Showing posts with label Maria V. Snyder. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Maria V. Snyder. Show all posts

Monday, January 14, 2013

More minis - The Folk Keeper by F. Billingsley, Poison Study by M. Snyder and The Garden of Happy Endings by B. O'Neal

Once again, these are mini reviews of books that came from my personal library.

The Folk Keeper by Franny Billingsley was my last book read in 2012.  After reading the neurotic cat humor book that I found somewhat less than humorous, I felt like I needed to quickly read something I loved to end my year.  I figured that The Folk Keeper was a good bet, since Chime by Franny Billingsley was one of my favorite books in 2011.  

The style in both books is very similar; both are fantasy and in both cases, Billingsley doles out clues slowly and sparingly so that it takes a while to figure out where you are and what's going on . . . but in a good way.  You know how sometimes it can be terribly frustrating to have an author keep too many secrets from you, but at other times it feels more like a mystery is slowly unfolding and it's more of an adventure?  The Folk Keeper was the latter.

I am so impressed with Franny Billingsley.  The Folk Keeper is a middle-reader about a girl masquerading as a boy to get the job of Folk Keeper -- a person who keeps the harmful Folk at bay.  Taken from the foundling home by a dying Lord, she is transported to a manor where she will continue her job as Folk Keeper in the cellar.  But, there are new dangers near the seaside and there is much that Corin/Corinna doesn't know about herself.  Scary and original enough to compete with a Gaiman, with a bit of magic and even a tiny touch of romance.

Highly recommended - a dark, mysterious, atmospheric book, beautifully written and deliciously creepy.  The Folk Keeper was the perfect read to end 2012 and would make an absolutely wonderful read for the annual R.I.P. Challenge.

Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder is actually Kiddo's book.  I noticed Snyder has a more recent series and since Kiddo has read two of her series and enjoyed them, I bought him the two newer titles for Christmas then asked if I could read one.  Instead, Kiddo shoved Poison Study into my hands.  Here's what Isabel has to say about Poison Study:


Obviously, she missed some key discussion points.  Poison Study is about Yelena, a woman who is reprieved from a death sentence for murder when there's an opening for the job of food taster to the Commander of Ixia.  Not only must Yelena take her chances with the potential for poisoning (because there is no escape), she must also keep her eyes out for the people who want to kill her for the murder she committed.  Plus, she's got a little bit of a magic problem -- a touch of magic in a place where magical ability alone is a death sentence -- and she's haunted by the ghost of the man she killed, a very nasty man who deserved to die.  Just so you know Yelena is a cool chick.

There were things I disliked about the world of Poison Study, but once I became accustomed to it I loved the story, even though I thought it bore some similarities to the only Snyder novels I've read: Inside Out and Outside In.  A super-tough heroine who sometimes doubts her own strengths and abilities and gets beat up quite a bit, plus a very evil bad guy and at least one character who is not what he or she seems were the common denominators I recognized.  Regardless, I loved Poison Study and actually had a little trouble switching gears when I picked up the next book.  Poison Study was my first read in 2013.

Highly recommended - A very entertaining read with numerous dilemmas, a touch of magic and an action-heavy plot.

The Garden of Happy Endings by Barbara O'Neal is a book I won in a drawing, last year, after a friend's gushy recommendation just happened to coincide with a blog drawing.

In The Garden of Happy Endings, minister Elsa's world is rocked when a young girl from her church is murdered.  Unable to help her church family through their grief because she is having her own crisis of faith, Elsa leaves Seattle to spend time with her sister, Tamsin, and her former fiancee, Joaquin (aka, "Father Jack") in Pueblo, Colorado.

In Pueblo, Elsa stays busy helping build a neighborhood garden and serving in Father Jack's soup kitchen while helping her sister through a crisis of her own.  There are a lot of personal crises in The Garden of Happy Endings, some really scary trouble with gang members, a few poignant moments with parishioners and a bit of a romance.

I liked The Garden of Happy Endings but I didn't love it and I can't quite put a finger on why. There was just something about the writing style that bothered me a bit, I suppose, or perhaps it was a little too predictable.  Regardless, The Garden of Happy Endings is an engrossing story that explores some deep topics and which contains a surprising amount of conflict of both the internal and external varieties -- stuff happens, in other words, and yet there is a nice balance of darkness and light.  While the book addresses God and faith, it's not a preachy book.

Recommended - A nice, light read about life, love and faith that is very difficult to put down. I'd recommend The Garden of Happy Endings for beach reading.

In other news:

  • We went to Les Miserables for the second time, this weekend, and loved it just as much on the second viewing as the first.  I really, really need to read the book.  But, mostly I just walk past my copy and sigh.  
  • I read about a study in which diet soda was implicated for causing higher incidences of depression in regular drinkers.  Huh.  In the same study, they found that regular coffee drinking reduces depression.  So, I bought a coffee maker.  I need all the help I can get. 
  • I've photographed some recent arrivals but a "book box" has just arrived at my house, so I've got a few more to snap.  I'm in an online group that holds group swaps, you see.  We just pass a box around.  Each person removes a few books and replaces those removed with an equal or greater number of books -- usually ARCs, but not always.  Fun!
  • Isabel got her shots recently.  She weighs 9.1 pounds.  That makes her the smallest cat I have ever been owned by.  I was wondering if Vans (she's a rescue and obviously not a breed but a distant relative of the long-haired Turkish Van) are unusually intelligent because she is also the smartest cat I've ever owned. So I read up a bit and, sure enough, she fits the description perfectly.  Vans love water, are very energetic explorers, play hard and sleep hard, are people cats and are fiercely intelligent.  One of Isabel's favorite games keeps me running to change her water frequently.  She likes to drop her dry cereal in the water bowl, just so she can fish it back out.  
  •  It's cold and rainy, perfect reading weather. Happy Monday!

©2013 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery and Babble or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Mini reviews - The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron, Are You My Friend Today? by Gyo Fujikawa and Outside In by Maria V. Snyder

We're getting perilously close to Christmas, now, so it's time to knock out a few minis and then, hopefully, finish up the rest of the book reviewing I need to do before going on my annual holiday blog vacation.  

The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron is a very unique Young Adult book that takes place in Victorian England.  Katharine Tulman has been sent by her aunt to her uncle's massive estate, where she is given the job of committing him to an asylum so that the estate will not be frittered away before her fat cousin comes of age.  Katharine feels she has no choice but to handle this unsavory job.  Although her aunt has generously taken her in, Katharine is treated like a servant and assumes she'll be cast out into the streets of London if she doesn't follow through.

What she discovers is beyond her imagining.  Her uncle is a childlike inventor and the maintenance of his estate supports over 900 people who were plucked from poverty. Katharine opts to take her time getting around to her task, but strange things are happening.  Is Katharine in danger? What will happen to her uncle when tragedy strikes?

Recommended for adventure, a truly unusual story and constant twists and turns.  If you love a plot-heavy book with a touch of romance, The Dark Unwinding is an excellent choice.  The author's first novel is, however, not without problems. If you're a die-hard Anglophile, you'll know right off the bat that the author is not British without even reading her bio.  Still, the language and some minor things I disliked about the setting were not enough to convince me to set the book down.  I love an action-heavy book and enjoyed The Dark Unwinding for the constant surprises, even if there were little things I didn't love about it.  Also, I'm crazy about that cover.  I think it's beautiful.

Are You My Friend Today? by Gyo Fujikawa is a book I've put off reviewing because I don't love it.  I'm so accustomed to falling completely in love with children's books that I guess it surprised me a bit.

Are You My Friend Today? is a book about children playing, fighting, laughing, eating, dreaming.  It's a beautifully illustrated book.  But, some of the pages are very "busy" -- the kind in which it's necessary to point at a particular bit while reading the text, so a small child knows exactly which part of the layout you're describing.  Not all of the layouts are busy in that way; and, at times, I felt like I was totally swept into the beauty of this picture book, so although I didn't adore the book, I did like it.

Because of those particular page spreads that have a lot going on, I recommend picking up the book and flipping through it before purchasing.  I had one child who loved a busy book; he could quietly entertain himself in a corner, just flipping through a book that was heavily illustrated, for a stunning amount of time.  My other child couldn't bear clutter.  So, Are You My Friend Today? is a book that will likely suit some adult readers and the children they love more than others.  It really does have gorgeous illustrations, but is recommended with advice to peruse the book before making your decision.

Outside In by Maria V. Snyder is the sequel to Inside Out (see my review of Inside Out, here), a dystopian Young Adult novel.  In Outside In, Trella has become frustrated with her part on the committee set up after the lowly "scrubs" have won their rebellion over the "uppers" with whom they share a cubicle living space.  

Please be advised that the following bit may contain some spoilers and should be avoided if you haven't read Inside Out.  

In the first book, Trella discovered the secret to her world and that it was far larger than the inhabitants realized.  In Outside In, construction to expand into the empty space she discovered has begun.  But, the former uppers and scrubs still think within the old terms; those who were accustomed to being crammed into the lower levels think of the uppers as privileged snobs.  The uppers, meanwhile, think of the former scrubs as lesser humans.  This results in a lot of infighting as well as difficulty to get the two groups to cooperate on the building process.  

When they encounter a serious threat from outside their world, Trella has no idea who can be trusted.  But, she has to trust someone because she simply cannot deal with the danger on her own. And, boy, that danger is really hairy, toward the end.  There comes a point that you simply cannot turn the pages fast enough.

Outside In is every bit as action-packed and exciting as Inside Out -- the kind of book I love so much I know I'll want to reread it.  I highly recommend both Inside Out and Outside In to lovers of YA novels -- dystopian with a strong heroine, a bit of romance, a lot of questions and crazy-tense action.  Love, love, loved this book, an unusually satisfying follow-up book.  There are only two books in this "series", unfortunately.  

I bought my copy of Outside In in London and absolutely love the U.K. cover, although I can't tell you why.  It's probably a combination of the colors, the look of action (very fitting) and the "sci-fi" feel of the design. 

I have to stop to order a Christmas present and do some wrapping but hope to write up a few more reviews, this afternoon.  You know how that goes.  Sometimes it happens; sometimes it doesn't.

©2012 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery and Babble or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Inside Out by Maria V. Snyder

Are you getting tired of my heavy posting, yet? Sorry about that. I'm really happy to be nearly caught up on reviewing. One more review to go after this one!

Inside Out is a dystopian young adult novel about a young woman who lives in what amounts to a gigantic metal cube. There are four levels in the cube, two of which are reserved for the lower class people or "scrubs," the two upper levels for the higher class folks who are simply known as Uppers.

The lower levels are painfully overcrowded with scrubs. Trella is a scrub whose job is to clean pipes. Because she's skinny and solitary, the job is perfect for Trella. She often escapes to the pipes to sleep or just spend some time alone, away from the masses. Thanks to her exploration and knowledge of the pipes, vents, elevator shafts and spaces between, Trella is known as the Queen of the Pipes.

Introverted and firmly convinced that she doesn't like people, Trella does have one very close friend by the name of Cogon. When Cog talks her into hearing a "prophet" speak about his belief in a door to the outside world, Trella isn't interested.

****Warning: I'm trying to keep this review as general as possible but it may contain some spoilers. If you plan to read Inside Out anytime soon, you might want to skip the next paragraph.

You have been warned. ****

But, when the Pop Cops (Population Control officers) find and arrest the prophet, Trella begins to question her skepticism. Why would the Pop Cops grab the prophet if he didn't have something to hide? With only seconds to save the prophet and Cog already rushing to the rescue, Trella makes a decision that will thrust both of them into a dangerous search for the truth.

****The safe version begins here. Skip this sentence if you've read the potentially spoilery paragraph****

But, then something happens to change her mind and Trella makes a decision that will thrust both of them into a dangerous search for the truth.

Is there a hidden door to Outside? What is beyond the walls of Inside? And, why is the exit being hidden from the scrubs, if it exists?

Did you skip the spoilery paragraph? Well, good for you (either way). It's good to know your mind.

First things first. I loved the immersive experience of Inside Out. Trella's world is grubby and terrifying, but surprisingly believable. I can't tell you what Trella and her growing army of information seekers discover without ruining the story for anyone who hasn't read it, but like most dystopian young adult books, the world of Inside is horribly messed up, change is inevitable, and it will take some potentially deadly, surreptitious, clever and violent action to bring about that change.

Although Trella has no interest in leadership, she has a compelling reason to seek answers (which I'm not going to share, sigh). Trella initially risks her life for The Compelling Reason but eventually her priorities expand to bettering the lives of the people she lives with and overthrowing the powerful people in charge. In the process, Trella must face her feelings, her prejudices and the unknown truths of her world head-on.

Inside Out is a remarkably uncomfortable book -- frightening enough that I'm a little surprised I didn't end up having nightmares. There's this thing called the Chomper, you see. If you really screw up, you're fed to the Chomper and recycled. Everything, in fact, is constantly cleaned and eventually recycled. There are some pretty strong hints about what's outside, but I was still surprised when the answer to the crucial question was revealed.

One thing's for sure. Inside Out will make you appreciate what's outside your door and the freedom to step outside any time you so desire. This is not outside my door, but I'm sure you get my drift.

There is a sequel to Inside Out called Outside In and I am anxious to read it, but Inside Out was a Borders close-out purchase and they didn't have a copy of Outside In, unfortunately. I've added Outside In to my wish list and it may end up being my first real e-book purchase (all the e-books I've downloaded, so far, have been bargain priced or free).

A terrifying dystopian world, a young, stolid heroine who must fight her instincts and a fascinating, marvelously twisty plot make Inside Out a winner. Highly recommended. There is a good deal of violence but none of it is superfluous, in my humble opinion. The dystopian world of Inside is so desperately awful that it's a case of the proverbial peasants forced to rebel in order to instigate change.

Inside Out is the first book I've read by Maria V. Snyder but it will definitely not be the last. Fortunately for me, Kiddo is a fan and already owns both the Glass and Study series' by Snyder.

©2011 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery and Babble or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.