Monthly Archives: May 2015

Mini Reviews – YALSA Hub Challenge Books

The Story of Owen (Dragon Slayer of Trondheim, #1)

 Title – The Story of Owen: Dragon Slayer of Trondheim

 Author – E. K. Johnston

 2014 – YA – Fantasy

 Rating: 4/5

 Source: Library

The Story: Lottie Thorskard is maybe the most famous dragon slayer in the world – or at least in Canada. But when she suffers a career-ending injury, she decides to move her family into the more rural town of Trondheim. Her brother Aodhan becomes Trondheim’s dragon slayer while his son Owen trains to follow in his father’s footsteps. After meeting and becoming friends with Owen, Siobhan gets much more than she bargains for when she agrees to tutor Owen and then ends up as his personal bard.

The Opening Line: Before the Thorskards came to Trondheim, we didn’t have a permanent dragon slayer.

Thoughts: I really enjoyed this novel. It really reminded me a lot of some of my other favorite novels, almost as if Jasper Fforder’s Thursday Next series and Lish McBride’s Necromancer series had a baby. The novel was full of humor, imagination, and pure old fun. I thought the premise was really unique too. At first I thought it was pure fantasy, dragon slayer and all that, but it’s actually got a modern setting. Owen is just your typical teenager, failing algebra and playing soccer, but he also has to train to become a dragon slayer as his future career. I haven’t really read anything like it and I really can’t wait for a free moment to read the second novel!

Lock In

 Title: Lock In

 Author: John Scalzi

 2014 – Fiction – Mystery/Science Fiction

 Rating: 3.5/5

 Source: Library

The Story: After a virus rampages the planet, a large number of victims find themselves locked into their bodies. They are fully aware and conscious of everything that’s happening, but they can no longer use their bodies at all. A system is rapidly developed for these victims. They can gather in a virtual world known as the Agora, use a mechanical personal transport system known as a threep, or integrate with another human host for a matter of time. But when federal funding begins to dry up for these victims, known as Hadens, strange things start to happen.

The Opening Line: Haden’s syndrome is the name given to a set of continuing physical and mental conditions and disabilities initially brought on by “the Great Flu,” the influenza-like global pandemic that resulted in the deaths of more than 400 million people worldwide, either through the initial flu-like symptoms, the secondary stage of meningitis-like cerebral and spinal inflammation, or through complications arising due to the third stage of the disease, which typically caused complete paralysis of the voluntary nervous system, resulting in “lock in” for its victims.

Thoughts: Okay, aside from the longest opening line ever, the rest of the novel was pretty good. It was very different from what I initially expected though. From the official blurb, I thought it was some sort of apocalyptic dystopian novel with a virtual world component. Not really though. The Agora plays an extremely minor role in the story, with our main character spending most of his time traveling in a threep, which is a sort of robot type body into which his consciousness is integrated while his body remains at home uselessly in the care of a caretaker. The novel is a string of convoluted and complicated events, with topics ranging from politics to funding to the gap between communication between the Native American nations and the United States. There’s murder and intrigue and false leads aplenty. There’s also plenty of tech talk. It wasn’t my favorite novel ever, but I appreciate what it was.

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Review – The Girl on the Train

The Girl on the Train

 Title: The Girl on the Train

 Author: Paula Hawkins

 2015 – Fiction – Mystery/Thriller

 Rating: 4/5

 Source: Library

The Story: Every day Rachel takes the train into London. On her morning commute, the train always stops or slows at a certain point along the track, and she loves to look at the row of houses nestled nearby. She particularly loves to watch the couple she has deemed Jess and Jason – on most mornings, Jess can be found having coffee on the terrace and Jason often pops out for a chat as well. To Rachel’s eyes, their marriage and life together look perfect, everything she doesn’t have. But then Jess (who in actuality is named Megan) goes missing and her husband is the prime suspect.

The Opening Line: She’s buried beneath a silver birch tree, down towards the old train tracks, her grave marked with a cairn.

Thoughts: So, this is it, huh? The next Gone Girl, the bright and shiny novel that captured the world’s attention? I mean, I would have read it anyway, probably, because I really like the mystery/suspense/thriller genre, but I recently read Gone Girl and wanted more. And my library has this thing called “Lucky Day”. It’s a small selection of the latest, greatest, most popular books, the ones with hold lists a mile long. Anyway, a few of these books are set aside and deemed “Lucky Day” books – they are usually set up as a display, there is no line or hold list, and their checkout period is only a week long instead of the typical 2 weeks for new books or 4 for everything else. Anyway, I got lucky and happened to be in the library the other day when The Girl on the Train was available. Because about a million people have told me to read it, I grabbed it then and there.

So, here’s the question. Is it the new Gone Girl? I think not. The books do share similar features – missing wives, suspicious husbands, unreliable narrators, and a lot of lies. But I think this book does a fine job of standing on its own. Hawkins does a great job of weaving 3 stories together into one narrative, with plenty of plot twists and enough vague clues to keep readers guessing. I finished the book in a day. Last night in fact, as we were chowing down on burgers at McDonald’s, I was frantically reading the last few pages, completely ignoring my roommate as I tried to figure out what happened. So whether you have or haven’t read Gone Girl, The Girl on the Train is a worthy read in and of itself.

And yes, I realize I didn’t do a real review – I talked a lot about my library and McDonald’s, right? Intentional. Best you come at this book without knowing too much! 🙂

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Review – And We Stay

And We Stay

 Title: And We Stay

 Author: Jenny Hubbard

 2014 – YA – Realistic Fiction

 Rating: 4.5/5

 Source: Library

The Story: Everything changes after Paul walks into the school library, threatens his girlfriend Emily with a gun, and then takes his own life. To recuperate, Emily is sent to the Amherst School for Girls, where a developing love of poetry helps her cope and her new friends help her open up about her story.

The Opening Line: There are rumors the day Emily Beam arrives at the Amherst School for Girls – in January, halfway through her junior year.

Thoughts: This novel absolutely shattered me. If I had to choose one word to describe the overall tone of the novel, I would have to choose “melancholy”. Which is absolutely fitting, as Emily seeks out the poetry of Emily Dickinson as she strives to cope with the poems inside her that demand to be written. She sees in Dickinson a kindred soul, lonely and reclusive and ripe with talent and words.

I also see healing and hope as major themes in the novel. Hubbard isn’t afraid to address some big questions. How can we pick up the pieces after our lives are shattered? How do we cope with guilt and anger and fear? And most importantly, how do we move forward? The book is rife with bad decisions and worse consequences, but it’s raw in its authenticity and pain. As Emily begins to reshape her life, it’s like a drink of cool water to quench a powerful thirst. That’s really one of the only ways I can describe this story.

Although this novel is set in a boarding school, maybe my favorite setting, this isn’t your typical boarding school novel. Emily is here to escape. To find solace. To be reborn. There’s no flash or dazzle here – And We Stay is a quiet, thoughtful work of art that longs to be read.

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