As you read the reviews on Bookshop Talk, you'll notice that every review is positive. No, we're not a bunch of literary
pushovers who love everything we pick up; we just see no point in telling you about a book if we didn't like it.

November 29, 2012

ONCE (second book in the “Eve” series) by Anna Carey, 2012

When you're being hunted, who can you trust? For the first time since she escaped from her school many months ago, Eve can sleep soundly. But her safety came at a price: She was forced to abandon Caleb, the boy she loves, wounded and alone at the city gates. When Eve gets word that Caleb is in trouble, she sets out into the wild again to rescue him, only to be captured and brought to the City of Sand, the capital of The New America. Trapped inside the City walls, Eve uncovers a shocking secret about her past--and is forced to confront the harsh reality of her future. When she discovers Caleb is alive, Eve attempts to flee her prison so they can be together--but the consequences could be deadly. She must make a desperate choice to save the ones she loves . . . or risk losing Caleb forever. (Goodreads)

Reviewed by Renee C.—College Student

In this second installment of the Eve trilogy, Eve may have been taken out of the wild, but the City of Sand is a wild of its own. A classic situation of the rich getting richer and greedily developing their own worlds while ignoring the poor in the Outlands has the city split. Nothing is being done about the girls locked in the schools or the boys locked in the labor camps. And Eve doesn't know who she can trust. There are people everywhere, people who admire her, hate her, want her. But Caleb is the only one she wants, and they have just as many challenges facing them within the city as outside, probably more.

This book is just as fast paced and action packed as the first novel, yet possibly even more disturbing. In this book we see that not everyone lives like they do in the wild, that there are people who live in comfort and they just don't care about the others; and the things they are willing to sacrifice to achieve this comfort, to cover up the fact that not everyone lives this way, is chilling. The undertones of rebellion in conjunction with Eve's difficult situation of figuring out how to keep the ones she loves safe, keep these pages turning. There are twists and turns and the ending is shocking. Anna Carey leaves the reader craving the next and final book, where everything rests on the shoulders of Eve and the few rebels inside the city, when everything is against them.

Will they be able to stop the King from furthering the gap between the rich and the poor? Be able to save her friends from the schools? And what will she be willing to sacrifice when she has next to nothing left? If you couldn't tell, I am dying for the third book. And we only have to wait until April 2nd. If you're a fan of books including a post virus/apocalyptic society with reproductivity issues (almost a mix between Blood Red Road and Bumped) then this is the book for you. This series really is amazing. I think you'll love it.

Market: Young Adult
Language: None, Mild (can't really remember, but nothing is sticking out in my memory as being terrible...)
Sensuality: Mild
Violence: Mild
Mature Themes: Death, Abuse (not seen, but implied)

Book formats

November 24, 2012

SLOW FAT TRIATHLETE by Jayne Williams, 2004

After years of obesity, poor health, and self-doubt, Jayne Williams took part in her first triathlon in 2002 to prove something to herself and became hooked on the rush of the race. Today she is a self-proclaimed "slow fat triathlete," unafraid to overcome humiliation, laugh at her foibles, have fun, and accomplish impressive goals. Slow Fat Triathlete is a book for those who may be overweight, out of shape, undisciplined, or otherwise unprepared to enter a triathlon but are curious to try. Through personal stories, practical ideas and suggestions, and uproarious anecdotes, this book inspires, encourages, and proves that with a little training, almost everybody can have a great time and reap huge rewards from pursuing their tri dreams—and that everyone can become a participant and an athlete. (Goodreads)

Reviewed by Sarah Hofhine, bibliophile and fellow slow, fat triathlete

With the London Olympics a recent memory it’s a great time to get off the couch, dust off the running shoes, and master a new sport.  Or, read a book about an injured, overweight woman who reinvigorated her life by doing that.

Jayne Williams was fat and unhappy.  After years of poor eating and inactivity (partially due to recurrent joint injuries) she decided to change her life.  She started by jogging around the park, and moved up to 5k running events and then triathlons.  In her hilarious book she describes herself as a slow, fat triathlete working her way to becoming a not very slow, not very fat triathlete. 

While books on triathlons are a niche market, this book is funny and poignant enough to interest anyone.  Her descriptions of the acrobatics required to get into and out of a wetsuit are hysterical.  This is one slow, fat triathlete with a wicked sense of humor, and killer motivational skills.

My favorite part of the book is how she manages to inspire by poking good-hearted fun at herself.  As she says “Self-consciousness is the enemy of fun.  It’s the enemy of feeling comfortable.  It’s the enemy of achievement.”  Her message is to live your dreams NOW.  Don’t wait until the kids grow up, or you lose 20 pounds, or the economy improves, etc, etc…just get up and do something that’s scary and exciting right now. 

That’s a message worth listening to.

Market: Nonfiction
Language: I don’t recall any crude or offensive language at all.
Sensuality: None
Violence: None
Mature Themes: None

November 19, 2012

A SPY IN THE HOUSE (The Agency #1) by Y.S. Lee, 2009

Rescued from the gallows in 1850s London, young orphan (and thief) Mary Quinn is surprised to be offered a singular education, instruction in fine manners — and an unusual vocation. Miss Scrimshaw’s Academy for Girls is a cover for an all-female investigative unit called The Agency, and at seventeen, Mary is about to put her training to the test. Assuming the guise of a lady’s companion, she must infiltrate a rich merchant’s home in hopes of tracing his missing cargo ships. But the household is full of dangerous deceptions, and there is no one to trust — or is there? Packed with action and suspense, banter and romance, and evoking the gritty backstreets of Victorian London, this breezy mystery debuts a daring young detective who lives by her wits while uncovering secrets — including those of her own past. (Goodreads)

Reviewed by Kate, book aficionado

This Victorian tale of mystery and espionage was indeed enthralling. I kept changing my mind on the possibilities of who was the culprit. I love a mystery novel that doesn't fall into the traditional clich├ęs and makes you second-guess yourself. I also was fond of the love/hate relationships between Mary and her reluctant partner in these spy games. Both are dedicated to their jobs, but feel certain responsibilities for one another. I love how headstrong our heroine is in this rather prudish time period. Now I can't wait to find out if there are reunions and secrets revealed further in the series future!

Market: Young Adult, Teen, Historical Fiction, Mystery
Language: Mild
Sensuality: Mild
Violence: Mild
Mature Themes: Murder, but not gory

Book formats:

November 14, 2012


Designed for gift giving, an illustrated collection of classic fairy tales, rendered in modern prose by such celebrated authors as A. S. Byatt and John Ashbery, explores the battle of good and evil and the endless quest for love. (Amazon)

Reviewed by Kate, book aficionado

I have to say I was happy to purchase WONDER TALES. I read some fairy tales (or here they are wonder tales) that I've never heard of before. They also pushed the boundaries. Thus proving that before many were sanitized, fairy tales held heavier adult themes for both entertainment and warnings. Be warned here come a few SPOILERS. I rated them separately out of 5 stars (per tale) as follows:

*Introduction-Good beginning telling how these stories came to be, and their social commentary for their time in France. There could have been a little more examples, as well as humorous bits. 3/5 stars

*The White Cat-A much more detailed version than prior ones I've read of for this d'Aulnoy story. This included more on the cat's back story at the near end (maybe too much). But with so much detail throughout, I felt less surprise build-up for the ending. But this could be biased, since I did read other translations. Also I am not sure which is more authentic now of the 3 versions I've read (1. Dealt with leisure, 2. Dealt with a fight not mentioned elsewhere, 3. Dealt with back story). 3/5 stars

*The Subtle Princess-My favorite tale I'd never read before. I loved the characters in the books, particularly the clever Finessa and rakish Richcraft (I enjoyed their battle of wits). This tale is not a little kiddie's story. It deals with a ladies' man, trusts and mistrusts, character flaws, a clever heroine, gruesome deaths, and revenge. I do declare that if this was made into a revamped YA NOVEL, I would read it in a heartbeat (seriously someone get to it). 4.5/5 stars

*Bearskin-I liked this story, which I also had never read before. Another great story of transformation. I have one nit-picky thing about it, though. It is dealing with the details of how the people living, dead, and missing through most of the story appear at the end (slightly a deus ex machina moment). 4/5 stars

*The Counterfeit Marquise-Another interesting one now dealing with gender roles. I found it not really a fairy tale as more of a "wonder" tale. Nothing really magical occurs, except for fate seeming to intervene in these characters' lives. I like to see that back in that time there weren't such rigid guidelines, as in other eras on how a lady or man should depict themselves. It is more like commentary in that men of the era could wear heels, powder, and wigs and not be chastised for it. They too "dolled" themselves up. Interesting turn of events at the end for our heroine/hero. 3.5/5 stars

*Starlight-Another lovely fairy tale, that if revamped today it surely would be a large novel. I enjoyed the main characters and creatures that appeared. I do comment though that the island of Quietlife seemed to sidetrack from the lover's story. Though I do also see some necessity in it by helping the Prince Izmir become a more capable ruler. I also found the transformation slightly unnecessary at the end. Mainly because the fairy nor Starlight were detailed as to being on the watch for pursuers after Starlight. I guess it was more or less meant to surprise Izmir at the end. 3/5 stars.

*The Great Green Worm-Another new tale introduced to me about transformations. This one looking at how curiosity can be a downfall, and how the best beauty is in the soul. I enjoyed the twists and turns for our heroine, Hidessa, and her search for happiness and love. My only problem is that I felt Hidessa got off a little easy on her curiosity crime. But then again she has a fairy godmother. 3.5/5 stars

Market: Fantasy, Fairy Tales, Anthology, Folklore
Language: Mild, if anything
Sensuality: Moderate, more implied off behind the written scenes
Violence: Moderate, with medieval torture moments that the Grimm Brothers would love
Mature Themes: Kidnapping, Murder, Death, Seduction

November 9, 2012

THE BLUE SWORD by Robin McKinley, 1982

When Harry Crewe's father dies, she leaves her Homeland to travel east, to Istan, the last outpost of the Homelander empire, where her elder brother is stationed. When the king of the Free Hillfolk comes to Istan to ask that the Homelanders and the Hillfolk set their enmity aside to fight a common foe, the Homelanders are reluctant to trust his word, and even more reluctant to believe his tales of the Northerners: that they are demonkind, not human. Harry's destiny lies in the far mountains that she once wished to climb, and she will ride to the battle with the North in the Hill-king's army, bearing the Blue Sword, Gonturan, the chiefest treasure of the Hill-king's house and the subject of many legends of magic and mystery. (Amazon)

Review by Emily, who is basically a bibliophile

This is one of those books. You know, the ones that you read, get into it, and when it's over, you feel like you've lost something irreplaceable. Except that you haven't, not really, because the story is still with you. And once in a while, you go back and read it again, just to make sure that it's kept its magic.
If it's a book like The Blue Sword, it has probably kept its magic, and maybe had some added over the years.
It begins in the way of all of the best fairy tales - Harry Crewe is an orphan, and she's going to live with her brother who's in the army, in a faraway land called Daria. Instead of hating the sand and the heat and the prickly plants that grow in the desert, Harry finds herself loving it all, even the glare of the hot red sun over the sand dunes. Then she's spirited away by the King of the Hillfolk, Corlath, who is driven by the kelar, a power that even he does not fully understand, but follows nonetheless.
She finds herself surrounded by things that are strangely familiar to her  - the language comes easily, skill with a sword even more so, and Harry finds herself caught up in a destiny that she never wanted, but which rides her much as the kelar rides the King, Corlath.
The Blue Sword is a book that can be read to children, and enjoyed by adults. The language is beautifully crafted, and the images striking and strong. Harry's story will delight anyone wishing for a modern fairy tale with a strong, intelligent heroine and fascinating secondary characters (who are really just as important to the story as Harry herself).

Market: Young Adult
Language: None
Sensuality: Mild
Violence: Moderate
Mature Themes: Destiny, abduction

November 4, 2012

ELANTRIS by Brandon Sanderson, 2005

Elantris was the capital of Arelon: gigantic, beautiful, literally radiant, filled with benevolent beings who used their powerful magical abilities for the benefit of all. Ten years ago, without warning, the magic failed. Elantrians became wizened, leper-like, powerless creatures, and Elantris itself dark, filthy, and crumbling. Arelon's new capital, Kae, crouches in the shadow of Elantris. Princess Sarene of Teod arrives for a marriage of state with Crown Prince Raoden, hoping -- based on their correspondence -- to also find love. She finds instead that Raoden has died and she is considered his widow. . . . Stricken by the same curse that ruined Elantris, Raoden was secretly exiled by his father to the dark city. His struggle to help the wretches trapped there begins a series of events that will bring hope to Arelon, and perhaps reveal the secret of Elantris itself. (Amazon)

Review by Emily, basically a bibliophile

Oh, my goodness. Elantris. I read this after I read the Alcatraz books. I loved it just as much, or possibly more than, Alcatraz. I had only seen the funny side of Brandon Sanderson's work, until I read Elantris, which was so much more than that. It has this amazing magic system - but the magic has turned deadly, at least to those who are horribly changed by the Shaod. Before, those who were taken by the Shaod became practically immortal, capable of great feats of strength and magic - but now, all it brings is a living death.
Raoden is one of those taken by the Shaod. Horribly, he finds himself trapped in a city of those who have been changed, most of whom are either mad, starving, or completely unreachable through their pain. Raoden, never one to give up, decides to make things better. And slowly, he does. He cleans up a part of the city, gives the people inside hope that even though they are technically dead, they can still live, and begins to search for the reason that everything went wrong.
In the meantime, Sarene, his betrothed, comes to his kingdom expecting to be married, only to find that her husband-to-be is dead, and that she is now a widow, without ever having married. Instead of giving in to despair, she decides to find out what happened to Raoden, because she senses that something is wrong.
Also, there's a war brewing.
Elantris is a wonderfully complex story. There's a lot of things going on, but none of them interfere with one another. Everything works together to create a story that is totally unique. Also, I loved that while it can be a whole story in itself, there is room to grow should Brandon Sanderson ever wish to expand on the world of Elantris.

Market: Adult fantasy
Language: Mild
Sensuality: Mild
Violence: Moderate
Mature Themes: Arranged marriage