cold winter day as I sat near the wood stove.   If I had never read about Vanyel or Talia — I may not be so forgiving, but I look forward to the others in this line-up.

 

From Booklist

The new Valdemar novel takes place earlier in the kingdom’s history than has any other, set when the Heralds’ collegium was established. At that time, the system of heraldic training was changing from one-on-one apprenticeship to the collegial system used by Healers and Bards, because there were too many trainees for the old system. Some older Heralds weren’t happy with that change, and as all three collegia rapidly grew, there was much rivalry for builders and teachers. Young Mags, an orphan who drudges for a greedy, cruel mine owner, is Chosen and eventually brought to Haven for training, where his goodheartedness and near-total ignorance make him very dependent on his companion. Thanks to court intrigues and an attempt by foreign infiltrators to trick Valdemar to its disadvantage, Lackey makes a real page-turner out of Mags’ and the collegia’s development. Though similar in some ways to both Brightly Burning (2000) and Take a Thief (2001), this book’s outstanding characters, especially Mags, will greatly please Valdemar fans. –Frieda Murray

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The Phoenix Unchained (The Enduring Flame, Book 1) by Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory

The Phoenix Unchained by Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory

The Phoenix Unchained by Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory

I listened to this book on audio — so if I spell any names wrong I do not mean any disrespect … I just don’t know the appropriate spellings!

I loved this book and really thought the reader did an excellent job.  I have read many Mercedes Lackey books over my life time and have really enjoyed most of them.  She is my go to author when I need a comforting world to live in other than my own.  Worlds full of magic, light and goodness.

The Enduring Flame trilogy doesn’t disappoint!

Tiercel and Harrier are young men who met on the docks when Tiercel was 2 or 3 and running on the docks and about to run into the water when Harrier picked him out of the river or grabbed hold of him just before he fell into the river.  Tiercel is the eldest son of a city official (technically a Lord though he never uses his title) and Harrier is the son of the dockmaster — a position of rank in their fair city.  Tiercel is young man with his head in the clouds and Harrier has been keeping him grounded his whole life.

For his birthday Harrier received an old book from an uncle who travels a great deal.  Since Harrier is not a great reader of histories — he lets Tiercel read it and report back to him.  While he reads the book — he learns about High Mages and has many questions that can’t be answered at the university library.  Tiercel starts having visions and starts feeling ill.

He believes that he needs to find a Wild Mage or he will die.

Tiercel and Harrier start a long trek to find a Wild Mage and this journey leads them to centaurs, elves and eventually to find a great and ancient dragon.

This is just a great story and one I highly recommend.

From Publishers Weekly

This entertaining series opener takes place more than 1,000 years after events depicted in the Obsidian Trilogy. The city of Armethalieh is no longer ruled by mages, and High Magick itself is forgotten. Elves and dragons are known to exist, but live in distant lands and are never seen. Wielders of Wild Magic are extremely rare. Characters familiar from earlier books have become legends from a dim past. Then Tiercel Rolfort, the scholarly son of lower nobility, rediscovers High Magick. Beset with visions and physically weakening, Tiercel decides his best hope is to take a journey to find a Wild Mage. Meanwhile, Wild Mage Bisochim has become convinced of his calling to set the balance aright by bringing darkness back into the world. Having found and bonded with the dragon Saravasse, he plans to draw on her power to further his dark goals. This beguiling beginning promises a highly readable epic combining vivid characterization with an interesting exploration of how past heroics are twisted over centuries into something both more and less than they were.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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