Thursday, May 17, 2012

"Geek Fantasy Novel" by E. Archer

As any aeronautical engineer will confirm, fairies do remarkably well in unicorn-drawn carriage crashes. Their strategy is simple: Keep to the center of teh carriage and fly with quivalent speed against the rapidly decreasing velocity of the vehicle.

Ralph Stevenson has been taught never to wish for anything. As anyone will tell him, wishes are dangerous and should therefore be avoided. As an extreme geek growing up being teased by his peers, he has also learned not to mingle with people.
So Ralph focuses on his video game designing.
When he is suddenly jerked out of his day to day life by an invitation to go visit his relatives in Europe, his parents immediately say no. But Ralph has other ideas, and soon sneaks off to visit his odd British relatives.
But that's not all...
Ralph is soon whisked away into magical lands where bunny rabbits explode, where narrators mess with the story line, where teddy bears work as headsets, and where you never exactly know what's going to happen next.
Not even the narrator.

Prisoners magically trapped beneath planks of flooring do moderately well. The otherwise death-hastening wood serves like the lap restraint on a roller coaster.

I really did like this book a lot. It was some random novel that my mom picked up at the Salvation Army and gave to me one day at piano lessons. The name is interesting, and the synopsis/back cover are as well. This book was original, it was witty, it was funny, it was clever, and it was geeky.
The concept in particular was fascinating, and I don't think I've ever seen a book where this has been done before... Not to mention the fact that the characters are simply brilliant. I loved them all. Even Chessie. Even the narrator.
Maybe particularly the narrator?
Either way, this was an amazing book.

Axe-wielding duchesses, however, make out substantially worse. And unfortunately, an axe-wielding duchess careening about a carriage is a problem for everyone.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

"The Agency: A Spy in the House" by Y. S. Lee

Insurance fraud.
Sunken ships.
Guilt money.
A ransacked office.
There was at least one more missing detail...

Mary Lang is a preteen girl living in the streets of Victorian era London. She picks pockets and breaks into houses to survive, until she is caught and sentenced to hang.
When she is miraculously rescued from the gallows and sent to Miss Scrimshaw's Academy for Girls, it's a new life. A life away from the crime and theivery she left behind. It's a new chance to be independent- a rare thing in Victorian era Britain.
But when Mary, now going with the last name of Quinn, finds herself yearning for more, she is hired by the headmistresses of the academy to work for The Agency- a top secret detective agency exclusively for women agents.
Mary's thrilled to be working for The Agency, and even more thrilled when she recieves her first assignment. Posing as a hired companion, she's to assist a more experienced agent in investigating missing ships containing smuggled items. But not all is as it seems in the household, and no one is who they appear to be.

Just before he caught her, she had a moment of sick premonition. It had been the same way the first time- the last time- she'd been caught. A flash of dread, of knowing. And then it happened.

I picked this book up from the library because I'm fascinated by the Victorian era. I decided that it looked interesting, took it home, and read it in what would amount to about 24 hours. It's a pretty fast read, particularly once you get more than halfway into it.

The interesting thing about this book is not just that the characters are amazing, but that it seems like an incredibly realistic portrayal of Victorian era London. The jacket says that the author completed her PhD in Victorian literature and culture, and studied London. You can definitely tell this while reading the book- she includes many details that make the backdrop of this book to be exciting and foreign- and yet utterly realistic.

The characters are also quite amazing- Particularly James and Mary (the main characters), who happen to have some of the most wonderfully witty lines that I've read for a while.
However, although I enjoy the characters, I find the plot to be a little meandering and it has a slightly confusing end in my opinion. There were several times when I had to go back and reread as section because I didn't quite catch what was going on. Several times also near the end things just seem to go a little too good for the characters, with Mary's mysterious instincts. I also didn't particularly like the end- it was a little abrupt and it made me a little sad.
Despite this, I consider it to be a good book and if I see more from this series, I will be getting them from the library.