Atlantis Rising by T. A. Barron

Atlantis Rising by T. A. Barron
Publisher: Philomel (Penguin Books)
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, YA
Length: Full Length (384 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 10+
Rated 5 stars
Reviewed by Lupine

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

In a magical land called Ellegandia, a young boy named Promi scrapes by, stealing pies, cakes and sweets to survive. But little does he know that his country is a pawn in an ages-old war between good and evil, battled both in the spirit realm and in the human world. Harboring secrets of his own, Promi teams up with a courageous girl named Atlanta and the two vow to save their land—and each other—no matter the cost. But their vow has greater repercussions than they ever could imagine—in fact, it may just bring about the creation of Atlantis, an island cut off from the rest of the world, where magic reigns supreme.

T.A. Barron has written another epic tale…only this time it’s about a magical land called Ellegandia, and young thief named Promi.

Promi steals food, clothes and anything else he needs to survive. But little does he know that when he attempts to steal a pie from the Divine monk that he would be caught, thrown in a dismal dungeon and his life would change forever. Soon, he learns that his country is a battleground for a war between the spirit realm and human kind. Hiding a birthmark that has been written about in multiple prophecies, Promi tries to ignore the imminent battle that will come. But when he meets a smart girl named Atlanta, the two of them, and a kermuncle named Kermi, try to save their land—and each other—no matter what happens. But their actions reap a much bigger surprise…

This book was a total page turner. There was never a dull moment, and there were plenty of surprises hidden around the corners. I was frantically flipping through the pages, anxious to see what would happen next and frequently surprised by what did occur.

The characters were what really made the book great, though. Though they started out as perhaps less than admirable, I was pleased with the changes of heart that the characters went through while they journeyed together. It was, overall, one of the best stories about Atlantis that I have read yet.

It’s perfect for fans of Mythology, folklore and fantasy of all ages.

Russian Roulette: The Story of an Assassin by Anthony Horowitz

Russian Roulette: The Story of an Assassin by Anthony Horowitz
Publisher: Philomel / Penguin
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Historical, Suspense/Mystery, Young Adult
Length: Full length (372 pgs)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Aloe

Alex Rider’s life changed forever with the silent pull of a trigger.

When Ian Rider died at the hands of the assassin Yassen Gregorovich, Alex, ready or not, was thrust into the world of international espionage—the world’s only teenage spy. Alex vowed revenge against Yassen and the two have battled ever since. Yet, years ago, it was none other than Alex’s own father who trained and mentored Yassen, turning him into the killer he would eventually become.

What makes us choose evil? Why did one boy choose to kill while another chose to risk his life to save others? In some ways, Alex Rider and Yassen Gregorovich are mirror images of each other. Yet the paths they traveled turned them into mortal enemies.

This is Yassen’s story. A journey down a darkened path.

The Alex Rider series has been out for a while and is quite popular. The thought of a young man being recruited to play spy is fascinating and while Alex has lots of skills, his life is dangerous enough to keep you on the edge of your seat while reading the books. When I found out this book was available, it was too tempting not to read. This is the story of the assassin on the other side: Yassen Gregorovich. He’s Alex’s mortal enemy but the same teacher worked with them both…

Mr. Horowitz writes thought provoking stories with lots of politics, black market dealings, assigned killings, and hard hitting action. This is a great series for young boys who find the run of the mill stories boring. These are not boring!

The story of Yassen’s youth and the tortures he was put through after the death of his parents is an ugly tale, but life is no picnic. The man who takes control of him first makes him play a game of Russian roulette. He survives that but understands that now his life belongs to the man in front of him. When he finally escapes him, the life he goes into is no better. What’s even more ironic is that the man teaching him will be Alex Rider’s father in the future.

My favorite part of this story is when Yassen gets even with those who treated him badly in the past. It’s not very nice, but they deserved it. His last assignment is to kill Alex Rider. There’s a good surprise ending that tells you the series is not done yet.

This series is a good fast paced action-packed suspense story expanding over several books. This book can be read as a stand-alone easily enough. I’d like to see more of Yassen’s story but who knows where the author will go next…

The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt

The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt
Publisher: Philomel
Genre: Preschool, Fantasy, Picture book
Length: Short Story (40 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 3+
Rated: 5 Stars
Review by Poppy

Crayons have feelings, too, in this funny back-to-school story illustrated by the creator of Stuck and This Moose Belongs to Me

Poor Duncan just wants to color. But when he opens his box of crayons, he finds only letters, all saying the same thing: His crayons have had enough! They quit! Beige Crayon is tired of playing second fiddle to Brown Crayon. Black wants to be used for more than just outlining. Blue needs a break from coloring all those bodies of water. And Orange and Yellow are no longer speaking—each believes he is the true color of the sun.

What can Duncan possibly do to appease all of the crayons and get them back to doing what they do best?

Thoroughly enjoyable, this clever book about a crayon revolt was just a plain fun read. Even my teenager laughed all the way through.

When poor Duncan decides to color and opens his box of crayons, he finds letters instead. The crayons are tired of being mistreated.

The letters are well constructed and the pictures are just perfect. My heart broke a little for poor beige (he’s so defeated in his picture … tired of being called “light brown” or “dark tan”) … I couldn’t get him out of my head even after I finished, I felt just awful for him.

And peach! I laughed at him hiding in the box, naked because he’d been used so much his paper was peeled off.

Yellow and orange argue about who is the right color for the sun … and so much more.

If you’re looking for a just perfect book to teach words and colors to your preschooler, I highly recommend it. It’s amusing for parents as well as kids and just so well done.

Belladonna by Fiona Paul

Belladonna by Fiona Paul
Publisher: Philomel
Genre: YA, Historical, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full Length (352 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rated: 4.5 Stars
Reviewed by Snapdragon

In Renaissance Italy, love, lust, intrigue and secret societies converge to stunning results!

In the second in the stunning Secrets of the Eternal Rose series, Cassandra Caravello is trying to forget Falco, the wild artist who ran off with her heart, as she grows closer to her strong, steady fiancé, Luca. But Luca seems to have his own secrets. When he’s arrested by soldiers in the middle of the night, Cass’s life is once again thrown into chaos. She must save Luca, and that means finding the Book of the Eternal Rose—the only evidence that will prove he’s innocent.

So begins her journey to Florence, a city haunted by whispers of vampirism, secret soirees and clandestine meetings of the Order of the Eternal Rose. And home to Falco, who is working for the Order’s eerily stunning leader, the Belladonna herself.

Can Cass trust her heart to lead her to the truth this time?
Nothing is as it seems in this seductive thriller, where the truth may be the deadliest poison of all.

Dark and dramatic, Fiona Paul’s daring new read, Belladonna is a unique blend of romance and intrigue. Life, community, family and love weave into a complex tale that is eerie, heart wrenching and unpredictable.

Cassandra Caravello is betrothed… both happily and unhappily. However, she is both loyal and promised, and Luca is more than worthy. When he falls under threat, she risks all, goes to Florence and is there confronted by… both a deadly secret order, and her greatest love. She has friends – first book fans will remember Mada and her maid; and she has, after all, Falco, her greatest love. Readers will, like Cass, fall for the dashing Falco, even with his dark entanglements. Our hopes will leap from one to the next. Cass is torn – both by circumstances and her heart. And she never, ever, has a moment to contemplate, for the action never lets up in this fast-paced thrill-ride.

The Italian Renaissance era, from Venice and Florence, and the story is both rich in background details. The rituals of the day, the art, and especially the sculpture all give us a powerful sense of place, and add to the overall aura in some scenes, yet those details never intrude. The people intrude: the city people, their fears and expectations, their accusations…and the reader has a very powerful sense of the potential for any one person to become a victim of the population. This ‘population’ is as real and threatening as one could imagine; ‘they’ are almost a character unto themselves. A quick example of how both place and ‘population’ are so well presented, but evoke such feeling: “Cass Heard laughter from above as she quietly crept up the steps. The room was dimly lit, its crimson walls pulsing with darkness. Everyone’s face was hidden…”

The writing style throughout is consistent, fluid and unobtrusive. My one complaint is that the insistence on cliff-hanger action from one moment to the next seems at times simply exhausting. I must mention the cover, however: Simply incredible and so suitable. Do read.