Book Review: North Pole Reform School by Jaimie Admans

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Title: North Pole Reform School
Author: Jaimie Admans
Date of Publication: November 6, 2013
Genre: YA rom-com, fantasy

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North Pole Reform SchoolNorth Pole Reform School
Jaimie Admans
CreateSpace, November 2013
ISBN 978-1493515332
Trade Paperback

From the author—

Mistletoe Bell hates Christmas. So would you if you had a name like hers. Her Christmas-mad parents make the festive season last all year, and with another Christmas looming, Mis doesn’t think she can take any more. After her carelessness causes an accident at school, it seems like things can’t get any worse.

Then she wakes up to find The Ghost of Christmases Ruined in her bedroom.

She is taken to the North Pole, to a reform school run by elves determined to make her love Christmas. Stuck in a misfit group of fellow Christmas-haters with a motley crew of the weird and even weirder, watched over by elves day and night, she doesn’t expect to meet cute and funny Luke, who is hiding a vulnerable side beneath his sarcastic exterior. She doesn’t expect to fall in love with him.

But all is not as it should be at the North Pole. A certain Mr Claus is making the elves’ lives a misery, and pretty soon Mistletoe and Luke are doing more than just learning to like Christmas.

A YA romantic comedy in which Santa is the bad guy, teaching reindeer to fly is on the curriculum, and zombies have a fondness for Christmas music.

Suitable for older teens and upwards due to bad language.

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This time of year, I’m especially drawn to light, floofy reading material as an antidote to all the frenzy of shopping and holiday activities. I like it even better when it’s not a 500-pound paperweight since my reading during this season is sort of a few pages here, a few pages there. North Pole Reform School is exactly the sort of book I’d been looking for.

I love that parents would actually name their poor baby Mistletoe because of her birthdate. I’ve known a number of hapless victims of unfortunate name choices—most notably, a girl I knew in my teens named Candy Bunn but she was grateful they didn’t pick Honey—and Christmas names seem to be particular favorites among sentimental parents. Mistletoe, though, is just plain mean in a very funny way. The name alone made me want to love this poor girl and I did.

Mistletoe and Luke, along with a handful of other Christmas miscreants, get hauled off to remedial training at the North Pole because they’ve been judged for ruining Christmas in one way or another. Snarky elves are in charge and Tinsel, in particular, is the elven version of a drill sergeant. Mistletoe proves to be a bit of a challenge when she resists admitting she’s done anything to warrant her being in Santaland juvie; she thinks the teachers were at fault for not teaching the children to go near a fire and, besides, they’ll get plenty of sympathy presents. Luke, on the other hand, acknowledges that stealing yard decorations probably isn’t a nice thing to do but won’t accept responsibility for the consequences of his thefts.

In a way, North Pole Reform School is a morality tale mixed with rehab and it’s both fun and sobering, teaching a few lessons here and there. The surprising thing is that there’s more than a bit of a problem between the elves and Santa and Misty and Luke get a taste of it when they’re assigned to review some of the naughty list files. While they’re at it, they begin to find common ground between themselves and, in the end, Luke will come to a major turn in his life.

When all is said and done, this is not such a floofy book but I found it entertaining none the less. Ms. Admans has created a tale that, in truth, embodies some of the best of Christmas and I applaud her for making a point in such an appealing way.

And you’ll just have to read it to find out what zombies have to do with Santa 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, December 2013.

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About the Author

Jaimie AdmansJaimie is a 28-year-old English-sounding Welsh girl with an awkward-to-spell name. She lives in South Wales and enjoys writing, gardening, drinking tea and watching horror movies. She hates spiders and cheese & onion crisps. She has been writing for years but has never before plucked up the courage to tell people. Afterlife Academy is her third novel and she hopes you enjoy it. There are plenty more on the way!

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Book Review: Trapped by Kevin Hearne

TrappedTrapped
The Iron Druid Chronicles, Book Five
Kevin Hearne
Del Rey, November 2012
ISBN 978-0-345-53364-7
Mass Market Paperback
Random House Audio, November 2012
Narrated by Luke Daniels
Downloaded Unabridged Audio Book

From the publisher—

After twelve years of secret training, Atticus O’Sullivan is finally ready to bind his apprentice, Granuaile, to the earth and double the number of Druids in the world. But on the eve of the ritual, the world that thought he was dead abruptly discovers that he’s still alive, and they would much rather he return to the grave.
 
Having no other choice, Atticus, his trusted Irish wolfhound, Oberon, and Granuaile travel to the base of Mount Olympus, where the Roman god Bacchus is anxious to take his sworn revenge—but he’ll have to get in line behind an ancient vampire, a band of dark elves, and an old god of mischief, who all seem to have KILL THE DRUID at the top of their to-do lists.

Sometimes, nothing will suit my reading mood except a fun story and Kevin Hearne is one of my favorite go-to authors for that. The whole idea of Atticus being a 2000-year-old druid, the last remaining, is wonderful but it’s even better that he passes for 21 (in the first book), he’s never short of funds, he swings a mean sword, he has a fabulous Irish wolfhound named Oberon and he’s just plain awesome. I love this line from a Publishers Weekly review of an earlier book—

“Hearne, a self-professed comic-book nerd, has turned his love of awesome dudes whacking mightily at evil villains into a superb urban fantasy debut.”

That pretty much sums up how I feel about The Iron Druid Chronicles and I dread to think of it’s inevitable end (as of right now, it seems there will be nine novels). No need to worry about that right now, though, because I have Trapped to savor and at least one more novel and novella and a handful of short stories to go later this year. As for this installment, I love it just a teensy bit less than the first four books and the novella preceding this one. Why do I say that when I’m such a fan of Atticus, Granuaile and Oberon? There are two issues that detracted from the pure joy I usually find in Hearne‘s writing.

First, there are too many characters. As for actual count, I didn’t bother with being THAT obsessive about it and there may be no more than in Hammered with all its Norse gods, frost giants, demon hunters, etc., but Trapped somehow seems more populated and I found it a bit difficult to keep them all straight. The second thing is there were a few passages of an educational bent that reminded me too much of a classroom seminar.

Oh, one other thing—not enough Oberon! OK, his amount of page time may have been appropriate for the story but there’s just no such thing as too much Oberon if you ask me. You’d have to have the humor of a rock not to laugh out loud when Oberon gives Atticus the sex talk or when he claims he should be knighted Sir Oberon for his literary achievements  😉 By the way, if you’re new to the series, Oberon and Atticus have quite lively conversations but it’s all between the two of them, made possible by the fact that…duh…Atticus is a druid and he can do cool stuff like that.

Still and all, I love that the supernatural world has discovered the big secret, that Atticus is alive, and now there are a whole lot of supes out to get him. You can’t help thinking he’s ticked off an awful lot of these guys over the centuries and you also can’t help thinking that his band of himself, a dog and a sort of girlfriend are a very small army. How is he going to get himself out of this colossal mess?

Despite the few shortcomings I’ve mentioned, I still love Trapped, so much that I read it twice, once in egalley form and then the audio book edition. Why? It’s quite simple, really—Luke Daniels is one of the best narrators in the business and he’s just plain brilliant with The Iron Druid Chronicles. I always know which character is speaking and, quite honestly, all he has to do is say one word in Oberon’s voice and I’m in hysterics.

So, looking for a fun read? You can’t do better than this but, if you haven’t read the earlier books, you really should start at the beginning with Hounded and get caught up in time for Hunted this June. By the way, if you want a little taste, head on over to Mr. Hearne‘s website and you’ll find a couple of free short stories (but no promises they’ll be there forever).

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, February 2013.

Sir Oberon Getting His Knighthood

Sir Oberon Getting His Knighthood

Book Review: Prince of Bryanae by Jeffrey Getzin

Prince of Bryanae
Jeffrey Getzin
CreateSpace, December 2010
ISBN 1451525753
Trade Paperback

Elven Captain Willow lives her life by discipline. She expects nothing less from those around her. Little does anyone realize how fragile that strong surface is beneath.

Childhood terrors are the worst. When people from the horde who’d taken over Willow’s birth kingdom come to her new home to wreak havoc, the staunch warrior is paralyzed with fear for the first time in over a hundred years. They kidnap her Prince right before her eyes. Then, the Queen busts Willow down to private.

Devastated, Willow goes AWOL to recover her Prince. With memories from a tortured past haunting her and some dicey friends, including the suave Captain Snyde and far-too-young Tamlevar, the deck is stacked against her. But, Willow’s got more than discipline. She’s willing to risk everything to stop her new home from being destroyed.

I haven’t read a well-written female heroine as strong as this since Elizabeth Moon. What’s really surprising is Getzin‘s ability to write sympathetic and real women. Prince of Bryanae is well worth a read for fantasy lovers.

Reviewed by Rebecca Kyle, November 2010.