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Rat Queens Vol 1: Sass and Sorcery, by Kurtis J. Wiebe and Roc Upchurch

Blogging for a Good Book - Fri, 2014-05-30 01:01

If you liked Lord of the Rings, but wished there were more sassy, kick-butt female fighters, snag this book and dive in. This first book collects #1-5 in a series that has refreshingly strong, unrepentant, female characters that are taken straight from fantasy convention but with some definite twists.

Palisade is protected by several mercenary groups in addition to their local guard units. One of these groups, called The Rat Queens, is comprised of four females: Hannah, an Elven Mage, Violet, a Dwarven fighter, Betty, a Smidgen Thief, and Dee, a Human who can cast healing spells. They are a mix of races, sizes, and personalities that are distinct and not two dimensional. They love fighting, drinking, rabble rousing, and money, all in equal measure. They have a strong sense of who they are and they make no apologies.

This is no origin story, so we join the group right before they are sent off on a quest to help clean out a goblin threat just outside the village. You immediately feel like you know these women and have been following their story forever. Their banter throughout the book is amusing and familiar to anyone who has those couple close friends who they can say anything around. These women are not in competition with each other, and any little friendly squabbles are quickly dropped as they team up to face whatever threat comes their way. They’re not perfect, and they do get hurt, but the fight scenes are fast paced and not overly dramatic.

This first volume was published in March 2014, and I eagerly await whatever comes next for these women. One thing I know for sure, it will be a party!

Recommended for readers who like strong female characters, fantasy, and a lot of fun.

Search the catalog for Rat Queens.


Rat Queens Vol 1: Sass and Sorcery, by Kurtis J. Wiebe and Roc Upchurch

Blogging for a Good Book - Fri, 2014-05-30 01:01

If you liked Lord of the Rings, but wished there were more sassy, kick-butt female fighters, snag this book and dive in. This first book collects #1-5 in a series that has refreshingly strong, unrepentant, female characters that are taken straight from fantasy convention but with some definite twists.

Palisade is protected by several mercenary groups in addition to their local guard units. One of these groups, called The Rat Queens, is comprised of four females: Hannah, an Elven Mage, Violet, a Dwarven fighter, Betty, a Smidgen Thief, and Dee, a Human who can cast healing spells. They are a mix of races, sizes, and personalities that are distinct and not two dimensional. They love fighting, drinking, rabble rousing, and money, all in equal measure. They have a strong sense of who they are and they make no apologies.

This is no origin story, so we join the group right before they are sent off on a quest to help clean out a goblin threat just outside the village. You immediately feel like you know these women and have been following their story forever. Their banter throughout the book is amusing and familiar to anyone who has those couple close friends who they can say anything around. These women are not in competition with each other, and any little friendly squabbles are quickly dropped as they team up to face whatever threat comes their way. They’re not perfect, and they do get hurt, but the fight scenes are fast paced and not overly dramatic.

This first volume was published in March 2014, and I eagerly await whatever comes next for these women. One thing I know for sure, it will be a party!

Recommended for readers who like strong female characters, fantasy, and a lot of fun.

Search the catalog for Rat Queens.


Dog in Boots by Greg Gormley, illus. by Roberta Angaramo

Pied Piper Pics - Fri, 2014-05-30 01:01

Dog has been enjoying his favorite book—Puss in Boots. And what does he want now? Of course, he wants his very own set of just-as-splendid boots. He even takes his book along to show the shopkeeper. But Dog discovers that his fine boots have drawbacks. In turn he tries rain boots, flippers, high heels, and skis. Just when it appears that there is nothing perfect for a dog’s activities, the shopkeeper points out something that Dog has had all along. Can you guess what that might be?

This is a large format book which is excellent for using with a group. I have successfully used this with several different kindergarten groups. The children enjoy the humor and the anticipation of Dog’s next difficulty. The acrylic illustrations capture Dog’s many moods as he explores different kinds of footwear.

And be ready to laugh at Dog’s next choice of reading material!

Check the WRL catalog for Dog in Boots.


Categories: Pied Piper Pics

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, by Jesse Andrews

Read This! - Fri, 2014-05-30 01:01

Andrew shares this review:

Greg has survived until his senior year of high school by being on the fringes of everything and the center of nothing. He hides his love of film (especially the work of Werner Herzog) behind a studied indifference which also conceals his near-constant and brutal self-criticism. (He’s got some points—serious social errors, like flat out complimenting a girl for having two boobs, are enough to make anyone want to tear his own tongue in half.) His parents love him with that bumbling uncritical affection that every teen hates and he has… Earl.

Earl has shared Greg’s love of Herzog since fourth grade, when the two boys tried to film their own version of Aguirre: Wrath Of God, the masterpiece shot on location in the Amazon—kinda tough to do in the local park. Their collaboration extends to their own films: Earl: Wrath of God II, Ran IIApocalypse Later, and still others featuring Greg’s cat. The thing is, Earl couldn’t be more different than Greg: he’s an inner-city Pittsburgh kid, bright but lost at school, surrounded by unfocused, violent, drug-dealing brothers and a mother lost in alcohol and online chat rooms. Greg’s stable home is a respite for Earl, and Earl is the only person Greg can be himself around.

And then there’s the dying girl. Greg knew Rachel Kushner in Hebrew school, with all its attendant early teen drama, but they haven’t had much to do with each other since. When Rachel is diagnosed with leukemia, Greg’s mom decides it will be a mitzvah, or good deed, for Greg to spend time with her. Awkward, right? But he does, and brings Earl along in his wake. Earl lets slip the secret of their filmmaking and next thing you know Rachel is watching their movies. Even more awkward. Suddenly Greg is open to all kinds of emotional blackmail and everyone around him takes full advantage of it. Even Greg admits that it sounds like an afterschool special—treat the different kid well and you’ll rack up points, feel good about yourself, and Learn A Lesson. But real life is messy, and even Herzog’s art can’t touch it.

Jesse Andrews gives the story a sense of immediacy despite its looking back at events. Internal monologue, conversations role-played as scripts, jump cuts to real life, and Greg’s direct addresses to an unknown audience give the book the feel of documentary, but one that allows raw and sometimes hilarious access to the filmmaker’s mind. That also means Greg’s and Earl’s casual use of insult and obscenity to each other might make the language a little rough for some readers, so be warned on that front.

Check the WRL catalog for Me and Earl and the Dying Girl


Categories: Read This

WE3, by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely

Blogging for a Good Book - Thu, 2014-05-29 01:01

Positive that the war of the future should not require human casualties, Air Force researchers have been working on machines that will do the fighting in the human’s stead. But these fighters are not purely metal, they are cyborgs: coats of armor attached to implants in an animal. The three original prototypes consist of a dog, a cat, and a rabbit. Named 1, 2, and 3, together they comprise WE3. Each possesses skills that are reflective of their host animal and working together as a team they are dynamic and fearsome. As weapons, they are ruthless and programmable, but also maintain some autonomy.

I had seen this book several times, but was initially turned off by the front picture of the three animals in their mechanical suits. Convinced that it was just another book full of big robot battles and not much depth, I was judging a book by its cover and was completely wrong about the story. For at the heart of the plot, and of the suits, are the three animals. This is horror, but the terror comes not from the copious amounts of blood sprayed around the dark pages or the shock of sudden violent deaths, but rather from the slow-building dismay and revulsion you experience as the contrast between the past lives of the animals as beloved companions and their current weaponized state gains clarity. Three separate Lost Animal posters are scattered through the first part of the book, and the distress over their missing animals by their owners is conveyed in heartbreaking fashion through the personal photos that are attached and especially, in the case of the rabbit, by the childish scrawls of the unhappy young owners.

The innocence of the animals, with their vague memories of a faraway place called “home,” and their strong will to survive and be safe, clash against the efforts of the humans who are convinced that they need to be decommissioned and destroyed. At the back of the story is an examination of the morality of war and the struggle to face the ethics of what science has so ruthlessly created.

Gripping, atmospheric, and unsettling, this is a story which will stay with you for a while after you have read it.

Recommended for readers of graphic novels and horror.

Search the catalog for WE3.


WE3, by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely

Blogging for a Good Book - Thu, 2014-05-29 01:01

Positive that the war of the future should not require human casualties, Air Force researchers have been working on machines that will do the fighting in the human’s stead. But these fighters are not purely metal, they are cyborgs: coats of armor attached to implants in an animal. The three original prototypes consist of a dog, a cat, and a rabbit. Named 1, 2, and 3, together they comprise WE3. Each possesses skills that are reflective of their host animal and working together as a team they are dynamic and fearsome. As weapons, they are ruthless and programmable, but also maintain some autonomy.

I had seen this book several times, but was initially turned off by the front picture of the three animals in their mechanical suits. Convinced that it was just another book full of big robot battles and not much depth, I was judging a book by its cover and was completely wrong about the story. For at the heart of the plot, and of the suits, are the three animals. This is horror, but the terror comes not from the copious amounts of blood sprayed around the dark pages or the shock of sudden violent deaths, but rather from the slow-building dismay and revulsion you experience as the contrast between the past lives of the animals as beloved companions and their current weaponized state gains clarity. Three separate Lost Animal posters are scattered through the first part of the book, and the distress over their missing animals by their owners is conveyed in heartbreaking fashion through the personal photos that are attached and especially, in the case of the rabbit, by the childish scrawls of the unhappy young owners.

The innocence of the animals, with their vague memories of a faraway place called “home,” and their strong will to survive and be safe, clash against the efforts of the humans who are convinced that they need to be decommissioned and destroyed. At the back of the story is an examination of the morality of war and the struggle to face the ethics of what science has so ruthlessly created.

Gripping, atmospheric, and unsettling, this is a story which will stay with you for a while after you have read it.

Recommended for readers of graphic novels and horror.

Search the catalog for WE3.


Heart Transplant, by Andrew Vachss and Frank Caruso

Blogging for a Good Book - Wed, 2014-05-28 01:01

Heart Transplant is a story about bullying that is both engrossing and heartwarming. In the opening narration, a kid named Sean takes down the movie clichés about high school life, where outsiders are able to rise above their social position when the popular kids realize they are a beautiful swan instead of an ugly duckling, or the beautiful girl learns about how great the nerd is on the inside and rejects her jock boyfriend. Sean is an outsider, and as such he is ignored by the more popular kids unless it is convenient for them to notice him. “The only time anyone ever saw us was when they needed someone to make themselves look big. By making us small.”

Sean is from a terrible, broken home. His mother has had a steady stream of live-in boyfriends, each of which she has insisted that Sean call “Daddy.” Her latest one, Brian, is vicious when he is drunk, which ends up being most of the time. Sean’s mother offers no protection from her boyfriend’s beatings. When she isn’t otherwise occupied, she takes her swings at Sean too. With no friends and rejected at home, Sean lives a sad existence.

When a drug deal by Brian goes bad, Sean comes home to two bodies. Before a social worker can take him off to a foster home, Brian’s father comes by the house and, seeing the child sitting alone, offers to take Sean in. Pop gives Sean what he has never had before: a home, with unconditional acceptance and protection. Living in a loving and supportive environment for the first time in his life, Sean begins to blossom.

But like many people, Sean begins to have problems in Junior High, despite his high grades. As kids begin to coagulate into social groups, Sean finds he doesn’t really belong anywhere. He’s different, the kind of person who gets rejected by every other group. When Sean gets picked on, everybody laughs. Ashamed to let Pop know what is happening, he tries to hide his bruises, but the old man isn’t so easily fooled. A problem that faces a child is a problem that faces their parent as well, and Pop is going to make sure that Sean has the skills to deal with this, and other challenges in life.

Recommended for young adults, their parents, and readers of graphic novels.

Search the catalog for Heart Transplant.


Heart Transplant, by Andrew Vachss and Frank Caruso

Blogging for a Good Book - Wed, 2014-05-28 01:01

Heart Transplant is a story about bullying that is both engrossing and heartwarming. In the opening narration, a kid named Sean takes down the movie clichés about high school life, where outsiders are able to rise above their social position when the popular kids realize they are a beautiful swan instead of an ugly duckling, or the beautiful girl learns about how great the nerd is on the inside and rejects her jock boyfriend. Sean is an outsider, and as such he is ignored by the more popular kids unless it is convenient for them to notice him. “The only time anyone ever saw us was when they needed someone to make themselves look big. By making us small.”

Sean is from a terrible, broken home. His mother has had a steady stream of live-in boyfriends, each of which she has insisted that Sean call “Daddy.” Her latest one, Brian, is vicious when he is drunk, which ends up being most of the time. Sean’s mother offers no protection from her boyfriend’s beatings. When she isn’t otherwise occupied, she takes her swings at Sean too. With no friends and rejected at home, Sean lives a sad existence.

When a drug deal by Brian goes bad, Sean comes home to two bodies. Before a social worker can take him off to a foster home, Brian’s father comes by the house and, seeing the child sitting alone, offers to take Sean in. Pop gives Sean what he has never had before: a home, with unconditional acceptance and protection. Living in a loving and supportive environment for the first time in his life, Sean begins to blossom.

But like many people, Sean begins to have problems in Junior High, despite his high grades. As kids begin to coagulate into social groups, Sean finds he doesn’t really belong anywhere. He’s different, the kind of person who gets rejected by every other group. When Sean gets picked on, everybody laughs. Ashamed to let Pop know what is happening, he tries to hide his bruises, but the old man isn’t so easily fooled. A problem that faces a child is a problem that faces their parent as well, and Pop is going to make sure that Sean has the skills to deal with this, and other challenges in life.

Recommended for young adults, their parents, and readers of graphic novels.

Search the catalog for Heart Transplant.


Shadow and Bone, by Leigh Bardugo

Read This! - Wed, 2014-05-28 01:01

Jessica shares this review:

Shadow and Bone is the first in the Grisha Trilogy that takes place in the land of Ravka. Alina is unremarkable in every regard. Raised as an orphan alongside a single friend, Mal, only to become a sub-par mapmaker for the First Army, Alina has no illusions of grand beauty or remarkable skill.  Her only pull is towards Mal, who has grown to become a very handsome young tracker for the Army. They both serve together for Ravka, a land torn by war and the darkness of the Shadow Fold. Created by an evil Darkling, the Shadow Fold is a sea of complete darkness, full of flesh-eating monsters, that cuts Ravka off from the True Sea.  The Second Army, made up of those with magical abilities, has been working to undo the Shadow Fold as well.  But it seems all their power is useless against the darkness.

During an Army-led excursion attempting to cross the Shadow Fold, Alina and Mal come under attack from the “Volcra,” vicious monsters that fly out of the sky to kill anyone trying to cross the Fold.  While trying to save Mal, Alina spontaneously emits a strong radiating white light. Its raw energy leaves her unconscious and when she awakens she is among the Second Army (the Grisha). However unbelievable it may be to her, Alina is in fact a Sun Summoner, one who can call and control light.  She is the only person who has the ability to destroy the Shadow Fold and the Volcra. Taken to a Grisha training area and introduced to a whole new way of life, Alina isn’t sure how to proceed and has little faith in her own gift.  Only after extensive hard work and a close relationship with the beautiful Darkling himself does Alina began to hope she is the one who can save Ravka.

But everything may not be what it seems and Alina’s gift might turn into a curse she never could have imagined.

Check the WRL catalog for Shadow and Bone


Categories: Read This

Which Shoes Would You Choose? by Betsy R. Rosenthal, illus. by Nancy Cote

Pied Piper Pics - Wed, 2014-05-28 01:01

A story, rhyming text, and a cute quiz are combined in Which Shoes Would You Choose? Young Sherman needs appropriate footwear for many activities. Riddles invite the reader to guess what shoes our hero will be wearing next.

This is a delightfully illustrated book. There is plenty to see in the backgrounds of each scene. Encourage your children to read the pictures and create their own stories.

You may need to explain galoshes to your audience. And the children and I expected Sherman to wear cleats for baseball. But these are minor drawbacks. They allow you to expand your group’s vocabulary.

Check the WRL catalog for Which Shoes Would You Choose?


Categories: Pied Piper Pics

Flip Flop Bop by Matt Novak

Pied Piper Pics - Tue, 2014-05-27 12:01

Flip Flop Bop will have you and your audience ready to take off your shoes and head for the beach. School is out and the children trade school shoes for the footwear of summer–flip flops. The kids are joined by a dog, a cat, and a mouse as they bop into the new season of the year.
By the end of the book, folks of all ages are enjoying the freedom of summer shoes.

The illustrations are bright and busy. The text moves from “clippety clop” to “kazoobaloobadippy.” At this point, the dog remarks, “Now we’ve just gone too far.” I found my audience was ready to contribute their own nonsense words to the story. I used this book with All You Need for a Beach to book end an early summer story time. It would also fit with a shoe theme or a nonsense verse medley.

Check the WRL catalog for Flip Flop Bop.


Categories: Pied Piper Pics

CHEW Volume 1, by John Layman and Rob Guillory

Blogging for a Good Book - Tue, 2014-05-27 01:01

Tony Chu is a detective for the Philadelphia Police Department. He’s skinny, but for good reason. Tony is a cibopathic: a person who can see the past of every food he eats. For fruits and vegetables, that’s not so bad, but for meat it is another matter. The only food he can eat without distraction is beets, so he eats a lot of them. In the alternative world he lives in, all poultry products have been banned after bird flu killed over 23 million people. Tony and his partner track down black market chicken distributors and buyers like our police forces go after drug lords.

While trying to do a major bust, Tony accidentally ingests some soup that the chef bled into while cutting the vegetables. His powers make him aware that the chef is actually a serial murderer with thirteen victims. In his quest to find out more information about the murdered girls, Tony is caught chewing on the body of the now dead chef, which understandably leads to his getting fired by the police department. But he gets noticed by agents of the now very powerful FDA, who are very interested in using his gifts to solve murders as part of their Special Crimes Unit.

Here’s the biggest part of the storyline you have to swallow (groan!): Tony must consume parts of the people who have been murdered in order to gain clues. And not all bodies are fresh (or human) either. If you can get past the disturbing nature of this item, the story continues in a lively manner, drawing you in before you realize it. It’s partly absurd comedy, partly cop procedural, partly adventure, partly horror, and all entertainment.

Winner of both Harvey and Eisner awards, this series is bizarre but compelling and enjoyable. It is recommended for readers of horror, humor, and graphic novels.

Search the catalog for CHEW.


CHEW Volume 1, by John Layman and Rob Guillory

Blogging for a Good Book - Tue, 2014-05-27 01:01

Tony Chu is a detective for the Philadelphia Police Department. He’s skinny, but for good reason. Tony is a cibopathic: a person who can see the past of every food he eats. For fruits and vegetables, that’s not so bad, but for meat it is another matter. The only food he can eat without distraction is beets, so he eats a lot of them. In the alternative world he lives in, all poultry products have been banned after bird flu killed over 23 million people. Tony and his partner track down black market chicken distributors and buyers like our police forces go after drug lords.

While trying to do a major bust, Tony accidentally ingests some soup that the chef bled into while cutting the vegetables. His powers make him aware that the chef is actually a serial murderer with thirteen victims. In his quest to find out more information about the murdered girls, Tony is caught chewing on the body of the now dead chef, which understandably leads to his getting fired by the police department. But he gets noticed by agents of the now very powerful FDA, who are very interested in using his gifts to solve murders as part of their Special Crimes Unit.

Here’s the biggest part of the storyline you have to swallow (groan!): Tony must consume parts of the people who have been murdered in order to gain clues. And not all bodies are fresh (or human) either. If you can get past the disturbing nature of this item, the story continues in a lively manner, drawing you in before you realize it. It’s partly absurd comedy, partly cop procedural, partly adventure, partly horror, and all entertainment.

Winner of both Harvey and Eisner awards, this series is bizarre but compelling and enjoyable. It is recommended for readers of horror, humor, and graphic novels.

Search the catalog for CHEW.


Stuck Rubber Baby, by Howard Cruse

Blogging for a Good Book - Mon, 2014-05-26 01:01

Densely illustrated and narrated, Stuck Rubber Baby follows the life of Toland Polk, a white carpenter’s son living deep in the restless South during the 1960s. The story is introduced by the modern day Toland, who is gently amused as he recounts this stormy portion of his life. The ’60s were a time of electrifying change, both social and political, and it was an exhilarating time to be coming of age.

Toland has a deep love of music, which leads him to hang out at bars with other people from town around his age, black and white, male and female. Without really consciously intending to, Toland gets drawn into the fight for Civil Rights in his town, compelled by his friendships and his rejection of the inequality woven into the fabric of daily life in the South.

But Toland has a secret. His entire life he has known that he is attracted to men, but he also realizes how homosexuals get treated. He endeavors to either hide or convert his feelings if possible. He meets a girl named Ginger, who is even more forceful in her support of integration, and is able to nurture enough of a crush on her to start dating. The story draws an intricate parallel between society’s rejection of blacks and gays. Toland knows he’s lucky that he can appear to be part of the majority by putting up a false face and having a relationship with a woman, but his black friends don’t have that luxury. Those friends of his who are both black and gay face exponentially more animosity.

The adult Toland is unflinchingly honest about his past experiences. He knows how his battles against his personal demons caused him to be insincere to those around him, but he also realizes that he was forced into many of those deceptions by the expectations of a society that could not, would not accept him as he was. The story brings in a wide cast of characters as people come in and out of Toland’s life and shies away from caricatures. This makes for a rich world that believably portrays a turbulent time in our recent history without stooping to lecture or browbeat.

Recommended for readers of graphic novels, historical novels, and social history.

Search the catalog for Stuck Rubber Baby


Stuck Rubber Baby, by Howard Cruse

Blogging for a Good Book - Mon, 2014-05-26 01:01

Densely illustrated and narrated, Stuck Rubber Baby follows the life of Toland Polk, a white carpenter’s son living deep in the restless South during the 1960s. The story is introduced by the modern day Toland, who is gently amused as he recounts this stormy portion of his life. The ’60s were a time of electrifying change, both social and political, and it was an exhilarating time to be coming of age.

Toland has a deep love of music, which leads him to hang out at bars with other people from town around his age, black and white, male and female. Without really consciously intending to, Toland gets drawn into the fight for Civil Rights in his town, compelled by his friendships and his rejection of the inequality woven into the fabric of daily life in the South.

But Toland has a secret. His entire life he has known that he is attracted to men, but he also realizes how homosexuals get treated. He endeavors to either hide or convert his feelings if possible. He meets a girl named Ginger, who is even more forceful in her support of integration, and is able to nurture enough of a crush on her to start dating. The story draws an intricate parallel between society’s rejection of blacks and gays. Toland knows he’s lucky that he can appear to be part of the majority by putting up a false face and having a relationship with a woman, but his black friends don’t have that luxury. Those friends of his who are both black and gay face exponentially more animosity.

The adult Toland is unflinchingly honest about his past experiences. He knows how his battles against his personal demons caused him to be insincere to those around him, but he also realizes that he was forced into many of those deceptions by the expectations of a society that could not, would not accept him as he was. The story brings in a wide cast of characters as people come in and out of Toland’s life and shies away from caricatures. This makes for a rich world that believably portrays a turbulent time in our recent history without stooping to lecture or browbeat.

Recommended for readers of graphic novels, historical novels, and social history.

Search the catalog for Stuck Rubber Baby


Grave Mercy, by Robin LaFevers

Read This! - Mon, 2014-05-26 01:01

Melissa shares this review:

Grave Mercy is the first of Robin LaFevers’ His Fair Assassin series.  It takes place in Brittany in the late 1400s.  The Duke has recently died, leaving 12-year-old Anne facing many suitors for her hand and her kingdom.

Ismae, the daughter of a turnip farmer, is unaware of the precarious situation in her country.  Her world is the small village where she grew up abandoned by her mother and brutalized by her father.  When her circumstances can get no worse, she finds salvation at the hands of strangers who secret her away to the convent of St. Mortain, the ancient god of Death.  Her days are spent learning swordfighting, poisons and their uses, hand-to-hand combat, and the “womanly arts” because as a handmaiden of Death, she must be ready to use any means necessary to fulfill Mortain’s will.

During her trials to prove her readiness for service, she meets Gavriel Duval, one of the young duchess’ most trusted advisors.  Duval catches Ismae moments after she killed a traitor who was marked for death by the saint.  He follows Ismae to the convent where he tries to get the reverend mother to cooperate with his need to catch and question the traitors before they are killed.  The reverend mother neatly traps him into taking Ismae with him to court in Guerande so as to keep the convent better informed of the factions warring for the kingdom.

Viscount Crunard, chancellor of Brittany, and the reverend mother put another task to Ismae, keep Duval under surveillance to determine if he is the traitor working against the Duchess.

Now Ismae faces court intrigue, complex family dynamics and the unfamiliar feelings of falling in love.  But while out of her element, she doesn’t sit idly by and wait for orders from the Convent, nor does she follow every directive from Duval.  She shows spunk and an appealing independence.  Her training as an assassin and special talents as a follower of Mortain come in handy more than once.

And while Ismae grows impatient waiting for her saint to indicate who among the many suspects she should kill, time is running out for the young Duchess as France makes moves to invade.

Grave Mercy is a fast-paced story based on actual people and events.  While the first of a series, it neatly stands alone.  Don’t get me wrong, I want to read what comes next, but I wasn’t left unsatisfied after I read the last page.  I can see this book, and the rest of the series, appealing to adults as well as young adults.  The main characters are well-developed, and the supporting cast is interesting. And did I mention the falling in love part?  Well-written and satisfyingly believable.

I particularly enjoyed listening to the audiobook which was skillfully narrated by Erin Moon.  She did a terrific job changing her inflections for the different characters.  I especially liked hearing the correct pronunciation of the character and city names.  The audiobook is about 14 hours long.

Check the WRL catalog for Grave Mercy

Check the WRL catalog for the audiobook of Grave Mercy


Categories: Read This

The Amulet of Samarkand, by Jonathan Stroud

Read This! - Fri, 2014-05-23 01:01

Jessica shares this review:

This is the first installment in The Bartimaeus Trilogy by Stroud.  The story focuses on young Nathaniel, a magician’s apprentice, beginning his training in the art of magic. From the very beginning he shows incredible promise but is unfortunately paired with a sub-par and rather boring instructor. Out of boredom and internal motivation, Nathaniel begins his own private studies, quickly gobbling up book after book in the old magicians study. Things would have continued slow and steady for Nathaniel but a fateful and humiliating event leaves him burning with rage and a desire for revenge. And so begins his summon of a powerful djinni, one who can help him to get retribution on the very magician who caused him so much hurt. But the djinni, called Bartimaeus, is more formidable and cunning than Nathaniel could have imagined and his rival magician, Simon Lovelace is even more dangerous than he expected.  A simple plan turns into a catastrophic ordeal when Nathaniel orders Bartimaeus to steal a priceless token from Lovelace, the Amulet of Samarkand. Now, around every corner lurks unseen threats and hidden perils. And worst of all, Nathaniel has done the one thing a true magician is never supposed to do…he has lost control, not only of his djinni but everything around him.

Check the WRL catalog for The Amulet of Samarkand.


Categories: Read This

An Undone Fairy Tale by Ian Lendler, illus. by Whitney Martin

Pied Piper Pics - Fri, 2014-05-23 01:01

Our final conflict for the week is between the illustrator and the reader. In An Undone Fairy Tale the illustrator is a character named Ned. He’s really more of a set painter, costumer, hair and makeup artist, and prop man who is creating the illustrations for a typical fairy tale out of “real” objects. His troubles arise because we are reading the book entirely too fast. Ned never has time to prepare the illustrations for the next page before we turn to it. The narrator repeatedly tries to convince us to slow down and not turn the page yet. We, of course, do anyway.

The typical fairy tale we were expecting becomes decidedly atypical as Ned attempts to cobble together characters and scenes quickly enough to match the reader’s speed. This results in some quirky substitutions. For example, the king’s crown ends up being a donut. The knight’s horses aren’t ready in time, so Ned must replace them with fish. The only costumes ready for the knights are tutus.

The fairy tale becomes stranger and stranger until, finally, the narrator offers up a plea. “This is your final warning. The next page won’t be ready for four or five weeks. So put the book down and come back then. Okay? Pretty please?” Somehow I get the feeling that even if we did as he asked, the book still wouldn’t be ready.

Check the WRL catalog for An Undone Fairy Tale.


Categories: Pied Piper Pics

The Goblin Emperor, by Katherine Addison

Blogging for a Good Book - Fri, 2014-05-23 01:01

Maia Drazhar is an 18-year-old half-elf, half-goblin prince, living in exile with his embittered guardian, when a zeppelin accident (yes, the elves have zeppelins) takes out most of the royal line. Suddenly Maia is Emperor of the Elflands. As the fourth son of an unfavored and long-dead empress, he was never expected to rule. His guardian always punished him for talking too much, and now he’s expected to give speeches. No one has taught him even to dance, far less negotiate a divisive trade agreement… or investigate the treasonous sabotage of the previous Emperor’s airship.

This high fantasy follows Maia’s efforts to navigate his new position, as a bullied youth forced onto a very public stage, learning and choosing how to wield unexpected power. The charm of the story is that Maia is a thoroughly decent individual, winning readers to his side even as he alienates many of his courtiers. Hastily made over with new robes and crown jewels, Maia confounds the court with such gestures as attending the funerals of mere servants and asking daughters of royal houses who they would prefer to marry. (Not him, unfortunately.)

With a leisurely pace and old-fashioned speech, forsooth, this is a fantasy for readers who enjoy the complicated politics of historical novels but who aren’t in the mood for a George Martin-style slaughter of characters. It’s much like the court at Versailles, but with dirigibles, and an enemy is more likely to attack via a courier with a strongly worded letter than at swords’ point. As she’s shown in previous novels, the author is particularly dedicated to world-building, and that set dressing of costume, language, and protocol makes Maia’s Untheileneise Court come to life. Oh, and I thought I’d read enough fantasy not to be bothered by such things, but I do recommend that you read the appendix on names and forms of address before you start. I can’t remember the last time I had so much trouble keeping track of character names and titles… oh, yes, it was Wolf Hall. At least the Tudors were all Tom, Dick, and Harry at home, not Edrehasivar, Varenechibel, and Cstheio Cairezhasan. Ai, Elbereth Gilthoniel!

Katherine Addison is a pen name; as Sarah Monette, she has written the delightful, Gothic tales of Kyle Murchison Booth, collected in The Bone Key, and an involving four-book fantasy series that begins with Mélusine.

Check the WRL catalog for The Goblin Emperor.


The Goblin Emperor, by Katherine Addison

Blogging for a Good Book - Fri, 2014-05-23 01:01

Maia Drazhar is an 18-year-old half-elf, half-goblin prince, living in exile with his embittered guardian, when a zeppelin accident (yes, the elves have zeppelins) takes out most of the royal line. Suddenly Maia is Emperor of the Elflands. As the fourth son of an unfavored and long-dead empress, he was never expected to rule. His guardian always punished him for talking too much, and now he’s expected to give speeches. No one has taught him even to dance, far less negotiate a divisive trade agreement… or investigate the treasonous sabotage of the previous Emperor’s airship.

This high fantasy follows Maia’s efforts to navigate his new position, as a bullied youth forced onto a very public stage, learning and choosing how to wield unexpected power. The charm of the story is that Maia is a thoroughly decent individual, winning readers to his side even as he alienates many of his courtiers. Hastily made over with new robes and crown jewels, Maia confounds the court with such gestures as attending the funerals of mere servants and asking daughters of royal houses who they would prefer to marry. (Not him, unfortunately.)

With a leisurely pace and old-fashioned speech, forsooth, this is a fantasy for readers who enjoy the complicated politics of historical novels but who aren’t in the mood for a George Martin-style slaughter of characters. It’s much like the court at Versailles, but with dirigibles, and an enemy is more likely to attack via a courier with a strongly worded letter than at swords’ point. As she’s shown in previous novels, the author is particularly dedicated to world-building, and that set dressing of costume, language, and protocol makes Maia’s Untheileneise Court come to life. Oh, and I thought I’d read enough fantasy not to be bothered by such things, but I do recommend that you read the appendix on names and forms of address before you start. I can’t remember the last time I had so much trouble keeping track of character names and titles… oh, yes, it was Wolf Hall. At least the Tudors were all Tom, Dick, and Harry at home, not Edrehasivar, Varenechibel, and Cstheio Cairezhasan. Ai, Elbereth Gilthoniel!

Katherine Addison is a pen name; as Sarah Monette, she has written the delightful, Gothic tales of Kyle Murchison Booth, collected in The Bone Key, and an involving four-book fantasy series that begins with Mélusine.

Check the WRL catalog for The Goblin Emperor.