Frogkisser!

Reader Discovers Enchanting New Audio! Details to Come!

Title: Frogkisser!

Author: Garth Nix

I heard a lot about this one when it came out. It seemed like everyone in YA and MG books was talking about it, and honestly, it sounds hilarious. Young princess has to kiss a frog to disenchant him, but he won’t cooperate. Pretty great premise, right?

Princess Anya is not in love with anyone. She’s too young. But her sister’s true love has been turned into a frog by their step-stepfather and her sister is too much of a drip to save him herself, so Anya steps in to save the prince. Along the way, she’ll meet the Association of Responsible Robbers, a Truly Terrifying Giant, a Druid or two, and the Evil Gray Mist. Royal Dog Ardent accompanies Anya on her Quest, which starts as a simple one – get the ingredients for Disenchanting Lip Balm, kiss the frog, go home – and turns into something much more complicated.

I loved the characters in this one. Anya has a nice little character arc, growing from a girl who only wants to stay in the library and study magic while someone else deals with everything to a leader who faces her problems head on. Anya also meets some great friends. Even Ardent the dog has a solid story line.

This was so much fun on audio. I really recommend the format. But it would also be great to read aloud or turn into a little play for kids at school. It is a little young, but sometimes that’s a fun change.

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Stand Alone Sunday

standalone-sunday

Standalone Sunday is a feature created by Megan over at BookSlayerReads where each Sunday she features a standalone book (not part of a series)! There’s tons of focus on books that are part of a series… It’s nice to focus on some standalone novels, too!

Title: The Master of Ballantrae

Author: Robert Louis Stevenson

Setting: 1740s Scotland

After a couple of dud books that I had been looking forward to, I was really relieved when I picked this one up and was hooked almost from the first page. Maybe it helped that I skipped the long introduction and got right into the story.

This is a retelling of the Biblical story of Jacob and Esau set during the 1745 Jacobite Revolution. Two Scottish brothers, James and Henry Durie, reprise the roles of those scriptural brothers and the conflict could not be more exciting. After a coin toss, James heads off after Bonnie Prince Charlie while Henry fights for the king. James is presumed dead after the Battle of Culloden and Henry marries the girl intended for James. But James is not as dead as all that, and returns to make trouble for his family.

In some ways, this reads like a soap opera. Just when you think things are settled, up pops something horrible. Pirates, duels, a daring escape, buried treasure — it has it all. The only thing that might discourage a modern reader is occasional use of dialect, but it is rare and there are footnotes in case you are really lost. Totally recommended as a great story sure to keep you turning pages.

The Seven Dials Mystery

Title: The Seven Dials Mystery

Author: Agatha Christie

Themes: adventure, secret criminal organizations, exotic foreign adventuresses, stolen government plans, and plenty more
Setting: Chimneys in England

If you’ve only read Agatha Christie for her mysteries featuring the famous Belgian sleuth or the mild old lady with the mind like a steel trap, then you have missed some thrilling adventure stories. This one is the second one set at the Stately Home of Chimneys in England. The first one, The Secret of Chimneys, takes place four years earlier and involves the missing heir to the throne of a fictional European country, a stolen government contract, the Comrades of the Black Hand or something like that, and a very satisfying love story. This one differs only in the details; the feel is just the same.

Lady Eileen Brent, known to all as Bundle, discovers that a young man of her acquaintance has died in her home. They had let it to a wealthy industrialist, and during a house party, the man had died in his sleep. Now Bundle nearly runs over the dead man’s best friend, who dies of a gunshot wound in her arms, whispering the words, “Tell – Seven Dials – Jimmy Thessinger.” Bundle rushes off to find Jimmy and enlist him in her fight against this evil criminal gang.

Really, really fun. I listened to this one, and I do have a few complaints about the audio version. The reader, whose name I can’t locate, did fine with the voices of most of the major characters, but she had a tendency to make the rest of the young girls screechy and shrill. I didn’t like Superintendent Battle’s accent either. She did a good job at making them all sound different, but she was much too screechy now and then, and the American woman at the very end was just dreadful. No one sounds like that. Ever.

If you want an exciting, clean adventure with some romance and not a lot to slow it down, try the stand alone titles by Agatha Christie. I also love The Man in the Brown Suit, Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?, and They Came to Baghdad. 5 stars for book, 4 for audio.

More Steampunk-y Goodness

Title: A Gentlewoman’s Chronicles (Galvanic Century 5-7)

Author: Michael Coorlim

Genre: Steampunk

Heard about it from: Liked the author’s previous work (Bartleby and James)

Plot: A little like a steampunk Indiana Jones plus some James Bond

Lady Aldora Fiske comes from one of the first families in England, but she has no intention of settling down to a meaningless social whirl. She’s out to prevent a war, defend the Empire, and save the day. She faces off sky pirates, enemy agents, a booby-trapped tomb, and lots more. For some reason, this took me a while to get into. I felt a little lost at the beginning, since it’s been a really long time since I read the first book. It might not have even mattered, as Aldora is a minor character in that one anyway. (I kind of like the switch up, telling similar stories from a different POV.) Once I got through the initial confusion, it really  became fun. Don’t start here, because you’ll be more confused than I was, but if you like light steampunk with plenty of adventure, try this series out.

 

Scorpion Mountain: Brotherband Chronicles book 5

 

Reading Decathlon, book 7

Scorpion Mountain: Brotherband Chronicles book 5 

by John Flanagan

Plot: After defeating a group of slavers in the last book (Slaves of Socorro) Hal and the rest of the Heron crew set off to track down the group who sent an assassin after the Araluen princess. Ranger Gilan joins them on the trip and they group face some deadly foes in this book.

This one was good fun, but it wasn’t as great as it could have been. I still love the characters, though, and there was some good character development for Lydia, the twins, and a few others. I was totally shocked when one of the characters were injured.

However, I found the book too predictable in plot and in dialogue. I found my attention wandering a bit. The bad guys weren’t really menacing at all. The previous book was much better. I still think kids will enjoy it, but I hope the next book is better.

3.0 stars, although I’d rate it more like a 3.5 for kids under 13.

Summer Cold Pt. 2

Children’s Series Picks

I’ve been having good luck with (most) of my books lately. Maybe I’ve been lucky, maybe it’s because they’re from authors I already enjoy, maybe it’s because I’ve been too sick to be critical. Anyway I’ve got several solid children’s books to review this time, and I enjoyed them all.

Immortal Fire (Cronos Chronicles by Anne Ursu)

The Cronos Chronicles are about a pair of cousins Charlotte and Zee (Zachary), one from a small town in the US and one outside London, who have stumbled into the truth that the Greek gods are real and not too happy with humanity. This is their third tangle with the gods. The first book was set in the Underworld, the second on Poseidon’s yacht, and this one takes up just after they escape the Mediterranean and return to Charlotte’s home. Mysterious storms and monsters are loose across the world and even Charlotte’s parents are beginning to suspect that something is going on. Zee and Charlotte must once again, save humanity, but this time, there’s a new kid in the mix. Who is he and whose side is he on?

I enjoyed this one a lot. It’s MG / younger teen, totally clean, and pretty funny. There’s lots of action, some violence, but none of it very graphic. I like that the kids don’t emerge from these big fights without a scratch, but it felt like they were really getting hammered a little too often. I also really liked that Charlotte and Zee genuinely cared about each other. Not in a romantic way, but in a family way, where the other person gets on your nerves sometimes, but the bond is solid. In fact, there isn’t much romance in these books, which makes a nice change.

This is the last book in the series, and I wouldn’t start here. You’d be lost. But I can recommend the series, as one that will appeal to any gender and to parents as well as kids. They’d also be fun to read aloud. 3.75 for the series, 3.5 for this book, as it got a little muddled in the middle.

The Forgotten Sisters (Princess Academy, book 3) by Shannon Hale

Miri from the Princess Academy is back. This time, the king makes her an offer – train his royal cousins in her own Princess Academy, and her little village at home can OWN their village, for good. It seems like too good a deal to pass up, so she agrees. The stakes are high. A royal marriage may be the only way to prevent a war. But the three sisters are no princesses- they can’t even read. Miri is in over her head. Literally. She falls in the swamp, gets a snake bite her first day, and faints just inside the door. Off to a great start.

Although I enjoyed this book, it’s nothing really new. If you liked the first books in this series, you’ll like this one. The new girls are appealing, and I liked the setting. But for me, the book didn’t really come alive until about halfway through. I’m glad I read it though. Again, I wouldn’t read this one unless you’d read the first two. I still recommend this series, but I think it appeals a little more to girls that boys, more to kids that adults. Another one that would be good read aloud. 3.25 for this book, between 3-4 for the series, depending. I think it just won’t appeal to some readers, but then there will be plenty of readers who *love* it. You won’t know until you try it.

Slaves of Socorro (The Brotherband Chronicles, book 4) by John Flanagan

Hal and the rest of the Brotherband fellows are sent off to Araluen to patrol the coast for the Jarl. They’re just settled in when a group of slavers hit the coast. Hal and the ranger Gilan know who they are and where they’re headed, so they crew decides to follow. To rescue the Araluens, they’ll have to infiltrate the slave market, and it won’t be easy.

I admit, I’m a sucker for this writer. I love his Ranger’s Apprentice series, and this one is just as much fun. Flanagan excels at portraying young men, just emerging from childhood all through the difficult process of becoming men. Hal’s emergence as a leader is so well done. I would definitely recommend this author and this series in particular to kids. Unlike the previous two books, I think you could start with this one, although it would be better to start with the first one, but if you find this one first, grab it and give it a try. Although it’s set about a Viking longboat (more or less), Flanagan includes a little glossary of sailing terms so drylanders like me won’t be confused. 4 stars for this one, solid 4, maybe higher for the series.