Book reviews


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I stared out the backseat window of the car as my parents drove me to Pendragon University.

I discovered a new book and instantly loved the title: Pendragon University. The author is also known as JenKristo on deviantArt, where I’ve mostly known her Transformers fan fiction writings. When I read the summary on the deviantArt Artist Comment that she had included, I wasn’t sure whether I’d like it or not simply because it featured a human teen in a school of supernatural teens, and when I’d read stories with a similar premise before, they sounded a lot like each other or not very well written. And everyone who browses a book to read wants to be engaged by the story, which means the writing has to be good, if not great. I am extremely happy to say that I found both the story of Pendragon University and the writing to be great. In fact, if I hadn’t known it was her first novel, I would have begun looking for her other books to read them, as well.

The third line reeled me into the story like a fish on a hook:

My sketchbook was on my lap, and I doodled on it unconsciously.

Because I draw and I write, was instantly interested in someone who was doing one of the same things that I do, and wanted to see what was next. The character doing the doodling was Darcy Hill, who turned out to be the protagonist. Darcy applied to a number of colleges, along with Pendragon University, when a pamphlet about their art department came in the mail. She has trouble with her grades in school, but is a marvelous artist – and to her surprise, she is accepted by the university. To add further mystery to the whole process, there is very little information about it aside from the fact that about three percent of all applicants are accepted while the rest are turned away. Most curious!

Within her first day of being at Pendragon University, Darcy is repeatedly asked what she is and her response, “an art major”, only seems to draw amusement. She eventually discovers that she has been accepted to an “inhuman university” – a university for paranormal individuals. The reason for her acceptance to the university, as a human, seems to be connected to Ulrich, a boy that she had encountered on her first day and that she met again in the fitness room. When she recognized the music he was listening to, he left and moments later the song came on over the speakers in the ceiling but he didn’t return. When she tries asking about him, she is not answered.

Darcy quickly learns the dangers of this new world when she runs into a werewolf that’s a member of the Lycan Guild, an anti-vampire pack (sort of like in the Underworld movies) and are going to kill Darcy, except a black shape appears and kills some of the Lycan werewolves, which drives off the rest, thus rescuing her.

This next part was really wild – suddenly we are in Spain of 1498, where a person is created: Pendragon. Pendragon’s first memory is of some young priests and a woman, who are making life from nothing. The woman becomes his mother; she gave him the body of a young man but he has the mind of a child. The woman puts pearls in his mouth and a dead grackle, a bird, on his back. As the pearls melt, the bird is absorbed, leaving two black marks until there is pain and two wings burst from his shoulders. In this snippet of Pendragon’s history, there wasn’t too much, and there wasn’t too little. It was one of those perfect little miniature cliffhangers that leave you wondering just what the heck happens to the character before you’re redirected to the rest of the story and must force yourself to be patient.

Pendragon is the architect who made the school buildings for Pendragon University, as well as Wyvern City and the various statues found in the school grounds. According to what we are told in the early stages of the story, he disappeared a couple of years previously, and all of the staff talk about him in the historical sense. Not a single one will tell the students if they have any clue as to what might have happened to him.

At this point in the story, it seems that all Darcy has to do is survive her time at the school, and possibly find out who Ulrich is and what it is that keeps saving her. Of course, it’s always the easy goals that hide the harder ones from sight.

Ms. Smallwood’s story had just the right bits of this and that to make a story that is completely seamless and refreshingly original, and I could not help but be inspired by her imagination at the same time I was busy admiring what she’d done with it. And while there was some romance in the story, it was not the main focus, and was written in a beautifully subtle way that I could completely believe.

I would like to give Ms. Kaitlin Smallwood a standing ovation, but I’m not sure how many others have read her wonderful book, and I can’t clone myself, so I shall just have to settle for applause. You have a wonderfully creative mind, Ms. Smallwood, and I look forward to your future publications: both your fantasy titles and your fan fiction ones. In the meantime, I shall just admire Pendragon University and its art.

Special thanks to my Aunt for buying this book for me, before it even occurred to me to start either doing my not-so-subtle-indirect asking, or just asking plainly. You’re the best, A.K.

And special thanks to my elder sister, Z, for assisting me with the editing of this reivew so that it could look as nice as possible.

If you enjoyed the Harry Potter books, or the Keys to the Kingdon series by Garth Nix, you will love this story, too. And the link to the Amazon page can be found by clicking on the cover at the top of this post.

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As You WishAs You Wish by Jackson Pearce

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

How to describe “As You Wish”? In one word, it is stupendous!

In another… outstanding!

In yet another, it’s outrageous (but only because Viola actually got mad at Jinn in the movie theatre). Using more than one particular word though? Give me a minute to tap my chin and attempt to look thoughtful.

Now, when I found out about Jackson Pearce (I still forget how that happened exactly but I don’t particularly care) I had mislaid my library card. So seeing as I couldn’t read her books, I watched her online videos. Not only do they make me laugh but they also impart wisdom on occasion. So when I found “Sisters Red” in my local bookstore when I went there for my birthday this year, I got it and read it and loved it! Two Little Red Riding Hoods running around waving a “Kill the Werewolves!” banner (okay I exaggerate, just one did that). Who wouldn’t be interested in this literary jewel? Yesterday morning for Christmas I unwrapped “As You Wish” and immediately started screaming!

Why? Because I had been looking for it forever … (maybe not forever but since I found out about Jackson Pearce a short while ago) and read that it was about a genie and a girl falling in love and that most certainly sounds fantastic to me. For some unknown reason, I seemed to think it would be like “Sisters Red”. It’s a good thing time machines haven’t been invented yet because if they had been, I’d have gone back to give my past self a kick in the pants. With “Sisters Red” I was hooked pretty-much immediately but “As You Wish” started with me feeling curious about the first sentence. By the end of the first paragraph, I was laughing as was my Aunt, my Grandmother, my Mom, and basically anyone else I showed it to. I couldn’t really read during the visit but I did manage to get one hundred and eighty pages in before my sister and my Mom mainly finished with what they wanted to say to our Christmas company. In those first hundred and eighty pages, I found that not only is “As You Wish” drastically different (what with the whole absence of any one-eyed sisters in red capes running around trying to kill characters) but I loved it even more than “Sisters Red” which I had not thought humanly possible. Even though I have never been in a situation that Viola has been in, I connected with her quite well with most of my internal dialogue during the book being “oh you poor girl, come here, let me give you a hug then let’s go out for some hot chocolate with whipped cream”.

Of course, I did have my moments where I got upset with Viola but if I told you those parts this would be a review containing spoilers, so let’s switch to Jinn. Otherworldly Jinn. Handsome Jinn. Mouthwateringly gorgeous Jinn… before I go on with the titles and possibly embarrass myself if I haven’t already, I should probably take an axe to that particular branch of this review. Jinn was not (to me at least) your typical love interest character. I mean sure, the genies you usually read about are either lamp-bound, stuck in some other world where they’re all the same and they love annoying magicians (think Bartimaeus) or other such stereotypes. Bartimaeus did create what Disney didn’t with what I thought of genies but I think Jackson Pearce replaced Disney so Bartimaeus is now balancing against Jinn. Jinn is funny and impatient to head home but even better…he is a florist! Or rather, someone who works for the florist. The way his friendship with Viola and Lawrence developed and how his feelings for Viola grew, were very well written. I find myself wishing that I had just so happened to sidle into the book and knock Viola into a cupboard so I could get a kiss from Jinn or something while his eyes were conveniently closed so he wouldn’t notice the switch.

The plot, the execution of the plot, the character growth and the overall moral theme was coupled with my previously monumental respect and admiration for Jackson Pearce and it skyrocketed into one of the tallest buildings in my head after completing this book!

All I can say is that I fervently hope there will be a sequel and that seeing as I have loved these two books, I can’t wait to see what her next book, “The Damn Historical Novel” turns out to be like.

Oh Jackson, let’s do lunch!

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Hi! So this review will be for two things, instead of one. Luckily for you (or maybe me) they are related. Awhile ago, around the time that Mr. DiTerlizzi posted on his blog about the sketchbooks for The Search for WondLa (only available to people who showed up on the WondLaful tour, if I remember correctly), I posted on my other blog about it. This post was more of a pity-party, seeing as I myself would not have been able to go to any of the places where he’d be appearing. Imagine my surprise when he used the contact form I’d set up to e-mail me  and told me that if I gave him my address he’d send me one of these sketchbooks!

The Search for WondLa sketchbook: title page

Oh my.... *faint*

Of course, having this on the inside only served to make me even more anxious than I had originally been about the publishing of the actual book. Until then though, I could look through the sketchbook and I could pretend to know everything about the characters when talking about them to other people. Sometimes I can be a little… odd, with my behavior :D The sketchbook went almost everywhere with me for awhile, until I remembered that it could possibly be torn or damaged by something like water or food, so I hid it in my shelf safely, between two art books by John Howe. From there, I’d pull it out and read it in my room, before carefully returning it. Did I mention that I would tell my friends about it and almost immediately after that I’d start telling them how I got it and that Mr. DiTerlizzi’s signature was inside, thanking me for being a fan?

Rovender Kitt sketches

I love all the designs that were made for Rovender.

The blurriness of this picture is unfortunate but I can’t seem to keep myself completely still when taking pictures. After awhile, I had to do other things and thus couldn’t bring out the sketchbook that often. Recently, as I said in my post “The Search is OverNa,” I acquired a copy, thanks to my Aunt, Miss Kitty (thank you once again). I couldn’t read it that night, seeing as I was watching Tomb Raider with Grandma but the next morning around ten I picked it up. The previous night, I had promised to put aside all other items on my list of books that I was currently working through and I did. With lots of interruptions, I couldn’t finish it within three hours at the most like I usually would with few distractions but I did get it finished that day. My Aunt couldn’t believe I’d finished it so fast and we talked about what WondLa was, which we both found to be delightful!

 

I adore the artwork in this book!

Rating: 5/5

Reason: The concept was simply delicious, and the artwork (with how it conveyed the mood of the scene so well) was excellent! The characters were very believable to me and the description of the world Eva is going through is astounding.

If my reason didn’t make you think I’m totally in love with the story, then maybe the fact that I was already hugging it to my chest and cackling madly before I’d even read it will inform you. I had read an eighty page preview on iBooks but I have to say the digital format does not hold a candle to having a physical copy of the book in your hands. The illustrations look better on paper, too. If you have read the summary for the book then you will know that Eva lives with the robot Muthr, and that their lives are disrupted when a bounty hunter by the name of Besteel comes and breaks into their underground home called a Sanctuary. Eva escapes up a vent in the kitchen but Muthr is caught by Besteel. For awhile, we don’t know what has happened to Muthr because Eva is the main focus.

Eva checks her Omnipod for messages, and finds one from Muthr, who tells her to get as far away as possible then signal another Sanctuary. Eva does not wait though, and sends out the distress signal while she is still very near where the vent comes up. This allows her to see the intruder (Besteel) when he comes up. Unfortunately for her, Besteel somehow figures out exactly what tree she’s hiding behind and shoots it with his sonic boomrod. A chase scene follows this and Eva eventually climbs up a tree. Besteel circles around its base for awhile until she throws a nutriment pellet to create a distraction. This works, and Besteel shoots off in the direction of the sound. Eva spends the night in the tree, and in the morning when she wakes up, she finds that she’s not in the forest anymore, and strange birds are around her.

The tree she’s on is moving, so she climbs off. In the distance, she sees weeping-willow like trees eating the birds, which her Omnipod can’t seem to identify. Which is odd, because it has all knowledge that mankind has in it, and its identicapture feature should be able to tell her what anything is. Of course, she believes she is on Earth, just like Muthr believes. When wandering around, she comes across another Sanctuary. This one is quite obviously abandoned. She calls down and a flock of flying crabs come out, which are promptly eaten by a whale. Eva initiates a LifeScan on the Ominpod, and it identifies some sort of life form, however, it can’t tell if it’s human or robot. This life form turns out to be my favorite character: Rovender Kitt.

After taking her Omnipod and going back inside the Sanctuary, Eva goes off on her own and gets stuck in some sticky plant, which he comes and rescues her from. Most unfortunately, Besteel finds them and captures them. Or maybe not unfortunately, seeing as this led to Eva meeting (and bonding with) Otto, and getting to understand Rovender, through use of a transcoder. Of course, at first she thought that he was trying to kill her with the ‘dust’ coming out of it, but it actually allows her to understand him and vice versa. I thought this idea was particularly cool, because I like the idea of tiny machines that can translate things for you. Now if only I actually had one…

The escape from the camp was harrowing, seeing as I kept on tensing whenever it seemed like Besteel was going to get them, or that they weren’t going to make it. Actually, that encompasses the whole scene. After they escaped the camp and Eva got the transcoder, they camped. The next day, they headed back to Eva’s Sanctuary to check on Muthr. They find her in a swimming pool, missing her battery. After she repairs herself, and Eva gets the Sanctuary to release Muthr from her duties (namely, staying there for all eternity) they leave. Reluctantly, Rovender agrees to help them get to Solas to see if they can find any clues about what happened to the other humans. Of course, Otto accompanies them.

Other than the reasons I gave for the five star rating, I think that I have to say that what Orbona and WondLa actually turned out to be is what made me love it so much. That, and Rovender and Muthr’s occasionally non-too-cordial interactions. Needless to say, I’d recommend this to everyone, as long as they won’t get too disturbed by what happens to a water bear in the taxidermist’s place in Solas. Because that was, I have to admit, a little creepy, and made me become a bit of a wet rag, just like part of the ending of the book.

The Search for WondLa: original drawings

The original illustrations. I absolutely adore Otto's!

Thank you to Mr. DiTerlizzi, who gave me the sketchbook, to my Aunt, who purchased the book for me! Life is good!!

A short story about a young fairy named Oonzil Windlestraw, trying to get the other fairies to stop calling his father an oathbreaker. Now, that doesn’t sound like much of a story but it is. As the summary says, this is not your typical fairytale, mainly because Oonzil has a bit of an attitude. What sort of fairytale fae actually beats up other fairies over a name? None I know of (except, perhaps, Tinkerbell). Mr. Mathias introduced the story of how the oath Oonzil’s father made was broken very skillfully, in my opinion. I probably would have had the wizard ask Oonzil if he knew the story, then launch into it, lost-in-thought-old-man style.

As it is, the story starts with Oonzil being given a talking to because of the aforementioned tendency to hit other fairies who call his father an oathbreaker. The wizard remembers the details of the oath breaking, without going into a sort of flashback mode. From there, the wizard hasn’t yet decided what punishment to give Oonzil, so he has him clean out his eagle’s cage. Oonzil does so, and then the eagle comes back. The fairy and the eagle talk a bit, and then Oonzil gets the idea for them to work together to catch the whole wasps that the wizard wants. They do so, using a doily, and the wizard strikes a deal with Oonzil. I won’t say how that all ends, because the story is only (I think) thirty pages long, and I’ve given away most of the stuff already.

I got a copy (digital, not paperback or anything unfortunately) on Smashwords for free, thanks to a coupon Mr. Mathias put up in a Goodreads event for his October giveaway. :) I highly recommend it, because it’s very fun, and the ending is very satisfying.

Book on hand? Check. Sister watching my every move? Check. Butterflies in stomach? Check. And finally: Box of tissues on hand? Check. Let’s get this party started!

Rating: 5/5

Reason: … This book is so well written and the characters are genius!  S.G. Rogers did such a fantastic job of this story.  And lucky me that I am, I actually won my own copy on GoodReads, thank goodness!!  No waiting to read it! Well…. maybe a little bit, but not that long because the postal system is simply outstanding in their delivery times – I have nothing but good things to say about those folks, too!  I so love the characters, the world, and how much of a genius S.G. Rogers is to think up a horrible, brilliant character like Elfysian…. I absolutely must get to the story, now.

I think most people would have described me as a normal, ordinary kid before my dad disappeared. When I say that he “disappeared,” I mean that literally. He vanished in a flash of light, with a sound like distant thunder. And because I was the only witness, I automatically became the suspect. That sort of suspicion tends to make you edgy, especially when you’ve just turned sixteen.

The above excerpt was how the story opened, and it totally grabbed my attention and made me curious about what happened next and what this story was all about; this is just what a good writer can accomplish quite easily with openings such as this. From reading the book’s summary on Goodreads, I was pretty sure I’d like it. However….. I was unaware of just how much I would… heck, I’d found out how many pages there were and was thinking “That doesn’t seem long enough to encompass everything mentioned in the summary.” Oh but it was, and it wasn’t rushed at all.  When you read it for yourself, you will see what I mean and be equally impressed by this writer’s skill.  Here’s a few of the things from the book that I especially liked:

  1. The ring and transporter cuff Jon needed to be wearing at the same time so that he could transport himself.
  2. The fact that his drawing something while wearing Ophelia (his dragon ring) made it become real.
  3. The whole idea of Yden.
  4. The fact that those who live in Yden think of “Yrth” as a sort of Hell, seeing as it has no magic.
  5. The delightful evilness that is Elfysian.

Before I go giving away most of the book (including the ending), I’ll stop here. The story follows Jon’s father disappearing, his going to Yden the first time, going to a public school instead of the art one he’d been going to before, having this Nomad princess and a drained wizard coming to warn him about Elfysian and the rest (as they say) is history. Of course, you’ll have to read the book so you actually know this history, but hey, reading is good for you. If asked if I’m going to lend it to friends so they can read it, the answer is “Of course!” And to say that I’m greatly excited about the idea of a sequel is an understatement of epic proportions.  Of course, I was told a little while ago (by the author) that she’s working on book three. At the time, she was working on the last chapter, if my memory serves me correctly.

It is so wonderful in this day and age to be able to communicate directly with authors whom one admires, and that amidst all that writing and creating, they still make time for their readers and respond so kindly.

Rating: 5/5

Reason: Great story, great characterization, great world-building and a really cool concept!

Before we get started, you should be aware that there are some spelling and grammatical errors in the book. However, don’t be distracted by this because the story is amazing. I am inclined to believe that the errors only exist because there were time restrictions for the book’s publishing so it couldn’t be edited properly or some other perfectly reasonable explanation, but it most certainly wasn’t the author’s fault. Now, on with the review! ^_^

Our main character is married, and has one of those “normal” lives where everything seems to have been drifting along at the same pace ever since they can remember. Of course that’s not true, but it seems that way to her. Her name is Caroyln, or Carli (her name for most of the story). She has weird dreams that she can only remember fragments of. She paints these fragments and is convinced that once she has all of them, they’ll fit together like a puzzle and her life will suddenly have meaning and be exciting. This doesn’t really happen of course, but you can’t blame a girl for dreaming. Except that she’s different from most people. Yes, I know that most main characters seem to be like normal people but they just happen to transform into a lizard or they just happen to be able to make things blow up just by waving their hand. However, Carli has to be one of my favorite not-so-normal main characters. You see, when she gets up to start her day at the beginning of the book, she starts having daydreams of a sort. She’s suddenly at this place with a sandstone building and a pool that has a mosaic of Leonardo DaVinci’s The Last Supper in it. She keeps flickering back between the apparent daydream and her ‘real’ life. She feeds the cat and does other typical daily living tasks, flicks between the two realities, then goes outside to have a smoke. She sees some deer and then, “SHAZAM!”  (sorry, just had to say that), she’s suddenly back in the world with the sandstone building. This time though, there’s a hole in one of the garments in the mosaic in the pool, and it’s shooting a beam of light up into the air. At first I thought that it was possibly some aliens sending a message to other aliens to say ‘We are here! You can land now so we can destroy this place, etc.,’ but no. It’s for something far more sinister…. if you can call what the beam is actually for, sinister. Which you can’t really…. unless you think that a ____ actually is sinister, which I find almost impossible to comprehend. Notice how I tried to be clever by inserting a blank? Yeah.

So then these missiles go to intercept the beam for some reason or other, and at first Carli thinks they are around five feet long. Then, as they get closer, she realizes that they’re around the length of half a football field. For some reason my brain was not registering that there was still a good many pages left for me to read, and was worrying about the main character’s sense of self-preservation before we really learned her importance to the plot… and before we actually learned what the plot was.

The plot involves a girl who’s got a portal as part of her, seeing as she was born at a specific time when lunar activity was high and there was an eclipse or something. That’s what gave her the portal. This portal makes her a crossover, but even in that area she’s special, because she’s supposed to stop this group called the riders, and she got combat training in her dreams (is that not so cool that you are having a lot of trouble vanquishing the green-eyed monster?) so that she’d be able to do that. Only, she’s got her teacher from the dreams, Nicholas (or just Nick) looking after her. And he’s got a gun. Why that fact makes me grin in a maniacal manner I’m not quite sure, but it does. So they flee from the Riders, but then it turns out that they’re also fleeing from this group called The Union, because Nick abandoned them so he wouldn’t have to kill Carli. To hide from the Riders, they hide in a mirror which The Union set up ages ago, which is accessed by them pushing their hands into a hole on a beech tree. Riders can’t find them there, but Revenants and animals can. ‘Yipee!’ Or ‘Oh no!’, Whichever you prefer.

My favorite character was, I’m sorry to say, Haiden, even if he was an evil, evil dude and didn’t care about what he did around the end of the book. I still find the way she wrote about the character cool. What can I say? I’m mostly into anti-heroes and heroes, but I do fall for the occasional villain. The story ended in a way I honestly didn’t expect, with all the other stuff that happened. Purple lazer beams, weird ways of travel, cool creatures like Thambusches, and the whole ‘it’s nothing but sandstone and mirrors’ thing combined to make what is most certainly going to be my favorite book of the month when the time comes to answer the RTW prompt about the favorite book from October. This opinion is not at all influenced by the fact that I won a copy of this book, the fact that Ms. LaFontaine signed it (and there was a note to go with the signature, which made me very happy), or the fact that she’s a very nice person and agreed to become my friend on Goodreads.

If there is a sequel for this book, I am definitely going to read it – I love coming across stories that are so unique and intriguing and well-written that the story just stays with you, and you simply must re-read it from time to time.  I am also going to ask Ms. LaFontaine for any tips she might have regarding character creation, world building, and the various other candy that goes into the making of a story. Whether or not that candy is sour depends on the idea that is the driving force behind the words. Oh, and did I ever mention that I love the cover? I want to walk on that path and just admire the view… and hopefully meet a few Thambusches. Ones that don’t have a reason to possibly attack me. :D Another thing….. did I ever mention that this is her debut novel? Please, please let there be more! I promise to read them. *smiles as encouragingly as possible*