Review: A Spy in the House (The Agency #1), by Y. S. Lee

I have such a weird relationship with mystery novels. I keep being fascinated by them, and really wanting to read them, but every single time I grow impatient and slightly bored with them. I should learn. Nevertheless, I picked up A Spy in the House, the first book in The Agency series, by Y. S. Lee, because it seemed to be about a secret agency run by women, employing women spies, working in Victorian London. Come on, how was I suppose to resist that?

In 1850s London, Mary Quinn, born Lang, is rescued from the gallows and offered an education to become a proper lady at Miss Scrimshaw’s Academy for Girls. Years later, she is offered the singular job of becoming a spy. You see, the school is really a front for an all-female spy group called The Agency. Accepting her new job, Mary first's case is to pretend to be the lady companion of one young lady called Angelica Thorold, while gathering as many information as she can on her potentially thief and fraudulent father. I n the course of her investigation Mary discovers secrets about her past, meets a new ally, interesting and slightly arrogant James Easton, and learns that everybody has secrets, things might always be more dangerous than they seem, and to never ever take people at face value.

I liked this book. For a mystery. Like I said before, I'm not sure I'm the right person to comment objectively on any mystery book I read. I think I am too impatient to ever be able to enjoy them thoroughly (except for Sherlock Holmes stories. They are the exception to the rule). Once I'm half-way through a mystery novel, I usually just want to know how it ends, or who is the culprit, etc. and do not care as much anymore about the process to get there. That said, I actually really enjoyed several aspects of this book. Mary was an interesting character. It was great to see her start as a spy, to see her find her footing, making mistakes, and learning from them. As this is the first book in a series, it would be very interesting to see how her talents as a spy evolve. I'm no specialist of the Victorian period, and therefore could not point out historical inaccuracies even if I wanted to, but I could see, I could feel, that this book was well researched. Of course it helps that the author has a PhD in Victorian literature and culture. I loved all the little details here and there, a sentence, an anecdote, that contributed to make the world of the novel come to life. It always felt real, and not romanticized. That added greatly to my enjoyment of the book. 

A second thing I loved was how it balanced fairly well the empowerment of women versus the gender restrictive era in which they lived. In fact, The Agency bases part of its success on the fact that, in those times, women were greatly underestimated. This constant tug and pull between expectations and what was actually possible, was really enjoyable and made me even ponder the feasibility of such an agency ever existing in the past. It was quite exciting at times.

The males interest, as there are bound to be one in YA novels, was actually interesting as well. He was given a voice, a personality and even goals and desires of his own that went beyond the heroine. James and Mary had fun, albeit at time a bit cheesy (but we like a bit of cheese, don't we?) arguments, and lively discussions. Their story was different in some aspects and it was quite refreshing. I love how it, and the book, ended. I also really enjoyed some of the other characters, especially Angelica, the spoiled, sometimes cruel, but ultimately unhappy, young lady, to whom Mary was hired to keep company.

Overall, I thought it was a great book. The mystery was well crafted, I think (even though I couldn't get really interested in it, but, like I said, that could be just me), the characters interesting and believable, the period details fascinating and the novel was well-paced. I would recommend this to anybody who loves historical or mystery novels (or both!). I, myself, will probably read the second book in the series, The Body at the Tower. I guess, I'll never learn.


Waiting on Wednesday (7)

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating

Prized (Birthmarked #2), by Caragh M. O'Brien
Release Date: November 8th 2011

In the thrilling follow up to Birthmarked, sixteen-year-old midwife Gaia Stone has fled from the Enclave and now must fight for her baby sister’s survival in the matriarchal society of Sylum. Striking out into the wasteland with nothing but her baby sister, a handful of supplies, and a rumor to guide her, 16-year-old midwife Gaia Stone survives only to be captured by the people of Sylum, a dystopian society where women rule the men who drastically outnumber them, and a kiss is a crime. In order to see her sister again, Gaia must submit to their strict social code, but how can she deny her sense of justice, her curiosity, and everything in her heart that makes her whole?

 This is the second book in this dystopian series. I really liked the first one Birthmarked (in fact you can read my review HERE) and so am really looking forward to see what  happens to Gaia as she, it seems, escape a repressive society just to enter another.


Little News and Reminder.

Hello dear readers,

Let me start this quick post with an apology for my absence in the comments in the past week or so. I was visiting family for Easter and found myself quite busy (or lazy).
I want to thank all of you who commented (especially on the "favourite villains" post). I always enjoy reading your opinions.

One News: I am now on Twitter! And you are quite welcomed to follow me. It will be half personal tweets and half books related stuff.
I am @woodlandtales, hope to see you there!

Reminder: With all my visiting and enjoying family time I forgot last week to post a little reminder.
Last week, The Betrayal of Maggie Blair, by Elizabeth Blair came out. I did a review of the ARC, and you can read it HERE.
It is recommended to all lovers of YA Historical novels.

I hope everyone is well, and enjoying some fantastic books!
More reviews and updates coming soon!

Love, MJ


In My Mailbox (7)

In My Maibox (or IMM) is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren. It enables bloggers to mention the books they have acquired during the week. Read more about it HERE.

This week nothing special. Just bought a few books at the bookstore because I couldn't help myself :) April has been a slow month in terms of book buying and book reading. I expect things to pick up in May


  • The Poison Eaters, by Holly Black
  • Teeth: Vampire Tales, ed. by Terri Windling & Ellen Datlow


Waiting on Wednesday (6)

 "Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating

Hourglass, by Myra McEntire
Release Date: June 14th 2011

One hour to rewrite the past . . .
For seventeen-year-old Emerson Cole, life is about seeing what isn’t there: swooning Southern Belles; soldiers long forgotten; a haunting jazz trio that vanishes in an instant. Plagued by phantoms since her parents’ death, she just wants the apparitions to stop so she can be normal. She’s tried everything, but the visions keep coming back.
So when her well-meaning brother brings in a consultant from a secretive organization called the Hourglass, Emerson’s willing to try one last cure. But meeting Michael Weaver may not only change her future, it may change her past.
Who is this dark, mysterious, sympathetic guy, barely older than Emerson herself, who seems to believe every crazy word she says? Why does an electric charge seem to run through the room whenever he’s around? And why is he so insistent that he needs her help to prevent a death that never should have happened?

Full of atmosphere, mystery, and romance, Hourglass merges the very best of the paranormal and science-fiction genres in a seductive, remarkable young adult debut.
It sounds really fascinating and different (hopefully). The romance could be really cliched, but I've learned not to trust blurbs, as they seem to think they absolutely need to make the male love interest as interesting, mysterious, and hot, as possible. I'm mostly interested by this secret society and why the female protagonist seems to be haunted by the past.


Top Ten Tuesday - Favorite Villains

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Each week a new theme is given.

This week the is : Top Ten Tuesday Rewind

This theme means that I get to go back into the Top Ten Tuesday archive and choose whatever past theme I want.
Therefore I chose theme (22) Villains/ Criminal/ Other Nasties

So I will write about 10 of my most favorite book villains. This one was a bit of a challenge. I really like villains, but I realized the ones that came to my mind the most were from movies and TV shows. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized I was being foolish. Books have incredible villains! And some of them I simply adore. Sometimes even more than the hero, because they are often more layered, or interesting, or just so scary they stick in your mind long after you've turned the last page. So, here goes.

1. Voldemort - Harry Potter series, by J. K. Rowling
I do not think this one needs any introduction. At first I wasn't sure I liked Voldemort as much as other villains. He was just that unknown, kind of far away villain everyone was scared of, but never really saw. Then by the end of the fourth book, he came back to life, and then we understood. In the subsequent books we were given more background story, more layers to his character, if a character as evil and as unforgiving as him can have layers. His story was not much about how an innocent can become a monster. It was how a monster finds the power to become the most feared wizard in history. I found that fascinating.

2. Moriarty - Sherlock Holmes series, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
While admittedly Moriarty is only featured directly in two of the Sherlock Holmes stories ("The Valley of Fear" and "The Final Problem"), I find him quite frightening. When the character is discussed as being a criminal mastermind, a shadow behind a lot of the crime happening in London, some even investigated by Holmes himself, we as the reader were forced to look back on all of those conflicts, and murders, and theft, that had happened in previous stories and wonder and wonder, how much of it was due to Moriarty? Was he behind it all? That's what I like about him, he is smart and quick and ingenious, but mysterious, almost invisible and too elusive.

3. The One Ring - The Lord of the Rings trilogy, by J. R. R. Tolkien
I could have easily said Sauron, but really The One Ring (which admittedly is an extension of Sauron himself) is far more frightening to me. While Sauron is just a disembodied evil, this great eye far into Mordor, far from the characters from most of the trilogy, the Ring is ever present. There is something quite frightening about an object so small and innocuous, so harmless, yet, so so evil. The way it tempts the people around it, especially the ones bearing it, the way it wants to be found, it wants to be reunited with its Master. It gives me chills just thinking about it.

4. Mrs. Coulter - His Dark Materials trilogy, by Philip Pullman
Oh, Mrs. Coulter. While she gets more layered and a bit more of a gray-area villain in the second and third book of the series, she truly gave me the creeps in the first one. She was all sweetness and steel. She was nice and motherly (ha!) one moment and the next stern, cold, and even cruel. But for me the horror came toward the end of the first book, when it is revealed what it is she really does, there, in the North, will all of those kidnapped children...And as the series unfolded, and she got more and more complex, I was always torn about her character, always ambiguous. Isn't that a great thing?

5. Dolores Umbridge - Harry Potter series, by J. K. Rowling
I love Umbridge. I do. Or I love to hate her. She was a delightful villain. So cruel and creepy. She was never really a Death Eater, but always a Power Seeker. Taking over Hogwarts, torturing students, implementing a dictatorship in the school. Then later, pursuing non "pure-blood" witches. She grabbed at all the power she could, was heartless and steadfast in her twisted convictions. I thought she showed another side of evil in the Harry Potter series. that "ordinary" people can also be cruel and hurtful and damaging. While Voldemort always seemed in a class of his own, not even really human anymore, Umbridge was so human, I couldn't help but be frightened in the recognition my mind had that people like her actually exist.

6. Hook - Peter Pan, by J. M. Barrie
Hook, while not as threatening as most other villains on this list, is just such a great and fun villain, I couldn't leave him out. He is never a real threat to Peter Pan, not really. We know from the beginning who will win, and who will die. But, I like the colorfulness of Hook. And let's face it, I like pirates (who doesn't really? Literary ones that is, real ones are a bit to scary and probably not as fashionable and extravagant)

7. The Nothing - The Neverending Story, by Michael Ende
I was introduced to this villain through the movie before the book and was completely scared and fascinated by it, and things didn't change once I got to the book. The Nothing is not a character per se, it is a destructive force created by the lack of imagination of people in the real world. And it is slowly swallowing Fantastica, making places, things, and people disappear, not killing them, it is as if they never existed. How terrifying really, to think that imagination has the power to create such wonders, and the lack of it to destroy so swiftly and with such finality. (picture: Not The Nothing, but Gmork, the werewolf, another villain in the story. can't really have a picture of nothing.)

8. The White Witch - The Chronicles of Narnia, by C. S. Lewis
I always liked the White Witch in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. She seemed liked such a badass. It would take one very powerful being to make winter last this long. But it is really once I got to reading The Magician's Nephew that I truly liked her. We are introduced to who she is, where she comes from, and how she got into Narnia. And how terrible and heartless she can be. I mean, she destroyed her own world, everything in it, with one word, just so her sister wouldn't win, just so she wouldn't loose. And even after her defeat at the hand of Aslan, she lingers in memories and in spirit through the whole history of Narnia, through all its ages. The first evil to enter Narnia.

9. President Snow/The Capitol (and every other government in dystopian fiction) - The Hunger Games trilogy, by Suzanne Collins
Here I name the oppressive and dictatorship government that reigns over the world of The Hunger Games series, but really it can be any type of totalitarian government in any dystopian novel, young adult or otherwise. There is something so terrifying (and maybe a little too close to home?) about such governments and restrictive societies. And there is something totally satisfying and great about reading about characters that confront such governments, and attempt to break its barriers to find a way out, to find freedom. Such tales would not be possible without such great villains as dictators, Thought Police, Hunger Games, and other twisted power-hungry governmental institutions.

10. The Unraveller Rakoth Maugrim - The Fionavar Tapestry trilogy, by Guy Gavriel Kay
The Fionavar Tapestry is a great epic fantasy in the same vein as The Lord of The Rings (in fact Mr. Kay was Christopher's Tolkien assistant in putting together The Silmarillion), but maybe a bit more accessible. I absolutely love it, and it probably should deserve a post in itself. Let me just say that Rakoth Maugrim is as evil as evil gets. He is a renegade god who, jealous of The Weaver's (the creator) work, breaks into Fionavar and bring pain, war, distress and evil to it. Because he came from outside the Loom, he cannot be killed and therefore, once defeated, can only be chained under a mountain, where he bides his time to take his revenge. Scary, end-of-the-world stuff.


Bookish Links (1)

Things to read. Things to listen to. Things to ponder. Things to love.

  • The 5th anniversary issue of Goblin Fruit is out, and it is wonderful. Goblin Fruit is an online journal that publishes poetry "that treats mythic, surreal, fantasy and folkloric themes, or approaches other themes in a fantastical way". If you do not know about it, it is well worth to explore and go back in the archives. There are real treasures there. I also love that you can listen to some of the authors reading their poem. It adds another dimension to the poetry, as I think it is meant to be read out loud. I am particularly fond of "Crowfunded" by J. C. Runolfson and "The Making of Witches" by Paul McQuade. 
  • Author Theodora Goss writes about vampires in folklore and literature at the Realms of Fantasy website. A very interesting read, expecially since vampires are very popular right now in fiction, and especially in young adult literature.
  • Gwenda Bond talks about dystopia in YA fiction in an article called "The Future's Not Bright", at Tor.com. Also very relevant, since  dystopia has, it seems, almost eclipsed the vampire trend in YA literature now. I like the genre a lot and find the questions raised and the discussion very interesting.
  • Magazine and Publisher Tin House has an incredibly fascinating and beautiful podcast with Karen Russell, author of St. Lucy's Home for Girl Raised by Wolves, and Swamplandia! (read my review of the book here) entitled "The Cartography of Imaginary Places". Highly recommended.
  • Did you know you could listen, and watch, to the entirety of The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman? For Free? Done during his national book tour, he also answers questions from the audience. Read by the author himself, it is absolutely awesome and delightful. 
(first three links found via Terri Windling's blog)
Image credit: mine :)


    Review: The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, by Catherynne M. Valente

    I'm going to be honest, I love Catherynne Valente's work. Love. This story was first published on her website, and I somehow missed it. When I finally found my way to it, the last part of the book had been taken down in anticipation for its print publication. There was no way I was starting this book without finishing it, so I put down the publication date in my calendar, and waited. And waited. And waited. Finally, by chance, luck, or my good star looking down on me, I was offered to review an advanced copy of the book by the publishers. I was so happy I could barely contain myself. And when I received it, I held it in my hands, preciously, almost scared to open the first page. But what else can one do with a book, but dive in, and see where it takes you? So I did. and, boy, what a trip it took me on. What an adventure!

    Twelve-year old September is met one day at her window by a Green Wind (riding a panther). He offers to take her on an adventure into Fairyland, where wonders await her. September slowly finds that her help might be needed there. The Marquess, ruler of Fairyland, is fickle, unpredictable, and even cruel. September makes friends, including a wyvern whose father is a library and a strange boy named Saturday, and offers her help. She soon finds herself on a quest that takes her further than she ever thought she would ever go.

    This book did not dissapoint my over-the-top anticipation and expectation in any way. It even surpassed them. I should have known. I should have known it would be more than what I could imagine. It is a testament to Ms. Valente's storytelling talent that she can do that. Not only is her prose absolutely gorgeous, it makes you want to write down or underline a quote every single page, but the way she weaves a story is remarkable.

    This book is a treasure. Truly. I can barely find the words to describe how delighted it made me. How I enjoyed the twists and turns of the story, the adventure, the love, the friendship, and the courage. Oh the Bravery of this book, the Bravery of September. She starts as such an interesting, but well-known type of character, like Alice and her Wonderland. But soon, she morphs into her own character, puts her feet down, and become so tangible, she felt like a friend or a little sister. But it was more than that, I wanted to be September, or at the very least it made me wish I could have been like her when I was younger. But September is not the only one stealing my heart in this book, oh no, every character that she meets, all of her friends and ennemies, have something special and interesting. Catherynne M. Valente has this ability to take well-known creatures such as dragons, wyverns, witches and fairies and create them anew, so they become unique with their own mythology, their own world.

    The story is told by a third-person omniscient narrator that oftens talks directly to the reader, and even points out details and insights into the process of storytelling itself. But instead of feeling condescending or taking you away from your immersion in the story, it feels familiar and comforting. Like having a story told by a particularly gifted person around a campfire at Summer camp. Or your mom weaving a story while you slowly fall asleep with your head on her stomach, staring at the changing shapes on your ceiling created by your nightlight.

    I could go on and on about this book. How it's both for children and adults because it speaks to the same place in our hearts. Or how, even if you are not as enthusiastic about it as I am, it is just a lot of fun. It has funny moments, dark moments, quests, friendships, wonders and adventure. What more can you want?

    The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making comes out May 10th 2011. Take note, write it down. Buy yourself a copy.
    (thank you to Macmillan Children's Publishing Group for the ARC copy)


    Waiting on Wednesday (5)

     "Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating

    The Penderwicks at Point Mouette (The Penderwicks #3), by Jeannne Birdsall
    Release Date: May 10th 2011

    When summer comes around, it's off to the beach for Rosalind . . . and off to Maine with Aunt Claire for the rest of the Penderwick girls, as well as their old friend, Jeffrey.That leaves Skye as OAP (oldest available Penderwick)—a terrifying notion for all, but for Skye especially. Things look good as they settle into their cozy cottage, with a rocky shore, enthusiastic seagulls, a just-right corner store, and a charming next-door neighbor.  But can Skye hold it together long enough to figure out Rosalind's directions about not letting Batty explode?  Will Jane's Love Survey come to a tragic conclusion after she meets the alluring Dominic? Is Batty—contrary to all accepted wisdom—the only Penderwick capable of carrying a tune?  And will Jeffrey be able to keep peace between the girls . . . these girls who are his second, and most heartfelt, family?
    It's a rollicking ride as the Penderwicks continue their unforgettable adventures in a story filled with laughs and joyful tears!

    I love love The Penderwicks series. This might be one of my most awaited book of 2011.
    (summary from Goodreads)


    In My Mailbox (6)

    In My Maibox (or IMM) is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren. It enables bloggers to mention the books they have acquired during the week. Read more about it HERE.

    This week I received an ARC by one of my favourite author. It's so beautiful and I am so happy to be able to read it and review it. I also went to the used book store.

    Advanced Reader Copy:

    • The Girl Who Circumavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, by Catherynne M. Valente
      (so so so excited!)

    Used books:

    • The Awakening and Selected Stories, by Kate Chopin
    • The Book of Three (The Chronicles of Prydain #1), by Lloyd Alexander
      (I've nver read this one before, it's about time, I think)
    • Dealing With Dragons (Enchanted Forest Chronicles #1), by Patricia C. Wrede
      (this is an unknown one to me as well, but I've heard good things about it)


    Thoughts: Comfort Reading (part 1)

    Like I have comfort food, and comfort movies, I also have comfort reads. Books that, when I read and re-read them, make me feel happier and safer, or offer me such escapism, I forget, for a while, what I need comforting from.
    For me, comfort books must tell happy stories, or at least stories with happy endings. They must feel sweet on my tongue and fill me with a sense of peace and stillness, like sunshine on my face on a bright summer day. They can be quiet books, or they can be full of adventures. Not all of my favourite books are comfort books, but mosts of my comfort reads are favourites of mine. I guess it migh not be surprising to some that the majority of my most comforting books are children books.
    I've always been fond of children literature, and maybe it's the innocence and the joy that permeates their stories, or the nostalgia they evoke in me (even though I didn't read some of them before I was an adult), but they always find a way inside of me, this place in my heart that needs mending somehow. Even when it's just for a little while.

    Here is the first part of my comfort read list containning some of my most comforting and beloved children books and stories:

    Winnie-the-Pooh & The House at Pooh Corner, by A. A. Milne

    It's hard for me to say why this is not only one of my comfort reads, if not the most comforting book for me, but also one of my very favourite. It's the innocence, and the happiness that fills the different stories. It's the little characters that I cherish and that make me smile. It's the way it transports me to The Hundred Acre Wood, a most perfect place for picnics, and games by the river. It's like a lazy afternoon lying on the grass, a hot cup of tea in winter, the pleasure of talking with friends and of knowing you are not alone. Plus, they are really funny.

    The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy, by Jeanne Birdsall (and all subsequent sequels)

    This is just a charming, fun, enjoyable tale. Four adorable, different, strong-minded sisters, a charming boy, a silly big dog, a bull, two rabbits, a dad obsessed with plants, and an incredible summer. I find that a lot of my comfort reads take place during Summer. Funny, because it is probably my least favourite season due to the fact that I feel like melting into a puddle of my own sweat for 2 to 3 months every year. But summer is still this magical time, as a child, where there are no school, no jobs, just days spent playing with friends, at the park, in the pool, and trips to the beach, or the countryside. And this book reflects that perfectly, through characters that are silly and fun, but still heartfelt and real.

    The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett

    I must admit that the comfort I get form this boot has as much to do with the book than with the 1993 movie. I like to say that Mary Lennox is my favourite of all Marys, and it's true. I love her like a friend and like a little sister. Dickon was my first literary/movie crush, and to this day I cannot resist a gardening boy, or a boy that works with animals, in books. I never much cared about Colin, but I certainly cared about the garden. I am not sure if my love for gardens, and garden tales come from this book, or if I love this book because I love gardens, but no matter. All I know is that going back to Mary, Dickon, the Secret Garden and Misselthwaite Manor is all I need to brighten my day. It has its own special kind of magic.

    Anne of Green Gables, by L. M. Montgomery

    Here is one comforting book that I actually do not re-read. This book would also make the list of "Books that changed my life" and "Characters (Anne Shirley) that changed my life". My mom made me borrow this book from the library when I was about 7, and was looking for big books to read by myself. I like to think I read it in a day, but it probably took me a few. It so changed the way I saw books, stories and storytelling, and Anne made the biggest impact on my life, no other character has ever been able to touch me so much To this day I still consider her a best friend (or should I say we are bosom friends). I haven't really re-read this book since my early teens, so scared I am to break the magic it has over me. So afraid to find faults where I thought there were none. But the thought of it is comforting to me. The thought of how it moved me and how it made me feel, as a little girl, like I wasn't alone, like it was okay for me to be the way I am, automatically brightens my heart.

    Other honorable mentions:
    • Peter Pan, by J. M. Barrie
    • A Little Princess, by Frances Hodgson Burnett
    • Alice in wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass, by Lewis Carroll
    • The Neverending Story, by Michael Ende
     What comforts you in a book? Do you have any comforting children books that you like to re-read?


    Waiting on Wednesday (4)

     "Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating

    Dark of the Moon, by Tracy Barrett
    Release Date: September 19th 2011

    Ariadne is destined to become a goddess of the moon. She leads a lonely life, finding companionship only with her beloved, misshapen brother Asterion, who must be held captive below the palace for his own safety.Then a ship arrives bearing a tribute of slaves from Athens, and Ariadne meets Theseus, the son of the king of Athens. Ariadne finds herself drawn to the newcomer, and soon they form a friendship—one that could perhaps become something more.
    But Theseus is doomed to die as an offering to the minotaur, that monster beneath the palace—unless he can kill the beast first. And that "monster" is Ariadne’s brother . . .

    I love Greek Mythology and I love the Labyrith myth. Ariadne has always seem to me like a great unexplored character, so often passed over by the likes of Helen of Troy. I am therefore really intrigue by this book. I also wonder how the author will present Theseus, as in the original myth he ends up being quite the jackass.
    (summary form Goodreads)

    Review: Guardian of the Gate, by Michelle Zink

    Guardian of the Gate is the second book in the Prophecy of the Sisters series, click here to read my review of the first book.

    Lia and Sonia have been in London for nine months now. They are getting ready to travel to Altus, the mystical island where Lia's aunt will tell them where to find the Prophecy's missing pages. These pages are important to Lia, as they are suppose to tell her how to end the Prophecy and defeat her sister Alice. They are soon joined by Edmond and Luisa and leave on the perilous journey to Altus. They are joined and helped by Dimitri, a boy Lia finds herself attracted to. They are pursued by Hounds and face betrayal within their ranks. It is a long way to Altus and an even longer way to the missing pages, but Lia is determined to see her quest through and end the Prophecy once and for all.

    The first book of this series felt a bit gothic and was definitely intriguing, I got sucked into the Prophecy and really wanted to know more about it. The second book was, in my opinion, disappointing. Most of the book follows Lia, her two friends (and Keys to the Prophecy) Sonia and Luisa, her faithful servant Edmond, and a new powerful ally, Dimitri, on their way to Altus. The second book is more of a quest/adventure story than a gothic mystery like the first one. Still, while a bit slow, the plot moves forward steadily and more details are slowly revealed, but very few, and maybe not enough, in the end. Most of all, we are introduced to a new character and love interest, Dimitri. Now, if you have read this blog for a while you know I am highly critical of love stories in YA fiction, but I am not immune to them. I like them when they are well written. This was not one of them. It was one of those almost-love-at-first-sight-I-trust-you-almost-immediately-I-don't-know-why-but-you-bring-me-such-comfort-and-I-feel-safe-with-you relationship. It had almost immediate making out sessions by campfire light, even though this is suppose to be the 19th century. Oh I'm sure people still made out in those times in secret even though it was considered improper. After all, all those stereotypes about quiet gardeners and sexy stable boys must have come from somewhere, but really? It was not written in a believable fashion. Not to me anyway. I was rolling my eyes so hard, I gave myself a headache. Not only that, but Dimitri? He was boring. Look, he was a nice guy, and I like nice guys. They are not present enough in YA fiction. But they are also hard to write. He had no personality. He was brave and strong and loved Lia unconditionally almost immediately. He was ready to die for her, right there and then. He was so much about her, he was the male equivalent of all those empty females characters you see in Hollywood movies that are there to help the hero on their way and offer them emotional support, but have no real life of their own.

    That said the love story did not take over the whole plot, which is a good thing. Lia did keep her eyes on her goals, and never really forgot her purpose or quest. In my review of the first book, I presumed I would love Lia more in the sequels, and I was partly right. I did not dislike her, but I was indifferent to her for most of the book. It is only toward the end, when she is finally on her own, that she shows how strong she can be, and in those moments, I really liked her. My favourite characters were still Luisa and Sonia, although their relationship with Lia was obscured by Dimitri, and I would have much prefered if their bond had been more at the forefront of the story like it was in the first book.

    This series is told from Lia's first point of view, but I think, for me, it would have been much better if it had been told from a third-person point of view. It could still focused on Lia, but it would have been nice to have some insight into other characters once in a while. For example, Alice is almost absent from this novel, because Lia and her are no longer together. But Alice is such an interesting character, and through the novel all the characters kept mentioning how powerful she was becoming, how evil and determined, but we never saw it truly. It would have been nice to have some chapters from her point of view. Since this is a story about a Prophecy between two sisters on opposing sides, it would have been nice to see both sides. It really made me realize how important the choice of point-of-view in a story can be.

    In spite of its fault, though, I really really want to know how the whole story ends. The whole mythology atround the Prophecy is interesting and characters are changing and evolving and I think it will still be entertaining to read the last book, Circle of Fire, coming out this August.


    Monday 10: Of Unorthodox Princesses

    Monday 10 is a weekly post where I share a list of 10 bookish items based on a theme, subject, idea, fancy, etc.
    Every reader and blogger is also invited to participate and make their own list. It doesn't have to have the same theme, it just needs to pertain to books!
    If you do make your own list and post it to your blog, share the link in the comments. Or if you prefer write your own list in the comments!
    Note: I put 3 asterisks beside the titles I have read and recommnend. Ihave not read all of the books I put in these lists, so be sure to check them all out!

    I want ot make a list of 10 princesses who defies the stereotypes of their title. Real princesses, fake princesses, princesses in training, anything goes!

    * 10 Unorthodox Princesses *
    Happy Monday!


    Review: The Peach Keeper, by Sarah Addison Allen

    I will start by saying that I LOVE Sarah Addison Allen's books. I have bought and read and cherished her three previous novels, and I always await the next one with trepidation. Her brand of magical realism and the ability to describe and create perfect settings and atmosphere, as well as giving a sense of hope and joy, even in the darlest scenes of her novels, make her books some of my favourite comfort reading besides my beloved children novels. So it's with little guilt that I broke my book buying ban and went to the store to buy this one. In hardcover.

    As for all of her previous books, The Peach Keeper, follows the lives of two women in a small town somewhere in the south of the United States. In this case it follows Willa Jackson and Paxton Osgood in the town of Walls of Water in North Carolina. Willa used to be a joker and a wild young girl, but has now settled in a quieter life, owning an organic sporting goods store, and going to the nursing home to see her grandmother once a week. Paxton is a member of the Osgood clan, the richest family in Walls of Water. She is the president of the Women's Society Club, and organizing its 75th anniversary. She is detail-oriented, extremely well-organized and always in control, and her only true friend is the local dentist, Sebastian. But just as Paxton's brother, Colin, comes back to town to help her, things also start to change. A strange wind makes people reveal their most secret thoughts. Things move and bells ring without anyone touching them. A body is found under the peach tree next the the newly renovated Madam, a house where Willa's grandmother used to live. There is a secret that has been burind for 75 years, that refuses to lay dormant anymore, and Willa and Paxton are determined to figure it out.

    The Peach Keeper didn't have as many magical elements, or quirky, singular characters as Sarah Addison Allen's previsou novels, but nevertheless, I loved the story anyway. I loved both Willa and Paxton and their friends/love interests Colin and Sebastian. But my favourtite part of all her novels is still her ability to create such settinsgs and atmosphere that make me want to eat pie, bask in the sun and have candle-lit dinners with friends while crickets sing in the distance. It's the ultimate comfort. Some people might characterize her novels as chick-lit, a term I personnally dislike very much, but, for me, they are not quite so. Sure there are love stories, sure most main characters find love, but her novels, and The Peach Keeper is no exeption, are first and foremost about friendship between women. And it's what I loved the most about this novel. I was more fascinated and interested by the relationship between Willa and Paxton than their relationship with Sebastian and Colin. I also admire Ms. Allen's talent at making secondary and side characters interesting. They jump at you from the page, even though they might have very little time within the story. On the downside, Ms. Allen's books and vision of Southern America, is mostly white and heteronormative. Nothing new, I know. But I hope that for her next novel(s), she introduces non-white protagonists, and non-hetero relationships for her protagonists. Because, somehow, everything else feels so real.

    The Peah Keeper is a nice quick comforting read, great for light Summer reading. I also recommend Sarah Addison Allen's previous novels (obviously): Garden Spells, The Sugar Queen and The Girl Who Chased the Moon.