Have You Heard

Post date: Wednesday, January 27, 2016 - 1:29am

Have You Heard About... Castle Hangnail

… the evil castle that needed a new Master or Mistress? Castle Hangnail has fallen on hard times, and it needs a proper Evil Wizard, Wicked Witch, or Necromancer to take over. Even a Mad Scientist would do! The suit of armor is having trouble getting around due to the rust in its knees, dandelions are growing in the blasted moor, and the Board of Magic … well, it’s better not to talk about that. However, the new Mistress is not exactly what the inhabitants expect.

Molly is a bit younger than the previous Masters and Mistresses of Castle Hangnail, and to be honest, she’s more spunky and determined than wicked. On the other hand, the castle and all its inhabitants have been there a long time. They’re somewhat set in their ways and have a number of eccentricities. However, a Wicked Witch with a kind heart might need an aging not-actually-hunchbacked guardian, a neurotic talking goldfish, a minotaur cook, and all the others just as much as they need her.

If you’re tired of waiting for your letter from magic school, Ursula Vernon will show you how to fake it ‘til you make it as a Wicked Witch!


Reviewed by Fran (staff)

Post date: Wednesday, January 13, 2016 - 1:35am

Have You Heard About... The Aeronaut’s Windlass

… the great new fantasy steampunk series by popular author Jim Butcher? The Aeronaut’s Windlass opens the doors of the Cinder Spires series – a fantastical world where people live in huge towers over the dangerous surface below. Travel, commerce, and war between the Spires are done by airships powered by great crystals. Battles are fought with swords and energy gauntlets. The fate of thousands rests in the hands of a rag-tag group of mad magicians, an airship crew led by a disgraced military captain, a half-breed warrior, and a pair of new recruits to the Spirearch’s guard. Fortunately, they have a cat to keep them in line.

This book is a great start to a new series. It has everything – fantasy, adventure, epic world building, intrigue, a touch of romance, hints at a hidden past and future horrors, and most importantly, a cat. (If you have any doubts about whether the cat is the most important part of the book, you can ask Rowl yourself. Jim Butcher obviously knows cats very well.) I highly recommend The Aeronaut’s Windlass, and I’m eagerly waiting for the second book in the series.


Reviewed by Fran (staff)

Post date: Wednesday, January 6, 2016 - 1:15am

Have You Heard About... Chocolat

… the delightful novel that was turned into a movie, starring Johnny Depp?  Magical, atmospheric, arresting, Chocolat welcomes the reader to Lansquenet, a small French town, right at the moment it becomes enchanted by Vianne Rocher, a chocolatier and possibly a witch. Living with her six-year-old daughter, Vianne befriends many quirky townspeople in her shop; using her sixth sense, she has the ability to see customers’ favorite confections and listens as they share their troubles. Her nemesis is Pere Reynaud, a local priest, who tries to stop the chocolate festival Vianne has planned for Easter Sunday. Joanne Harris’ lyrical writing gives her the power to implant imagery in readers’ minds, while she follows characters who have a zest for life.

This is the first book in a three-part series. Having seen the movie Chocolat several years ago, I was pleasantly surprised to find the sequel, The Girl with No Shadow, and read that first. However, I recommend starting with the first book in the series, Chocolat, and then treating yourself to following more of Vianne Rocher’s adventures, romance with Roux, and her evolution as a Mom in the second title in the series, then ending with the third title, Peaches for Father Francis.


Reviewed by Rose (staff)

Post date: Wednesday, December 16, 2015 - 1:48am

Have You Heard About... Jackdaw

… the police officer who loved the wrong magician? KJ Charles shifts her focus to a new pair of characters with Jackdaw. Ben Spenser was a police constable until he was betrayed by the man he loved. Recently released from prison, he is determined to hunt down Jonah Pastern and make him pay. However, when Ben finds Jonah, he can’t bring himself to betray his former lover and gets caught up in Jonah’s increasingly wild flight from the law.

While this book is set in the Victorian fantasy world of Charm of Magpies, it isn’t necessary to read that series to enjoy this book. (Although I recommend it, too!) Jackdaw is a wonderful romance between two men who love, not wisely but too well, at a time when homosexuality is illegal. Ben is a solid constable with a settled life in a small town and no knowledge of magic. Jonah is a literally flighty thief and liar who never wanted to be tied to anyone until he met Ben. Will their love burn out as quickly as it started, or will they manage to forgive one another and find a safe place to call home?


Reviewed by Fran (staff)

Post date: Wednesday, December 9, 2015 - 1:30am

Have You Heard About... Awkward

… the fight between the art club and the science club? Penelope likes to draw, so she joined the art club when her family moved to town and she started classes at Berrybrook Middle School. However, she starts to get trapped in the middle of the club rivalry when she makes friends with the science nerd assigned to tutor her. Tensions rise as the two groups compete for a table at the school’s club fair. Kids (and adults) on both sides make bad decisions, causing more and more disruptions for the school. Can they find a resolution, or will both clubs get canceled? Find out when you read Svetlana Chmakova’s Awkward!

This is a great story about handling conflict. The main character, Penelope, makes a lot of mistakes, but she also does a lot of good. She has to find the strength to apologize and to step forward when she has ideas – two incredibly hard things to do. It takes a lot of work (and drama), and Penelope faces some setbacks along the way. This story has lots of tween angst, goofy humor, and fun art and science. Give it a try!


Reviewed by Fran (staff)

Post date: Wednesday, December 2, 2015 - 1:47am

Have You Heard About... Cold Copper

… the Western territories, filled with glim pirates, curses, and odd devisers? Devon Monk combines fantasy, steampunk, horror, and western in Cold Copper, third in the Age of Steam series*. The search for the pieces of the deadly Holder continues, but foul weather and old promises combine to drag the crew into a city where children are going missing and the mayor is more than he seems. Even the horrific Strange are in danger here.

This book can be read alone, but the first two books will help you understand the backstories and connections between the characters. However, all of the characters have complex backgrounds that are revealed slowly throughout the series, so you may not miss as much as you think. This is a fascinating, convoluted series with a number of plots running at once. The horror and adventure are nicely balanced with world building and dry humor. If you like books that keep you guessing, dive into the Age of Steam series!

* The previous books in this series are Dead Iron and Tin Swift.


Reviewed by Fran (staff)

Post date: Wednesday, November 25, 2015 - 1:45am

Have You Heard About... Nimona

… the supervillain Ballister Blackheart? His new sidekick is the shapeshifter Nimona. She’s a huge fan of his villainy, but she’s actually far more bloodthirsty and amoral than he is. Lord Blackheart is an old-school anti-hero, with style and cunning plans where almost no one actually gets hurt. Ambrosius Goldenloin has been his nemesis since they were in training together at the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics. Goldenloin and the Institution betrayed Blackheart, starting him on the path of villainy, but they have been evenly matched for years. Now Nimona is breaking the status quo – encouraging Blackheart to do more and killing people herself. When Nimona and Ballister discover that the Institution’s director is stockpiling poisons, they start down a dangerous path that will change the entire kingdom.

If you like clear-cut heroes and villains, this probably is not the graphic novel for you. Noelle Stevenson’s story will make you think about good and evil, right and wrong, and what happens when even the heroes and villains aren’t sure which side they’re on any more. Just when you think you understand everything, new information is uncovered as both backstories and the current situation are explored slowly over the course of the book.


Reviewed by Fran (staff)

Post date: Wednesday, November 18, 2015 - 12:45am

Have You Heard About... From a High Tower

… the long-haired woman living in an isolated tower in a German forest? Mercedes Lackey adapts another folktale for her Elemental Masters series* with From a High Tower. Giselle is very different from Rapunzel, however! She lives in the tower with Mother, the Earth Master who raised her from infancy and who is training Giselle in her own Air powers. The man who climbs up to meet Giselle is definitely not a love-struck prince. When Giselle is forced to leave her tower after Mother’s untimely death, she has to rely on her own strength and the surprising friends she makes in an American Wild West show.

As with most of the Elemental Masters books, From a High Tower is a stand-alone story. Rosamund von Schwartzwald appears as a side character, but reading her Blood Red first is definitely not necessary. I generally recommend the entire series, but new readers can start at any point. This book is a fun fantasy adventure story, set in Germany during the 1800s. Unlike most of the series, there is very little romance; instead the focus is on friendships and Giselle learning to be her own person. If you enjoy strong female characters, fantasy with a dose of humor and adventure, and a distinctive setting, give From a High Tower a try.

* Other books in the series include The Serpent’s Shadow, The Gates of Sleep, Phoenix and Ashes, The Wizard of London, Reserved for the Cat, Unnatural Issue, Home from the Sea, Steadfast, Blood Red, Elemental Magic: All New Tales of the Elemental Masters, and Elementary: All New Tales of the Elemental Masters.


Reviewed by Fran (staff)

Post date: Wednesday, November 11, 2015 - 12:04am

Have You Heard About... Hilo

… the boy with super powers? I’m sure you’ve heard of lots of different ones, but none of them are like Judd Winick’s Hilo: The Boy Who Crashed to Earth. DJ comes from a big family, and all of his siblings are amazing at something. DJ’s the kid in the middle, and he thinks he’s just sort of … boring. Then Hilo falls out of the sky, and DJ’s life becomes more exciting than he could ever imagine.

Unfortunately, the fall knocked out most of Hilo’s memories. Fortunately, he has almost endless energy and enthusiasm for everything around him. DJ helps him out, finding him food and clothes, taking him to school. (One advantage of a big, busy family is that it’s easy to hide an extra kid!) Hilo’s memory starts to come back, partly triggered by the things that followed him to Earth.

This great book is a hilarious, adrenaline-fueled rush from beginning to end. I can’t wait for book two (especially after that cliffhanger ending)!


Reviewed by Fran (staff)

Post date: Wednesday, November 4, 2015 - 12:23am

Have You Heard About... The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy

… the joys of fandom? Science fiction, fantasy, cosplay, gaming, comics, and much more – Sam Maggs covers it all in The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy. She gives a quick overview of everything from different types of fandoms, meeting other fans in real life and online, dealing with trolls, attending conventions, and being a feminist. Unfortunately, the book would have been bigger than the entire Harry Potter series if it included all of the great stuff about fandom and fangirls, so she also covers where to go for more. Plus, there are interviews with female authors, artists, actresses, and other famous fangirls.

This is a great book for fangirls (and guys!) of all ages and experience levels. I have been a geek my whole life and active in fandom for many years. In addition to lots of “Yes, this!” moments, I came away with some great new ideas and things to read, watch and do. (Let’s be honest, can you ever really have enough geeky goodness?) I’m looking forward to sharing this book with my nieces when they get a little older, too.


Reviewed by Fran (staff)