Book Reviews

Golden Girl: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

“Once upon a time in Kansas, there was a normal girl called Callie. I thought she was me. I’d been told all my life she was me.

“Turns out, all my life I’d been lied to. Turns out, I was about as far from a normal girl as you could get.”

Golden Girl by Sarah ZettelAfter a hard-won victory, Callie LeRoux has finally made her way out of the Dust Bowl. Her small life in a small Kansas town is miles and miles away, along with any believe Callie had that her life would be normal. Now she is in the bright, sunny world of California with her friend Jack looking for her kidnapped mother and the father she never got the chance to meet.

Now that Callie knows the truth–that she is part Fairy complete with the magic that comes with it–she is running out of time. Enemies are closing in and Callie still has a lot to learn about her powers and the prophecy that predicts she will change the entire Fairy realm.

With missing parents to find, Fairy monsters to dodge and a very annoying child star to tend, Callie has her hands full. She will have to muster all of her strength (not to mention her magic) if she wants to save her parents and get free from the Fairies in Golden Girl (2013) by Sarah Zettel.

Golden Girl is the sequel to Dust Girl and the second book in Zettel’s American Fairy Trilogy.

Golden Girl picks up with Callie and Jack settled in California as they negotiate Hollywood’s studio system to try and find the Fairies holding Callie’s mother captive. Zettel once again brings a piece of 1935 to life–this time with vivid descriptions that are as bright as any technicolor films.

The story is also, once again, imbued with music throughout: chapter titles come from Gershwin hits and spirituals. A list of recommended listening (and watching) can be found at the back of the book along with an author’s note about some historical details.

Callie is one of my favorite narrators. Her voice is perfect for the time period and her story. Zettel’s writing seems effortless with crisp dialog and evocative scenes of both the human and fairy worlds.

Although Golden Girl refers to earlier events (and, of course, has some loose ends to deal with in the final book), this book is a largely complete story that works well on its own. While fantasy readers are the obvious audience for this book, Golden Girl is also a delightful choice for fans of old movies and music as well as anyone interested in the 1930s. Zettel once again demonstrates her abundant talent as an author in Golden Girl.

Possible Pairings: Midnight at the Electric by Jodi Lynn Anderson, The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black, The Diviners by Libba Bray, The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron, Graceling by Kristin Cashore, Enchanted Ivy by Sarah Beth Durst,  A Creature of Moonlight by Rebecca Hahn, The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow, Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones, The Iron King by Julie Kagawa, A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. LeGuin, The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope, Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter, Extraordinary by Nancy Werlin, Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff

Book Reviews

The Lost Sun: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

“My mom used to say that in the United States of Asgard, you can feel the moments when the threads of destiny knot together, to push you or pull you or crush you. But only if you’re paying attention.”

The Lost Sun by Tessa GrattonSoren Bearskin has been avoiding his destiny for years. He can feel the berserker fever burning in his blood but he refuses to give into the rage; to let himself become what his father was before him. People fear him and what being a berserker actually means.

Astrid Glynn is everything Soren is not: wild, free and completely aware of who and what she is–a seethkona dedicated to the goddess Freya, a girl who can travel beyond death to retrieve answers to the questions of others even though she cannot find answers for herself about her missing mother.

Baldur the Beautiful is the most popular god in the country; his resurrection each year marked by a festive celebration and a live television broadcast. He returns to the United States of Asgard every year just in time for summer.

When Baldur instead disappears, the country is thrown into chaos as citizens fear the worst.

Astrid has dreamt of Baldur and knows where to find him. With Soren’s help. Together the two set off on a road trip to find the lost god and bring him home. But in finding Baldur, Soren and Astrid may have to give up everything they’ve come to hold dear in The Lost Sun (2013) by Tessa Gratton.

Find it on Bookshop.

The Lost Sun is the first book in Gratton’s Songs of New Asgard/United States of Asgard series and it is awesome. As the series title suggests, this book is part fantasy, part alternate history as Gratton imagines a world where the United States are imbued with Norse traditions and mythology as well as populated by the Norse gods themselves.

What could have been a confusing or alienating world instead becomes immediately fascinating and evocative in Gratton’s hands. (Readers of her short stories in The Curiosities may also recognize a few passing references to a female berserker mentioned in that anthology.)

It’s hard to know exactly what to say about The Lost Sun because it has so much going for it. Soren is a likeable, convincing narrator. Astrid is essentially one of the best female characters around. Having these two characters together in one book makes for an electric story that is as beautiful as it is thrilling. Gratton seamlessly builds a world of gods, magic and modern life around her characters as readers are introduced to this compelling world with an utterly original story imbued with old mythology.

The Lost Sun is, at its core, a intricate story of love and friendship. Soren and Astrid do a lot of different things throughout the plot but those threads are never far from the core. Sacrifices are made, surprises are revealed, but through it all there is a very strong meditation on what really being love (or loving) a person means.

Good books draw readers into the world of the story. Great books keep readers thinking after that story is finished. The Lost Sun is a great book.

Possible Pairings: Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken, Graceling by Kristin Cashore, Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst, The Curiosities by Tessa Gratton, Maggie Stiefvater and Brenna Yovanoff, Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers, Freya by Matthew Laurence, The Outlaws of Sherwood by Robin McKinley, Soundless by Richelle Mead, Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce, Bone Gap by Laura Ruby, Song of the Sparrow by Lisa Ann Sandell, The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab, Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick, The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

Check back tomorrow for my exclusive interview with Tessa Gratton!

Book Reviews

Dust Girl: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Dust Girl by Sarah ZettelOnce upon a time Callie thought she was a normal girl.

Sure, she had dust in her lungs and lived with her mama in a rundown hotel in the rundown town of Slow Run, Kansas but that wasn’t as strange as you might think in the middle of America’s Dust Bowl. Certainly Callie had her secrets, same as her mama, but those were normal, human girl secrets. Because, once upon a time, Callie really thought she was a normal, human girl.

That ended on April 14, 1935 when her mama disappeared and Callie found out she wasn’t human at all.

Left alone for the first time in her life, with strange creatures tracking her, Callie will have to leave behind everything she knew to find the unbelievable truth of who she is in Dust Girl (2012) by Sarah Zettel.

Dust Girl is the first book in Zettel’s American Fairy trilogy. The second book, Golden Girl, is due out in summer 2013. This is Zettel’s first book for a young adult audience.

Zettel’s writing is filled with evocative descriptions of deadly dust storms and sprawling landscapes that bring 1935 Kansas to life. References to the music and nuances of the era create an atmospheric read. Written in the first person, Callie’s voice is reminiscent of tall tales and wide spaces. Dust Girl is brimming with magic and mystery but throughout the story it is the heroine, Callie, who really makes this novel stand out.

Dust Girl is a subtle, contemplative read where Callie’s journey throughout the novel is just as satisfying as the dramatic conclusion. While there is clearly more to Callie’s story, Dust Girl ends nicely with enough closure to make the wait for book two bearable.

Possible Pairings: Midnight at the Electric by Jodi Lynn Anderson, The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black, The Diviners by Libba Bray, The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron, Graceling by Kristin Cashore, Enchanted Ivy by Sarah Beth Durst,  A Creature of Moonlight by Rebecca Hahn, The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow, Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones, The Iron King by Julie Kagawa, A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. LeGuin, The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope, Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter, Extraordinary by Nancy Werlin, Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff

Book Reviews

Unspoken: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Unspoken by Sarah Rees BrennanAccording to Kami Glass, every town in England has a story. Her town, Sorry-in-the-Vale, is no exception. The only problem is no one in town seems willing to tell that story to a daring girl reporter no matter how charming she is while asking pointed interview questions. Kami knows her town’s past is tied inextricably to the Lynburns, the town’s founders, even if their manor house has been empty for as long as Kami can remember.

If every town has a story, so does every resident. Kami’s own story has caused her a fair bit of trouble over the years and not a few friends. That’s what happens when your best friend seems to be an imaginary boy you talk to in your head. Luckily, Kami can handle the odd looks from neighbors and worried comments from her parents. Kami is nothing if not intrepid and she is more than prepared to keep everything under control.

All of that changes when the Lynburns come back to Sorry-in-the-Vale. Their return brings many questions, as well as something more sinister, forcing Kami to question everything she thought she knew about her town, her friends, and even herself in Unspoken (2012) by Sarah Rees Brennan.

Find it on Bookshop.

Unspoken is the first book in The Lynburn Legacy (which will be a trilogy).

No one writes families and friends quite like Sarah Rees Brennan. Unspoken is no exception. As Kami struggles to crack the secrets of Sorry-in-the-Vale’s past she assembles an unlikely band of misfits to help her investigation. Like Kami herself these characters are well-rounded and, above all, memorable. Along with the Glass family, they create an entertaining ensemble that adds much to the narrative.

Rees Brennan brings Kami’s world to life with her signature wit and charm. (If you have read the author’s blog or tweets you may agree that this book truly channels her voice in the writing.) Kami is an determined and capable heroine who is ready and willing to fight her own battles even as she is surrounded by friends and family who fiercely want to help in any way they can.

Patently eerie, Unspoken gives a nod to its gothic novel roots as the plot moves forward. Although a lot happens in the final hundred pages of Unspoken, the unusual pacing is balanced out with humor, banter, strong characters and many moments of page-turning suspense. Highly recommended for anyone who likes their mysteries with equal doses of plucky girl reporters, chills, adventure, and cute boys in distress.

Possible Pairings: Compulsion by Martina Boone, City of Bones by Cassandra Clare, Enchanted Ivy by Sarah Beth Durst, Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson, Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones, Dreamology by Lucy Keating, The Devil and Winnie Flynn by Micol Ostow and David Ostow, Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter, It Wasn’t Always Like This by Joy Preble, Hold Me Like a Breath by Tiffany Schmidt, A Darker Shade of Magic by Victoria Schwab, The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater, The Dolls by Kiki Sullivan, Extraordinary by Nancy Werlin, The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff, Veronica Mars

Exclusive Bonus Content: I love, love, love the cover by the way. Jacket illustrator Beth White created absolutely beautiful artwork for Unspoken that also is very in keeping with the book. If you’re as excited about this book as I am, be sure to head over to Sarah Rees Brennan’s website to learn more about the characters and the world of Unspoken.

But wait! There’s more! Sarah Rees Brennan also wrote two short stories to accompany Unspoken.

You can read about (and download a pdf copy of) the first story, The Summer Before I Met You from Sarah’s blog here: http://sarahreesbrennan.com/2012/09/the-summer-before-i-met-you/ (The story is being hosted by Oblong Books–an indie store. Isn’t that awesome of them?)

Book Reviews

Seraphina: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman Seraphina Dombegh has been surrounded by lies for most of her life. Everything from her patron saint to her own parentage has been altered and hidden beneath layers of half-truths and deceptions. With a new position at court and her musical gifts gaining more notice than is strictly wise, Seraphina’s time for hiding may well be over.

Seraphina’s home, the kingdom of Goredd has had peace with the neighboring dragons for four decades. They walk among the Goreddi in their human forms, they share knowledge. But that does not mean they are equals. Tensions are always higher when the treaty’s anniversary is near. This year, with a prince murdered under suspiciously dragon-like circumstances, relations are particularly strained.

Without meaning too, Seraphina soon captures the attention of the court with her musical talents. Worse, she captures the attentions of Prince Lucian Kiggs, captain of the Queen’s Guard, as well as an adept investigator. Working with Kiggs to unravel the secrets surrounding the murder and a conspiracy that could shake the foundation of their entire kingdom, Seraphina fears that her own secrets might be as easily discovered. As she works to find the truth, she will have to decide if she can survive having her own secrets brought to light in Seraphina (2012) by Rachel Hartman.

Seraphina is Hartman’s first novel. Seraphina’s story continues in the sequel Shadow Scale.

There is also a prequel called The Audition available to read on Scribd at this link: http://www.scribd.com/doc/97577759/Seraphina-Prequel-WEB

As far as fantasies go, Seraphina really hits all the marks from a complete glossary and cast of characters at the back of the book to an immersive setting replete with inter-kingdom tensions and political machinations. While there are dragons who can take on human forms, the fantasy in this story is more of an underpinning for Hartman’s masterfully written world.

Seraphina is a sweeping story that draws readers through Seraphina’s life and straight into a court full of intrigue and plotting. Readers who like their fantasies with a bit less magic and more surprises will find a lot to enjoy here. Some, including this reviewer, might be very surprised by this novel’s dynamic and unpredictable conclusion.

Though its length (a bit more than 450 pages, hardcover)–and the initial denseness of the text as Hartman introduces new characters as well as an entire kingdom and its history–can be off-putting, readers will be satisfied by the evocative prose, dramatic story, and especially Seraphina’s journey as she tries finds her own place both in her family and her country.

With characters that can make you laugh even as they break your heart* and a narrator who is as witty as she is unique, Seraphina is a clever introduction into a truly original fantasy world that promises even greater things in future installments.

*I’m looking at you, Orma.

Possible Pairings: Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson, Fire by Kristin Cashore, A Creature of Moonlight by Rebecca Hahn, Princess of Thorns by Stacey Jay, Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers, A Tale of Two Castles by Gail Carson Levine, The Kingdom of Back by Marie Lu, Dragonsong by Anne McCaffrey, Cinder by Marissa Meyer, Sabriel by Garth Nix, Uprooted by Naomi Novik, The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner, The Girl King by Mimi Yu, All These Things I’ve Done by Gabrielle Zevin

You can also read my exclusive interview with Rachel Hartman!

Book Reviews

Dearly, Departed: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Dearly, Departed by Lia HabelThe year is 2195. After being ravaged by war and harsh climate changes, humanity seems to have found some level of equilibrium in New Victoria. Desperate for a Golden Age to look back on at its founding, an ideal to strive for, New Victoria looked backward to the seemingly idealistic ways of Victorian society. And it is ideal, truly.

At least it is for most people. Nora Dearly should be happy with her position of mild importance in New Victorian society as daughter of prominent military doctor Victor Dearly. But she is more interested in politics and military history than she is in negotiating high society or being a proper lady. It all seems so pointless with her father dead and her finances in ruins thanks to an irresponsible aunt.

With so many problems, Nora gives the stranger with blind eyes outside her home little thought. That would prove to be a mistake.

Captain Bram Griswold never wanted to frighten Nora. He certainly didn’t want to kidnap her. He just wanted to ensure her safety. Unfortunately it is difficult to appear non-threatening when you are a corpse. Like the rest of Company Z, Bram is still in control of his faculties even if he is infected with the Lazarus virus. He can walk, he can talk, he can reason. He is even relatively intact compared to some of his friends.

One day, as it always does, the virus will win. Bram will lose control and instead of working with the humans, he will want nothing more than to eat them.

Until that day, Bram will do what he has to do. He will keep Nora Dearly safe. He will fight the deranged zombies that are beyond help. He will ignore the feelings he is starting to develop for Nora because no good can ever come from that.  As he keeps telling himself over and over.

But then Nora starts to trust him. And everything Bram thought he knew about the Lazarus virus and New Victoria is thrown into doubt. With the whole world changing maybe a human girl and zombie boy really can be together–for a little while at least in Dearly, Departed (2011) by Lia Habel.

Dearly, Departed is Habel’s first novel. It is also the first book in the uniquely named “Gone with the Respiration” series.

Steampunk has been gaining lots of steam recently as a relatively new addition to the wide and wonderful world of Young Adult books. Like many other successful steampunk books, Habel puts her own singular spin on a newly imagined Victorian society with not only a post-apocalyptic world of the future but also a zombie apocalypse. Oh and a completely impossible, incredibly star-crossed romance.

Basically, the appeal of this book can be captured in three words: Zombie Steampunk Romance.

As those words suggest, Dearly, Departed has a lot going on but it all works. Habel blends inter-connected story lines while managing to create a coherent, layered story with multiple unique narrators in a sleek, exciting story full of action and pathos.

Dearly, Departed stands out as a clever, funny spin on both zombie and steampunk conventions with a top-notch heroine and a zombie hero with a heart of gold.

Possible Pairings: A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray, Soulless Gail Carriger, The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson, Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor, Generation Dead by Daniel Waters, Peeps by Scott Westerfeld, All These Things I’ve Done by Gabrielle Zevin

You can also read my exclusive interview with Lia Habel!

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Sound good? Find it on Amazon: Dearly, Departed

Book Reviews

Brain Jack: A (rapid fire) review

Brain Jack by Brian Falkner (2009)

Brain Jack by Brian Falkner This book was shortlisted for the 2010 Cybils which is why (as a round 2 judge) I read it.

I can see how Brain Jack would have some appeal and could be great for teens who are into computers or are reluctant readers. That said, I personally wasn’t very impressed with the book.

I thought it was too technical. I know nothing about computers but a lot of the stuff sounded downright made up in places and in other places sounded  like gibberish. It felt strange having people typing on a computer be high action and also Falkner at times made it seem like the characters were inside the computer which is jarring.

I personally was irritated when New York’s Avenue of the Americas was mentioned in the story, by a native New Yorker, when everyone who has been living here would only call it Sixth Avenue. Other elements also just felt out of place to me, like story threads that didn’t feel vital to the plot. (Examples: Vegas, Fargas, Vienna, Dodge’s dodgy tattoo ON HIS FOREHEAD.) Many of the characters also fell flat.

The prologue was poorly done and off putting. I got my copy from a friend who I’m sure also didn’t buy it. It was so strange having the prologue talk in depth about getting information from people who bought the book when I didn’t (and I’m sure a lot of people didn’t). Aside from completely disregarding libraries and borrowing books it brought me right out of the narrative since it was so not true for my experience. In tandem with the prologue I felt like the epilogue was too preachy and weirdly so. Neuro headsets don’t actually exist and the book is fiction, but then he is telling us he’ll be watching (much like Santa Claus)?

It just didn’t work for me.

Book Reviews

Rebel Angels: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Rebel Angels by Libba BrayThe more Gemma Doyle learns about her visions and the magic that allows her to enter the Realms–a world beyond our own usually seen in dreams or death–the more questions she has. Gemma finally knows the truth about her mother and the mystical Order that she once belonged to . . . and helped destroy with her closest friend, Circe.

Now the magic is loose in the realms and Circe is hunting Gemma, her only way back to all of that magic. Kartik, Gemma’s mysterious shadow since leaving India, insists Gemma must bind the magic before disaster strikes. Which would be fine if Gemma had any idea how to do such a thing.

Worse, is it the Christmas season–Gemma’s first since her mother’s death. While her friends Felicity and Ann talk of balls and other wonderful plans for their time away from Spence Academy, Gemma is left to wonder what the holidays can hold at home with her strict grandmother, her irritating brother, and her feeble father.

The holiday season promises a world of distractions in the form of balls and the most intriguing form of one Simon Middleton–not to mention an introduction to the rarefied circles of high society. But Gemma has no time for distractions.

Questions will be answered, enemies will be fought, and Gemma will have to take her stand in Rebel Angels (2006) by Libba Bray.

Rebel Angels is the second book in the Gemma Doyle Trilogy (which began with A Great and Terrible Beauty). It is also one of those books where it is very clear that it is the second book in a trilogy, which is fine. The beginning of the story provides almost enough recap of earlier events to make it possible to read this book out of sequence though, as ever, many nuances would be lost that way.

While Rebel Angels is a continuation of an already exciting story, this book lacked some of the verve and spark of the first. With all of the summarizing the story starts slowly, picking up when Gemma and her friends depart from Spence for their holiday. While Gemma and Kartik evolve and change especially throughout this story, it felt like a lot of the other characters were working through the same emotions and the same problems readers saw in the first book.

That said, the second half of the book is much more exciting and faster paced than the first. Bray once again provides a vivid window into the world of 1895 London from the eyes of a heroine willing and ready to think for herself. The underlying commentary on the roles of women in Victorian England and feminism is also fascinating in a book that is ostensibly a historical fantasy.

As a whole the story is very interesting and aptly sets up the conclusion of the trilogy, of course, but Rebel Angels just lacked that little spark to set truly set it apart as a book in its own right.

Possible Pairings: The Candle and the Flame by Nafiza Azad, Chime by Franny Billingsley, Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare, Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins, The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe, Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier, The Crucible by Arthur Miller, The Ruby in the Smoke by Phillip Pullman, The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare, The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud, The Lady of Shalott by Alfred Lord Tennyson, The Grand Tour by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer

Exclusive Bonus Content: Although I really didn’t like this one as much as the first (and feel really really guilty about it!), this book did make me wish more academics read YA Lit. I love that academics can study popular culture and literature, but not everyone can write scholarly books and articles about Buffy and Harry Potter. Where are the articles about the feminist underpinnings of the Gemma Doyle books? Where is the commentary on this trilogy being a reflection of the evolution of feminism from the discovery of the Problem Without a Name in The Feminine Mystique to the Second Wave feminist movement? Where is the Feminist Theory/Women’s Studies class that has this series as assigned reading? No, seriously, where is it?

Book Reviews

A Great and Terrible Beauty: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

A Great and Terrible Beauty coverAll Gemma Doyle wants for her sixteenth birthday is to go to England and to see London. Though she comes from respectable English stock, Gemma has never seen the country raised instead in India where it is too hot, too dusty and entirely too boring.

Gemma does get her wish, but not the way she had hoped. Instead of a glamorous return to England with her family, Gemma is sent to an austere finishing school after her mother’s tragic death under mysterious circumstances.

Spence Academy is meant to take Gemma and the other young students and make them into ladies ready for their first Season and, more importantly, ready to become respectable wives and make good matches for their families.

But Gemma has no desire to be finished if it means never knowing what really happened to her mother or, for that matter, what’s really happening to her.

Much as she tries, Gemma isn’t like the other girls at Spence. She has her own wants that go beyond a respectable husband and a quiet life as someone’s wife. She has her own thoughts. And she sees things; things she shouldn’t be able to see, places that shouldn’t exist.

A mysterious man has followed Gemma to Spence from India telling her she must stop the visions and close her mind to her powers. But her powers are also the only way to make sense of her mother’s death. A world of magic lies at Gemma’s feet, its great and terrible beauty there for the taking. But only if Gemma is ready to choose it in A Great and Terrible Beauty (2003) by Libba Bray.

A Great and Terrible Beauty is the first book in The Gemma Doyle Trilogy.

Set in 1895, this book is a satisfying blend of historical fiction and fantasy. Gemma is very thoroughly grounded in the daily life of Spence even as she learns more about her powers and the mysteries surrounding them. It is also a novel about choice as Gemma and, later in the story, her friends negotiate what it means to be a young woman in Victorian England and try to quiet their own misgivings about their places in that privileged world.

The fascinating thing about A Great and Terrible Beauty is that it’s also a novel about frustration and hopes and, surprisingly, a novel about feminism–set in a time when no one even knew what feminism was. As much as this story is about Gemma Doyle it is also about the silent scream so many women kept bottled in at being commodities to be married off and sent away like so much merchandise being bought and sold.

A Great and Terrible Beauty is part character study, part fantasy, and mostly good storytelling. Rich with historic detail, fantasy, and strong characters, this is the captivating start of a story that continues in Rebel Angels and The Sweet Far Thing.

Possible Pairings: The Candle and the Flame by Nafiza Azad, Chime by Franny Billingsley, Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare, A Breath of Frost by Alyxandra Harvey, Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins, The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe, Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier, The Crucible by Arthur Miller, The Ruby in the Smoke by Phillip Pullman, The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare, The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud, The Lady of Shalott by Alfred Lord Tennyson, The Grand Tour by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer

Book Reviews

The London Eye Mystery: A Review

Ted’s favorite thing to do in London is to fly the Eye. Specifically the London Eye ferris wheel where you are sealed into one of thirty-two capsules and can see twenty-five miles in all directions at the highest point. Ted also likes predicting the weather and listening to the shipping forecast on the radio at night. These are important things to practice because Ted wants to be a meteorologist when he is older.

Until then, Ted lives with his annoying older sister Kat and their parents. For the most part things are peaceful and simple in their household even if Ted’s brain operating on a different frequency sometimes causes more problems than anyone would care to admit.

Everything is turned upside down when Aunt Gloria and her son Salim arrive for a visit. Gloria is erratic and a bit too boisterous. But Salim is nice and seems to understand Ted better than most. Ted and Kat are eager to show Salim the amazing views from the London Eye, so when a free ticket is offered, the two immediately offer it to Salim. Everything seems to go well.

Except when the ride is over, Salim doesn’t come out with the other passengers.

No one understands how it happened, not even the police. Did he spontaneously combust? Was he kidnapped? Will the family be able to find him before it’s too late? Ted and his unique brain might have everything he needs to put together the clues and solve The London Eye Mystery (2007) by Siobhan Dowd.

Find it on Bookshop.

Throughout the book, Dowd makes references to Ted’s syndrome and the “different frequency” of his brain. That is, almost undoubtedly, a reference to Asperger’s syndrome. Ted’s narrative reflects his unique outlook and moves the story along as much with plot as with tangents about the weather (his favorite subject). At times Ted’s narration became a bit too chatty but for the most part the story moved along at a decent pace.

At the risk of giving too much away, The London Eye Mystery is one of those books that provides a mystery but without being too mysterious. There is a crime, more or less, and there is an investigation but it is not always the center of the story. Ted’s relationship with his sister Kat is as central to the plot as the search for Salim if not, at times, more central.

Being a book that features a character with a form of autism, comparisons between The London Eye Mystery and Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time are inevitable (even though Haddon’s is technically a young adult novel and Dowd’s falls into the children’s category). Haddon’s story was interesting and often insightful. But the prose lacked any style and pizzazz it felt more like an exercise in what writing with autism would look like than an actual novel. Haddon’s narrator was also incredibly hard to like or care about.

Ted, on the other hand, is a very likable if eccentric character. Her prose is also much more carefully nuanced. Just because Ted has Asperger’s it does not mean he can’t turn a phrase along with the best of us. The London Eye is insightful on two counts: first showing readers into the mind of a boy like Ted, second offering unique views on life and the world at large–something all good books should endeavor to provide.

Possible Pairings: Gideon the Cutpurse by Linda Buckley-Archer, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon

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Sound good? Find it on Amazon: The London Eye Mystery