The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel

The Boundless, the greatest train ever built, is on its maiden voyage across the country, and first-class passenger Will Everett is about to embark on the adventure of his life! When Will ends up in possession of the key to a train car containing priceless treasures, he becomes the target of sinister figures from his past.

In order to survive, Will must join a traveling circus, enlisting the aid of Mr. Dorian, the ringmaster and leader of the troupe, and Maren, a girl his age who is an expert escape artist. With villains fast on their heels, can Will and Maren reach Will’s father and save The Boundless before someone winds up dead?

boundless

I really enjoyed Oppel`s This Dark Endeavor, and heard many positive reviews about The Boundless when it was released in 2014.  It`s a suspenseful middle grade read, featuring avalanches, sasquatches, murders and more!

The majority of the story takes place on a Titanic-inspired train on a journey across Canada, Halifax to Victoria.  I enjoyed how it highlights Canada; from the trans-continental railroad, to the Mountie on board. Oppel didn`t shy away from portraying some of the darker aspects of Canada`s history, including the treatment of aboriginal people.  However, it wasn’t all historical; he also included a sasquatch and a muskeg hag.

Since it is a middle grade book, some may have concern for the age appropriateness of swear words (feck and jaysus), and the violence (a sasquatch tears off a man’s head and puts it on a spike).   Besides this, I think the book has wide appeal for both boys and girls.  So, hop on board The Boundless for a fast paced, wild Canadian, fantasy adventure!

Flights and Chimes and Mysterious Times by Emma Trevayne

flights Ten-year-old Jack Foster has stepped through a doorway and into quite a different London. Londinium is a smoky, dark, and dangerous place, home to mischievous metal fairies and fearsome clockwork dragons that breathe scalding steam. The people wear goggles to protect their eyes, brass grill insets in their nostrils to filter air, or mechanical limbs to replace missing ones. Over it all rules the Lady, and the Lady has demanded a new son—a perfect flesh-and-blood child. She has chosen Jack. Jack’s wonder at the magic and steam-powered marvels in Londinium lasts until he learns he is the pawn in a very dangerous game. The consequences are deadly, and his only hope of escape, of returning home, lies with a legendary clockwork bird. The Gearwing grants wishes—or it did, before it was broken—before it was killed. But some things don’t stay dead forever.

Although I’m not usually a fan of fantasy, this dark middle grade read was a wonderful exception.  The gorgeous cover featuring clocks, steam, gears, and goggles peaked my interest in this steampunk adventure.  Set in a mysterious alternate version of London, readers can expect portals, dragons, airships, mechanical faeries, and villains. Trevayne’s imaginative descriptions of this parallel world and the characters in them were well written.  A few black and white illustrations were spread throughout and enjoyed; minus the image on page 192 (I have no idea what it’s supposed to be).  My other critique is regarding The Lady.  All we know is that she desperately wants a human child. But why?  I think her character left some unexplored potential.

Overall, I could easily see this book being adapted to the big screen. The unique premise and the steampunk world building, create a page-turning fantastical adventure that would have high appeal to middle graders.

The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier

The Night Gardener follows two abandoned Irish siblings who travel to work as servants at a creepy, crumbling English manor house. But the house and its family are not quite what they seem. Soon the children are confronted by a mysterious spectre and an ancient curse that threatens their very lives. With Auxier’s exquisite command of language, The Night Gardener is a mesmerizing read and a classic in the making.

night gardener

This mysterious middle grade tale was such a treat inside and out! I loved the visually appealing cover, chapter title decorations and black outer pages. They hinted at the dark, spooky, Victorian ghost story that lurked between the pages.

Divided into three parts Arrivals, Pursuits, and Departures, the story surrounds two orphans that find themselves deep in the middle of a forest, in a strange house with a mysterious tree and night guest. It is a magical, yet creepy tale that reminded me of The Brothers Grimm and Neil Gaiman. Indeed, in the Author’s Note, Auxier acknowledges many influences in his writing.

The atmospheric story also has underlying themes of greed, honesty, loyalty and family. There are consequences and lessons to be learned. The power of storytelling is also explored through the travelling old woman- Hester Kettle. It is Hester that first tells Kip and Molly about the legend of “The Night Gardener”.

This excellent standalone is chalk full of intriguing characters and exciting suspense. However, be warned that there are some darker scenes (including death) and may not be suitable for younger readers.

Man Made Boy by Jon Skovron

Love can be a real monster.

Sixteen-year-old Boy’s never left home. When you’re the son of Frankenstein’s monster and the Bride, it’s tough to go out in public, unless you want to draw the attention of a torch-wielding mob. And since Boy and his family live in a secret enclave of monsters hidden under Times Square, it’s important they maintain a low profile.

Boy’s only interactions with the world are through the Internet, where he’s a hacker extraordinaire who can hide his hulking body and stitched-together face behind a layer of code. When conflict erupts at home, Boy runs away and embarks on a cross-country road trip with the granddaughters of Jekyll and Hyde, who introduce him to malls and diners, love and heartbreak. But no matter how far Boy runs, he can’t escape his demons—both literal and figurative—until he faces his family once more.

man

Prepare to embark on a journey that crosses all genres.  Fantasy, romance, and humour are all included in this techno-thriller that features various creatures, including the son of Frankenstein’s monster and the Monster’s Bride, Boy. As Boy struggles to find his place in the world, he quickly learns valuable lessons on responsibility and failure.

Initially, I was intrigued by the creative premise of the book.  How cool would it be if magical and mythological creatures were hidden in communes around the world?  While I enjoyed the multitude of characters, I found a lot of them made a quick cameo and didn’t add anything to the story.  I wish these interesting characters (Invisible man, Sphinx, Dragon Lady, Mozart the werewolf) were further explored!

Techies will love the computer coding aspect and the inclusion of VI (a computer virus). I liked the change up of text when Boy navigated cyberspace and participated in instant messaging chat.  However, my knowledge of hacking and coding is limited, and I found myself skipping over some of the lengthier descriptions of code talk.

Although Man Made Boy includes a variety of genres, potential readers should be made aware of the mature language and nonchalant mentioning of sex.   If you enjoy retellings or re-imaginings of classic stories, than perhaps Man Made Boy is for you!

The Madman’s Daughter by Megan Shepherd

 

In the darkest places, even love is deadly.

Sixteen-year-old Juliet Moreau has built a life for herself in London—working as a maid, attending church on Sundays, and trying not to think about the scandal that ruined her life. After all, no one ever proved the rumors about her father’s gruesome experiments. But when she learns he is alive and continuing his work on a remote tropical island, she is determined to find out if the accusations are true.

Accompanied by her father’s handsome young assistant, Montgomery, and an enigmatic castaway, Edward—both of whom she is deeply drawn to—Juliet travels to the island, only to discover the depths of her father’s madness: He has experimented on animals so that they resemble, speak, and behave as humans. And worse, one of the creatures has turned violent and is killing the island’s inhabitants. Torn between horror and scientific curiosity, Juliet knows she must end her father’s dangerous experiments and escape her jungle prison before it’s too late. Yet as the island falls into chaos, she discovers the extent of her father’s genius—and madness—in her own blood.

 

mad

Although I’ve never read H.G Wells’ The Island of Dr.Moreau, the book jacket synopsis of a Gothic thriller appealed to me. With elements of suspense, action, mystery and romance, I was immediately immersed in the story. The atmosphere and setting of a remote jungle island only added to the creep factor. Juliet’s father, the mad scientist, Dr.Moreau, makes for a perfect villain. I found it super easy to hate him (especially for his misogynistic views). His disturbing creature creations were so vividly described, that I fear I will come across them again in nightmares.

In terms of pacing, the plot does have some slower periods in the middle, which consists of walking/running through the forest, but for the most part, it held my attention. However, I could have done without Juliet’s love triangle, and her back and forth indecisive thoughts between Montgomery and Edward. Shepherd included a couple of predictable twists, but the last one caught me completely off guard. The action ramped up in the end…. eventually leading to the ultimate betrayal.  Personally, I don’t see the need for a sequel, but there is one in the works (expected publication January 2014). Recommended to those that like dark, twisted, Gothic reads.

Review: The Terrible Thing That Happened to Barnaby Brocket by John Boyne

 

terrible

Author, John Boyne (The Boy in the Striped Pajamas) teamed up with illustrator, Oliver Jeffers (The Hueys, Stuck) to bring juvenile readers this absurd, quirky adventurous story. Born with the ability to float, Barnaby embarrasses his ‘normal’ parents that are obsessed with being perceived as ‘normal’ by their friends and neighbours. In turn, his parent’s treat him terrible. Like, ignore him and hang him on a clothes line, terrible.  There is a conversation between Barnaby and his mother that will totally break your heart.  After instructing him to stop floating, she tells him, ‘Then, I’m sorry… But I have to say that I don’t like who you are very much” (p. 37).  At their wit’s end, his parent’s cut his weights and he floats around the world to meet other individuals that were sent away or abandoned by their families for also being ‘different’.

Although the characters in Barnaby’s travels all help in delivering the message that it’s OK to be different and true to oneself to be happy, the message got really repetitive.  When Barnaby was intercepted by the International Space Mission, I got bored and started to skim the text. And yes, it is a bizarre fantasy story to begin with, but I felt the space portion was so over the top and unrealistic.

Looking at my blog, I noticed that I’ve been reading lots of books with boy characters deemed different by society. I think the availability of books about embracing differences is fabulous, especially for growing readers looking for someone to relate to. I found the ending of The Terrible Thing… was perfect in sticking with the overall message of the book.  I wonder where in the world Barnaby’s next adventure awaits!

Unspoken (The Lynburn Legacy #1) by Sarah Rees Brennan

Kami Glass loves someone she’s never met…a boy she’s talked to in her head ever since she was born. She wasn’t silent about her imaginary friend during her childhood, and is thus a bit of an outsider in her sleepy English town of Sorry-in-the-Vale. Still, Kami hasn’t suffered too much from not fitting in. She has a best friend, runs the school newspaper, and is only occasionally caught talking to herself. Her life is in order, just the way she likes it, despite the voice in her head.

But all that changes when the Lynburns return.

The Lynburn family has owned the spectacular and sinister manor that overlooks Sorry-in-the-Vale for centuries. The mysterious twin sisters who abandoned their ancestral home a generation ago are back, along with their teenage sons, Jared and Ash, one of whom is eerily familiar to Kami. Kami is not one to shy away from the unknown—in fact, she’s determined to find answers for all the questions Sorry-in-the-Vale is suddenly posing. Who is responsible for the bloody deeds in the depths of the woods? What is her own mother hiding? And now that her imaginary friend has become a real boy, does she still love him? Does she hate him? Can she trust him?

unspoken

For some reason, I didn’t connect with this book.  There’s nothing that I disliked about it, it’s just nothing really stood out to me. I read it last week, and already it’s a little forgettable.  That being said, I know tons of readers that would completely disagree with me so I urge you to give it a shot!

Here’s what I did like:

-the character of Kami. She had all the personality traits that I like: smart, brave, vulnerable and strong.  For example, in reference to her relationships-“She did not want to drown in what was between them and lose control, or lose who she was (p.323)”

-pacing and plot- keeps readers guessing. Lots of action/suspense.

-dark atmosphere

-well developed secondary characters

-interesting silhouette cover art

-inclusion of girl friendships

-Book set up. I loved the table of contents at the beginning, highlighting the parts/chapters.  The novel is divided into six parts, and includes quotes by Robert Frost, Elizabeth Barrett Browning and others.  The quotes helped to set up the tone of the section.

Personally, I like my books to have some sort of resolution at the end. I think readers that were emotionally invested will be very unsatisfied and perhaps a little angry with the ending provided.  Readers will have to wait for the sequel ‘Untold’ to get the conclusion they crave.

Bookit Review: Ruby Red (Ruby Red Trilogy #1) by Kerstin Gier translated by Anthea Bell

Yay! My guest blogger, BookIt returns with a review of Ruby Red. Enjoy!

Ruby Red is the first book of a popular German trilogy that has been recently translated and getting great reviews. The first two books Ruby Red, and Sapphire Blue are available in English, and the last book Emerald Green will hopefully be released in English later this year.

ruby 2ruby

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From Goodreads:

Gwyneth Shepherd’s sophisticated, beautiful cousin Charlotte has been prepared her entire life for traveling through time. But unexpectedly, it is Gwyneth, who in the middle of class takes a sudden spin to a different era!

Gwyneth must now unearth the mystery of why her mother would lie about her birth date to ward off suspicion about her ability, brush up on her history, and work with Gideon–the time traveler from a similarly gifted family that passes the gene through its male line, and whose presence becomes, in time, less insufferable and more essential. Together, Gwyneth and Gideon journey through time to discover who, in the 18th century and in contemporary London, they can trust.

Gwyneth comes from a family of time travellers, in which the time traveller gene is passed down each generation to one female. They are then burdened with the mysterious responsibility of helping to complete a secret mission under the guidance and control of a secret society known as the Guardians. Right from the beginning you can tell that it will be the inexperienced and funny 16 year old Gywenth, and not her perfect and snotty cousin Charlotte that will end up with the gene. Although, predicable for the reader, it leads to a fantastic storyline in which you can’t help but root for the heroine as she learns the ropes of this new and exciting world in which she has been destined to play a crucial role.

I loved so many things book. Set in Britain, the British translator Anthea Bell, did a fantastic job of ensuring that the humor and language was authentic to the storyline. I even wondered if she helped to improve the original text.  Check out this link from Publisher Weekly in which she answers questions about translating metaphors, puns, jokes etc.

Overall,  if you are looking for an exciting time travel adventure with a splash of romance that will make you laugh you should pick up Ruby Red. I will say that it is light, sparse of agonising drama, with more of an end of middle school feel and thus could be recommended for the younger readers of teen fiction.

Overall it was a 4 out of 5 book for me.

Happy reading,

Bookit

Review: Magisterium by Jeff Hirsch

Goodreads: Sixteen-year-old Glenn Morgan has lived next to the Rift her entire life and has no idea of what might be on the other side of it. Glenn’s only friend, Kevin, insists the fence holds back a world of monsters and witchcraft, but magic isn’t for Glenn. She has enough problems with reality: Glenn’s mother disappeared when she was six, and soon after, she lost her scientist father to his all-consuming work on the mysterious Project. Glenn buries herself in her studies and dreams about the day she can escape. But when her father’s work leads to his arrest, he gives Glenn a simple metal bracelet that will send Glenn and Kevin on the run—with only one place to go.

Expected Publication- October 1st 2012

With a little bit of action, adventure, fantasy, and dystopian elements, this book has a little bit of something for everyone—except me.  It was an OK read but most of the time, I was utterly confused.   Many bloggers have pointed out the similarities of the book to Lord of the Rings (however, I have no idea if this is true as I’ve never had any interest in LOTR whatsoever!)

At first, I was intrigued by the two differed worlds of the Colloquium and Magisterium (land of magic) and how the main character Glenn was connected to both.  However, the lack of explanations really started to bother me and the questions began to rise.  I also didn’t enjoy the amount of unimportant secondary characters.   They didn’t really play a big role and it was like one minute they were there and the next gone.  In the end, the storyline pacing was just a bunch of really strange things happening really quickly one after another.  It felt like I was reading about Hirsch’s crazy dream or bad drug trip!

The ending was also not in any way satisfying.   I detest that kind of cliff hanger! I would LOVE to hear if you liked this book and why.  I’ve never read anything by Jeff Hirsch before, so maybe I just don’t get him or the story he was trying to tell.

Bookit Review: The Pledge by Kimberly Derting (Guest Post!)

I picked this title up when it was returned by one our avid teen readers. I don’t know how she has time to do anything but read with all the books she takes out. Oh what a life! I am jealous.

 

 

From Goodreads:

In the violent country of Ludania, the classes are strictly divided by the language they speak. The smallest transgression, like looking a member of a higher class in the eye while they are speaking their native tongue, results in immediate execution. Seventeen-year-old Charlaina has always been able to understand the languages of all classes, and she’s spent her life trying to hide her secret. The only place she can really be free is the drug-fueled underground clubs where people go to shake off the oppressive rules of the world they live in. It’s there that she meets a beautiful and mysterious boy named Max who speaks a language she’s never heard before . . . and her secret is almost exposed. Charlie is intensely attracted to Max, even though she can’t be sure where his real loyalties lie. As the emergency drills give way to real crisis and the violence escalates, it becomes clear that Charlie is the key to something much bigger: her country’s only chance for freedom from the terrible power of a deadly regime.

This book is described as a dystopian fiction novel, but it also ventures into the fantasy realm. Seventeen year old Charlie, nicknamed Chuck by her best friend Brook, lives in a world of hierarchy classes ruled by an evil queen with magical powers. I am a fan of both genres, but for those of you who prefer high-tech gadgets and more scientific explanations of the future you will find this text lacking. The dystopian aspects come in the form of mandatory ID badges and ranks, armed checkpoints, underground clubs and rebel hideouts. These aspects converge with the historical storyline of fallen kingdoms, anarchy, castle ruins, and Charlie’s quest to discover more about herself and her family. Charlie’s innate secret power to comprehend all forms of communication (from verbal and body language to ancient pictographs) is a blessing and curse.  When a war fuelled by rebels and outcasts breaches Charlie’s door-step, she is forced to re-evaluate the safety of the life she has always known and her own ideological beliefs.

Overall I liked the storyline of the book because it was fast paced and contained many of the genre elements I enjoy. Thus, it was a quick interesting read. However, it did not rock my socks off. I found some of the character relationships and story plot decisions not fully explained or rationalized. Although, Charlie posses this special communication power that should give her the ability to easily understand others, she discovers that her best friend and her own family has hidden many secrets from her. Also Max claims not to be interested in her because of her ability, but no other explanations are given, and their romantic relationship heats up quickly despite her inability to uncover the mystery of his intentions. Furthermore, the explanation as to why a ruling female monarch is deemed necessary in order for the country to live happily ever after is filled with wholes of inquisition.

After finishing the book I flipped to the front and read the acknowledgments. There I discovered that the premise for The Pledge and the character Angelina, Charlie’s little sister, came from the survival stories of a woman who lived through WWII as a child and had shared many of her experiences with the author. This real world connection can be used to bridge this book with other young adult war stories, and even create conversation about comparisons between Charlie’s world and our own. I was really glad my eyes feel upon this tiny portion of the book, and in the future I will definitely make sure I don’t just skim the acknowledgement section. You never know what you might find out, and where the inspiration for a story comes from.

I give it 3 out of 5 J

Happy reading,

Bookit

Previous Older Entries

Blog Stats

  • 31,910 hits

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 140 other followers

Goodreads

Check out my books on Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/user/show/3608158-brie