Coalition Of Lions

A Coalition of Lions - Elizabeth Wein Enormously interesting, and -- sometimes, and surprisingly -- incredibly moving. This is a very beautiful, delicate study of first love, which is also filled with political intrigue, adventure, lions, secret passages, twists, adventure, comedy, tragedy....and the most amazing characters. I don't know how Elizabeth Wein can do everything she does in so few words -- and I also don't know how she can always make me cry.I thought this was a great book -- it wouldn't be everybody's cup of tea (or coffee, as the case may be). But I loved it.I think anybody who likes the books of [a:Megan Whalen Turner|22542|Megan Whalen Turner|], [a:Rosemary Sutcliff|26457|Rosemary Sutcliff|], or [a:Amanda McCrina|6216354|Amanda McCrina|] would love this, too.

The Mysteries of Beethoven's Hair

The Mysteries of Beethoven's Hair - Russell Martin, Lydia Nibley On the whole, I really liked this book. It told a fascinating story -- the journey of a lock of Beethoven's hair from Vienna to the United States, by way of Cologne, Germany, Gilleleje, Denmark, and London, England; and its subsequent scientific testing. The intertwined biographies of Beethoven and the people who loved him or interacted with him down the years were particularly fascinating.So, why only three stars?First, because of a certain apparent carelessness in some of the writing. For instance, in the description of the initial cutting, Beethoven's hair is described as "half-gray," (p.33), whereas later, the authors call it "quite gray." (p. 101) Maybe they do not mean "entirely" when they say "quite," but it does read that way, and it gave me pause. They could save young readers a bit of confusion by making their adjectives match, or, better yet, leaving them out altogether.A more troubling example occurs on page 82, where the authors describe the initial scientific research on the lock of hair. The current owners of the hair choose Dr. William Walsh to conduct an examination, and he sends samples out to other scientists, including Walter McCrone, whom the authors describe as follows:It was McCrone who had demonstrated conclusively in the 1970s that the outline of a figure on fabric known as the Shroud of Turin had been painted in the fourteenth century and was not, therefore, the burial cloth of Jesus, as some had claimed, but was an historical hoax instead.Well! That gave me pause for more than one reason -- not least because I had seen The PBS Special about the Shroud of Turin recently. So, I knew that McCrone's research, though interesting, was not actually conclusive. And the whole topic of the Shroud of Turin is quite (meaning extremely!) controversial, so why drag it into a children's book unnecessarily, especially by means of such a clunky sentence?Unfortunately, writing like this occasionally mars an otherwise fascinating story.Episodes of awkward writing aside, there are also problems with the book design. And the main problem is that there is no color. This is a children's book, and needs to be attractive to children. The book has a wealth of beautifully chosen illustrations, but they are generally poorly reproduced (oddly, the purely photographic illustrations are even grainier than the art reproductions), and not a single one is in color.And then there is the cover. Scary! Not to mention that poor Beethoven (as shown) has no hair whatsoever. (But maybe that was the point?)I did think the story was fascinating, and I gained great respect for the two men, Alfredo "Che" Guevara and Ira Brilliant, who acquired the lock of hair and set about trying to honor Beethoven's dying wish by means of it. And the Danish section of the story, and the characters throughout, are fascinating.In sum: I did like the book, & I enjoyed reading it, but it could have (& should have) been better. A bit more attention to editing and design, and I would have awarded it another star -- maybe even 2.


Pegasus - OK, so here's my original review from my livejournalThis book is slow going at first, but also one of the most amazing novels I have ever read. It is very hard to describe what reading it was like for me — I think Robin McKinley herself says it best: It was like -- what was it like? It wasn't like anything. It was like flying when you have no wings; was like hearing the colour red; it was like being someone else. Pegasus p. 240 How do you describe a people so strange, so foreign, that human beings cannot possibly communicate with them, except by magic, and only then with great difficulty? How can you postulate that an alliance between these people and humans lasts, strong and unbroken, for a thousand years — until suddenly, two young people meet who can speak to each other? Robin McKinley seems to do the impossible in this book. She works real magic, and also creates two of the most appealing teen characters to appear in print this year in her heroes, Syvianel and Ebon. I would have rated this book with five stars instead of four, despite the slow start, except that it is really only half a novel. The ending is, hands down, the worst cliff-hanger I have ever read. Robin McKinley herself says that she was remembering the ending of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Two Towers: "Frodo was alive, but taken by the enemy." Yes. It is that bad, if not worse! The second half of the story will be published in 2012. If you want to save yourself some frustration, you could wait 'til then and read the whole story at once. But, if you follow my example and read Pegasus now, you will have a unique and lovely reading experience. UPDATE: We have since learned that we don't get the rest of the story until 2014! Which is a very long wait! Plus, there may be two more books, instead of just one.Ah, well. I'm still looking forward to reading the next one.

Rot & Ruin

Rot and Ruin - Jonathan Maberry OK, first let me state that the three stars are not a reflection on Mr. Maberry's writing. On the contrary -- if you read this book, you will find excellent writing, wonderful plotting, interesting world building and great characters. But you will also find zombies. In fact, you will be reading about life after the zombie apocalypse. And I just don't buy zombies ( I think they're silly). Many otherwise wonderful books have been ruined for me because they have zombies in them. And to me, zombies are gross and horrible, but also completely ridiculous and not at all convincing. Whereas I am OK with ring wraiths, as in Tolkien, gods, as in Megan Whalen Turner, and nature magic, as in Hilari Bell. But dead people who rise from the grave and try and eat your brains? Nope! That's just too silly.But I digress. What I'm trying to say is, don't pay any attention to my three stars, if you like zombies. For you, this book may well be a 5 star read! Because there are many wonderful things in it, plus zombies. The characters and their interactions are really vivid and engaging, and the plot is compelling and in places really moving, as well.In sum -- I think this is a really good book. Well worth reading, despite the zombies -- just not my favorite, because of the zombies.

The Winter Prince

The Winter Prince - Elizabeth Wein I think fans of Megan Whalen Turner might love this one.It is an amazingly original Arthurian retelling, from the point of view of Medraut (Mordred), who is -- and struggles to be-- an awesome character, despite the way his circumstances, and particularly his mother, have twisted him.The conflicted relationship between Medraut and his half brother, Lleu, is fascinating. It struck me -- particularly when I was reading the ending -- that they are both rather like Megan Whalen Turner's Eugenides. Lleu is the bright, wild, indomitable spirit, and Medraut is the deliberate one, with hidden skills and flashes of unexpected emotion.That said, this is a much darker book that "The Thief," or even than "The Queen of Attolia."

Greybeards at Play and Other Comic Verse

Greybeards at Play and Other Comic Verse - G. K. Chesterton Definitely an odd book, but in a wonderful way! I first read it years ago, and I love it just as much now as I did when I was a kid -- Chesterton's verses are short, snappy, and very, very funny (IMO) with some amazing concepts and turns of phrase...Best of all, my edition is illustrated with Chesterton's own line drawings, which are filled with life and verve, and at least as funny as the verses themselves. Anyone who has read the famous essay, "On Lying In Bed," will know that Chesterton loved to draw -- it's great to have some actual examples of what he could do! Maybe he wouldn't be everybody's idea of an "artist," but he was a really superlative illustrator.And the poems themselves are worth reading.BTW, If you'd like to get an idea of what his verse is like, here is an example (caveat: this one is not in the book -- but it definitely shows his spirit)!

Planet Narnia: The Seven Heavens in the Imagination of C. S. Lewis

Planet Narnia: The Seven Heavens in the Imagination of C.S. Lewis - Michael  Ward I loved this book! It's a quick read, very informative, and quite convincing. If it has ever occurredto you to wonder, "Why seven Narnia stories?" this is the book you want to read. Michael Ward presents a clear explanation of the structure of Lewis's Narnia, thoroughly grounded in study of Lewis's scholarship and interests.What I loved best about the book is how it connects the Narnia stories with Lewis's "grown up" fantasies, particularly the space trilogy. I always felt that there was a connection, but I couldn't have told you exactly what it was. But now I know!A scholarly book, but written in an easy, conversational style. I found it delightful!

The Children of Green Knowe

The Children of Green Knowe - L.M. Boston,  Peter Boston An exquisitely written, wholly involving book, as interesting for adults as for children. It is a ghost story - but eerie, rather than frightening. I was fortunate to have a classroom teacher read this to me when I was about 9 years old, and I've read it many times since, especially around Christmas time. Just remarkably beautiful -- I think you won't find better writing anywhere, for any age.

The Audition (Seraphina, #0.5)

The Audition (Seraphina, #0.5) - Rachel Hartman This was a delightful introduction to Seraphina and her world. Definitely check them out, if you're thinking of reading [b:Seraphina|12394100|Seraphina (Seraphina, #1)|Rachel Hartman||17375239].


Seraphina - I don't want to say too much, because I'd like this review to be reasonably spoiler free. So here's a short list of what I loved about this book (followed by a shorter list of what I didn't love so much):1. Seraphina herself is amazingly realistic, for such a fantastic character, and amazingly likeable, for someone so prickly.2. Plus there are three other characters who are just as great.3. And even the peripheral characters are interesting.4. Plus, what a great villian! The whole conflict is astonishing, gripping, and builds to a great denoument.5. Finally, I loved the setting, the fantastic elements (such as Seraphina's garden -- deeply creepy, yet logical -- and therefore rather "dragonlike!"), and I adored the music! I want a companion CD, with melodies, harmonies, and sheet music downloads, please!I was not as delighted with the prose style. But that may be just because it was a little modern for my taste. (There was one point, when I was reading a conversation, when I started to ask myself, "OK, how would they really have phrased that...?" ) Also, the book is well written, and carries you right along, and I loved the glossary -- but was sometimes annoyed by how necessary it was. And I'm pretty good at keeping strange names, etc. straight! Also, some of the grotesque elements got a bit much at times (at least for me) -- but I loved the humor.Will you like it as much as I did? Well, I think you will love it if you love music. And I think it may appeal to you if you like:[b:Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass|24213|Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass|Lewis Carroll||2375385][b:The Tears of the Salamander|289574|The Tears of the Salamander|Peter Dickinson||2997053][b:The Dream Merchant|659399|The Dream Merchant|Isabel Hoving||645479][b:Tiger Moon|7031745|Tiger Moon|Antonia Michaelis||3799168]Or, of course, a classic dragon tale, such as [b:The Farthest Shore|13667|The Farthest Shore (Earthsea Cycle #3)|Ursula K. Le Guin||1322014] or [b:Dragon's Keep|626096|Dragon's Keep|Janet Lee Carey||612447].(PS 4.5 stars would have been the perfect rating for me, but I always want to rate books I enjoy too high, rather than too low.)

The Girl of Fire and Thorns

The Girl of Fire and Thorns - Rae Carson Basically, I loved this book. The characters were great, especially the heroine, and the plot was nicely twisty. I would have rated it higher if I had been happier with the writing style. I hear that the sequel is just as good, but more gracefully written, and I can't wait to read it!


Quicksilver - R.J. Anderson I liked this book even better than [b:Ultraviolet|8843789|Ultraviolet (Ultraviolet, #1)|R.J. Anderson||13718670], and I'm hoping teens will agree with me -- this is a terrific series!Tori, who seemed to be a major annoyance all through Ultraviolet, even though she wasn't even there much of the time, really comes into her own in this volume. And what a great heroine she is! On the run, unable to trust anybody at all outside of her immediate family, she still manages to make a life for herself, and even....OK, you knew I was going to write "find love?" Well, it's not quite that simple. I don't want to spoil the book -- it is awesome -- but I will say that R. J. Anderson introduces a new hero, and he and Tori make a wonderful team. But if you want to find out how -- and I really hope you do! -- you've got to read the book.I think you will like it if you like "Dr. Who," and it has some "Roswellian" echoes as well. And I feel that it's OK for me to say that much, because you probably will have gathered that it's SciFi, with a strong realistic streak.I can't say whether it stands alone -- I think it could, but I also think you'll probably want to read Ultraviolet first. Because that book is awesome, too!

Fall of a Kingdom (Farsala Trilogy Series #1)

Fall of a Kingdom - Hilari Bell I love this series!And I'm adding re-reads to this year's reading challenge -- just to make sure I'll be able to re-read some of my favorites.Definitely, this series is one of my favorites. What I love most about it is precisely what some people hate about it -- that our "heroes" are not always right. It's really interesting to see the conflicts that develop when the "bad" side has so much good to offer. And I love how Hilari Bell incorporates the ancient Persian myths! I also love her depictions of magic -- not overdone, and not too easy -- unlike the magic in some other (admittedly fun) series I could name.Great world building, great characters, great fun to read!And I only didn't give this one 5 stars because the next 2 are even better.


Darkwater - Catherine Fisher I think Catherine Fisher actually cannot write anything bad -- she is endlessly creative, especially when coming up with interesting twists on old stories, as here. Plus, she creates really involving characters and settings.I adored this book even though -- (or maybe because?) -- I did not immediately love the heroine, Sarah. She is -- at first -- quite unsympathetic, though you have to feel for her despite this. Her circumstances are so awful, it's no wonder she's rather awful herself!I also love how Ms. Fishers heroes are rather villainous -- it's very well done. (I hope that's not a spoiler, but I really don't think it is).On the whole, the most interesting take on the "Faustus" story I've read in quite a while.Four stars? Maybe that's not fair, because I'm judging this book mostly against the rest of Catherine Fisher's and I pretty much love everything she does. So.. It doesn't match the brilliance of [b:Incarceron|332775|Incarceron (Incarceron, #1)|Catherine Fisher||323310] or [b:Sapphique|4499214|Sapphique (Incarceron, #2)|Catherine Fisher||4548192], but it's definitely still a very good book!

Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Daughter of Smoke and Bone - Just fantastic! Laini Taylor's writing is beautiful, and the story and characters are compelling. I found the book un-putdownable. It's a totally unique twist on the "angel-demon" conflict, and I loved the settings. Great!

Akata Witch

Akata Witch - I loved it! A beautifully written story, with really interesting characters, a great plot and a beautifully realized and (to me) exotic setting. You will love this one if you liked Nancy Farmer's "The Ear, the Eye and the Arm." Great writer, great book.

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