Monday, December 31, 2007


by Eleanor Updale

If it weren’t for the special medical interest of the prison doctor the young man—number 493—lying wounded on his pallet might not survive. While recovering in prison he thinks up a master plan to become rich, and once freed he sets about making it happen. Using a name taken from a tool company, he soon becomes Montmorency: Thief, Liar, Gentleman? and is off to the start of a career he could never have imagined as an imprisoned orphan.

At first the novel is mostly about Montmorency’s clever way of thieving (which I won’t spoil for you) and his daily switch between the gentleman called Montmorency and the street-smart servant Scarper, which itself is interesting. Soon, however, Montmorency’s wealth brings him into the luxuries and delights of the upper class (his first opera, for instance), and the company of other gentlemen. Upon making the acquaintance of one George Fox-Selwyn, Montmorency is offered the job of spying for the British government, which is the beginning of his profession. Throughout the series Montmorency and his friends and allies solve every type of case imaginable—from stolen scientific specimens, to murders, to a plot to exterminate Europe’s monarchs.

Although the characters are clever, silly, witty, or secretive, their emotions are sometimes quite hidden, but somehow the series can still give you the giggles or nearly have you in tears over the events that take place. And though there are a few dull bits, on the whole the series is filled with exciting adventures and the last book ends with a bang that knocks the wind out of you (unless, of course, there might eventually be a fifth novel).

Solve the cases along with Mr. Montmorency in Montmorency on the Rocks: Doctor, Aristocrat, Murderer?, Montmorency and the Assassins: Master, Criminal, Spy?, and Montmorency’s Revenge, which chronicle the rest of his mastermind plans.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Queen of Camelot

by Nancy McKenzie

Since the night the old woman spoke the prophesy at Guinevere’s birth, people have looked at her a little strangely, for it was told that she will be a great queen and that her fate will be one no one will envy. This is hard for Guinevere to believe, since she is just the daughter of a lesser king, and besides, it’s her cousin Elaine who constantly dreams over the young King Arthur, though she has never met him. But when people are beginning to look for a new wife for Arthur, an old friend of Guinevere’s recommends the fifteen-year-old princess as a bride for the King. When Arthur cannot come to escort Guinevere to Camelot himself, he sends a few of his knights to fetch her, including Lancelot, who falls almost instantly in love with the wild-haired princess, and she with him. With this new problem added to Elaine’s jealous rages, the fear she has of displeasing the King, and Merlin’s apparent disapproval of her, how will Guinevere survive her new life and be a good partner for Britain’s High King?

I really enjoyed this book a lot; it engaged me quickly and brought the famous names from the Arthurian legends to life with surprising reality. Anyone not yet ready for Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Mists of Avalon will eagerly finish this book and will be well satisfied. Queen of Camelot was originally published as two novels, titled The Child Queen and The High Queen.

****Also posted on YA Books Central.****

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Leonardo’s Shadow

Or, My Astonishing Life as Leonardo da Vinci’s Servant
by Christopher Grey

A boy runs from an angry crowd—through the streets, into a cathedral, up, up, up the stairs to the roof—where he falls. Not down to the cobblestones far below and death, but nearly on top of Leonardo da Vinci.
He wakes from a fever several days later in Master da Vinci’s house, and receives an offer to become the already well-known gentleman’s servant. Not really having another choice, the boy accepts and from then on is called Giacomo. His new life is good, but a little harsh; Giacomo hardly seems to do anything up to his master’s expectations. And though Giacomo spends a lot of his free time drawing with scraps of paper and longs to have lessons from his Master, Leonardo refuses for an unknown reason.
Part way through the story, Mr. da Vinci is commissioned to paint “The Last Supper” for Duke Ludovico Sforza, but for some reason will not finish what he begins. It is only Giacomo’s smart thinking that might save them from financial ruin.
To add to all that, Giacomo wishes he could remember his parents, as his memory was erased with the fever. But all the signs point to a possibility so great Giacomo can hardly dare hope it is possible. Will his dreams prove true?

The story of Leonardo’s Shadow is entertaining and well written, but there was a sort of mysterious build up with no big bang of a revelation, leaving me slightly disappointed. Still, it gives a new interest to the famous painting, and tells a tale of events that could have happened during the creation of the masterpiece. Watch a trailer for the book, and visit the official site at

Thursday, December 13, 2007

All Sail Set

A Romance of the Flying Cloud
by Armstrong Sperry

Ships enchant Enoch Thacher, which makes East Boston—where ships are built, docked, and sailed from—his paradise. His friend the old captain Messina Clarke teaches him the ways of the sea and tells him yarns of when he was a young man and sailed the world. After the sudden death of his father, the fourteen-year-old must find work to support his mother, and turns to Donald McKay, a friend of his father and designer of clipper ships. Fate brings Enoch and the most famous clipper ever built, the Flying Cloud, together from the time she is just a model on McKay’s desk. The boy watches the construction of the Cloud from blueprints on up, and knows that someday he will sail aboard her. Enoch leaps at the chance when it comes, and signs aboard for the Cloud’s second voyage—on the dangerous passage around Cape Horn to California and then on to China. Can the crew—and the ship—endure and survive the hardships?
Enoch’s journey is filled with new adventures, danger, and ancient seafaring stories, all in only 171 pages, making it a nice introduction to epics of the sea for the younger readers. Overall, All Sail Set reminded me of a Misty of Chincoteague aimed at boys; for the love of a horse, for the love of a ship, and growing up along the way. But the characters were sadly flat, with only a couple sticking in the reader’s mind after the last page. The adventure-loving reader will enjoy it more than the emotional one.

The third book I’ve read and reviewed for the Seafaring Challenge hosted by I Heart Paperbacks. Only one more book to go before my goal of Admiral! Read others’ reviews at the Seafaring Tales Blog.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

London Calling

by Edward Bloor

“Each life, in human history, begins when a person starts to walk down a path. At first it is the path that our parents tell us to walk down. Then we come to certain crossroads where we have two choices—remain on the one path or step off onto another. Sometimes our paths cross the paths of others at crucial points. This is where things can get uncontrollable, weird, unexplainable…”
Martin Conway feels that his life has no purpose. He’s out of place at All Souls Preparatory (the private school he got into with an employee scholarship), he thinks he’ll never be as smart as his sister, and his father is an alcoholic. Martin would really prefer to spend the rest of his life hiding in his bedroom in the basement. But everything changes when Martin’s grandmother dies and leaves him the Philco 20, an antique, arts-and-crafts radio. At first the static is just a comforting sound to sooth Martin to sleep with, but the radio is proved more than it seems when Jimmy Harker, a boy from 1940, appears in Martin’s room claiming to need his help. Soon Martin is unintentionally journeying back in time to Jimmy’s world—London in the thick of World War II. Martin is intrigued to be taken back in time, but he doesn’t understand why—why he has to see the bomb-ravaged streets and the people dying every day, when he can’t help them. But maybe Martin can do something to help...and not in the past, but in the future. It’s never too late.

I wasn’t sure if this book would be that interesting; it looked a little dry and juvenile, but as they say you should never judge a book by its cover. London Calling had a good storyline and a wonderful message, and it left me feeling sad but satisfied. I think anyone could and would enjoy it.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Exciting 2008 Books (updated constantly)

New books! Probably some of my favorite words put together in the English language. Here’s a list of some of the books that I am looking forward to for the year of 2008:

Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow
by Jessica Day George
(January 8th)
Genre: Fantasy
It sounds similar to East, which I liked very much. And although I have yet to read it, Dragon Slippers by the same author is supposed to be good.

The Redheaded Princess: A Novel

by Ann Rinaldi
(January 29th)
Genre: Historical fiction
My best guess is that this is about Elizabeth I, but I’m not sure exactly. I’ve read almost everything by Ms. Rinaldi and don’t want to miss this one.

Guinevere’s Gift
by Nancy Mckenzie
(February 12th)
Genre: Historical fiction
I read Queen of Camelot a while ago and really, really liked it, so I’m eager to read this book, the first in the Chrysalis Queen Quartet.

A Curse Dark as Gold

by Elizabeth C. Bunce
(March 1st)
Genre: Fantasy
A Rumpelstiltskin retelling.

by Mary Jane Beaufrand
(March 1st)
Genre: Historical fiction
The story of a Pazzi princess (rivals of the Medici).

The Swan Kingdom
by Zöe Marriott
(March 5th)
Genre: Fantasy
A fairytale retelling of The Wild Swans.

The Final Warning: A Maximum Ride Novel
by James Patterson
(March 17th)
Genre: Urban fantasy
More of the Flock’s thrilling adventures, continuing the Maximum Ride Series.

The Sky Inside
by Clare B. Dunkle
(March 25th)
Genre: Science fiction
Both The Hollow Kingdom Trilogy and By These Ten Bones were sooo good that I can’t wait to see what the author will do with a slightly different genre.

by Patrick Jones
(April 1st)
Genre: Realistic fiction
I read Patrick Jones’ Chasing Tail Lights recently and thought it was really well-done. Hopefully this one will be as good.

Walk of the Spirits

by Richie Tankersley Cusick
(April 17th)
Genre: Fantasy/horror
Ghost stories have never really been my thing, but this one looks interesting to me. Maybe it’s the cover?

Nobody’s Prize
by Esther Friesner
(April 22nd)
Genre: Historical fiction
I can’t wait to continue the young Helen of Troy’s adventures that began in Nobody’s Princess.

Newes from the Dead
by Mary Hooper
(April 29th)
Genre: Historical fiction
Even if I hadn’t read and liked Mary Hooper’s other books, this sounds pretty interesting; It’s a true-life story of a girl who, accused of murder, is hanged, about to be dissected for medical research, and then is found to be alive.

Ink Exchange
by Melissa Marr
(April 29th)
Genre: Urban fantasy
A companion to Wicked Lovely.

by Joan Bauer
(May 1st)
Genre: Realistic fiction
About a girl who wants to be a journalist, and if it’s anything like Joan Bauer’s previous novels it will be a quirky, fun, and touching sort of coming-of-age story.

The Juliet Club
by Suzanne Harper
(May 27th)
Genre: Contemporary
To quote the author’s site, “Three American teens travel to Verona, Italy, where they discover love, romance, and, of course, Shakespeare!”

In Mozart’s Shadow: His Sister’s Story
by Carolyn Meyer
(June 1st)
Genre: Historical fiction
I can only hope this will be as good as it looks! Being a huge Mozart (and Carolyn Meyer) fan should help, though. I like how Ms. Meyer gives historical women their own new voices so we can imagine being in their place.

City of Secrets

by Mary Hoffman
(June 24th)
Genre: Fantasy
I enjoyed the rest if the Stravaganza Series a lot, and am awaiting the next one eagerly.

Alfred Kropp: The Thirteenth Skull
by Rick Yancy
(June 24th)
Genre: Urban fantasy/action
The third book in the Alfred Kropp Series, which is really...unusual. The books are mostly action and sometimes highly unbelievable, but if you forgive it for the sake of the story, they’re good.

The Fire Eternal
by Chris d’Lacey
(July 1st)
Genre: Urban fantasy
The fourth volume of the ever-growing Fire Within series.

The Dragon Heir

by Cinda Williams Chima
(August 12th)
Genre: Urban fantasy
The conclusion to the Heir Series, filled with magic and modern wizards.

by Celia Rees
(August 19th)
Genre: Historical fiction
YAY! Another historical (1783) novel from Celia Rees! I had no idea she had one coming out and I’m SO excited (could you tell?). Sovay is a beautiful and rich young woman, but she has a secret life—as a highwayman! (Based on the folksong of the same name.)

My Bonny Light Horseman: Being an Account of the Further Adventures of Jacky Faber, in Love and War
by L.A. Meyer
(September 1st)
Historical fiction
The sixth book in the amazingly awesome Bloody Jack Adventures that you simply MUST read.

Flora’s Dare: How a Girl of Spirit Gambles All to Expand her Vocabulary, Confront a Bouncing Boy Terror, and Try to Save Califa from a Shaky Doom (Despite Being Confined to Her Room)
by Ysabeau S. Wilce
(September 1st)
Genre: Fantasy
The continuing wacky adventures of Flora, which started in Flora Segunda.

Cybele’s Secret
by Juliet Marillier
(September 9th)
Genre: Fantasy
It’s the sequel to Wildwood Dancing, need I say more?

by Christopher Paolini
(September 20th)
Genre: Epic fantasy
The third book in what is now the Inheritance Cycle, which began with Eragon and Eldest. Random House finally announced the name. I can’t wait!

Two Girls of Gettysburg
by Lisa Klein
(September 30th)
Genre: Historical
Another novel by the author of Ophelia! It must be good if it’s anything like her first book, and I do love historical fiction, so I’m very much looking forward to it!

Damosel: In Which the Lady of the Lake Renders a Frank and Often Startling Account of Her Wondrous Life and Times
by Stephanie Spinner
(October 14th)
Genre: Fantasy
Just the title is interesting enough to get my attention, but I like Arthurian lore a lot, and the Lady of the Lake is a character not often written about.

Dragon’s Heart
by Jane Yolen
Genre: Science fantasy
Sequel to Dragon’s Blood, Heart’s Blood, and A Sending of Dragons. No release date yet (it might not even be in 2008), but there is now hope that we can FINALLY learn the rest of Jakkin and Akki’s story!

Want to see more? Check out other bloggers’ wish lists!

Trisha says U is for upcoming books

Bookshelves of Doom is watching out for these books, and even MORE books!

Read Miss Erin’s Most Wanted Books: 2008

See The Compulsive Reader’s 2008 Sneak Peek

Find out what Upcoming Releases KarinLibrarian CAN’T Wait To Read

Jackie Parker is Looking Forward to 2008

The Shelf Elf is itching to get her hands on...

Little Willow gives her list of Forthcoming Releases, some already reviewed

Sarah Miller says “Since all the cool kids are doing it...”

Jen Robinson reveals the 2008 titles she’s most eager to find

thereadingzone talks about 2008 Books

Sarah Rettger has So many books she wants to read

See what Jocelyn is looking forward to reading

Angiegirl lists a lot of books that must be hers

crichoux from Bookworm Chrysalis has a whole bunch of Books of 2008

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Peter Simple

by Frederick Marryat

Young Peter Simple has been told he lives up to his surname, and when he joins Nelson’s Navy (it being the custom to sacrifice the greatest fool of the family to the prosperity and naval superiority of the country”), he certainly fits the role; He’s a naïve boy of fourteen when he boards the H.M.S. Diomede, still prone to tears, sure to believe any lie he is told, and ripe for tormenting. But he learns—albeit slowly—and is quickly off having adventures, both daring and embarrassing, with his friend and fellow officer O’Brien. At first I found Peter to be almost pathetic, but he grows on you, as do the rest of the characters. Peter’s ship and acquaintances are filled with some rather eccentric characters, such as the captain who swears every lie he tells (which is many) is the truth, the carpenter who believes the history of the world repeats itself every 27,672 years, and more.

Overall, this book was good; some parts were funny, others sad, the long seafaring stories told by the crew were broken up into two or more chapters so you didn’t get bored, and the ending was satisfactory. I look forward to reading more by the same author. Also, the version I read had helpful footnotes and explanations of sailing terms, Marryat’s typos, and archaic words and phrases, making the reading experience even better.
One of the coolest things about this book is that the author was actually once Captain Frederick Marryat and served in the Royal Navy during the nineteenth-century, giving the events that take place in the book a deeper credibility.

But so you know, there were a few racial stereotypes throughout the book—especially when Peter’s ship was moored in Barbados—which bothered me slightly, but I reminded myself that it was first published in 1833 and that’s probably what most of
the gentry’s opinions would have been.

Note: I didn’t give this book any age range because I’m not sure who would enjoy it; definitely older teens are more likely to be interested, but it depends on the interest in the subject for any age.

The second book I’ve read (up to the rank of Lieutenant now!) and reviewed for the Seafaring Challenge hosted by I Heart Paperbacks. Read others’ reviews at the Seafaring Tales Blog.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Falconer’s Knot

A Story of Friars, Flirtation and Foul Play
by Mary Hoffman

Umbria, Italy, in the year one thousand, three hundred, sixteen.

Silvano is young, handsome, rich, and in love—unfortunately Angelica, the woman he loves, is already married.

Chiara is young, pretty, and lively, but of no use to her brother because he cannot pay a large enough dowry.

When Silvano is wrongly accused of murdering Angelica’s husband, he seeks refuge at Giardinetto, a friary neighbored by a nunnery.

Chiara, too, travels to Giardinetto because a convent is a convenient place for a woman of no great fortune to spend her life.

Neither one is happy about being confined.
Their stories are separate until Silvano reaches the abbey and each, espying the other, is aware of the new novice who doesn’t quite fit the picture of a religious person. The two meet when helping their superiors deliver colors to the famous painter, Simone Martini, and through chance meetings, their friendship grows. Chiara, now called Sister Orsola, thinks her life in the nunnery will be boring, and Silvano believes he will stay a short while until he is proved innocent, but everything changes when a guest of the friary is stabbed in his sleep. Could Silvano be the murderer after all? Or might it be Silvano’s mentor, Brother Anselmo, who acted strangely just before the crime was committed? When more bloodshed occurs even before the first crime is solved, Giardinetto is no longer a place of tranquility and fellowship. It is up to Silvano and Chiara to solve the mystery before more deaths take place. Will they succeed?

The Falconer’s Knot is another riveting tale of Italy by Mary Hoffman—author of the highly praised Stravaganza series—that fills readers with both suspense and anticipation of a happy outcome.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Voyage of Midnight

Being the true story of my, Phillip Arthur Higgins’, misfortunate childhood, and of my subsequent voyage from Africa with a cargo of slaves, of the frightful sufferings endured during that middle passage, and of what happened afterward
As told by Michelle Torrey

In 1818, 12-year-old orphan Phillip Higgins boards the ship Hope and sets off for his new life with his uncle in America. Only, his uncle isn’t there. Phillip is taken in by the kindly Mr. and Mrs. Gallagher, who treat him like the son they never had. For two years Phillip stays there, until one day, while walking along the wharf, Phillip sees his uncle, now captain of the Formidable. Using his knowledge of medicines gathered from working in the Gallagher’s apothecary shop, he signs on with his uncle as surgeon’s mate. Phillip is delighted to be reunited with his only living relation, but once aboard things begin to look a bit strange. It is not until they are well underway that the true nature of their voyage is revealed; the ship is headed for Africa, where “black gold” can be found. Convinced that they are doing the Africans a kindness by bringing them to God and civilization, Phillip goes along with his uncle’s moneymaking plans. He even receives his own personal slave, Pea Soup, from a rich slave trader. Soon though, the horrors of the slave trade come out, and Phillip must decide whose side he is on.
I expected Voyage of Midnight to be an easy-to-read classic-style adventure story, and that’s pretty much what I got. It’s a good introduction to the internal good versus bad battle, mixed with adventure which younger readers would probably enjoy more than I did. Phillip Higgins’ story is based on a true one, but it is not told in a particularly memorable way for elder readers.

My first book read and reviewed for the Seafaring Challenge (hosted by I Heart Paperbacks), making me a Midshipman. Read others
reviews at the Seafaring Tales Blog.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Maximum Ride

by James Patterson

No matter how much you read there’s always those books that you’ve heard about from lots of people and that have received rave reviews, but you’ve never read them. The Maximum Ride series was one of those for me. I picked Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment off the shelf on a whim a few weeks ago because the series is supposed to be so good. Well people are right; the story of Max and her Flock is gripping, fast paced, and fun. Even the first paragraph compels you to continue reading:

“Congratulations. The fact that you’re reading this means you’ve taken one giant step closer to surviving till your next birthday. Yes, you, standing there leafing through these pages. Do not put this book down. I’m dead serious—your life could depend on it.”
Fourteen-year-old Max and her friends—Fang, Iggy, Nudge, Gazzy, and Angel—are avian-human hybrids; scientists genetically engineered them to have light bird-like bones, super strength, and wings. Before the book begins, the Flock escaped from the horrible place called “the School,” where they lived in dog crates and were forced to undergo experiments, but now their creators want them back and are hunting them down. Literally, as the scientists command Erasers, a sort of scientifically created werewolf. The sides are constantly changing, and “the bird kids” never know whom they can trust, Max suddenly has a mysterious Voice in her head telling her what to do (how’s saving the world for one?), all of them are looking for their long-lost parents. How do six kids survive against so many odds? Only by using their super powers and sticking together.

After quickly finishing the first novel, I grabbed the next two in the series, Maximum Ride: School’s Out—Forever and Maximum Ride: Saving the World and Other Extreme Sports. Both are just as high-speed and intense, although I will admit that by the third book all the heart stopping “revelations” (mainly lies made up to scare or test the Flock) became just slightly old. Still, this series is very lively and will entice even a highly reluctant reader in to wanting more. Don’t miss the Flock’s last escapades in The Final Warning: A Maximum Ride Novel, or their adventure when it hits the big screen. Check out Fang’s blog or go to for updates.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Village

Rated: PG-13 for a scene of violence and frightening situations
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Genre: Drama/mystery/thriller
Starring Bryce Dallas Howard and Joaquin Phoenix

Ivy Walker lives in a small isolated village during the late 1800s, where the color red is forbidden; the elders believe it attracts the beasts living in the surrounding forest. No one can go outside the little haven without danger of being taken by the strange Those We Do Not Speak Of” creatures. There hasnt been an attack in a long time, until when Ivys friend Lucius Hunt asks the elders for permission to go beyond the village and into the unknown. That’s when the monsters become more menacing—strange marks are found on doors and skinned livestock is left along the paths. Still, Lucius is determined to go Outside, in hopes of buying medicine to might cure Ivys blindness. His plans are wrecked when an angry Noah mortally stabs Lucius. Now its Ivy who begs to be allowed to travel for medicine, if she wants to save her love’s life. After much consideration the elders allow it, although only after telling her a secret. When and if Ivy arrives at her unknown destination, she has no idea what will she find when she gets there.
I think The Village is a perfect introduction to scary movies, as the setting—being far removed from our modern world—gives the viewer a little distance. There’s lots of suspense, but no nasty gore, making a dramatic, romantic movie with great cinematography.

Monday, October 29, 2007

I Live!

Yes, yes, I AM alive, as shocking as that may be. I'm even posting to my blog. :-O Amazing. Did you miss me? ;-)
But don't blame me for disappearing; it was the stupid Internet host people who took forever to switch the connection over to a new house. Thank goodness it's finally working!
I'll post something that actually has to do with books and/or movies soon, and get a new poll up for the month of November on Thursday.

Have a happy Halloween!
Ink Mage

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Red Thread

A Novel in Three Incarnations
by Roderick Townley

Dana Landgrave is a normal high school student, except for her dreams. She dreams of people long ago—people who are scared, happy, laughing, sad, and people who are murdered. These repeated disturbing images compel her to see Dr. Sprague, who believes they aren’t dreams at all, but memories from her past lives. Suddenly Dana is seeing similarities between figures in her every day life and the people from her past. Familiar objects, too, come into her hands, so what if souls of centuries ago also turn up? Dana realizes that if that’s true, her murderer from 400 years ago might be involved in her current life. Now she just has to uncover who it is before another deadly crime is committed.

Like Roderick Townley’s Sylvie Cycle, The Red Thread was a gripping and really interesting story, with a unique mystery because of the what-exactly-is-going-on plot entwined with the whodunit one. It was eerie and haunting; not in the way that makes you jump at strange noises or get chills up your back, but in one that makes you think.

****Also posted on YA Books Central.****