Book Reviews

The Hunger Games

So. It has come to this. Me, reviewing one of my least favorite books of all time, by popular request. To be honest, I never intended to read the series, but my best friend and a significant number of the girls I knew were raving about it. Now, for the most part, they all have good taste in books(they haven’t grasped the glory that is Sherlock Holmes, but they’re pretty good with YA), so I decided to give it a try.

Cover of "The Hunger Games"

Cover of The Hunger Games

I hated it.

I ended up reading the first two and skimming the third purely for the purpose of this review(hence why said review will be general at best). I’m not going to include a summary, since most people have either read one of the books, seen the movie, or been bombarded by enough Pinterest, Facebook, and Tumblr posts to know the basic plot. Instead, I’ll be starting with the good points of the series and moving on to the things I wasn’t as fond of. Be forewarned, this review is not spoiler-free!

It is also a rant. However, that being said, I have nothing against the author. The series was well-written and there were more than a few good things about it. In my case, however, it just wasn’t my kind of story. Because of that and various other reasons, my opinion of the series is somewhat negative and somewhat controversial. So, feel free to comment, but flaming will be deleted immediately.

Good Points:

The main thing that really stood out to me was the writing style. Collins has a way with description and craft that pulls you deep into the story and refuses to spit you out until the last page is turned. That’s why I read as far as I did. It made everything very clear and easy to follow, which is a real asset in dystopian sci-fi.

For the most part, the characters were very well-crafted. The majority of them had solid, unobtrusive backstory, logical motivations, and were fairly easy to connect to in some way. Katniss, in particular, was wonderful. As far as YA fiction goes, she’s one of the best heroines I’ve ever seen, especially in the role of the protagonist. Also, the minor characters–which are often problematic–really shone as well. They were there when the story needed them and then faded out before they became a nuisance.

Also, the themes of the novels were fantastic. I may not have liked the storyline, but the underlying themes were very thought-provoking, intelligently written, and quite relevant. Sacrifice, the danger of complacency, perseverance, and far too many others to list were all woven into the background. And in a very cohesive way, I might add.

Bad Points:

Well, the main thing that annoyed me was the simple fact that it’s depressing.  I realize that it’s dystopian, and therefore meant to be a pretty horrible picture of our future, but this pushed it a little far for my tastes.

In the first book, all of the tributes except for Peeta and Katniss die. In the second book, more people die, including most of District 12. In the third book(which I have not read entirely), you have Finnick and Prim. It began to feel like a little much. Again, that may just be me, since this isn’t really my genre. When it comes to story-telling, I think C.S. Lewis says it best.

Since it is so likely that children will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brace knights and heroic courage. Otherwise, you are making their destiny not brighter, but darker.

But that’s just my personal opinion on dystopian fiction. Rant over. Back to the review.

The second thing was the romance element of the series. I honestly didn’t care for Peeta.  For one thing, I think I would have liked him better if he hadn’t turned out to have been in love with her from the beginning. While a good move for fleshing out both characters’ backstories, it felt a bit convenient that Katniss was paired with a boy who’d been in love with her forever.  Also, despite the fact that they end up married by the end of the series, I didn’t really see any chemistry between them. The romance felt slightly forced and might have worked better if it had been left as the for-the-cameras version it began as.

Thirdly, my suspension of disbelief had some trouble kicking in when it came to the base logic of the story. You can do a lot of things to people who have been beaten down as the people of Panem were. Limit their food supply, pigeon-hole them into set occupations, take their basic human rights–but taking their children? Pretty much every mother I know would claw the eyes out of anyone who tried to harm her children. The fathers wouldn’t stop there. Most parents would sooner die than let anyone take their children, so I have  trouble swallowing the fact that generations of people have allowed the Capitol to send their youngsters off to be killed.

So, that’s it. As always, this is merely my personal opinion and nothing more.

I’m going to go find something with a happy ending.

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Book Review #8 – Michael Vey: The Prisoner of Cell 25

“To everyone at Meridian High School, fourteen-year-old Michael Vey is nothing special, just the kid who has Tourette’s syndrome. But in truth, Michael is extremely special—he has electric powers. Michael thinks he is unique until he discovers that a cheerleader named Taylor has the same mysterious powers. With the help of Michael’s friend, Ostin, the three of them set out to discover how Michael and Taylor ended up with their abilities, and their investigation soon brings them to the attention of a powerful group who wants to control the electric teens—and through them, the world.

 

#1 New York Times bestselling author Richard Paul Evans introduces a character whose risk-filled exploration marks the beginning of a riveting new series. With only his powers, his wits, and his friends to protect him, Michael will need all his strength to survive….”

 

-Amazon Summary

 

 

 

MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD! The author is incapable of reviewing without them.

 

This was another book club book. It didn’t count towards my lit credits, since it was simply one of our fun books, but I’m still going to review it. To be frank, I have quite a lot of issues with this book. The story itself (concept wise) was quite good, hence why I kept reading(besides the fact that I have to discuss it in detail on Thursday), but outside of that…it was terrible. At least to me.

 

For starters, the author (Richard Paul Evans) had a rather irritating style. Granted, if you aren’t a writer wanna-be or some other form of literary personage, then it may not bother you, but it had me almost gritting my teeth by the last page. There were quite a lot of awkward phrases, and that proved to be quite distracting from the story itself. Particularly when you seem unable to turn off your internal editor. *headdesk* Also, in regards to style, there were billions upon billions of unnecessary words. My inner editor about had a coronary over that several times throughout the book. Evans rather liked to state the obvious, as well. That’s one thing if you’re writing a picture book, but quite another in YA. There are some things which really should be left to the imagination. It really makes for a better story if you don’t try to explain every little movement in exquisite detail. And finally, there were the adjectives and adverbs. Now, I know the current trend in the writing community is to cut out all descriptors to create a sharp, clean tone, but I’m personally quite fond of them. Unless they’re dull. If you’re going to use them, go for dynamic, heart-rending, vivid words that scream their meanings and don’t allow the reader to skim for even a second. Evans didn’t. It didn’t work too well.

 

English: Richard Paul Evans

English: Richard Paul Evans (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Secondly, the characters had…issues. The majority of them were flatter than notebook paper and about half as interesting. I tended to forget who was who and who had what powers and why they were there in the first place. Hatch’s electric children in particular had very few distinguishing qualities, and the few they had were shared by every other character in the book. Michael and Jack were better than most, but the rest were fairly 2-dimensional. And on a sidenote, they thought and spoke like junior high students rather than high-schoolers. If you’re going to write about teens, do your research.

 

Also, there was Taylor. Outside of being there as a love interest for Michael and an author’s tool for revealing information, she had no discernible purpose other than being kidnapped and rescued. Token girl characters tend to be rather annoying to me, and she was no exception. Also, she was described as being essentially perfect. That again is somewhat annoying.

 

All in all, it was sad. The story had a lot of potential, in the fact that it was actually an interesting concept with a well-executed plot. But the other factors dragged it down so much that it was hard to pay attention to the good points and easy to focus on the bad ones. I may find the sequel at some point and see if it’s any better. Hopefully so.

 

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Book Review #8 – Journey to the Center of the Earth

        Journey to the Center of the Earth was my most recent literature/book club read, and as part of my class, I get to write a review/analysis. Woo-hoo. I was a little leery of the book when I started since I’d tried reading it once before and couldn’t really get into it. Something about the style and the characters just didn’t click with me; I’m more of a Conan Doyle and Poe fan when it comes to 19th century lit. But this time, for whatever reason, I enjoyed it at least a little more. The humor actually starting coming though this time, and that definitely helped me get through it. Anyways. On to the actual review!

When an eccentric professor acquires an ancient book, a riddle on a spare piece of parchment tucked neatly within its pages leads him and his nephew on an unparalleled adventure. The unlocked riddle brings them to a remote mountain on Iceland, where they enter an extinct volcano on a daring quest to reach the center of the earth. They soon find themselves at a giant underground ocean where the laws of science are constantly redefined and prehistoric creatures are in abundance. But in the bowels of the earth, a shocking discovery pits the travellers face to face with their own terrifying past.                                                                                                                                                                                                 -Amazon Summary

As I said, I liked Journey better this time around than I did last time, but there were still a lot of things that I hated. As far as good things go, it was funny; Axel made a lot of amusing little observations and smug remarks regarding his uncle. Also, it was a good example of early Victorian science fiction, and it can be a fun read for those of us who enjoy the style of that era. But Journey was nowhere near as good as The Lost World or Some Words With a Mummy. To be honest, I’m not entirely sure why it’s considered a classic and required as literature when the rest of the early science fiction masters seem to be ignored. I didn’t see any moral dilemmas, character arcs, or noble plots typically found in books classified as literature. *shrugs* I don’t get it.

The plot was…rather disappointing. There was an obvious objective: reach the center of the Earth. But there was no clear point of resolution. No resounding “We did it!” moment. That’s problem #1. Secondly, it rambled all over the place with the characters seeming to completely forget about their previous objective and just enjoying the fact that they were miles underground. Granted, a loose plot is somewhat common with the writing of that era, but this was one of the more grating examples.

The characters were a bit better, but still not particularly likable. Lindenbrock seemed to have two sides; one being the utterly obsessed professor who gives no thought to anyone else and the other being the concerned, loving uncle. And he couldn’t decide which one he was, a fact that can be extraordinarily confusing for the reader. PICK ONE AND STICK WITH IT! Axel also seemed to have that problem since he waffled between curious scientist and freeloading nephew who can’t defy his uncle for fear of losing his position. The only character I actually liked was Hans and he said a probable total of 10 words throughout the entire book.

Also regarding the characters, there were no character arcs. No change in their personalities. No growth. Nothing. Now, this might have been alright with Hans (Hans is already perfect.), but with Lindenbrock and Axel, there’s a lot of room for improvement. There was so much potential with these characters, but Verne didn’t tap into it. It’s maddening! Absolutely maddening, I tell you!

Anyone else have any thoughts on this? Any redeeming points that I’ve missed? Let me know in the comments!

*****The guest post opportunity still stands. We’re now 23 views from a thousand, and the last commenter before one thousand views is entitled to a guest post.*****

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Book Review #7 – The Scorpio Races

I bet you thought I’d given up the book review half of the blog, didn’t you? Well, I didn’t. I was just having some issues finding anything worth reviewing. My reading supply has been somewhat limited of late, as most of my favorite authors are still in the writing half of the process and apparently the only novels out are the ones by the authors so bad they can actually manage twelve books a year. But I did manage to find a couple of new authors (and was exceptionally glad I did) so be prepared for an onslaught of book reviews.

Some race to win. Others race to survive.
It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line.
Some riders live.
Others die.
At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them.
Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn’t given her much of a choice. So she enters the competition – the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen.
As she did in her bestselling Shiver trilogy, author Maggie Stiefvater takes us to the breaking point, where both love and life meet their greatest obstacles, and only the strong of heart can survive. The Scorpio Races is an unforgettable reading experience.

-Amazon Synopsis

This book was an interesting concept. Honestly, I’ve never read anything quite like it, and I’m not entirely sure how to classify it. The carnivorous creatures washing up onshore would indicate a fantasy, but the apparently British Isle of Thisby leans more toward sci-fi or realistic sci-fi. There’s also the element of romance to think about, but that’s a smaller piece of the story.

Anyways, whatever it was, I liked it.

Stiefvater is an exceptional writer. The setting and world-building was beautiful and the voice and tone were absolutely perfect for the story. She also did an excellent job of juggling the two parallel storylines (that eventually converged), which can sometimes be a major problem for authors who don’t know how to do it properly.

The characters were all fully-formed, well-developed, and quite well done. Both Puck and Sean were likeable and very relatable, as both had believable pasts and problems. Benjamin and Mutt Malvern were both good villains, if a bit stereotypical. Though the thing is, stereotypes can actually be viable characters on occasion. If it’s a well-drawn stereotype and it’s a semi-minor character, it works just fine. And it did here. Gabe Connolly was probably the only character that I really didn’t like. I do understand why he thought he had to leave Thisby. I really do. Losing your parents is hard, emotional trauma, yada-yada-yada. But still…Grow up, dude. If your younger siblings can take it, so can you, particularly since they depend on you! *sigh* Now that I’m done lecturing fictional characters on their moral failings, we can move on. Finn Connolly was my second-favorite character because he was so blissfully quirky, and therefore, adorable. And now for my favorite character…

The water horses. While not a single character, they were definitely my favorite part of the book. When I was little, I was a confirmed horse-nut and I still sort of favor them, so finding a good sci-fi/fantasy that incorporated them so wonderfully in a way other than “magical white stallion” was great. The capaill uisce were fantastic monsters. Probably some of the best fictional beasties I’ve ever read. Stiefvater used ancient mythology concerning water horses, which in turn utilizes the fabulous turn-something-ordinary-into-something-terrifying technique. And that makes for the perfect beastie. After reading the scene in which Corr slices a man’s throat with his teeth, I’m going to be very, very careful around my cousins’ horses.

Yet, at the same time, she makes them beautiful, majestic creatures of the sea. Most of the scenes from Sean’s POV describes their more positive side. Their speed. Their strength. The type of things you notice and admire about land horses. But she still never lets you forget just how deadly they can be. There are several random maulings of small animals, sheep, land horses, and non-essential characters just to remind you that, hey, these things are dangerous.

For some reason, the ending felt a little too short to me. There were things that didn’t get resolved the way they should have been and another couple of chapters to tie up the loose ends would have been nice. Also, there was some language that I didn’t agree with. If you’ve read my post on writing pet peeves, you’ll know how I feel about authors who use cuss words as an excuse not to write dialogue. Still, all in all, it was a great book. Definitely worth your time.

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Book Review #6 – The River of Time Series

Um…wow. I don’t know what on earth spiked traffic yesterday(from…Canada?), but thank you to whoever is responsible! I appreciate it greatly.

For today, I’ve got one of my favorite YA series. River of Time by Lisa Tawn Bergren, a series introduced to me by one of my very best friends with the words that she didn’t think I’d like it because it was “mushy.” And considering that all she’d seen of my tastes in romance were in my novel when the heroine shoves the hero down the stairs because he tried to kiss her, those fears were probably founded. But in this case, she was actually wrong. I. Loved. It. The heroes were Hershey sweet and could inspire a whole lot of knight-in-shining armor fantasies, but I still adored them. Also, there were a lots of swords and arrows and fights in general, so that kept my somewhat violent(notice the “sanity optional” part of the title) self happy. Oh, and there was time-travel, which is always a bonus for a confirmed Whovian. All in all, a very nice series.

Spoilers!

The series begins with Gabriella Betarrini, the daughter of an archaeologist specializing in Etruscan artifacts, stuck in every teenage girl’s dream destination: Italy. The only problem is that she doesn’t want to be there. After all, being there every summer kinda saps all the wonder out of the trip. However, she isn’t bored for long. Upon sneaking into one of the tombs at their mother’s dig site, Gabi and slightly younger sister Lia find themselves yanked back in time to Medieval Toscana. And so begins an epic series that explores how exactly a pair of modern girls ( and BIGGER SPOILERS eventually the rest of the family) adjust to the challenges and brutality of a world of hot Italian knights and warring castellos.

See what I mean about hot Italian knights?

Okay, as far as characters go, they were very good. The only ones I had any difficulty connecting with were Marcello and, in the later novellas, Lord Greco. With Marcello, he’s…essentially Prince Charming with an Italian accent. And while that’s still incredibly attractive, I found Luca (at left) a bit easier to connect with. And with Greco, his pity parties–while justified and realistic–just started to irk me. But all three had their endearing moments and I doubt anyone in the world could actually dislike them. Honestly, this series has sort of swayed my opinion of Italian men. The afore-mentioned best friend and I have an ongoing argument over whether Italian men or British men are better (despite the fact that neither of us knows one of either), and Luca, Marcello, and Greco make it kinda hard to keep arguing…

With Gabi and Lia, Bergren did an amazing job getting into the teenage mind. Both girls were fully developed, expertly drawn characters that did a great job of pulling you right into the page along with them. Particularly in the later books as it really began to sink in that they were really going to have to stay in that time period and as they began to actually think about the things they were going to have to deal with as women in Medieval Italy. One thing in particular that I loved were Lia’s issues with archery in Tributary; I can’t imagine what it would be like to know that you’d already taken quite a few lives–even with a reason–and that you would probably have to end more in the future. For some reason (I haven’t shot anybody! I promise!), that really made me feel for her and helped humanize the character.

The plots of the three novels and two novellas were also very well-done. The voice and tone served to draw you in from page one and the engaging story kept you there.  Though I will admit, the two later novellas are a bit weaker plot-wise, they concentrate more on character development and that makes it okay. The balance of action and romance is pretty even and helps keep the series interesting for those of us without an overlarge literary sweet tooth. Honestly, the only beef I have with the premise of the story is the time-travel aspect. As a sci-fi buff, I’m used to the tech being explained, and–unless I missed it somehow–the reason why an Etruscan tomb can mysteriously transport a pair of modern girls into the past is never explained. I realize it really isn’t the point, and honestly, it doesn’t really detract from the story since you’re kind of distracted after Marcello and Luca arrive, but still…I WANT TO KNOW!!!

All in all, though, it was an excellent series, and I really, really, really, really hope Lisa gets to write more of it. Also, I’m jealous of her romance writing skills. 🙂

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Book Review #5 – The Curse of the Wendigo

I’m going to try to make it a habit to do positive reviews for the most part. However, tonight I don’t really have any other YA to discuss. Since I read a lot of other things outside of YA, my field is somewhat limited. Which is why I’m reduced to reviewing this…thing. Before I start, a disclaimer…I do not like the horror genre. Sure, I read Bruce Coville when I was nine, but I somehow doubt that counts. Why was I even reading the book if I don’t like the genre you ask? Because I thought it was steampunk instead of gothic horror. And, oh, the pain when I discovered it wasn’t…*sobs*

The first beef I have with Wendigo is the level of goriness. I didn’t sleep for the next two nights after I read the confounded book! Two nights! And I’ve been in a cadaver lab twice, done extra credit dissections in school, and been in Youth Group with a nurse fond of sharing work stories. That should tell you something about the level of detail Rick Yancey puts into his work. He has a disconcerting way of creating word pictures in your mind that you just can’t unsee, regardless of how much you want to.

Secondly, I got the impression that Yancey is one of those authors that loves to read his own words, and therefore uses a lot of them. Even when they don’t need to be there. Beyond the description (*shudders*), there was a vast amount of exposition that didn’t appear to have a point other than the author trying to share every single facet of his characters. And when I’m wondering where exactly the cannibalistic monster is going to eat someone again, I don’t care much about Professor Whatshisface’s loneliness or his relationship with his assistant.

I will admit that it was a good plot that held the reader’s attention outside of the exposition chapters. The suspense was palpable and very good throughout the book. Also, the setting was impeccable as far as capturing the atmosphere of the late 19th century and the attitudes of an era caught between old superstitions (which just might be true) and encroaching science (which isn’t very helpful).

 

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Book Review #4 – Ella Enchanted

Well, I made it back into the land of wifi safely, and returned to find a couple more followers and likes on posts. Thanks, y’all! I appreciate it greatly. Now, on to business; shortly before the trip, I discovered Gail Carson Levine and therefore ended up reading Ella while I was away. Yes, I’m aware that I’m quite a few years behind the curve on this one, but still, I loved it. Her writing style, her world-building, her romance…*sigh*. To borrow a phrase from my Italian-spouting friend, belissima!

The plot revolves around the daughter of a wealthy merchant who was cursed by a ditzy fairy at birth. Her curse? To be completely obedient. The problem? Ella is a rebel. The bigger problem? It doesn’t matter who gives the orders (whether it be an ogre or a stepmother or stepsister or a handsome prince), she has to follow them. Regardless of the cost.

First of all, I really like Levine’s voice and style. I actually read Fairest (one of her later books) first, and the voice was consistently great through both books. Very relatable, funny, and altogether quite charming. Also, she immerses you in the world she’s put together; her descriptions are so natural and interesting that they pull you into the story so deeply you don’t even notice the break in the action. I would love to be able to steal that style and that level of writing ease.

As for the characters, again, they were great. You feel so sympathetic for Ella’s plight. I think everyone has had some situation where they had no choice, but to do as they were told, whether they like it or not–a job, jury duty, eating your vegetables. Whatever. We all know what it’s like in moderation, but having to do it all the time? With every order, no matter how ridiculous? *shudders* I also loved Charmont. Typically, in this type of book, the heroes can be rather flat and supremely unattractive, but Prince Charmont was very sweet, quite intelligent, and likeable (If a little too perfect for the average teenage boy. But I intend to ignore that bit and hold onto the fantasy of such a creature for a while.) And, on a side note, his name is French for “Charming.” Therefore, Prince Charming has made his way into this Cinderella adaption. Sneaky, sneaky, Levine…

The plot was also good. Since this was in essence a retelling of a classic, you could somewhat safely predict a happily ever after, but until the end, you weren’t entirely sure how it would go down. Throughout the plot, there were only a few points that I was iffy about, one being that Ella didn’t seem inclined to even try to elude her step-family’s orders as she did earlier in the book, and two, the whole reason for Ella’s father losing his fortune. I have some difficulty believing that a merchant as rich and influential as he apparently was would be so foolhardy as to get himself in that sort of trouble. Still, neither point was hugely distracting, and the end was quite satisfying, so they’re sort of moot points. All in all, good story. Great story, in fact.

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Book Review #3 – Ripper

My apologies for the lack of cover art. I already returned the book.

The story is told from the point of view of Carver Young, an orphan without the slightest idea of who his parents were. Carver is also an aspiring young detective who tries out his skills every chance he gets, from picking the lock on the records attic to ferreting out a thief in the ranks of the orphans. Therefore, it should have been a dream come true when he’s taken in by Albert Hawking, a former Pinkerton agent. However, Hawking is no dream. As Carver adjusts to living in an insane asylum (Hawking’s home), a nightmare descends on New York. A nightmare that just might be connected to Carver’s hunt for his father’s identity.

Ah, Ripper…this one goes on my list of favorite YA. It blends a lot of my favorite elements into one nice, neat, readable package. For starters, it’s heavily steampunk. Underground bases, electric cars, stun rods, and lockpick gizmos: I’ll take one of each, please. Secondly, historical characters inserted into fiction. Jack the Ripper, naturally, Teddy Roosevelt, and Allan Pinkerton are all major players, and I think Petrucha did a good job with them. Granted, that may just be my geek side coming through. Those are some of my favorite historical characters.

The characters were all quite well done, as well. There were times when Carter’s skull density irritated me, but for the most part it was good. I loved Hawking. He was such a smart, smug, old curmudgeon who always had a trick up his sleeve. Very fun character.

As far as plot goes, it was an interesting concept. The ending was somewhat predictable once you got a ways into the book, but it was still very, very enjoyable. The writing style and description was excellent, and carried the book in the few places were the plot seemed a little predictable. As I said, the gadgets and the characters had a way of adding twists that you wouldn’t expect and that turn something rather predictable into an entirely new ballgame. There was a lot of action, plenty of intricate escapes, and on the whole, it made for a fun read.

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Book Review #2 – The Horror of the Heights & Other Strange Tales

Before I actually start the review, I wanted to say thanks to you folks who subscribed within the first three days of the blog even existing! Not only is it gratifying, it makes me happy. Gracias, mi amigos y/o amigas!

Now, for the fun stuff. First off, I love Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and pretty much the whole body of his work. The Lost World is officially my favorite, but his short story collections come in a close second. They were so off-the-wall and varied that you never exactly know where he’s headed with his tale. Not to mention that the chap’s perfectly brilliant.

Image(Also, I like the cover art. I’d rather like to dive into that world and stay there forever.)

In this particular book, some of his more popular short works are showcased, as well as a few of the more obscure ones. But they’re all fantastic, so I would advise you to read them all! My personal favorites are “The Brazilian Cat,” “The Leather Funnel,” and “The Parasite.”

For anyone who doesn’t know (due to dear Sherlock’s popularity), Arthur wrote far, far more than just detective stories. He was one of the early Victorian science fiction writers, and, in my opinion, one of the best. In “Horror of Heights” alone, he touches on aliens, mind control, zombies, and mummies who come back to life and insult archaeologists.

Obviously, the tone of the stories is going to be a bit more narrative-heavy than a modern collection simply because of its time-frame, but Conan Doyle did keep a better balance of showing and telling than most of his compatriots did. It’s much easier reading than Jules Verne or H. G. Wells. There’s also a lot of subtle humor woven in to keep things interesting. Now, on to a few of the strange tales themselves…

In “The Parasite,” Doyle addresses the power of the mind when Professor Gilroy finds himself under the thumb of a woman by the name of Ms. Penclosa, a known mesmerist. But that’s what a mesmerist is hired for, right? The only problem is that this one is no longer just entertaining. And she won’t let go.

In “The Brazilian Cat,” Marshall King discovers just how nasty family can be, particularly when money and panthers are involved. As a bankrupt bachelor with no hope of getting by on his own, Marshall does what any self-respecting Victorian does–he contacted his cousin Everard about an extended visit. But Marshall hasn’t the slightest idea of what he’s in for.

In “The Leather Funnel,” Doyle seems to be channeling Warehouse 13 a hundred years before it showed up. A leather funnel appears to be inducing terrible nightmares in anyone who dares sleep in the same room with it. Why?

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Book Review #1 – The False Prince

Typically, I’m a bit leery of fantasies. I read them, but I go in expecting them to turn cliched and more about how well the author can describe a dragon scale or name a magic sword than about character or plot. Jennifer Nielsen, however, may have just changed that.

The story comes from the point of view of an orphan, Sage, who is in the act of absconding with a slightly-too-large roast as the tale begins. His grand theft dinner is foiled by a nobleman, Connor, who also seems intent on foiling Sage’s comfortable–if dismal–life. Intrigue builds as the story unfolds to reveal poisoned royalty, missing princes, and potentially deadly competition. A competition for the throne battled for by twenty nobles…and three orphans? The only problem being that not a one of them has any legal claim on the crown. Or do they?ImageOne of the primary things that really captured my attention was that The False Prince really didn’t read like most of the fantasies I’ve come across. It had a sharp, engaging tone that really made me want to hang around and see if any of that wit would rub off. That unpredictability really fit the character of Sage (who, I might add, is now a favorite on a long list of fictional favorite people).

And that brings us to Sage himself. In a phrase: Oh. My. Goodness. He’s defiant, he’s sarcastic, he’s self-reliant, and probably the ultimate problem child. Yet at the same time, he has a soft-spot. Whenever he sees an injustice (and there are plenty to spot), he goes through the roof and generally makes life miserable for the naughty people responsible. At the beginning of the book, he has a solid Look-out-for-#1 mentality, but by the time you hit the last page, Sage is noble, self-sacrificial, and even a little humble.

But he’s smart. He is always smart.

The plot was also rather smart. There have been a lot of “lost royalty” and “royal impersonator” books popping up in teen and juvenile fiction lately, but this was a really nice blend of those two. Not only were the tone and character fresh and original, so was the plot. Well done, Nielsen, well done (not that it means much from a unpublished teen, but still…)

Another thing I really appreciated about the book was the ending. The necessary twist came on late, but you could sort of pick up a glimmer of what it would be beforehand. It was a brilliant way to deepen the character, as well as make you love him all the more, and it set the stage for an utterly beautiful climax. It wasn’t a shocking climax( as with the twist), but it was incredibly satisfying. I was sitting there, figuring what would happen and flipping pages (yes, I did read them, not just skip to the end) like crazy just to get to that point so I could root for Sage. It was sort of like the ride to the peak of a roller-coaster, knowing what’s going to happen, seeing it coming, and bouncing in your seat waiting for it.

All in all, I adored the book. Jennifer Nielsen was utterly brilliant and I can’t wait to see more of her work.

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