Thursday, May 31, 2012

Wool Review

File:Hugh C Howey Wool Omnibus.jpg

My co-worker, Tom and I sometimes do kindle book exchanges periodically. We sit together and go through the books that we both recommend from each other's kindles. He got me started on keeping track of what I read. He's been keeping an excel list of books for maybe twenty years. I only started tracking last year, which eventually led to starting this blog in January. Anyway, he and I read some similar types of books and he recommended Wool, which falls into the sci fi/dystopia genre.

I've been a bit wary of the whole self-publishing phenomenon. There's been a stigma against these books because the thought was that if a regular publisher had turned down a book, it must not be any good. Clearly this isn't always the case. Self-publishing is also a great way to get books out there that might not have gotten published otherwise for whatever reason. Of course self-publishing can get a bad name. Right now Fifty Shades of Grey is the new hot thing. It started as Twilight fan fiction but has exploded in popularity due to its "mommy porn" plot line. I read the first two chapters as a sample from amazon and literally thought it was one of the worst things I've ever read. Sorry to any fans out there, but it was just so badly written. Anyway, that made me a bit suspicious of Wool, but Hugh Howey proves in this book that self-publishing can be so worth it if you are a talented writer and storyteller.

I have Wool in five separate parts, which is how it was originally published, and I finished the first part today and am almost halfway through the second. The premise of the book is that the atmosphere of the world is toxic and thousands of people live in a giant silo underground. The silo is heavily regulated. People cannot go outside. Admitting they want to do so is punishable by death. Couples can only have a child if they win a lottery ticket, and even then, they have only one year to try before the opportunity passes onto another couple. People speak of an uprising that happened in the past. Much of their history has been wiped out somehow.

The first book focuses on the sheriff, Holston, who investigates the history of the silo and whose actions set off the plot for the rest of the story. His part is only about 65 pages long and is incredibly engrossing. The world itself is familiar; it is a classic dystopian society: repressed and highly regulated. The second part starts exploring more of the silo itself as the mayor and deputy descend into the lower levels to interview someone. While that might not sound particularly interesting, the characters are fascinating, as is the mystery of what they are doing here and what is up with the world outside.

I'll review the other parts as I finish reading them, but I'm so glad I picked this up! The first part was a fast read and very well-written. I can't wait to keep reading!

You can currently buy the Wool series in separate volumes, or in one omnibus. Here are links to the omnibus (it's under $6) at amazon and Barnes & Noble.

The Cranes Dance Review

Growing up, I danced for years. I started ballet when I was five and picked up tap and jazz three years later. Every Saturday for a very long time I would spend the day at my dance school, where I also took classes on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. Eventually, I dropped everything except for tap, but by the end of eighth grade, I simply did not have the time, talent or desire to continue dancing at all.

That being said, I've always been fascinated by dance and dancers, ballet in particular. I'm familiar with many ballets, having danced in them or seen them in various places. I saw The Nutcracker and Swan Lake last year and Giselle at the Sydney Opera House during my study abroad in Australia. And of course I saw Black Swan. Amazon's description of this book said something about how this book was like Black Swan without the crazy. I might have read that wrong, because there was definitely crazy in the book. Not as extreme as Black Swan, but still pretty intense.

The story follows Kate Crane, a soloist at a major New York City ballet company. She is in her late twenties and has been in NYC since she was 16. At the start of the book, she is in a bad place. Her sister, Gwen, who is only a year or two younger than her had some sort of breakdown and was sent home to live with their parents for a while. It's unclear in the beginning exactly what happened to Gwen, but the specifics unfold as the story does. Unlike Kate, who was a soloist, Gwen was a principal dancer (the highest rank of a professional dancer. Along with Gwen's breakdown, Kate has just broken up with her boyfriend Andrew. She is at a loss herself, reeling from her sister's problems and her own stresses as a professional dancer.

Kate moves back into the apartment that she used to share with Gwen before living with her boyfriend. The very first line in the book is "I threw my neck out in the middle of Swan Lake last night." This sets an uncomfortable tone for the novel. The whole time I kept thinking about her neck and how much it must have hurt despite her seeing chiropractors, acupuncturists and massage therapists.

Kate spends much of the book in her head, having her own private breakdown. She dances in Swan Lake, A Midsummer's Night Dream and a modern ballet where she plays a celebrity. She interacts with her dancer friends, an older friend named Wendy, who had hosted Kate as a young dancer, and a student dancer named Bryce, who idolizes her. She also spends a lot of time in rehearsals and classes, despite her neck injury.

Gwen is a constant presence, although you never actually see her until the very end of the book. Their story is told through flashbacks that trace how they got into dance all the way to Gwen's drastic breakdown. It's a fascinating look into the ballet world, which is quite cutthroat. The book is funny at time. I especially loved the description in the beginning of Swan Lake, which made me laugh a lot as Kate described "acting" in ballets, where the dancers really have to just pantomime their actions on stage. It's also about sisters - the bonds that link sisters together, as well as the jealously that drives them apart.

I really enjoyed this book. I couldn't really tell what direction it was going in although as the plot progressed, it was clear that Kate was struggling with her own demons and heading towards her own breakdown. The only question would be, how would that turn out in the end? All in all, it was a satisfactory conclusion and I definitely recommend it!

Buy it at amazon and Barnes and Noble

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Trapeze Review

As a kid I used to get dragged around to a lot of Civil War battlefields because my parents were Civil War nuts. I went the opposite direction and got really into castles and the Olympic gods. In college I focused on studying ancient Greece, Rome and the Middle Ages, which I am currently lucky enough to be teaching. I was always so stuck  in the far past that I didn't focus much on more recent history until I started getting into movies about the Edwardian Period in England through WWII. I am absolutely fascinated and moved by WWII. Clearly living during that time must have been horrifyingly scary but looking back on life during that time period always interests me.

Because of this, the description for Trapeze, made me buy it instantly. It was one of amazon's top books of May and I couldn't wait to finish stupid Swamplandia! to get started with this.

Trapeze is the story of Marion Sutro, a young woman born to a British diplomat and a French woman. She was raised in Geneva, but spent time in both England and French, so naturally she speaks French fluently. She works for the war effort, monitoring attacks and troops around the world. I think it's 1942, so the Blitz was over. Anyway, she is recruited by a mysterious agency to be a spy for the British in France. The first 30 or 40% of the book covers her training. Marion is taught how to fight, use weapons and explosives, disguise herself, and she's an absolute natural.

Marion is assigned to southwestern France to help the people there. However, another higher up, more secretive group drafts her to go to Paris, which is of course incredibly dangerous. There she is supposed to contact her old childhood crush, Clement, who is a physicist. This was the time before the atomic bomb was dropped. A lot of scientists across Europe were working to develop a weapon on a massive scale that could wide out a city. Several scientists have already escaped to England, but Marion has to convince Clement to go back to England.

Marion is really interesting. She is bright and can get herself into and out of a ton of tense situations. I knew there were spies during WWII but never really thought about women who risked their lives to help occupied France. This was a fascinating look into a piece of history I didn't know a lot about.

I'm not saying any more than that because I really loved this book and want people to read it. Let's just say that the plot is really interesting but once Marion parachutes into France, things get real... and tense. The book was so suspenseful. I had no idea what was going to happen to her at the end of the story but when I finally got to the end, I literally felt like I had been punched in the stomach. I was completely surprised by the turn that the book had taken, which I really admired. This was one where I never once guessed how it would end.

I can't recommend it enough!

Buy it at amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Swamplandia! Review

Oh man, I seriously did not like this book. I really thought I would. It had gotten a ton of positive press last year when it first came out. I read lots about it and it's been sitting on my amazon wishlist for months, but every time I went back to read the description something kept putting me off. A couple weeks ago I went looking for something new to read and downloaded a bunch of samples from some books (including 50 Shades of Grey... don't judge me; I'm embarrassed enough. It was pretty awful... that being said the sample didn't cover any of the naughty bits so I did request it from the library. We'll see if I actually read it). Swamplandia! grabbed me from the first chapter. It was the most interesting of all the beginnings that I read but that didn't last very long.

Spoilers ahead. Do not read past this line if you don't want lots of specific plot details:

Swamplandia! is the story of Ava Bigtree, whose family lives on an island in the Florida swamps. Her parents, Hilola and Chief Bigtree run a weird little show called Swamplandia! where the family wrestles alligators. When the story opens, Ava's mother has died of cancer and the family is facing massive debt. Ava's grandfather, Sawtooth, is on the mainland in a retirement home and it doesn't take long for her older brother, Kiwi, to also leave him. He is brilliant and desperately wants to go to college and help the family make money, although he is quite naive about how much he can actually make. He gets a job at a competing amusement park called World of Darkness that is based on Dante's Inferno. Kiwi is pretty funny. He uses all these big SAT words and is endlessly mocked for it until he becomes a hero in his own way and figures out how to make it in a normal world, far away from wrestling alligators. Kiwi has his own chapters, told in third person, that I found to be much more interesting that Ava's, which are told in first person. When Kiwi thinks in big words, it makes absolute sense because he is dying for an ivy league education and has prepared his whole life for that by studying everything. He even walks around taking "field notes" of everything he sees, which he is endlessly mocked for by his peers.

Once Kiwi leaves home, it doesn't take long for the Chief to also go, heading to the town of Loomis to make money for the family. He leaves 16 year old Osceola (Ossie) and 13 year old Ava alone on the island. Ossie is clearly mentally unbalanced. She keeps thinking she communicates with ghosts and eventually she falls in love with the ghost of a dead teenager from the 1930s, named Louis Thanksgiving. This is where the book lost me. I'm all for fantasy, but this book was weirdly undefined in terms of genre. Ossie launched into this long, boring story all about Louis' life and not long after that took off "with him". Ava, being 13, doesn't really understand what is happening here and I wasn't entirely sure either. Would this book have an element of magical realism or fantasy to it? Nope, it seems at the end that Ossie was just crazy.

This leaves me to Ava. While reading some reviews of the book before starting it, I saw that she gets raped towards the end of the book so I was on the look out for that all this time. After Ossie leaves, Ava is alone on the island. This guy called the Bird Man shows up. Apparently there are wandering hermits in Florida who drive off destructive birds for a price. He offers to guide Ava to the Underworld so she can rescue her sister. Again, I was waiting for a trippy updated Greek mythology moment, but that didn't happen. Turns out the Bird Man is just a pedophile and was making up the whole Underworld thing to trick a naive teenager. Ava does seem desperate for his attention and does things like hold his hand or want him to pay more attention to her, so it's unclear whether the rape is malicious or a horrible miscommunication. Anyway, she is able to flee from him and ends up rescued by a park ranger, who reunites her with Kiwi and Ossie (who decided not to kill herself to be with the ghost fiance and was found by Kiwi on his first day flying a plane... oh god, long story, I can't go through this all again!).

My big problem with the book besides the weird Underworld non-magical realism was Ava's use of ridiculous vocabulary too. It made sense for Kiwi but not so much for Ava since she was younger and didn't have the same thirst for knowledge that Kiwi did. Also there was WAY too much description in Ava's chapters. She spends most of the time in her own head, rarely conversing with the Bird Man and to be honest, her descriptions of everything in the swamp was absolutely endless. I found myself skimming so much. As I said earlier, Kiwi's chapters were more interesting. Maybe I just don't care about ridiculously long descriptions about Florida swamps. At least Kiwi had some interesting dialogue and adventures.

I can't talk about this book anymore because it annoyed me so much. Onto something much better tonight, I hope!

Here's some more positive reviews from the NY Times and NPR, as well as an article about the possible HBO adaptation of the book.

Buy it at amazon and Barnes & Noble (happy, Max?!)

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Walking Dead Review

One of my students started reading my blog (hey, you have to get kids to read somehow, right?!) and commented that 1. I've made some typos (yeah, sorry. I'm pretty strict about proofreading for the kids but I don't always have time to do it myself on the blog. Because I'm busy grading their papers. Seriously. That's for you, Alex) and 2. I haven't reviewed enough graphic novels. So Alex, here you go, this one's for you:

I bought my husband The Walking Dead Compendium One for Christmas after the first season of the show aired. He read it quickly and loved it and of course wanted me to read it. I kept complaining that it was too heavy to carry around. Seriously, this thing is a beast:

I finally picked it up over spring break (clearly this is a delayed review) and literally ate it up. I couldn't stop reading it! I'd already seen all the episodes of the show that had aired up until that point and had taught my mini-term class on zombies so I was in the right mood to finally read it, plus one of my students lent me all the trades up to 13 so I could keep reading after I was done the compendium.

I think the show started off well but this season was slow and irritating. I was annoyed at most of the characters (Lori, Carl and Shane, I'm looking at you) and the stagnant plot. Where's Sophia? Let's stay at this farm and talk incessantly for the entire season. The comics are a whole other story. Beware, many spoilers ahead.

The comic starts the same way as the show, with Rick Grimes waking up alone in the hospital, figuring out what has happened to the world, finding Morgan and Duane and finally making his way to Atlanta where he meets up with Shane, Lori, Carl and the rest of the gang. The show deviated from the comic pretty quickly. Shane barely lasts through the first couple comics, Carol is younger and not married to an abusive man. Instead, there are these boy twins who are the sons of a guy whose name I can't remember and his bitchy wife (Allen and Donna - just looked it up). T-dog and Daryl don't exist (Daryl is the absolute best part of the show), but there are other, far more interesting characters. Dale and Glenn are also around from the show, although Dale is far less annoying and Glenn remains awesome in both the comic and show. It's not long before they meet up with Tyreese, one of the most awesome people in the comic, along with his daughter and her boyfriend.

In the comic, they aren't in the camp outside Atlanta for long. They find a seemingly abandoned suburban community to live in for a bit, but they are soon overrun by zombies and after Donna's death, they leave and find Hershel's farm where they open the barn full of zombies after about five minutes and then leave searching for a new place to live. This is when they find the prison, with four former inmates locked inside the kitchen. They set up camp there for quite a long time, until a helicopter flies over head. Rick, Michonne and Glenn go to investigate and wind up at the creepy town of Woodbury, run by this absolutely awful guy nicknamed the Governor.

I just remembered that Michonne only showed up at the end of the last season of the show. She was the hooded woman with the sword and two zombies attached to her who rescued Andrea. She showed up when Rick's group got to the prison, I think. She's pretty awesome. I hope she's as cool on the show.

Like most comic books, a lot of the action is pretty graphic. The family dynamics switch around a lot as people die and children get shuffled from one "parent"' to another. Dale and Andrea (who is also way better in the comics. She is younger than the show depicts her as and much more interesting) have a long term love affair until cannibals screw everything up (yeah, you read that right).

Essentially, a lot happens. I can't recap every little thing but I do have a few general comments. The comics are in black and white, which looks cool, but sometimes it's hard to tell people apart, like Otis and Herschel (trust me, they look similar on the page), without seeing hair color. Also, Lori and Carl still suck and Rick can get pretty annoying too. It's also much sadder. The stakes are way higher because people die. A lot. By the time I got to book 13, so many people had died that there were only a few left from the original group. Glenn and Maggie, I'm happy to say, were two of them. They're my favorites. I don't want to know what happens to them in the trades (for you non-comic readers, trades are a paperback book containing several single issues) that I haven't read yet. As I said above, the comics are graphic. There's a lot of upsetting violence that's hard to look at sometimes (trust me, the governor stuff will haunt you for a while).

I've said this to a bunch of people but my biggest complaint with the show this season is all the sitting around and talking, although if there really was a zombie apocalypse, I'm sure I'd relish the down time when I didn't have to fight or run. In the comic, the action is pretty non-stop. There is rarely any time for the characters to just hang out. Often they will reference a "quiet couple weeks" but the comic doesn't show that. Because it's published in single issues, they have to keep it interesting so people come back and read more. It's a brutal book in a lot of ways but even better, it's a fascinating look at a post-apocalyptic world and what humans have to resort to in order to survive. I loved it.

If you're a fan of the show, I highly suggest you pick up the series, whether in the compendium form (which collects the first eight trades) or the individual trades (up to 15 or 16 are out now), because it is absolutely awesome and really, really well written.

Buy it at amazon and barnes and noble.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Imperfectionists Review

I resisted reading this book for a while because I knew that each chapter was about a separate character. I'm all for multi-POV books but one chapter per character? How could I ever get to know them? I'm not a big fan of short stories for that very reason. But anyway, I had it on my kindle and was looking for something contemporary and realistic after finishing The Master of Heathcrest Hall and I'd been eyeing a paperback copy of it on my co-worker's desk, thinking I should read it for a while.

I'm glad I did. The Imperfectionists follows members of the staff of an international newspaper based in Italy. Each chapter focuses on a different person, but not much is mentioned of their actual work at the paper. It's more about their personal lives. Characters appear in the background of other chapters so you sort of follow them, but I found that I wasn't left with too many questions at the end. One person's daughter died inexplicably so I wanted to know more about that and another character slides in a minor reference to having been sexually abused but again, it's so quick that while it gives you some insight into his persona, it's never fully explored.

Most of the chapters take place in Rome, but one is in Egypt, featuring a young guy who is trying to be a reporter for the paper and a ridiculous journalist who invades his life, and one takes place on the place to Atlanta, where the corporation that owns the newspaper is located. The story of the (never named) paper's founding is told in bits and pieces after each chapter, starting with an American named Cyrus Ott who comes to Rome in the 1950s to start the paper for reasons that are hinted at but not completely revealed until the end of the book. The short italicized history of the paper goes from that point in time to the present, highlighting specific people and situations behind the periodical's history, which is interesting.

The snapshots of each character's story are varied. Some of the characters are total losers (I'm looking at you, Ruby Zaga). Others are dealing with loss of some kind or another, from death to lost love. The book starts with Lloyd Burko, an aging reporter in Paris, who is desperately trying to hold onto his heyday at a writer. Another fascinating character was Ornella, a long time reader who has some form of obsessive compulsive disorder: she will only read the paper in order, so while the book takes place in 2007, she is stuck in 1994.

The Imperfectionists isn't long but it's packed with interesting characters and a newspaper past its prime, dying slowly in the days of instant news via the internet and TV. It's about people holding onto their pasts and presents and other people learning to let go. I really enjoyed it, far more than I thought I would. It goes quickly, but in no way lacks depth. It's definitely worth the read.

Here's the NY Times Review, which goes into more specifics about the characters that I did here.

Buy it at amazon and barnes and noble.

Monday, May 7, 2012

The Master of Heathcrest Hall Review

A couple years ago, I spotted an intriguing book cover:

The back of the book said that the story took Jane Austen's comedy of manners and placed it in a fantasy world. As a Jane Austen and fantasy fan, I grabbed it and read it quickly. The story followed Ivy Lockwell, the eldest of three sisters whose father had gone mad years ago and whose mother was silly, like Mrs. Bennett from Pride and Prejudice. The trappings of the story were familiar: Ivy is poor, but pretty and intelligent. Her annoying cousin, Mr. Wyble, is eventually going to inherit their home. It's been a while since I've read it so I don't remember all the details, but somehow through her cousin, Ivy falls into society people, meeting Dashton Rafferdy, a wealthy, shallow and lazy son of a lord (and probably the best character in the series) and his friend Eldyn Garritt. Rafferdy is descended from one of the seven major magical lines in the world and a shady magician named Mr. Bennick keeps trying to force him to take up his latent powers. Eldyn Garritt has the worst storyline (in all three books). He's also very poor and keeps trying to regain his old family fortune, while trying to protect his flighty 18 year old sister, who keeps flirting with a notorious highwayman.

Anyway the book takes place in the country Altania, which is basically England in the 1800's. Due to some crazy planetary action, the days and nights (here called lumenals and umbrals) vary in length. There's way too much time spent talking about the days and nights and how long they last each day. The science makes absolutely no sense but that's okay. There's magic in the world, controlled by male magicians that are descended from ancient magicians. Meanwhile, there are old trees referred to as the Wrydwood that seem to be self-aware and periodically "rises" to attack people. The trees are confined within walls. There's a lot of political stuff going on as well throughout the story, but since most of the first half of the book follows Ivy in her society and tea drinking adventures, we only catch small glimpses of that.

The second half of the book switches tone completely. For reasons I can't remember (financial probably), Ivy accepts a position in the country as a governess to a Mr. Quent's orphaned wards (it takes about 200 pages to get to the title character's name). Rafferdy and Garritt aren't in this section, which is narrated by Ivy in her journal. I think the book switches into first person too (maybe). The whole part of the book is very Charlotte Bronte. It's basically like Jane Eyre with magic. She moves into Heathcrest Hall, a manor house where the housekeeper, Darendal (essentially Mrs. Danvers) hates here. Mr. Quent is pretty serious and doesn't speak much. His wife, who looked weirdly like Ivy, died in a Wrydwood incident. Ivy ends up investigating the wife's death and learns secrets about her own past and mysterious powers. Since the book is entitled, "Mrs. Quent", clearly Ivy ends up married to Mr. Quent, although she definitely had more of a spark with Rafferdy.

After all of this, Ivy returns home and solves the mystery of what happened to her father and the house where she lived when she was younger. Rafferdy helps with this, bringing the two of them back together.

Okay, my intention here was to review the third book in the series which I just finished, so if you're interested in reading more, check out this review of book two. The second book was much better. It relies far less on Austen and Bronte, although the society stuff continues. Other reviewers have said that the books are far too long, which I agree with. They could definitely lose some time spent drinking tea and talking about the length of the days and nights. The House on Durrow Street reunites Ivy and her sisters with their childhood home. Mr. Quent is out of the picture a lot, which gives Ivy time to interact with Rafferdy. Garritt, meanwhile, tries for a career in the church but ends up discovering his talents as an illusionist and falls in love with a man (homosexuality is definitely not accepted by the general public in this world). The story also turns into a bit of science fiction, as the twelve planets in the sky start to align and the world is threatened by mysterious creatures called The Ashen.

Finally, onto book three, The Master of Heathcrest Hall. This book wraps things up nicely. The three major characters (Ivy, Rafferdy and Garritt) come into their own. Ivy learns to use her powers as a witch to control the trees, Rafferdy manipulates the parliament that he is a part of (essentially the British House of Lords) and uses magic as well, while finally Garritt uses his illusionist powers to help the rebel army that is descending on Altania, led by Huntley Mordon, in the hopes of taking the crown for himself. Again, Mr. Quent is out of the picture much of the time. Ivy's sisters, Rose and Lily, play a slightly bigger role, but most of the story is devoted to Ivy figuring out the final puzzles that her father left for her so she can defeat the Ashen. The titles of the first and last book are deceptive. Heathcrest Hall doesn't show until the last third of the book. Many characters end up sacrificing quite a bit for the greater good. Some people are torn apart from those they love forever, but there are some great reunions between characters who had been separated.

All in all, it was a satisfying end to the series. Lots of questions and mysteries were answered. The book went quicker than the other ones too. One thing that irritated me was that a chapter would open with some action already being done and then the rest of the chapter would flashback to explain how that occurred, which is annoying during major action scenes. You know the conclusion already, which cuts down on the tension that should have been there. Oh well. If you can get through the derivative nature of the first book and don't get way too annoyed with Eldyn Garritt like I did, these are a unique type of fantasy/sci fi and are overall an enjoying read. 

Buy at amazon and barnes and noble.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Unseen Guest

Maryrose Wood's series, The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, are one of my favorite finds of the year. I don't remember how I stumbled across them, probably through Entertainment Weekly or, but I got the first book in the series out from the library and absolutely adored it. The series follows Penelope Lumley, a fifteen year old governess, educated at Swanbourne Academy for Poor Bright Females, which turns out sensible, intelligent young ladies in Victorian England. Penelope is hired by the Ashton family, who live in a huge house in the country to care for their three wards, Alexander, Beowulf and Cassiopeia. These three children were rescued from the forest after seemingly being raised by wolves. They are wild in nature - squirrel chasing, barking and howling... but also quite bright. Penelope settles into the house to teach the children Latin, history and socially useful phrases - and how to avoid their wolfish tendencies. Meanwhile, her employers are quite odd themselves. Lord Frederick is obsessed with his almanac and seems to get mysteriously ill during the full moon, while Lady Constance is silly and selfish.

Penelope deals with everything that comes her way with sensible calm. She is able to transform her pupils quickly into intelligent members of society, even if they still have the tendency to bark and howl now and then. Often the children are far brighter than everyone else around them so their use of Latin or ability to quote Thucydides makes most of the silly adults believe that they are still savages.

Anyway, the Unseen Guest is the third book in the series. Each one is a unique adventure, but there are hints towards a bigger mystery. Where did the children come from? Why does Penelope's headmistress, Charlotte, insist that she dye her hair black? Where are Penelope's parents? Why affliction does Lord Frederick face every month? Maryrose Wood is planning on three more books to round the series out to six, so hopefully she will wrap everyone up well.

Wood's style of writing reminds me a slightly lighter Lemony Snicket (who wrote A Series of Unfortunate Events). I found this quote from a review that summed up my feelings about the books quite well:  "Several reviewers have likened the novel to Lemony Snicket, but I find Woods’ novel infinitely more heartening. Lemony Snicket made me a little depressed, to be honest, while Woods’ novel left me smiling for hours after reading it. The Ashtons and their blue-blood crowd are definitely not cool (as they say nowadays, to borrow from Wood). But the proffered wisdom, the children’s cheerful willingness to adapt to Penelope and her lessons, her unfailing faith in her charges, and her determination to protect them create a more hopeful world, where good things are possible, even amidst the bad."

If you like clever word play, a cute storyline and an intriguing mystery, check these books out. As they are for young adults, they are an easy read, but like many young adult books that I've encountered, they should not be discounted a childish, when really they are among the most enjoyable books I've read in the last couple years.

Interview with Maryrose Wood

Review of the first book in the series.

Buy it at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

On another note, I'm a little disappointed that I'm 10 books behind where I was last year. I don't know why exactly. Longer books? Less time? No cruise where I read about a book a day? I don't know, but I'm a little frustrated with myself!