Apparently the Harlequin is a stock character in European and British theater specifically, the Commedia dell’Arte format – along with a whole host of other characters – including Columbine – his love interest. In this retelling of the Harlequin’s usual story, Gaiman adds a twist to the standard narrative. Even though I was not familiar with the standard narrative, I could see that giving the woman powers and moving her into a main character status is a twist on the standard narrative where the woman is often the object, and Not the subject. Interesting piece.
A Hero for WandLa continues the adventures of Eva Nine, introduced in A Search for WandLa. Eva and her alien traveling companion, Rovender, journey to New Attica, the idyllic modern human city founded by Cadmus Pryde, the mind behind the Sanctuaries and test-tube breeding program of which Eva is a product. All is not what it seems, however, and soon Eva is on the run.
DiTerlizzi is both a wonderful author and illustrator, and this book is a great example of that talent. Even though the plot covers several science fiction tropes (paradise with a rotten core? Shocking!), the story is more satisfying than the first novel. The relationship between Eva and Rovender is genuinely touching, and the addition of a certain familiar face adds a nice twist. Unfortunately, this book also ends like the first- smack dab in the middle of great things, as if the author simply decided it was as good a point as any to break for the next installment. I know I will be reading it. Recommended.
Sage is an orphan and a thief. After he is caught stealing a whole, cooked roast he is purchased by Lord Connor, one of the regents of Carthya. The king, queen and crown prince have all been poisoned and Connor is determined to put a new prince on the throne. Prince Jaran has been presumed killed by pirates for the past four years, but Connor has a plan to put an imposter in his place. Sage wants nothing to do with the plan, but not going along with it surely means death. Attempting to thwart Connor at every turn, Sage nevertheless does what he needs to do in order to become Connor’s choice. Along the way secrets are revealed and motivations exposed. Does Sage have what it takes to become Prince Jaran and save Carthya?
Sage’s story is a compelling one. Sage is such a rascally smart aleck that you can’t help but root for him. I love the fact that no one is really who they seem to be nor are they who they start out as. Connor isn’t a villain in the stereotypical way, but he is a magnificent one nonetheless. Connor isn’t your typical hero either, but he makes a marvelous prince.
2014-15 Truman Nominee.
On a desperate journey, two runaways meet and join forces. Though they are only looking to escape their harsh and narrow lives, they soon find themselves at the center of a terrible battle. It is a battle that will decide their fate and the fate of Narnia itself.
The Horse and His Boy is the third book in C. S. Lewis’s classic fantasy series, which has captivated readers of all ages with magical lands and unforgettable characters for over sixty years. This is a novel that stands on its own, but if you would like to journey back to Narnia, read Prince Caspian, the fourth book in The Chronicles of Narnia.
Jinx goes to live with Wizard Simon after his stepfather tries to leave him in the Urwald. The Urwald is a forest filled with clearings where people live, the path that you must not stray from, and lots of forest filled with trolls and werewolves and witches and wizards. Even though Simon is a wizard, Jinx has plenty to eat and Simon takes care of him, he is even teaching him about magic. Jinx has magic of his own; he can see the emotions of others and hear the trees of the Urwald. Then one day Simon goes too far and does a spell that takes away Jinx’s magic. Jinx leaves Simon and wonders into the Urwald where he finds two other children with curses of their own. Reven can’t tell you anything about himself that would reveal who he really is. Elfwyn can’t tell a lie; if you ask her a question she must speak the truth. Together they set out across the Urwald and stumble upon the Bonemaster, an evil wizard who keeps them prisoner. They must figure out how to escape from him and to take away his source of power.
Jinx is one of the better middle grade fantasy novels I have read in a while. It takes parts of legends and fairytales and weaves it all together into a new story about a different land. What I enjoyed most was that it doesn’t explain everything or solve every problem. This leaves it open for more books in the series, but it in no way diminishes this story. It is creative and imaginative and just plain fun to read. More than anything this is a story about coming to terms with who you are and what you are or aren’t willing to do. It is a story about family and friendship and the magic that connects us.
The first graphic novel in the Dresden Files series that is not based on one of the original novels. Harry Dresden, a Chicago private investigator and wizard is contacted by a small-town police deputy from an isolated town in Missouri. A local family has suffered for generations from a curse with family members dying in strange unfortunate accidents. The deputy wants to protect the remaining family members including two children but the sheriff is convinced it’s all coincidence so he turns to Harry for help. Can Harry save them? Is it just the family curse or are other supernatural creatures at work in this small town? Can Dresden cleanse the Talbot bloodline of its curse without a blood sacrifice of his own?
Flora is a pig ready for adventure. As a little piglet in her pen she was always looking outside and trying new things. More than anything she wants to pull a sled. She idolizes the sled dogs she sees training on the farm. One day she sees her chance and gets taken to a ship. She thinks her time is now; she will finally get to have the adventure she has always wanted. Unfortunately, she soon finds out she is on the ship for a completely different reason. Then the ship hits an iceberg and sinks and now Flora, the captain and crew, the surviving sled dogs and one adventurous cat are stranded in the Arctic. Flora has to prove she is more than food if they are all going to survive.
This book reminded me a little bit of Charlotte’s Web. It is a fun adventure story with a pig lead. I like the fact that Flora has to prove her worth, but she is always confident in herself and her abilities. There are some good messages in here about being yourself and living up to your potential and doing things even when others say you can’t.
One of fiction’s most audaciously original talents, Neil Gaiman now gives us a mythology for a modern age — complete with dark prophecy, family dysfunction, mystical deceptions, and killer birds. Not to mention a lime.
God is dead. Meet the kids.
When Fat Charlie’s dad named something, it stuck. Like calling Fat Charlie “Fat Charlie.” Even now, twenty years later, Charlie Nancy can’t shake that name, one of the many embarrassing “gifts” his father bestowed — before he dropped dead on a karaoke stage and ruined Fat Charlie’s life.
Mr. Nancy left Fat Charlie things. Things like the tall, good-looking stranger who appears on Charlie’s doorstep, who appears to be the brother he never knew. A brother as different from Charlie as night is from day, a brother who’s going to show Charlie how to lighten up and have a little fun … just like Dear Old Dad. And all of a sudden, life starts getting very interesting for Fat Charlie.
Because, you see, Charlie’s dad wasn’t just any dad. He was Anansi, a trickster god, the spider-god. Anansi is the spirit of rebellion, able to overturn the social order, create wealth out of thin air, and baffle the devil. Some said he could cheat even Death himself.
Returning to the territory he so brilliantly explored in his masterful New York Times bestseller, American Gods, the incomparable Neil Gaiman offers up a work of dazzling ingenuity, a kaleidoscopic journey deep into myth that is at once startling, terrifying, exhilarating, and fiercely funny — a true wonder of a novel that confirms Stephen King’s glowing assessment of the author as “a treasure-house of story, and we are lucky to have him.”
“M is for magic. All the letters are, if you put them together properly.” This tasty tidbit is from Neil Gaiman’s introduction to the book, and wonderfully sums up my view of most of his writing. He has a way of stringing letters together which makes the mundane magical, or at the least, a bit odd. I like a bit odd, and so enjoyed this collection of short stories. It also was interesting to compare stories written earlier in his career to more recent ones, both of which are in this collection. I had read a couple of these tales before, and one in particular (The Witch’s Headstone) became a chapter in Gaiman’s 2009 Newbery winner, The Graveyard Book. Short stories are a great introduction to an author, and so if you are one of the five people not familiar with Neil Gaiman, this collection is a decent place to start. Although it is a collection intended for younger readers, the content is pretty mature, including older cultural references I doubt young readers will understand.
Ben is being forced to spend the summer with his grandpa in Buttonville. Buttonville is a dying town since the button factory closed. Ben is positive this is going to be a horrible summer spent with his grandpa at the senior center then he sees a giant bird, as big as a helicopter, flying over the town. Pearl Petal, known troublemaker, saw it too and is convinced it landed at the old button factory. Ben isn’t so sure about Pearl’s ideas until his grandpa’s cat deposits a bat on his bed. Turns out it isn’t a bat but a baby dragon. They head off to the button factory to discover what is going on in Dr. Woo’s Worm Hospital. Then the sasquatch escapes and Pearl and Ben are tasked with capturing it and returning it to the Imaginary Lands. Chaos ensues.
I really enjoy fantasy that takes place in the normal world. You don’t have to build a whole new world you just use ours and tack on an Imaginary Land where things like dragons and sasquatch and fairies live and occasionally visit our world. This book is a fun adventure that I am sure kids will enjoy. I loved the humor and the illustrations. And of course there is pudding…who can resist pudding?
Four adventurous siblings—Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy Pevensie—step through a wardrobe door and into the land of Narnia, a land frozen in eternal winter and enslaved by the power of the White Witch. But when almost all hope is lost, the return of the Great Lion, Aslan, signals a great change . . . and a great sacrifice.
Journey into the land beyond the wardrobe! The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is the second book in C. S. Lewis’s classic fantasy series, which has been captivating readers of all ages for over sixty years. This is a stand-alone novel, but if you would like journey back to Narnia, read The Horse and His Boy, the third book in The Chronicles of Narnia.
Wow! I was so impressed with this 2nd book of the Raven Cycle trilogy. Definitely, a book that stands on its own (well the background story would be nice to have). Part of the credit goes to the awesome narrator of the Audiobook – Will Patton. Patton manages unique and appropriate voices for each character. The other part I really loved about this book, is the way it takes common narratives and breaks them, oh oh, the mother and aunties are letting the Hit Man into their house! danger danger, oh, but these women aren’t stupid, no they’re just braver and more clever than women usually get credit for. This story focuses on Ronin and his abilties to dream objects and bring them back. Also: Great Worldbuilding!
With indifferent parents, Iona Sheehan grew up craving devotion and acceptance. From her maternal grandmother, she learned where to find both: a land of lush forests, dazzling lakes, and centuries-old legends.
Ireland. County Mayo, to be exact. Where her ancestors’ blood and magic have flowed through generations—and where her destiny awaits. Iona arrives in Ireland with nothing but her Nan’s directions, an unfailingly optimistic attitude, and an innate talent with horses. Not far from the luxurious castle where she is spending a week, she finds her cousins, Branna and Connor O’Dwyer. And since family is family, they invite her into their home and their lives.
When Iona lands a job at the local stables, she meets the owner, Boyle McGrath. Cowboy, pirate, wild tribal horsemen, he’s three of her biggest fantasy weaknesses all in one big, bold package. Iona realizes that here she can make a home for herself—and live her life as she wants, even if that means falling head over heels for Boyle. But nothing is as it seems. An ancient evil has wound its way around Iona’s family tree and must be defeated. Family and friends will fight with each other and for each other to keep the promise of hope—and love—alive.
This is the second in the Beka Cooper series. Beka is now a full dog and having problems finding a partner she can work with. She ends up with a scent hound named Achoo. There are riots in the city because the grain crops have been bad and someone is counterfeiting the silver money. Cooper and Goodwin are assigned to Port Caynne to find out who is the colemonger. Beka becomes involved with a new guy named Dale who is a bit of a rascal, but no Rosto. They have run-ins with Pearl Skinner the Rogue of Port Caynne, who is a nasty piece of work. Beka ends up on the run from both Pearl and the dogs by the end of the book. She has to solve the mystery before she gets caught and hope her backup arrives in time.
I thoroughly enjoy Tamora Pierce’s works. The Beka Cooper books are a lot more detailed and expansive than her earlier works. I like the fact that she has added more story, but this one felt a little too long. There was tons of stuff going on from the bread riots to Beka’s lack of partners to new friends to the colemongers. Listening to a book instead of reading it also highlights all the things that you can skip over when reading. There is a lot of extraneous detail about Beka’s every move and thought in the book that got a bit tedious. I also think the journal format didn’t work quite as well as it does in other books. There were a couple of times where Beka is telling her story and she just decides she is tired so she quits and starts again another day. It was pretty annoying to have the narrative interrupted like that.
My other problems were with the narrative itself. In the first book, the ghosts who are carried on pigeons can barely communicate. They speak in fragments, can’t tell their stories and don’t identify themselves. In this book, the dead can have complete conversations with Beka and tell her all kinds of things she needs to know. There is no explanation for the difference. The ghosts give Beka the information she needs to solve the case, which means she couldn’t have found it anywhere else. I think it is a weakness in the storytelling to have to rely on that kind of information.
I think one of Pierce’s strengths is the diversity of characters that she writes about. There are a wide range of people in her books and she almost always includes some kind of homosexual character. In this book it is a transgender character named Ocha and a gay man named Nestor. I think it is important to show these characters in books and to make the reader realize that there is nothing wrong with them or their sexuality or lifestyle. Pierce does a great job of incorporating these characters into her stories and I applaud her for that.
I do wish I liked this book better. I just thought the story dragged a lot and there was a heavy reliance on supernatural information instead of police work. I think it was good for Beka to have a relationship with Dale, but he is no Rosto. I am not sure the relationship was necessary for the story though it did give Beka a chance to struggle with her feelings for Dale and her investigation. Overall this book wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t my favorite.
On a daring quest to save a life, two friends are hurled into another world, where an evil sorceress seeks to enslave them. But then the lion Aslan’s song weaves itself into the fabric of a new land, a land that will be known as Narnia. And in Narnia, all things are possible.
Witness the creation of a magical land in The Magician’s Nephew, the first title in C. S. Lewis’s classic fantasy series, which has captivated readers of all ages for over sixty years. This is a stand-alone novel, but if you want to journey back to Narnia, read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the second book in The Chronicles of Narnia.
The animals have taken over Manor Farm. They have kicked farmer Jones off the land and decided to run it themselves. Everything starts out really well. They come up with the seven commandments of animalism and all work cooperatively. Then the pigs, who are in charge because they are the smartest, start changing things. The other animals are working harder for less and the pigs are working less for more. Soon their animal utopia turns into something else.
Animal Farm is a book that has been on my shelf for a while unread. Even though this book was written over 60 years ago there is still something timeless about it. Orwell was a genius at political satire and I think he captured the essence of the communist movement very well. I might not know a whole lot about the rise of communism in the 20th century or about communist nations today, but his description of Animal Farm seemed to ring true. I really enjoyed the progression from cooperative to totalitarian state and the degrading of the seven commandments. This is not a story with a happy ending, nor one where the evil doers get their just desserts. This is a story about a political system that creates an elite at the expense of the people and about a people that allow it.
In a fantasy/alternate Colonial America, Billy Bartram joins his father and other members of the American Philosophical Society in a quest for allies in the coming war against the French. They seek the Kingdom of Madoc, a rumored ancient Welsh colony beyond the Mississippi River. Their mode of transportation, a unique air-sailing ship, is also sought by the French, in hot pursuit of the explorers.
The setting and plot are interesting, and I enjoy alternate history and fantasy. The mix here, however, starts to spiral toward the end, until fantasy completely takes over for the final handful of chapters, and situations get increasingly far-fetched. This is a land of mastodons, and a 12-foot-tall bear-wolf capable of tracking a flying vessel across half the continent. To what end other than destruction, I have no idea. Perhaps colonists are particularly tasty. Secret messages tossed from the air into rivers inerringly find eddies and shores for easy retrieval. Convenient! There is plenty to recommend about this book, but I can’t quite give it full marks.
Continue with the adventures of young Salamandra, the orphaned, mysterious, witch-in-training on the haunted island of Hopeless, Maine! When Sal discovers she might have a grandfather living on the island, she seeks him out, only to find him full of even more mystery than the rest of her past. Before she can unravel the secrets of her family’s past, however, her best friend, Owen, is thrust into a family trauma of his own. Salamandra must choose between helping Owen and finding the home and family she has always longed for.
Kingdom of Little Wounds is a most unexpected book. The setting is in an imaginary Scandinavian country in 1572. Young Princess Sophie is on the eve of her wedding, a grand affair, by all accounts. She dies before the nuptial night is over. Poison is suspected, but since all of her siblings seem to suffer from the same symptoms that Sophie had in the years prior to her death, many believe it to be disease.
Out of the royal spotlight, two women struggle to eke out a life worth living in the palace. One is a seamstress named Ava Bingen. After accidentally pricking the Queen while repairing her gown, Ava is demoted to working with the ailing children. The other woman, Midi Sorte, was taken from her native land and given as a gift to a noble. At some point in her service, her tongue is cut in half (lengthwise), so Midi’s power of speech is gone. She proves, however, that one need not speak to get a point across or to be valuable to the machinations of the palace and its inhabitants. Her position taking care of the youngest royal child keeps her relatively safe.
Queen Isobel and her husband, King Christian, struggle to keep up appearances while their legacy falters before their eyes. Some of the most obvious signs of illness are routinely overlooked at the behest of those in power. Others are executed, imprisoned or tortured as potential poisoners of the children, King and Queen. Bit by bit, all three women, the Queen, Midi, and Ava, will find their lives intertwining in unexpected ways.
We love to imagine history as a romanticized version of itself. This version is far less kind and likely much closer to the realities of life in such a setting. Underneath the veneer of fancy clothing and royal privilege lies a kingdom in peril. The reader realizes far before many of the characters that it is not poison that caused the death of Princess Sophie. Nor is it poison that threatens her siblings. Rather, it is syphilis, a disease that was reputedly quite well-spread at the time (and was considered incurable). Many of the “mad” kings of history were known to suffer from the disease. This story could have been far more graphic and, frankly, gross, but for Cokal’s hypnotic writing style. Cokal herself describes the book as “a fairy tale about syphilis”, which is fairly accurate. The narrative trades off mainly between Ava, Midi and the Queen and each has their own narrative “style”. The way in which the story plays itself out is full of intrigue and danger, though the unexpected ending leaves the reading believing that the kingdom just might survive, after all. The Kingdom of Little Wounds was highly unusual, dark and lyrical. It’s not a book I’d recommend to everyone, but for the right reader, it’s a tale one can really sink one’s teeth into.