The Falconer

15791085Title: The Falconer

Author: Elizabeth May

Number of Pages: 373

Fiction

Plot Overview: One year ago, Lady Alieana Kameron watched helplessly as a faery ripped out her mother’s heart. From that day forward, she has hunted the fae with a merciless vengeance. Alongside her mentor, the cold, unforgiving faery Kiaran MacKay, she must protect her native Scotland while hunting her mother’s murderer.

What I Liked: Strong, witty, leading female character? Check. Faeries, in all shapes, temperaments, and sizes, with Gaelic names? Check. A couple of quirky supporting characters, including a goofy pixie sidekick named Derrick? Check. Steampunk weaponry? Check. Nineteenth-century Scotland as a backdrop? Check. These are the ingredients of a really fun read.

What I Didn’t Like: The storyline, though compelling, is not particularly original. There wasn’t any plot device that I couldn’t see coming. Alieana, for all her excellent qualities, had a wishy-washy streak that was sometimes frustrating, especially during the romantic episodes (yes, there’s a romance. It’s not my favorite element of the book). Also, the sentence structure throughout the book is very monotonous. The story was told in first-person limited, and nearly every sentence started with “I [insert verb]”. However, annoying though it was, the lack of diversity was not nearly enough to detract from my enjoyment of the book.

Other Notes: I was thrilled to see a story set in Scotland! Also, this is Elizabeth May’s debut novel. A sequel, The Vanishing Throne, is currently out, and the conclusion to the trilogy appears to be in the works.

Other Reviews: Jia, at dearauthor.com, has a quality, in-depth review out on this book, which can be found here.

Final Verdict: The enjoyable elements in this book outweighed the negative ones. Recommended, with reservations.

Fiction Favorites!

What on Earth is Fiction Favorites? you may be asking yourself currently.

Well, I’d be delighted to inform you. Fiction Favorites is where I get to write about my favorite fiction series, novels, or authors. Some are for elementary school kids, some are middle-school level, and a select few are Young Adult (YA). However, since IRB is technically for new books, I don’t get to talk about these as much as I would like. So, in no particular order, and with no particular timing, here we go!

  • The Mysterious Benedict Society, by Trenton Lee Stewart. (4th-6th grade)
    • The first of a trilogy, The Mysterious Benedict Society follows the story four orphans, (Reynie, Sticky, Kate, and Constance), as they try to defeat an evil inventor, Ledroptha Curtain. This book is difficult to describe; its glory lies in its unique characters and their talents. Also, it tosses gender roles right out the window, which is usually a good thing in my book. (Pun most definitely intended.)
  • The Girl who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, by Catherynne M. Valente (2nd-4th grade)
    • Also the first of a trilogy, though decidedly the best of the three. September Morning Bell is an average girl, Mostly Heartless, who lives in Omaha. One day the Green Wind appears outside her window and whisks her off to Fairyland. Just like that, she is on her own in a world populated by kindly wyverns, malicious shadows, and autonomous bicycles, where nothing is as it seems. Everything about this book is delightful: the characters, the richly constructed world, the sly voice of the narrator, and the twisty, well-woven plot.
  • Silksinger, Laini Taylor (5th-7th grade)
    • This book is actually a sequel to the novel Blackbringer, which I have never read. Silksinger was gifted to me as a stand-alone novel and I think it can be read as such. Ms. Taylor promises a conclusion to the series, but as of now it does not appear to be imminent. The story follows Whisper Silksinger, the last of a clan famous for weaving beautiful flying carpets with their voices, as she struggles to find Magpie Windwitch. In her possession, she has a slumbering Djinn, the Azazel. Once restored to his former power, he and the other Djinn will remake the world. The characters in this book, though sweet and funny, are not the highlight; the true value comes from the sparkling, wonderful world that they act and live in.

Cover Art: 2203136

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I couldn’t find a good picture of the Silksinger cover art.

Let’s Get Lost

18812437Title: Let’s Get Lost

Author: Adi Alsaid

Number of Pages: 338

Fiction! (As a side note, the non-fiction unit was cool, but I have such a deep and abiding love for fiction that everything else pales in comparison. I’m so excited!)

Plot Overview: Traversing the country on a road trip to see the Northern Lights, Leila turns up in the lives of four others when they need her most. In Vicksburg, Mississippi, she meets Hudson, an auto mechanic with a heart of gold. Just outside of Kansas City, she picks up runaway and petty thief Bree, who savors every moment on the open road while trying not to look back on the life she left. Elliot, rejected on prom night by his best friend, tumbles into Leila’s life when she almost hits him with her car. And finally Sonia, whose life peeled out of control when her boyfriend collapsed on a basketball court two months ago. However, unbeknownst to them, they have helped her as much as she has helped them.

What I Liked: Hudson’s story was the best – it felt the most real. When he interacted with Leila and/or his father, it felt light, funny, authentic; it could have happened in real life. Next to that, Bree was a fun character to read about (although her story was subpar). And Leila, for all her faults, was a wonderfully witty constant throughout the loony journey.

What I disliked: Bree’s story was a little far-fetched; this book definitely requires some significant suspension of disbelief. As a little kid, we probably all threatened to run away from home at some point, but it was very rare that anyone actually went through with it, so to have a character who ran away from a troubled home to hitchhike around America was hard to stomach. There’s a part of me that loves Bree’s nomadic character, but the setup felt too unrealistic for me to truly appreciate her. Both Sonia’s and Elliot’s stories felt repetitive and one-dimensional. They kept butting their heads against their problems, never learning from their mistakes. It was a true slog. And Leila’s backstory was a little disappointing/cheesy (another willing suspension of disbelief moment).

Other Notes: Alsaid has also written Somewhere Over the Sun and Never Always Sometimes.

Other Reviews: The best, most in-depth review that I could find from this book comes from Tabitha at notyetread.com. You can find her take here.

Final Verdict: Show up for Hudson, stay for Bree, and leave after that. Alternatively, you can take your chances slogging through the stories of Elliot and Sonia.

 

Born To Run

220px-born2runTitle: Born To Run

Author: Christopher McDougall

Number of Pages: 282

Nonfiction

Plot Overview: On a mission to answer the question, “Why does my foot hurt?”, McDougall journeys from his backyard to the Copper Canyons of Mexico. He’s looking for the Tarahumara (Raramuri), a legendarily secretive, indigenous tribe of super-runners. Along the way, he makes literary visits to extreme locations like Leadville, Colorado, and Death Valley, California. His adventure also moves back in time, through the evolution of distance running.

What I enjoyed: There was so much about this book to love. Every plot line was clear and concise – there was no confusion at all to be had. The novel flowed smoothly and easily between the Tarahumaras’ story and McDougall’s own, both of which felt more like cleverly drawn fiction than nonfiction. Plus, some of the conclusions drawn, like the Running Man Theory (in essence, we survived and the Neanderthals were wiped out was because we could run down our prey) are, simply put, fascinating. All of these bits, on their own, could have made for a good story, but the author wove them together in such a way that they became greater than the sum of their parts.

What I disliked: Cue the cricket noise, because there really isn’t a lot to say here. If you aren’t a nutty ultramarathon runner or even someone who goes out and jogs every other day, then some of the subject matter covered in it may seem slightly tedious, like the intense discussion about running shoes. However, it’s okay, because this book will make you want to start getting out there and running.

Other Notes: Caballo Blanco, one of the main characters, recently passed away at the age of 58.

Other Reviews: Dan Zak, of the Washington Post, gives his opinions on McDougall’s work here.

Final Verdict: As a (shorter-distance) runner, I had so much fun reading this. Even if you aren’t a runner, you’ll still enjoy it for its impeccable storytelling.