Betsy Cornwell

Clarion Books, 2017

From the dust jacket, “Nicolette’s Cinderella story is over, and she’s finally living her own fairy tale happy ending. She’s a successful inventor now, free of her horrible stepfamily, and content in her loving friendship with Caro, a palace servant, and Fin, the Prince of Esting.

“Then she receives a message from her long-lost housekeeper, now a revolutionary, begging her to bring the prince to Faerie for a diplomatic meeting. Nicolette fears a trap, but decides that the chance to end the bloody war waged by their kingdom is worth the risk.

“Together with Fin and Caro, she ventures across the monster-filled ocean to the lush continent she’s always dreamed of visiting. There, mechanical armies and dark magic await as they uncover devastating secrets about the past and fight for a real, lasting happily-ever-after for two troubled countries – and themselves.”

This is the sequel to Mechanica (click on the name for a link to my review) and it was good. When I read BobbieSue’s review, I saw she hadn’t planned on reading the sequel but I’m glad I did. it had been 2 years since the Library first read Mechanica and it took a while to remember the character’s story. but once I did, I enjoyed the book, for the most part.

The main character, Nick (Nicolette) is a brilliant inventor and creates machines to aid in housework and mechanical trinkets to wear. She is in a ‘friendship-relationship’ with two other people, Caro and Fin, which, I will admit freely, made me uncomfortable at times. The three of them love each other equally and are with each other as much as possible. They sleep together in one big bed and there’s no obvious or implied sexual attraction or activity, but they do kiss and hold each other frequently. Let the squeamish reader be warned!

But beyond the discomfort I found with their group relationship/dynamics, the story was exciting and imaginative. Its full of mechanical beings, or automatons, who are brought to life by the use of Ashes, a magical ingredient harvested in a truly terrible way. There is a large battle scene and many fey, Estingers and automatons are killed but none of it is too gruesome or gratuitous.  The author has crafted a sequel better than the first book – so far away with the original fairy tale theme of Cinderella – that it could almost stand on its own.

Rating: 4 out of 5 paws because Nick’s story touched my heart. This book ends neatly and doesn’t need another follow-up; but you never know with authors these days!








The Chemical Garden Trilogy, Book 3

Lauren Destefano
Simon & Schuster, 2013

From the dust jacket: “After enduring Vaughn’s worst, Rhine finds an unlikely ally in his brother, an eccentric inventor named Reed. She takes refuge in his dilapidated house, though the people she left behind refuse to stay in the past. While Gabriel haunts Rhine’s memories, Cecily is determined to be at Rhine’s side, even if Linden’s feelings are still caught between them.

“Meanwhile, Rowan’s growing involvement in an underground resistance compels Rhine to reach him before he does something that cannot be undone. But what she discovers along the way has alarming implications for the future—and about the past her parents never had the chance to explain.

“In this breathtaking conclusion to Lauren Destefano’s Chemical Garden Trilogy, everything Rhine knows to be true will be irrevocably shattered.”

When I finished the first book of this trilogy I hoped against hope that the intensity with which the author wrote would be maintained throughout the series. I hoped, but doubted as I had been let down by so many authors before (J. K. Rowling, Rick Riordan, Angie Sage & Jasper Fforde being notable exceptions) never fulfilling the promise of a good story. Well, I can add author Lauren Destefano to the list of notable exceptions – this series of books was heart-pounding, exciting, depressing and wrung-me-dry of uncried tears all the way to the last page of the third book.

I am unable to reveal any of the painfully exquisite details of Sever – the slightest hint would ruin it – but suffice it to say, this series was one of the best I’ve read in a long while and will stay with me for a long time after. And although I can’t see myself rereading it any time soon (the emotional rollercoaster I went on with the characters just about wore me out), I’m keeping the books just in case. This was the perfect ending to Rhine’s story and the trilogy as well. Love, love, love these books.

Rating 4 out of 5 paws only because I’m not sure I’ll reread them, but the Trilogy gets 5 out of 5 paws!







The Chemical Garden Trilogy, Book 2

Lauren DeStefano
Simon and Schuster, 2012

From the back of the book, “Escaping the mansion was just the beginning. As Rhine and Gabriel leave one gilded cage behind, they are trapped in another. In a carnivalesque scarlet district presided over by a twisted ring mistress, Rhine is a risk of being sold back to the Gatherers—but fate has other plans. With Gabriel at her side, Rhine undertakes the perilous journey to Manhattan, determined to find her twin brother.

“The landscape is grim and the road is long—and in a world where young women only live to age twenty ad you men die at twenty-five, time is precious. Worse still, they can’t seem to elude Rhine’s father-in-law, Vaughan, who is determined to bring Rhine back to the mansion by any means necessary. In this sequel to Lauren DeStefano’s harrowing Wither, Rhine must decide if freedom is worth the price—now that she has more to lose than ever.

Pretty good sequel – I almost put it down in the beginning, it was too dark and depressing in the scarlet district (the place where brothels are), which includes drug use/abuse. But, I took a breather and kept going. And am I ever glad I did. This sequel does NOT disappoint. Rhine and Gabriel go from trial to trial all the time moving forward searching for what can’t be found. I do have to say that for someone who is of a melancholy nature, some parts of the book are difficult to get through. I had to put the book down midway through because the darkness was so deep that I was getting depressed. But after I put it away for an hour and listened to some soothing music, I was able to pick it back up and read through to the end. And as awful as the events of the book were, it did end on a hopeful note.

As I mentioned before, there is some drug use/abuse – both covert and overt – in pill, candy and injectable form. There is generalized discussion of prostitution and ‘peeping tom’ perversion but nothing graphic. And toward the end of the book there are some fairly awful ‘medical’ procedures performed on Rhine that made me nauseous. (Like I usually do in scary movies, I closed my eyes. Then I realized I couldn’t read the words with closed eyes! Silly me!)

Rating: 4 out of 5 paws because of the intense emotions it evoked in me, both good and bad (okay, mostly bad emotions) — but Fever is a really, really, good book.






The Chemical Garden Trilogy, Book 1

Lauren DeStefano
Simon and Schuster, 2011

From the dust jacket: “What if you knew exactly when you would die? Thanks to modern science, every newborn has become a ticking genetic time bomb—males only live to age twenty-five, and females only live to age twenty. In this bleak landscape, young girls are kidnapped and forced into polygamous marriages to keep the population from dying out.

“When sixteen-year-old Rhine Ellery is taken by the Gatherers to become a bride, she enters a world of wealth and privilege. Despite her husband Linden’s genuine love for her, and a tenuous trust among her sister wives, Rhine has one purpose: to escape—to find her twin brother and go home.

“But Rhine has more to contend with that losing her freedom. Linden’s eccentric father is bent on finding an antidote to the genetic virus that is getting closer to taking his son, even if it means collecting corpses in order to test his experiments. With the help of Gabriel, a servant she is growing dangerously attracted to, Rhine attempts to break free, in the limited time she has left.”

This young adult dystopian novel has a captivating, if depressing, premise. Rhine lives with her brother in what’s left of Manhattan, orphaned when their parents were killed in a terrorist attack. After being kidnapped she is driven along with a van load of other girls to Florida where they are purchased to be brides and produce children. Not all the girls pass muster and survive. But Rhine and two girls are delivered to their new home and waiting husband. Their life there is a ‘gilded cage’ where they are expected lived what few years they have left in luxurious slavery.

I’ve read a few of these dystopian novels geared toward teen girls and they all share the same concerns – forced into an unwanted relationship/marriage, worrying about the proverbial Stockholm Syndrome (i.e., falling in love with their captor), and an ultimate decision to rebel against society. None of this is bad, it’s just this book is a variation of a type (much like the cozy murder mysteries I read – they’re all the same dance, just a different song). The world building in this book is believable, detailed and very interesting. But then, in all the dystopian novel series I’ve read, the first book is always fascinating and an exciting page turner. However, I’ve always – always – been disappointed in the follow up novels; those books are too generic and too formulaic. I’m just starting the second novel in the series, Fever, and just like in all the other series I’ve read, I have high hopes that I will not be disappointed.

Rating 4 out of 5 paws because I read it practically nonstop (I had to sleep and eat some time) in 1 ½ days!





The Dark Prophecy

the dark prophecy

The Dark Prophecy
The Trials of Apollo, Book Two

Rick Riordan
Disney/Hyperion, an imprint of Disney Books, 2017

From the dust jacket, “’Go west, capture Apollo before he can find the next oracle. If you cannot bring him to me alive, kill him.’ Those were the orders my old enemy Nero had given to Meg McCaffrey. But why would an ancient Roman emperor zero in on Indianapolis? And now that I made it here (still in the embarrassing form of Lester Papadopoulous), where is Meg?

“Meg, my demigod master, is a cantankerous street urchin. She betrayed me to Nero back at
Camp Half-Blood. And while I’m mortal, she can order me to do anything … even kill myself. Despite all this, if I have a chance of prying her away from her villainous stepfather, I have to try.

“But I’m new to this heroic-quest business, and my father, Zeus, stripped me of all my godly powers. Oh, the indignities and pain I have already suffered! Untold humiliation, impossible time limits, life-threatening danger … Shouldn’t there be a reward at the end of each completed tasks? Not just more deadly quests?”

“I vow that if I ever regain my godhood I will never again send a poor mortal on a quest. Unless it is really important. and unless I am sure the mortal can handle it. and unless I am pressed for time…or I really just don’t feel like doing it myself. I will be much kinder and more generous that everyone else is being to me—especially that sorceress Calypso. What does Leo see in her, anyway?”

I never read the dust jackets or backs of books before I read them – but now that I’ve read it I can see that readers unfamiliar with this series of books would likely confused by it. So, let me explain briefly. In the first book the Greek god, Apollo, ticked off his father so much that Zeus took away Apollo’s godly powers (which includes immortality), sent him to New York City in the form of a gawky 16-year-old boy named Lester Papdopoulous and told him to perform certain quests before he would reinstate him as a god. Apollo, by virtue of being the god of beauty, music, medicine, etc., is incredibly self-centered to the extreme and thought highly of himself. As Lester, he has trouble accepting that he is now a mere mortal who has a bad case of acne and is nowhere near being the beautiful, charming, sweet-talking, arrogant deity he once was. And, as you can tell from the dust jacket information, the story is all about Apollo/Lester and is told in first-person by Apollo/Lester.

In this book, the author has Apollo/Lester continuing westward where he faces more challenges and some very creative ways of learning humility and compassion. The story is another fine example of Riordan’s ability to tell a story well, which, to me, is harder in first person. It is funny, sad, exciting, and thrilling all at the same time. My only negative comment is that I have to wait until Spring, 2018 for the next installment. I’ve told mom I want to add this series to our permanent library so I can read the first two when the third one comes out. If you liked the Percy Jackson series, you’ll love this fantasy of Greek gods, monsters, demi-gods and mortals.

Rating: 5 out of 5 paws because Riordan’s writing power puts you smack dam in the middle of all the action!! Wait – was that a griffin that just flew by????