Razo has never been anything but ordinary. He’s not very fast, or tall, or strong, so when he’s invited to join an elite mission esfrom the publisher:
Razo has never been anything but ordinary. He’s not very fast, or tall, or strong, so when he’s invited to join an elite mission escorting the ambassador into Tira, Bayern’s great enemy, he’s sure it’s only out of pity. But when they arrive in the strange southern country, it is Razo who finds the first dead body. As they try to learn more from the Tirans about the ever increasing murders, Razo is the only Bayern soldier able to befriend both the high and low born, including the beautiful Lady Dasha. And as Razo finds allies among the Tirans, he realizes that it may be up to him to get the Bayern army safely home again.
River Secrets is the third of Shannon Hale's books about the mythical kingdom of Bayern. It's also my favorite of the three. Goose Girl was a little convoluted, Enna Burning was a little long. River Secrets is a fantastic little read. It's fast-paced, with a solid plot and characterization, uppity but sincere royalty, plus a romance or two.
If you're not already a Shannon Hale fan, I'd recommend you put this on your reading list for summer - it would be perfect to read by the pool or on a plane....more
A Curse Dark as Gold is Bunce's debut novel, and a re-imagining of the folk tale Rumpelstiltskin.
In Bunce's version, Charlotte and Rosie Miller are thA Curse Dark as Gold is Bunce's debut novel, and a re-imagining of the folk tale Rumpelstiltskin.
In Bunce's version, Charlotte and Rosie Miller are the last living descendants of the owners of Stirwaters mill. Stirwaters is the last industry holding their small town together, and Charlotte feels a burdened sense of over-responsibility to keep the mill running. Despite her best efforts, and the dubious assistance of her long-lost Uncle Wheeler, mishaps continue to happen which threaten the future of Stirwaters. Finally, Charlotte makes a deal with a strange man, a deal which may save Stirwaters but will cost Charlotte all that she holds most dear.
A Curse Dark as Gold is well-researched. Bunce bases the story on the woolen industries of Britain and America in the late 1700s, in the early years of the Industrial Revolution. She's comfortable enough with her subject matter to introduce it effectively to her readers - we are neither overcome with information nor do we feel we're lacking.
Unfortunately, the rest of the narrative is not so deftly handled. The pace of the book is slow, even plodding, at times. Bunce seems hesitant in places, and the result is that the reader seems to be watching a train wreck in slow motion - unable to help, unable to look away. The awkwardness is palpable.
The reason I would not read this book again, however, is that the protagonist, Charlotte, thoroughly grates on my nerves. She is supposed to be the heroine, but her willful stubbornness sets poorly against the episodes of naivete, her business cunning belies her ignorance of the world beyond her village. I think the characterization is a reflection of Bunce's uncertainty with her own skills.
I'm torn on whether to recommend this book to you. Indeed, it has some charming strengths, bits of gold among the straw, as it were. Mostly, however, you have to dig through too much straw to find too little gold to make it entirely worthwhile....more
This retelling of “East of the Sun, West of the Moon” alternates point of view, chapter by chapter. There are five narrators—Father, Rose, Neddy (RoseThis retelling of “East of the Sun, West of the Moon” alternates point of view, chapter by chapter. There are five narrators—Father, Rose, Neddy (Rose's brother), the Troll Queen, and the White Bear. Rose is the heroine, the youngest of a large family, struggling with poverty. To save the family Rose goes off with the White Bear, who promises the family riches if Rose will come with him.
Pattou draws extensively from Nordic mythology as well as the original fairy tale and bits of Greek mythology. She’s done her research in any number of fields, but use of detail in East is deft and masterful. The details of such work as map making and sailing ships among the icebergs come to life as she describes them.
East is a rich tapestry of a novel, but it doesn’t quite sparkle for me. Each of Pattou’s characters has a fleshed-out personality, even the ones she doesn’t like. The most lovingly drawn character is of the Inuit shaman who helps Rose travel to the North-most point of the globe. The plot lopes along with an even pace but it never stalls. The resolution is predictable but still satisfying. And while I recommend you read this book if you’re a fan of fairy tale retellings or historical YA, it’s not one I urge you to rush rush out to acquire. ...more
If, like me, you looked forward to those stories in the Grimms' collections in which there was a clever solution to a piece of trickery, or a particulIf, like me, you looked forward to those stories in the Grimms' collections in which there was a clever solution to a piece of trickery, or a particularly cunning way of defeating the nemesis, you will love that these tales have been collected by Kathleen Ragan to engage your mind, albeit on a different level. Ragan collected these stories - pre-existent, not written by her - from all around the world. They are stories that feature heroines: females who are worthy of emulation and around whom the tale centers. They are not scheming crones or vapid maids. These characters are strong, they act, they think. You'll love them....more
SUMMARY (taken from School Library Journal) Kaye is 16 when she finally learns why she's such a strange young woman: she's a changeling pixie under a sSUMMARY (taken from School Library Journal) Kaye is 16 when she finally learns why she's such a strange young woman: she's a changeling pixie under a spell. A move home to the New Jersey shore brings her back in touch with her childhood friends, the solitary fey, who want to end their servitude to the higher-born faeries by foiling the sacrifice of human blood known as the Tithe. Kaye offers to masquerade as a human for the Tithe and is swept into a complicated net of politics and treason between two rival courts of faeries.
OPINION Do you know the scene in the movie Labyrinth in which Jennifer Connelly's character Sarah eats a poisoned peach and finds herself at a faery ball that is at once beautiful and grotesque?
I have to believe Holly Black had that scene in mind when she wrote Tithe. Jareth, the Goblin King played by David Bowie, shares physical features with Roiben, a faery that Kaye meets in the woods; the descriptions of the dark faery court are reminiscent of the half-human half-animal masks Jim Henson used in his movie. Also conjured are similarities to the fey creatures depicted in the movie Legend.
The word used over and over by reviewers to describe the book is "dark." In fact, it's so dark in the first few chapters, the word I would have chosen was "bleak" and I thought about suspending my reading of it. Kaye's mother is an alcoholic, unmotivated, penniless bar singer who moved around so often her daughter dropped out of high school to work full-time at a Chinese restaurant. Kaye wears heavy boots, heavy black eye makeup, and has a cigarette habit that only someone could acquire living in bars every night of the week.
The problem is, Black is far too poetic to turn readers away. Her descriptions are raw and primal - Kaye thinks of the sun as having committed suicide, bleeding red streaks across the ocean as he died beyond the horizon. The interplay between the characters can be stark, and even disturbing, at times, but then she develops a romance between Kaye and Roiben that made this 32-year-old happily married mom swoon a little bit.
In between vivid, gruesome, lovely descriptions, Black's sparse prose leaves the plot hanging at certain points, almost to the degree of losing the reader. There's a lot of back and forth movement between the Faery hill and Kaye's grandmother's house that, in a stage play, would make for very short scenes, and can be distracting from the thrust of the action.
Overall, however, this was a delicious little read, a tart fruit that satisfies the senses and leaves you licking your fingers to catch every last bit.
OTHER NOTES Holly Black as a really interesting, truly helpful website. It offers her daily journal, FAQs, and this ridiculously well-planned page of writing tips. Despite the darkness of Black's writing, it seems she has a fantastically warm heart....more
The Swan Kingdom is a re-imagining of the fairy tale Six Swans. The first written account of this tale was done by the Brothers Grimm around 1812, andThe Swan Kingdom is a re-imagining of the fairy tale Six Swans. The first written account of this tale was done by the Brothers Grimm around 1812, and its variations throughout Europe feature ravens or ducks. Those early versions were meant to emphasize the unity of the family in light of adversity, which theme Marriott continues.
In The Swan Kingdom, King and Queen of the Hartlands have four children: three boys, and the youngest, a girl, Princess Alexandra. Alexandra inherited her mother's skills as "a cunning woman," a woman connected with the natural forces and wise in ways of natural healing. Not even her skills can save the Queen when a malevolent being seeks to destroy the Hartlands. Alexandra is sent away, her brothers are turned to swans, and it takes her a year before she even realizes that she's the only one who can save them.
I understand why an agent and/or an editor took on this book. Marriott has incredible potential as a fantasy writer. Her descriptions, even of lowly herbs, are sumptuous. When she sets her mind to it, she can write a tight, fast-paced scene. Alexandra is (mostly) a smart, likeable protagonist, with the sincerity and doubts of youth but without posturing angst. If you're a fan of fairy tales at all, The Swan Kingdom is worth reading.
However, I don't think that The Swan Kingdom will ever be heralded as her best work. (At least, I hope not.) It's filled with cliches, such as Alexandra thinking she's "plain" and the reader finding out later that she's beautiful. The pace can sometimes lag (I started skimming), and she overdevelops minor characters and under-develops major ones. This book is a great beginning, and I'm excited to see more from this promising author. ...more
I can't decide if I like The Grisha series or not. I do not at all like cliffhanger endings, but Siege and Storm ends with quite a wrenching one. I wiI can't decide if I like The Grisha series or not. I do not at all like cliffhanger endings, but Siege and Storm ends with quite a wrenching one. I will definitely read the third book, and I certainly like Leigh Bardugo's dark imagination....more
As another commenter said, I disliked Princess Ben (the character, not the book) to such a degree that I almost put the book down. Fortunately, thingsAs another commenter said, I disliked Princess Ben (the character, not the book) to such a degree that I almost put the book down. Fortunately, things happen, and I was quite pleased overall. The story put me in mind of Just Ella by Margaret Peterson Haddix, but had the humor of Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine.
The truly outstanding part of this book is Murdock's writing. She uses a slightly formal voice for Ben, who is writing these accounts after everything in the story has happened. I'm a terrible stickler for point of view, and Murdock never falters. The first person POV is executed flawlessly.
I think the best audience for this tale are pre-teens, but early teens, maybe through age 15, will love it, too. Older teens and young adults can read it quickly and enjoy it....more