Featured List

What I'm Reading: Quick Reviews

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

What I've read since my last book review:
(all links to Amazon)



A trio of quirky siblings that brings A Series of Unfortunate Events to mind star in this delightful, quick read. (I finished it in one sitting.) I especially love the narrative style, which is written from one of the sibling's POV - but you have to guess which one. Without spoiling anything, I will say I have some complaints about the twist ending, but nothing severe enough to make me regret the choice. Definitely pick it up if you have the chance!



The Blue Sword

Robin McKinley was one of the authors mentioned most frequently after my review post, so I went hunting for her at the library. If I hadn't been seeking it specifically, I never would have picked up The Blue Sword; the older cover has that slightly cheesy 80s look that plagued fantasy fiction of the time.

The story itself also seems dated, in as much as it has a slower pace (it gets interesting around page 50) and an almost painful predictability. The attempt at romance was also incredibly weak. That said, I did like the story, as it reminded me of some of Tamora Pierce's work, and in many places the prose reads like poetry. However, for someone used to the faster pace and more dynamic character growth in today's YA fiction, I'd recommend Pierce's books over this any day. (Sorry, guys!)

[Note: I've since discovered through Amazon & Goodreads that nearly everyone else in the world considers The Blue Sword to be The Most Amazing Book Of All Time, and it's won tons of awards, and people have called it "life-changing," so take my review with those huge grains of salt.]




This was also recommended by one of you readers for its great art and a plot that revolves around an astounding automaton that actually exists in real life.

The story would be perfect for parents to read with their kids. It moves quickly, and at times the simple pencil drawings are used to move the story forward for many pages without any text at all - a neat creative twist.

The only problem I found is that none of the characters are very likeable - the hero Hugo least of all - which was a big hurdle for me since I need someone to root for. Still, it was worth the read if only so I could discover the Maillard automaton. (OMIGOSH SO AMAZING.)


Stay tuned for more, or check the comments here for more of your fellow reader's recommendations!


Also, because it's a FAQ - I *do* have a Goodreads account, and have had one for ages, but I haven't had time to update it much the past three years. Since I plan to post my reviews here from now on anyway, rest assured you aren't missing anything. It's a great site, though, and I highly recommend it.

Posted by Jen at 2:08 PM Labels:

111 comments:

  1. The Blue Sword is much slower to get started than The Hero and the Crown, but if you're willing to take another chance on her, I'd highly recommend picking it up, and again, I can't recommend Beauty (the early version) enough - it's by far my favorite of her books.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Old automata are so amazing! This one doesn't do as much, but it's 250 years older:
    http://www.radiolab.org/blogs/radiolab-blog/2011/jun/14/clockwork-miracle/
    (there is a video on the page if you don't want to listen to the podcast about it!)

    ReplyDelete
  3. She speaks bookery, and I leave the lurker's shadows to squint at the sunlight.

    It's been years since I've tried Blue Sword, and it just didn't work for me.

    Beauty (the original, not her rewrite) was one of the books that made me decide I wanted to be a writer. I will always own a copy of it. It reads like the First Novel that it is, but I love it more than peanut butter.

    I'm with you on the likable protagonists. Many's the book I've stopped because the MC's character didn't work for me, regardless of whether or not they were dangling betwixt the slavering jaws of trained alligators at the time.

    I'm not sure if you're aiming at the YA'ish audience (or even taking recommendations) but if you've not read The Wee Free Men (the first Tiffany Aching book by Terry Pratchett), it's my favorite of his books and one I'll be buying my nieces once they get old enough for chapter books.

    And I never, ever tire of Mercedes Lackey. I want to be her when I grow up.

    ReplyDelete
  4. The third book on your list brought to mind a really good book I read a couple years ago that you might like - The Automatic Detective by A. Lee Martinez. It's like a film noir mystery from the point of view of a robot. Not YA (although the content is YA appropriate, if I recall correctly), but definitely a fun read!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Sometimes people leave reviews of books which, for them, are tied up with a lot of memories of times/places which are meaningful, and it may blur their memories of the books themselves - I know a lot of people who never re-read books (this horrifies me!) and so they may mis-remember them.

    And some people are just not picky and will read and enjoy anything. Myself, given that time for reading feels scarce these days, I am starting to be more discerning - I give things ~50 pages or 3 chapters. Grab me within that, or I am moving on.

    Thanks for the Tamora Pierce recommendation last time, I hadn't read her in AGES (I read the Alanna books in Junior High) and I did re-read the Song of the Lioness books as taking a first look at Trickster's Choice.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Divergent is my current YA book to recommend. I really couldn't put that one down and I'm looking forward to the sequel.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Since I love The Blue Sword, The Hero and the Crown and Beauty, now I really want to try the Tamora Pierce books. :-) I didn't care for A Series of Unfortunate Events but I might try The Kneebone Boy, anyway, if it's a speedy read. Whoa, that automaton is pretty nifty!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Sorry another McKinley fan girl here. Beauty is by far my favorite as well but The Blue Sword is a close second. Additionally for something of hers that's much more adult oriented try Sunshine.

    ReplyDelete
  9. INCREDIBLE! Thanks for the automaton links! ;D

    ReplyDelete
  10. @ Tami - I love Wee Free Men! Tiffany Aching is such a fun character - I think I've read all of Pratchett's books about her.

    @Reneesance - I liked The Blue Sword well enough to give Beauty a shot, considering all the positive reviews - so it's on my list!

    ReplyDelete
  11. My 10 year old daughter has check Hugo Cabret out of the library 3 times now - it's by far her favorite ever.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I haven't yet read "The Blue Sword", but when I was a young teenager I read "Beauty" and I *loved* it. It was the first fantasy I had ever read (and for the longest time, the only fantasy I liked... please, no one flame me. I'm just not into fantasy!! I keep trying...). So I highly recommend "Beauty" by Robin McKinley. (Incidentally, I also have "Sunshine" by the same author. My sister got it for me because it's a vampire novel. It's fine. I didn't get into it like I had hoped.

    The first book you mention in this post (The Kneeborn Boy? Is that right? Now I gotta go back and look...) looks really good. I think I"m gonna have to pick it up for my son. :)

    ReplyDelete
  13. I just looked and I didn't make any recommendations last round. *spanks self*

    I only have two that I didn't see anyone else recommending.

    1) Ash by Malinda Lo This is a retelling of Cinderella and it is fantastic. It's sweet and romantic and not traditional at all and just lovely.
    2) The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex This makes me laugh so hard that I end up thinking that I'm going to vomit. Is that a good recommendation? Probably not. This makes me laugh so hard that I cry - and that's just thinking of it, not actually reading it. There. That's better.

    Both have female protagonists who are extremely likable.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I also should echo the recommendation for the Tiffany Aching books by Pratchett, as well as the whole Discworld series (only the Tiffany books are YA, though).

    ReplyDelete
  15. I read Miss Peregrine's last week, thanks to your recommendation, and it was great. I'm starting The Hunger Games today...I've heard so much about the series, I can't wait to get into it!

    Thanks for these book reviews, they're very helpful. I don't have Goodreads, but I have Shelfari and I love it. It's a great way to keep track of what I've read and what I want to read.

    Looking forward to more reviews soon!

    ReplyDelete
  16. @Jen

    A note of caution on Beauty - someone who didn't grow up with it critiqued it as feeling very rough. Much of my delight in it might be nostalgia.

    Then again, I'm a sucker for a fairy tale rewrite, particularly Beauty and the Beast.

    ReplyDelete
  17. I second the Sunshine recommendation, and would also add in Chalice for a recent Robin McKinley.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Followup to my last comment:

    Ten Reasons to Read Smekday (minor spoilers)

    ReplyDelete
  19. Jen, I'm with you on The Blue Sword--I love Robin McKinley so much and it was just disappointing. Ah well, not everyone needs their life changes by a book ;)

    ReplyDelete
  20. i know what you mean about unlikeable characters kinda making it hard to read a book. i dropped mists of avalon for that reason - as a lover of myth i tried to devour arthurian stories, but gwenivere (spelling? meh) always pissed me right off. and i tried to like mists of avalon but she was such a passive whiney mcwhinerson that i threw the book across the room, never to pick it up again.

    and re. Robin McKinley - heresy! though i guess you're entitled to your opinion. she's more into building character than fast-pacing. though you should try her take on sleeping beauty - Spindles' End - as well as her newest book - Pegasus (sequel to come sometime next year, i think). don't give up on McKinley yet :)

    ReplyDelete
  21. I want to thank you for your recommendation to read Soulless. I really enjoyed the witty humor and interesting take on vampires and werewolves. Thanks! Keep them coming :) -jenni

    ReplyDelete
  22. There are lots of Mckinley that I like Rose Daughter (the second Beauty and the Beast), Spindle's End, Outlaws of Sherwood, A Door in the Hedge..........at least worth a read from the library or used book store...

    ReplyDelete
  23. I don't know if I recommended it last time or not, but Biting The Sun by Tanith Lee is one of my favorites. It's set in a sort of futuristic utopia where you can live forever, and spend your life in leisure and pleasure while robots and androids do all the work and management. The story is told like a journal entry from one teenager in the society who feels restless and unhappy and her journey to figure out what is wrong.

    I first read it as a teenager and I just finished it again, I still love it every time I read it.

    ReplyDelete
  24. I have a recommendation and a request.

    My recommendation are the Septimus Heap books by Angie Sage. The thing that first caught my eye was actually the covers of the books as well as the unique spelling of the titles. While an easy read, and perhaps predictable, I still found them to be very enjoyable. =) I'm actually considering putting them on my to-buy list.

    My request - if anyone happens to know of a series of books I read sometime in the late 80's/early 90's. I cannot remember the titles or the author (hence my dilemma, lol!), but I'm pretty sure it was set of four books. If I remember correctly, each book was loosely associated with a season and a color (something with a name like yellow autumn). It was set up something like a saga, where it followed the lives of a family who were settling in or around Pennsylvania. I also remember that I checked them out from the children/young adult section of the library and that they were actually pretty long novels for that section. Thanks so much!

    ReplyDelete
  25. I just read the Kneebone Boy and loved it.
    I agree the i did not see that ending coming at all, but the cool tone of the narrative made it up for me.

    ReplyDelete
  26. I think The Blue Sword is one of the few Robin McKinley books I haven't read. My favorite of hers - and my favorite vampire book - is Sunshine. Far better than any other vampirical books out there nowadays ;)

    ReplyDelete
  27. I agree that The Blue Sword is kind of slow, but I love McKinley's other books. Sunshine is my absolute favorite of her books.

    ReplyDelete
  28. I can't believe no-one has recommended the Mortal Engines quartet by Philip Reeve. Are they not published in the US?

    Simply put it tells the story of Tom Natsworthy, an apprentice historian aboard London. You see in this post-apocalyptic world cities move, propelled by huge traction wheels, constantly seeking smaller cities to prey on.

    Containing reanimated mechanical men, airships, steam guns, pirates, underground movements, parasitical cities and far reaching conspiracies.

    These are best post-apocalyptic, steampunk novels I have ever read.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Correct me if I'm wrong but didn't they make a movie set to be released later this year based on Hugo?

    ReplyDelete
  30. Why do I feel like I won the lottery because you chose to read one of the books I suggested?

    (little girlie voice squealing in delight--weeeeeeeeee!) ; )

    I am just sorry I did not clarify better--I recommended "The Invention of Hugo Cabret" not for an amazing story or characters, but just for the very inventiveness of the book itself, which I thought you would appreciate. I completely agree about the characters not being as likable as one would wish--there is something too melancholy, too reserved about the main character himself that does not lend well too identification, but I think the artwork and the story function so well as a complete device.

    But so glad you enjoyed the automaton!

    Now, I hope I did not scare you away from my other recommendations! Or some of the older titles being recommended by other readers. And looking back over the original suggestions, I wonder if anyone recommended Madeline L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time. I did not mention it because people of MY age consider it such a fiction/fantasy no brainer--but your comment about modern YA made me realize I should not assume the same books are being read nowadays. (Ok, I'm not THAT much older--39--but even 10 years makes a big difference in current literature). "Wrinkle" is a classic, and you will like the main characters!

    Your comments about the Robin McKinley book also made me realize that we are now into a whole new generation of YA sci fi/fantasy readers, and they have been raised on the slicker, faster-paced YA fiction like Harry Potter. . . I wonder if some of the titles that your readers recommended with such glowing terms will be found "dated" or "slow-paced" or harder to get into by this new generation of readers because of the difference between how fantasies were written even thirty years ago compared to now.

    So, maybe reading the older titles with the expectation of stepping back in literary time would make getting into them a little easier. I think all the titles I recommended are slower--but if you can slow down for them, they are so worth it!

    That being said--not as any criticism, but as encouragement to you and your readers--everybody's tastes are different, and I must love slow-paced books! And I so enjoy hearing your honest thoughts about these books, so please do keep reviewing and tell keel telling us what you really think. : )

    ReplyDelete
  31. I adored "The Hero and the Crown" by Robin Mckinley but never could make it through "The Blue Sword." I must have read that book at least twenty times. It was right up there with Tamora Pierce.

    Some other authors I like are Tanith Lee (The Unicorn series), Dawn Cook (The truth book especially), and Sherwood Smith (The Wren series as I haven't had the chance to try her Crown series).

    ReplyDelete
  32. I don't know if anyone posted this recommendation on the last book review, but one of my favorite authors of YA fantasy is Lloyd Alexander. When I was younger, an older family member recommended the Chronicles of Prydain to me and I instantly fell in love. They're pretty quick reads, but the story and the characters are great. I love that they're mostly based off of Welsh legends. Another book of his that I love, though, is called The Iron Ring, which draws on completely different traditions out of India and eastern traditions.

    ReplyDelete
  33. I always thought The Hero and the Crown was tons better than The Blue Sword. I read my copy of Hero until it was falling apart as a young girl.

    ReplyDelete
  34. Read 'Beauty'. Much better than the Blue Sword.

    ReplyDelete
  35. While I adore Beauty by Robin McKinley, I would also recommend Dragonhaven, which is somewhat less popular based on Amazon reviews, to my great confusion. It's a little snappier and has more action than a lot of her books.

    ReplyDelete
  36. If you want a fast-read, I'd recommend the Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer. They aren't quite YA, they are geared for a slightly younger audience, but they are fun and funny. It mashes science fiction, criminal enterprise and fantasy. There are currently 7 books in the series, here is a link to the first book: http://www.amazon.com/Artemis-Fowl-Book/dp/0786817070

    ReplyDelete
  37. Personally, I never got through The Blue Sword and I tried a few times. Please don't judge McKinley by this book. Try her book 'Sunshine'. Long but worth it, especially for those Twilight fans that were tired of returning to high school. Also enjoyed her book 'Chalice' as well as the collection of short stories 'Door in the Hedge'.

    ReplyDelete
  38. Oh, and one thing that might help you get into the "historical" mindset of the oldest books I recommended you might try (because they were influential to so many wonderful fantasy writers of the next generation), the George MacDonald fairy tales--they were written smack dab in the middle of the Victorian period, which makes them likely candidates for what your Steampunk heroine would herself have been reading! ; )

    ReplyDelete
  39. I think your problem with The Blue Sword was that you went in expecting YA. I readily admit to my bias, as The Blue Sword's been a favourite of mine since I was 8, but I do think Robin McKinley is phenomonal. I love her almost fairy tale style. However, for something a little different, you should read Sunshine, also by Robin McKinley. IT IS NOT YA. The story and writing are complex, and it is not a quick read, but it is just wonderful. It blows other vampire books out of the water, even Anne Rice's. Though prepare to rage over the lack of sequel(s).

    And because I've just redicovered this series and my love of it myself, check out the Marmawell Trilogy by Martine Bates.

    And (sorry, I'm on a roll here), you may have heard of, or better yet seen, the new show A Game of Thrones. I highly reccomend the books it is based on, though if you just watch the show that's great too. :)

    ReplyDelete
  40. I second the emotion for Robin's other books, and I'd like to throw Sheri S. Tepper (who also wrote a book called Beauty)and Connie Willis out there.

    ReplyDelete
  41. You know that Hugo is going to be a movie, right? I saw the previews recently!

    ReplyDelete
  42. If you haven't read anything by Juliet Marillier (Daughter of the Forest is the best one to start with) you are missing out! She is one of my all-time favs! Set in ancient Ireland (think druids and celtic mythology and such), it can take a while to get into, but trust me, it's worth pushing through. Another fantasy fav is The Fionavar Tapestry by Guy Gavriel Kay. Oh, and if you feel like laughing you've got to try The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde. It's a fantastic parody of, well pretty much all literature. And how can you not like a book about a girl named Thursday Next?!

    ps. I'm excited to try out some of yours!

    ReplyDelete
  43. oh oh Blue Sword, one of my everlasting 'keep to reread' books that I pull out once a year and reread! That one, Hero and the Crown and my absolute joy by Robin McKinley - Deerskin. The last is sad as heck at the start, you want to beat things up, but amazing nonetheless!

    Deerskin

    ReplyDelete
  44. I'm a Shelfari.com person myself. I'll have to take a look Goodreads.

    What I'm reading now: Ruby Red by Kirstin Gier. It's about a girl who's genes make her accidentaly slip into the past. Her main worry is that one day she'll be standing on the 7th floor of a present time building, slip through time, and find herself falling 7 stories into a cornfield where the building will one day be built. Kind of a fun perspective.

    ReplyDelete
  45. Def will agree that Hugo was a good read! My son read it first and then passed it over to me. I think I have made a better connection with my kids thanks to the power of reading!!

    Kim

    ReplyDelete
  46. Okay, it's not fantasy and it's old, but if you've never read it do please read "The True Confessions of Miss Charlotte Doyle". It was one of my favorite books as a kid. It's high seas adventure with a strong female heroine (who as i remember her is definitely likable.) :). :).

    ReplyDelete
  47. I LOVE The Blue Sword. Your comments on it made me want to read it again.

    ReplyDelete
  48. The Blue Sword was my least favorite book of McKinley. Hero and the Crown was much better, but Deerskin was by far my favorite.

    ReplyDelete
  49. I've found a lot of classical heroes are very unlikable... Alice and Dorothy most of all. Rude little girls they were, and expecting everything to go their way, and throwing a tantrum if it didn't...

    ReplyDelete
  50. I just finished the Matt Cruse series and LOVED THEM! Also picked up Leviathan and enjoyed that. Waiting for my son to finish Behemoth so I can read it next :)
    Have you ever read "Airman" by Eoin Colfer? I think you would really enjoy that one!
    Also, Brandon Sanderson has some pretty awesome books - my friends all loved the Mistborn series but I loved Elantris!
    Keep the book suggestions coming! Always looking for a good read!!

    ReplyDelete
  51. I wouldn't feel bad about not absolutely adoring The Blue Sword. The one book review that I've written that I still get comments on every few months is one by the same author that I really didn't like and felt was not up to the promise of the premise. Every few months or so I'll get another random person commenting that I obviously didn't read it right, or I was just confused, or what have you.

    I think she's an author that is just that way. I think people are frequently drawn to the premise or the setting of her books (which is always wonderful) and start to ignore problems with the writing and characterization when they exist. I've read some of her books that I just adored, and I'll still give anything she writes a fair shake. But about half the time I feel like they don't deliver on what could have been done with the world she created.

    ReplyDelete
  52. I second any recommendation for Terry Pratchet. If you've read all the Tiffany Aching stuff he also wrote "The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents" and the Johnny trilogy ("Only you can save mankind", "Johnny and the Dead", "Johnny and the Bomb")for YA audiences. The Johnny books are a bit dated, since they were written in the 80's and have references to the Gulf War and Thriller, but if you remember that stuff they're great.

    Neil Gaiman also has some fabulous for younger readers. "Coraline" comes to mind, I have yet to pick up "The Graveyard Book".

    ReplyDelete
  53. I always recommend Jasper Fforde books to people who read a lot, especially his Thursday Next series (starts with The Eyre Affair). The books are hilarious and filled with allusions to-and interactions with-a thousand other books. The main character is a smart, sassy woman with a pet dodo, both of whom you can't help but love!

    ReplyDelete
  54. Just wanted to let you know that we purchased "Ms. Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children" for my daughter and she LOVED it. Thank you so much for the recommendation. It might have even overtaken her previous favorite reads, "The True Meaning of Smekday" and "The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet." If you haven't read those two, she recommends them!

    ReplyDelete
  55. You should read The Sisters Grimm, by Michael Buckley

    It is more of a YA series but it is definitely something you would enjoy :)

    Same with East, by Edith Pattou

    ReplyDelete
  56. Beauty, Deerskin, and Sunshine are my favorite Robin McKinley books (in that order). The Blue Sword was just not as good.

    I also want to throw in The Lost Years of Merlin series by TA Barron. Fast read, and I liked it quite a bit. It is different from everything that I had previously read about the Merlin legend.

    ReplyDelete
  57. I didn't see this in the comments, but is the Hugo book the one coming out as a movie soon? It sounded very much like a trailer we just saw. Looks and sounds like a god story.
    Amanda

    ReplyDelete
  58. I LOVE The Blue Sword. I think the big romantic speech (which isn't big but is definitely romantic) is the sweetest thing ever. I'm trying really hard not to be spoilery. As a preteen, I liked The Hero and the Crown much more than The Blue Sword, but as an adult, I really changed my mind. (Of course I still love The Hero and the Crown!)

    ReplyDelete
  59. I'd like to add my voice to the others who have been saying that The Blue Sword is not my favorite McKinley and that her other books are definitely worth giving her another try. I would recommend Rose Daughter or Pegasus if the world of The Blue Sword wasn't your cup of tea, but I have to say that The Hero and the Crown is my favorite of hers. McKinley is definitely on my list of authors who create quality rather than quantity and I pre-order her books as soon as I know about them. I also was fortunate enough to meet her last month and she was very nice and her answers to questions about her books showed how thoroughly she understands the worlds she creates.

    ReplyDelete
  60. Just dittoing the recommendations for 'Deerskin' (which will break your heart) and Jasper Fforde (who will not.) Very different books, very different directions, but really wonderful reads.

    ReplyDelete
  61. You should look into Patricia McKillip books. She writes fantasy and does so absolutely beautifully. Though I haven't read all of them, the ones I have read have been really good so I imagine the rest of them would be good too. Try In the Forests of Serre

    ReplyDelete
  62. Mary, I don't recognize the series you are looking for, but I have a TON of success finding mystery stuff like that over at BookSleuth. Just post what info you have and other members help you track it down; they usually figure mine out in a couple hours!

    http://forums.abebooks.com/abesleuthcom

    ReplyDelete
  63. I would have to say your review of the Blue Sword is spot on. But I also loved the book. Its worth the slow beginning. :D

    ReplyDelete
  64. To Previous commenter. Septimus Heap, a nice easy ready, and I enjoyed the first few alot. However I was ver pregnant and crazy while reading them. The latest two installments were really disapointing. The story and characters stop moving forward. My biggest beef is there are just too many characters to follow them all, especially when several are big parts of one book and get two pages in the next. Alot of the characters are very unlikable. It echo's Harry Potter too much too. It's enjoyable, but not great.

    ReplyDelete
  65. Totally not youth fiction, but if you ever get the chance, read "Till we have Faces" by C.S. Lewis. Simple story, but beautifully told, and so much depth. I read it about once a year, and what I glean from it changes every time.

    ReplyDelete
  66. The Blue Sword has to be my least favorite of Robin McKinley's books. My favorites by her are The Hero and the Crown and Beauty they are both more fast paced than The Blue Sword. So if you are willing to try her again I highly recommend them!

    ReplyDelete
  67. Hm, looks like I'm not the only one who wasn't impressed by The Blue Sword. I wasn't a huge fan of Deerskin, either, but that may have been more because the incest storyline bothered me than because of the writing. Otherwise I can only add to what everyone's already said - I consider Beauty to be the definitive telling of the fairy tale, Sunshine is smart and sexy without making its vampires oversexed, and The Hero and the Crown has a female coming of age and killing dragons storyline that would make any feminist happy.

    I've recently fallen in love with Guy Gavriel Kay. He's really a poet who makes a living off of semi-historical fantasy, and it shows in his writing. It is definitely beyond a YA reading level! He makes me cry at least twice per book, once for beauty and once for the loss of beauty. I picked up Under Heaven on a whim and it turned out to be one of the most original books I've read in a long time.

    ReplyDelete
  68. Oh gosh, the boy with the silver hair and scarf on the cover of the first book reminded me of Russia from Hetalia, haha.

    ReplyDelete
  69. I just discovered Heck: Where the Bad Kids go by Dale E. Bayse. The covers caught my eye in the bookstore of all things but its fun so far.

    I have not read them yet but I downloaded a sample of the first Cherie Priest book, Boneshaker and I must admit I am a little bit hooked.

    Another I keep recommending is Allison Hewitt is Trapped, by Madeleine Roux. Its about a woman stuck in a bookstore writing a blog during a Zombie outbreak. I loved it!

    Happy reading!

    ReplyDelete
  70. i am so glad someone recommended the sisters grimm!!!! i read this series on the suggestion of a friend who loved them and now i love them as much as she does!!! currently there are 8 books and the 9th and last one is supposed to be coming out very soon. they are humorously written with some parts that made me laugh out loud and some parts with just enough drama. the main characters are extremely likable and had me rooting for them the entire series. i seriously recommend the sisters grimm!!!!!!
    -kate

    ReplyDelete
  71. You should try The Girl in the Steel Corset

    ReplyDelete
  72. Please read The Bartimaeus Trilogy!
    I really think you would like it.

    ReplyDelete
  73. I don't know if the YA book Fly by Nights been mentioned but it's very good. It almost has a steam punkish feel. Its based in an alternate timeline in a world where reading is against the law.

    ReplyDelete
  74. hi Jen! I'm not sure if anyone has suggested yet for you to read any of Jacqueline Carey's novels...I think Kushiel's Dart is the first. She's a little more of an adult writer with that there are some racy bits but I thoroughly enjoy her work. Also I did see Mercedes Lackey mentioned before and I would second that recommendation as well. Her Elemental Masters series is awesome. Oh and I guess one last one is if you enjoy Neil Gaiman you should check out Richard Kadrey who is similar in style but a little grittier. I love seeing your recommendations and have a nice new list of books to check out so thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  75. One of my very favorite series of YA books is "So You Want to be a Wizard" by Diane Duane. She also writes Star Trek books, but I love her YA fiction. I also like "Wings" and "Spells" by Aprilynne Pike. And of course, I strongly recommend Madeline L'engle. I think her books should almost be recommended reading.

    ReplyDelete
  76. Thank you, Ms. Grymm! Can't believe I forgot Cherie Priest, who is fricking awesome (and wrote most of her stuff while living near my hometown)! Her Eden Moore series is great and Boneshaker's the book that got me hooked on her writing. I think you would like her Fathom and Dreadful Skin, too.

    ReplyDelete
  77. Oooh, I'll have to try and read some of them soon, thanks. :)

    Have you read any of Raymond E. Feist's Magician books? (the first one was great, the rest of the trilogies followed) And the Empire series he wrote with Janny Wurts was pretty good too. :)

    Another plug for Isobelle Carmody (can't wait til the final books are published this & next year - I've been reading since high school (um, a long time ago))

    And the Poison Study series was fun.

    And for a short, non-fantasy book - have your read Q&A by Vikas Swarup? I think there was a movie made of it but I couldn't bring myself to watch it because the book was amazing and I've yet to enjoy a movie when i've read the (good) book.

    ReplyDelete
  78. I loved Robin McKinley as a teen, but I do find her harder to read now. Beauty will always have a soft spot for me due to the description of the library. I want that library.

    I have been reading The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel by Michael Scott it's a series, starting with The Alchymist about Nicholas Flamel in the 21st century and a pair of potentially magically gifted teens.

    I loved Tamora Pierce, and devoured all the books my library carried (not many it was the late 80s) and as a result also read Darkangel by Meredith Pierce (next on the shelf). It's a trilogy, set on the moon, about a vampire and a serving girl who replaces her mistress as his 14th wife. I remembered it as a weird weird book for many years, and then it was re-released. Still good still not of the norm.
    I'd like to put in a good word for Tom Holt as well- an english writer who does funny things to myths and legends- kind of a fantasy Hitchhikers Guide vibe. More British specific than Pratchett, and set in our world, but coming from some of the same places.

    And Kage Baker- her Comapny series is excellent- time travelling cyborgs and a conspiracy to rule the world. It begins with In the garden of Iden. It takes a while to get into the really nutty stuff, and I would read book 2 after books 3 and 4 but really engrossing books. These are not YA.

    ReplyDelete
  79. Kudos to those who suggested the Wee Free Men, The Eyre Affair, Daughter of the Forest, and The True Meaning of Smekday. All wonderful reads more than worth the trouble in finding them. Absolutely go read them all.
    Robin McKinley isn't for everyone--no one is--and while i remember The Blue Sword fondly, it isn't one of my favorites of hers. It was a very early book for her (though Beauty is her first and i still prefer it), and i think she's grown as an author since then. Plus what was ground breaking in the 80's ("Oh my god! A strong female protagonist whose greatest asset isn't her ability to make men swoon!") is much more accepted now.
    For those with a fondness for fairy tale rewrites, Donna Jo Napoli has written a large set of very well crafted ones (though Breath is really depressing). And anyone with a fondness for poetic prose who hasn't read Patricia McKillip (start with her standalone works, especially The Winter Rose and Od Magic) is missing out. She has a unique touch with the language.

    ReplyDelete
  80. OMG! Nightmare fuel!!! Sorry. I'm not big on anything in a jester suit with a creepy face. *shudder*

    ReplyDelete
  81. The Hero and the Crown is so much better than The Blue Sword. I hope you'll give that one a try.

    ReplyDelete
  82. My favorite Robin McKinley is a tie between Beauty and Chalice. Both are fairly slow romances, though. You might prefer her short stories in Fire and Water.

    ReplyDelete
  83. Yet another vote for The Hero and the Crown -- I read that one first, and probably wouldn't have liked The Blue Sword at all without it. (that said, TBS is definitely my least favorite of the two.)

    ReplyDelete
  84. I really enjoyed The Blue Sword and still do, but I also love Victorian "borderland" novels (Talbot Mundy, H. Rider Haggard, Kipling, and S. M. Sterling's homage to the same). Slower character and scene development is a feature, not a bug, in that genre. And count me in as another who really loved The Hero and the Crown!

    Tamora Pierce! I started when Alana first came out and I'm still reading them. And Mercedes Lackey as well.

    Deerskin and the Kushiel books are not YA as I define it because of their sexual content. I place YA as 7th grade to age 17-18, so I may be way behind the times on that. Deerskin is a very thought-provoking and well-written book, but I'd have to give a lot of consideration to a teenager's maturity before I recommended it to him or her.

    LittleRed1

    ReplyDelete
  85. I read The Blue Sword only after reading The Hero and the Crown many, many, many times -- I didn't get into it enough to ever go back and reread it. But I LOVE The Hero and the Crown -- it's one of my all-time favorite books.

    I've been reading mainly sci-fi this summer, probably in reaction against my schoolyear literature classes -- I have read and enjoyed Jasper Fforde's Shades of Grey and the story collection Machine of Death, edited by Ryan North. I found them both really compelling.

    ReplyDelete
  86. I just ordered "The True Meaning of Smekday" from Ebay. Found a great deal. Looking forward to laughing so much that it hurts.

    ReplyDelete
  87. I have not read The Blue Sword, but I found Beauty (her adaption of the Beauty and the Beast story) to be one of the best books I have ever read. It takes the original story, expands upon it and makes it head and shoulders above Disney's version. (And the original version, in my opinion. I did not like the wicked sisters in the original.)

    ReplyDelete
  88. It's okay, you're not alone in your opinion about McKinley. ALL her writing is like that--sometimes, it's worse (don't pick up Chalice. Ever). Which is sad, because the ideas behind just about everything she writes vary between "this sounds good/right up my alley" and "this is the most interesting thing EVER" but the slow-pace thing never goes away, and she's overly fond of mentioning a tidbit tangentially related and then never following through (In : "this other mythical creature also exists alongside dragons and I will reference them multiple times throughout the story but never actually explain what they are!"), and she's so wordy that the story can get lost.

    ReplyDelete
  89. Okay... one more suggestion... "Dealing with Dragons" by Patricia C. Wrede. The story of a princess who does NOT want to be a princess. So she goes to live with the dragons... and gets rid of all the princes/knights who come to "rescue" her :)

    ReplyDelete
  90. Princess Academy is another delightful book!

    ReplyDelete
  91. I bought The Blue Sword about a year ago just because it was somehow a sequel to The Hero and the Crown, which is one of my favorites. I'm with you on The Blue Sword, though...it was kind of a letdown.
    I know you've had lots of suggestions, but the Enchanted Forest Chronicles (Dealing with Dragons) is definitely worth a read! And something I haven't seen anyone else post is the Diadem series by John Peel. :)

    ReplyDelete
  92. The Invention of Hugo Cabret is a great read for a kid. It won the Caldecott award a few years ago for best illustrations in a children's book. There is a Martin Scorsese directed movie to be released shortly. It stars Jude Law.

    ReplyDelete
  93. If you've never seen them, you should check out the Griffin and Sabine Trilogy and the Morningstar Trilogy by Nick Bantock.

    I adore these books because they are so interesting to look through. There are all sorts of things to open and take out and read to continue the story... It's like really looking through a journal or something with letters kept in it...

    ReplyDelete
  94. One of the other commenters mentioned this book, and I've got to second its nomination. The Girl in the Steel Corset: The Steampunk Chronicles, by Kady Cross. I just purchased a Nook Color the day before yesterday, and after buying a couple books, one of the top recommendations for me was this one. I only just started reading it, but it's already Sooo good!

    P.s. you'll be pleased to know (if you didn't already) that both epbot and cakewrecks work splendidly on the Nook Color. :-)

    ReplyDelete
  95. If you enjoy automata, then I DEFINITELY recommend checking out the Morristown Museum in NJ. It houses the Murtogh D. Guinness (yes, that Guinness) collection, which includes over 700 historica musical instruments and automata. About 150 pieces of the collection are displayed at a time, and they are presented in an absolutely gorgeous fashion that allows for alot of interaction. If you stay for the daily tour they will actually go and play some of the automated instruments for you, and operate some of the automata. It is truly a wonderful musuem with a bevy of Victorian and turn of the centry automata included.

    ReplyDelete
  96. I LOVE "The Blue Sword", mostly because it's nostalgic, I read it about 10 times in 3 years. It's the book I've read most, just above Philip Pullman's Dark Materials Series.

    ReplyDelete
  97. I just finished reading a more recent book by Robin McKinley, "Chalice." I highly recommend it.

    ReplyDelete
  98. Just BTW, the movie based on Q&A by Vikas Swarup was Slumdog Millionare--and I think the book was better than the movie!

    ReplyDelete
  99. Robin McKinley has some really great books but I didn't really like the BLue sword that much... I'd recommend Spindle's End which was by far the BEST retelling of Sleeping Beauty that I've ever read

    ReplyDelete
  100. On the Robin Mckinley front, she does have a tendency to be a little slower-going than a lot of other authors, but I feel it's a worthwhile trade-off for have such a rich and complete world and a good vocabulary throughout. That said, if you didn't like The Blue Sword all that much for the pacing, you'll hate Chalice and probably not enjoy Deerskin much. You should try more of her work, though. Hero and the Crown is spectacular, but being the older book it is, there are tropes to it that read as predictable in thise modern age. For her fairy (and other) tale "rewrites", the two I cannot recommend more highly are Spindle's End (satisfyingly long, a twist on the original, likeable characters) and Outlaws of Sherwood (really fleshes out the characters of Robin Hood and makes the story truly believeable, and the romance actually works in this one). But my absolute favorite McKinley book is Sunshine. Yes, it's about vampires. But, also? It is about baking. I think the word cinnamon appears in the book just as often as the word blood. It's set in an alternate near-future, is decidedly more adult, but has magic, vampires, weres, etc. done spectacularly with relateable characters.

    Another book I recommend highly is Evil Genius by Catherine Jinks (I'm pretty sure on that author name, but if it's not that, it's something close). It's the story of a boy who discovers his father is an imprisoned megalomaniacal genius who has a school that is basically an Evil Genius school, but the pacing is great, the characters who are "good" are pretty likeable, and it is full of bits that you feel insanely intelligent having understood. There's a little bit of going trope happy with it, but largely it is an excellent piece of young adult literature that seems to be written a little more for grown-ups who like YA lit.

    Another one I feel I should recommend if Susan Cooper's The Dark Is Rising sequence. It is a well-thought-out story and the writing is pretty decent, but the pacing is a little slow and the writing does sometimes leave you a little confused about what actually happened for a certain event. It's very British at times, but it's a classic.

    ReplyDelete
  101. For a younger crowd, but The Princess and the Goblin and The Princess and Curdie, both by George MacDonald.

    ReplyDelete
  102. I agree with everyone who said they prefer The Hero and the Crown to The Blue Sword. I also like Spindle's End and Beauty, but THatC is my true McKinley love.

    In a similar vein, you might give Juliet Marillier a try. I eally like her stuff.

    ReplyDelete
  103. Had to pipe up about McKinley. I enjoy her other work but I agree with you: I just didn't like "The Blue Sword." The different influences (British colony adventure! No, fantasy! Archetypal training of the young heroine! Brooding hero and spunky heroine fall for each other!) combined into a mess rather than something cool. That said, echo the love for "Beauty." I'm also partial to the stories in "The Door in the Hedge" and her collaboration with Peter Dickinson "Water: Tales of Elemental Spirits." I was also impressed with "Deerskin," but be forewarned she's hitting the dark uglies underneath the sanitized fairy tales with that one.

    That said, I've been reading this site and Cake Wrecks for a while. Love the work, thanks for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
  104. Since the Matt Cruise books by Oppel and Leviathan/Behemoth by Westerfeld have already been mentioned, I don't need to exhort you to read them.

    If you've never read any of Connie Willis' scifi, I most heartily suggest you do. Bellwether is a quick, adorable and charming blend of science and romance and humor. To Say Nothing of the Dog is a time travel/romantic comedy; for a darker, thoroughly excellent take try her Doomsday Book.

    Lisa Mantchev's Theatre Illuminata trilogy is marvelous (so far; I've not yet read the third). Eyes Like Stars is the first in the series.

    What you really, absolutely MUST get your hands on is Megan Whalen Turner's Queen's Thief books. The first, The Thief, is told in first person. Gen is a delightfully unreliable narrator. There are stories within the story and truly excellent twists. The second book, The Queen of Attolia, moves to third person. Again: fantastic character work. Twisty turns. The third is my favorite so far, but the fourth is also excellent. Seriously, these are my literary crack. I reread and reread and can not get enough. :)

    ReplyDelete
  105. I liked the Sword Dancer Series better ( by Jennifer) and i also recommend anything by Robin McKinley! Outlaws of Sherwood is one of my alltime favs especially!

    ReplyDelete
  106. Really, ANYTHING by Patricia C. Wrede. I just adore her. Matter of Magic is a Regency romance/fantasy. The same with Sorcery and Cecelia, which grew out of a letter game that she played with Caroline Stevermer. Also loved her Enchanted Forest Chronicles and her Lyra novels, especially Shadow Magic and Daughter of Witches. I just finished Thirteenth Child and Across the Great Barrier...fantasy novels set in the Old West. Very cool stuff. She is working on the last book in the series called The Far West. And PLEASE, read Beauty by Robin McKinley. I just love that book!

    ReplyDelete
  107. I adore Robin McKinley, and have read most of her books, but I couldn't get through The Blue Sword. I would recommend sticking to her novel-length fairy tales. I also enjoyed Sunshine.

    ReplyDelete
  108. The problem with reading "the classics" years later is that everything seems so obvious and the plot is one that has been done to death. By the time most readers decides they want to explore the early works in a genre, they've already read the books of authors who grew up on the classics, and who were influenced by them.

    ReplyDelete
  109. Hi Jen,

    Are you on Goodreads? If so, what is your user name? I would love to keep track of your reviews there. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  110. A friend of mine wrote a YA book, Lightbringer by KD McIntire, and it comes out in November. She describes it as Twilight but with ghosts. And not crappy. I haven't read the final version, but I proofread the next-to-final draft, and I was annoyed when I got to the end of the book. That's my mark of a good book.

    ReplyDelete

Please be respectful when commenting; dissenting opinions are great, but personal attacks or hateful remarks will be removed. Also, including a link? Then here's your html cheat sheet: <a href="LINK ADDRESS">YOUR TEXT</a>

Related Posts with Thumbnails